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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Comparing Email Newsletter Services - YOU Decide

If you're looking for a service to provide email newsletters to your readers, here are 3 comparisons for Constant Contact, Vertical Response and MailChimp. I've used all of them.

I've found different uses for each. I have since dropped Constant Contact, and now I continue to use both Vertical Response and MailChimp.

Each service has customer support, but I feel that Constant Contact does this best. They all provide email templates, but allow you to customize your email brand to your personal look. You can include photos, videos and social media links to all of them. Unfortunately, Vertical Response's video service is a little lacking. Whenever I send an email with a video, the option is there, it looks great in my work space and preview, but does not always follow through on the delivery. Some of my subscribers have replied that they couldn't view the video in my email. I started including a link to my YouTube channel, but it just doesn't have the same effect. If I send an email with video, I prefer Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.
The rest of your decision will come down to pricing and personal tastes. Additionally, all 3 provide ways to upload, download, and convert your existing database, website coding that allows people to subscribe to your email newsletter, and spam filters to make sure fewer of your emails land in people's spam folders.
(You can click on the images below to get a better view of the charts.)

Constant Contact
This is one of the most popular services, but it is also one of the most expensive. They require a monthly fee whether or not you use their service each month. I send out a quarterly newsletter and cannot see the benefit in paying a fee for the months I'm not using their service. This is the main reason I decided to stop using them. Their prices are tiered, depending on how many contacts you have. The more you have, the more expensive it gets.

For these expensive prices, you get great customer support by phone, by email, and they hold free workshops in several places. I attended one of their workshops in Charlotte and learned some interesting things. They have more templates to choose from than the other two services, but they limit your photo usage to 5 photos. You have to pay more if you want to insert more photos. This is a problem if you want to archive your newsletters and make them available online. If you swap out your photos, it will leave a white box with a tiny red X in place of the now missing photo. This is the 2nd reason why I stopped using them and why I call them expensive. They provide excellent reporting as to how many emails bounced, were opened, unsubscribes, new subscribers, links clicked on, and other detailed analytic info you might find helpful. 

Vertical Response  
This is the one I use most often since I only produce quarterly newsletters and they allow you to pay as you go. They also provide a monthly service fee that is conveniently priced a couple of dollars less than Constant Contact. There isn't a limit of 5 photos. I've been allowed to used as many photos as I wanted without having to pay extra. However, unlike Constant Contact, I have run into a problem with reaching a limited number of words in my email and was forced to scale back. I haven't had this problem recently, so they might have fixed it. They have a good number of templates to choose from.

This is a great plan to get started with until you build up a large subscriber base. Why? Because it is free. They call it the Forever Free Plan. For up to 2,000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails each month. Few of us send out that many emails. We would drive people nuts! You do miss out on a few perks and they list them on the site, but for the most part, you get most of everything you need.

While I use Vertical Response for my quarterly newsletters, I use MailChimp to send out emails to Influencers and small lists for specific things. This list is much shorter and it is less than quarterly, since I only send it out when I have a book release. This way Influencers get a chance to see the book cover, a video book trailer if it is available, and all the visual details. And it's free!

If you want more of the bells and whistles through MailChimp, below is their pricing fee for Pay As You Go service, as well as a monthly service. When you compare the number of emails and subscribers vs Vertical Response, the latter is less expensive, but you may have to deal with the video issue. Although I'm hoping this will soon be fixed.

The left side is Monthly Fees. The Right side are Pay As You Go Fees

Have you used any of these services? If so, what are your thoughts. What other services have you tried? Please share your experiences for the benefit of others. 


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