VerticalResponse is one of the more venerable email marketing services out there, having managed to weather numerous changes to the industry over the years. Recently, the company seemed to be hindered by splitting its focus between its old (Classic) product and its emerging-but-not-quite-ready-for-primetime VR2 platform.
With the transition finally complete and Classic mode banished to the memory hole, VR2 (now, simply, VerticalResponse) can stand on its own. The company is currently focusing on boiling email marketing down to its bare essentials and, indeed, Vertical Response is now one of simplest services of its kind available, and at a very competitive price. The question for businesses will be whether or not VerticalResponse is robust enough to handle the more complex aspects of your marketing strategy.
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VerticalResponse offers 2 free plans and 3 paid plans:
Absolutely free, no credit card required. You can upgrade to a paid plan at any time. Some of the more advanced automation features will be unavailable, however, and your emails will bear Vertical Response branding.
- Free – Allows for up to 300 contacts and 4,000 emails per month.
- Non-Profit – 501(c)3 non-profit organizations can send up to 10,000 emails/month at no charge, with no limits on list size. See the application form for details.
VerticalResponse’s list-based plans bill based on the number of contacts you have. For these plans, one contact stored on multiple lists qualifies as one subscriber. If you hit the maximum number of subscribers for your current plan, you’ll receive an alert to that effect, and you won’t be able to upload more until you either clean out old contacts you no longer use or upgrade to a bigger plan. (In contrast to many competitors, where you’ll be upgraded to the higher-priced plan without notification.)
Non-profits get 15 percent discount on list-based plans.
- Basic Plans – All Basic Plans include unlimited emails, social media followers, and social media posts. You can also set up automated follow-up emails.
- Up to 500 subscribers – $11/month
- Up to 1,000 subscribers – $22/month
- Up to 2,500 subscribers – $33/month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers – $55/month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers – $83/month
- Up to 25,000 subscribers – $160/month
- Up to 40,000 subscribers – $250/month
- Over 40,000 subscribers – Contact VerticalResponse for pricing
- Pro Plans – In addition to the features offered by Basic Plans, Pro Plans come with a dedicated contact person, template customization and additional delivery resources.
- Up to 500 subscribers – $16/month
- Up to 1,000 subscribers – $32/month
- Up to 2,500 subscribers – $48/month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers – $80/month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers – $120/month
- Up to 25,000 subscribers – $232/month
- Up to 40,000 subscribers – $363/month
- Over 40,000 subscribers – Contact VerticalResponse for pricing
- Pro+ – The new Pro+ tier offers specialized email formats that can be sent once a month, as well as social posts and a dedicated campaign manager.
- Up to 500 subscribers – $196/month
- Up to 1,000 subscribers – $212/month
- Up to 2,500 subscribers – $228/month
- Up to 5,000 subscribers – $260/month
- Up to 10,000 subscribers – $300/month
- Up to 25,000 subscribers – $412/month
- Up to 40,000 subscribers – $543/month
- Over 40,000 subscribers – Contact VerticalResponse for pricing
Companies with limited marketing needs may want to take an a la carte approach to their email marketing service. Credits are good for three months from the time of purchase. Each email costs one credit. You can have as many contacts as you want.
- 300 credits = $7.50
- 1,000 credits = $25
- 2,000 credits = $45
- 5,000 credits = $90
- 7,500 credits = $135
- 10,000 credits = $175
- 25,000 credits = $300
- 50,000 credits = $500
- 75,000 credits = $675
- 200,000 credits = $1,500
- 375,000 credits = $2,813
- 500,000 credits = $3,750
Ease of Use:
If VerticalResponse shines anywhere, it’s here. An email address and password is enough to get you started.
VerticalResponse has an extraordinarily simple design. A navigation bar at the top of the screen gives you a choice between Messages and Contacts; you can also access your profile settings and help options via a link in the upper right corner of the screen. While it is simple, there are times the layout isn’t as intuitive as I’d like. Custom fields for contacts, for instance, are located under profile settings rather than being on the contact page. Nonetheless, there are so few places to look for functions that it’s nearly impossible to get lost for long.
