Constant Contact was the first company to offer an email marketing service for small businesses and began in 1998. The company now serves more than 650,000 customers around the world by providing templates and software that make it easy to plan, write and target email campaigns for restaurant customers.
Restaurants that have legitimate email lists (where people have opted-in to receive digital communications) can send targeted emails to promote restaurant events, menu changes, customer incentives, daily specials and other communications like newsletters. You and your employees don’t need to know how to format these promotional materials because the WYSIWYG editor provides all the prompts to create a customized HTML document. If you don’t have a list, Constant Contact will help you to build one.

Constant Contact History and Profile

Constant Contact has been providing turnkey email marketing services since 1998 for restaurants, retailers, nonprofits and other organizations. The company has offices In New York, Florida, Colorado, California and London, England. Although 90 percent of the company’s business comes from the United States, it has clients in about 180 countries and business partnerships with more than 9,500 service providers. The company expects revenue of between $371 million and $373 million in 2015 and has averaged a yearly growth rate of 13 percent. Constant Contact added 15,000 customers in the first half of 2015.

The company focuses primarily on small-to-medium-sized businesses that can afford to spend only about $20 to $150 per month on email marketing. The company’s customer base has responded well to the concept and grown by more than 2000 percent since 2004. The company reported big sales increases between 2012 and 2014 and plans to expand to foreign markets and offer enhanced services, such as group coupon offers, digital storefronts for mobile marketing, loyalty applications and social media tools.

Acquisitions and Expansion Plans

Constant Contact has added CRM capabilities by acquiring Bantam Networks for $15 million and buying NutshellMail so that clients can better engage social media networks. The company bought CardStar in 2012 to expand loyalty applications and SaveLocal to manage group coupons. SinglePlatform, a software developer, was also acquired in 2012 to provide Constant Contact’s customers with a single interface for distributing content.

Constant Contact introduced Toolkit in 2014 to help its customers run multiple campaigns and began refocusing its concept as a provider of integrated marketing tools. The concept seemed to backfire because customers viewed Constant Contact primarily as an email marketing service. The company has since replaced Toolkit with the next-generation platform Galileo, which will gradually be introduced to all existing customers.

Customers can expect Constant Contact to continue adding expanded services in key areas, but the biggest expansion plans are currently focused on the Spanish-language market and Mexico. The service company is testing its products in different geographies like Mexico and plans to launch full-scale service in Mexico in 2016. Cross-border connections could strengthen marketing reach for restaurants in many U.S. cities, so prospective customers should keep this development in mind when considering an email marketing service.

How Constant Contact Works

You can easily master email marketing with Constant Contact’s tools, templates and resources. If you have an existing mailing list, you can get started right away by using the company’s templates for newsletters, emails, announcements and event promotions. The company offers multichannel marketing campaigns, integrations with multiple marketing lists and coaching to help restaurants build their databases of email contacts.

Constant Contact also offers a Social Media Playbook that restaurateurs can use to set up, manage and update social media marketing campaigns. Your emails will link effortlessly with Facebook for sharing, and every email or newsletter that you send through Constant Contact automatically adjusts to display attractively on any size device or phone, so it’s a great platform for engaging the people who are active in social media and use their phones exhaustively.

Features and Resources

Constant Contact offers a 60-day free trial, so you can get a good idea of how well email campaigns can work for your restaurant before committing to the service. You can cancel the service at any time, but paying a $20 monthly fee for months that you don’t send any emails entitles you to manage your contacts, create drafts for future events, contact registrants for past and future events and review analytics insights.

  • You can manage every email campaign, event promotion and social media initiative from a single log-in.
  • The company helps you grow your email list organically and offers 16 ways for you to import social media or outside email lists.
  • You can choose a template and customize it with the drag-and-drop editor.
  • The company’s recently acquired SinglePlatform enables restaurateurs to distribute content to venues like UrbanSpoon, FourSquare, social media and other websites.
  • Create postcards online that Constant Contact prints and mails for you.
  • Restaurateurs can track their campaign results with real-time reports and focused analytics.
  • Distribute and share emails and content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social platforms.
  • Use Constant Contact’s EventSpot service to promote attendance at special events, create email invitations and design an event homepage where you can sell tickets, take reservations or receive payments in advance.
  • Schedule the time and dates that your emails are sent precisely.
  • Trigger automatic email responses based on customer behavior.
  • The company provides bounce information that helps you update your email list.

