Friday, May 18, 2012

Comparing Email Newsletter Services by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

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

When I was first trying to decide which email service I wanted, I read up on the comparison reviews of many services and settled on trying these three. I'm glad I did, because I've found uses for all of them. I have since dropped Constant Contact, and now I continue to use both Vertical Response and MailChimp. I've discussed why below.

All three services have customer support, but I feel that Constant Contact is the best at this. They all provide email templates, but allow you to customize your email brand your personal look. You can include photos, videos and social media links to all three services. In short, they all provide the basics of what you will need to send out an email newsletter. The rest of your decision will come down to pricing and personal tastes. Additionally, all three 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 not to keep 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 the place of now missing photo. This is the second 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 analytical 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. 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.

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?


Adam Blumer said...

Thank you so much for doing this series on newsletters. I appreciate your insights.

Timothy Fish said...

I've never used one of these and I'm not sure why I would. Our church has a mailing list that we use for making people aware of prayer requests (usually things like someone being in hospital, or whatever). While it isn't "free", it is part of the website hosting service we're already paying for. My website us hosted by the same company, so if I were to start an e-mail newsletter, I would have access to the same tools. I haven't stopped to count how many e-mails we send through that system. Just guessing, I would say it is something like 8,000 or so each month and that is with less than 200 subscribers.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Adam, You're welcome. Hope it is helpful.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Timothy, If you have access to something like what your church is using, that would be a great alternative.

sally apokedak said...

Jennifer, this has nothing to do with your post, but I'm curious about your name. Was your maiden name Hudson and did you marry someone named Taylor? Or did your parents name you, J. Hudson Taylor?

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...


I was a Hudson who married a Taylor. No relation to James Hudson Taylor, that I know of.