You have a choice between pasting in HTML and a pretty powerful drag-and-drop WYSIWYG editor. The latter includes a good number of theme templates and 4 basic templates.
One nice perk is the ability to edit images within the program. Once uploaded, images can be cropped, resized or even edited with effects ranging from text to stickers. It’s not Photoshop, but it’s more than sufficient for tweaking an image at the last minute.
We’d previously criticized some limitations in the editor’s button system but, while they still have some limitation, you’ve got a lot more ability to customize both the containers and the text.
You can’t edit the HTML code or do anything especially advanced, but I’m happy to report that VerticalResponse’s editor now offers a solid, streamlined foundation upon which to build a basic campaign.
Sending the Email
Before you send your email, you can preview it, shifting between desktop, mobile phone, and tablet views. The phone and tablet options provide views of both vertical and horizontal configurations. Unlike many ESPs, VerticalResponse doesn’t provide access to any kind of spam checker to alert you to potential problems in your message. You can, however, send a test email to up to 10 addresses before mailing it to your full list.
As with most ESPs, you’ll need to certify that any list you upload is permission-based and conforms with the provider’s anti-spam policies. You can add lists in the following ways:
- Upload a csv, txt, xls, or xlsx file (Max size: 100 MB)
- Manually enter contacts one by one; in addition to name and email address, the form includes fields for mailing address, phone numbers, website, birth date, marital status, and gender. You can also add custom fields.
My first email sent quickly and was successfully delivered to the test addresses.
After your message has been sent, you can click on the link to the message to view bounces, opens, clicks, unsubscribes, spam complaints, and social activity (Likes, Shares, Re-Tweets, and Comments). You can also view the specific email addresses associated with bounces, opens, clicks, and unsubscribes.
You can create lists of non-responders and responders to your email with a couple of clicks. However, you can’t do more advanced list segmentation.
Customer Service and Support:
My experience with customer service was on the whole a good one. Representatives were generally helpful, knowledgeable, and prompt in their responses to my inquiries. While you have to fill in some forms in advance, I never waited more than a minute for an online chat representative. My emails received replies in anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours, and when I called, I was talking with a human being within five minutes.
VerticalResponse offers the following support resources:
- Live Support – VerticalResponse provides live one-on-one support through the following means:
- Phone Support: You can reach VerticalResponse at 855-333-1055. Available weekdays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.
- Email: Contact VerticalResponse using the online contact form here. Available Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST and Saturday – Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.
- Chat Support: Available Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST and Saturday – Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.
- Social Media – VerticalResponse has a Facebook page; however, the company’s responses to customer questions are sporadic, sometimes coming within an hour but more often taking several days. Posts to Twitter usually get a same-day response. You can also check out the company on LinkedIn and Google+ or review its marketing guides and infographics on Pinterest.
- Video Tutorials – VerticalResponse has several video tutorials and small business tips posted on its Youtube channel. While some of the material concerns the old, Classic interface, other videos apply to VR2.
- Help Center – VerticalResponse provides a searchable knowledge base of articles and FAQs. You can browse articles by category or enter your own search terms. A neat feature within the program is a contextual help center that sends you to topics related to the page you’re currently on.
- Live Webinars – Live webinars are offered weekly and cover topics such as “Creating a Successful Email” and “10 Tips to Grow Your Email List.”
- Blog – At least once every weekday, the VerticalResponse team posts a new entry to its blog. Articles typically discuss small business management, email marketing, and social media.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
The most common complaints I found are as follows:
- Limited Functionality – Some users found VerticalResponse too basic for their needs, saying it lacks the functions and features of other ESPs. Some also feel that the customization available for templates is far too limited.
- Glitches – There have been reports of glitches and inconsistent performance by some users.
- Laggy Customer Support – A few users reported bad experiences with customer service, saying their e-mails were ignored and they had trouble getting in touch with representatives by phone.
- Hard to Use – While just about everyone agrees that VerticalResponse is easy to learn, some say it is hard to use on a day to day basis. They point to inefficiency in layout and design, saying that it takes too many clicks to perform simple functions, that navigation can be frustrating, and that it can be very difficult to fix problems when they arise.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
VerticalResponse’s parent company, Deluxe, is a BBB-accredited business and gets an A+. While a variety of customers are listed on the software’s testimonials page, there’s no actual feedback posted there. The software gets 3.4/5 stars on G2 Crowd based on 51 user ratings, most of which are for Classic, and 3.8/5 stars on Trustradius.com based on 44 user ratings.
