Everyone says that when you start marketing online, the first thing you need to focus on, is building your list. The “list” refers to a list of email addresses – people who are interested in what you offer, and are your potential customers.
There are many strategies of “list building”, and hundreds of tools. Sometimes, it gets overwhelming to even setup a proper list building system for your site.
Today, we review two of the top free tools for building your list and engaging with your visitors. These are Sumo Me and Icegram Engage.
Read more to find out which one’s the best and why…
The Core Purpose
While both SumoMe and Icegram Engage are great list builders, their vision is different.
SumoMe is a set of marketing and analytics tools for any website. It’s target is to grow your traffic and it’s focused on three things:
- Collect Email Optins
- Social Sharing
SumoMe comes from Noah Kagan and the team at App Sumo. Noah is best known for his killer marketing tactics. We’ve worked with him in the past, and he is super cool.
Icegram Engage caters to a wider set of benefits and is mainly targeted at WordPress sites. Icegram Engage grows traffic and converts it better. With Icegram Engage, you can:
- Collect Email Optins
- Display Call to Actions
- Show offers, social shares, notifications, updates or any other message to visitors
- Run on-site ads
- Analyze, target and optimize message campaigns
Overall, SumoMe is more focused on traffic generation while Icegram Engage is more about engaging and conversion optimization for incoming traffic.
What Do You Get? Features & Themes…
Both SumoMe and Icegram Engage are a collection of tools. There are other plugins that only do one thing from what SumoMe or Icegram Engage do, and charge a heavy fee. While both SumoMe and Icegram Engage include a variety of tools and are free.
The free version of SumoMe offers:
- Optins: List Builder, Contact Form, Smart Bar, Leads ,Scroll Box and Welcome Matt
- Themes: One theme for List builder+Contact Form+Leads+Scroll box, 3 themes for Welcome Matt and 2 for Smart bar
- Analytics: Heat Maps and Content Analysis
- Social Media Sharers: Share, Image Sharer, Highlighter
And free version of Icegram Engage includes:
- Message Types: Popups, Action Bars, Messenger, Toast Notifications
- Themes: 20 built in themes , 17 themes in Theme Pack 2014 & 42 themes in Theme Pack 2015..via add-on; total 79 themes
- Analytics: Hits / Conversion tracking via free add-on
The number of tools provided free by SumoMe are more than Icegram Engage, but Icegram Engage has a great number of free themes. SumoMe is useful in specific niche while Icegram Engage is useful in a variety of cases. As a matter of fact, Icegram Engage claims it can be used in infinite situations and even lists 35 possible uses cases on its site.
Overall, Icegram Engage may have a higher utility for majority site owners.
Continue reading to learn where the “free” party ends and what you have to pay for if you use SumoMe or Icegram Engage. Also the installation, setup, creating your first message, email integration and our final verdict on which is better!
Free is fine, but what’s the catch?
There are no free lunches right? So when do SumoMe and Icegram Engage start asking for your money? Let’s figure out…
SumoMe charges heavily for Branding Removal
SumoMe comes with its own branding on each of its messages. Their crown shaped logo is very difficult to dodge and can even distract the site visitor. Once the user clicks on the crown, he is immediately taken to SumoMe’s website. The SumoMe branding (either the crown logo or “Powered by SumoMe”) is always visible to your site visitors.
Some users have been put off by this tactic. Some even demanded SumoMe’s removal from WordPress plugin repo. Some have been upset because even after paying a $5/month fee to remove the badge, the “Powered by” link still stays. You’d need to go for the Pro plan ($100/month) to remove all the branding – and get all the features.
Icegram Engage removes branding by default!
Icegram Engage is probably completely opposite of SumoMe (and most other plugins) when it comes to branding removal. Icegram Engage does not show “Powered by Icegram Engage” or the Icegram Engage logo by default. You need to tick a box in Icegram Engage settings to show a link back to Icegram Engage in your messages.
This is awesome because you can now provide credit where it’s due. This branding removal alone can be a big win in favor of Icegram Engage for many people. No Icegram Engage branding will help your visitor focus on your message content and increase conversions.
