I've been feeling under the weather the past couple days so I decided to focus my non-energetic self on testing my Constant Contact account under the 60 day trial. I had twelve friends who had originally told me that they would be happy to be testers. (A special thumbs up to my male friends who volunteered - I feel the love!)
The Constant Contract program is very easy to use (even a caveman could do it!) You log in to a dashboard that allows you to build all aspects of your communication. The first thing I did last week was to set up things like the Organization Name, logo, email address and phone number. These are all important because they will appear in various sections of the email. You also set up signature information, who the email will come from, and options for updating your information and opting out.
The next step involves contact set-up. You can create several different "Lists" and add as many contacts as desired to each list. You can also add the same contact to multiple lists. Right now, the only List I have is a General Information list. However, if I wanted to, I could have a "locals" list who would get emails about local events and sales, an "out of town" list that might get emails less frequently or only get emails about online (when I get there) sales/events. If I ever have a loyalty program, perhaps there would be a loyalty program members list....the possibilities are endless.
Setting up contacts is very simple. If you already had a large list, the program enables you to import the list. Since my list was very small, I was able to type everything in easily. The only required field is email address. I have also added first and last name. If desired, I could add custom fields, notes, phone numbers, mailing addresses. Pretty much anything you could imagine.
I also have the ability to track my contacts - how many new did I add in what month? Did I remove any? Did anyone opt out? All interesting and important things to know.
Creating an email can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. You can name the email (something meaningful to you - the people receiving it do not see the name) and then begin setting it up! You can also copy a previously created email or edit it at any time.
You do need to define a Subject Line for each email as well as "who" it is from (in this case, Zoe Boutique). You also define a From email address and a Reply to email address. You have the ability to provide a link to a web page version of the email as well as the ability for the person to forward that email to a friend.
The program comes with a number of pre-defined templates or you can create your own. For test number one, I chose one of their templates and added the Zoe logo and some customized text. I did not play with it on the first test, but there is significant flexibility in the fonts, background colors and outlines available. You also have the ability to add or delete "blocks" of information from the mailing. I'll be testing all of these in future tests.
Once you are ready to send the email, you can chose which list(s) you'd like to have receive it. You have the ability to send a draft to yourself and 4 other people if you choose (I did the draft to myself prior to sending the test to my larger group). You may also send it Now or schedule it for a later date/time. I sent it Now as part of the first test. You also have the ability to "Tweet" the email and to add Social Networking links to the email. And off it goes!
From a reporting standpoint, I can then see how many people (and who!) opened it as well as how many bounced, how many chose to opt-out, how many clicked on a link in the email and how many forwarded it to someone else. I can also (as I get more emails/data) do comparative measuring for my overall success rate as well as success in the past three months.
Also very cool - I had three people let me know yesterday that they wanted to be part of the trial after I had sent the original email. I was then able to add them to my contact list and send the mail ONLY to them.
I'm looking forward to learning more about the program and continuing my testing!