Campaign Monitor Review (2018) — Pricing, Templates, Automation and Analytics Overview

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

In this Campaign Monitor review, we look this well-known e-marketing solution, highlight its key 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
  • program autoresponders (automated emails that are triggered by certain user actions, such as joining a mailing list or buying a product)
  • analyse the results

Like some of the aforementioned products, it now also facilitates marketing automation.

We'll explore all these key features in depth shortly, but first, let's take a quick look at Campaign Monitor pricing.


Campaign Monitor pricing

I guess we're starting with the bad news first: the price. There's no way around the fact that 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 remove the cap on the number of emails you can send, and allows you to make use of more sophisticated autoresponder functionality (involving 'branching', where user actions — opens, clicks etc. can trigger emails). It also gives you access to faster email support and inbox and spam testing options, along with the option to tailor e-newsletter send times to best match your subscribers' time zones.
     
  • In addition to the features on the 'unlimited' plan, 'Premier' Campaign Monitor plans give you access to phone support; you also get some template controls which are designed to prevent your team creating communications which are wildly off-brand. Possibly the most useful feature on Premier plans is send time optimisation - this sends your e-newsletters according to when they are most likely to be opened (Campaign Monitor works this out by looking at your subscribers' previous behaviour when opening emails).

How much you pay for each plan depends entirely on your database size - we're dealing with a sliding scale, but I'll highlight three scenarios 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 $889 per month on the 'Premier' plan.

A quick look at Campaign Monitor's competitors' pricing reveals just how much more expensive the product is compared to alternative email marketing tools.

For example, 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.

By contrast Getresponse gives you a 30 day fully functional free trial (which can be used with 1,000 subscribers), and the free Mailchimp plan is actually pretty usable ongoing (so long as your list does not exceed 2000 subscribers and you limit your sends to 12,000 emails per month).

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 aesthetically to what's on offer from Mailchimp, Aweber, Getresponse and so on. 

Campaign Monitor templates 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 templates are attractive in appearance and one of the stand-out aspects of the product

Campaign Monitor templates are attractive in appearance and one of the stand-out aspects of the product

The templates also allow you to incorporate a decent 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 (Getresponse and Aweber don't permit use of web fonts; and the web fonts you can use with Mailchimp are all very boring, to the point where several of the 'safe' ones look more interesting!)

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 and exporting your data

Importing data into Campaign Monitor is very straightforward - you can import from all the common database formats you'd expect, i.e.,: 

  • XLS
  • XLSX
  • CSV
  • TXT (tab delimited)
  • vCard

You can also simply copy and paste the contents of one of these file types directly into Campaign Monitor, which will usually make very good job of separating out the fields (you can then map or rename these 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 by email providers for spammy activity.

Exporting your data is easy too - you can export entire lists or segments to CSV format very easily.


Data segmentation

One thing I really like about Campaign Monitor is its flexibility around data segmentation. It allows you to send emails to multiple segments or lists at once — something which is not possible on Mailchimp or Aweber (Getresponse permits it though).

Additionally, it's super easy to exclude segments or lists from mailouts. So if your business has complex requirements regarding data segmentation, Campaign Monitor is worthy of some serious consideration.


Automation 

Autoresponders

Like most e-marketing tools, Campaign Monitor allows you to send autoresponders – automated 'drip' emails that you program into the system so that when a user joins a mailing list, they automatically receive a series of pre-programmed emails — or, in Campaign Monitor parlance, 'subscriber journeys.'

Setting subscriber journeys up in Campaign Monitor is extremely easy and the interface for doing so is very well laid out. 

I have a couple of niggles however: first, in order to add a new email to a user journey, you have to pause the whole journey.

Second, and more annoyingly is the fact that journeys can't be triggered by data imports - your user has to sign up via a form or added individually via an API in order to be added to a marketing automation cycle. This contrasts negatively with products such as Getresponse and Mailchimp, both of which do facilitate the triggering of user journeys via bulk import of email addresses.

Marketing automation

Like several competing products, Campaign Monitor now offers not just basic autoresponders but 'marketing automation' too. Marketing automation goes beyond simple 'drip'-style campaigns by allowing you to use specific triggers to send emails.

