Constant Contact Review: Is It Even Worth Trying?

Have you heard of Constant Contact?

Despite an apparent lack of notoriety when compared to the likes of Aweber, ConvertKit, and MailChimp, they’re actually one of the big names in email marketing.

As it happens, they’re also one of the oldest, with the first iteration of this software being made available in 1995.

Constant Contact Review

Last updated: June 21, 2018
First Published on: June 21, 2018

tl;dr Summary
There’s not much going for Constant Contact, as it lags behind its competition in many areas including a lack of marketing automations.
Visit the website

In 2016 they were purchased by Endurance International Group (EIG). 

Yeah, the same guys who swallowed up Bluehost and Hostgator.

So, with decades head start on today’s competition, how does Constant Contact stand up against the heat?

In today’s Constant Contact review, that’s exactly what we’ll find out.

The Approval Process

Given the state of email marketing in 2018, it’s no surprise that verification is becoming standardized across these tools.

Constant Contact is no different.

While you can create an account and navigate the software without any immediate restrictions, you may not be able to send any emails until your account is approved.

I’ll explain:

Depending on your industry, Constant Contact will perform a risk assessment based on your account registration information.

What they’re mainly looking at from my experience, is your websites industry (or niche).

Constant Contact Approval Process

The last time I tested Constant Contact (which was back in 2017), I spent hours of my time trying to get approved for a site in the internet marketing niche.

I jumped on multiple calls…

I showed several pieces of blog content…

I showed example email campaigns…

…and my account with them was ultimately declined.

While this won’t apply to everyone who signs up, it’s something you should be aware of if for some reason you are flagged by the system.

Personally, I found this to be one of the most annoying and cumbersome approval/verification processes I’ve ever experienced.

Subscriber Management

Subscribers in Constant Contact are referred to as ‘Contacts’.

Clicking on the Contacts tab will open up the contact management screen where you can essentially manage your subscribers.

Constant Contact Contacts

If you need to find, add, or remove contacts, this is the place to do it.

To import an existing list, you have a few options.

  • Type them in individually
  • Paste a list
  • Import from Gmail
  • Import from Outlook
  • Import from “other” apps (more on integrations later)

Constant Contact Management Interface

Easy enough, so no complaints there.

Clicking a contact’s name will pull up more information about that contact, as well as fields to manually add more information.

Constant Contact Profile

(Constant Contact will add you as a contact by default. Not entirely sure why that’s necessary though.)

Anyway, there are also options to create and manage lists, which is the old-school way of segmenting your subscribers.

Constant Contact List Management

More importantly, however, this is also where you create and manage tags in order to target your subscribers more effectively.

Most, if not all major email marketing platforms have moved to a tag-based system, so it’s good to see Constant Contact has kept up with this trend.

Constant Contact tags

I like to use a combination of lists and tags, so I’m happy to see both implemented. (Besides, it’s all optional.)

One thing that newer solutions – such as MailerLite – have done, however, is allow users to create rules.

Rules give you the power to create segments after the fact, which is incredibly useful for those with existing lists that haven’t been properly segmented via the subscribe form.

Constant Contact doesn’t have this option, though it’s fair to say it’s not alone on that one.

Overall, this is all pretty basic stuff here. Kind of the bare minimum you’d expect to see and certainly nothing unique worth mentioning.

Email Campaigns

While most of us rely on automation sequences these days, there’s always a time and a place for one-off emails.

It could be a new blog post or podcast…

…or maybe a competition or announcement.

Whatever it is, the ability to quickly and easily create email campaigns on the fly is an essential component of good email marketing software.

In Constant Contact, you’ll find this under the ‘Campaigns’ tab:

Constant Contact Campaigns

This is your campaigns dashboard containing every email you send through Constant Contact.

Clicking the ‘Create’ button will bring up the campaign wizard where you can select the type of email you want to create.

Constant Contact Create Campaign wizard

So far so good.

Your options here are as follows:

  • A standard email
  • An automated email sequence
  • An event-based email
  • A discount-based email
  • A survey-based email

For most people in most situations, you’ll want to select the first option to create a regular email campaign — but in any case, the steps are largely the same with a few extra fields.

Constant Contact will first have you select a template:

Constant Contact templates

While there are literally hundreds of templates to choose from, many of them feel dated and in need of tweaking one way or another.

When you look at the superior quality of email templates you get from MailChimp, for example, it really starts to put these designs in perspective.

Still, it’s a better effort than Drip and ConvertKit — two services that completely flop when it comes to email templates.

