iContact vs. Aweber vs. Mailchimp vs. Constant Contact – The Best Newsletter Service

March 8, 2011 — 70 Comments

emailEmail newsletters are a great way to engage with your community, keep them warm, and close sales. Some businesses are giving up on newsletters because they haven’t figured out how to use them while others are just entering the scene.

They continue to work great for me and I’ve used many service providers over the past few years. Here’s what you should be looking for when choosing a provider. (Some affiliate links below).

Deliverability


The main reason you should use a professional service to send emails is to keep your emails out of your recipient’s spam folders. When you put more than about ten people in the “To” or especially the “BCC” field in one email, there’s a decent chance many of your emails will be marked as spam.

When you use a reputable email service such as iContact, Aweber, Mailchimp, or Constant Contact, your emails have a much higher chance to being delivered to the right place. Too many people worry about open rates when they should first be concerned about getting emails delivered in the first place.

Unsubscribe

You want to grow your newsletter list, right? Professional emails include links at the bottom of each email you send to update your subscription and to unsubscribe.

When you don’t provide a link to unsubscribe people might get mad. To make matters worse, many of those people won’t tell you they’re upset. They’re just mad enough to hate you for sending them junk (in their eyes of course) but not mad enough to ask to be removed. Please, give people the option. I’m usually one of those people.

Oh, if you need another reason, the law requires you to include an unsubscribe link.

Features and benefits of an email service

Are email templates provided? Can you edit or upload your own template?

Each of these four services provides great email templates and the ability to change or upload your own template. My favorites are iContact and Aweber, both of which I use a few times every month.

Constant Contact and iContact both include good survey tools. Mailchimp and iContact allow you to share updates to your social network which is a nice feature I’ve been using lately with good success.

Auto-responders can be a very cool option. Our Financial Coaching clients are added to an auto-responder when they start working with us. They receive an automated email at the end of every month reminding them to complete their budget, update their insurance, and save money in a few areas. Each email is customized and allows us to provide touch points while they’re working with us, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it. We deliver these emails through iContact without a template so it looks just like a regular email.

Aweber has been the gold standard for email marketing many years running. Here’s the scenario I like in a marketing funnel. A new visitor joins your newsletter for free. They automatically receive a 30-day auto-responder that provides value and encourages them to buy your ebook along the way.

As soon as they buy, Aweber removes them from that auto-responder (why try to sell an eBook to someone who already bought) and adds them to another auto-responder of your choice. Yeah, very cool and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I use Aweber to deliver emails at Need a Topic. With the amount of programming and automation going on, few other providers could handle it.

How often can you send? iContact allows you to send six time your subscriber base each month. If you have 1,000 subscribers you can send 6,000 emails. That’s plenty for most people, but Need a Topic is delivered three times per week, or about 12 times per month. Aweber allows me to send an unlimited number.

Pricing

Pricing is similar as your list grows. Mailchimp is interesting because you’re allowed 500 subscribers for free. If you’re keeping your list small, go for it, but it does tend to be more on the expensive side as you grow.

Aweber is a bit more on the expensive side, but if you’re doing anything with ecommerce, it’s my top pick.

iContact and Constant Contact are similar in pricing, with iContact being less expensive as you grow.

Update: iContact now offers a free edition similar to Mailchimp.

My thoughts

I use iContact for my regular newsletter as I have for many years. I started with Constant Contact but left for a more robust platform. Constant Contact has added many of the features I was missing years ago, but they’re still a bit more expensive.

If ecommerce, fully featured autoresponders, or a technical project are your thing, give Aweber a try.

If you like a lot of social tools (I don’t use many of them) and want to keep your list on the small side, Mailchimp is a great way to go.

The most important thing to remember is not to switch around. Pick one and stay there. I can tell you from first hand experience, if you switch providers you’ll lose a big portion of subscribers.

Due to anti-spam laws you want people to double opt-in. That means verifying their email address when they join. You don’t want people on your list who don’t want to be there, so make sure you’re using this feature. Many providers even require it.

Who do you use for your list?

