MailChimp, founded in 2001, is an email marketing service headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. MailChimp started out as a paid service, but in 2009 the company added a freemium option. Interestingly, the company was going to be named ChimpMail, but the domain was already taken. They are one of the more popular companies and services, and their website and communications are filled with chimp-related humor. But is MailChimp all monkey business—or are they serious about email marketing?
Before you commit to a specific plan, you’ll be able to test them out with a free trial. To get started, you’ll have to provide your email, username and password. After that, you’ll be sent a confirmation email. When you confirm your identity, you’ll go through few more steps in which you’ll have to provide additional information, such as your name, business, domain and physical address. You’ll also be asked if you sell something online and what social media accounts you use (in this instance, Facebook and Twitter).
After that, your account is ready to use, but you’ll be asked if you want to receive their newsletter and emails about setting up your account. It might be a few more clicks than you’re used to, but it’s good to get the details out of the way.
Components and details
Design, navigation and user friendliness
After the whole sign-in affair, you’ll reach the attractive, minimalistic dashboard. On the upper bar, you’ll find the usual menu with links to different pages. On the far left side of your screen is their monkey logo which doubles for home. Below that are Campaigns, Templates, Lists, Reports and Automation. On the right side of the screen are a search icon, Help and a drop-down menu for an overview of your profile and account, notifications and logging out.
Next you’ll see two tabs: Overview and Activity. At first, Overview allows you to get started and manage some of the more frequently used components, like lists and campaigns. As you create these, the Overview will immediately change to reflect your new data. Activity will show what’s the latest with your lists and campaigns, and you can customize what you will and won’t see.
Creating a campaign is easy. There’s a button on your dashboard homepage just for that. You simply name the campaign and select what type you want: regular HTML, plain text, Facebook ad, A/B testing or RSS. After that, you choose which customers to send it to—by list, group or segment.
Creating a template for a campaign is also simple. You have the option of creating them by layouts or themes—or you can code your own. Coding is a completely blank canvas for those who are tech savvy. Themes are pre-rendered and finished newsletters, which are sorted by category. Layouts are a happy medium, combining fixed elements with some blank elements for which you can specify content. Content elements are drag and drop, so creating newsletters is easy. After that, you can preview the finished product, send a test email or simply save and exit. One thing to keep in mind is that MailChimp doesn’t offer professional design services, so if you want to pay for a really unique design, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Features and Specs
The free plan will give you 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. But you’re limited to 2,000 emails for each 24-hour period. All paid plans allow you to send unlimited emails, but the number of subscribers you can have depends on how much you pay. If you want to go from the free plan to the lowest paid plan, you’ll start at $10. This plan allows you to send an unlimited number of emails to up to 500 subscribers. If you are on free plan and want to go over the limit of 2,000 subscribers, you’ll have to pay $30. MailChimp also offers pay-as-you-go options.
If this is your first time venturing into the email marketing sphere, you’ll be guided on various steps and your dashboard will adapt as you learn and use more things. This, and some of the MailChimp vocabulary, might be annoying to those who are more experienced in email marketing. But you can get used to it quite easily.
With templates, we discovered that each major change will be auto saved, which is good. However, each opened template will also be saved as a used template, which, despite folders, can easily create a very cramped space. A similar thing happens with campaigns; you can easily end up with lots of “untitled” campaigns.
On the other hand, importing contacts is one of MailChimp’s strong suits. You can either import them via .csv, .txt, .xls or .xlsx files or just import them from other services like Google, Zoho, Constant Contact, Zendesk, etc. You can gather subscribers via subscription forms or you can input them one by one. So when it comes to getting your customers’ information and email address, you are covered in every possible aspect.
If you’re worried about how your newsletters will look in different environments you can check them out with Inbox Preview. This feature enables you to see how your emails will look on mobile and desktop, and also across more than 40 different email clients. Because they all display HTML code slightly differently, this is a real bonus. While mobile and desktop previews are free, Inbox preview is not free on any plan, so if you want to use it, you’ll have to purchase tokens in bundles. Also be aware that unused tokens expire at the end of each billing cycle.