On choosing a template, you’ll be thrown into the visual editor.

I went with a blank one for this review:

Constant Contact blank template

If you’ve ever used a page builder before, you’ll have an immediate sense of familiarity here.

And much like a page builder, it’s what you see is what you get, meaning you can drag and drop elements into your canvas and customize them in real time.

Honestly, this is probably one the few areas of the platform that I felt somewhat comfortable with right away.

It’s not perfect, but it does exactly what you’d expect it to do.

Constant Contact drag and drop editor

The elements you can include in your email are:

  • Image
  • Text
  • Button
  • Divider
  • Spacer
  • Social
  • Video
  • Read more

Once you’ve finished designing your email, you can, of course, preview it before it goes out to your subscribers.

You’ll also find a tab to see how it will look on other devices, such as mobile, as well as other email clients.

Constant Contact mobile preview

This is something we’ve come to see in other email marketing platforms, but these are nice things to have, nonetheless.

Now it’s time to send this bad boy.

What I was hoping to see next was some interesting targeting options on the sending screen.

What I got was a very basic list selection.

Constant Contact campaign list selection

Again, this works fine, and it is the way these platforms functioned for years…

…but when you start using on-the-fly segmenting options with tools like MailerLite and ActiveCampaign, you once again feel the restrictions that Constant Contact imposes.

The Form Builder

To build a list you first need a form, and to build a form… you need a form builder.

Right? Right.

To get to the Constant Contact form builder, you’ll need to click the ‘Sign Up Forms’ menu item.

Constant Contact form builder

Clicking the plus icon will open the form types, to which there are three.

  • Pop-up
  • Inline
  • Landing page

Like with the email builder, you quickly get a sense that this is a more recent addition to the platform, just because it feels more modern.

Constant Contact signup forms

As far as consistency, it almost doesn’t look like the same tool. Weird.

Anywho, for this review, I’ll select the first option to create a trusty pop-up form.

Unlike before, this process threw me straight into the visual builder instead of asking me to choose a template.

Constant Contact popup forms

 

What I expected to see here was the same drag and drop builder used in the last section, except with different elements.

But that’s not the case.

Instead, the pop-up comes us a single, fixed-template with very few options for customization aside from swapping out text.

One redeeming feature is the ability to set a timer delay (including exit-intent) which I think is important to optimize conversions.

Constant Contact popup timer delay

And while email marketing tools aren’t necessarily known for their form building capabilities, some have come a long way in this regard.

For example, Drip has one of the best form builders I’ve seen in an email marketing tool, as does MailerLite which offers some pretty advanced form settings in the free plan alone:

In any case, none of these platforms are likely to replace dedicated solutions such as Thrive Leads or Convert Pro — but they will fill in the gaps if you’re just starting out.

Oh, and if you were wondering where the split-testing options were in all of this, you guessed it… there aren’t any.

Constant Contact Automations

As I touched on earlier, Constant Contact allows you to create a standard autoresponder sequence.

That is a sequence of emails that go out in a fixed order, regardless of action taken by the subscriber.

Again, these are created under the ‘Campaigns’ tab. This time, however, I’ll select the ‘Email Automation’ option:

Constant Contact email automation

After naming your autoresponder series and attributing it to a list, you’ll go through the same motions as before.

You choose a template, make your changes, and click continue to apply it to your sequence.

You repeat this process however many times necessary to build the full autoresponder series.

Here’s what it looks like:

Constant Contact autoresponder series

While it does get the job done, I didn’t enjoy using it much.

The interface takes you through several screens to add a single email, and each time it took an age to load. I also couldn’t work out how to reorder the emails, so it’s either not possible or the interface let me down.

Overall, I can imagine this becoming a real pain for those who want to create longer sequences with dozens of emails.

Of course, the real power of email marketing comes from automation, and more specifically, an automated email workflow.

Unlike an autoresponder sequence, an email workflow contains emails that go out to individual subscribers based on various actions or inactions.

In other words, they’re dynamic.

These kinds of automations are typically created using a visual workflow builder provided by your email marketing platform.

Below is an example of what an email workflow looks like:

While this example is from MailerLite, I could have just as easily taken it from ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, ConvertKit or Drip

…but not Constant Contact.

I don’t know if it’s because they’ve gotten lazy or there are just too many technical limitations, but Constant Contact doesn’t support automated email workflows.

Apart from Aweber, Constant Contact is the only other email marketing software to lack this feature.

Given how crucial email automation is these days, this will be a MASSIVE deal-breaker when compared to the alternatives.