Image credit xeeliz

  • Anonymous

    Mailchimp has been great for me so far….thanks for the information Justin

  • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

    Great write-up Justin. I’ve started using MailChimp for a couple different projects associated with OM and MyWebsiteWorkshop.com and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works.

  • Todd Hash

    Recently MailChimp updated its Forever Free plan so you can have up to 2,000 subscribers with 12,000 emails going out in a month.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Good to know, Todd. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Glad to hear from people using MailChimp. Looks like a cool service.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for chiming in, Gregg. Glad the Chimp is working for you.

  • http://twitter.com/RMRStyle Real Men Real Style

    I’m very happy with AWeber – I feel trying to save a few dollars a month on a service that if used right can make you thousands is shortsighted. You have to look at where you’re headed and what you want to do, and for me the choice was simple.

    Another point to think about is what services/plugins your service works with. Oftentimes the lesser known services are not included when auxiliary email capture and marketing tools are created.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Same here. I happily pay more for a service that works right every time. It saves so much time, which is money.

    Here’s a post that will help with your Disuqus profile so we can call you by name. :)
    http://coachradio.tv/pic

  • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

    And it integrates with Freshbooks and CapsuleCRM – my two latest tools I’m using to manage my biz, and it’s easily integrated with Drupal too. I’m really liking it so far.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    That is sweet. In researching this post I realized iContact integrates with
    SalesForce, which I’ve been using for years. I need to dig deeper into that.

  • http://twitter.com/GallagherPreach Chris Gallagher

    I am using MailChimp as well. I moved to MailChimp after using a mailing list on the hosting company I use. I have foudn MailChimp to be effective in reaching people in an HTML format as well as text. The statistics are waht is grabbing me on MailChimp, plus as Todd Hash mentioned, the subscriber number and email numbers changin are a positive trait.

    Great writeup Justin!

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Yeah, those stats are vitally important. I’m seeing some robust options across each of these platforms lately.

  • Patty Gale

    I’ve used Aweber in the past and have been using Mailchimp for nearly a year. LOVE Mailchimp.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for weighing in, Patty.

  • http://www.thebootstrapcoach.com/ Josh Bulloc

    Justin, The only thing holding me back is having to include my address. Do you see any concern with your address being spread to everybody?

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Email address or physical address?

    Physical address – anti-spam laws require it. People who want to do business with you tend to join newsletters. Why don’t you want them to have your address?

    Email address – you can create any address you like. Again, these are folks who want to do business with you. If you’re afraid of attracting the wrong folks, there’s something wrong.

    It’s difficult enough to get people to subscribe. I’d be more concerned about that than what they’ll send to your house. :)

  • http://www.ericconnor.com Eric Connor

    Thanks for this Justin. I just got done researching it myself for my new blog. Went with MailChimp…although I agree with you in that from everything I read if ecommerce is your focus aweber is the way to go. In any case, reading this helped me feel more confident about my choice and email marketing in general.

  • http://www.ericconnor.com Eric Connor

    for the record, I didn’t like seeing my physical address show up either….AND even got comments from a friend who just subscribed to my newsletter when he saw it.

    That being said, I suppose there really isn’t any concern…maybe something to worry about more when my list actually gets big :-) Just odd for newbie bloggers that it is required.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Great, I don’t think you can go wrong with MailChimp. I haven’t used them, but hear great things about them.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I don’t think there’s a concern, Eric. In fact, if I visit a site and don’t see an address (it is something I look for) I probably won’t do business there. Maybe I’m weird. I don’t care that we might never meet or I ever visit that address, but I want to know you’re real.

  • http://www.thebootstrapcoach.com/ Josh Bulloc

    Physical address was my concern. I was not sure if there were people that would show up to my house to be crazy but I have no info to say it will happen. I will give it a shot, thanks.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I assure you, Josh, you have nothing to worry about.

  • http://www.thebootstrapcoach.com/ Josh Bulloc

    Thanks Justin,

    I just set up my newsletter with Aweber.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Great to hear, Josh. Now, the fun part of creating and sending comes into
    play. I have one going out this morning.

