What’s the best email marketing solution for my needs? That’s the question I recently had to answer for a client who needs to send a newsletter to thousands of people several times per month, and I decided to revisit current offerings to do so. I didn’t find that many up-to-date comparisons, so I decided to share my findings here.
Self-hosted solutions: I used these 10 years ago for small lists, but running your own lists is not recommended and can cause delivery issues, so I skipped that option.
Enterprise-grade solutions (Exact Target, Constant Contact and the like): these can be great for large lists as they have some very powerful features, but they’re also quite expensive, and overkill for my client. I therefore chose not to focus on that option either.
Entry/mid-market solutions: this is where I spent the most time. I chose to evaluate two of the most known solutions out there: MailChimp and Campaign Monitor. I also compared them with a slightly lower-priced alternative, GetResponse *, but decided to discard it because the tool wasn’t as user-friendly as the other two and forced you to include its logo in newsletter, even with the paid service.
MailChimp vs Campaign Monitor: pros and cons
I read on Quora that both services were good and that the preferred one would depend on your needs. Here’s what I found out:
Pricing: MailChimp win
MailChimp is priced the same or lower than Campaign Monitor for all levels of subscribers:
Monthly cost based on subscriber count
|Subscribers (up to…)|
|Difference (CM vs MC)||50%||100%||0%||10%||33%||67%||108%|
As you can see, Campaign Monitor can cost more than twice as much as MailChimp for large lists. I contacted Campaign Monitor to inquire about that and quickly received the following response:
Our prices haven’t actually changed at all but this is something we’re doing a little bit of investigation on but they certainly won’t be moving up.
We may never be the cheapest out there but an easy to use product offers plenty more value in the time it saves you.
… which is a very fair response, in my opinion. I just needed to do more research to see if CM was really worth the price difference over MC for my client.
Agency/referral programs: tie
Campaign Monitor was built with agencies in mind, and they allow having a master account with sub-accounts for customers. Furthermore, they allow agencies to set up their own price for the Campaign Monitor services they resell, which lets the agencies pocket the difference.
MailChimp doesn’t currently have any such program. They do offer an “agency” program that they described to me as follows, which is not very convenient in my opinion:
our Agency program is a discount program that provides a 15% discount on send packages for the purpose of reselling. It’s assumed under the agency program that you would manage all of your clients under one production account and your clients would never need direct access to this account.
For agencies that want to resell a service, Campaign Monitor seems to be the clear winner. However, MailChimp offers one thing that Campaign Monitor doesn’t: a referral program. You can get a 15% lifetime commission on the monthly spend of customers you send their way. This can be great if you simply want to refer a client to a service provider without having to deal with account management and billing like with Campaign Monitor.
Customer service: tie
I was very pleased with the timeliness and quality of replies I got from both companies. If banks and telcos could offer the same quality of service, the world would be a better place.
Actual features: tie?
This one is a bit harder to evaluate, as it really depends on your needs. Both services are quite user-friendly and have all the basic features that you may need, as well as APIs.
I found that the MailChimp WYSIWYG newsletter editor was a bit more convenient than Campaign Monitor’s for my client’s needs, but the difference wasn’t that significant.
Campaign Monitor mentions that World View is one of their key features, and it is indeed very nice, but I found that the reports provided by MailChimp were quite helpful as well. They may not go into as much details as World View does, but they still allow you to view open statistics by country and zoom down to the region level, which can be quite helpful:
Conclusion: sign up for free trials and run some tests if you have time
MailChimp is the clear winner on pricing, but for other categories, the comparison isn’t as clear. As a MailChimp rep put it in an email he sent me:
Comparing ESP’s is kind of like comparing cars. They all get you from point A to point B. What matters is features and experience along the way. Nothing this, you would want to test out each ESP first to see which better suits your requirements.
Unless there were some deal breakers for you in the items I discussed above, I’d say that both tools are worth a look. The good news is that they both have free trials available and you can therefore easily test them.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any question or findings that you’d like to share, feel free to post in the comments below. Thanks!
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* GetResponse appears to be quite decent feature-wise, but the fact that they force you to include their logo in your newsletters was a deal breaker for me. I also ran into some problems trying to translate parts of the email in Swedish, while this could be done very easily with the other solutions since they give you control on 100% of your template. Their customer service seemed OK, but wasn’t as effective as MailChimp’s or CampaignMonitor’s when I contacted them.
If these things are not a problem for you, they may be worth looking into, however: their pricing is slightly lower than the other two’s, especially if you pay yearly, and they have a very generous affiliate program with a 33% commission, compared to 15% for MailChimp and none for CampaignMonitor.