Another paid, but very useful and easy-to-use feature is Automation. It will allow you to create a targeted series of emails that are sent when triggered by a specific date, event or subscriber activity. There is also Timewarp, which schedules campaigns based on each individual subscriber’s time zone. For this alone, being a paid user can save you a lot of trouble, because no one wants to be disturbed by notifications during the wrong time of day.
On the other hand, their reports and analytics are free and very visually pleasing. It might take you a bit of time to take it all in, but once you do, it will be like reading a comic book: enjoyable. You can even connect Google Analytics if you want. The only minus is that they are not real-time or automatically refreshed, so it will take a few minutes for you to see all the results of your subscribers’ activities.
The mobile app for MailChimp is one of the best that we’ve come across. It’s a shortcut to your account that will allow you to do things like adding subscribers, getting updates about campaigns or seeing what’s going on with your social media activity. It’s elegant, simple to use and available in all plans. So if you’re constantly on the go and are in a need of a solid solution, this will take care of you.
You will be offered two simple verification methods for your account: a security question or verification via SMS. However, the more important question is: will your newsletter end in up in your target audience’s spam folders?
When you’re crafting a newsletter, MailChimp will give you tips on how to send better-performing email. With that, they have a good track record of helping customers not land in the spam part of the inbox. They also support SSL encryption and there is no selling of data or subscriber lists. However, if you decide for some reason to leave MailChimp, you can export and back up your data, or if you are in a receivables drought, you can pause your account temporarily. This way you won’t be billed, but you can only do it twice a year.
Help in MailChimp is mostly DIY, which sometimes is bad news, but not in this instance. Their Help button in the dashboard resolved almost every concern we had. Their knowledge base is a great resource and they even have resource guides in the form of e-books. You can also contact them via a ticketing system, which will take you through several steps of forming your topic and point of inquiry. The only snag is that the e-books and ticketing system are somewhat hidden. Once you know where they are, all’s well, but if you don’t, scroll down on their support page and look for links. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck if you need 24/7 support. They only operate during EST business hours and they’re closed on weekends. Another shortcoming.
MailChimp offers three plans and a pay as-you-go option. The larger your subscriber list or number of monthly emails, the more you’ll have to pay. For example:
|Number of subscribers||Number of emails per month||Monthly cost|
|0 – 1,000||12,000||free|
|1,001 – 1,500||unlimited||$20|
|1,501 – 2,000||unlimited||$25|
|2,001 – 2,500||unlimited||$30|
|2,501 – 2,600||unlimited||$35|
You can choose to go as high as 50,000 subscribers. MailChimp provides you with a calculator to help you estimate the prices.
The main difference between monthly plans and pay as you go is that pay as you go operates on non-expiring email credits. You have access to the same features as the monthly plan, with no limitations on the number of subscribers or emails sent, while monthly plans are limited to 50,000 subscribers.
New Business Free
Up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month and 2,000 emails per 24 hours. It allows you to create sign-up forms and newsletter templates, and view reports.
Growing Business Minimum of $10 per month
Up to 500 subscribers with no limits on the number of emails you can send. In addition to the previous plan’s features, you’ll get email automation, integrations, segmentation, additional report options and collaboration tools.
Pro Marketer Minimum of $10 per month plus an additional $199 per month
In addition to all features in the Growing Business plan, you’ll get API for tracking and targeting e-commerce data, testing, additional report and automation options, Mandrill, which is a transactional email API for MailChimp users, and priority support queue.
- great importing options
- forever free “New Business” plan
- plenty of resources
- manual refresh for reports
- autoresponders not included in the free plan
- no 24/7 customer support
What to say about MailChimp? For small to mid-sized businesses, they’re one of the best email marketing tools out there, because they offer a lot and they even offer it for free, forever. If you decide you need to expand, you can go with paying monthly or pay as you go. Although their pricing is bit confusing, it’s developed to give you flexibility whether you’re a big or small sender with big or small subscriber numbers, and you send your emails on regular basis or infrequently. In short, MailChimp can grow with you; the trick is to figure out the best way to do it.
MailChimp’s analytics tools are great and easy to use. If you want to end your relationship with them, you can take your data with you. It might be a bit lacking for those who are looking for something extra, like 24/7 support or professional design services. But ultimately, we can say there are far more advantages than disadvantages. All in all, if you’re just starting, or even if you’re a pro, it’s definitely worth your while to give MailChimp a shot.