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Campaign Monitor Review

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Date Established
2004
Location
San Francisco; Sydney

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good customer service
  • Advanced features

Cons

  • Over-complicated pricing plans
  • Limited features
  • Limited integrations

Overview:

Campaign Monitor arose as a solution to a problem encountered by undergraduate web designers Ben Richardson and David Greiner: they couldn’t quite find what they were looking for in existing email marketing tools. In 2004 they began to build Campaign Monitor, mainly for themselves. Eventually, though, they opened the service up to other frustrated designers and businesses. Today, Campaign Monitor serves over 120,000 paying customers including such notables as Buzzfeed, Coca-Cola, Disney, Airbnb and the San Diego Chargers.

Focusing on streamlining every part of the email marketing process is a huge part of what Campaign Monitor is all about, but I would be remiss if I did not comment on how gorgeous the product itself is. It is clear that while usability and convenience were important in the design, the team that created this ESP also wanted it to be beautiful. Tying functionality and design together so well is something many software companies attempt to do, but not all of them succeed. Campaign Monitor does succeed, and with an air of easy grace.

Best of all? You can more or less experience the full extent of what Campaign Monitor has to offer after signing up; none of the key features–from autoresponders to reporting–are hidden behind a pay wall. The program has its flaws, particularly for very advanced users, but businesses looking for an ESP that can meet the vast majority of their needs (with minimal fuss) would do well to give Campaign Monitor a look.

Pricing:

Campaign Monitor offers three payment plans: Basic, Unlimited, and Premier. While there is a free unlimited trial (no credit card required) that allows users to test the full suite of features, it stops short of allowing you to actually send an email. If you want to send even a single email, you’ll have to spend money. You can, however, send test emails to up to five addresses per campaign, so you’ll be able to evaluate every stage of the process.

Basic Plan

The Basic Plan includes automation and allows users to send a maximum number of emails per month equal to five times the maximum numbers of subscribers allowable for that tier. The lowest tier, for example, would allow users to send a maximum of 2,500 emails.

  • 0 – 500 subscribers: $9
  • 501 – 2,500: $29
  • 2,501 – 5,000: $49
  • 5,001 – 10,000: $89
  • 10,001 – 15,000: $129
  • 15,001 – 25,000: $199
  • 25,001 – 50,000: $299

Unlimited Plan

The Unlimited Plan removes the monthly email caps, allows for unlimited automation, unlimited design and spam tests and includes priority support.

  • 0 – 500 subscribers: $29
  • 501 – 2,500: $59
  • 2,501 – 5,000: $99
  • 5,001 – 10,000: $149
  • 10,001 – 15,000: $249
  • 15,001 – 25,000: $399
  • 25,001 – 50,000: $699

Premier Plan

The Premier plan includes everything from the Unlimited plan, but adds in activity tracking and analytic features to justify the higher price tag. Though quite a bit more expensive, these features have the potential to revolutionize your business so they are probably worth considering.

  • 0 – 5,000: $149
  • 5,001 – 10,000: $249
  • 10,001 – 15,000: $399
  • 15,001 – 25,000: $499
  • 25,001 – 50,000: $899

In all cases, if you have more than 50,000 subscribers, you can go here to request a special quote for high-volume sending needs. There is also a 15% discount for nonprofits, which is a nice touch!

Web-based or Locally-Installed

Campaign Monitor is entirely cloud-based and requires no download to run on your computer.

Size of Business Supported

Campaign Monitor ostensibly supports businesses of all sizes, although competitors offer more flexible low-end plans for smaller firms. Users have to start spending money right away if they want to send emails.

Ease of Use

The sign-up process for Campaign Monitor is painless, requiring a minimal amount of information from new users: name, business, email, password.

The dashboard divides its tabs into discreet areas. Account-related links are offset and dulled-out at the top of the page, while campaign and list creation tools are situated prominently and brightly an inch or so below. You’re given four options at the outset: Overview (a panel with links to tutorials initially, notable campaign information later), Campaigns, Automation, and Lists & Subscribers. Offset from that main grouping are Templates and Clients.

Somewhat hidden in a sidebar in the account settings is the option to switch layouts for the account from “multiple clients” to “single business.” This simplifies the layout a bit by removing some options you probably won’t use if you’re handling the marketing for a single business.

