In this Campaign Monitor review, we look this well-known e-marketing solution, discuss its pricing, 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. It’s a ‘software as a service’ tool, meaning you don’t own the app but rather pay a monthly fee to use it.
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
And, as with 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
There are three types of Campaign Monitor plan: ‘Basic’, ‘Unlimited’ and ‘Premier’. All three of these plans allow you to
make use of a template library and a drag and drop builder to create messages
host a mailing list and broadcast messages to it
access stats on the performance of your mailouts
access support via email.
The key differences to watch out for are as follows:
‘Basic‘ plans limit the number of emails you can send in a given month. The limits depends on how many email addresses you have on your mailing list — at the lower end of the spectrum, if you had a mailing list containing 500 email addresses, you could send 2,500 messages per month to it, and moving up the scale, if you had a list containing 30,000 email addresses, the limit would be 250,000 messages. The Basic plan also restricts your use of autoresponders to simple drip campaigns (i.e., you won’t be able to create sophisticated subscriber journeys which use things like opens or clickthroughs to trigger additional messages).
‘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; template controls which are designed to prevent your team creating communications which are wildly off-brand; and advanced link tracking. Possibly the most useful feature on Premier plans however 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’ past 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 25,000 email addresses will cost you $199 per month on ‘Basic’, $399 per month on ‘Unlimited’ and $499 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 $989 per month on the ‘Premier’ plan.
If your first thought is that these prices strike you as rather high, you’re right — they are!
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 charges 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 around $250 a month to send an unlimited number of emails to your database. The Campaign Monitor equivalent price? At least $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.
Campaign Monitor Templates
Templates represent one of Campaign Monitor’s strongest selling points. There are around 60 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 competing products.
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.
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.
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 (notably Aweber and Getresponse) 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.,:
TXT (tab delimited)
compressed file formats (for example: ZIP, RAR, 7Z)
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 — you can export entire lists or segments to CSV format very easily.
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 with a lot of other email marketing solutions (Getresponse being a notable exception).
Additionally, it’s extremely 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.
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 to report however: first, in order to add a new email to a user journey, you have to pause the whole journey.
Second, when you import data to a list, you are not given the option to add your fresh records to a subscriber journey. This contrasts negatively with products such as Getresponse and Mailchimp, both of which prompt you to add subscribers to existing journeys when you bulk import email addresses.
(There is a workaround here, involving using segments as triggers, but it would be better to have a straightforward ‘add to subscriber journey’ option).
Like several competing products, Campaign Monitor now offers not just basic autoresponders but ‘marketing automation’ too. Marketing automation goes significantly beyond simple ‘drip’-style campaigns by allowing list owners to use specific triggers to send emails.
opens of particular emails
clicks on certain links
purchases of particular products
visits to particular pages on your site
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:
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 may be a bit off-brand.
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Sign-up forms and landing pages
Campaign Monitor’s sign-up forms are easy enough to configure and implement. You can easily create embeddable forms and lightboxes (the latter being triggered by embeddable buttons).
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.
Less fantastic is the lack of a proper landing page creator – unlike Getresponse and Mailchimp, you don’t get a dedicated tool for creating landing pages. You can use Campaign Monitor to create a blank page with a form on it, but that’s about it.
If you want to create more attractive 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).
You can, however, create pop-up forms easily with Campaign Monitor.
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. Using it is quite an ‘Apple-like’ experience — it’s not too dissimilar from using iOS (think clean fonts, white space, easy-to-spot buttons and big toggle switches).
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 particularly 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 very handy for sending reports over to clients in a simple, digestible format.
However, competing products let you do rather 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 rather 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; Aweber facilitates the split-testing of 3 variants; and Mailchimp allows you to split test 3 or 8 variants, depending on how expensive a plan you are on.
So a ‘could do better’ for Campaign Monitor here.
A feature which as far as I can tell is unique to Campaign Monitor amongst e-marketing products is its ‘White Label’ option.
The white label option allows agencies to rebrand the product and provide their clients with a login. Because a discount is available to agencies who qualify to use the product in this way, this effectively allows agencies to generate some income as a result of hosting their clients’ lists on it.
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.
If you’re on the ‘Unlimited’ plan however, your emails will be answered more quickly.
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).
Campaign Monitor review: summary
Campaign Monitor’s key strength lies in the quality, flexibility and robustness of its templates. It’s also an extremely easy product to use by comparison to some competing email marketing solutions. But the product is shockingly expensive for what it is.
This sense of poor value for money becomes heightened when you consider that there are some fairly big holes in Campaign Monitor’s functionality, especially where split testing, analytics and the ability to trigger user journeys by data import is concerned.
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.
And speaking of which…
Alternatives to Campaign Monitor
Whilst their templates are not quite as attractive as Campaign Monitor’s, and their interfaces not quite as slick, both are nonetheless straightforward enough to use and importantly, come with a more comprehensive feature set.
In Getresponse’s case, you also get e-commerce and webinar functionality (which tie in well with the marketing automation features). And its data segmentation options are as flexible as Campaign Monitor’s.
We’re less keen on Mailchimp than we used to be, because of changes to its pricing structure which make it considerably less good value for money. It’s also a bit more restrictive than either Campaign Monitor or Getresponse when it comes to segmenting data.
You can avail of free trials with both these products below:
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 plan.
There’s no proper landing page creator.
Its analytics are rather basic.