Here are some of the most frequent points of praise:
- Ease of Use – By far the most common accolade. Users say VerticalResponse is extraordinarily easy to learn, as well as to use.
- Reporting Tools – While VerticalResponse sticks to the basics with its reports, some users find they present the information in a simple, easy-to-understand format.
- Support – Users praise support, saying that they had no problems getting in touch with representatives and that they liked the level of personal attention VerticalResponse provided. The company also gets kudos for offering support via online chat.
- Nonresponder segmentation – Users like the ability to quickly establish a new list of non-responders in order to target follow-up emails to that group.
VR2 has a fairly limited feature set. New features from Classic continue to be added. An overview of the program’s current features can be found here.
- WYSIWYG Editor – VerticalResponse includes 48 themed templates and 3 basic templates. All use responsive design and scale to desktops, mobile phones, and tablets. The software includes a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG email editor which allows for limited customization of the templates, including the addition of social share buttons. You can also code your own email with HTML, using the “Import HTML” option; however, you cannot edit the HTML code of a pre-existing template.
- Autoresponders – VerticalResponse offers some rudimentary automation in the form of an autoresponder you can send to people who sign up for your list.
- Preview – Before you send your email, you can run it through a basic preview, allowing you to see what it will look like on desktop and mobile devices. No previews are available for specific email clients, however, and some users have noticed discrepancies between their emails’ appearance in the preview and the actual emails.
- Social Sharing – You can post messages directly to Facebook and Twitter through VerticalResponse.
- Sign-up Forms – You can easily create email signup forms. VerticalResponse offers 12 basic templates, with limited options for customization. You can choose between 10 fonts and select which fields to include using a series of tick boxes. Once your form is complete, VerticalResponse will host it; you’ll get a link to the url. You can also create a matching “Thank You” page. However, you cannot embed the sign-up form directly on your Facebook page or on your website, only link to it.
- Email Analytics – VerticalResponse’s reports cover the basics: bounces, opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints, as well as social activity (Likes, Shares, Re-Tweets, and Comments).
- API – VerticalResponse’s API allows developers to create their own apps and integrations for the program
Integrations and Add-ons:
VerticalResponse offers 21 add-ons and integrations with popular software programs and services. All integrations are offered through Zapier. You can read more about how Zapier and VR2 work together here.
Some of the most popular integrations are:
- Shopify – Automatically add e-commerce customers into VerticalResponse email lists. (See our review here.)
- Magento – Sync contacts with the popular e-commerce software. (See our review here.)
- CRM Integrations – Sync contacts with popular CRM software such as Salesforce (review), Zoho CRM (review), Sugar CRM (review), and Highrise (review).
- SurveyMonkey – This integration allows you to import contacts from SurveyMonkey.
- Salesforce – The extremely popular customer relationship management tool
VerticalResponse stores data behind firewalls, uses SSL encryption for credit card data, and limits access to personal information to those employees who need to know it in order to perform their jobs (for example, customer service representatives). Servers are hosted in a secure datacenter which includes automated backup power systems.
Anti-spam Policy & Protection
VerticalResponse has a top-notch anti-spam policy and is CAN-SPAM compliant. Company personnel investigate all reports of abuse. As with any reputable ESP, VerticalResponse requires that all your lists are opt-in only. Companies within industries which are notorious for their high levels of spam are prohibited from using VerticalResponse; you can find the details in the company’s Policies and Terms.
VerticalResponse continues to iron out the wrinkles in VR2, but it’s definitely progressing toward being a strong product for marketers who don’t need to drill down too deeply into the intricacies of email marketing. This does mean, however, that professional marketers or businesses for whom email represents a major marketing strategy may quickly become frustrated by the relatively slim feature list.
If you are new to this kind of software and want the ability to send attractive emails quickly, or if you are a business with infrequent email marketing needs, you may fall right into VerticalResponse’s target niche. The free plan should be more than enough to evaluate whether or not it meets your needs.