Looking for a free POS solution?
Try Square POS
- Date Established
- Morrisville, NC
- Well-designed templates
- Good customer support
- Easy to use
- Base plan lacks some key features
- Higher cost
iContact is an email marketing platform that has a strong core offering, and it’s built with ease of use in mind. The primary concern after analyzing the platform is that any small business which is serious about their marketing efforts as a whole may find the tools in iContact’s Base Plan insufficient in the long run and may find that the cost of the Pro Account too high to be worthwhile. That being said, iContact is generally well regarded and praised among its user base according to major review sites. Their solid reputation is, in part, due to its accommodating customer service, which you simply won’t find with many other email marketing software companies.
So how did they become such a success? iContact’s focus on small businesses helped set it apart from the more complex automated programs built with the career internet marketer in mind. Since its founding in 2003, iContact has been one of the key players in the email marketing service industry. Much of this growth was homegrown. The founders’ vision began as a way to “build a great global company based in North Carolina for customers, employees, and community.” iContact offers free email marketing services to all North Carolina-based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations, so if that describes your business, you should check it out immediately. For everyone else, we think this platform also deserves a second look.
In this iContact review, we’ll help you decide if this email marketing software is best for your business or if you should keep shopping.
Table of Contents
iContact pricing is broken down into two main plans, but each scale upwards with the number of subscribers you have.
The Base plan starts at $30.60/mo and includes:
- Customer service
- Drag and drop editor
- Welcome series automation
- HTML editor
- Template library
- Stock image library
- In-line photo editing
- A/B split testing
- Automation editor
- Targeted automation follow-ups
- Welcome series
- Sign-up forms
- List segmentation
- Custom iContact API
- Integrations library
- Client folders
- Multiple users
Here are a few other price points with the Base plan:
- Up to 2500 subscribers are $30.60/mo
- 5000 subscribers are $75.65/mo
- 10,000 subscribers are $109.65/month
- 30,000 subscribers are $220.15/month
- 50,0000 subscribers are $296.65/month
- 750,000 subscribers are $449.00/month
The iContact Pro plan pricing starts at $61.20/month and includes everything in the Base plan plus:
- Smart sending (based on engagement patterns)
- Birthday/anniversary series automation
- Event promotion series automation
- Re-engagement/win-back series automation
- Landing page creation and hosting
- Non-opener segmentation
- Subscriber specific date series
- Segment qualification series
- Audience segmentation
- Contact record updates
- Specific link engagement follow-ups
- Landing page engagement follow-ups
The Pro plan scales at the same rate as the Basic plan. You simply double the Basic iContact price plan numbers if you want to figure out just how much it will cost you based on your subscribers.
High Volume Plan
Though the company website does not detail a price, it does offer a high-volume plan with a custom quote.
If you run your business through salesforce, this may be a necessary add-on for you. At $99/month, it is not exactly cheap, but it is a “seamless, native integration,” so that is good.
For an additional (unnamed) fee, iContact can provide marketing services for you including:
- A dedicated strategic advisor
- Email marketing audit
- 90-day plan
- Design testing
- Custom reporting and analytics
- Deliverability Advocacy
- Inbox troubleshooting
- Lead scoring
- Salesforce sync
- API support
- Premier customer support
- Personalized hands-on training
While pricing is comparable with other email marketing services out there, the way the plans and services break down seem to encourage more of an “upsell” type of environment in our opinion. For instance, you’ll have to pay for the additional marketing services (pricing undisclosed) if you want lead scoring to help you create your campaigns. But we find lead scoring included in a similar plan from Active Campaign. Additionally landing pages aren’t available until you hit the Pro plan, and that is also a bit disappointing as many platforms offer that in the standard plans — Mailchimp offers landing pages in their free plan.
That being said, you still have quite a robust suite of tools with iContact, and we do love that they include customer support with every account — you won’t always find customer support included with email marketing platforms, so that is a refreshing find.
Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed
iContact, like all Vocus programs, is cloud-based. There are mobile apps for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices.
Hardware & Software Requirements
Recommended browsers for iContact are Firefox and Google Chrome, but Safari and Internet Explorer are also supported.
Specific Size Of Business
iContact pricing is structured to scale with your subscriber list and features. Plans are created for small businesses as well as mid-sized and enterprise clients, however as your business grows, the subscriber list pricing increase may be a pain point.
Ease Of Use
The concept of easy use, even for the least experienced of business owners, is one of the cornerstones of the iContact model. Setting up an account to get your iContact login requires only a few pieces of information: name, company name, phone, email address, list size (“Just Starting Out” is an option), and company size.
