Does free always mean free? I’m going to stand loud and proud on this one and positively tell you...NO. I say this after having nothing short of a virtual boxing match a couple weeks ago that left me nearly TKO'd when I finally decided to enter the ring of email marketing.
Oh sure, I’ve done this in my “day jobs” for years when I was “workin’ for the man” but when it was time to pull it together for myself, under my own brand and in my own voice...SCARY. Lots of vulnerability involved in putting yourself, your message and what you are offering out into the world. But, I was ready. The time was now. All I needed was an easy to use, low cost/no cost platform to help me do it. Simple, right?
I had heard there was a totally free tool that could do this super important job, and since I was still (and am) working from a start-up budget I figured I’d dive in with MailChimp. I did this despite having the knowledge base for using Constant Contact (well an older version, luckily a rockstar ex-coworker of mine had taken on the email marketing projects when we used to work together. Psst...hey Sarah, want a job doing that for Rock Your Brand?).
Anyway, off I went into the world of MailChimp. Confidently I might add. Despite the rumblings I had heard from email marketing guide and extraordinaire Susan Finn, I still went head first into the world of MailChimp. I mean it was FREE, right?
WRONG. Oh sure, technically it is free. But my time, my wasted efforts, my stress levels, my reinventing the email TWICE because I did it wrong the first time, the pains of trying to manipulate the template...all THAT adds up to not being free. What it adds up to is costly mistakes, lost time, lost patience and a 4 day delay in sending out a time sensitive first email marketing launch.
So what was the problem? The platform is not user friendly. There is no real clarity in the difference between a Campaign and a Template. The set-up for both is very similar. I had created an entire email newsletter in TEMPLATE format instead of Campaign format, then had to edit the template, remove the content and create a campaign using the template I had just spent time editing. Also, navigation back and forth between screens is a headache and a half, and if that’s not bad enough when you click on something that says “Templates” wouldn’t you think a screen full of TEMPLATES would appear? Wouldn’t you? Or is that just me being unreasonable?
After 3 days of banging my head against a wall, I hopped over to Constant Contact and signed up for their free 60-day trial which DID NOT require a credit card (true story). I dove right in with very little knowledge of the newest version and instantly fell in love. Super easy to navigate, highly intuitive to use, and locating templates was speedy with loads to choose from. Creating my first email was an immediate and super simple process. I knew in that moment as I started pulling content from my MailChimp disaster, that Constant Contact would be my new BFF.
In the process of giving my email its wings to fly, I got to thinking about that former co-worker of mine and decided to nab her for a few words of her own (plus it was a fun excuse to reconnect!). She’s an everyday user of Constant Contact, so clearly if anyone knows the ease and comfort of this platform, it would be her.
Sarah Cholewa is a Marketing & Fund Development Specialist for a non-profit and uses the platform as the main form of email communication with the organization’s members, donors and supporters. After chatting a bit with Sarah, it became clear I wasn’t the only person that understood the immediate ease of this product.
“I love how user-friendly the Constant Contact platform is. Viewing backend analytics after an email campaign has been sent is something super simple to review. You can see your open and click-rates, check out email bounces, even use this awesome little QuickSend feature when there has been an error with a customer’s email address, which is more common than you’d realize. Oh, and can I just mention how kind their Customer Service Department is, and always so helpful!”
Much like Sarah, I can attest to the customer support too. Within the first 24 hours of my first sent email I received a phone call from a dedicated Constant Contact consultant assigned to my account. This was NOT a salesman call, pushing for me to instantly sign up for a paid version. This was someone who actually READ my email, clicked all my links, was viewing my analytics and offering advice FOR FREE on how to improve my next one and my overall marketing through my website in relation to how I structure my emails. Not one sales-y, slime-y thing about what he was offering. I was (and AM) beyond impressed.
More proof that they care about their customers? Check this out! They hold brainstorming sessions with their high bandwidth users. Sarah had an opportunity to attend one of these rockin’ sessions.
“Based on how much we use Constant Contact at our organization and the email count, I was personally asked to attend a brainstorming session held locally by members of Constant Contact. It was a great experience to learn more about what the software can do and it really showcased how seriously Constant Contact as a company and brand takes the approval of their customers. It’s a smart approach because when customers are happy, it means they are also indirectly promoting the Constant Contact brand. It was such a great experience and really solidified my love of the platform.”
Clearly, I could go on and on sharing Sarah’s thoughts, and sharing mine. And no, no one is paying either of us to give you all this glowing feedback. It is truly just a phenomenal product, whether you are a large non-profit or a solopreneur working hard to get your business off the ground. For me it is already clear that this platform is worth every dime you have to pay once the 60 days are up, and within that window, I've already sent off my second email with no issues in the least.
When I reflect back on the 3 days I literally WASTED on MailChimp vs the 2.5 hours it took me to get comfortable with the Constant Contact platform, import my email contact list, draft my template, add in my content, send it off and already start to view analytics—there is NO competition.
Ding Ding Ding! Constant Contact for the WIN.