Campaign Monitor impresses me from the start as ‘get going straight away’ email newsletter package
Choosing the right email marketing software isn’t easy. Anyone can put up a site and create a slick impression but it’s only when you’ve committed your money that you find out you’re dealing with chancers operating out of their bedrooms.
If you’re not particularly techie but want a service that you can pick up and use, you’re going to be disappointed. For a start, whatever service you’re using you’ll find out that even creating a newsletter from a standard template isn’t a simple, drag and drop affair, far less editing a template to customise it.
I suspect that’s the biggest surprise the non-techie business person gets: nothing in the world of HTML and email is ‘what you see is what you get’ meaning that unless you understand something of HTML and php editing you’re going to struggle to to build a good looking newsletter. Which, of course, is why people leave it to agencies.
But once you realise that and learn enough to bend a template into something that suits you, there’s still a massive spread of difference between services.
I’ve only used two packages – but they’re a world apart. The first, GraphicMail appealed simply because of its name and the fact it had a ‘.co.uk’ at the end. Hey, I thought, I’d prefer a UK person to help me out when I inevitably get into trouble. On the plus side, GraphicMail is a low cost service, coming in at something like £9.95 a month for 2000 email sends. That seems simple enough – although (unbelievably) there is no ‘buy’ button on their site. After giving them some (clearly unwelcome) feedback to that effect, I was told that you had to sign up for a free account and convert it to paid. So what if I’d used it before and knew what I wanted? No answer.
Once aboard, the GraphicMail editing interface is clunky. There are plenty of free templates to get started with and you use the online editor to make any changes to the template and to the content. For a relative novice, it’s pretty unfathomable, resulting in continuously losing the whole template when accidentally (clumsily) deleting some CSS div or something or other. To be fair, my ineptitude isn’t GraphicMail’s fault but other systems (see below) anticipate this and do a far better job of minimising the risk of losing everything.
I sent a campaign from GraphicMail (eventually) after an unacceptable delay resulting from awful signposting on their site and a dreadful customer service conversation via chat.
Two days later, I decided to look for a better service. This time I read a ‘top 10 email newsletter systems reviewed’ list – from which GraphicMail was noticeable by it’s absence. Top of the list was Campaign Monitor, so I signed up to give it a go.
The whole experience was different from the beginning. The site is calm, professional and every part of it is so logically laid out that it anticipates what you need to do before you need to do it. Campaign Monitor is clearly designed for the professional design / web agency who wants to run multiple email campaigns for multiple clients. That immediately appealed to me, as I have at least three clients I needed to create campaigns for.
What also struck me about Campaign Monitor was that it soon became apparent that it would let me have an account, create various campaigns, import all my mailing lists and then charge at the point of sending. Something about that just makes sense. Why? Because with Campaign Monitor, by the time you come to send your campaign, it will have filled you with such confidence that you’ve made the right choice, you’ll pay without hesitation.
And here’s a lovely touch: you pay by credit card for however many you send. No ongoing fees. Just pay as you send. How customer-focused and sensible. Alternatively, you can buy a pile of credits up front and just use them to send. It’s a flat fee of $5 per mail-out (or ‘campaign’) plus 1c for each email sent.
So far, everything about Campaign Monitor works brilliantly. Templates are edited offline (with Dreamweaver or some such software) and imported back into your account. The beauty of this is that it means Campaign Monitor doesn’t struggle to live edit your templates AND your content online. It concentrates on just handling your content.
The only niggle I have with it is that when it came to creating my content, I found myself having to add images to my newsletter via HTML and switching back. That’s right, there’s no ‘image upload’. And then, of course, I realised why: Campaign Monitor isn’t there to serve your images to clients; that’s something you have to do. That, when you stop and think about it is a smart move (what jobbing web designer wouldn’t have their own server space?) and would also deter the ‘casual’ or inexperienced newsletter creator.
And, when all’s said and done, that kind of makes sense. Campaign Monitor is an easy-in, confidence-inspiring tool that will deter the unscrupulous spammer but welcomes the web agency or designer looking to service a range of clients. It even has clever options for sub-billing, allowing for mark up for email costings. I have no idea about Campaign Monitor’s customer service (I’ve had no reason to need to contact them) although the whole set up of this service leads me to believe it would be good. GraphicMail, by contrast, distinguished itself by my needing to contact them more than once – and giving some truly, memorably, bad customer service in the process.
Enough said. Campaign Monitor. You won’t be disappointed.