As someone who currently runs and maintains multiple websites, both for myself as well as for my clients, I am always looking for ways to better streamline my work and to take it out of my queue for the most part. Email marketing is something that I have struggled with in the past, as I normally attempted to build everything myself and fall relatively short on features to make an impact. Which is why I am always keeping en eye open for 3rd party solutions to help me accomplish just that.
So this week I'm testing out Campaign Monitor to see if it meets the required needs for my projects, mainly newsletter signups and campaign notifications that I run occasionally. A few things I look for when working with 3rd party software is mainly ease of use and the actual features provided and whether they line up with my work and if they are useful as well. Probably the most important aspect that I look for as well is pricing, which I will discuss down below after I run through the many features of Campaign Monitor. I'm not against paying for a service that I see value in and that will help take my business to the next phase.
Signing up is relatively straight-forward. There are no pay-walls or trickery in the process in order to get my email. Although I'm sure once I signed up, my email went to some sort of sales funnel, but that's alright. That's sort of their job, so I would expect them too. After you sign up, verify your email of course, and you are good to start creating a test campaign. There is quick 2 minute video in the beginning that explains the difference features, which is actually surprisingly helpful.
To test out the platform I created a test newsletter for this blog and sent out a quick test batch. Something that I commonly do regardless of the email platform. At this stage, I wasn't too certain about the pricing structure or just how much I could test out. And really, the platform didn't bother me about such things just yet. It felt like they wanted me to first test out the features before they brought up the cost. Not a bad approach I would say as it is less intrusive and allowed me to check things out before I made any snap decisions.
Templates are nice
This is something that other email marketing providers fall short in. Usually, they require heavy HTML or have very limited drag-drop functionality in order to get something that kind of resembles what you had in mind. Campaign Monitor offers a fair number of templates that you can start out with, and you can select from various categories such as Deals & Offers and Newsletters, which again is what I will be using it for.
Editing the templates also seems pretty straight-forward. The editor is relatively intuitive and didn't really give me a hard time. Something that I've yet to find easy with other platforms. It took maybe 5 minutes to piece together a sample newsletter that I was happy with.
After I was done creating a basic newsletter layout with my own logo and content, I get a nice preview of the desktop and mobile versions. Again, very straightforward and I didn't have to go looking for it, which I appreciate. After QA'ing both versions and giving it the greenlight I can now send a test campaign to see how it looks on the receiving end.
Importing new subscribers
Importing a list of my subscribers from another platform took a whole of 30 seconds. Campaign Monitor also offers the ability to integrate with 3rd parties in order to sync subscriber data as well. However, I found it much easier to simply import a plain old CSV file and to map the columns appropriately to the right fields.
Because this only a trial-run however, I am only able to send out a campaign to 5 users. I can import the entire list, but I won't be able to send to the entire list.
You can schedule your campaigns for either instant delivery or a determined date and time. Other platforms offer this as well, however always nice to see implemented. I did a quick email blast to my list to test it out and we are done.
A confirmation email was sent to me after completion of the delivery and then I was given the option to view activity in the world view, which is actually something that I have not seen before. The map lets you view what I assume to be real-time activity on your email campaigns. You can see your visitors opening and clicking on links from wherever they are located. Very useful if you have subscribers spread across the globe and wish to test out which times are more effective for you. For example, I have a fair amount of traffic from oversees usually, so being able to send targeted content at a time that is more beneficial to them would greatly improve visibility.
World view tracking
While the world-view feature was definitely something unique to me and that I can see having huge benefit, it didn't quite give me enough detail during this first test-run. While it did track the number of opens, the location data for a fair number was set to 'unknown'. Based on my own testing, this seems to have something to do with the email provider. For example, when I opened up the emails from Google, the location was unknown. However, opening the newsletter through Yahoo came through just fine.
Having said, with a large enough subscriber list, this is definitely a useful feature that I'm sure many companies can leverage.
Other reporting features
The world-view is just one reporting tool available. You can also view reports based on the number of links that were clicked in your campaigns. And even reports on the number of social media clicks that were received as well. Reporting wise, Campaign Monitor pretty much covers my personal needs for my work. I don't necessarily work with subscriber lists of millions of emails, however a few hundred to a few thousand are common, so knowing the overall open and bounce rate are relevant.
Create a journey
Journey's definitely caught my eye in Campaign Monitor. Essentially, they allow you to create a roadmap for how and when your users will receive email notifications from you. An example being, perhaps you are going to be releasing a book in a month, and you want to engage your most interested audience and keep them updated. You can create a journey for them from initial email to the last one in your campaign.
While I didn't get to go too in depth with this aspect of Campaign Monitor, I did test out the Journey creation tool, and within a few clicks and a couple of rulesets, I was able to have something on the screen fully functional that normally I would sketch in a notepad and manually have to implement. Definitely a powerful feature for sure.
And last on my list is the most unpopular topic usually. Pricing. Campaign Monitor is not a free to use product, unlike other 3rd party email marketing platforms which have free-tiers. Base pricing begins at 9$ per month and allows you to send 2500 emails across your campaigns and automations. The second tier, which many may find more beneficial comes in at $29 a month however offers unlimited emails across campaigns.
Signing up initially, sets you up for the free-trial and it does give you access to a fair number of the features to try out and allows you to send campaigns to up to 5 recipient, which is perfectly fine for testing out their products and features. Whenever you are ready, you can simply your upgrade your account to the appropriate pricing tier.
Just spending a few days with the free-tier I can say that Campaign Monitor is definitely a solid product with a strong toolset. It's super easy to use and very intuitive. I didn't feel lost once when creating campaigns and viewing reporting, which again, is what I mainly need it for. It is a product that I would definitely use however once my subscriber list has grown steadily to something larger. It can take a fair amount of time to build up your own personal lists, from a few months to maybe even a year. So if you are barely starting out with your email marketing needs and maybe have no real subscriber list just yet, then maybe you'd be better off staring off with a free platform until you have grown to something more moderate. And if you already have a stable user list, then I would recommend you at least take Campaign Monitor for a spin and see for yourself.
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Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker
and performance enthusiast.