Zoho offers a whole suite of services, including Zoho CRM and Zoho Docs to name just two. Next to these products and others covering accounting, human resource (HR) management, and much more, Campaigns acts as Zoho’s email marketing product (whose most inexpensive paid plan begins at $5 per month). When you set up an account, you can choose one service or bundle several together. You immediately get a fully integrated task suite you can run across teams. Its user interface (UI) is somewhat dated, though it’s easy enough to navigate and it offers features comparable to our top-rated marketing services, including auto-responders and Google Analytics tracking. You can link Campaigns to Zoho’s other products as well as to Google Apps, SurveyMonkey, and a few others. But, if you’re looking for a wide selection of design templates or third-party integrations, you’d be wise to try out our Editors’ Choice-winning services Campaigner and MailChimp.
Pricing and Features
Like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, Zoho Campaigns offers a pay as you go plan in which you buy and use email credits. These plans start at $6 for 250 credits, $80 for 5,000, and go up to $750 for 100,000. Monthly subscriptions, which include unlimited emails, start at $5 for up to 500 subscribers, all the way up to $350 per month for up to 100,000 subscribers. Like SendinBlue and MailChimp there’s also a free plan which includes up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. If you need more than 100,000 contacts, you can get a quote on a custom high volume plan.
Sign up, as usual for a web service, is simple, requiring your email, password, company name, and phone number. You can also opt to subscribe to Zoho’s newsletter. Your welcome email includes a link to confirm your email address, which you can use for up to 30 days. Once you’ve done so, you can access your dashboard, which is organized into four categories: send email campaigns; build your mailing list; promote on social media; and service integrations. The interface looks rather dated compared to Campaign Monitor and SendinBlue, though it’s more about the design than the functionality and it’s easy enough to find what you need.
Creating a Subscriber List
You can add contacts in three different ways: add manually, import, or sync with customer relationship management (CRM) contacts or other software that you’ve connected to your account; you’ll find the options under integrations on your dashboard. You can import from file (CSV, XLS, or XLSX) or from Google spreadsheets. When uploading a file, you can designate whether or not people can sign up for the newsletter using a signup form on your website or on the footer on the email.
If you have a newsletter with an exclusive audience, you can prevent anyone from subscribing unless they are manually added. For some reason, when I uploaded an Excel file, it didn’t work so I had to convert it to a CSV anyway. Then, none of the fields mapped automatically, not even name and email address. I didn’t see a way to add custom fields, either. My small list uploaded almost immediately after I mapped the fields.
Setting Up a Campaign
Zoho offers many different types of email campaigns, including regular newsletters, A/B tests, survey campaigns, e-commerce campaigns, and social media campaigns for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To set up an email campaign, you start by inputting your company name and address, which will appear in the footer of the email to comply with anti-spam policy. Then you give the campaign and name and subject line, specify the sender name and email, and the reply-to email.
You can also personalize the to address with the subscribers first and last name. Here you can also add Google Analytics tracking. Next, you choose email type (HTML and plain text, or one or the other), and template (import/upload, HTML editor, or import from cloud) for the email design. Templates are available in three varieties: basic, designed, and smart (mobile-friendly). You can store your favorites in a template library. I first opted for the smart templates, since I’d want my newsletter to be mobile-friendly, but many of them were winter and holiday related. The designed templates are a bit more subtle.
You can link to websites, email addresses, files, and phone numbers in the body of your email. I had trouble editing buttons, though, and often ended up deleting and re-adding that element. You can easily delete elements of the template you don’t want to use, which is helpful, unlike with SendinBlue which doesn’t let you remove elements. Adding and removing elements is done via drag and drop, which worked well most of the time. You can also change the background colors, add tables and images, buttons, spacers, and more.
Oddly, I had to close out of the editing window in order to send campaign, which is unusual. You can opt to send it to your compliance team for approval in you’re worried about spam filters. In fact, you have to do so with your first few campaigns in order to get whitelisted. My first campaign was approved within an hour or so, so it wasn’t a terrible inconvenience.
In addition to traditional newsletters, Zoho Campaigns also offers auto-responders and automated workflows. You can use these tools to send newsletters based on subscriber behavior or for holiday promotions and other special occasions. Workflows enable you to send follow-up emails to your customers at the right time based on their behaviors.
Tracking a Campaign
After you send a campaign, you can track it by going to the email campaigns or the reports tab. On the former, you can see all of your campaigns, including drafts. The reports tab is just for sent campaigns and has links to your top five opened campaigns, top five clicked campaigns, and top five-clicked URLs.
On either tab, click the newsletter you want to track, and you can see a color coded bar chart showing opens (green), bounces (red), and unsent (light yellow) emails. Beneath that you can see social sharing data, and underneath that, a map of where your subscribers reside. On the right side, you can post your newsletter on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can also dig in deeper with recipient activity, where you can view details about your contacts and filter the list by opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and so on.
Set-It-But-Don’t-Forget-It Marketing Automation
As a marketing automation tool, Zoho is pedestrian at best. Although the tool does let you quickly create email- and social media-based messaging campaigns, there isn’t much in the way of campaign branching. For example, your campaigns will proceed as created regardless of how your contacts respond to emails, calls-to-action, or social media messages. Others tools, such as Hubspot and Pardot, let you automatically move users through a campaign depending on their responses, without having to manually adjust messaging. Zoho doesn’t offer this functionality.
Additionally, Zoho gives you access to just 10 automated reports that are focused strictly on individual campaigns as opposed to an overview of your entire marketing automation process. You can’t create custom reports so you’re stuck with what Zoho has pre-populated.
Unfortunately, the marketing automation integration with Zoho CRM doesn’t provide users with anything but basic contact data flow between tools. With the integration, you’re able to see which leads have received communications and whether they took an action on the communication. Leads automatically synch between tools, which is nice, but it’s not as if your Zoho CRM and Zoho Campaign integration provides you with awesome functionality that you wouldn’t have with other automation-CRM combinations.
But there are some benefits to using Zoho as a marketing automation tool. The system doesn’t limit the number of campaigns you can create in advance, and you can schedule up to 50 messages within a campaign. The tool lets even a novice email user create a multi-step email marketing campaign in one quick and easy Zoho Campaigns session. You can also create custom web forms that can be added to any website, including customizable fields that can be plugged into your automated workflows via data tags. If you’re looking for a dynamic marketing automation tool that does more than blast emails, then you should probably look elsewhere. Our Editors’ Choices for marketing automation, HubSpot and Pardot are more robust options, albeit pricey ones geared more toward enterprises. But if you’re just interested in rapidly scheduling messages in a chronological order, then Zoho Campaigns is a decent option.
Help resources include user guides, email deliverability guidelines, FAQs, blog, forums, feature updates, webinars, eBooks, an API guide, and videos. All of this content is searchable. You can also submit a support ticket online or call their toll-free number 24 hours a day, seven days a week (paid customers only). Only Campaigner also offers around the clock support, so this is impressive. For billing issues and to cancel your account, you can email Zoho directly.
Zoho Campaigns offers a lot of features to help you with email marketing and you can connect it connects easily with other Zoho services, including CRM, and some third parties, including Google Apps. While it’s not much to look at—it could really use a design revamp—it serves its purpose and is easy to boot.
With auto-responders and all day phone support, it’s a good choice for email marketers. If you want to connect third-party software such as Salesforce or access more sophisticated email designs, check out Campaigner or MailChimp.