Easy-to-use and helpful user interface. Lots of attractive templates, including mobile-friendly builds. 24/7 phone support.
Gmail import issues. Free trial requires credit card.
- Bottom Line
Campaigner is a well-designed email marketing service that offers numerous advanced features and a generous free trial.
There are numerous email marketing tools from which to choose, so you will want to spend some time comparing features and prices (and reading our reviews) before you commit. Luckily, some (such as Campaigner, which begins at $19.95 per month) offer free trials. You can sign up for 30 days at no cost, though you'll still need to enter a credit card, which is a bit annoying. GetResponse does not require a credit card. However, Campaigner's 30-day trial offers full access to its features for up to 1,000 contacts, so that's what was used to test the service for this review. Campaigner is PCMag's Editors' Choice for advanced email marketing services. If you have more basic needs, then check out MailChimp, our Editors' Choice for basic email marketing tools.
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Editors' Note: J2 Global, the company that owns Campaigner, also owns Ziff Davis and PCMag.com.
I calculated how much it would cost a small business with 2,500 contacts in its marketing database to get started with Campaigner. The price tag would be $29.95 per month, which is a little higher than GetResponse's $25 per month offering. Like iContact, Campaigner lets you send an unlimited number of messages per month.
Campaigner also boasts a handful of cool features including customer relationship management (CRM) and Salesforce.com contact uploads, auto-responders, email workflows, 24/7 live chat with support, and reporting capabilities (which include which email platform your contacts are using). You can also create email auto-responders that will send emails to your contacts based on their behavior (such as clicking a link in a newsletter) or for special promotions and events.
Take that a step further with email workflows, which let you communicate with your subscribers based on specified triggers. These can include a form submission or profile change, or can be employed to target highly engaged customers, draw inactive users, or reach out to those who have recently made or are ready to make a purchase (see the Marketing Automation subhed for more on this topic). Other features include the ability to embed real-time display ads in newsletters, target your subscribers based on their locality, or find out where your subscribers live based on geolocation.
Pricing and Features
Campaigner offers plans designed to appeal to subscriber bases of all sizes. As mentioned, the cheapest plan is $19.95 per month, and that lets you contact up to 1,000 subscribers. Campaigner's own marketing materials highlight the company's options you can cancel at any time; there are no discounted annual plans but you're also not locked into a contract, which is handy.
Registration is straightforward. Once you verify your email address, you set a password and then provide the usual personal information and a credit card number. You can also invite additional users to your account if multiple people will be creating campaigns. The dashboard is attractive with bright action buttons, and I found it more appealing and easier to use than GetResponse's user interface (UI).
Creating a Subscriber List
There are a few ways to add contacts to Campaigner. You can copy and paste information into the service's UI, upload a file (CSV, VCF, XLS, XLSX), or import Gmail or Yahoo contacts. After your contacts have been loaded into the system, you receive a message in your Campaigner inbox. Unlike GetResponse, Campaigner accepted all of my disposable Mailinator addresses, which was helpful for my test but not so great for subscribers who wouldn't email such addresses. I also imported some contacts from my Gmail account which, of course, required giving
Campaigner automatically creates user segments based on when they were added to your account or when their profile was last updated. You can create additional segments based on email actions, form submissions, and any custom fields you have created.
You can also create auto-responders, which lets you send emails based on similar events. There are templates available (including the "win-back" template) that are designed to draw in inactive contacts that haven't opened an email or clicked in a while—in order to win them back.
Setting Up a Campaign
You have two tools at your disposal when it comes time to create a Campaigner newsletter: Smart Email Builder, which offers lots of templates and layouts to get you started, and Full Email Editor, which accepts HTML code. I went with the
Newsletters default to showing your full contact information in the footer, but you can change that. You can also create auto-reply messages and conduct A/B tests, changing not just the design of the newsletter but also the From address and subject line.
Once you're satisfied with your newsletter, you can send it right away or schedule it for later. I tried the scheduling option and it worked just fine. You can also choose to send it on a recurring schedule: daily, weekly, monthly, or annually. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an option to send campaigns at a specific local time based on a recipient's location, like you can do with GetResponse.
Once you have sent a newsletter, you can track its success by using the Reports tab. For each campaign, you can see the open and click rate as well as the number of replies and unsubscribes. A pie chart shows the ratio of desktop users to mobile users. You can also integrate Campaigner with Google Analytics for enhanced tracking.
The report has a handy Refresh button so you can see real-time results. When I opened emails and clicked the links, they were registered in my Campaigner report almost immediately. You can also export these reports; once the export is complete, you can find the file in your message center.