  • http://amateuronlineentrepreneur.com Charlotta Baath

    Only problem with MailChimp is in their Terms of Use (you find the link in their footer). Under point f – “Prohibited Content and Industries” you will find, among others: “Work from home, Internet Lead-gen, Make money on online opportunities, etc.”, and “Affiliate marketing”. If they discover that you do any of that they will throw you out.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I wasn’t aware of that, Charlotta. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • http://amateuronlineentrepreneur.com Charlotta Baath

    Hi Justin, I just wanted to report that I contacted MailChimp to get out where the line goes with them.

    I had read in this post: http://mywifequitherjob.com/mailchimp-vs-aweber-a-comparison-of-two-email-marketing-providers/ about how MailChimp suddenly suspended that site because the title of their ebook sounded too much like “get rich quick” to them.

    So this is what I now wrote to them:

    Hi, I read online and in your terms of service that affiliate marketing and “make money online” content is a no no with you. Just to be sure, my website is called “amateur online entrepreneur” and I blog about my journey of starting my business online, with social media and what not. The service I offer is installation etc. of wordpress websites, and I have and will have affiliate links to a) hosting, b) premium themes, and c) amazon books on my site. Would my site then be approved or not by you? (I would probably only rarely have such links in my emails.)

    And this is what they answered:

    Hello Charlotta,
    Thank you for that insight. The site sounds fine, [...] Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you.
    Regards,
    Jim
    MailChimp.com / Client Services

    So a “normal” use of affiliate links etc. seems to be fine with them.

    (Sorry for this long comment, Justin. You may of course remove or edit as you wish. Just thought it might be interesting for people with similar plans for their site.)

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for sharing that. I have a feeling they don’t care what you do with
    affiliate links, unless you become a spammer. Gives them the right to give
    you the boot.

  • Joe Lalonde

    We’ve just switched to Swiftpage from iContact. Swiftpage integrates with our CRM tool and has some cool features. I feel their pricing is a bit on the high side and their send limits are low(1000 a day or you can add in increments of 1000 for $5).

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for sharing, Joe. I hadn’t heard of them.

  • Joe Lalonde

    You’re welcome Justin.It’s always great to have options and find new ones.

  • Drew

    I just started using Mail Chimp.  I think it was Andy Traub that first suggested that to me a couple of months ago.  Plus, I am sending out a survey using Google Forms to my mail list to pinpoint my newsletter content.  BTW – Andy also hosted a webinar on how to build Survey forms using Google documents.

    You and your friends are very helpful!  

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Glad to hear it, Drew. How are you liking MailChimp so far?

  • Ryan

    Good article.

    With the hosted shopping cart I’m probably going to use (Core Commerce) they only integrate Mailchimp and ConstantContact.

    From my research IContact is the best one out there. But unfortunately it’s not available for my most likely setup.

    My store will sell funny t-shirts, essentially.

    I don’t know what the deliverability rate of Mailchimp is but for ConstantContact it’s 97%. For Icontact it’s 98 to 99%.

    It would seem to me that the deliverability rate is perhaps the most important thing to consider.

    It’s worth noting that for my business I will most likely never send out preset emails, but every email will be timely.

    Considering everything I’ve covered, what newsletter service do you think would be best for my business, Mailchimp or Constant Contact?

    By the way: I totally agree with you — you should never switch around… which why it’s so vital to pick a good service to begin with. One you won’t regret later!

    Thank you for your time.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I just recently used MailChimp for the first time, Ryan. It’s easy to use, but it seems like it’s set up and geared too much for the beginning person. Not a lot of features that I’d use and not enough of what I want.

    I left ConstantContact many years ago because they lacked features I needed. They’ve brought many in since then however and I think they’re probably your best best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ecviets Eric Viets

    By “physical address” does it legally have to be a street address – or will a Post Office box do fine (I already have one)?

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Yes, any offline address will work.

