In this Campaign Monitor review, we look this well-known e-marketing tool, highlight its pros and cons, and try to help you decide if it’s a good tool for your company’s e-marketing requirements.
What is Campaign Monitor?
Campaign Monitor is a web application that allows you to capture data to an online mailing list, manage it, and send HTML e-newsletters to it. Like Getresponse, Mad Mimi, Aweber and Mailchimp, it’s widely used by businesses to send mass mailouts or program autoresponders (automated emails that are triggered by certain user actions, such as joining a mailing list or buying a product) and analyse the results.
Campaign Monitor Pricing
Let’s start with the bad news first: the price. Campaign Monitor is one of the most expensive tools of its kind (yet, as we’ll see below, not the most fully-featured). At the starting end of the pricing scale, it costs $29 per month with Campaign Monitor to send an unlimited number of emails to a database containing a mere 500 records; compare this with Getresponse or Mailchimp and you’ll notice a big difference in price, with both charging $15 to send an unlimited number of emails to a database containing 1,000 addresses. Another rival, Mad Mimi, comes in even cheaper at $12 per month to do this. On top of that there is no free trial of Campaign Monitor available – the best that you’ll get is a so-called ‘free account’ which allows you to try out everything the system can do except, crucially, send any mass mailouts. Most of Campaign Monitor’s key competitors offer free trials, with Mailchimp and Mad Mimi allowing you to send circa 12,000 emails per month to a database holding circa 2000 email addresses; Getresponse allows you to use all its features (including sending emails...) for 30 days before any charges apply. Aweber charge you $1 for the first month of usage – not quite as good as a free trial, but it’s better than the Campaign Monitor ‘free account’ option, and you can get your dollar back if you’re not happy with the tool.
Campaign Monitor also provide pricing plans that involve send limits, and these are significantly cheaper than their 'unlimited' plans: for example, sending up to 50,000 emails per month to a mailing list containing 10,000 records costs $89 per month, whereas sending an unlimited number of emails per month to the same database costs $149 per month. Even at that though, the Campaign Monitor 'send limit' plans are still usually more expensive than plans from most competing products. By comparison, Mailchimp charges $75 per month to send emails to 10,000 recipients; Getresponse charges $65; Aweber charges $59; and Mad Mimi charges $42. And of course all these competing plans come without send limits (and in some cases can come in even cheaper if you pay for the product on a quarterly or annual basis). So even if judged on its cheaper 'send limit' pricing tier, Campaign Monitor is still generally more expensive than its rivals.
However, there is a way which Campaign Monitor may work out to be more cost effective for your business: if you only send emails very infrequently, its ‘pay per campaign’ pricing plan (a type of plan not offered by its main competitors) has the potential to keep e-marketing costs low for you. As the name of this plan suggests, you only pay when you send out an e-newsletter to your database – there is a flat fee of $5 to do this, plus 1 cent per email address on your mailing list. So if you had, for example, a mailing list containing 5000 records which you only mailed quarterly, your per-e-newsletter costs would be $55 and your total e-marketing costs for the year would be $220 using the pay-per-campaign option. If you were on a pay monthly scheme with one of Campaign Monitor’s competitors, sending these quarterly e-newsletters to 5000 records would be a lot more expensive (for example, hosting a database containing 5,000 records costs $55 per month on Mailchimp, which means your total e-marketing costs for the year to send the same 4 emails would cost $660 – 3 times the cost).
All that said though, in reality most businesses will need to send at least one e-newsletter a month, and as such Campaign Monitor’s monthly fees will be very off-putting to many.
Campaign Monitor’s range of templates is relatively limited by comparison to its competitors: there are 10 to choose from; Getresponse, Aweber and Mailchimp offer hundreds. However, the templates that are offered are very professional in appearance, and they are responsive (meaning they’l l adjust themselves to display nicely regardless of whether you are looking at e-newsletters on a desktop or mobile device). They’re also robust – so far I’ve yet to experience any niggles with how they display in any email clients. Campaign Monitor’s templates also allow you to incorporate a selection of web fonts – this is a very nice touch, and means your e-newsletters can look a bit slicker than some sent by competing systems (it would be nice however, if Campaign Monitor gave you a wider range of web fonts to choose from). The drag and drop editor is easy to use, and populating your email with images and content is very straightforward.
