Review: Campaign Monitor, Email Newsletter Software

Campaign Monitor is an online email marketing application that enables designers to create, send, manage and track branded emails for themselves and their clients with ease. Freshview, the company behind Campaign Monitor recently updated the software, adding additional functionality that enables designers to not just run campaigns but actually re-sell it as if it were their own product. They’ll even let you rebrand the application interface and set your own mark-up on the pricing!

37signals_37s37signals_basecamp

37signals uses Campaign Monitor for their HTML emails

HTML email? No thanks!
Along with every other designer I know I’m not exactly the biggest fan of HTML emails. The sheer number of email clients and their sketchy CSS support dredges up memories of web development in the late 90’s. Tables? Inline styles? …and that’s just to get it displaying correctly across the many (many!) email packages, not to mention managing the recipient email addresses and tracking the campaign results. It all sounds far too complicated, expensive and not at all what I got into this web design malarkey for.

Clients do love those branded emails though, so it looks like they’re here to stay. Let’s be thankful then for Campaign Monitor.

First impressions count
Two things struck me immediately about Campaign Monitor (before I had even signed-up for an account). The first was the pricing and just how much you seem to get for very little cost (you can actually do an awful lot for free). Unlike many other internet applications there’s no sign-up or monthly fee; you simply pay whenever you send emails to more than 5 people, which means you can thoroughly test almost everything about the service before committing. The pricing structure is very straightforward – you pay $US5 plus $0.01 per recipient, so sending an email to 500 people would cost $5 plus (500 x $.01) = $10. You also have the option of invoicing clients a marked up cost.

congratulaions-youve-made1

Get paid when your clients send html emails

The other thing that really stood out was the wealth of resource and support information offered across the CM website. Rather than just promote the product it offers information about best practice for designing and sending HTML emails, a run-down of CSS support offered by various email clients as well as tips on how to pitch and charge-for email marketing campaigns. The content across the site is really well written and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling that ongoing support from these guys won’t be a problem.

Sounds Great, but What About the App?
Once you have signed up to use Campaign Monitor you are provided with a personalised ‘mycompany.createsend.com’ domain name. This is where you manage your clients, email campaigns, billing for each client and your own account settings which includes the white label customisation settings for the interface. You can choose from nine different colour schemes, add your own logo, add a log in form directly from your own site and even change the createsend url to your own domain if you want.

Just like the CM website, the app itself is beautifully designed with a clear, simple interface, that makes it easy to find your way around (which is no small feat given the amount of functionality it’s packing). It’s testament to this intuitive design and the friendly, succinct copywriting, that I never once felt lost or confused while using the application (there’s a good spattering of in-context advice and help links in case you do need assistance or further information as you go though).

Clients and Billing
The first page you’re greeted with is a simple dashboard which lists your clients and a run-down of latest activity. Adding new clients is very quick and easy with a short one-page form where you can set exactly how much access they can have to the system, what they will be able to see and do, as well as their billing details. You can choose to run things exactly as you please, from allowing no client access and sending your own invoice outside of the application, to allowing your client to do everything themselves and have Campaign Monitor charge them and send you your mark-up profit automatically.

Sub-accounts for each client are automatically generated. This is where you can track each client’s campaign, add email templates, create and send emails, manage their subscriber lists and view related campaign reports. These are also the pages that your client will see if you’ve provided them with access to their account.

Sending and managing campaigns
Sending a new campaign is straightforward, and presented as a four-part linear process that you are guided through step-by-step in a clear and logical manner. Once you’ve set the campaign title, subject line, sender and reply-to addresses you import your email design and content. Depending on how you choose to mark-up the html (don’t worry – it’s easy and explained clearly on the Campaign Monitor website) you can invoke a fancy new WYSIWYG editor that you or your clients can use to add content to the email and see exactly what it will look like in real time as you type.

cm_editor

Let clients add and edit email content in real time using the super-simple WYSIWYG editor.

Next you add your list of recipients and send it off. One of my favourite features was how you can choose to have Campaign Monitor test your email design and content to ensure it renders correctly in most email clients and will pass through spam filters and firewalls. This really stood out for me as an amazingly useful feature. As designers we all know what a nightmare it can be making sure our sites render correctly in all browsers, but all of the email clients; web-based, desktop and mobile too? No chance. The only complaint I have was that I found this to run a little too slowly (about half an hour) and still not all of the results came back. The guys at Freshview ensure me that this is being improved however, and I still think it’s well worth the extra $5 they charge for the hassle it saves regardless!

