Update 9/1/15: Based on the feedback we’ve received in the comments of this post, as well as new product updates from both Constant Contact and Mailchimp, this post has been updated to reflect more current information.
At Capterra, we recently conducted a poll of 60 small businesses that use either MailChimp or Constant Contact for their email marketing needs. Shockingly, more than half of the respondents had used both systems at some point in time, which speaks to the enormous market share these two leading email marketing software providers have. The more interesting finding from our study— of the businesses that had used both, 75% of respondents preferred MailChimp over Constant Contact. <<Tweet this stat
But does that make it the clear winner for all small businesses? Not necessarily…
Despite recent hype about content marketing, social media, and mobile, for the majority of small businesses, the first step to marketing success is still through the good, old-fashioned inbox. Email marketing has consistently been cited as the single most effective marketing tactic for for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. And according to recent reports, 59% of marketers plan to increase their email marketing budgets in 2015.
If you’re just venturing into the world of email marketing or looking to make your business emails more sophisticated this year, you’ve likely already done a quick Google search to evaluate your options and encountered the two market leaders – MailChimp and Constant Contact. Both are tailored for your small business needs, affordable, and easy-to-use… so how’s a small business marketer to choose?
In this post, I’ll break down the primary differentiators between these two leading email marketing software providers. Plus, I’ll show you who wins out in the MailChimp vs Constant Contact battle for six common consideration factors: Price, Customer Support, Features & Functionality, Deliverability, Third-Party Integrations, and Company Culture.
MailChimp vs Constant Contact: 6 Consideration Factors
As a small business marketer, you most likely don’t have unlimited funds to put toward your email marketing software. Luckily, you can rest assured that neither MailChimp nor Constant Contact will break the bank.
- MailChimp offers a “Forever Free” version for up to 2,000 email subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
- Their paid email marketing service starts at $10 per month for unlimited emails up to 500 subscribers, and it increases $5 per month for every 500 subscribers added. All paid plans have unlimited email sending capabilities throughout the month.
- MailChimp also offers a “Pay as you go” option to purchase email credits for $0.005-$0.03 cents per email, making it easy to scale up or down depending on seasonality, slow periods, fluctuating database sizes, or in order to send one-time campaigns to a large list without permanently increasing your subscriber plan.
- High volume senders that send fewer than 4 times per month to a large list may opt for high volume, CPM pricing. In this model, you can purchase email credits starting at $1.25/thousand, which decreases to as low as $0.40/thousand depending on the amount of credits you wish to purchase.
- All nonprofit organizations receive a 15% discount on MailChimp paid accounts.
- Constant Contact offers a 60 day free trial period in which you can email up to 100 contacts, but it’s unlimited as to the number of emails you can send.
- After your free trial runs out, email marketing with CC starts at $20 per month for up to 500 contacts, and it increases to as much as $85 per month for up to 10,000 contacts.
- Constant Contact now offers an “Email Plus Plan,” which includes surveys, registration forms, coupons, and more. Email Plus starts at $45 per month for up to 500 contacts, and scales to $110/month for up to 10,000 contacts.
- You can receive 10% off your Constant Contact account if you prepay for 6 months in advance, or 15% off for a year in advance.
- Nonprofits get double the incentive to prepay, with a 20% prepayment discount for 6 months and a 30% prepayment discount for annual payments.
Pricing Winner= MailChimp.
As the founder and CEO of mKonnekt, Seshu Madabushi consults SMBs on how to engage customers with their marketing platform. Madabushi told us that MailChimp’s “Forever Free” model makes it a clear winner for his small business customers. “Given that most of our clientele are SMBs, the flexible pricing including FREE for the first 2000 emails is what attracts our clients.”
Both MailChimp and Constant Contact are well known for being intuitive and easy-to-use, even if you’re not very tech savvy. But if you expect to need some hand holding, there are some key differences in service:
- Mainly self-service support available through their online Knowledge Base
- Free accounts can only use the Knowledge Base, but users will have an introductory period that includes 30 days of free email support
- Monthly and pay as you go customers can also use chat and email support 24/5– weekends are limited to email service only.
