About a year ago, I wrote a post with sundry complaints about email newsletter service Constant Contact. A bunch of people chimed in with other complaints, and recommendations for other mail services. Since then, we’ve moved nearly all of our business over the excellent and uber-usable Campaign Monitor.
About a week and a half ago, the post received three comments within ten minutes of each other, from “Gerard”, “AJ Mulvey” and “Stacy”. According to the information associated with their comments, Gerard and Stacy work at Constant Contact. Here’s the evidence (click for full size):
I emailed Constant Contact earlier in the week and asked them to confirm that these were their employees, but haven’t received a reply yet. This Google search suggests that corpfwai1.constantcontact.com is valid.
Marketing lessons? Well, they should be obvious:
- Never lie. You’re going to get caught. Constant Contact should have just left a comment explaining the advantages of their service over the competition, plans for new features, and so forth.
- Join the conversation, don’t try to spin it.
- If you’re going to lie (and you surely shouldn’t), don’t be stupid about it. Understand how the Web works, and that if you comment from your desk at Constant Contact headquarters, that you may be traceable. And I’m no l33t hax0r–the evidence is right there in my notification email from WordPress.
You’d think the, uh, communications professionals at Constant Contact would be clueful enough not to make such daft and elementary mistakes.
UPDATE: Comments 14 and 15 below suggest to me that Constant Contact is engaged in a more subtle form of corporate astroturfing. It seems highly unlikely that two customer advocates for CC would spontaneously discover this blog post on consecutive days, and then post effusive defenses of the organization.
Before writing this post, I gave Constant Contact an opportunity to respond via email. That offer has never been rescinded, and my email address, IM details and phone number have always been on my Contact page. Why don’t they want to go ‘on the record’? That’s a fourth marketing lesson there, methinks.
UPDATE #2: As Karl points out in the comments, Constant Contact appears guilty of this behaviour on other sites as well.
UPDATE #3: Rebecca over at Xconomy discussed this post in a story about the Constant Contact IPO. They didn’t respond to my email enquiry when I made the above discovery, but they did answer Rebecca’s questions:
We had a bit better luck, and were able to get through to Kevin Mullins, a spokesperson for the company. He acknowledges that the comments on BarefootÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s site were made by Constant Contact employees, but stresses that they acted against company rules. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They acted outside our corporate policy. They were disciplined, absolutely. And obviously, we educated them about the proper way to blog and to fully disclose who you are. We believe in being honest and up front about who you are.Ã¢â‚¬Â The comment on TechCrunch was done by a former employee who had left Constant Contact around a year earlier, Mullins says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“At the time of the posting, he was not an employee of Constant Contact,Ã¢â‚¬Â adding that the person was not acting under the direction of Constant Contact. Why would a former employee would go out of his way to praise a company he had left? Ã¢â‚¬Å“He still has that passion,Ã¢â‚¬Â Mullins says.
“He still has that passion?” is particularly cringe-inducing praise for a former employee, don’t you think?
UPDATE #4: Guess what I got when I visited ConstantContact today: