Constant Contact vs iContact

mail.pngiContact and Constant Contact are web-based email marketing solutions, that allow you to create and track HTML emails sent to a list of (manged) contacts. While both offer a core of the same CRM features, they also have different approaches when it comes to specific offerings. For instance, pricing is different, monthly email volume is different, design is different and so on.

iContact

The bad:

  1. It limits the number of emails that are sent monthly to 6*number of subscribers. So if you have 1000 contacts you cannot send monthly more than 6000 emails within the same price (but you can pay for additional emails).
  2. Offers 500kb of image hosting (which is somehow better than the 5 images that Constant Contact hosts for free).
  3. While using iContact, I got the impression that they're not as strict as Constant Contact. A small example is, for instance, the fact that you can change the sender email address and physical address (required by CAN-SPAM act) for every email and there is no delay in accepting that change. On the other hand Constant Contact requires you to verify the new email address added. Not sure if this is such a bad thing since it gives less headaches for you.
  4. Just like Constant Contact, iContact doesn't let you define address profiles, meaning two or more separate physical addresses that you can assign to specific contact lists (would be helpful in the case you have more than one website you're using this for).

The good:

  1. Well in here is actually about everything listed under Constant Contact's "Bad" items.
  2. First of all the pricing, which is lower than Constant Contact's.
  3. iContact offers multiple sign-up visitor forms, and these forms accept multiple custom fields (much more easy to add them). So if you want to have in the first step a field for the email, first and last name, address, you can easily add those right on your webpage. Plus, when they click the Subscribe button they are added automatically to the specified list, without showing an intermediate page like Constant Contact does. So much more powerful from this point of view.
  4. It offers a WYSIWYG editor for HTML emails that you've pasted your own html code in (whereas Constant Contact only offers it for its own pre-made templates).
  5. You can create surveys within the same account and pricing, but the surveys count towards your monthly email sending limit.
  6. Powerful reporting, I would say about the same as Constant Contact's. Also, it offers easy import/export solutions for moving contact lists through .csv files.
  7. Offers email archiving options (public or private archives), offers a way to create and host blogs (though they're hosted on their own domain as a subdomain). Just like with Constant Contact you can segment the contact lists, have multiple client lists, processes bounces automatically, schedule emails for later delivery and offers pre-made templates for the newsletter.
  8. Another plus over Constant Contact is the fact that you can create auto-responders.
  9. They've recently added a free version of iContact, so it's good that now you can test it before deciding to upgrade to the paid version: Get a free iContact account .

Constant Contact

The bad:

  1. It does not offer a way to add multiple sign-up visitor forms even if you have different lists in your account. So if you have two different websites you cannot add a subscribe box for one and a different one for the other, as your users will see in the sign-up page all the active lists and also your account contact information.
  2. Sign-up visitor forms are very limited, in the way that you cannot capture in the first step more than the email address of the subscriber, and in the second step you can only customize the background color and the font color of that page (it's a default subscribe page hosted on Constant Contact). So a user comes to your site, adds his email address in the Constant Contact sign-up form, hits the Subscribe button and a new page opens where he has to choose the list he'll be part of (you can have only one list), input additional information (like first/last name) and click again Subscribe. So the bad part about this is: you cannot create a sign-up form that asks for more than the email right in the first step, you cannot change the design of the actual subscription page on Constant Contact (except some minor font color/background changes).
  3. You don't have a WYSIWYG editor when composing emails using your own HTML code. So if you have an HTML template that is loaded in Constant Contact and want to change something in it you have to work within the code. The WYSIWYG editor is available though when using their own provided pre-made templates
  4. You can only upload up to 5 images in their Images library to use in your emails. Additional image hosting is paid.
  5. You don't get a refund for the current month fee if you cancel your account, so you better test it well during the trial period.
  6. You cannot create and send surveys without paying additional.

The good:

  1. Very good email inbox deliverability (above 97% according to their website), probably a result of partnerships with several major ISPs.
  2. Allows you to use your own HTML code for email campaigns.
  3. Anti-spam policies that ensure you're not going to suffer if someone else sends spam and the entire server is blacklisted .
  4. Create and manage unlimited lists. Also a plus is that you can import/export contacts using the popular .csv format (meaning you can import/export from/to Excel or Outlook for instance). When importing a list of contacts the emails imported are not verified (so this is good when changing email marketing providers).
  5. Send unlimited number of emails, either instantly (almost) or scheduled for delivery at specific intervals of times. Also, you get to preview and send test emails to yourself to ensure all's working well. Automatic bounce processing is a plus too.
  6. You can included PayPal purchase options in the newsletter, or Amazon links.
  7. Powerful reporting features - see how many emails were delivered and opened, number of opt-in/opt-out per campaign, click-tracking.

To sum up, before deciding which of these two to go for make sure you test them to see if they fit your needs. From a deliverability point of view I would say both are on the same level, both good choices, but iContact makes a step forward through the fact that it offers more flexibility than Constant Contact. If you don't need the additional features that iContact offers (mentioned above in The Good part), than you can consider Constant Contact too. I consider iContact to be the winner of these two, at least for now. As mentioned above, before you choose any of these services test them - Constant Contact offers a 60 day trial, iContact offers a 15 day trial, so that's quite some time to see which one suits your needs better.

You can see more details about them here: iContact vs Constant Contact. I've also made a comparison between iContact and Aweber, so if you want to read it visit this section: iContact vs Aweber.