(Last Updated On: October 15, 2017)
If you’ve read this far, it’s likely that you’re looking into some email marketing solutions? You’ve probably seen a few names that keep coming up.
It’s a predictable scenario. There are a lot of recurring names out there, all telling you that they’re the best for your business, and they’ll generate a bajillion leads, and therefore plenty of conversions.
If you’re new to email marketing, you might be overwhelmed with recurring jargon, the different tiers and the rest of it. We’re going to look at just two of the big names to see if they’ll realistically help your business.
Two is plenty to consider at a time. If one of these sounds close, you can compare it to another product, to see if it gets closer, or further away, from a valuable asset.
A lot of what you learn about an email marketing service from your research depends on how these marketing tools market themselves.
With this in mind, Campaign Monitor comes across as very modest company – you have to dig relatively deep to find out why they’re a big deal.
Founded in 2004, they now claim use at 150,000 companies worldwide, a number which gives them over 2 million users. Amongst their bigger users are Disney, Coca-Cola and Buzzfeed. Companies like that won’t put up with a substandard email marketing solution!
At first glance, their offer doesn’t appear too different to what other providers offer: simplicity, lead generation, and the like.
That’s why looking at these products in more detail important: finding out how or if its usability fits in with your business.
It’s likely that MailChimp was one of the first names you saw when you started your research. It’s the grandaddy of email marketing solutions: it’s been around for 15 years.
It’s so widely used, I’d guess that it was recommended by someone, or you saw their branding in an email you received!
In marketing itself, it presents itself as being easy to use – simplicity is probably the most standard of claims of such a service! Right from the outset though, MailChimp gives the impression of being friendly, in terms of its presentation and the tone of its content. That’s not a something that can be said about others.
Going through what MailChimp can do for your business at first glance, looks like a standard affair. But let’s take a look to see if it’s right for you.
Remember that time you had to look into a digital marketing solution for your director, and they said not to worry about the cost? Yeah, me neither. It’s far more likely that you’ve been told to find a free solution.
Alas, you get what you pay for, and with Campaign Monitor, free isn’t an option, not even for their lowest tier. The cheapest option is $9 per month, which will let you say hi to up to 500 subscribers, in up to 2,500 emails.
The tiers increase in terms of additional features. For example, if you still have 500 subscribers, but you want to send them an infinite number of emails – as a point of best practice, don’t do that! – the middle tier allows unlimited sending, and a few other bonuses, for $29 per month.
The next, final, and most expensive tier, is the Premier tier, which, staying with 500 subscribers, will cost $149 per month. At this tier, I think you get quite a lot. You get even more personal time directly from the company, and it actually looks a lot like having an email marketing agency on retainer. They can take a lot of work off your organisation.
We’ve just looked at the base pricing for up to 500 subscribers. One thing I’m not a fan of, is that I find the numbers required for the subscriber number price increases to be large and rigid. For example, the next price point up from 500 subscribers is 2,500. That’s quite a jump, without any middle ground.
One of the reasons for MailChimp’s popularity is the fact that the first tier of their offerings is totally free. Not a trial period or anything, but, as they say themselves ‘Forever Free.’
You’ve probably guessed without looking, that’s going to come with some limitations. The main one is that you’re limited to 2,000 subscribers. You can email them up to 12,000 times per month. How you use those 12,000 emails depends entirely on your business. You can email all your subscribers six times, or you can segment it for different things.
The paid experiences of MailChimp are a little messy. I’m happy to explain, but it’s definitely worth going through them in detail to see what your business might need. Let’s run through some paid options.
Sticking with that 2,000 subscribers as a baseline, if you want the additional features MailChimp’s middle tier provides, it’ll set you back $25 per month. We’ll look at those additional features in more detail later on.
An interesting thing about MailChimp’s top tier, which they call their Pro Marketer version, is rather than being an incremental amount based on your number of subscribers, is that it’s a flat rate of $199 per month to access the additional features. That’s a big ask for you to go to your director with, but again, we’ll look at the value of that in a later section.
If you don’t think you need to contact people every month, or if you’re just experimenting with email marketing, they have a pre-pay option, which might suit better.
If you’ve been researching email marketing solutions, you hit upon Campaign Monitor for its core function: it sends emails.
I mentioned that – as every other email client does – it hails its own simplicity, and the lack of technical coding knowledge required to put together a professional looking marketing email. And that’s true, and for email marketing newbies, that’s great.
It will guide you through the process in putting together a nice looking email, via a built-in template. It takes it one step at a time, and you can have things as simple or as fancy as you like. It’s good to have an eye for design, and knowledge of email optimization.
If you can use a content management system like WordPress, or even social media like Facebook, you’ll definitely be able to follow the steps to create an email in Campaign Monitor.
The lower tier includes a marketing automation function. This should get you into developing drip campaigns. You’ll have some limitations, but it will be a great starting point in getting your head around the kinds of tools you can have at your disposal.
For me, the notable difference in the increasing tiers of Campaign Monitor, is the amount of ‘face time’ you get directly with the company. It’s a common characteristic in tech companies’ support: the more you pay, the easier it is to get in touch with an actual human.
At Campaign Monitor, the Unlimited tier gives access to a deliverability expert, while the Premier tier give access to an email design consultant, and a customer success manager.
The free version will keep you ticking over functionally until you have the capacity for additional features, or until you get more than 2,000 subscribers, making it ideal for startups.
These key features that’ll set you on your way include:
- A form builder for getting those all important subscribers
- Reports and data insights to show you how many people are clicking on your email, and what actions they’re taking within that
- Design templates to maintain synergy with your branding and Facebook ads
That’s it. The skin and bones of email marketing. The reports and data are something new email marketers should be using from the outset, so they can see what’s working and what’s not.
The features you get at the middle tier are useful for sure – but only if you take the time to understand them, or can hire somebody with that knowledge, even if it’s just on a freelance basis.
Automation so you can have a drip campaign, triggered by users’ taking certain actions, is certainly a big one. Integration with a CRM is essential for e-commerce businesses – it can be fiddly to set up though.
After that, it essentially give you a bunch more data-driven tools to optimize your email marketing. But if the time or knowledge isn’t there to utilize them, don’t waste your money.
The Pro Marketer tier comes with even more detailed data and analysis reporting. It’s definitely one exclusively for a company big enough to have a dedicated email marketing manager, who has time to consume the data, and put it to good use.
As noted earlier, all the email marketing solutions tell you how easy they are to use. And usually, they are really easy to use. I always have the mindset that I know what it’s supposed to do, I just need to figure out how to make it happen!
Campaign Monitor are keen to demonstrate how easy their service is to use as soon as you log in. There’s no messing around; you’re straight into email design. They seem to be opting to throw you in at the deep end. It’s not a bad approach – it won’t give you time to worry about things.
The instructions don’t feel intrusive, and the language is friendly, concise and encouraging. Think about your favourite teacher from school. That’s the tone of these instructions.
If you’ve looked into optimizing your emails for marketing campaigns – something I can’t encourage enough – you’ll see that the templates provided follow best practice. That’s an easy win for you.
One of my favorite features of the higher tiers is the inbox preview. Every email marketing client should have it!
In days gone by, the only way to check your email was sending it to as many email types – usually Outlook on your work PC, as well as your Hotmail and/or Gmail accounts, and then look at them on your phone. It only took five minutes, but you don’t need me to tell you how precious five minutes can be in a busy office environment!
It’s interesting that spam testing is a higher tier feature – it’s usually a standard offer.
MailChimp adheres to the same simplicity as other email marketing solutions. It’s hard to make a mistake using it.
The process of putting together an email in MailChimp feels very… deliberate? I think that’s the most appropriate word! The bright colors and hints of a cartoon ape give a somewhat childish approach, which is fine – nobody expects this to be fun, but you can appreciate them trying!
It’s easy to use, and especially in the early days, it breaks the process of creating and sending an email down into small, bite-sized chunks. It’s not be the quickest process, but it feels like the most careful.
One annoyance, is that when you’re going through the email creation process, it will provide you with options for the higher tier. So you might think “Oh, yeah, I want to remove MailChimp’s branding so I can have it focused on mine – let me just check that box.”
Then you’ll receive a message saying that it’s only available to users in the paid tier, and ask you for money. You might be OK with that, but it sure annoyed me.
For the higher tiers of MailChimp, the benefits are in the backend applications, rather than anything that will help you with the design of your template. The usability of the additional reporting and CRM integration is going to be defined by the person using them.
One thing that I haven’t had much joy with in MailChimp is clarification of what support they offer users. It seems focused on the self-help section of their site, regardless of tier.
Campaign Monitor is for the email marketer. It avoids integration with the common e-commerce products that most email marketing solution include in their bragging materials.
With this in mind, it’s probably best used by companies without an e-commerce function on their website, so an organization whose digital presence is focused on providing information, rather than selling stuff.
In the context of email marketing solutions, that’s pretty unusual, but the use and value of it to some organizations isn’t completely implausible.
For this review, there was no interaction with any of the ‘face time’ people of the middle and higher tiers – the deliverability experts, email design consultant, and customer success manager – but I’d sure love to know more about them and their roles.
Campaign Monitor is a really great product for the dedicated email marketer.
MailChimp’s free tier will usually make it the winner when it comes to business looking at email marketing for the first time. And that’s not something that’s entirely without merit: it’s a good solid and trusted tool to have in your digital marketing arsenal.
It’s easy enough to see the reasoning behind the features they offer at the paid tiers. Once you get your company started on email marketing, it will thrive and grow, and MailChimp will continue to provide you with the tools you need as you grow, so you can refine what you send your subscribers so they’ll be more likely to spend.
It makes perfect sense.
MailChimp is very much for the data-driven marketer, who loves to make sense of numbers, and enjoys integrating systems so they all hold hands.
| ||Campaign Monitor||Mailchimp
|Pricing Options||Three tiers, starting at $9 per month||Three tiers, starting at $9 per month
|Features||- Standard email marketing functionality|
- Limited sends at lowest tier
- Inbox previews
- Spam testing
- Deliverability experts
- Design consultant
- Customer Success Manager
|- Forms for signing up subscribers
- Data and insights reports
- CRM integration
- Segmentation, targeting and tracking
- Further automation options such as triggering
- Comparative reporting
- Multivariate testing
|Usability||Simple to use - just follow the instructions||Simple with room to develop as your organization does
|Conclusion||Good for dedicated email marketers||Good for marketers
Both of these are great products, and will allow you to send emails to lots of people. No question about that.
The question of which one is right for your business really comes down to how much data analysis you feel the need to apply to your organization’s email marketing efforts.
Especially in considering the features of each one, Campaign Monitor feels like it’s very much about the actual email itself, especially when you get to the Premier tier and they provide you with a design consultant.
This is a sharp contrast to MailChimp, which, as you progress through the tiers, seems to take increasing pride in the amount of data it can provide you with, but falling just short of telling you that you’ll need somebody to turn the data into actionable recommendations for your organization.