PROS / You can use an autoresponder to schedule a series of welcome emails to new subscribers.
CONS / We did not receive test emails sent to Gmail accounts.
VERDICT / iContact is the best email marketing service because it's well rounded and suited for beginners and experts alike with easy-to-use tools and a plethora of options.
One of the best email marketing services in the industry is iContact. Not only does it offer a multitude of features to help you create dynamic and attractive email campaigns, it includes tools to help you make those emails more effective. Its intuitive interface that makes it easy to learn, regardless of your level of technical expertise.
You can choose from hundreds of templates to get you started on your email or newsletter campaigns, and the text and image editors let you brand each one you send out as your own. iContact doesn't ignore the importance of social media marketing and lets you create sign-up forms and track tweets, shares and likes of your messages from your customers. With all these features to keep your finger on the pulse of your customers, iContact takes the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
It's vital that your email reach your intended audience, so iContact includes a spam checker, which offers suggestions of items or lines to eliminate to help you bypass the spam filters of email clients. Although this is a worthwhile feature, we didn't have the best success rate with iContact's spam-checking tool. The tool suggested we remove some code from the newsletter we used for testing, which was created and used by our own marketing team. The HTML in question was removed, but iContact did not specify which line of code it was. Furthermore, neither the ready-made newsletter or email we designed using an iContact template made it to our Gmail inbox. It didn't even show up in the promotional or social tabs. Almost half of the email marketing services we tested had this same issue with Gmail in particular.
Most of the emails we sent with iContact made it through, though. We were able to easily check our results with its tracking reports. You can see whether a reader opened your email or forwarded it to another, or if the sent item simply bounced. To ensure as many eyes see your newsletter as possible, you can post it via a link to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also see how well you're doing in the social media world with these reports, because iContact tracks how your followers engaged with your content – whether they shared, liked or tweeted what you posted.
You can use iContact's autoresponders to greet new subscribers, which is a time-saving tool that keeps your business on the minds of your readers. Similarly, triggered responses let you set up an autoresponder to certain dates or actions. If a reader opens your email or newsletter, you can have another email or newsletter automatically sent after that action. You can also have an email automatically sent with personalized birthday wishes on a subscriber's birthday.
The iContact interface is laid out as simply as possible. The tools you need as you open a template and edit text or images are exactly where you would expect. However, not all campaigns are listed. A help button is located on the side of your screen, and when you click it, a useful sidebar opens with links, a tutorial and task pages.
You can quickly create a new email or newsletter campaign – whether you write your own code or use a template from iContact. As you edit the text or images, you can see exactly what your subscribers will see when they receive the email. Templates are categorized by business type, such as technology, finance, education and insurance.
If you'd rather have your emails and newsletter professionally designed, you can pay iContact to do it for you. The email marketing solution can create a custom template or sign-up form for you, as well as repair the HTML in messages that don't show up right and convert various files into mass emails. Each of these options is a different design service with its own cost.
It's important to know what your email blast looks like to your recipients, so iContact's preview feature is helpful. You can see how your finished product appears in several formats, including desktop, mobile and tablet, and even different email clients.
It's standard practice among email marketing software to include a way to import your contacts, but iContact makes it easier than ever. You can upload a file of contacts or add them individually, as usual, but you can also copy and paste a list and the information fills in the fields automatically.
Building your contact list is important, so you should be able to create sign-up forms through your email marketing service. However, iContact's customization of sign-up forms is limited. You can't add images, so you miss an opportunity to add your branding to your sign-ups. There is plenty of room for fields of information that can be helpful with segmented marketing later. If, for example, your business sells geek culture items, you can ask subscribers what their favorite TV shows, video games or pop culture icons are. Later, when you have a sale on, say, Doctor Who items, you can target those who have a particular interest in the show.
You can build an effective email advertising campaign with iContact. This email marketing service makes it easy for you to attract new subscribers with sign-up forms, keep your readers interested with segmented marketing, and know what your audience wants to see more of with detailed reports, which include social media statistics. You can send polls, surveys, newsletters and emails to almost any inbox and know that they will appear as you intended, regardless of the device that displays them. Despite a few omissions, iContact's features combine to make it the best email marketing service we tested overall.