There’s a lot of little extra features associated with sending out a campaign such as automatic archiving of campaigns within each clients’ sub-domain but two nice little touches that really caught my attention were the ability to automatically convert your email’s css from an external sheet to inline styling at import, and automatically generating an online version for those recipients to whom the email doesn’t look right. I had assumed these were both things I’d have to take the time to implement as the designer, so was pleasantly surprised to find them built-in. In fact, I was hard pressed to find anything missing at all, and instead was frequently surprised by handy, unexpected little features like these.

And the Rest
When I first looked at Campaign Monitor I assumed sending branded html email was pretty much it, but that’s just the start! Once your campaign gets sent you can track all manner of information about who opened it, what they clicked, who marked it as spam and who unsubscribed, all presented in a nice Google-Analytics style interactive report. In fact, there’s integration with Google Analytics too, so you can track where on your site recipients go after reading your campaign!

cm_report_snapshot

Real time, interactive campaign information presented in a clear, familiar ‘Google Analytics’ style report.

There are a number of other notable features, and improvements over the previous version worth mentioning that I came across while trying out the system but didn’t get to explore fully, particularly around targeting subscribers, generating sign-up forms, subscriber management and the Campaign Monitor API. You can find the full list of features and find out more about them over at the Campaign Monitor site.

Is it Any Good?
You can probably tell by now that I have become a fan of Campaign Monitor. In the course of a week I’ve gone from dreading a client asking for a HTML email to being a lot more interested in the potential that branded email marketing has to offer both my business and my clients’. Campaign Monitor removes so much of what was a hassle before that I’m even starting to think I might start promoting it as service to my clients. I could even make some cash out of it too!

Software name: Campaign Monitor (White Label version)
Developer: Freshview
Price: $US5 plus $0.01 per recipient (but you can set your own mark-up)
Rating (out of 5): 5

Comments

72 comments on “Review: Campaign Monitor, Email Newsletter Software

  1. Nice review, Ben. I've been using it for years and have always been impressed with it. I also love how they don't sit on their butts and are constantly working to improve the product.

  2. Nice review, Ben. I've been using it for years and have always been impressed with it. I also love how they don't sit on their butts and are constantly working to improve the product.

  3. Campaign Monitor has been top of my online-apps-I-can't-live-without list for about 18 months, and the recent improvements cements it there. It's AWESOME (and deserving of capitalisation).

  4. Campaign Monitor has been top of my online-apps-I-can't-live-without list for about 18 months, and the recent improvements cements it there. It's AWESOME (and deserving of capitalisation).

  5. I've had a great deal of luck with Mailchimp after rejecting CampaignMonitor on cost grounds. When you have large lists (especially doing high volume work – and no, we don't spam) paying per recipient gets very pricey very quickly.Mailchimp has a great API with PHP and Ruby libraries available, and a very good interface and reporting. I'm not affiliated with them, just impressed!

  6. I've had a great deal of luck with Mailchimp after rejecting CampaignMonitor on cost grounds. When you have large lists (especially doing high volume work – and no, we don't spam) paying per recipient gets very pricey very quickly.

    Mailchimp has a great API with PHP and Ruby libraries available, and a very good interface and reporting. I'm not affiliated with them, just impressed!

  7. I just used Campaign Monitor to send out our company's Xmas card. Having used a lot of these kinds of platforms I'm well versed in the idiosyncratic nature of email design system. I would say Campaign Monitor is better than most but I ran into some annoyances while troubleshooting and testing my email but it also may have very well been due to me overlooking something.I agree with Toby that the pricing get's a little out of hand for big lists but it's perfect for small and infrequent mailouts. For example we mailout newsletters to just our client list and so it makes more sense to pay ten bucks when we get around to it than to maintain an account that we won't use but once a quarter.

  8. I just used Campaign Monitor to send out our company's Xmas card. Having used a lot of these kinds of platforms I'm well versed in the idiosyncratic nature of email design system. I would say Campaign Monitor is better than most but I ran into some annoyances while troubleshooting and testing my email but it also may have very well been due to me overlooking something.

    I agree with Toby that the pricing get's a little out of hand for big lists but it's perfect for small and infrequent mailouts. For example we mailout newsletters to just our client list and so it makes more sense to pay ten bucks when we get around to it than to maintain an account that we won't use but once a quarter.

