I get a lot of emails from readers about email marketing and how to get started. Many of these focus on what ESP – email service provider – you should use to manage your list, create emails and to send them out.
Today, I wanted to talk to you about two of the most popular self-service email service providers: Mailchimp.com and CampaignMonitor.com.
The reasons they are popular, and why so many of you have chosen them as your provider are many, and on the surface they are both quite similar:
– They both allow you to manage your campaigns yourself.
– They both provide templates for you to design your newsletters.
– They both have autoresponder functionality.
– Pricing is similar.
– They both promise that they have good relationships with Gmail, Outlook, etc, so will do all they can to get your emails delivered.
– They both integrate with social media, allowing users to share your emails on Facebook and Twitter.
– They both provide tracking and reports so you can tell how well your campaigns have performed.
They also both share one feature that many of you are concerned about:
They are both based in the US so their customer service offices don’t open until it’s afternoon in the UK.
But which should you choose?
I’m going to look at each of the main features and compare the two. I have used both systems in the real world and think they are both very good. And, of course, there are lots of other email providers, such as Aweber, so you might want to look around.
But both Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor will do everything you need, unless you have very particular, unusual requirements. Let’s walk through their features and see which system wins.
Both handle sign up of leads and import of users in exactly the same way, so we’ll skip that step. For both, you will be able to create a sign-up form to put on your site and you will be able to import email addresses using a CSV form – something you can create in Excel.
The main thing you need to be careful of is that you abide by their rules. You need to be able to show where the leads came from. For example, they will want to see the webpage where the leads originally signed up if you import them.
1. Overall look and feel
Mailchimp has a quirky, friendly look and tone, with a lot of monkeys!
Whether you like this approach – of using slightly silly language to give the site an amusing tone – is down to your personal tastes. It can be a little irksome after a while, but overall the site is easy to use and find your way around.
Campaign Monitor is more businesslike… It has a clean, straightforward look and feel, and again, it’s easy to find your way around.
Personally, I like the Campaign Monitor system, as it is so easy to find your way around, and all the monkey jokes on Mailchimp get a little boring after a while! But, then, Mailchimp will send you a free T-shirt with a nice chimp picture…
Winner: Campaign Monitor (unless you like monkeys)
Both systems allow you to set up and send autoresponder emails – i.e. emails which are triggered automatically based on a date or an event, like someone joining your list.
Mailchimp make it very easy to set up autoresponders. Here’s one page of the process, where you choose when you want the email to send:
(In this example, we are setting up an email to send one day after a new lead signs up, and the email will send whatever day of this week it is – you can choose not to send an email on Saturdays, for example, if you wish.)
It’s very easy in Campaign Monitor too. This page does the same thing as the Mailchimp page above:
The only difference is that Campaign Monitor doesn’t allow you to omit certain days of the week, though this is only a minor feature.
Both systems will allow you to do everything you need, assuming you want to send autoresponders in a set sequence after a new lead signs up, which is what I recommend.
Winner: It’s a draw.
3. Design and set-up of emails
Both systems have template designers that allow you to create your own newsletters. This is Mailchimp’s:
The system gives you a number of preset layouts, where you can choose how many columns you have, whether there are bands or not, and if you want a left or right sidebar. You then go through and choose colours, text, images and so on to create a template.
Campaign Monitor works in a very similar way to Mailchimp, allowing you to change the layout, colours and so on.
But, having worked with both, I think that Campaign Monitor’s template builder is much easier to use. It’s very straightforward and allows you to build your design block by block.
Choosing colours is simple, as is removing elements that you don’t want. For example, you can take the social media icons out of the header if you wish.
I have spent many hours of my life almost weeping with frustration while trying to edit emails in Mailchimp. Copying and pasting, changing font sizes, choosing fonts… it’s a nightmare and almost always goes wrong. It’s definitely the biggest flaw with Mailchimp.
While I haven’t used Campaign Monitor as much, I haven’t encountered any of these problems. And it would be difficult for a system to be as frustrating as Mailchimp’s!
Winner: Campaign Monitor
And now to the really important stuff – how much does it cost?
Mailchimp starts with a free plan which allows you to send emails to up to 2,000 people, six times each per month.
However, the free plan doesn’t allow you to use autoresponders, apart from a welcome message. It’s fine, though, for getting started and it’s worth signing up to play around with the system. If you only have a very small list and, for some reason, don’t want to send autoresponders, Mailchimp is definitely worth using.
Once you have over 2,000 leads, the costs scale up incrementally.
Campaign Monitor do not offer a free service, but their prices are more straightforward:
But Mailchimp is the cheaper system.
But Mailchimp is cheaper, and if you are sending very simple emails that don’t require much design work, and you don’t find the constant references to primates irritating, I recommend it. Don’t forget, though, that you will have to pay to use autoresponders.
I do hope that helps some of you out: I know it’s a decision many of you are making on a weekly basis, and I also know that it can be very hard to get a definitive answer about who to go with.
As with many things, it’s often a case of trial and error. Also it’s true that your own personal preferences will come in to what works best for you.
You can find many, many others ESPs available online, and I haven’t tried them all myself. But, if I was building an email list from scratch right now, Campaign Monitor would certainly be my choice.
Have a brilliant week!
Internet Income Detective