PROS / The simplicity and ease of use of iContact's email campaign creation is unbeatable.
CONS / You must use the iContact for Salesforce application in order to view statistics regarding conversion rates.
VERDICT / With a broad list of features and reports to help you increase the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, iContact is the best email marketing service on our lineup.
Editor's note: The manufacturer has provided updated screenshots of its platform that will be added when we next update the Email Marketing reviews.
The intent of email marketing services is to keep businesses and customers connected. iContact has found the right formula for that purpose, combining every tool necessary to help you reach out to and focus on the right customers to attract repeat business. It's easy to get lost if you're managing several email advertising campaigns at once, but this service keeps it simple. Its packages come with marketing templates or HTML coding options, depending on how involved you'd like to get in the campaign.
iContact keeps your business visible in countless email inboxes, but it also focuses on what people check more regularly these days – social media. With every new bulk email marketing plan you release, you can add Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus buttons that allow your loyal customers to share coupons and updates from your company. In addition, you can access campaigns from tablets and smartphones. Because of its simplicity and barrage of features, we give iContact the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for bulk email services.
This service makes it very easy for you to set up an effective email marketing campaign without needing a degree in web design or marketing. The user interface is simple to navigate. Once you're logged in, you see a set of tabs prominently displayed at the top of the screen that allow you to easily create an email campaign and access the results. Once you choose a tab, iContact's setup wizard directs you through each step of the process.
Before you send any marketing email, you must have a list of recipients. This email marketing service assists you in adding a sign-up form to your professional website in order to convert one-time or frequent visitors into solidified subscribers. If you already have a list of subscribers saved in an Excel or CSV file, you can import these contacts into your iContact subscriber list.
Once you have your list of contacts, you need to define your target market. iContact allows you to create aliases and send emails based on demographics or filters. For example, if you want to send an email from iContact only to people ages 25 to 35, you can separate these people into a segment and send a personalized campaign to them. You can manage and filter your list of message receivers based on all sorts of criteria, including 13 standard fields and any other custom fields you wish to segment by.
Social media is becoming one of the more prevalent modes of marketing to the masses. iContact has embraced this growing trend by integrating features geared toward Twitter and Facebook users. These iContact tools allow you to publish messages to your wall, create newsletter sign-up forms and post tweets for each email you send as part of your marketing campaigns.
There is also an autoresponder feature in iContact that sends out automatic messages at predetermined times or when specific events happen. For example, if someone signs up for your newsletter, the autoresponder sends a short email to welcome that person. You can also set it up to send customers email coupons on their birthdays.
Creating an email marketing campaign is simple with iContact's step-by-step process. You can use a webpage, HTML, plain text or one of the professionally designed templates to create your email or survey. The iContact process is simple, and you can preview your message before sending it out. Plus, you can save the template for future use.
In recent product updates, iContact has made significant changes to its message-creation tools. One such change is its MessageCoder, a fully functional WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor that allows you to further customize the emails you send.
You can also easily switch between the iContact WYSIWYG design and HTML screens, so if you want to edit the HTML code directly, it's easy to adjust the appearance of your email quickly and see the results instantly. While the WYSIWYG editor is ideal for individuals who have little to no experience in website coding, iContact's HTML-editing functionality will please the savvy programmers out there.
Compared with the other email marketing services we reviewed, iContact includes the largest and best selection of email templates. With more than 500 template options, you can find and customize a professional email marketing campaign, newsletter or survey to suit your own tastes.
The iContact email marketing service also lets you create an email with an appearance that matches your website. You can customize the page by inserting images, hyperlinks, tables, lines and other basic formatting features. This is a great way to maintain your brand between the website and emails to customers, which, in turn, can increase brand loyalty.
Sending & Reporting Features
A host of features helps define iContact as the best email marketing tool for creating email campaigns and tracking their progress. One impressive feature within this email marketing service is the ability to create, send and manage custom surveys. This is an excellent way of getting important feedback, and it encourages two-way communication between you and your customers.
The email marketing service's reporting features are conveniently located under the tab labeled Track. iContact reports on the messages sent, forwarded, bounced and delivered. It also tracks unsubscribed emails along with actual click-throughs.
You can effectively track and report a variety of statistics, complete with easy-to-read tables and charts, through iContact. It's easy to export the data into other forms to track the effectiveness of your work and the success of each email campaign.
The social network integration portion of this email marketing service extends your reporting capabilities even further. You can track click-backs from Twitter and Facebook posts, which gives you the necessary data to evaluate the reach and effect of your marketing campaigns via social media and iContact.
While the reporting is fairly detailed, certain data elements are missing from iContact. Most notably, we did not find anything that provides statistics regarding conversion outside of the Salesforce application. Salesforce is a company that helps you manage your customer relations. In order to use the Salesforce application through iContact, you must sign up for a Salesforce account.
Help & Support
This email marketing service has a comprehensive set of help and support options. These include video tutorials, a knowledgebase, a user manual, articles, live and recorded webinars, a company blog and a newsletter. Live support is available over the phone, by email and even via online live chat.
A nice addition to the help and support options is the email marketing guide created by iContact's experts in email marketing campaigns. The iContact guide gives step-by-step instructions and resources on the best practices of email marketing and discusses several topics, including setting goals, developing a contacts list and the basic rules of an email campaign.
The company also features an impressive user community. This feature allows you to get your content out to a wide audience. You can publish your blog posts or newsletters within the iContact community and increase your number of potential viewers and subscribers.
iContact is an excellent email marketing service that allows you to easily create and track a professional and effective email campaign, complete with surveys, autoresponders and more. In addition, there are plenty of help features to get your campaign off to a great start, and iContact tech support is available if you need it. With a complete lineup of tools, an easy-to-use interface and several innovative features, iContact is the best email marketing service available today.