  • Jon Roberts

    I use Alpha – http://alpha.76uk.com. Great looking, easy to use and best of all.. it’s much cheaper! JR 

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I noticed they don’t say anything about deliverability rate, Jon. That’s the most important metric of all in the newsletter world. I wonder what their rate it. Even a .1% difference is huge.

  • Alec

    Aloha!

    Coming from the offline business world, there is one thing I know and that is most offline businesses still   DON’T use email marketing and that’s a shame. I have started and operated multiple retail stores and restaurants in the past 7-8 years and in 2008 thought of using email marketing to boost sales. 

    It totally worked, but I was so frustrated at the complexity of the tools. First I used Constant Contact, then MailChimp, then Icontact, but all were to much for an average user. 

    So knowing the benefits of email marketing to a business, I wanted to create a tool to help all the people like me who wanted the basics, and needed a simple tool to use for their newsletters.

    A couple of months ago we launched RedCappi and people who use it just love the simplicity and ease of creating a email campaign or newsletter. 

    RedCappi is email marketing stripped to the basics…Kind of like Ipod was for mp3 players.(Hate to use Apple in my analogy, but you get my point.)

    Maybe some of your audience who really just prefer simplicity can try RedCappi for their email marketing needs…

    Cheers

    http://www.redcappi.com

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks for stopping by, Alec. I’ve tried all you mentioned, and although I don’t care for the MailChimp interface, I don’t agree that average people would find them too complicated.

    Looks like you have a good thing going at red cappi though.

  • http://rise365.com Michael Good

    Justin,
    Just registered my newsletter. I’m wondering if it would be good to have people put in their names as well as their emails when they sign up. I feel like more people will sign up only having to put in their email. Thoughts? 
    By the way, right now I simply have the signup form in the sidebar of my site (see photo).

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    You probably won’t see much in the way of signups without giving folks a reason to do so. Maybe it’s a beginning music reading lesson, etc.

    You’re right also about the info. The fewer things you ask for, the more likely folks are to give it to you and complete the process. I think first name and email are good. That way you can customize and include their name when sending emails. You’ll get a higher response when you send than if you don’t include their name.

  • http://rise365.com Michael Good

    Great thoughts, Justin. So, I could give them a helpful resource if digital form I suppose. Also, you have folks signup for blog updates on your site. But then, I know you also have your newsletter. I looks like at the moment you can’t signup for that on your site. Is that something you do only from time to time?

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    The newsletter is there, I just don’t push it. One goal at a time, and for me, it’s blog subscribers right now. In the social networks list, click on the email to signup. Or http://coachradio.tv/subscribe.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, I realize how important having a search feature on your blog is! I used that search to find this post as I investigate different system options. My question is why you continue to use iContact and Aweber at the same time. It seems somewhat redundant in my mind, but I’m sure you have good reasons for your activity (as you usually do!).

    I eventually want to integrate ecommerce items, such as downloadable courses, into my e-mail marketing. Based on your analysis, AWeber would seem to be the way to go for me. However, I don’t want to do that until I have built a good subscriber base. My newsletter will feature some longer-form articles, videos from my blog, and some “Where’s Dallon?” items like when I am speaking in South Carolina in two weeks. I don’t need the e-commerce functionality yet, but I know I will fairly soon.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    iContact is my newsletter. I’ve been there for years and tried to switch to Aweber. Everyone would have had to opt in again, and since I’m happy with iContact and not motivated to change, I’m keeping people happy (and not making them click unnecessarily) by not changing anything.

    I use Aweber to deliver http://needatopic.com. The feature set at iContact doesn’t let me integrate the membership site like I need to. It’s just a $19 / month charge and well worth it.

  • Anonymous

    I use MailChimp on a weekly basis now. I like it.  This article had me a little worried, but I am happy to see that others are using it now.  I like the social media part of it.  I am going to keep on rocking it!  Great article Justin.  

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Thanks, Jonathan. If it’s working for you, keep at it. It’s there and working for a reason.

  • http://www.48dayrebel.com/ Jonathan Brown

    Justin..
    Wanted to know what you think is the way to go for payment processing.
    I watched some negative video on You Tube about pay pay “holding” funds.
    If I wanted to offer services and some products…..
    Pay Pal not good ? Where to start?
     

