Email marketing is still one of the most effective options for online/web marketing initiatives and we have the pick of several different platforms. We’re going to look at a few of the major platforms out there – MailChimp, GetResponse and Constant Contact – as well as some different ways you can integrate them with your WordPress site.
The Four Types of Integration
No matter which platform you choose, there are four ways you can integrate your chosen platform with your website:
1) Embedding the form directly into the website using an embed code from the provider
This is the most straightforward way to integrate a form into a website, but depending on the provider and the embed code, it can also be the clunkiest experience for the user and the hardest to make look seamless.
2) Using an extension for your existing form plugin (if applicable)
If you use WordPress and one of the major form plugins; like Gravity Forms, WP Forms or Ninja Forms, there are existing extensions that will interact with the form and the respective provider (if it’s supported) to link your embedded and styled WordPress forms to your provider of choice. This is arguably the best option, as it’s easy, keeps the user experience consistent and localized within your website, and still offers all the features of an embedded form.
This would allow for seamless form integration and allow your form to blend into your website perfectly:
3) An external link to a hosted form
Some services have difficulty embedding a form directly (more on that below), but do offer a “hosted form,” which essentially means they put the form up on a small webpage that is hosted on their own platform that you can link people to.
4) A custom API integration between the two platforms
If you use a provider that doesn’t have any existing integrations with the CMS you use, whether it’s WordPress or another, and the direct embed route described in #1 doesn’t work out for some reason, then you could do a custom integration between the platforms. This is obviously the most costly and time intensive to complete, but also offers the most flexibility. If hiring a programmer isn’t an option, there are services like Zapier which can sometimes facilitate communication between the two platforms.
A Quick Look at Some Providers
As we mentioned, there are so many fantastic platforms out there to choose from and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. While this article isn’t going to focus on all the different things they can do better or worse than others, we did want to touch upon how easy/difficult they can be to integrate with your website, and rank our favorites.
MailChimp is arguably the largest provider of bulk email functionality out there and is one of the most flexible when it comes to embedding their forms. Not only do they allow for extremely clean embeds if you need to go Route #1, but they also integrate with just about every major form plugin that is out there.
Coming up right behind MailChimp, GetResponse is hugely popular and offers just about the same level of integration that you’ll find with MailChimp, with one exception: they don’t offer a major supported extension for NinjaForms; a widely popular form plugin for WordPress.
While Constant Contact started strong with their service offering and has a huge following still, when it comes to integrations they have fallen behind the pack quite a bit. It is difficult to find any plugins that work well with Constant Contact and have their official support behind them. Their form builder is robust and easy to use, but obtaining the embed code isn’t a simple process and often comes with a ton of extraneous code that you need to clean up to get a clean looking form on your site. Their externally hosted forms can be stylized, but they don’t enable the user to perform an integrated action, such as being added to a mailing list once they fill out your embedded contact form on your website.
Getting your email provider to integrate with your website has never been more accessible for the everyday user, although it can be a more straightforward process with certain providers. Almost all the major marketing automation platforms out there offer some type of integration for almost all the major Content Management Systems and plugins, and it’s especially easy to find one if you’re a WordPress user. If you haven’t picked a provider yet, it’s always wise to look at the different integration options before you make a decision.