Email Marketing Software – Mirror Mirror on the Wall – Who is the Fairest of them All

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Those who have the largest database win if they properly segment and use email marketing tools to effectively communicate to the customer.

We have been a long time customer of Vertical Response owned by Deluxe Corporation.  We recently tested Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. What do we recommend? The quick answer is there is no obvious choice – they all suffer from some limitations.

The simplicity of creating a newsletter with Mail Chimp is vastly superior.  The data tools available to analyze the effectiveness of a campaign are also good. However, they offer NO phone support which is a huge disqualifier.  The excuse that they are trying to minimize one’s monthly cost is lame. Their service costs about the same as others. Support response time we have experienced is 4 hours which is unacceptable when you are trying to timely send out a newsletter.

Another Mail Chimp disqualifier is loading email addresses.   If one loads their entire database as a master file and separately loaded segments at the same hierarchical level as the master file, the emails address count for billing is additively resulting in far higher monthly fees.  To receive proper pricing, one needs to create a master database and then allocate your segmented customers into various groups or segments to avoid the excess charges.   Learning how to do that is not straightforward and the online tutorials are weak.

Another limitation of Mail Chimp is that you are unable to delete addresses that have been unsubscribed or bounced contacts.   This is a procedure we routinely engage in to ensure the number of email addresses is keep at only valid contacts. Mail Chimp states,

“We don’t advise accounts delete unsubscribes or bounced addresses. Doing so may lead to compliance issues down the road. When a person unsubscribes from the account, their address is placed on the Unsubscribed portion of the list. And for addresses that hard bounce, or soft bounce several times, they are placed on the Cleaned portion of the list. Neither the Unsubscribed nor the Cleaned portions of the list counts toward the subscriber total. They are considered inactive addresses and the subscriber total is based on active addresses alone. When an address is imported into a list, the system checks the address against the Unsubscribed and Cleaned parts of the list. If the address is on either one, it will not be added. This prevents people from continuing to receive emails after unsubscribing. Sending to people that have unsubscribed often lead to abuse complaints, which can cause account suspension.”

The final challenge we encountered was deleting valid individual email addresses.   The process where to start is unclear and when located within the software, takes way too many clicks to delete one address.   It would be far preferable if you could review the entire list and click those you want to be deleted at one time rather than individually.

Regarding Constant Contact. For me it was a non-starter. In loading the initial file, I was interviewed to ensure compliance with CAM-SPAM laws. The customer service agent acted like a hostile enforcer.

When our first email was sent, they restricted the number sent until, according to their algoritms.   The reporting tools at Constant Contact regarding the customer’s interaction is nascent.   The ability to segment the responses into various groups for follow-up is non-existent.

Thus, if our experience is representative what a new customer would experience, we would highly discourage the use of Constant Contact.

As for Vertical Response – Classic Version, the telephone support is timely and effective. The reporting tools are really good.  The downside to Vertical Response – Classic Version is that the proper formatting of an email as to be viewed in multiple browsers or email accounts is a challenge. You almost need to know HTML to get it right. That requirement eliminates most from being able to use the product easily.

So at the end of the day, what do we use? We use Mail Chimp for our monthly newsletter and Vertical Response to release client surveys.   We diligently manage the email addresses count on which we are being charged.

That is what we think.  Click here to read the reviews on the top 10 email marketing programs.

What do you use? Comment below…

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