You might be entirely up to speed with the recent changes at MailChimp and decided they have no impact on your business. Or you’ve already assessed your options and made some options.
Then there might be those of you slightly scratching your head and wondering what I’m on about. Or you know something has gone on, just not sure what to do. If you belong to those two groups and have a smaller list with MailChimp, then this is aimed at you.
First, let me back up a bit.
What do I mean by changes?
If you’re a small business owner like me, you’ve probably used MailChimp to get your email marketing underway. It had a really generous free category, which gave you up to 2000 subscribers and something like 10,000 emails a month.
I know, I wish!
But it also gave you some added functionality like automated email sequences, useful for when people sign up to a lead magnet/free download like this one.
The reason that one doesn’t link to MailChimp is because setting it up is how I’d found out I could no longer do things like create a series of emails to follow up on the download. I spent ages thinking I was just misunderstanding how to do them.
It also came just after I’d recommended MailChimp to a client and set up all their sign up email sequence. Not so much feeling like MailChimp but MailChump at this point.
So after digging around a bit, turned out they had changed the functionality available at the free level, to just basic emailing (though older stuff you’d done was still working). Which might suit some businesses just fine. Not everyone though.
Let’s call in the experts
I’m great at the words, not necessarily all the tech stuff, so I wanted to get a more expert view on this. Step forward Toby Osborne of Digital Duck. Not only does Toby hold the record for fastest payment of one of my invoices (I think it was 12 minutes from sending) but he’s also an experienced web designer, developer, and digital marketer. He says he’s driven by the desire to see businesses fully utilising technology, so felt like the perfect person to give us a bit more insight.
Hopefully, these will be the sort of questions you’ll have in your head, so here’s Toby’s view on them.
Toby, from your perspective, what are the key changes MailChimp have made?
MailChimp has changed a lot over the last year. Moving from solely email marketing, to a fully featured marketing platform and now a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Looking back at their previous updates, they added a boatload of services and features to make marketing easy. Things like the ability to manage Facebook and Google ads, social media integration, landing page creation and even a service that would let you send out a physical postcard.
But the most significant change that’s affecting lots of businesses is to their pricing structure, or rather what each tier offers. Limiting the number of emails that can be sent, the number of subscribers and the features that each package would grant you.
Oh, and they’ve made it so that even unsubscribed users would count towards your subscribers number.
Why are these particularly impacting smaller businesses?
MailChimp positioned themselves perfectly for smaller businesses. They gave a generous “free” plan, which had the vast majority of the advanced email marketing features. And they made marketing accessible to everyone with great tutorials and documentation.
Basically, the old MailChimp focused on growing businesses. The free tier was for startups, and you only really needed to start paying when you’d made a following.
Now, it’s different as most of the email marketing features are behind the paywall. A lot of features that people have become dependant on are now “withheld”.
Were you surprised by the changes, given their previous focus on smaller businesses?
Yes, we love MailChimp, or loved. It was exciting being able to explain to clients all the advanced things they could do, without having to pay for it until it was working well. It was even better when they would come back to us and say they’d gone through the MailChimp blog and found it really easy to understand.
In hindsight, the signs were there, but we’d hoped MailChimp would continue doing what they were doing. We can’t expect a major marketing service to continue to grow and add tools to their platform without paying for it. But it would have been nice for MailChimp to let us decide on what we want in our packages. Not everyone will use their ad management, landing pages or postcard features. Most just want to send emails.
What would be the key things to consider before making a change from MailChimp?
There are a lot of things to consider before moving away. But most can be summed up in a series of questions:
Are you really affected by the changes?
I’ve mentioned a lot that some features have been moved behind the paid tiers, but you can still send up to 10,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. That hasn’t changed, though you will need to pay attention to the new “audiences” since if someone unsubscribes they will count toward the 2,000 limit unless you manually archive them.
If you are affected, then how much?
Currently, people who were on the paid tiers before the change are on a legacy plan meaning that nothing has really changed, but it will if you need to upgrade. The most affected people are those on the free tier who are edging closer to needing the paid one (or its functionality) and those who are just signing up to MailChimp now.
Some of the other things you might want to consider are:
How are you collecting subscribers? If you decide to change you’ll need to find all the places on your website, social media and other subscription locations and update it to subscribe to your new platform. Something that could warrant a cost if you need help from a third party.
What would be the drawbacks and risks of moving your email list to another provider? What can you do to mitigate the risks?
You’ll have to learn a new system which is always tough. If you’ve been using the tagging, groups or interests segments in MailChimp, your best bet would be to find a platform that offers something similar. Data is everything online, and you wouldn’t want to lose any.
Just remember an email marking system is essential. Don’t try and mass-email everyone from your Gmail account or website; it won’t end well.
Who would be the key players that people might want to consider for a similar service to the pre-changes MailChimp offer?
There are so many to choose from, but for us, the best alternative is mailerlite. It has many of the same email marketing features as MailChimp, and is quite a lot cheaper. We haven’t had a chance to try it on any major project yet, but it’s definitely the one we’re looking into the most.
Some other alternatives could be:
For UK based businesses, are there any providers who are not offering GDPR compliant forms?
I’m sure there are a few, either by choice or by not fully understanding what GDPR is (we’ve all been there). The main players are undoubtedly compliant or at least have done everything to be so.
Be vigilant and research the platforms you look into. I’d imagine that any that are compliant would make sure people know it.
What kind of business, or size of business, would you still recommend MailChimp for?
MailChimp is still an outstanding platform suitable for any size of business. I think the major issue is the sudden and sharp change in their selling tactics. But, if I had to give a direct answer, I would say medium to large businesses, especially if they full utilise the new features.
If like most businesses, you’re just looking for something small and simple to send a newsletter every week or two, then I would find an alternative. You don’t want to get so far on MailChimp for free and then start paying, especially if your newsletters don’t directly make you money.
What would be the key things you’d recommend people do before jumping ship?
Firstly, backup everything.
Secondly, download your templates.
What should I have asked you about these changes and what people should do about it?
I think it’s important for everyone to remember MailChimp is a business and although they have been a saint to small businesses in the past, they will always do what’s best for MailChimp. With the addition of all the extra features it makes sense they’d want to find a way to make more money from their efforts.
A lot of people see it as MailChimp trying to push smaller businesses down, but in reality, we’ve all had it too good, and things are changing.
One thing, on a more technical note, people who do decide to change should remember to set up their new platform correctly. It would be best to ask the support of whichever platform you move to about whether you have to set up your domain name. Otherwise, there’s a risk your emails might get marked as spam.
Hopefully, that’s useful perspective from Toby, and some great ideas on what to consider before making a move. I know that mailerlite looks like a positive for me. I’ve used it for a new automated email sequence which was simple enough to set up. I just need to take the plunge and move the list. Wish me luck!
What about you? Did you know about the changes, and what decisions have you taken? Or is there a question you wish I’d asked Toby? Whatever you decide, I think the most valuable advice in here is to remember that email marketing is an essential, not a nice to have.