Tracking & Reporting

When you look at Constant Contact’s website, one thing they focus on a lot is their tracking and reporting features.

Easy-to-read reports and real-time tracking? I’ll take some of that.

Constant Contact reports

The first step for me was finding out how to enable this tracking from within my Constant Contact dashboard.

Strangely, there isn’t any way to enable tracking because it’s always enabled by default.

While I see some upsides to this approach, such as simplifying the campaign setup process, it’s not always ideal for every scenario.

As someone who does a lot of email outreach, I know that heavy tracking can be detrimental to deliverability, for example.

There are workarounds, but Constant Contact doesn’t make it easy:

Constant Contact disable link tracking

Admittedly, for most people this will never be an issue as tracking campaigns is something they will always aim to do.

That aside, let’s look at the reporting side of things.

Before sending a campaign, one thing you can enable is email reports, which is essentially a mini-report that gets sent to your inbox roughly 48 hours after the campaign starts.

Constant Contact email reports

This works for a quick overview, but full reporting is available for those who want to get heavy on the numbers.

Under the ‘Reporting’ navigation menu you’ll get what Constant Contact calls a ‘Trend Overview’ for all your campaigns.

Constant Contact trend overview report

While this can be a little difficult to digest at first, it does provide a ton of useful information here.

On the left, you’ll also find several report types, including an engagement report, campaign comparisons and even a click heat-map.

Constant Contact click heatmap

You can also dig into individual campaigns to see how it breaks down.

Nothing unique here, but again, it does what you expect it to do, and it presents the information clearly.

Constant Contact campaign reports

The full list of reporting options here include:

  • Sent
  • Opened
  • Clicked
  • Spam
  • Bounced
  • Unsubscribed
  • Did Not Open

So far everything I’ve covered in terms of reporting is only relevant to regular campaigns, but what about autoresponder sequences?

Constant Contact has a different reporting area for these types of campaigns, which can be found under the ‘Campaigns’ tab.

Constant Contact autoresponder stats

Yeah, open rate and click rate. That’s it.

Clicking into an autoresponder will show you similar statistics for individual emails within that autoresponder, but it’s still not good enough.

Overall I found the tracking and reporting adequate for the average user (with some minor inconveniences), but those looking for any more will struggle with Constant Contact.

Perhaps they could take a leaf out of MailChimp’s book on this one. (Their reporting is awesome-sauce.)

Constant Contact Pricing

Like any email marketing tool, Constant Contact varies in price depending on the size of your list.

Here’s an overview of the pricing structure:

Constant Contact pricing chart

On the left, you have the standard ‘Email’ package, and on the right, you have the ‘Email Plus’ package which includes some extras such as more file storage, users, and automations.

Either way, if you’re thinking these numbers a little high, I’m right there with ya.

Pick out virtually any Constant Contact competitor and the odds are it’ll be a fraction of the price.

Even the more expensive options like ActiveCampaign (starting at $15/month) and MailerLite (starting at free) are still cheaper at almost every tier, and in my opinion are much better platforms on the whole.

And even MailerLite comes with automations and a generous list-size cap…

Considering I was already having a hard time with this platform, the pricing decision here only makes matters worse.

Final Thoughts

This isn’t my first look at Constant Contact, but it’s fair to say my opinion hasn’t changed.

I don’t like the lengthy approval process or the email templates, I wasn’t blown away by the visual editor or reporting features, and I felt totally let down by the lack of split-testing and automation capabilities.

In fact, almost every aspect of this platform feels dated or limited in some way, which makes it very hard to get behind when you consider it’s also one of the most expensive solutions.

That’s why instead of going with Constant Contact, you’re better off taking a look at your recommendations for the best email marketing software instead. 

You’ll find much better email marketing solutions that offer much better value.

Constant Contact Pros

  • Supports subscriber tagging as well as lists
  • A comprehensive library of email templates across many industries
  • Reasonably good drag and drop email builder
  • Email preview for mobile and various email clients
  • Can build both inline and popup forms (+ a page builder)
  • Supports basic autoresponder sequences
  • Offers basic reporting features for regular campaigns
  • Has a number of integrations

Constant Contact Cons

  • Lengthy and annoying approval process (industry-specific)
  • No rule-based segmentation options for campaigns
  • Ugly and/or outdated email template designs
  • Very limited form templates and customization
  • No support for email A/B testing
  • No automation workflow builder for dynamic sequences
  • Very limited reporting for autoresponder sequences
  • Expensive relative to competitors
>