Email Campaign Creation

Campaign Monitor offers hundreds of templates, which divide into categories like newsletters, announcements, and feedback. Users also have the option to import their own HTML files or to build a simple plain text email (note, the program cannot track clicks or opens on plain text campaigns).

While not offering the same level of manipulation as dedicated design programs like Photoshop or InDesign, Campaign Monitor does allow you to resize your images, adjust colors and lighting, and even tough up “blemishes.” A lack of utility during the email creation phase was one of our bigger criticisms the last time we reviewed Campaign Monitor, so it is good to see that they have corrected the flaw.

Text editing fares a bit better, with a selection of 10 fonts and the ability to bold, italicize, and insert additional links.

When ready, users can preview their design to see what it will look like in a desktop inbox or on a mobile device before sending.

Sending the Campaign

Sending the campaign is straightforward, and Campaign Monitor will actually walk you through the process. If you haven’t created a contact list up until this point, the program will prompt you to do so. You can send test emails to up to five recipients. These do not count against your monthly emails (nor do they count as emails with regard to ending your free trial).

After you’re pleased with your test, you can schedule the email to be delivered immediately or at a set time in the future.

When adding contacts, the program gives you the option of specifying a list as single-opt-in or confirmed-opt-in; the latter entails sending confirmation emails before formally adding a contact to the list. Confirmation is not required when you import a list. A neat feature for those manually typing in subscribers is the ability to log additional information about a contact by simply separating each piece of information with a comma. In the next screen, you’ll match each of those entries to a column to effectively create a spreadsheet cell.

Another neat option is the ability to do a split campaign, sending slightly different versions of the same email campaign to different test users to see which version gets the better response. This feature allows you to split subjects, your sender name, or the email content itself.

Email Campaign Reporting

While those subscribing to the Basic and unlimited plans get access to entry-level reporting (number of clicks and opens, etc.), those willing to pay for the Premier plan get access to some pretty advanced analytics. These allow you to track individual subscribers, see their habits on your site, and even contact them directly for a more personal touch. This kind of thing is clearly most useful for companies that sell physical products, so if that describes your business model, this may well be worth a look.

Customer Service and Support

At a glance, Campaign Monitor’s customer support options are a bit sparse, lacking real-time support in the form of live chat or even phone service. This is somewhat alleviated by the quick response time of their 24/7 email-based support team and a solid, searchable knowledge database.

  • Email support: This seems to be the company’s preferred avenue of contact. Shortly after signing up for the service, you will likely be contacted by a representative asking if you would like any help and providing a direct email address at which to contact him or her. You can also contact the company at any time using this form. Answers to my questions came quickly, within an hour or two.
  • Help database: Users can access an online knowledgebase by entering their question into a search field, which will return a selection of potentially useful articles or forum posts. You can also browse through the software’s user guide, which is broken down into 10 categories.
  • Forums: Campaign Monitor maintains an active user forum; this requires a separate login.
  • Guides: The company’s web design roots show through in their prolific offering of guides. Some of these guides deal specifically with how to use Campaign Monitor, while others focus on the general principles of email marketing. Regardless, they are worth perusing if you are considering subscribing to this service.

Negative Reviews and Complaints

Negative reviews of Campaign Monitor are difficult to come by. No complaints about the company are logged on BBB, RipOff Report or ComplaintsBoard. The program is currently ranked 4.4/5 stars on G2 based on 10 reviews. The iPhone app is ranked 3 stars on the App Store — users rated the program negatively based on some bugs in earlier versions. There have yet to be any reviews of the current version, released in April 2015.

Criticisms of Campaign Monitor include:

  • Scarcity of features: Users almost unanimously praised the quality of the options Campaign Monitor offers, but many felt as though their experience could have been improved by the addition of some niche and advanced features, like the ability to compare the results of individual lists.
  • Limited Integrations: A few users complained that their preferred integrations weren’t available.
  • Pricing: While no one has complained about the price per se, there was some confusion with the basic plan’s tracking of both subscribers and emails sent, as well as the value of the per campaign plan.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials

Users have a lot of positive things to say about Campaign Monitor. The site also keeps a list of notable satisfied customers.