- Phone, chat, and email support offered Monday through Friday for business hours across all time zones in the US and Canada, plus weekend email support. Constant Contact also offers limited phone support for UK users.
- Helpful resources on their site for all aspects of running a small business, such as a community forum to engage with other users, recorded video tutorials, and even local seminars and email marketing boot camp classes for some live instruction.
- Additional training and support services are available for an additional purchase, such as a Quick Start to set up your account, Design & Build to create custom templates, or a Personal Marketer package to have a dedicated expert on call whenever you need them.
Support Winner= Constant Contact.
Ira Wolfe, President of Success Performance Solutions, has been using Constant Contact for nearly 10 years. He comments, “[Constant Contact] offers a tremendous amount of support and resources for the small business. I’m guilty of not utilizing more than I do, but it’s available.”
3. Features & Functionality
There are so many features included in both of these tools that it would probably take me days to go through them all in detail (and by the time I did, they’d have already added new functionality). Both ESPs are committed to constantly improving their tools and releasing new functionality to keep pace with marketers’ ever-growing demands. While most of the same basic features are available in both MailChimp and Constant Contact, I’ve created a chart below to show where the functionality differs. (Note: the highlighted cells indicate unique features, where one email provider had an advantage over the other.)
Some small business owners, like Michelle Geib at Xperience Days Inc., prefer MailChimp’s functionality: “At the time the decision was made, Constant Contact was the most prominent email marketing solution for small businesses. The features it offered- such as delivery, open rate, and click-thru statistics, as well as the ability to view trends over time- were attractive benefits, especially because we did not have access to any of this information with our former, in-house solution. We began looking for a new solution in November, 2013 after having issues with our Constant Contact account. We made the switch to MailChimp, which offers a multitude of additional features Constant Contact didn’t offer. These unique features and the scalable pricing plans were the reasons we decided to move our account.”
But others, like Brent Levi at The Office Connection, say Constant Contact has the edge in functionality. “I feel that MailChimp is best to start out in email marketing for the first time, but it lacks more powerful features. However, I know they are always adding new features. Constant Contact seems to be the best for those who have some experience but are not necessarily experts; such as the common Marketing Coordinator.”
Kevin Jordan of Redpoint Marketing Consultants concurs. He notes that Constant Contact “seemed very intuitive to use and had a large number of professional-looking templates for different types of emails and industries. I also liked the fact that it has event marketing and social media marketing tools in addition to email.”
Functionality Winner= Tie.
Both systems have among the highest deliverability rates in the industry, according to Shero Designs, with Constant Contact at 97% and MailChimp at 96-99% deliverability.
Based on anecdotal feedback from users, it seemed MailChimp was stricter about CAN SPAM compliancy between the two. However, MailChimp does allow you to re-upload unsubscribes to your lists, which some reported would halt your entire account if you attempted to do so in Constant Contact.
Dave Bowman of Design Turnpike says he’s not sure if it’s verifiable or quantifiable, but that his bounce rate and unsubscribe rates were considerably lower with MailChimp than with Constant Contact. He speculates, “Maybe they work harder to keep their site from triggering spam alerts or getting sender mailboxes blocked?”
Constant Contact Deliverability
Of our survey participants, the primary reason that marketers preferred Constant Contact when they had used both systems was because they saw greater email deliverability with Constant Contact. That said, according to a 2012 comparison of the systems by LightSpeed, Constant Contact was supposedly blacklisted from sending to all military email addresses… so keep that in mind if you’re sending to a large proportion of military contacts.
One great user story about MailChimp’s deliverability came from PR & Marketing Consultant, Corina Kellam. After Kellam noticed a snazzy MailChimp email from one of her clients, she began to switch over her new client accounts from Constant Contact to MailChimp. But that’s when she noticed something odd. “Within one month of using Mailchimp, my primary email wasn’t working properly – I later discovered about 1 in 20 weren’t being sent or received. I kept thinking it was the clients’ fault, but after months of missed connections, my email host finally confirmed I’d been flagged for spam because of my Mailchimp account. Unimpressed!” While her MailChimp emails were still being delivered, the emails she sent from her primary email address (the one she had used to set up the MailChimp account) were flagged as spam.