Our take: Icegram Engage clearly takes away the cake here. The crown shaped internal branding in SumoMe messages is very prominent and distracts the visitors from paying attention to the main message. Sad but true, SumoMe branding literally piggybacks on your traffic. Once your traffic clicks the crown you’ve lost the customer from your website as he directly lands onto SumoMe!
Pay with your Email Address instead of Dollars?
It’s said the good things in life are free. But good things on the internet usually have a catch. They either take your email id to make a list and then send a series of mail of try making you pay somewhere in the funnel. Truth be told, that’s what you may be intending to do using these services too! So building a list by offering a great value isn’t really a bad thing.
SumoMe is a hosted service and you need to create an account there to use it. You give your email address to create the account and they send you both useful and promotional emails after joining in. This is not a new tactic, not even a bad one. But you should be aware of it.
Icegram Engage too has a mailing list and invites you to join it. But joining it is your choice and completely opted in. You need to create an account on Icegram Engage site to get the free theme pack and analytics add-on though, but again this is optional. So you can use Icegram Engage completely free, without even giving your email address.
The Freemium model – paying for add-ons and pro services
Both SumoMe and Icegram Engage work on the freemium model. Where the basic service is free and you need to pay to get more advanced features.
There are multiple “upsells” for SumoMe.
- One is to remove the branding as we mentioned above.
- To get email support, you can pay $5/month.
- To get Pro versions of any of the tools (List Builder / Scroll Box etc), you pay $20/month for each tool
- Or pay $100/month to get Pro versions of all tools and branding removal
- Pay $20/month to get all templates, additional form fields, and tracking pixels in List Builder or Contact Form
- Pay $6 per template for Contact Form if you don’t want to go Pro
You can review SumoMe’s Pro pricing here.
Many people feel SumoMe Pro is pricey. And their upsell tactics can feel like sly tricks. But there are tons of people who pay for SumoMe and are very happy with it.
Icegram Engage offers additional features at cheap prices
There is no “Pro” version of Icegram Engage. Icegram Engage does not restrict you in any manner in the free version. Most people feel Icegram Engage is giving away too much for nothing. Many have said that the free version of Icegram Engage provides much more than most premium plugins.
But Icegram Engage too needs to make money to sustain and grow their business. And Icegram Engage does it by offering premium add-ons that extend and enhance the core functionality of communicating with your visitors.
Some of Icegram Engage paid add-ons are:
- Additional message types: Overlays, Inline, Sidebars, Interstitial, Stickies, Ribbons, Badges
- Additional control: CTA Actions (Show another message, Form post, AJAX etc)
- Special needs: Remote (Icegram Engage campaigns on non WordPress sites)
- Even more themes: Lovable theme pack, Theme Pack 2014, Theme Pack 2015
Each add-on is priced from $15 to $49. You can even buy the Super Bundle – a collection of all the premium plugins – at a steep discount i.e $99.
Note: The remote add-on and Theme Pack 2 are the only things not included in the Super Bundle.
Icegram Engage follows pricing strategy similar to most top WordPress plugins – you take a license based on the number of sites you want to use it on, plus pay for support and upgrades after the first year.
Bottomline – Icegram Engage wins in pricing
Icegram Engage is a hands down winner in pricing department for a number of reasons.
- No fees for branding removal
- 20 free themes and great collection of tools out of the box (for free)
- Premium add-ons for additional message types and advance level functionality, that too at cheap prices
- Gets even more cost effective if you buy multiple site licenses or the bundle
- Support is included – even for free plugins!
creativity Icegram Engage is a canvas waiting to be painted. It will amaze you with the amount it gives for free. On the other hand if you want absolute simplicity, niche feature set, and don’t mind paying monthly fees, SumoMe could be your pick in list builders.
Continue reading for a walkthrough of installing and using both SumoMe and Icegram Engage. You can then see for yourself and decide which one is better for your needs.
Getting in Action: Setting up SumoMe and Icegram Engage
SumoMe is a hosted service – SaaS. You can either embed an HTML code on your site or use SumoMe’s WordPress plugin to add the code automatically. So you can use SumoMe on any website.
