A Comprehensive Review of iContact email marketing Service

iContact Review

 

iContact is one of many email marketing tools held up by business owners for its unique services that are said to complement the growth of your business. This support is accomplished by iContact through the ease the service provides in communicating with your customers.

 

Add that to many other premium services such as design for marketing campaigns, customer review and product design (and redesign) surveys and general customer engagement, and you can start to understand the problems iContact is trying to solve. Of course, the ‘buts’ are as present as they are with any other service.

 

The choice tool of the iContact service is email marketing. And while there are numerous already used methods and many more conceived ideas on marketing a business, email marketing has a great number of advantages that have contributed in one way or another to the most successful businesses around.

 

Appraising email marketing services, however, is tricky business. One major reason for this is that the features of email marketing services are not as confined as with other services. They commonly propose various plans that can deal with many settings or business situations.

 

Yet, iContact is recognized among email marketing services like MailChimp or Campaigner for its unique services even though it might not compete well with the more illustrious names.

 

One of such unique services that set iContact apart is that, this service (which starts at $14/month), provides quality cover for email campaign tracking and creation. It doesn’t end there though, iContact also has unsurpassed class in terms of social media coverage it provides.

 

The most compelling reason most users have admitted to having caused their attachment to this service is that iContact promises that you can send an unlimited number of emails. This package alone is enough to give it a naturally prouder look among its peers. If only the market it existed in was not one as competitive as email marketing.

 

Comparing iContact with its competition based on the viability of the service at start-up, we can deduce that while iContact allows a generous discount of 15% for all businesses that agree to an annual plan, it cannot mask the fact that the cost of the service only appears to be nothing special.

 

For instance, a small enterprise with about 5,000 contacts as the strength of its marketing database, would have to pay $44.20 on the annual plan of the service. Of course, this is somewhat watered down by the fact that many other email marketing services set up limits of email sent per agreed period, iContact agreements cover your limitless use of emails. Indeed, adding up to $1.90 could afford you a lot more offerings.

 

DETAILS

 

Let’s look at a range of topics we can utilize to dissect the iContact email marketing service.

 

Price and Related Features

 

iContact, as recently as 2016, made a decision regarding the price of their service as the tariff fee of iContact services was increased.

 

The way the services are charged for, did not change, however, as the subscription fee is charged, unsurprisingly, depending on the strength of your marketing database, i.e., the number of people in your marketing database, just like many other email marketing services.

 

Although this review was done on the cheapest plan; iContact plans begin at $14 per month or $11.90 paid annually for a marketing database with a strength of up to 500 subscribers.

 

Moving up, it costs $18 more for 2000 more subscribers and a total cost of $27.20 for annual subscription, and $52 (or annual cost of $44.20) for 5000 subscribers.

 

iContact also features a trial period for businesses. This trial period is set to accommodate only 100 contacts and a message cap of 400 messages.

 

One important thing to note is that while all plans are available for month-month purchase, and the plans can be canceled at any time (through a call), it is not possible to do it on the site). There is no guarantee for a refund.

 

At a price of $99 per month for a maximum number of subscribers set at 500 subscribers, the iContact Pro automatic option is available ($84.15 with annual prepay).  

 

With iContact Pro, there are additional tools that can be used such as Google Analytics integration (for enterprise-level customers) as well as extremely developed features like email workflows for drawn in potential and triggered messages.

 

However, if the number of subscribers you have exceeds 35,000, you should contact the toll number for the iContact service for a price quote on the services.

 

Registration

 

Signing up for iContact is easy. All you’re really required to provide for the registration includes your name, email address, a password and details on the strength of your marketing database / contact list.

 

You notice that a credit card is not required, that is just one of the many things that make the iContact dashboard so friendly to navigate through.

 

Registering on the iContact website also included an option to link up your email marketing assistant to social marketing websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Predictably LinkedIn. This link enables you to track marketing analytics and program posts for release at scheduled times.

 

The effect of the services offered by iContact can be improved further by enlisting the conveniences of third-party services such as 123ContactForm, Viewbix or Salesforce, or building a customized third-party service with the iContact API.

 

Creating a Subscriber List

 

Unlike MailChimp or Campaigner, iContact doesn’t provide a shortcut for importing your contacts from social media locations like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or third party services such as Salesforce, 123Contact or UltraCart.

 

Nevertheless, you can copy and paste your contacts or upload the contacts in file formats such as CSV, XLS or XLSX. The way you choose to do it is left to you. After you do, you can create a subset group and copy your contacts into those groups based on their names.

 

After adding these contacts, make sure to check the box that reads “Require confirmation,” to ensures that only verified contacts who have agreed to receive the emails are added. Auto-responders can be set up to be disseminated only when a new user is added.

