Casey
The Ghost of Business Past (Great Moments in Consulting History)
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Yesterday, we unveiled a Constant Contact Extension, which provides Ning Plus and Pro subscribers a new way to easily send out email newsletters. You’ve probably heard of Constant Contact. I definitely have. I often hear them advertising on my local public radio station, sandwiched between episodes of Fresh Air and All Things Considered. I’ve been paying attention to the progress of Constant Contact for quite some time. In fact, I have a history of not choosing Constant Contact when I probably should have. To elaborate, I decided today was a good day to tell a little story about business foolishness. I call it “The Ghost of Business Past (Great Moments in Consulting History).”

Way back in the previous century — 1999 to be exact — I was helping a fledgling company build a Web site and a marketing plan. All from scratch. They had a URL and a list of customer email addresses, but that was about it.

One of the first things I did was start researching online services I could use to send out regular newsletters and sales promotions for them. I put together a business needs document (amazingly, it’s still on my backup hard drive!) that listed four email newsletter services, with the customary pros/cons breakdown of each service alongside other important factors — like price. As a freelance jack-of-all-trades, I was just as cognizant as the company I was working for about the importance of affordable pricing for early stage companies. Or to put it more bluntly: We were both poor! Some might say “cheap.”

What’s funny to me about looking at this list now is that I realize I made a very foolish choice. At the time, I went with one of the least expensive solutions that had been around longer but was also a little more “no frills.” I didn’t choose Constant Contact; which, now that I look back on it, was actually a steal. As a result, we ended up with countless problems of deliverability. We were occasionally accused of being spammy. When we were ready to step up the design of our newsletter, we found out the hard way that the service we had chosen wasn’t very fond of our new design choices. In short, we probably lost customers we shouldn’t have and ended up spending way too much time focused on the tools we were using, rather than on the actual messages we wanted to send out. It was not a Great Moment in Consulting History.

Interestingly, none of the competitors I listed in that business needs document even exist anymore. Doesn’t surprise me one bit. But I’m still here. (Thankfully, so is that company.)

I’ve since gotten 11 years smarter, and Constant Contact has gotten 11 years better, and the choices small businesses have these days are way more than 11 times smarter and better. For example, these days a small business could use Ning to set up an attractive social website in the course of minutes with zero coding skills for less than $20/month. And they can get an introductory Constant Contact plan for $15/month. Today, using Ning and Constant Contact, I could probably do everything I did back then for a monthly fee that’s much less than what I charged for one hour’s work (in 1999 dollars!). Now that would be a Great Moment in Consulting History.

If you’re interested in learning more about the new Constant Contact Extension, check out our announcement on Creators. If you’re already a Constant Contact customer, you can use the new Extensions to connect your account to your Ning Network. If you’re interested in adopting Constant Contact, check out what they have to offer.