Constant Contact has a easy to use interface. Most functions lead you step by step through the tasks in a wizard-like fashion. Clearly, its targeted at users without advanced computer skills.
In Constant contact, lists are called “Interest Categories”
Importing users was easy enough, thanks to the simple interface. File formats acceptable for uploading are Excel (.xls) and Comma Separated Value (.csv) and Text (.txt). As you import, you are asked to confirm that the list was obtained by permission opt-in and no a spam list. The confirmation is basically working on the honor system, but we can assume they know where you live!
Exporting is equally as easy, select the list and what fields you want exported.
Constant Contact only allows you to have subscribers join your list via import, manually or through a web form. There is not functionality where people can subscribe by emailing a particular address.
The web form process again takes a wizard approach. You can have a form of a simple button. Interestingly, submitting via the form takes the viewer to a landing page on the Constant Contact domain where they confirm their subscription. You can easily customize subscriber email notifications such as the Welcome Email (sent to new subscribers who signup using your visitor signup form), the Change of Interest Email (sent to a subscriber to confirm their changes to interest categories and/or personal profile information nor the Update Profile Email (sent when an existing subscriber enters their email address in the visitor signup box).
The process to create an email is very easy to use. Again, CC’s wizard approach is very much in use. If you are a technical user though, you can just switch over to the advanced editor and copy and paste your beautiful designs from Dreamweaver. There are many templates already included to use, varying from business to more informal.
Lastly you can preview your email, and do a quick spam check. It just gives a basic score however and does not break it down for you so you know what to change. I was not convinced how well it works. A subject line of “Free sex and porn” had a spam score of zero, hard to believ. (edit: further testing seemed to get a score, a bit inconsistant). In the full version you can schedule the sending and remove the Constant Contact logo in the footer. I was using the demo version for this review. There are a couple of things missing it seems, most noticeably, any kind of throttling (so your own server doesn’t crash with lots of visitors) and any kind of RSS integration. There also doesn’t seem to be any kind of autoresponder possible.
Reporting is clear and simple in Constant Contact. It shows you the most important statistics of bounces, unsubscribes (opt-outs), opens and clicks.
Support seems very strong with a wide selection of options, including email, phone, chat and forums. The forums had 543 posts in 102 topics in 10 forums. I was able to chat with a gentleman called “Edward” and he quickly answered my questions, in very good English…
Integration into Joomla
Trying to integrate Constant Contact into Joomla might be very difficult. There is no API or database integration, and no setting where you can email to a specific email (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and get added.
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Constant Contact is very good at making it simple to build and send an email list. The interface is clear and simple and the wizards target ease of use. It does have some critical missing features however, including RSS integration, autorepsonders, throttling and any sort of API. Great for small lists, but if you have small lists, you might as well go with a Joomla email newsletter (review)
Compass says: 3 stars!
Get Response has a medium level of features, though there are still some critical ones missing. The interface seems to have had a little Ajax thrown in, but still seems clunky. An annoyance is the presence of advertising and upselling on the interface.
In Get Response, lists are called “Campaigns”
Importing users was easy enough, but has some big issues. The first is the small fact that you can only import 2500 subscribers per day. If you have a big list you will have to spend a bunch of time breaking it up into smaller csv files. The second is the “spammer until proven innocent” policy, quote, “we require that all imported subscribers are confirmed. After the import is complete, the confirmation message is sent to each subscriber, so they have an opportunity to approve by clicking the confirmation link.” This means if you have a list that is from another mail solution, importing them into Get Response will subject them to triple opt in. So for example, I used to use MosList Messenger and all my subscribers have opted in. When you import them they will get yet another email asking if they want to join the newsletter. Needless to say, a significant percent of these will probably say “I already said yes, how many times do I need to?” and then not bother re-confirming.
Annoyingly enough, Get Response then has the balls to try and sell you lists, and uses the “troublesome” factor as a reason to buy it!:
Strangely enough, there does not seem to be any mechanism to export users. This pretty much makes this a dead application. For the sake of thoroughness though, I’ll carry on with the review :).
Get Response allows you to have subscribers join your list via import, manually a web form. or by emailing a particular address.
The web form process takes a wizard approach. You can have a form or a pop up form. The form can be set up to take any number of custom fields.
As a fully fledged autoresponder, Get Response has more options that Constant Contact. The easiest one to send out is a “broadcast” email. This simply sends out an email to all subscribers on a list.
The process to create an email is easy to use. It does not lead you through the various steps as Constant Contact does and instead uses a WYSIWYG HTML editor.
You can preview your email, and do a quick spam check. As most solutions, you can schedule the sending. As with Constant Contact, there is not any kind of throttling (so your own server doesn’t crash with lots of visitors) as you send the emails out. There is a publication to RSS, and even better the ability to have a broadcast link to a RSS feed, prospects will instantly receive a notice whenever there is something new to be read in your blog.
The autoresponder is very powerful. It allows you to send any number of follow up messages to a list. Combined with the ability to automate subscriptions, this can be a useful way to keep in contact with your subscribers. For example:
One annoying feature is built into the unsubscribe function. When a user unsubscribes, or wants to change their information, they are passed to a Get Response page and have to see some advertising from them. Its pretty blatant and tries to get them to sign up for more emails. This is probably the second nail in the coffin for this software.
Reporting is very clumsy in Get Response. All the stats you need are there, but they are presented in a tree format rather than an easy to read table. The reporting pages actually broke after my few attempts to use them!