The user dashboard is quite simple, providing a quick overview of your latest email statistics, contact lists, and social sharing sites. There are also links to the latest info on the iContact blog and a basic overview of the account’s “health.” There are tabs at the top of the screen granting access to more comprehensive information about contacts, emails, reports, and social media integrations.
My overall impression of the iContact service is, first and foremost, that it is easy to understand and follow. The flip side to this, however, is that there is a general lack of information and tools available for more advanced email marketing functions in the Base version. Unfortunately, you can’t test out the more advanced features of the Pro without scheduling a demo, which seems unnecessarily cumbersome given the 30-day trial.
When you start an email campaign, you’ll have your choice of two designers: MessageBuilder (a WYSIWYG editor) and MessageCoder (which allows you to code your message using HTML). MessageBuilder presents a selection of nearly 700 templates, and I was quite impressed by the variety. While on the one hand 700 may seem like overkill (browsing through their Basic templates, I saw a vast variety of minute permutations), on the other, it means that most designers will be able to find a template that will require few, if any, modifications to give them the layout they want.
I found the editor itself a little disappointing. iContact’s image editing is rudimentary, allowing for resizing, word-wrapping, and little else. There’s no way to simply copy page elements (whether that be a text block, image block, or spacer) and no easy way to create buttons. There are some nice options for wrapping text around images. While the editor is easy to use, it’s limited and sometimes buggy.
Once you’ve composed your message, you can preview it in mobile phone, tablet, and desktop formats.
One of the big perks of iContact is its integration with popular social media services (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), which allows you to directly link to your accounts from your dashboard.
Sending the Email
Entering contacts into iContact is simple. There are three basic ways to do it: fill out a long form with information about each contact, upload a CSV or XLS file, or copy and paste email addresses into a text block. You will, of course, need to certify that all your email contacts have given you permission to email them.
As you set up your list, you’ll see an option to set up an autoresponder welcome email to new subscribers joining the list. iContact also gives you an option for double opt-in: an automatic message confirming each new subscriber’s subscription to your newsletter. Taking this step legitimizes your list and lowers the chances of spam complaints or account suspensions because of spam.
Sending a message is quite straightforward. iContact provides you with the opportunity to run your message through a spam check which will scan it for potential red flags that could trigger spam filters. Once you’re satisfied with it, you can select the list you wish to use. You can also immediately post the email to linked social media networks via a series of checkboxes. You’ll need to confirm that the email addresses on the list were permission-based (See “Anti-Spam Policy & Protection” below); at that point, you can either send your message immediately or schedule it for a future date and time.
iContact offers a fairly basic core feature set, with a few nice perks where social media is concerned. Key features include:
- Message Builder: iContact features a handy toolbar and drag-and-drop editing blocks, which integrate smoothly with the over 600 email templates included with each subscription. Templates are organized into a variety of categories, such as travel, children, non-profit, and technology. The program also offers basic templates without any theme which provides a simple layout for users to follow.
- Message Coder: This feature offers those proficient in HTML the ability to personalize their email messages through the use of its design views, message previews, and tables.
- Email Delivery: iContact employs several measures to make sure that its users’ emails reach inboxes, including a dedicated email delivery team that monitors the company’s servers to optimize send rates. There is also a built-in spam checker.
- Reporting & Analytics: Users receive a variety of basic reporting metrics from each email they send. Though only Pro Account members have access to the Google Analytics integration, users on the Base Plan still see a breakdown of opens, clicks, forwards, spam reports, and unsubscribes. All users can segment their lists, track email effectiveness by subscribers, or utilize social media metrics from Facebook and Twitter.
- Segmentation: In what is rapidly becoming standard in the email marketing world, iContact offers email segmentation. Basically, you create different versions of your messages, tailored to different demographic groups in your audience. Through a process I can only describe as black magic, iContact’s software works out exactly which version each subscriber will most appreciate. Pretty handy if used effectively.
- Signup Forms: Users can customize iContact signup form templates and have the option of adding these forms to their websites or Facebook pages.
- Autoresponders: The autoresponder service comes with every iContact subscription; this means users can set up their email marketing programs to send automatic messages to users based on those users’ actions. Such messages might include welcome messages, coupons, and the like.
- Workflow Automation: Tools to help users time and target email campaigns to individual contacts.
- In-depth Reporting: Adds some much-needed reporting features to iContact, including social media monitoring and engagement tracking.
Customer Service & Support
iContact’s homepage touts its award-winning service. My own experiences with the company were great; my email inquiry received a telephone response within the hour, and when I called the company concerning a different issue, I was immediately connected with a representative. In both cases, I found the staff friendly and willing to help. iContact also makes an effort to remain transparent with published satisfaction reports and statistics.
iContact presents potential users with a lot of data about email marketing in general, and there are several resources available even before you sign up for the service, including a glossary of terms and a step-by-step guide for using the iContact application. I would like to see a bit more detail regarding actual program requirements here; browser compatibility is listed in the resources section, but you have to search for it.