These include:

  • opens of particular emails
  • clicks on certain links
  • purchases of particular products
  • visits to particular pages on your site
 Examples of marketing automation triggers being used in Campaign Monitor

Examples of marketing automation triggers being used in Campaign Monitor

A flowchart-style interface with 'yes/no' conditions is provided to allow you select triggers and set the conditions for sending particular emails to your subscribers. It's very easy to use and won't involve a steep learning curve.

For an overview of how it works, the below video is quite helpful:

RSS-to-email

Another way you can automate your email broadcasts in Campaign Monitor is by triggering them via RSS. 

This allows you to use an RSS feed from your site to automatically send a newsletter to your subscribers - a typical application of this is blog RSS feeds being used to notify your subscribers of new posts on your site. 

You can populate RSS-triggered emails with either snippets of content from the feed, or entire articles.

As discussed above, the only negative aspect of this functionality is that you can't use normal Campaign Monitor templates to send RSS-powered emails; this means they will be a bit off-brand.


Sign-up forms and landing pages

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, allowing you to create pop-ups, for example, or make use of javascript forms which allow you to the format colours and fonts of forms without needing to code.

If you're a Wordpress user, you'll have more options on this front, with a dedicated Campaign Monitor forms plugin available which allows you to create fancier forms.

One 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.

 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

Less fantastic is the lack of a landing page creator – to be fair, many similar tools don’t offer one either (Getresponse and Mailchimp being the obvious exceptions) 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 / ease-of-use

One of the best things about Campaign Monitor is its interface.

A lot of thought seems to have gone into making it clean, intuitive and clutter-free, and to be honest, Campaign Monitor is probably the most user-friendly e-marketing tool I’ve used to date.

Everything is really straightforward and the system will really appeal to people who are not tech-savvy, or relatively new to e-marketing.

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’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 very handy for sending reports over to clients in a simple, digestible format.

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...

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; or get an overview of what time of day most people open your messages.

For most users, I suspect the reporting features in Campaign Monitor will be sufficient — but power email marketing users may feel a little bit short-changed by its analytics offering.


Split testing your e-newsletters

Split testing in Campaign Monitor is available and very easy to do…but 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 much more advanced in this regard, allowing you to split test a larger number of variants 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.

 Campaign Monitor's split testing options are very basic in nature - only two variables can be tested against each other

Campaign Monitor's split testing options are very basic in nature - only two variables can be tested against each other

So a 'could do better' for Campaign Monitor here.


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 some other providers - Getresponse and Aweber, for example, both provide a wider range of support options (with Getresponse providing email and chat support and Aweber offering phone support on all plans).


Conclusions / pros and cons of using Campaign Monitor

For me, Campaign Monitor's main strength lies in the quality, flexibility and robustness of its templates. They are beautiful and in my experience emails created with them never fail to display accurately in all major email clients.

Campaign Monitor is also an extremely easy product to use by comparison to some competing email marketing solutions. The interface is intuitive, and the marketing automation features are a joy to use.

As such Campaign Monitor represents 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 which cost so much less to use, you have to ask yourself if these advantages are enough to justify some very high fees. 

Additionally, there are some holes in Campaign Monitor's functionality, especially where split testing and the ability to trigger user journeys by data import is concerned. Again, this makes you wonder about the pricing.

So the bottom line for me is that Campaign Monitor is a solid product with gorgeous templates and a great interface...that is sadly prohibitively expensive to use. As such I usually recommend an alternative.


Alternatives to Campaign Monitor

For me, there are two obvious alternatives to Campaign Monitor: Getresponse and Mailchimp.

Whilst their templates are not quite as attractive as Campaign Monitor's, and their interfaces not quite as slick, both are nonetheless pretty straightforward to use, come with a similar if not more comprehensive feature set. 

In Getresponse's case, you also get CRM and webinar functionality (which tie in well with the marketing automation features). And its data segmentation options are as flexible as Campaign Monitor's (you'll need to note that segments are called 'saved searches', however).

Crucially, both products are much cheaper and come with free trials / plans:


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.
  • The data segmentation options are great — you can send to or exclude multiple segments and lists in mailouts
  • Its ‘Enlist’ app for iPad is a great way to collect data offline at events.
  • The automation features are comprehensive and easy to use.

Cons of using Campaign Monitor

  • It is VERY expensive by comparison to its competitors.
  • Split testing is limited to 2 variants.
  • There is no (proper) free trial.
  • 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.