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Introduction

It’s hard to decide on the right email marketing platform for your business. We know. We hear it from business owners and marketing professionals across every vertical. 

When you’re researching email service providers, you have dozens to choose from. There are several variables to consider: list size, deliverability, price, ease of use, integrations, and—customer support. More on that later.

Our priority is to match email marketers with the product that aligns with their business goals and budget. We want to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision with no regrets.

This comparison will guide you through the key features of both products. Once you compare Campaign Monitor vs. Sendgrid (acquired by Twilio in 2018), we’re confident you’ll make the right decision.

Chapter 1

Feature Comparison: Sendgrid vs. Campaign Monitor

compare campaign monitor send grid table

Sendgrid’s December 2020 Authentication Issues

One of the challenges with technology is the people who use the tool may not be as tech-savvy as the software developers who wrote the code. So when there’s a change on the backend, like with Sendgrid’s recent request for users to reauthenticate their account using an API key, we heard about it on social media.

sendgrid customer service fail

Unless your company has an IT department, and for many SMBs the owner is the “IT department”, reading the words API key might have you looking for an alternative. If you rewind to August 2020, you’ll understand why Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) became a must.

Based on internet security experts, Twilio Sendgrid has been under siege for hacked accounts for months. Their nonchalant attitude has customers baffled and outraged. Dozens of comments posted on the Krebs On Security website provide vocal testimony.

Neil Schwartzman, executive director of the anti-spam group CAUCE, said in August 2020 that Sendgrid’s 2FA plans are long overdue, noting the company bought Authy in 2015. Curious still is that The New York Times cited Authy as the “best authenticator app” out of seven tested.

Twilio Sendgrid has been grappling with a large number of customer accounts whose passwords have been cracked, sold to spammers, and abused for sending phishing and email malware attacks.

At one point in September 2020, Spamhaus ranked Sendgrid #6 on the world’s worst spam support ISPs.

twilio sendgrid spam complaints

They are no longer on the Spamhaus list.

To add insult to injury, Sendgrid customers have suffered through service outages recently.

sendgrid service disruption

Campaign Monitor’s perspective on Sendgrid spam issues

Now, technology is not perfect. But Compliance and Service are critical components to sender reputation and business revenue. Lack of email authentication is the cause for many deliverability issues, e.g. emails not arriving. A business not authenticating its sending domain can lead to low open rates and bounces. These events can also trigger spam alerts.

Twilio Sendgrid could have avoided these issues by making email authentication mandatory for all users. It is a first step in their onboarding process, so it’s odd that spam complaints are ongoing.

Many compliance issues are a result of sending emails from a shared IP address. Hotmail and AOL are notorious for blocking emails coming from questionable IPs. Campaign Monitor also uses a shared IP for customers. Both platforms offer a paid upgrade to send email from a dedicated IP address.

But Sendgrid recommends a dedicated IP address for people sending high volumes of email or for people who want control over the quality of mail sent [italics added] on the same IP as theirs. The total performance of all senders who use the IP determines its reputation.

This is why we are so diligent in assessing every spam complaint we receive. As an email service provider (ESP), we have a “feedback loop” in place with all the major ISPs, for example, Yahoo, Outlook.com, Comcast. When a recipient marks an email as spam, their ISP notifies us through the feedback loop.

We record in our system every complaint received and calculate the percentage of complaints generated by each email.

The industry standard for spam complaints is less than 0.02%. That’s one complaint about every 5,000 recipients. If we receive higher than normal complaints (0.2%), we will notify you with a warning email. 

Clear communication and setting expectations are the best defense. We give you advice on how to keep your list clean and void of spam complaints.

We won’t shut you out.

We include complaint reports in your sent email report, so you know where you stand after every email send. We’ve also written about the best ways to avoid your emails being marked as spam.

Spam complaints are not to be taken lightly. Every single email violating the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000. You can also go to jail.

Since 2018, global privacy laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provide new privacy rights to individuals, placing Compliance front and center for all email marketers. Learn more here.

Chapter 4

Key Benefits: Sendgrid vs. Campaign Monitor

1. Flexible and straightforward pricing

Campaign Monitor

It’s always a risk to make an important business decision based solely on price. There are so many variables that it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison. While Campaign Monitor offers free account signup, we do not offer the customary free trial.

We balance the initial small send list (limited to 5 email addresses) by providing the full functionality of the software. There’s no time limit on your free trial, so don’t worry if it takes a couple of weeks to check everything out. As you conduct your research, you’ll find other ESPs that offer free trials are limited in scope with free trials that expire. You need to upgrade to experience the full feature set.