The company’s support resources are as follows:
- Live Support: Phone support is available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 7 PM EST and live chat is available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 7 PM EST.
- Online Help: For those who like to refer to a comprehensive user manual when learning a new program, iContact has you covered. The in-program help area includes an interactive, searchable guide that covers all the basics of running iContact. I particularly liked the fact that this guide appears as a pop-up; you can continue to run the iContact program while you read it.
- Video Tutorials: There are dozens of video tutorials that provide visual guidance in navigating the software.
- iContact Blog: iContact’s blog presents content-based tips for email marketing as well as information about software updates and new features.
- Live & Recorded Webinars: iContact conducts a variety of webinars; these cover the operation of the program as well as general email marketing topics. Some webinars (such as “Getting Started with iContact”) run weekly, and six webinars have pre-recorded versions available for viewing anytime.
- Comprehensive Guides: iContact offers guides for new users and several guides on topics ranging from metrics to social media marketing. Each presents a series of topics with tips, takeaways, and actionable items, and includes additional, downloadable materials in the form of printable PDFs and links to other sources within the iContact resource section.
Overall, iContact is well regarded by those who use it. Here’s a snapshot of iContact reviews:
- G2: 4/5 stars with 1,071 customer reviews
- TrustRadius: 7.8/10 stars with 85 reviews and ratings
- Capterra: 4.5/5 stars with 522 reviews
Negative Reviews & Complaints
Criticisms of iContact include:
- Cost: Among users that like the service overall, they also site the pricing as a con. This is likely because features that some other platforms have from the get-go are behind a higher paywall, or require additional services. The way that the cost jumps with subscribers is a noted issue as well.
- Formatting: A few people cited issues with reformatting templates, limited options, as well as some quirks with editing or redesigning an email.
- Email list: While we found praise for ease of use, we also found some complaints from users who found it hard to adjust or add contacts where they needed them.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
iContact is BBB-accredited and earns an A+ on the site. The company offers a testimonials page with praise from customers, and as we said, you’ll also find some very satisfied users on g2.com. The positive highlights we found in iContact reviews include:
- Great support: Support gets a lot of praise. Representatives are, for the most part, deemed helpful and easy to work with, and the response times are considered quite reasonable.
- Award-winning native salesforce integration: While some programs have issues playing well with Salesforce, this is not the case with iContact.
- Super-simple navigation: iContact’s emphasis on small to medium-sized businesses with little to no email marketing experience shines through in every aspect of their program, from the simple set-up of the dashboard to the variety of templates and step-by-step nature of sending emails. Users who are really nervous about the nuts and bolts of email marketing, particularly those with little experience working online or on computers in general, will really appreciate how simple iContact makes the entire experience.
- Price: Several users say they find iContact affordable, though some feel that the low price is balanced by the lack of features.
Integrations & Add-ons
If you need something specific to suit your needs, iContact API lets you create applications for custom requirements. Integration counts have improved since our last review — they now offer over 100 apps and software that you can connect to the platform including:
- HubSpot CRM
- Facebook Lead Ads
- And more
iContact databases are hosted among several servers and have multiple backup and redundancy checks to protect your contact lists. Additionally, iContact uses SSL protocol with all forms on their site.
Anti-Spam Policy & Protection
Like all legit email marketing services, iContact has a strict Anti-Spam Policy. All iContact customers, even those just registering for a free trial, must agree to the company’s End User Service Agreement (EUSA) which includes the Anti-Spam Policy. Users must certify that all emails entered into iContact are opt-in or permission-based, and they must agree to accept the company’s definition of spam.
iContact monitors large list imports and uses an MD5 hash record to screen the content of emails for common spam wording and trends. It also maintains archives of all unique messages sent through the iContact server and requires customers to acknowledge the following before sending each email: “I certify with my initials that all recipients granted their permission to be sent this message.” Company personnel reviews any message sent to more than 5,000 recipients (or 500 recipients in your first two months with iContact).
We think iContact provides a well-thought-out email marketing platform with an easy-to-use design, thorough help center, and excellent customer service. These features are great for first-time email marketers — especially those who need to send a lot of emails per subscriber. However, anyone who gets into serious email marketing will start to incur substantial additional fees that make it less than ideal for smaller campaigns.
iOverall Contact is a good program, but its ROI may not meet everyone’s needs. If you land within the fiscal sweet spot for the plans — or even better, if you are running a non-profit, you’ll find an easy-to-use, well-designed program ready to go. However, if you want to explore more and try before you buy, check out some email marketing options that offer a generous free starter plan in our post The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.
We've done in-depth research on each and confidently recommend them.