  9. How bullet proof are Mail Chimp and Campaign Monitor when letting non-technical people update a template by copy and pasting from Word? Or rather, is one better than the other?Has anyone else here used dotMailer? It's a UK based and my organisation recently switched to it from Frontwire that we used before, but I find the WYSIWYG editor produces some odd results in Firefox and Safari, so Mac users have to rely on the code view for changing colours, otherwise it adds in code like RGB(255,255,255) instead of #FFFFFF. Quite a problem.

  10. How bullet proof are Mail Chimp and Campaign Monitor when letting non-technical people update a template by copy and pasting from Word? Or rather, is one better than the other?

    Has anyone else here used dotMailer? It's a UK based and my organisation recently switched to it from Frontwire that we used before, but I find the WYSIWYG editor produces some odd results in Firefox and Safari, so Mac users have to rely on the code view for changing colours, otherwise it adds in code like RGB(255,255,255) instead of #FFFFFF. Quite a problem.

  11. I just recently switched back to Campaign Monitor after going over to MailChimp for a while. Campaign Monitor won me over with their new “reseller” features as well as the simplicity of their interface. The one thing that impressed me the most is how easy they make it to ensure your e-mails get through to your recipients. They generate the TXT DNS records for you (like DomainKeys and Sender ID) and all you have to do is copy and paste them into your domain manager. This helps make sure Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail users (among others) get the messages you send.Great product!

  12. I just recently switched back to Campaign Monitor after going over to MailChimp for a while. Campaign Monitor won me over with their new “reseller” features as well as the simplicity of their interface. The one thing that impressed me the most is how easy they make it to ensure your e-mails get through to your recipients. They generate the TXT DNS records for you (like DomainKeys and Sender ID) and all you have to do is copy and paste them into your domain manager. This helps make sure Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail users (among others) get the messages you send.

    Great product!

  13. “Once your campaign gets sent you can track all manner of information about who opened it, what they clicked, who marked it as spam and who unsubscribed, all presented in a nice Google-Analytics style interactive report.”How is this possible at any accurate level? Particularly the bit about counting who marked it as spam?? I sense some small print somewhere concerning this one!

  14. “Once your campaign gets sent you can track all manner of information about who opened it, what they clicked, who marked it as spam and who unsubscribed, all presented in a nice Google-Analytics style interactive report.”

    How is this possible at any accurate level? Particularly the bit about counting who marked it as spam?? I sense some small print somewhere concerning this one!

  15. @TobyMany major email providers have systems called feedback loops. When someone uses a 'mark as spam' button in their email client, it triggers a notification through the feedback loop of (for example) Hotmail.Campaign Monitor integrates the feedback loop notifications back into the campaign reports, and automatically unsubscribes that person from your list.

  16. @Toby

    Many major email providers have systems called feedback loops. When someone uses a 'mark as spam' button in their email client, it triggers a notification through the feedback loop of (for example) Hotmail.

    Campaign Monitor integrates the feedback loop notifications back into the campaign reports, and automatically unsubscribes that person from your list.

  17. I've used it and like it and i'm thinking into my in house CMS developed with Django so that clients will be able to create and send email campaigns from their own cms, but Campaign Monitor will handle all the sending, etc, etc.The only thing i'm trying to figure out is if to tack on the cost on their hosting bills? or charge them … i see them having less of a reaction if its charged as additional to hosting.

  18. I've used it and like it and i'm thinking into my in house CMS developed with Django so that clients will be able to create and send email campaigns from their own cms, but Campaign Monitor will handle all the sending, etc, etc.

    The only thing i'm trying to figure out is if to tack on the cost on their hosting bills? or charge them … i see them having less of a reaction if its charged as additional to hosting.

  19. @raisel:why dont you offer them a number of email newsletter as part of the hostingcost (like 1 newsletter/month with max. 500 recipient). Additional Newsletters will cost more, maybe on a monthly subscription price?

  20. @raisel:
    why dont you offer them a number of email newsletter as part of the hostingcost (like 1 newsletter/month with max. 500 recipient). Additional Newsletters will cost more, maybe on a monthly subscription price?

  21. Jakob,thats a good idea, most people won't need to send more than 1 newsletter per month.I was thinking on this though, and i think the consensus from web clients is that they expect newsletter campaign to be free (and to come as a part of the website) … thats why i had started developing my own newlsetter app… but its soo much work, and i'll never be able to get it right like campaign monitor.