We know you don’t like surprises and neither do we. Once you become a paying customer, our pricing is transparent. The Basic Plan starts at 500 subscribers with a monthly send limit of 2,500 for $9/mo. The Basic plan send limit includes all email types. Unlimited and Premier plans have unlimited sends for campaigns, automated journeys, and RSS emails; transactional email has its own limits based on the plan.

We also offer a Pay As You Go Plan that lets you buy credits and send as needed with features that create emails that compete with even the biggest marketing departments. You’ll pay for exactly what you need, and never any more. Best of all, our credits never expire.

The free trial of the application gives you access to many of the features available in a paid account. We also understand that sometimes you need to take a break from sending. You can switch from monthly billing to pay per campaign billing, and switch back at any time.

Sendgrid

Sendgrid offers two paths and tiered pricing plans for subscribers to start emailing. One is their Email API Plan, which integrates email into your app or website. The other is the Marketing Campaigns Plan. Here you can design and send email marketing campaigns and use automation.

Campaign Monitor also offers Email API (as noted in the table above). We just don’t price the service separately. An email API is used for app-specific events, like user signups, password resets, and other transactional emails. The system sends an automated email based on the trigger event.

Sendgrid’s Email API Pricing

If you send an email over your own server using Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), you will likely struggle with email formatting and deliverability issues. Using a transactional email API represents an easier alternative. Besides deliverability, you want to consider speed, security, ease of use, and price.

The API has a free plan that allows you to send 100 emails/day—forever. For a small business, like a dry cleaner, this is a great option. You can send up to 3,000 transactional emails per month at no cost. But for a large ecommerce website like eBay (which is a Sendgrid customer), the number of trigger events they manage daily runs in the tens of thousands.

That’s when the pricing can grow exponentially.

To further complicate things, if your Twilio SendGrid account is created through Microsoft Azure, Heroku, or Google Cloud, these subscriptions do not allow for overages. According to Sendgrid’s website, they instruct users to refer to each of the partner’s respective online resources about pricing, billing, and account package details.

Sendgrid’s Marketing Campaign Plan Pricing

When Twilio bought Sendgrid, they were taking advantage of the API-centric email platform. Since that time, Sendgrid has expanded beyond a transactional only email service. They offer more robust marketing automation than in the past. Companies can create email marketing campaigns, report on analytics, and integrate apps, to name a few features marketers most want and need.

The catch is if you also want the Email API integration, you pay for that separately.

Caveat: if you sign up for their free package we read on their website:

“If you’re on the Free package and hit your contact allotment limit, any active Signup Forms will no longer add new contacts to your account. You will not be able to recover these signups. When you upgrade, signups from Signup Forms will resume adding to your contacts.”

If you are content to send only promotional emails, then consider their Marketing Plan for as little as $50/mo.

2. Ease of use

Campaign Monitor

If you’re like most hands-on marketers, you want to get started using your email marketing tool right away. You want to focus on the good stuff, like creating campaigns and tracking results. The biggest challenge with technology is that there’s a learning curve. The good news is that our learning curve is flat. You won’t need to spend days figuring out how to use a new feature or find your lists.

At some point, you’ll likely need other people within your company to create and send a campaign. When that happens, you want your team to be able to sit down and get to work without needing hours of training.

We built Campaign Monitor with one goal in mind: create beautiful emails that get results. Our drag-and-drop editor is intuitive, even with little to no previous experience. For those with more email marketing experience, they can edit custom HTML code and create their own templates. We’re all about letting your inner creative play, too!

Reviews across many sites say ease of use is one of the main reasons they choose Campaign Monitor.

Sendgrid

If you know how to code, know someone who knows how to code, or know how to hire programmers to code for you, then Twilio Sendgrid can work just fine.

Reviews say that Sendgrid is not intuitive in its design. One beginner mentioned it was a challenge to get started due to the tool’s complexity. Sendgrid’s clunky interface, some report, makes it hard to set up templates. If you’re not a coder or designer, this can present a steep learning curve.

One reviewer noted that “the cons outweigh the pros for an inexperienced marketer.”

3. Timely customer support available worldwide

Campaign Monitor

It’s often after the sale when you need service that you discover what you paid for. From evaluation to onboarding to ongoing support, we have a team of humans dedicated to helping customers maximize their investment.

At Campaign Monitor, we pride ourselves on our unparalleled customer support. While chatbots are great when you need a quick answer, marketing technology can be complex. Our fast turnaround on email ticket support is available to every customer. We offer phone support for customers on the Premier plan.

As a global company, with offices in the UK, Australia, and across the United States, we are available at almost any time wherever your business lives.

Sendgrid

Sendgrid differentiated itself from other SaaS-based products as a transactional email service. It was designed and built for large scale enterprise companies who send millions of emails per year. As they expanded to appeal to traditional email marketers, they have attracted small business owners and mid-market companies.

