Constant Contact, MailChimp, AWeber, iContact Review

The big players in email marketing providers are Constant Contact, MailChimp, AWeber, and iContact. I’m going to play this review American Idol style and make some cuts before we even get to the Hollywood round.

iContact is out.

The interface is clunky and difficult to use (and this coming from me! I’m used to dealing with user-unfriendly interfaces). It’s essentially the same price as Constant Contact.

Between the remaining three solutions, you have a choice to make: free or paid. MailChimp offers a free account for up to 2,000 subscribers. You may be tempted to go with the free option without further consideration. Hold on.

Free vs. Paid

Combatting the “free is better” mentality

MailChimp is free up to 2,000 subscribers. If you are ever going to have more than 2,000 subscribers (and I hope you do!), you will be paying for MailChimp, so make sure you give it a thorough comparison. You may think “I can always switch to a different paid provider if I max out MailChimp’s free plan.” You can. And it will be a huge headache and you will almost definitely loose subscribers. Pick a provider you can commit to for the long haul. If that’s MailChimp, even better since it’s free at first.

Support Issues

MailChimp can offer a free account because they do not provide support. If you’re a skilled designer and web coder, this will not be a problem. If you’re like the average user though, you may end up needing some help. Don’t let your pride get the best of you. Poorly executed email campaigns can end up costing you more than if you just paid a monthly subscription fee to include support. If you go for free, make sure you know where you will turn when you need help.

Ok, now that we covered the Free vs Paid concerns, let’s take a look at each service.


MailChimp is fun. It’s the kind of email service that makes you want to sign up. In fact, MailChimp is the first email marketing provider I ever used. it’s colorful, friendly, and fun. They have a chimp at the top of each page with funny sayings in a quote bubble. The service comes loaded with free templates and it integrates easily with other services such as PayPal, ZenDesk, Salesforce, e-junkie, Facebook, Twitter, and EventBrite. They also have an “auto-responder” feature to time-delay messages to users after they join your list (a welcome email, for instance)

The service is clearly designed for non-technical users (as it should be since there is no support). You can easily create nice looking emails with MailChimp.

Sign-up for MailChimp

To summarize the Pros:

  • Easy to use for beginners
  • Integration
  • Auto-responders
  • Free for up 2,000 subscribers
  • Pre-made templates + wizard
  • Upload images


  • Usability: While the service is designed for non-technical users, sometimes they get in the way of themselves. The color and graphics intensive pages take longer to load than the average webpage. This might not seem like an issues, but it can be frustrating. Also, the “hold your hands” approach to creating new email campaigns slows you down once you are comfortable at creating emails. I often find myself thinking “GAH! Get out of my way and just let me do this!”
  • Branding: MailChimp’s logo is included at the bottom of every email that you send on free accounts. This may seem small but it can have larger ramifications. Hopefully you have a intentional and coherent brand. Everything you say and do online is working in concert for your mission. MailChimp’s logo takes away from your brand and your message. For instance, if you want users to take action–to donate or sign a petition or tell a friend–your call to action will compete with MailChimp’s logo. Your subscribers are being pulled in two directions: one where you want them to go and the other to MailChimp’s website
  • Customization: All email templates are created through MailChimp’s template system. There is no way to import your own template, you must start with theirs and customize. While at first this might seem like a bonus (easy to customize templates!) it can quickly turn in to a drawback as all MailChimp templates have the same basic layouts and styles. It will be difficult to differentiate and in an increasingly crowded internet, differentiation is crucial


AWeber is a leader in email marketing. Their interface gives you exactly what you need in order to create, schedule, and send campaigns. You can integrate with Facebook and Twitter to promote your message over social media. Similarly to MailChimp, they have a number of integration options such as PayPal, Shopify, Etsy, and WordPress. Their campaigns tool is the best in the business–you can setup a series of emails to be sent after a subscriber joins your list, then use tagging and segmenting to further tailor your messages specifically to your audience based on how they interact with your newsletter.

AWeber offers a complete solution for your email marketing needs, including the ability to set up a landing page with a web form and even a native ecommerce solution.  Web push notifications are a great way to keep yourself at the top of your customer’s minds, and help drive repeat business back to your platform.  You can try all of these features with their free plan, or upgrade to a paid plan to use their world-class analytics features to take more targeted control over your email marketing efforts.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Aweber’s service is their 99% or above deliverability rate. If your email does not get through to the recipient, nothing else matters. AWeber’s has one of the highest (if not THE highest) deliverability rate in the business. If you send an email with Aweber, you can rest assured it is getting through to your recipients.

Sign-up for Aweber

To summarize the Pros

  • Excellent, responsive support
  • Integration
  • Auto-responders
  • Ability to have custom templates
  • Fast load time
  • 99% or above deliverability of messages
  • Pre-made, customizable templates
  • Ability to use completely custom templates
  • Ability to upload image + oodles of free stock photography you can use


  • No wizards: Unlike MailChimp, AWeber does not have any step-by-step wizards for setting up email campaigns (for some, this is a bonus). In a recent update, they added a “New User Experience” which helps you get started with your new account and then gets out of your way. It’s a bit of the best of both worlds, IMHO.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a mix of AWeber of MailChimp. It provides some of the flashy features which make MailChimp with the business focus of AWeber. Like AWeber & MailChimp, Constant Contact offers some pre-made email templates and (also like AWeber) gives you the ability to create your own from scratch. Constant Contact’s autoresponder sequence is relative to the subscriber’s signup date which makes reorder the sequence (or adding new messages in the middle) cumbersome. Constant Contact’s is pricing is similar to AWeber’s.

Sign-up for Constant Contact

To summarize the Pros

  • Pre-made, customizable templates
  • Ability to use completely custom templates
  • Upload images
  • Auto-responder


  • No integrations
  • “User friendly” interface can be clunky


My two recommendations are MailChimp and AWeber. If you have no technical knowledge and absolutely no budget, MailChimp will work. I do, however, recommend investing in AWeber. Though it requires a bit of learning in the beginning, you will master it quickly (one of my clients with zero technical skills or experiences manages her own mailing list after I provided a template and spoke on the phone with her for only 30 minutes). AWeber’s autoresponder is crucial for building connections with your supporters (more on this in my Strategy + Action email series). They offer remarkable deliverability and support. And, most importantly, you completely control your email designs–with no outside branding–so your emails are all about you.

There’s a psychological benefit of paying for premium service. Choosing an inferior service based on price operates from a scarcity mindset: I don’t have enough. If you have a solid mission; are accountable, trustworthy, and effective; and tell your story well, your monthly fee will be a worthwhile investment. It’s investing, not mindlessly spending.  You are doing remarkable, world changing work… it should be presented as such.

P.S. I use AWeber myself as do many of my clients.

Bonus: Test Drive

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AWeber offers a “test drive” of their service. You can signup and they’ll send you some emails so that you can learn more about what they offer and experience the service first-hand, as your subscribers will experience your emails. They mostly focus on businesses which isn’t a bad thing: pay attention to good business tips, they almost always apply to our work as activists, non-profits, and world changers (and are too often ignored).

Photo by mattwi1s0n

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Zickell August 21, 2013at2:06 pm

    Mill 33 is the best mail provider in the world