Icegram Engage is a WordPress plugin and works on WordPress based sites. If you want to show Icegram Engage campaigns on other sites WordPress or otherwise – you can use the premium Icegram Engage Remote add-on. So if you want to use Icegram Engage on non-WordPress sites, you’d still need to have a WordPress setup that acs as the centralized control panel, and then use Remote add-on to show and target messages on your main sites.
Installation & Initial Setup
Both the plugins are pretty simple to add to any website. And installation can be done in just a couple of minutes.
In Icegram Engage you only need to install the plugin and then activate it. Once active, you get a sample campaign to try out, and all four free message types – Popups, Action bars, Toast Notifications and Messengers. Everything can now be managed from within WordPress.
For SumoMe, the process involves a couple of extra steps, but is still easy. After downloading and installing the SumoMe WordPress plugin, you need to register and create your account on SumoMe website. Then you add features you want to use one after another – for example List Builder, Contact Form etc.
Understanding Basic Concepts
It took me some time to figure out the difference between SumoMe’s nine tools. And how their interface worked. SumoMe offers a few tools to build your list, a contact form, and tools to see how people interact with your content and site. It’s best if you study things a bit before using them.
Icegram Engage works on the concept of campaigns and messages. A campaign is a collection of messages. Each message can be of different type – popup, action bar etc. You can put as many messages as you want in a campaign, and define targeting rules on the campaign. When you activate Icegram Engage, it also creates a sample campaign. Play around with that campaign, and you can easily figure out how things work.
Our Take: The entire on boarding process of Icegram Engage is fast and easy. You may have to spend an extra few minutes with SumoMe.
Creating Your First List Builder
SumoMe – Extremely Easy
Assuming you are using the WordPress plugin, SumoMe appears as a crown on the right hand corner of your website. Click on that, login if required, and then click on the tool you want to use.
In this case, we want to use the List Builder. Click on that.
A window opens up. It has a live editor with options like:
- Design – select template, enter text to use etc
- Behavior – when to show the subscription form etc
- Services – integration with your email service
- Display Rules – what pages to show this on, and where not to show
- Advanced – html based form integration
- Pro – only for pro, pixel tracking etc
One can easily cruise through these options and create a list builder. The live editor makes it fairly simple to configure the subscription form and is easy enough to grasp in the first read. The integration with email services is easy too. You may have to put in some time to configure display rules if you want to target the form only on certain pages of your site.
Icegram Engage – Very Easy to show messages, slightly involved subscription form integration
Icegram Engage shows up on the main left menu within WordPress admin. So it’s easy to spot. Once in Icegram Engage, go to Campaigns. Add a new campaign.
On the campaign setup page, you can add one or more messages, select their type – popup for instance, select a theme, add title, button text, message body etc. The interface is simple to understand. SumoMe organizes different options in tabs, whereas Icegram Engage shows them in a long page in sections one after another. Icegram Engage shows following sections:
- Messages – create or add new messages (subscription forms, notifications etc)
- Targeting Rules – Where to show these messages, when to show them, which devices to show them on, which users to show them etc
- Within each message – you can configure theme, headline, button label, target link (if any), message body (using WordPress editor), Time delay to show this message, it’s position etc.
Icegram Engage is similar to filling up a form and then hitting Preview to see how the changes would look. This is good enough because there are many options in Icegram Engage. When you do the preview, you can see all messages you’ve configured in this campaign running live on your target page.
You can add any content to the message body, and a subscription form is treated like one element in message body. So you can put HTML code of your subscription form in message body, or paste it in the “Embed Form” window within Icegram Engage and let Icegram Engage take care of cleaning it up and adding it to your message. This Embed Form popup is where you can paste HTML code of your form, select a layout (horizontal or vertical), couple of other options and then insert the form to message body. Icegram Engage processes and cleans up form HTML code and adds it to message body. This process is not as simple as SumoMe though.
Our take: The live editor in SumoMe is fancy and great for beginners. Icegram Engage is easy too, and works great especially for people who have used the WordPress editor.
Integration with Email Service Providers
Both the list builders support all leading email marketing tools. SumoMe has point and click integration for most services. Icegram Engage needs you to paste HTML code of subscription form for the integration. Icegram Engage is a bit more work when it comes to email service integration! With both solutions, you can customize form HTML if you like, but the process can be tad tricky if you are not savvy.