Marc Apple of Forward Push Media experienced a similar situation. “When we first started with email marketing we used MailChimp because it was free, and we had seen other businesses use it. We quickly made the switch to Constant Contact when we heard numerous times that our emails were going to our subscribers spam folders. Constant Contact’s deliverability rate made the decision to switch very easy for us.”
Deliverability Winner= Constant Contact.
Both of these solutions have countless integrations with other popular small business software systems— from CRM software, to blogging platforms, to social media channels, and more. So many, in fact, that both MailChimp and Constant Contact have a directory or marketplace of apps with which they integrate:
- Integrations to note: WordPress, Twitter, Magento, Salesforce, ZenDesk, BigCommerce, Drupal, Mandrill, Eventbrite, and Google Analytics
- In a recent comparison we did of 9 CRM software solutions, the only software that integrated with all 9 of the CRMs was MailChimp.
- Integrations to note: Outlook, Facebook, Hootsuite, Salesforce, ACT!, MINDBODY, Quickbooks, and WordPress
- Because Constant Contact has a built-in platform that includes a suite of its own functionality, like social media marketing, events, surveys, and the like, they don’t have quite the variety of integrations that MailChimp has in these other spaces.
Tim Trampedach, a former product manager at Zynga, is now an avid MailChimp user at his current company, Level X Motorsports, thanks to the rich integrations that MailChimp offers. He explains, “MailChimp is extremely simple to use, has good docs (I’m including Mandrill), and it often has ready-to-go integrations into toolsets like Heroku, Magento, etc. MailChimp is excellent and a clear favorite with the Silicon Valley crowd.”
Integrations Winner= MailChimp
6. Company Culture
At this point in this massive product comparison, you might be thinking, who cares about the company culture- isn’t it the software that really matters? Well, I thought so too, until I read some of the interesting responses to our poll. Perhaps one of the biggest differentiators between these two companies is their own respective approach to marketing.
MailChimp Company Culture
MailChimp is a playful, humorous, and some would even say a friendly company to work with. The company offers unique content like coloring books, creative guides, and of course, their beloved mascot, the Chimp. Ebony Grimsley, owner of Above Promotions, says, “Both products are similar in nature, but there is something about finishing your campaign and giving the Chimp a high-five. It gets you excited about what will come as a result to sending the newsletter that week.”
Copley Broer, CEO of LandlordStation, spotted the same sense of humor when evaluating email marketing solutions, and as a software vendor himself, he explains how important that quality is in a technology provider. “The thing that attracted us to Mailchimp originally was really their design, which is really simple and well-done, and their sort of odd sense of humor. They really make a point of having a lot of funny stuff built into the system, which acts as a daily reminder that all business and marketing should be an enjoyable and fun experience for the end user.”
Constant Contact Company Culture
The words that came up to describe Constant Contact’s company culture most often were helpful and reputable. Constant Contact invests heavily in television, radio, and other mass media advertising campaigns, and as a result, they seem to have greater brand recognition and awareness among small business marketers, despite a seemingly smaller user base. Likewise, their customer service, online learning center, blog, video tutorials, and other stellar online resources make them a go-to for small business advice, whether or not you use their system.
Culture Winner= It depends…would you rather work with a company that’s fun and friendly or trustworthy and reputable?
I think Bob Herman from ShipTropolis sums it up best… “Both MailChimp and Constant Contact can help create success for a small business. Thus, based on different strokes for different folks, sign up for the free trial on both systems and spend some time churning the wheels. Choose the one you like best and don’t look back!”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Bob! Sign up for a free trial of Constant Contact and MailChimp today, plus add in a few others for good measure by consulting our directory of email marketing software.
Looking for Email Marketing software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Email Marketing software solutions.