Costs for Restaurants

The cost for sending up to 500 emails per month runs only $20, and you can save even more by prepaying your account for six months or one year. You’ll get a 10 percent or 15 percent discount respectively. The monthly fee depends on the number of events you publicize each month. The base level of 0-1 event and 500 contacts or fewer costs $20 per month, and additional events are charged as shown in the following table:

Number of Events or Email Campaigns Cost
0–1 $20
2–5 $25
6–10 $45
11–20 $65
21–30 $85
31–40 $100
41 and up $150

Of course, as the number of contacts grows, the costs also increase. For example, 500 contacts cost $20 for one event but $35 for 2,500 contacts. If you prepay and the number of monthly events exceeds your tier level, your account will just be charged at the higher rate. The company will send a reminder if your credit is running out, so you can prepay again to receive your discount. If you do nothing, your credit card will be billed automatically each month at the appropriate tier level.

Effectiveness of Using Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a reasonably priced service that works as well as your email lists, campaign ideas and marketing concept allow. The technology might have some limitations for big restaurant chains or major restaurant destinations, but most small-to-medium-sized restaurants can get started with email marketing simply and inexpensively. How effectively your campaigns work depends on what offers you make, how you grow your contact list and how well you create compelling copy that engages your customers.

Constant Contact Competitor Comparison

Restaurants can always send emails through their own in-house technology, especially if their contact lists are small and manageable. There are plenty of marketing options, loyalty programs and email marketing services that might return better results because your email marketing is only as good as what your staff puts into it. Some email services offer lower rates, one-time or monthly contracts and more advanced marketing tools. Restaurant can also market effectively to existing customers through loyalty programs and Twitter posts.

Constant Contact’s chief competitors include MailChimp, Vertical Response, iContact, GetResponse, StreamSend and Active Campaign, all of which offer email services that are easy to use and effective for restaurants new to the process. These services offer low entry costs, reliability, educational resources and complex reporting to help restaurants fine-tune their campaigns. Each service provider offers different advantages. Vertical Response generally ranks second among Constant Contact’s competitors and provides free image hosting, social sharing and customizable opt-in forms for building your contact list. You can use Vertical Response free if you have 1,000 contacts or fewer, which is a great email service for neighborhood bars and restaurants.

GetResponse offers more templates and stock images than Constant Contact while also providing hundreds of educational videos and downloadable guides. StreamSend offers more advanced email marketing tools, such as automatic RSS publishing, video integration, advanced contact segmentation and triggered emails. However, Constant Contact provides reasonable costs for small restaurants and a broad spectrum of tools and resources to get entry-level restaurants ready to market their services, engage customers on social platforms and manage everything from one simple log-in.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

The costs of sending emails with Constant Contact is more reasonable than many other types of restaurant promotions but not necessarily the cheapest email service. The good news is that you’re marketing to existing customers, who generally convert at higher rates than even the most targeted Internet audiences. The minor cost of sending emails, however, is only part of the cost to consider.

Building your email list also takes time and money. You will also usually offer your customers incentives, most of which cost money. However, you have complete control to craft your offer in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with regular business or devalue your menu prices. You can also use email campaigns to promote menu changes, daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal specials, restaurant events, holiday promotions and other announcements. At about $20 to $45 per month, the basic costs of Constant Contact’s services are hard to beat. Sending more than 10 offers or emails per month would definitely constitute overkill for most restaurants, so your costs shouldn’t exceed $45 per month.

Concluding Thoughts

Constant Contact offers tools and features for restaurateurs that make it easy to begin email marketing. You can use CSS, XHTML or designer mode to create pieces and choose from hundreds of templates to simplify the design process and jumpstart your marketing.

What We Like

We like how easy it is to get started sending emails with Constant Contact. You can easily upload information from spreadsheets, loyalty programs and other data sources and send email messages that you can customize from hundreds of ready-made templates. We also like Constant Contact’s webinars and training resources that help restaurateurs get up to speed quickly and its Social Media Playbook that helps restaurateurs plan social media promotions.

What We Don’t Like

Constant Contact doesn’t make it easy to cancel service, and customers can’t cancel from within their accounts. Ideal for new or small business users, the company doesn’t provide some of the more advanced features for split-testing, auto-responding or using your own HTML templates. We recommend that you show your email drafts to employees and stakeholders before settling on a final version to send. If you have an extensive contact list or use advanced features like training resources, image-hosting and email archiving, the costs add up rapidly and surpass the prices of other email services for more robust features. For example, customers must pay extra for the MyLibrary Plus service, which allows them to store their own images and have access to the greater Stock Image Gallery.

Final Assessment

If you’re new to email marketing, Constant Contact is a great way to get started. You can learn how to build your lists, run a social media promotion and offer local deals and incentives without paying a high percentage to a third-party daily deal type organization.