Why Email Marketing Software?
But with all the email marketing software available, how can advisors be sure to choose the best option? First, let’s review why we want to use an email marketing software in the first place:
- Since more emails are opened today on iPhones than desktops, you’ll want your email to look great on every device.
- When sending to a list of contacts, you will want to keep track of open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates so you can do more of what works.
- We know that using graphics in our emails increases our click-through rates, so we’ll want to include a clickable graphic.
- A/B testing allows us to test subject lines, graphics, and email design to improve the performance of our marketing.
- Email software systems archive all campaigns as a backup for compliance.
- Built-in footers and unsubscribe links comply with federal spam laws.
There is a wide variety of email marketing systems out there today, from AWeber to Hubspot to Infusionsoft. But the two most common platforms financial advisors use are Constant Contact and MailChimp. Which one is right for you? Here’s how they measure up.
First a Little Background
Constant Contact is an email marketing behemoth, founded in 1995 in Waltham, Massachusetts. They have over 1,200 employees around the country and went public in 2007. By Internet standards, they are a Great Grandfather at over 20 years old and have been criticized for being a Web 1.0 company trying to compete in a Web 2.0 world.
MailChimp was founded in 2001 in Atlanta and currently has about 500 employees. The company is privately held, which they claim helps them “work quickly and respond to technology changes without anything getting in their way.” With a decidedly tech-savvy company culture, MailChimp advertises via popular podcasts to younger business leaders and startups.
First, let’s compare the look and feel of emails between the two systems. Here’s the same email, created with both MailChimp and Constant Contact. The Constant Contact version as received on a desktop is on the top and the same email via MailChimp is on the bottom.
You can see that the MailChimp version appears a bit more modern, less cluttered, and more aesthetically pleasing. MailChimp has more leeway and functionality to make an email look great. As a marketer, that alone is enough to sway my preference.
Ease of Use
If you’ve been using Constant Contact and are comfortable with it, there’s no reason to make the switch for ease of use. But if you’re starting fresh and aim to make life easy, consider MailChimp. The software review company Capterra studied which platform business owners preferred. Of users who had tried both platforms, 75% preferred MailChimp. My personal preference from an ease of use perspective is MailChimp by an order of magnitude.
The biggest downside for me with Constant Contact is that their system is painstakingly slow. It’s like going back to 1994 to use the Internet. To edit an email, make changes to your contact list, or view reports will take ten times as long as with MailChimp.
Each time I click on a button within Constant Contact, it takes five to seven full seconds to load the next page. MailChimp takes less than a second. This may not matter much if you’re only sending out one email per month, but because I send dozens of emails per day on behalf of my clients, these precious seconds add up.
Deliverability rates, or what percentage of your emails get through to a recipient’s inbox, are published to be about the same. Constant Contact claims they have a 98% delivery rate and MailChimp claims 96%-99%. But what about in real life? Here’s one example of an email being sent to the exact same contact list via MailChimp vs. Constant Contact.
The MailChimp email had a 100% successful delivery rate, with a 47% open rate and a 25% click-through rate. The Constant Contact email had a 99% delivery rate, with just one email bounce. But the open rate was 31% and the click-through rate was 16%. MailChimp is the clear winner.
MailChimp has a built-in one-click unsubscribe feature while Constant Contact has a two-step process. This may not seem like a big deal, but in email marketing, we strive to make unsubscribing as easy as possible in order to avoid spam complaints.
Unsubscribes are a normal, healthy part of email marketing. Spam complaints are not, and can trigger restrictions on your ability to send emails successfully. If it’s difficult for a recipient to unsubscribe, they may click the spam button, which is to be avoided at all costs.
Constant Contact has customer support by email and phone, so they are technically the winner in this category. But, MailChimp is easier to use and has a monkey at the top of each page offering you helpful tips, so if you don’t mind online and email support, MailChimp has plenty of resources available.
MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, which will cover the average financial advisor. Constant Contact starts at $20 per month and requires users to pay $5 extra per month to host images for emails.
Reporting is essential to understand how your emails are performing and to compare campaigns against each other. Constant Contact reporting is crude at best, with a table displaying the results of each campaign.
MailChimp has robust reporting, offering graphs and illustrations of email campaigns over time. For individual campaigns, it gives more data as well as helpful charts, including when your contacts are opening and clicking on your emails.
A/B Testing allows you to automatically test variations of your email on a small group of your contacts, then use the “winning” version to send to your entire contact list. Testing can significantly improve the performance of emails and is critical to a professional marketing strategy.
This is where Constant Contact really fails, with no built-in A/B testing. You would have to build and run a test manually, which can get messy and risk duplicate emails for some recipients.
MailChimp offers automatic A/B testing, even with their free accounts. You select which variable you’d like to test, what percent of your overall list you’d like to use as a test pool, and how long the system should wait before selecting a winner and sending to the remainder of your list. In one experiment I conducted, an A/B test for a subject line doubled the email open rate and quadrupled the click-through rate.
If your firm is an RIA or you are with a major independent broker-dealer besides LPL Financial, you will be able to choose between the two platforms. Be sure to check with your specific broker-dealer first. If you are with LPL Financial, as many of my clients are, you will not be able to use MailChimp at this time. Despite the same functionality and compliance archiving capabilities, LPL has not approved MailChimp yet.
Overall, MailChimp is the clear winner in my tests and among users. If your compliance department allows it, MailChimp will make an easy-to-use and cost-effective email marketing platform. If not, Constant Contact is an adequate alternative until your compliance department updates their stance in the future.
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