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    PayPal is the best place to start, Jonathan. No overhead, pay only when people buy, etc. I’m not sure what “holding” funds is. I haven’t ever seen that.

  • http://christopherbattles.net/ Christopher Battles

    Thank you.  Confirmed what I thought regarding using Mailchimp as that is all that will be needed for a good while and there is not a budget for it. :)
    Thanks again.

    K, bye

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Let me know how it works for you, Christopher.

  • Emaya77

    Why did you say if you switch providers you’ll lose a big portion of subscribers?

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Many systems require double opt-in. So, if you switch from iContact to Aweber, every single subscriber will have to take action and click a link to re-verify with Aweber. It all depends on who you’re moving from and to.
    If you can, do the research up front to make sure you pick a system you want to stay with for the long run.

  • http://www.MyLegalJoe.com/ Joe O’Keefe

    Really good post Justin.  I am leaning toward Mailchimp because I am just getting started and do not have ecommerce happening yet.  But my goal is to eventually sell digital products and I know Aweber is best for that.  A little nervous about your warning to avoid switching. If things go crazy and products come and take off, I suppose it would be a good problem to have.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    I’m now using all three, Joe. I have a special project on Aweber that will eventually end, and so will my use with Aweber. I’ve really been enjoying Mailchimp a lot more since I wrote this post. Even for the reasons you specified, I’d head over to Mailchimp. They’ll do everything you need and have come a long way in a short time.

  • http://www.MyLegalJoe.com/ Joe O’Keefe

    Thanks Justin. I appreciate the update.

  • Pearl

    Hi Rob, Do you mind to share more of  your experience with integrating Mailchimp with drupal? Does it mean that if I create a Drupal content, I can email this content to mail list through Mailchimp? Do I still need to open an account with Mailchimp? What are other benefits of intergrating Mailchimp and Drupal?

  • Pearl

    Hi Rob, Do you mind to share more of  your experience with integrating Mailchimp with drupal? Does it mean that if I create a Drupal content, I can email this content to mail list through Mailchimp? Do I still need to open an account with Mailchimp? What are other benefits of intergrating Mailchimp and Drupal?

  • Pearl

    sorry this is a wrong reply. I intent to reply to Rob Orr’s comment below.

  • http://orraclemedia.com/ Rob Orr

    Hi Pearl – I just wrote this post on my blog about how to set up Mailchimp that may answer your question a little better, but yes – you need to have a Mailchimp account in conjunction with your Drupal site.

  • Pingback: Ten Hot E-Newsletter Tips for Authors & Bloggers | Molly Greene: Writer

  • Scott Warner

    I am impressed with how simple it is to make a professional looking email newsletter with MailChimp. I would be more likely to use MailChimp if they had better, at least decent HTML forms, current is complete garbage.

    Not good for IMers, as I need a capture page that converts, and a garbage form will not convert like I want it to. That is the only thing that Aweber has on them. Which to me, should be an obvious thing to have.

    And trust me, I am trying to find every excuse to leave Aweber behind!

  • RINGMASTR

    Not a fan of Mailchimp

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    Any particular reason?

  • RINGMASTR

    The double opt-in and U/I as a user and recipient. When evaluating solutions I consider them from a recipient as my as from my POV

  • Andrea

    Hi Justin,

    My company & I trying to figure out if we should leave iContact for another Newsletter service. We have several thousand contacts, but find many of our emails end up in SPAM folders. You mentioned above trying to stick with one service to avoid losing subscribers, so is there another strategy we could use to stop this from happening? Perhaps change our email address from “info@…” to “newsletter@…”

    Anxiously seeing professional advice.

  • http://coachradio.tv/ Justin Lukasavige

    iContact has comparable deliverability to most of the other providers, Andrea. I personal email address (Andrea@) and a real name makes a difference, as well as avoiding certain spammy phrases that’ll send you email there too.

  • Pingback: iContact Compared | Top 10 Autoresponders