 

iContacts offer to aid in creating forms that can be posted on Facebook or a few HTML pages. This can be exploited for advertisement. The interface of the iContact page allows easy manipulation of the uploaded contacts: you can delete contacts, unsubscribe them or add them to a do not contact list.

 

This feature is non-existent in a lot of similar services. Instead, those other services require you to control your contact list record by record. You can also monitor the detailed history of each contact by using the ‘Browse Contact History’ option.

 

Unlike services like AWeber that creates a generic listing system, iContact allows you to make segments for users based on specific user data or when the subscriber was added.

 

The iContact interface also provides updated information about any problems and the right side of the page helps you keep tab of details such as the number of emails sent, the number of subscribers and the storage usage.

 

This service has been tested by many, using a few disposable Mailinator addresses and found the results to be positively encouraging. One problem currently with the iContact setup was that the disposable addresses used seemed to have passed through without any obstructions or alerts from iContacts.

 

I find this odd, and maybe a lot of improvements can be made on blocking disposable addresses. Blocking the addresses will improve the results from the service especially since the plans are charged based on the number of subscribers.

 

Campaign Set-up

 

I couldn’t complain enough about the relatively minute space (5mb) set aside to serve as an image store for easy access during a campaign. The worst part is that 10% is requested for a storage upgrade to obtain 25mb extra.

 

On the other hand, creating an email is simplified by the numerous tools provided like: MessageCoder, an HTML editor that is programmed to aid with content development or importing content from other pages.

 

Others are the fun-to-use MessageBuilder, a drag’n’ drop template tool which holds above 600 stored templates with professional advice on the application of artistic elements like colors and other visual pieces. If you desire a plainer one, you can authorize the settings on Automatic.

 

I wasn’t sure on whether to use web-coupons or newsletters, so I conducted a quick survey, I prepared the questions and iContact took care of passing the information and collecting and collating the results.

 

Campaign Monitoring

 

After passing the mails out, the business owner should pay extra attention to the efficiency of his or her efforts. You do this by tracking your messages to discover if your subscribers are looking at your mail and reacting positively to them.

 

Since there is no Google Analytics integration, the iContact service tries to make up using the ‘Reports’ tab. This label collates the information on the number of mails sent out and the open success rates of the campaign and the number of auto-responders which have been made for communication and how many have been triggered.

 

There are mathematical diagrams to describe the meaning of the statistics better. iContact is equally able to keep tabs on social media services like Twitter, Facebook or Linked-in.

 

Customer Support

 

The dashboard and the interface of iContact was obviously made to make accomplishing your tasks effortlessly. There are links that help to explain features and a wide range of aids, from videos and replayed webinars to articles, to explain the features of the websites.

 

If that is not enough, there is an available phone channel that you can communicate through. However, there is a time restriction on when to call for support. During weekdays, the time is between 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. This time restriction also applies to the online chat channel. This means that there can be no help for you on the weekend.

 

PROS

 

  • Powerful Social Media Integration

Considering the world we live in places more emphasis on communication via social media to some extent than even physical interaction, a powerful integration of social media services to iContact can only serve to do a world of good to your business. 

 

  • Mail Advantage

Creating an email using the tools feels so easy I’m tempted to think, that should be the way to create even personal email accounts. iContact went further to prove their premium services by proposing an offer of unlimited emails, this masterstroke combined with the other pros keep their users pleased and comfortable.

 

  • iContact Assisted Surveys

iContact takes charge of surveys, reducing human involvement and decreasing time spent in carrying out these surveys. Add to that the point that iContact allows free trials and you know why iContact is such a favorite.

 

CONS

 

  • Social Media Imports

There are quite some negatives in the experience of using iContact services. One is the downfalls is that you cannot import contacts from your social media websites such as Gmail, Yahoo mail or third-party services like Salesforce or UltraCart. This makes the step of adding contacts a lot more strenuous than it can be.  This increases the feeling of limitation when other alternatives exist with more freedom and can dissuade anyone from using the service.

 

  • Under-Utilized Auto-responder

Another con is that the Auto-responder or event-based mails can only be sent when a new user is added to the list of users. However, in other similar services, the auto-responder works to react to situations such as when a subscriber clicks on a link or makes changes to his profile.

 

  • Storage?

The grievance I kept the most to heart is the fact that iContact offers an image library storage space that, in my opinion, should not be the amount of space proposed by a service offering unlimited email sending. Simply, it can be better than this.

 

  • Google Analytics

The Advent of Google Analytics has given business owners a way to evaluate the different tools at their disposals. As much as a ‘reports’ tab is provided to keep track of progress, I don’t think it is sufficient to eliminate the use of the famous Google-owned tool.

 

 

Final Verdict

 

Considering all the differences at play, there is no doubt in my mind that iContact deserves a place among the best email marketing services. And if the few changes that I mentioned can be addressed, iContact is not far from dominating this realm of services.

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