Sending transactional emails is pretty straightforward. Sending custom email newsletters and drip campaigns, not so much.

Twilio Sendgrid relies on its 24/7 email ticket support. Online reviews state that this approach falls far short of providing timely help. Several write that they have not heard back at all.

For many email sends, timing is critical. When you add the complexity of data security and deliverability, waiting for hours to get answers won’t do. Chat support is available for paying customers; phone support is available for customers with a Pro or higher account.

4. Deliverability and compliance experts

Campaign Monitor

If your email doesn’t land in a customer or prospect’s inbox, there’s not much point in growing an email marketing list. Our most important job is to bring you a reliable service with great deliverability. As a shared service, this means we need to ensure that everyone plays by the rules. We strive to reduce any impact one customer’s behavior may have on another.

One of the ways we achieve this is through approvals. Approvals are a normal part of sending email through an email service provider, and are designed to:

  • Keep spammers at bay.
  • Ensure people are following best practices for email content and subscriber growth.
  • Safeguard the sending reputation of all customers who use our service.

Campaign Monitor boasts a delivery rate of 99% as a result.

If you choose to migrate your email marketing to Campaign Monitor, it’s important to know that subscriber lists above a certain size are subject to a routine review by our Deliverability and Compliance team before sending. By starting this process early, you can get an early start and avoid potential delays to your sending.

With deliverability, engagement is the most important factor, since it directly impacts sender reputation (both for the marketer and the ESP). A stellar sender reputation is a key to great email deliverability.

Remember to:

  • Maintain list hygiene
  • Keep an eye on inactive subscribers
  • Send using custom authentication
  • Using double rather than single opt-in
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe
  • Avoid using URL shorteners

Most importantly, Campaign Monitor communicates with our customers through our extensive resource hub. We make it easy for you to meet compliance standards and to follow all privacy laws. Our goal is to help you reach your customers with time-sensitive communications, not to block you.

Sendgrid

As social media and privacy experts can attest, there is a dark lining to cloud services. Many of Sendgrid’s spam complaints are concurrent with deliverability. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Once you lose trust with your customers, due to subpar support or poor problem resolution, it can be nearly impossible to repair the damage done. As mentioned above, Twilio Sendgrid started as an Email API service for sending transactional emails exclusively. With some huge brands under their umbrella, like eBay and The American Red Cross, it only takes one hacker to steal millions of email addresses and private data and damage sender reputation.

Chapter 9

Best fit for you: Sendgrid vs. Campaign Monitor

Sendgrid: For businesses interested in sending transactional emails, Twilio Sendgrid offers top-notch capabilities. There are a lot of sending options including time delays and the ability to replace variables in emails. The trade-off is on the email marketing side—it’s not the best choice for people with limited technical know-how. Sendgrid works best for people who are comfortable with uploading HTML code, for example.

Campaign Monitor: Campaign Monitor is designed for marketers at every skill level. Its ease-of-use is cited time and again as the No. 1 reason people choose the platform. Our new link review tool reduces the very real experience of send anxiety.

Sendgrid: While Sendgrid includes a design library, it contains a scant six email templates. Of course, you can create a custom email design to match the look and feel of your brand, but, again, that requires coding skills.

Campaign Monitor: Campaign Monitor supplies dozens of free email templates in our design gallery. From newsletters to announcements and everything in between, you can choose from our ever-expanding array. For the more advanced designer, our templates are fully customizable. You can edit, optimize, and design to your heart’s content.

Sendgrid: The majority of Sendgrid’s customers are small businesses (74%) yet have a dedicated support team only for large customers.

Campaign Monitor: Campaign Monitor has a global support and deliverability team dedicated to helping all customers maximize their investment. Plus, our professional services team is here if you need help with design, development, or email marketing strategy (at an extra cost).

Sendgrid: For the more sophisticated marketer wanting multichannel marketing, Twilio Sendgrid offers instant messaging, voice, and video. They give marketers the ability to connect on any channel. But, their web copy reads ‘By developers, for developers’. You may be getting in over your head.

Campaign Monitor: We are an email marketing software company. We are experts in the field. While we have evolved to keep pace with email marketing automation, email marketing is at the core of our being. We are dedicated to helping business owners and marketing departments succeed with email marketing. Period.

If you’re looking for world-class support, straightforward payment options, deliverability excellence, and superior design resources, then Campaign Monitor may be the solution to help you supercharge your email marketing.

Are you a Sendgrid user looking to switch? It’s easy to switch from Sendgrid to Campaign Monitor. If you’re ready to graduate to the next level of email marketing, sign up, and we’ll show you how to migrate your account.

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