  22. Jakob,

    thats a good idea, most people won't need to send more than 1 newsletter per month.

    I was thinking on this though, and i think the consensus from web clients is that they expect newsletter campaign to be free (and to come as a part of the website) … thats why i had started developing my own newlsetter app… but its soo much work, and i'll never be able to get it right like campaign monitor.

  23. Thanks for the review but stopping spreading the news on this great service, it's a secret. We have used CM (MailBuild) for sometime now and love it. 90% of our clients on it manage their own campaigns after we create their templates and give them training.

  24. Thanks for the review but stopping spreading the news on this great service, it's a secret. We have used CM (MailBuild) for sometime now and love it. 90% of our clients on it manage their own campaigns after we create their templates and give them training.

  25. I love CM, but my company outgrew it too quickly, which is a good thing :-)For those who have huge lists, check out Interspire EMail Marketer. PHP, MySQL, your own server, and many of the same features that CM offers. Also, no per-email cost, just a initial software fee.

  26. I love CM, but my company outgrew it too quickly, which is a good thing :-)

    For those who have huge lists, check out Interspire EMail Marketer. PHP, MySQL, your own server, and many of the same features that CM offers. Also, no per-email cost, just a initial software fee.

  27. I'm a fan of Campaign Monitor as well and with their current integration of their MailBuild product, it's become all the more valuable to our office. A number of our clients manage their own e-mail campaigns through Campaign Monitor using templates we've designed for them and have commented on the ease of use and clarity of reporting.

  28. I'm a fan of Campaign Monitor as well and with their current integration of their MailBuild product, it's become all the more valuable to our office. A number of our clients manage their own e-mail campaigns through Campaign Monitor using templates we've designed for them and have commented on the ease of use and clarity of reporting.

  29. Campaign Monitor has been around for ages and everyone already knows what a great product it is :)Perhaps try reviewing a newer, little known web application next time? I know I'd read it.

  30. Campaign Monitor has been around for ages and everyone already knows what a great product it is :)

    Perhaps try reviewing a newer, little known web application next time? I know I'd read it.

  31. you can't really fault campaign monitor. Ive been using it for around a year and I couldn't do without it. The features you get for the price is unbeatable.

  32. you can't really fault campaign monitor. Ive been using it for around a year and I couldn't do without it. The features you get for the price is unbeatable.

  33. Looks like a great tool and I have just started to try it out. The sign up forms seems to be a great new feature.

  34. Shame they don't have a monthly rate. Much too expensive otherwise for a small business with a just a few thousand subscribers wanting to send out new product updates and such.

  35. Shame they don't have a monthly rate. Much too expensive otherwise for a small business with a just a few thousand subscribers wanting to send out new product updates and such.

  36. I've been using this for about 2 years and this is honestly a great and straightforward platform for running an email program.

  37. Email marketing is also another popular method in today's Internet driven Businesses. Gone were the days of telemarketing i think, let emails do the job – you'll save a lot of energy and effort.

  38. Email marketing is also another popular method in today's Internet driven Businesses. Gone were the days of telemarketing i think, let emails do the job – you'll save a lot of energy and effort.

  39. Email marketing is the blood of most businesses and that makes email campaigns important. They need to be controlled well to succeed.

  40. I've used CM for about 6 months now, I write the templates then test them from CM to my own installs of Outlook2003, 2007, Apple Mail, Thunderbird and a few web mail clients. The only downside is a lack of flexibility in the repeating regions <repeater>. I can link a title, image and have multiple . But I can't have a “read more” link and the end unless I hand code it. I wish the CM developers would give us something like <$ link=”true” default='Read more'$ >

  41. I've used CM for about 6 months now, I write the templates then test them from CM to my own installs of Outlook2003, 2007, Apple Mail, Thunderbird and a few web mail clients. The only downside is a lack of flexibility in the repeating regions <repeater>. I can link a title, image and have multiple

    . But I can't have a “read more” link and the end unless I hand code it. I wish the CM developers would give us something like

    <$ link=”true” default='Read more'$ >

  42. darn I just signed up with getresponse! with all the great reviews from commenters I want the software ap! I will have to look into it though because I am quite technically challenged so if the interface isnt very user friendly I will have to stick with GR. thanks though for the reviews and a great looking ap

  43. Have read review after review on the Campaign Monitor service and decided to give it a go … but was severely let down !!! While I can't fault their interface for setting up your campaign(s) the customer service / support leaves A LOT to be desired. They promise a max of 12 hours to approve your mailing list while I have been waiting over 5 days, and have received no response to my emails querying this.As this is my first campaign with them they've made a terrible first impression.Will be taking my business else where …

  44. Have read review after review on the Campaign Monitor service and decided to give it a go … but was severely let down !!! While I can't fault their interface for setting up your campaign(s) the customer service / support leaves A LOT to be desired.