Campaigner is very easy to use but, if you do need help, it's available in many forms. If you're working on a specific task and click the Help button, you're automatically directed to the relevant Help section. Campaigner also has a Status page that alerts you to outages and other issues. So, if you're ever having trouble sending a campaign, that's the place to go. Phone and email support are available 24/7, which is optimal.
In addition, Campaigner sends out emails when you sign up with links to webinars that help you get started. I even received a phone call offering help. Most questions you might have can be found in Campaigner's thorough documentation, which includes an in-depth overview of CAN-SPAM regulation.
Basic Marketing Automation
Campaigner's dashboard isn't as flashy as other automation software on the market, but it's an easy-to-use tool that's perfect for basic triggers and workflows. Segmenting contacts is easy. You can create custom fields or you can use lists to segment. You can use email actions to retarget contacts; so, if a subsection of contacts hasn't opened an email within the past month (or whatever date you set), you can retarget them straight from the list segmentation tool. There is no limit to the number of filters you can add. However, the more filters you add the longer it will take to find the contacts and send the emails, which is a bit of a limitation that you won't necessarily find on Editors' Choice marketing automation tools like Pardot and HubSpot. Additionally, you need to click the refresh button to see how many contacts you've added after you add all your filters. This should happen automatically and instantly, but instead it refreshes once a day, either at the end of the workday or midnight.
The tool only offers two different autoresponder templates: triggered and recurring. Recurring emails are sent on a pre-timed schedule. Triggered emails are designed for lead nurturing or for introductory/thank you messages. Of the two recurring templates you can only access win-back and recurring notice automations. Win-backs are specifically designed for things like sales promotions or birthday messages. You select the initial criteria (i.e. Jim hasn't received an email in a while, or he hasn't opened an email, or he hasn't clicked a link). Campaigner gives you standard templates for these emails, but they can also be edited or designed from scratch. As I previously mentioned, it's not the sexiest platform, but it's very easy to use, and the email templates follow suit. The template editor is designed to look like Microsoft Word, so if you've ever designed a Word doc, you'll be able to design and blast off emails in no time. You can choose the "date of last contact" then choose a specific mailing list or all contacts that fit this criterion. Unfortunately, in order to select contacts from multiple lists you'll have to run two separate campaigns or you'll have to merge the lists. Triggered emails are similar. If your contact was added via a signup form, manually, or from an online service, you'll be able to build out automatic messages to bring them deeper into the pipeline.
Workflows are designed differently and in a more dynamic and modern manner. You'll use a left to right node map, in which you drop one of four "tools"—Send Email, Set Delay, Update Contacts, and Set Condition. Unfortunately, the triggers within these tools are added via drop-down, which means you're opening and closing multiple windows for every trigger. The Set Condition tool lets you check to see if anyone has opened an email or clicked on a link. You can also set custom conditions, which is helpful for out-of-the-box actions for sign-up forms and other custom-built lead generation tactics. Campaigner lets your validate your design to test whether or not the workflow works. Unfortunately, Campaigner does not offer workflow templates, which means you won't be able to plug-and-play for simple things like long-term lead nurturing based off of sign-up forms, email opens, etc. Campaigner offers no social media automation tools, no search marketing functionality, no mobile apps, a limit on the number of emails you can send, and it doesn't offer any organic CRM tools. Workflows are available on E-Commerce or Enterprise editions only. Although Campaigner is our Editors' Choice for standard email marketing, it doesn't live up to the design and functionality of HubSpot and Pardot for marketing automation. Thus, if you're looking to do more than send one-off messages, or if need more than very basic marketing automation, you'll want to look elsewhere for marketing automation.
A Fine Email Marketing Tool
Campaigner offers a lot of helpful features, and its UI makes it easy to access basic and advanced features. Phone support is available 24/7, unlike GetResponse, which only offers it from 9AM to 5PM on weekdays. The free trial includes a full range of features, but it requires a credit card to sign up; GetResponse does not require one for its trial.
However, I would absolutely recommend giving Campaigner a try, as it will likely meet most people's needs. Campaigner's rich features help stands out in a crowded market, making it PCMag's Editors' Choice for email marketing tools.
Molly K. McLaughlin is a New York-based writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering technology. She has tested and reviewed all sorts of software, mobile apps, and gadgets. Before launching her freelance business, she was an editor at PC Magazine, covering consumer electronics, followed by a stint at ConsumerSearch.com, a review website. Molly also runs About.com's Android site and contributes to DealNews and other online publications. Follow her on Twitter @bloggingmolly. More »
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