After you’ve taken hundreds of technology vendor briefings, you grow accustomed to hearing the following bumper-sticker statements:

“It’s a single line of code.”

“It takes 5 minutes to install.”

“We integrate with any platform.”

“We measure everything.”

or, my favorite: “It’s on the roadmap.”

So when Campaign Monitor announced an “email automation” product last week, the first major announcement since their $250 million round from Insight Venture Partners, I expected words like “big,” and “data,” and “CRM.” I caught up with Campaign Monitor CMO Kraig Swensrud and instinctively braced myself for platitudes. After all, $250 million can buy an awful lot of engineers cranking out fancy features. Surely they’re looking beyond the email inbox for the next big data, big marketing opportunity.

“Enterprise marketing platforms are becoming more and more complex. A lot of marketing automation cloud suites say, ‘We’re going to do that’ to any channel or touchpoint in the funnel. [Campaign Monitor] doesn’t want to do that at all,” Swensrud said. “We’re dead simple to use. You can be building an email with a few drags and drops within minutes of being on our site (in this case, it’s actually true). We love that aspect of easy-to-use, self-service tools. But we also want to provide the rich things a lot of companies need.”

Aha.

Campaign Monitor’s latest “automated” product is really just a series of rule-based functions that allow email marketers to send messages based on triggered events (anniversaries, welcome sign-ups, specific dates, etc.). This is not particularly novel technology. But this is a step in the direction of more advanced features you might find in an enterprise-class email marketing service. So it was unsurprising to learn that behind SMB/mid market companies and digital agencies, individual business lines within large enterprises were the next most common Campaign Monitor customer.

We’ve already discussed that email pays. Year over year, email consistently scores outsized ROI compared to other digital channels. But apparently simplicity and elegance pay pretty well, too. Campaign Monitor’s stated 120,000 paying customers is a testament to that.

As Swensrud puts it, “There are only 500 companies in the Fortune 500. There are millions of other businesses that don’t have $1M to spend and a year to get something up and running.”

Campaign Monitor’s commitment to elegance and simplicity (but at the same time providing just the right kind of advanced features) serves a huge, growing base of customers that might make it perfect snap-on email tool, a sort of middle ground between ExactTarget and MailChimp. And that might just be a great place to be. Single line of code, be damned. Marketo you are not. Optimizely? … you might be.

“Simple” and “easy” are two terms at odds with most marketing automation solutions. Increasingly in the world of marketing, there’s a trend to the all-in-one, cloud based, journey building/mapping/solving platforms that automate not just email, but websites, landing pages, content management, lead scoring, CRM integration, predictive analytics, and so on. Holy cow. If you’re a decision maker at a big enterprise, where do you even begin to integrate something like this?

Yes, there’s gobs of data available to marketers today at an ever-increasing clip. And yes, a big, integrated deployment of a marketing cloud can help in finding some semblance of signal in the noise, provided you have the expertise in house … but most marketers are content people before being data people. They don’t know how to code. They want low-cost, self-service, easy-to-use tools. This is an exciting trend in a world completely separate from the “automation” landscape.

Campaign Monitor is for the DIY crowd. That $250M bet is a hedge on outsized future returns on email and potentially a bid to render Campaign Monitor’s value conditionally unacquirable, at least for the time being. And it makes them exciting as heck to keep an eye on as they carve out an increasingly important middle ground between “enterprise class” and consumer.


We’re studying email marketing over at VB Insight. We’re looking at several classes of vendors, customers, and features. While the data is still very early, we’re hearing some strong signals from email customers. A great many are casting the impression they don’t have the tools they need to execute their email strategy.

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Fifty percent of respondents also identified “maintaining content relevancy” as the #1 challenge in executing their email objectives. This is an important signifier. This means the right content,on the right screen, at the right time. This is penultimate to a world of fully defined “customer journeys.”

If you’re in active this space as a practitioner, we’d love to hear from you. Take our user survey on email marketing.