A lot of people ask us about email marketing services and which email service provider (ESP) is the best one. MailChimp and Constant Contact have long been the two main contenders in this arena. In order to provide our clients with a quick product comparison, we’ve assessed how the competition stacks up in five key categories. The victor in our eyes — MailChimp.
When it comes to dollars and cents, the two are pretty evenly matched above 2,500 contacts (see the charts below). But the major difference comes in between 0-2,000 subscribers, where MailChimp wins hands down. If you’re a small business or someone who only sends a couple emails per month (anywhere under 12,000) and just need to build emails and manage lists on the cheap, look no further than MailChimp’s Forever Free plan.
Here’s MailChimp’s pricing chart:
And Constant Contact’s cost comparison:
2. Images and storage
Who you can reach for your money is one thing, but what you can send them is even more important. Emails are simply images and text, and good emails have less of the latter. MailChimp provides unlimited storage and easy photo editing, which makes it a breeze to recycle images from old email campaigns or keep a hefty library of graphics and attachments at your disposal. Constant Contact draws the line at five images and five docs, then charges $5/mo to add 50MB of storage & editing tools.
Once sent, MailChimp emails live indefinitely on their server with permalinks, embeddable archives and Google Analytics tracking for hits to your old campaigns. Constant Contact will store up to 250 emails for only $5/month, but as with images, why pay extra?
3. Cleaner Code = Happier Emails
While both ESPs offer pre-made templates, and now drag-and-drop template builders, sometimes it’s still hard to get what you want. Brave souls who want truly custom templates can code their own and upload them into either client. Great news, until you find a pesky typo or minor edit you want to make. While Constant Contact requires you to upload a fresh HTML file, MailChimp let’s you tweak your code and preview the changes in-site. And thanks to their simplified email template language (markup for you techies), it takes all of a few simple tags to make your content blocks editable, repeatable or even hideable in MailChimp’s email designer. It’s a beautiful marriage of your design and their sensible approach to template layout.
4. Subscriber Management (lists vs. groups)
Sometimes the best approach to managing your email subscribers is giving up some of the control (a.k.a. headache). Having your subscribers update their own preferences for example, within parameters you define, allows them to dial in their own email subscription and saves you the work of remembering who liked what content better. MailChimp keeps them all under one list and lets them (or you) organize themselves into groups you can segment per campaign — no more migrating subscribers between lists and accidentally losing email addresses in the process. It’s a different approach, and thus a learning curve for some people switching from Constant Contact, but we’ve found the MailChimp system to be far more intuitive in the long run. Once you wrap your head around the structural differences of lists vs. groups, the benefits are obvious.
We’re not talking about a Facebook or Twitter sharing button, which both ESPs readily provide – we’re talking outside services like e-commerce tools, customer relationship management (CRM) software, surveys, events and much more. MailChimp has set the bar high for API development. It makes sense really. In a social-media-heavy, mobile-driven world, email is still an essential means to connect with your audience, regardless of platform or device. Truth is, MailChimp just plays nicer with others.
A couple of other MailChimp goodies that are too sweet not to name here… we consider them icing on an already delicious email cake. Mmmm, cake.
- Responsive interface: looks and works the same on all devices
- User roles: set different permissions and access in multi-admin situations
- Chimp humor: okay, this may not actually help you write better emails or get a higher open rate, but it keeps the mood light and we think that’s important.