Here’s what people like about Campaign Monitor:

  • Ease of Use: Users can get up and running with Campaign Monitor almost immediately, thanks to the simple, intuitive interface and great email templates.
  • Customer Service: Despite lacking phone or chat support, Campaign Monitor appears to satisfy customer queries with fast, responsive email technical and sales support.
  • Clear, Easily Understood Reporting: Customers praise the presentation of the reporting tools, which they say allow them to easily understand and use the information presented to them.
  • Automation: Some users love the ability to easily create sets of autoresponders that send preprogrammed emails to new subscribers at set intervals.

Features

Campaign Monitor has a small but well-developed set of core features.

  • WYSIWYG Editor – You get access to scores of drag and drop templates that scale automatically to mobile and desktop views. More technical users can import HMTL designs, but they won’t be able to modify the HTML of existing templates.
  • Preview – Prior to sending out your email, you can view what the email will look like to recipients on both desktop and mobile devices.
  • Surveys: Using Campaign Monitor, you can add surveys and forms to your email campaigns, allowing you to gather feedback and comments from your subscribers.
  • Split Campaigns – As mentioned earlier, Campaign Monitor allows users to create two versions of the same campaign. This is a great feature for testing out minor tweaks to your campaign strategy.
  • Automation – You can set up a series of timed emails that will be sent to all new subscribers.
  • Email Analytics – Users have access to a basic but well-rounded set of analytical tools that includes information about bounces, clicks, opens, unsubscribes, spam complaints, and social media activity.
  • Sign-up Tools – In addition to the ability to create sign-up forms for new subscribers, Campaign Monitor allows users to create list segments to target specific sub-groups of users, and the ability to create custom fields for user data.
  • API – Developers looking to create their own integrations can utilize Campaign Monitor’s robust API.

Integrations and Add-ons

Last time we reviewed Campaign Monitor, we criticized them for being “weak” in the integrations department. In the time between then and now, the problem has been rectified. Over 250 different integrations are now available, including everything from Google apps to Shopify to Facebook. For more information on the vast spectrum of add-ons you can choose from, go here.

Security

Campaign Monitor uses physical and digital safeguards to protect user data.

Databases are protected by access restrictions, and key information, such as passwords, is encrypted when stored. SSL (HTTPS) is used throughout the application to transmit sensitive information such as credit card details, which are not stored on Campaign Monitor servers.

Data centers are physically guarded by five levels of protection: security cards, fingerprint scans, video surveillance, locked hardware, and vibration detection. A proximity card and PIN are required just to enter the building.

Data is mirrored to a backup server in case of malfunction.

Anti-Spam Policy & Protection

As one might expect, Campaign Monitor frowns on spam and abides by the CAN-SPAM Act, so don’t expect to be able to send emails with false headers for long. Campaign Monitor goes a step further, however, by defining spam as “any email you send to someone who hasn’t given you their direct permission to contact them on the topic of the email.”

To catch spammers, Campaign Monitor is tied into the spam reporting systems of major ESPs like Outlook. If more than .03 percent of your emails are marked as spam, you’ll receive a warning and be contacted by the company with advice on how to fix the problem. More serious or repeat infractions can lead to account suspension.

The company also monitors blacklists and closely scrutinizes large, imported lists.

Final Verdict

Lately, there has been a trend towards making email marketing accessible to a broader user base by simplifying programs and improving or eliminating unnecessary features. The danger, of course, is the potential loss of utility for more serious marketing campaigns.

Campaign Monitor, more than most ESPs, gets minimalism right; the majority of email marketers will find the tools they need to get the job done without having to wrestle a bloated interface to the ground. Additionally, having access to all the program’s features at every pricing tier makes the software feel complete in a way that many of its competitors don’t. Add to that the near-breathtaking graphic design and you’ll find that Campaign Monitor is one of the most complete email marketing services currently available.

Of course, you are the best judge of whether or not Campaign Monitor will meet your needs. Give the free trial a spin and see how you like it.

Chris Motola

Chris Motola

Finance Writer at Merchant Maverick
Chris Motola is a writer, programmer, game designer, and product of NY. These days he's mostly writing about financial products, but in a past life he wrote about health care and business. He's a graduate of the University of Central Florida.
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