Newsletter Woes – Say Goodbye to ConstantContact

October 3, 2012

So you worked hard and built up a sizable opt-in email list which has become an important part of your marketing strategy, well don’t get too comfortable because some email providers have no desire to defend your efforts.  What follows may sound like a gripe solely against ConstantContact, but I suspect they are not alone.

The Facts

A client worked hard and built an email list of nearly 2000 opt-in emails over several years.  Everyone one on the list had received numerous emails with similar subjects.  There were always a few spam reports (less than 10) each mailing and opt-outs (which are typical).  No new email addresses had been imported into the list in many months.

One day the team at ConstantContact claimed that they received a single blacklist complaint which initiated a review.  They then decided the entire list was suspect despite the facts listed above and basically refused to ever let the client use it again.  No amount of explanations could sway them.

So rather than be an advocate for their customer, they decided that defending their precious IP addresses (which they admit, they can easily get un-blocked) was more important.  I honestly don’t know what they would have done if the list (and hence their revenue stream) was larger.  Maybe we would have had more leverage.

They claim that an “allowable” spam rate is 1 spam report per thousand (well, that certainly sounds reasonable!).  We have nearly 30 clients using ConstantContact and not a single one of them sent any mail in the last year that was under that threshold.  They fall back on spam argument when they are unwilling to re-instate a list that they have already passed judgement upon.

My Opinion of ConstantContact

They are in no hurry to defend their customers and the situation is only going to get much worse.  Here are the reasons:

  • Spam reports are on the rise because nearly all the major mail providers make it very easy to mark mail as spam.  There is no reason for recipients to simply open the mail and unsubscribe.
  • Web visitors are encouraged to join lists on nearly every site and have less fear of doing so because they know they can easily block emails in the future using spam features.
  • There are still loads of website owners that are improperly capturing email addresses and not following basic guidelines (see below).

Basic Guidelines for Newsletters

  • Always carefully describe to your visitors exactly what they are signing-up for
  • Only capture emails through your own website, never use lists obtained from other sources
  • Be sure to maintain a consistent frequency (unexpected emails are easy to mark as spam)
  • Be sure the opt-out link is prominent in your email (if they don’t want it, be sure they can easily opt-out instead of reporting it as spam).
  • Always capture IP addresses, times, and dates, from your subscribers (you might need this to prove to your provider that your list is legitimate)
  • Carefully select your subject to ensure the best possible open rate
  • Always make sure that your content is of the highest possible quality

Lesson Learned

There is one basic lesson to be learned here; never use ConstantContact as an email provider, they are not your advocate!  You can easily sabotage a competitor (or be sabotaged) that is using ConstantContact by seeding their list with email addresses under your control over some period of time (months) and then one day marking them as spam while filing complaints with numerous watchdog sites.  It is easier for ConstantContact just to disable their list rather than defend them.

Andy LoCascio
President
Sound Strategies, Inc.