Campaign Monitor review (2017)

Campaign Monitor Review (images of various e-newsletter templates)

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.

Our overall rating: 3/5

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.

There are three types of Campaign Monitor plan: 'Basic', 'Unlimited' and 'Premier'. The key differences to watch out for are as follows:

  • 'Basic' plans limit the number of emails you can send in a given month to 5 times the database size limit - so for example, if you were on the 500 records plan, you could send 2,500 emails, and so on. It also restricts your use of autoresponders to basic drip campaigns (no segmentation or 'branching' functionality allowed!).
  • 'Unlimited' plans removes the cap on the number of emails you can send and allows you to make use of more sophisticated autoresponder functionality. It also gives you access to faster email support and inbox and spam testing options.
  • 'Premier' plans give you access to phone support and advice from rather sexy-sounding 'email design consultants' and 'customer success managers.' You also get some template controls which are designed to prevent your team creating communications which are wildly off-brand.

Campaign Monitor's pricing scale involves seven plans, all based on your database size - I'll highlight three of them to give you an idea of how much you might pay to host a small, medium-sized or large list with Campaign Monitor:

  • At the cheapest end of the pricing scale, using Campaign Monitor with a database of 500 email addresses will cost you $9 per month on 'Basic', $29 per month on 'Unlimited' and $149 per month on 'Premier.'
  • In the middle of the pricing scale, hosting a database containing 15,000 email addresses will cost you $129 per month on 'Basic', $249 per month on 'Unlimited' and $399 per month on 'Premier.'
  • At the top end of the pricing scale, you can expect to pay $299 per month to host a database containing up to 50,000 email addresses on the 'Basic' plan, $699 per month on the 'Unlimited' plan and $899 per month on the 'Premier' plan.

A quick look at Campaign Monitor's competitors' pricing reveals just how expensive this compared to that of similar tools. It costs $29 per month with Campaign Monitor to send an unlimited number of emails to a database containing a mere 500 records; by contrast Getresponse or Mailchimp both charge roughly half that ($15) to send an unlimited number of emails to a database containing 1,000 addresses. At the more expensive end of things, if you're hosting a database with 50,000 records on Getresponse or Mailchimp, you will pay $250 or $240 respectively or a month to send an unlimited number of emails to your database. The Campaign Monitor equivalent price? An eye-watering $699 per month.

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. 

There's no getting away from it: Campaign Monitor's pricing is extraordinarily high. Which is a shame really, as there is an awful lot to like about the product, as we'll discover below.

Templates

Templates represent one of Campaign Monitor's strongest selling points. There are around 50 Campaign Monitor templates available; this is far less than the number offered by competing products, but they all look great, and I generally prefer them to what's on offer from Mailchimp, Aweber, Getresponse and so on.

They 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; as the below marketing video shows it's very easy to get some extraordinarily slick results with Campaign Monitor.

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 a very basic 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

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.

Autoresponders

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 rather basic. In Campaign Monitor, only five things can trigger autoresponders: 1) somebody joining a list; 2) somebody having a birthday; 3) a particular date associated with a user’s record; 4) somebody entering a segment; 5) somebody exiting a segment. 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

Campaign Monitor's 'Enlist' iPad app - a great way to capture data at events

Campaign Monitor's 'Enlist' iPad app - a great way to capture data at events

Campaign Monitor's sign up forms are easy enough to configure and implement. Some competing products give you more options when it comes to sign up forms – some allow you to create pop-ups, for example, or use javascript forms which allow you to the format colours and fonts of forms without needing to code – but I expect most people will be happy enough with the Campaign Monitor offering here.

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 avail of a third party app (many of which are quite expensive).

Interface

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. 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 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.

Analytics

Campaign Monitor gives you a very detailed view of each subscriber's activity - so long as you don't mind playing the role of Big Brother...

Campaign Monitor gives you a very detailed view of each subscriber's activity - so long as you don't mind playing the role of Big Brother...

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

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. Getresponse for example allows you to split test 5 messages against each other on all plans; and Mailchimp allows you to split test 3 or 8, depending on how expensive your plan is.

White labelling

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.

Support

Campaign Monitor support is email-only on the 'Basic' and 'Unlimited' plans - you can get phone support too, but you'll have to be on a pay-through-the nose 'Premier' plan to avail of it. 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 on all plans.

Conclusions / pros and cons

For me, Campaign Monitor's main strength lies in the quality, flexibility and robustness of its templates. They are beautiful and in my experience never fail to display accurately in all email clients. It's also an extremely easy product to use by comparison to some competing products.

As such it is a good option for businesses who are keen to ensure their brand is always faithfully reflected in their e-newsletters, and those who don't have too many in-house technical skills. But with so many competing products out there costing so much less to use, you have to ask yourself if those two advantages are enough to justify the price.

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.
  • The templates are beautiful and robust - and faithfully reproduced in all major email clients.
  • 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 autoresponder functionality is limited.
  • Its reporting functionality is fairly basic.
  • Support is email only on all but the most expensive plans.
  • 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 three obvious alternatives to Campaign Monitor: Getresponse, Aweber and Mailchimp. Whilst their templates are not as attractive as Campaign Monitor's, and their interfaces not as slick, all are pretty straightforward to use, come with a similar feature set, and crucially are much cheaper.


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