ExactTarget Review: Going Beyond Email Marketing

Although we don’t mind a good email marketing review around these parts, ExactTarget is a bit of a unique entity. In attempting to go beyond the traditional email marketing platform and produce more marketing services for its customers, it also requires a bird’s-eye view of a review.

And don’t think I’m not serious simply because I’m rhyming. ExactTarget promises a lot up front, as noted in its tagline: “Email. Mobile. Social. Sites.” That’s a lot of ground to cover, and it means that this review will also have to cover that terrain. Watch out, email marketers of the world: we’re not in Kansas anymore.

So does the ExactTarget system really deliver on its promises? Ah; that’s what you’re going to have to read to find out. Unless, of course, you already noticed our rating up top. But keep reading this ExactTarget review anyway, because you’ll learn what went into that rating and how we came to the conclusion we did.

ExactTarget marketing might be exactly what you've needed for your web site.

The Proof Is in the Hubbing

ExactTarget promises a lot. Here it is in its own words:

ExactTarget is a global Software as a Service (SaaS) leader that powers all types of interactive marketing messages – from targeted email marketing, mobile marketing, social media marketing, and landing page marketing – through a single Interactive Marketing Hub. It’s our mission to deliver business results for clients – from small businesses to large enterprises.

Since I don’t like having a lot of services from one company unless they can be simplified into one single source for me, I like the idea of this “Interactive Marketing Hub.” Something tells me that if ExactTarget is going to pull off its high ambitions successfully, that success will rest on the quality of said hub.

As it turns out, this hub is actually quite successful at doing that. What does the “hub” accomplish? Well, you can access the data related to your brand as it relates to the following:

  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter
  • Your email accounts
  • Mobile marketing

These all come with live reports that don’t require refreshing or running specialized reports, which means you save on a lot of time simply by signing into your ExactTarget hub. The prospect of all of this coming together into a single account is attractive, especially if you’re a one-man operation who needs to add marketing prowress without the extra work.

Of course, this is an email marketing service we’re talking about here, which means these features don’t really mean a whole lot for our purposes unless they can also deliver on some pretty quality email campaign management.

As it turns out, ExactTarget is so dead-set that you pay for all of their services that it’s difficult to separate their email campaign management from their marketing management in general. The aforementioned hub is part of the equation, and while ExactTarget hardly qualifies as a dedicated email campaign manager, it at least delivers the goods on all of the other parts of the equation.

Running an email campaign with ExactTarget is not your cup of tea if you’re looking for email campaign management exclusively. If that’s the tree you’re barking up here, you’ll probably want to – heck, you’ll want to switch forests. That’s just not ExactTarget’s bag.

Does ExactTarget Succeed At Its Own Game?

The attractiveness of ExactTarget is closely related to the way it does things, however. Sure, it’s not a dedicated email campaign manager, but if you’re in the market for some quality Interet marketing services in general, you should be open to the idea of this total integration via ExactTarget hub. You might have never thought about social media or mobile marketing before but now that you’ve got it in front of you, the prospect seems simpler and even a little appealing, doesn’t it?

ExactTarget does deliver a lot of a time, remember. And if the price is right, this definitely makes for a more intriguing offer than any run-of-the-mill email campaign manager. But speaking of price, where does ExactTarget exactly figure in to the whole email campaign industry?

Unfortunately, finding the prices at ExactTarget is a labyrinth with no end. And it’s no surprise that this is the case, given that ExactTarget actually doesn’t have a “canned” pricing structure, as one sales associate informed me. After me pressing the issue to find out any number to quote you, my fine Clickfire audience, I was still told that because they don’t have “canned” pricing.

But that not being enough for me still, I was finally told that the “bare minimum” many clients start out at is $1,500 per year, or about $125 per month. They were quoting me for a subscriber list of 1,000, which will yield a significantly lower price at other email marketing services. Clearly ExactTarget is an instance of an otherwise attractive service being ruined by an unfair, unclear, and expensive pricing structure.

Oh, wait, sorry about that. There is no structure.


If you’re looking for a way your small business can measure a lot of things in a lot of places while delivering the information and control to a central hub, ExactTarget is an attractive prospect. But many people don’t necessarily fall into that category. Heck, you might not have the money as a sole proprietorship to shell out ExactTarget kinda dough, no matter how much you want access to that hub.

My advice is that you find an email campaign manager that is much cheaper and where the pricing structure is much more stable and predictable. In fact, some email campaign managers will allow you to use their service for free up until a certain amount of subscribers every month – essentially becoming the opposite of ExactTarget’s price smugness.

But it’s hard to discount the fact that ExactTarget does provide very interesting services that will be very attractive to a lot of people running businesses with a significant online brand. If you’re a small business, handling all of these services for a paltry $125 a month won’t sound too bad. The problem is that some of us aren’t just small businesses; we’re very small businesses. And we need cheaper marketing services.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Rating

Dan Kenitz

Dan Kenitz is a former professional Search Engine Optimization specialist and current freelance writer, commentator, and all-around entrepreneur.


  1. EbooksFreeWeekly

    Thank you for your unbiased review! This is the kind of page after my own heart.

    I too agree, after looking at ExactTarget’s website and blog, their pricing was exactly not targetted anywhere!

    So, I searched for exact cost in Google and found your page.

    Often times a few years back in marketing class, we were told when a price is of a higher-end structure for the common person, to try to secure emails and not put the price on the website…

    However, I disagreed with that practice then and still do today.

    Interested people will always inquire about a price structure but if anything they’re pursuing after revealing the price makes them a good qualified candidate for purchase.

    If it is not visible it can create a poor visitor experience as far as I’m concerned.

  2. Emory Rowland

    I think that pricing is one of the first things I look for when shopping for any product. For me, if the cost is not apparent, I tend to move on.

  3. Didi

    How does ET charge for Social Media feed publishing (facebook ad)? Do they charge a fee that’s based on percentage of media spend or a flat fee?

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