Support seemed comparable to Constant Contact. Its available via email, phone and live chat. I wasn’t able to raise anyone on the chat. The forum seemed to be a new one, claiming with 4,478 posts in an old forum. Trying to read any of them gave a SQL error however. “Could not obtain topic information [forum] SQL Error : 1054 Unknown column ‘topics_id’ in ‘where clause'”. Not could if they can’t keep the support forum up.
Integration into Joomla
Trying to integrate Get Response into Joomla might be difficult. There is no API or database integration. There is settings where you can email to a specific email (e.g. email@example.com) and get added though which could probably be leveraged to achieve this.
The basic pricing is $17.95 a month, with various price breaks:
Get Response seems like a decent enough system, but scratch the surface and it has some major flaws. Forced confirmation, no export and upselling in the interface make me believe this Polish solution is more interested in making money than a good product. They claim over half a million lists are hosted, but I am surprised there are that many.
Having said that, it does feature autoresponders and RSS notification to your subscribers.
Compass says: 2 stars!
I have just found something that quite astonished me, and I thought it would be useful to share. For the purposes of this review, I signed up for Get Response’s free trial. Since I did, I got subscribed to what seemed like 2 or 3 email lists from them. The emails were quite aggressive marketing, 2-3 every 3-4 days, but I suppose I was one the free trial. Here is the astonishing part however. One of the emails supposedly from the CEO, Simon Grabowski, had not opt-out. There was nothing in the footer that allowed you to opt out (the unsubscribe link) or their address. The important point is that these two things are required to comply with the CAN-SPAM act. Here is the company’s own email breaking federal law! Doesn’t really bode well for how they handle their client’s email campaigns…..
Intellicontact has a slick Ajax web 2.0 loking interface and some useful features on offer. Out of all the email systems I reviewed, its the best out there. Its only lack was an API to integrate into other systems.
The interface has recently been revised. It has a very web 2.0 feel to it and uses Ajax. The slide out contextual help was well implemented. Its simple to use, but one complaint I had was its narrow resolution width (does *anyone* use 800px any more?).
Importing users was very easy. You could import using a CSV file, copy and paste, or add them one at a time. You select your CSV file and then also choose whether you want to send a double opt in (confirmation email). Double Opt-in will send invitations to all subscribers in your import and request they click a link to confirm their subscription. Turn this best practice is important as described in the Get Response review. If you are importing from a different email solution (you want to move for some reason), then you won’t want to use this as it results in a triple opt in.
Finishing the import consists of matching up the fields and then signing off (by entered your initials) that the list was collected spam free. “I certify with my initials that all email addresses being imported have given their permission to receive emails from my organization.”.
There does not seem to be the functionality of being able to have users add themselves to a list by sending an email to a specific address.
There is also a segmenation feature which allows you to subdivide a list based on something: “Each segment represents a specific cross section of contacts in a list. Segmenting is done based on the criteria you choose, such as the Zip code of the contact or when the contact was added to your list.”
Intellicontact can send emails out as a “message” or can be part of a autoresponder.
The interface to create emails has been well thought out. Instead of starting you straight into a wizard, it actuall asks you how you want to create a message first. You can create from scratch, use the beginner MessageBuilder, or my favorite, suck in the text from a web page. I tested sending an email pulling from my blog and it worked very well. All the Joomla “read more” links were carried over, and all the styles from my site’s CSS.
The actual process to create had some interesting features. The core of it is a simple Wysiwyg editor. Its actually using WysiwygPro. You can quick save as you go along. On good feature, unique to Intellicontact was the ability to generate the text version of the email. When you do this it also gives the full URLs of any links you had. Using other systems, creating this second version of an email would take me 5 minutes or more.
You can preview your email, and do a quick spam check. As most solutions, you can schedule the sending. As with other systems reviewd so far, there is not any kind of throttling (so your own server doesn’t crash with lots of visitors) as you send the emails out. Emails sent are placed (if you want) in a public access RSS feed.
One annoying aspect of the emails is the presence of a “powered by Intellicontact” icon in the footer. You have to agree to have it in the terms of agreement, even if you are a paying for an account. The most annoying part was there is no way to style it to match your email.
The autoresponder is very powerful. It allows you to send any number of follow up messages to a list. However, Intellicontact lacks automation rules or being able to join an autoresponder via email.
Reporting is quite robust in Intellicontact. You have various options, you can compare message stats, such as click through rate, or you can look at one message in more detail, for example what links were followed.
Its worth noting that open rate and click through tracking is permanently on and can not be turned off.
Support seemed comparable to other solutions reviews. Its available via email, phone and live chat. The chat and phone were available 9:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Monday – Friday (EST). The forum had 235 posts in 102 topics and has 758 registered members. One slick trick was that you automatically get a forum account when you create your Intellicontact account.
Integration into Joomla
Trying to integrate Intellicontact into Joomla might be difficult. There is no API or database integration. Neither are there settings where you can email to a specific email (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and get added. One interesting note was a post by one of the support admins. There is probably scope here for combining a site registration with a email subscribe form.
All pricing is monthly. You can send up to 6 emails a month to your number of subscribers.
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Intellicontact is a great email marketing solution. It has most of the core features, like autoresponders and flexible importing that you need. All this is wrapped up in a slick and robust interface. Its one of the more expensive options we have reviewed, but the price is well worth it.