    They promise a max of 12 hours to approve your mailing list while I have been waiting over 5 days, and have received no response to my emails querying this.

    As this is my first campaign with them they've made a terrible first impression.

    Will be taking my business else where …

  45. @D Armstrong

    I am sorry to hear about your support experience. I can personally confirm that we *always* respond to every approval request within 12 hours, usually much faster.

    It is likely that you did not see our response, or it did not reach your inbox. If you contact mathewp at freshview.com I will sort it out for you.

  46. Very useful article as im right now sorting out, which service fits best for our business. Right now we’re using Newsmailservice.com, with around 10’000 addresses, which isn’t bad at all, but Campaign Monitor has some very neat features and MailChimp too so i think i will give both a try and see what fits best.
    Thanks, Claudio

  47. I’ve narrowed my choices down to MailChimp and Campaign Monitor which both seem very similar. I was hoping someone out there has tried them both and can report on their experiences?

    I hear people wishing for monthly rates. These services do seem to be cost outrageous $ when dealing with large volume. MailChimp offers both monthly and per-email rates — but the monthly doesn’t seem to make much sense as it’s cost is based on the same per-email rate yet it looks like you are bound by that volume for that month. If you send less (or more) than that amount, then that type of plan doesn’t make much sense.

  48. Telemarketing isn’t dead. I have a friend whose business is doing quite well with telemarketing.

    I haven’t had much luck with email marketing, but … I suppose it all comes down to how general a product you are trying to sell and … if the email’s you send are targeted.

    I still think email marketing around an existing customer base is probably the best way to achieve your goals.

  49. had a terrible experience with CM. loaded our mailing list in and they turned into big brother…asking us where the list came from, how it was managed, and telling us they wouldn’t send the email if we couldn’t provide a sign-up page. we sent them as much information as we could however a previous sign-up page had been deleted. plus the company was old school anyway. they hadn’t collected all their emails digitally. we’re going back to our old service. very disappointed and to top it off, it made me look bad in the eyes of my client [which happens to be a highly regarded and respected company].

    • @ deedee

      They are just doing their job. I’ll be happy to know that my provider is checking on the list than those who don’t care. I’m sure all this is for the benefits of their customers.

  50. I’m looking at 3 service providers, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and sendcube. But I have to forget about MailChimp even though they seem to have interesting features because I can’t brand the apps. I’m down to CM and SC. CM does not have monthly plan and they don’t provide free email testing but their paying testing looks good. SC has both monthly and pay as you go (or pay as you send as in their website). Free testing but looks basic.

    CM can collect payment on my behalf. SC can’t but I was told this will be a feature on their next release.

    Other features, I think both are good and the reports are extensive. I like SC slightly better because I can view the list spanshot which also list down all the campaigns I have sent under that list. Their tagging feature looks interesting but I haven’t tried it yet.

    One thing missing from SC is custom domain which CM can do but again I was told that this will be available in their next release. They seem to be working on a new version.

    Will try both further and see which one is better. SC’s monthly pricing is way too good to ignore and I can pay in S$ which is good. CM support A$ which is not much different from S$.

    Any reviews on SC and CM are welcome and I will keep a lookout of comments here. Time to decide.

  51. I Have tried using Constant Contact for email marketing, but, being a professional designer, I find it too restrictive.
    I am familiar with Mac software (Adobe Illustrator, etc). I was reading up on Campaign Monitor and it sounds like it would give me more control and be more user friendly. Also it sounds like I can produce an ad in Adobe CS and then simply send it to Campaign Monitor. Am I correct about this?
    Would love any help I can get on this!

    David Warren

  52. I’ve just experienced the same problem with CM. All sweetness and light until a customer tries to send to a decent sized database. Then it’s all Big Brother, well over and above the need for SPAM checking. I work for a Membership organisation where Members on application either opt in or out to receive emails from other members but CM won’t accept this for transmittal on their system. I personally wouldn’t touch CM with a bargepole again and would certainly suggest others check this – http://www.campaignmonitor.com/anti-spam/ – which is not apparent on their main website before signing up.