There is one potential headache with the templates worth considering though – if you are using the RSS-to-HTML email option (i.e., you are using an RSS feed from your site or blog to populate and trigger e-newsletters), you can’t use the normal (read fancier!) templates and will have to make do with the basic Campaign Monitor template. This means having to do without web fonts and using a radically different design than the one you might be using in your standard e-newsletters. To be fair, this is also an issue with some of Campaign Monitor’s competitors but they generally offer a wider range of RSS-to-email templates, making the incongruity between ‘normal’ and RSS e-newsletters less of an issue.
Finally, as with similar tools, you can always import your own HTML template – this is a straightforward enough process, and you can make use of Campaign Monitor’s various tags to ensure that you can subsequently use its in-built template editor to edit or personalise content in future.
Importing data into Campaign Monitor is very straightforward - you can upload a variety of file formats, including CSV, tab delimited and Excel. You can also simply copy and paste the contents directly into Campaign Monitor, which will usually make very good job of separating out the fields (which you can then map or rename as appropriate). There are certain requirements that Campaign Monitor have around what you import - for example you should not import bought or rented databases, lists that have not been mailed in a long time, or data associated with gambling or pharmaceutical products. These restrictions are fairly similar to those imposed by other e-marketing services and are there to reduce the risk of you or Campaign Monitor being blacklisted for spammy activity.
Like most e-marketing tools, Campaign Monitor allows you to send autoresponders – automated emails that you program into the system so that when a user takes a certain action (joins a particular mailing list or has a birthday for example) they will automatically receive an appropriate e-newsletter (or series of e-newsletters). Setting autoresponders up in Campaign Monitor is very easy and, should you so wish, you can use data segmentation to ensure that only relevant groups of people receive the autoresponders.
However, by comparison to its key competitors, Campaign Monitor’s offering when it comes to autoresponder triggers is very basic. In Campaign Monitor, only three things can trigger autoresponders: 1) somebody joining a list; 2) somebody having a birthday; 3) a particular date associated with a user’s record. The likes of Getresponse, Mailchimp and Aweber provide a much wider range range of autoresponder triggers to play with – for example opening an email, clicking on a link, and online transactions can all trigger communications in these products.
Sign-up forms and landing pages
One particularly nice feature of Campaign Monitor which relates to sign-up forms is its ‘Enlist’ iPad app, which allows you to capture data on-the-go at events using an iPad (it’s great for musicians who want to collect email addresses at gigs, for example, or for companies wishing to capture prospects at sales events). It works both offline and online, which is fantastic – if you use Enlist offline, you can just sync any data you’ve captured to Campaign Monitor account when you’re online again.
Less fantastic is the lack of a landing page creator – to be fair, most similar tools don’t offer one either (Getresponse being the obvious exception) but it would be nice if Campaign Monitor allowed you to create landing pages that looked as nice as say, the Enlist app’s beautiful forms. Technically, you can create landing pages for Campaign Monitor – you will need to code them yourself though or use a tool called Unbounce (which is sophisticated and offers A/B testing of landing pages – but involves relatively expensive monthly fees).
This is Campaign Monitor’s strongest point. Simply put, Campaign Monitor is probably the most user-friendly e-marketing tool I’ve used to date and its interface is much easier to use than those of its competitors (Mailchimp probably comes closest in the simplicity stakes). Everything is really straightforward and the system will really appeal to people who are not tech-savvy, or relatively new to e-marketing. This user-friendliness may, of course, be down to the fact that Campaign Monitor comes with significantly fewer features than its competitors – but I think there’s probably more to it than that: a lot of thought seems to have gone into making its interface intuitive and clutter-free. I have recommended Campaign Monitor to certain clients (those who need to send their own mass mailouts but are not at all comfortable with the thought of doing so!) on the strength of the easy-to-use interface alone.
