I have been asked over and over again by those in the industry for almost a decade what the best email & newsletter programs are. I have used a few since 2000, but since 2005, I have been exclusively with iContact. Originally this was because for quite a while they provided the service for free for my publication ADOTAS.com, but currently stay and pay for the service. That being said, I have looked on occasion to move to AWeber, because it is highly recommended by many in the performance marketing industry. I thought it might be time to take a real look at the features, pricing and functions of these two companies. Read my indepth analysis!
In comparing the two companies, it is important to look at what they traditionally have marketed themselves as. iContact has marketed itself as a brand-centric company where brands and major websites can send out newsletter to their followers. On the other hand, AWeberhas become the favorite amongst “marketers” specifically because of its auto-responder function, which many marketers believe to be top notch. In truth, iContact does have a large amount of brand companies that use its services and about 8 times as many customers as AWeber. However, that doesn’t mean its better.
Aweber is $19 a month for up to 500 subscribers and $29 a month for a more realistic size of 501-2,500 subscribers.
iContact is $14.00 a month for up to $500 subscribers, but has a cheaper $9.95 plan of $9.95 a month. Up to 2,500 subscribers is identical pricing of $29 a amonth.
The pricing for all their programs actually stays somewhat the same, plus or minus 5% between the two up to the highest levels.
As mentioned, I have used iContact for years, but have had accounts with both companies. iContact customer service is seriously the best in the industry – from the sales team to the technical support team, they are great at what they do. One thing that I personally find important is that with all the projects that I have, I sometimes need a little “guidance” about things that are out of the box. iContact has always answered my questions on the phone and email. On the other hand, to be perfectly honest, aWeber tends to use canned, copy and paste response or send you to a webpage to “learn” the information. Even trying to get a PR and Marketing Contact over there as close to impossible, and in some cases their customer service person stopped responding to my requests for feature information. When I asked to speak to their PR & Marketing person about pricing discounts and importing, I got a form letter.
This is a very, very hard metric to talk about because there are no “proven” results out there. AWeber has a very strict double-optin system that they require all customers to use, and prevent almost anyone from importing emails from other lists, so that their system can “Stay clean.” However, with the huge amount of “get rich quick” and “MLM” offers that go through AWeber, there seems to be some issues. The built in Junk Mail Filter on Outlook, despite AWeber having SPAM Assassin integrated, seems to like catching AWeber emails more than iContact. iContact has a very similar system installed, but is not as easy to use. However, they review most emails themselves to “help”, just incase there is something they believe is spammy or will get you blocked, an added service I am not sure is in any other email service provider.
iContact is monitored by Pivotal Veracity which gives it a 99% deliverability rate, plus iContact has significant relations with the ISPs and knows exactly what is going on with any possible spammy emails. AWeber claims to have deliverability about the same, but at the same time, no third party verification nor do they have the same relationships from what I have been told with the ISPs because of the perception that they are used by many marketers. Still when I asked around, a lot of my friends said they had little issues with deliverabiltiy from AWeber.
When it comes to features, both of the companies are very similar. Both of them have a great deal of newsletter templates, great signup forms, unlimited email lists, open and click tracking, WYSIWYG editors and a great contact management system. That being said, there iContact’s tracking system is superior as it allows you to really “dig” into who is clicking on the newsletters and what they are specifically clicking on, plus examine it against other newsletters they have clicked on. On top of that, iContact allows you to host images on its server, which for some people might be a must. Additionally, iContact has a built in survey system, but aWeber recommends using Google Docs or SurveyMonkey for surveys.
Yet, AWeber has a built in optimization and tracking system, which allows you to track who is buying products from your newsletter. This is something that is essential for marketers, and I’m sincerely amazed that iContact has not added this into their system. I’m sincerely amazed that they haven’t since this is a blaring difference between the two that seems to be easily fixed.
On top of that, I’ll be honest – the add-ons and packages that have been built in the performance marketing industry for aWeber are significant. There are numerous great WordPress ad-ons that are attached mainly to aWeber and more than one affiliate expert has built specific programs that work with aWeber. Still, aWeber does NOT have a developer API while iContact has a whole developer portal that should allow anyone to build those features and add-ons easily. Some of the “outside” products that people have made for aWeber are actually built into iContact already, such as viral tell-a-friend and forwarding mechanisms.
Honestly, despite me promoting both the products, I know that the readers want me to look at one product and recommend it. Both products are on the top of their game. iContact has built a stellar reputation and has some serious clients behind it. AWeber has the hearts of the marketing community and has been able to grow significantly because of the (paid) promotions by several marketing experts. I would easily come out with a very clear recommendation for iContact, except for the lack of a built in commerce optimization. For many affiliates, this could be essential in knowing what list creations are doing the best and resulting in sales and purchases.
Something really bugs me about AWeber. One of the reasons is their requirement for all new subscribers to re-opt in their lists if they come from another provider. This really bugs me because many, many stores and merchants have lists they have built from customers who have bought products and asking them to decrease their list by as much as 90% is ridiculous. If you do import all your subscribers and they don’t confirm the first time, you can’t ever contact them again. Seriously guys?
The good news is that you can try both of them for close to free. Icontact has a free trial, and AWeber has a $1.00 trial. Note that, not unlike that subscription to MilfHunter, if you do not cancel AWeber they will charge your card (and in my case, even with the cancelation, they charged it, but eventually refunded the charge.).