Our take: SumoMe wins on this one. The direct integration is something Icegram Engage lacks presently. (However, Icegram Engage team has this on their roadmap!)
Themes and Design
Ready Templates / Theme Designs
The unsaid rule of list builders is that it should appeal to your visitors. A pleasant design will increase trust and get you more subscribers. This makes the design/theme of the list building tool really important.
SumoMe comes with one default theme. This theme is good and works well. But if you want to use any of the other themes, you’d need to upgrade to Pro plan or pay $6 for each theme.
Icegram Engage is a delight and comes with multiple beautiful themes in each its tools. If you add the Theme Pack 2014 and Theme Pack 2015 you’d get many themes. Specifically:
- Theme Pack 2014 – 17 themes
- Theme Pack 2015- 42 themes
Customizing Content and Design
SumoMe’s list building tools are aimed squarely at just that – list building. You can customize the title, button text and labels easily. This makes it very quick to get started. You can just fill in a form and see your changes. But if you want full design control, that’s not possible.
Icegram Engage has ready options to change message title, button text, colors etc. And gives you standard WordPress editor to enter message content. This gives you the freedom and control to add any content – images, videos, text – and format it to your like.
Our take: SumoMe offers limited, but easy to use options for entering content and changing design. Icegram Engage allows changing all basic elements easily but also allows full control over content by using the WordPress editor.
SumoMe can store details of each signup through your list builder and allows easy review and download. You also get statistics about subscriptions and conversion.
Icegram Engage is more than a list builder and does not store subscription form signups within itself. You’d need to check subscription data on your mailing list service provider. But you can track and see the number of times messages are shown, and how many times they’ve been clicked on – giving you a conversion rate. These stats are available both at campaign and individual message level.
Going beyond – Multiple List Builders?
SumoMe can have only one list builder at a time. One Smart Bar and one Scroll Box. Basically only one of each tool type. So if you want to show different subscription forms, you’d need to use a different tool for each. And there too, you’d be limited to 3 forms. You can target them to different pages, but you can’t go beyond three subscription forms – even with the Pro version – however relevant or necessary it might be for you.
Icegram Engage on the other hand is uber flexible. Right out of the box, you can setup unlimited messages, call to actions and subscription forms. You can target them to the same page, or different sections of your site. For example you can have setup two campaigns – with one popup and one action bar each. Then show first campaign on your homepage and the other on contact us page. You can even reuse messages in different campaigns and create as many campaigns as you like.
Our take: Unless you are driving everyone to a single list, one form limitation can be a big deterrent for SumoMe. Icegram Engage unlimited everything is a huge advantage and allows testing and targeting campaigns effortlessly. One message may not work for all visitors, and Icegram Engage lets you show different messages to different people based on flexible targeting rules.
Thus, Icegram Engage owing to its zero limitations and flexible rules is a clear winner in this department.
Apples to Apples? What’s missing from one but found in another?
SumoMe and Icegram Engage are not created equal. Not even for the exact same purpose – or target market. While they both do list building, there are a lot of differences.
What does SumoMe have that Icegram Engage does not?
- Content Analytics and Heat Maps
- Sharing tools or Highlighter
- Point and click mailing service integration
What does Icegram Engage have that SumoMe does not?
- Unlimited campaigns and messages
- 20 free theme designs
- Ability to show any content in messages – not limited to subscription forms
- Full WordPress integration
- WPML / Multilingual support
- Innovative message types – Sidebars, Interstitials etc (Premium Addons)
- Geo targeting, behavior targeting and many other powerful add ons
Bottomline – Which is better? SumoMe or Icegram Engage?
- If you want a straight forward list builder go with SumoMe. If you want unlimited everything and full freedom, go with Icegram Engage!
- If you want content analytics / heat maps / sharing tools, use SumoMe. Or use any other service that provides these (there are plenty). And then use Icegram Engage.
- If you want advance targeting, customizations and more designs go with Icegram Engage.
- If you are on a budget, go with Icegram Engage.
- If you don’t want to show SumoMe branding to all your visitors, go with Icegram Engage.
Overall: Icegram Engage is the winner!
Have you used Icegram Engage or SumoMe? Both? What’s your experience? Do post a comment!