Campaign Monitor’s stats are easy to access and review. In addition to getting ‘big picture’ stats on open rates, clickthroughs and unsubscribes, you can get good individual level information: for example, you can see exactly what an individual user has done with your emails – opened, ignored, clicked etc. – and where and when they’ve done it (very Orwellian). You can also export stats easily to PDF format too, which is a nice touch: very handy for sending reports over to clients in a simple, digestible format.
However, competing products let you do far more on the stats front: for example, compare campaigns side by side; auto-segment people who open emails into new groups for additional mailouts; get an overview of what time of day most people open your messages (amongst a lot of other stuff really). As with much else in Campaign Monitor, stats are definitely of a ‘basic’ variety.
Split testing in Campaign Monitor is available and very easy to do…but again the functionality is extremely basic – you can only test two versions of an email against each other (based on subject header, sender or content). Most other e-marketing tools are more advanced in this regard, allowing you to split test a larger number of e-newsletters against each other, and different send times.
A feature which as far as I can tell is unique to Campaign Monitor amongst e-marketing products is its ‘White Label’ option. This allows individuals or businesses to rebrand Campaign Monitor as their own e-marketing product and resell it at a price of their choosing above Campaign Monitor’s normal fees. This is potentially good for the person or agency reselling Campaign Monitor, but a potential rip off for anyone the white label version is sold on to, because they will simply be paying over the odds for an already expensive e-marketing tool. I would prefer to see Campaign Monitor offer a more affiliate-based sort of approach to all this, where resellers are rewarded with a percentage of the monthly fee for each referral. Allowing agencies to rebrand Campaign Monitor is fine, but in my view it should be Campaign Monitor that coughs up for referrals onto new customers…not the customers.
Campaign Monitor support is email-only. My experience of their support team's responses to queries has been good, but the general situation compares negatively with other providers - Getresponse and Aweber, for example, both provide a wider range of support options, including live chat and phone.
Conclusions / pros and cons
For me, Campaign Monitor has two key strengths: it's really easy to use and it allows you to pay not only on a monthly basis but on a per-campaign basis too. As such it is a good option for users who are new to e-marketing and/or intend to email their databases on a fairly infrequent basis (occasional senders of e-newsletters may find it better value to work on this basis than paying a monthly fee to another provider).
However, by comparison to its key competitors, Campaign Monitor offers very basic functionality and its monthly fees are expensive: power users would probably be best advised to look elsewhere for an e-marketing tool.
These are the main pros and cons of using Campaign Monitor:
Pros of using Campaign Monitor
- Its interface is excellent and extremely easy to use
- Its pay-per-campaign option may be useful for users who do not wish to commit to a monthly fee or users who send e-newsletters infrequently
- Its email templates are attractive, robust and responsive
- You can use certain web fonts in templates – you are not restricted to boring web-friendly fonts
- Its ‘Enlist’ app for iPad is a great way to collect data offline at events
Cons of using Campaign Monitor
- It is expensive by comparison to its competitors
- There is no (proper) free trial
- Its range of templates is very limited
- Its autoresponder functionality is limited
- Its reporting functionality is fairly basic
- Support is email only
- Although not exactly a ‘con’ (well, depending on how you read the word!), its white labelling option is rather sneaky – an affiliate program would be a fairer way to reward people for referrals
Alternatives to Campaign Monitor
For me, there are two obvious alternatives to Campaign Monitor: Mad Mimi and Getresponse. If you are looking for a tool that offers a similar level of functionality to Campaign Monitor, but at a lower cost, then Mad Mimi is a no-brainer. Whilst not quite as easy to use as Campaign Monitor, it’s very straightforward, comes with a similar feature set, and importantly is much cheaper (depending on the size of your mailing list and the kind of functionality you require, its free plan might actually suit you fine).
If you are looking for an e-marketing product that offers significantly more advanced functionality than Campaign Monitor – particularly in the autoresponder, split testing or statistics department – then Getresponse is a really good option: it probably gives you the most bang for your buck in terms of the features to price ratio, and you can try it for free for 30 days.
Finally, if you need a tool that integrates with a lot of other products (for example a web-building tool such as Squarespace or a CRM like Capsule / Salesforce), Mailchimp is worth a look, as it integrates with a wider range of platforms than most similar tools (but note that it is more expensive than both Getresponse and Mad Mimi).