Mailchimp (which starts at $9.99 per month, though there’s also a free plan) is a longtime leader in the email marketing category and has recently expanded into a full-service marketing platform with features like a customer relationship management (CRM) module and a website builder. Free and basic versions exist, but we reviewed the highest-end Premium Plan, which offers customization and in-depth segmentation. Though Mailchimp is busy expanding its feature set, we award it our Editors’ Choice award primarily because it’s such an excellent choice for entry-level customers. Our other winner, Campaigner, is also a standout product, though it’s aimed at more advanced users.
Pricing and Features
Mailchimp takes a very creative approach to pricing. Many small businesses will pick up Mailchimp because it provides professional email marketing services for free—up to a point. You can enter the number of estimated subscribers on the handy calculator available on Mailchimp’s website to get an exact price. For example, a monthly plan for 5,000 subscribers costs $74.99 per month.
Since our last review, Mailchimp has changed its pricing structure as part of its move toward a full-service platform. A small business with 2,000 contacts could opt for the free version, which also offers basic templates and a marketing CRM. The Essentials Package at $9.99 per month is geared toward heavy email users and makes all of Mailchimp’s email templates available. It accommodates up to 50,000 contacts as well as A/B testing. The Standard Package adds custom-coded templates, and automation at $14.99 per month. That plan is good for a business with up to 100,000 contacts. Meanwhile, the Premium package costs $299.99 per month. This plan includes multivariate testing, which involves sending multiple emails out to the same people to test their effectiveness. You also get custom domains, additional domains and advanced segmentation, which creates groups of contacts based on specific conditions.
This plan supports a marketing database of more than 200,000 contacts. Mailchimp’s plans offer plenty of contacts within each price range. In addition, Mailchimp is adding phone support as part of the Premium package. Mailchimp’s Standard Plan at $14.99 can incorporate up to 50,000 contacts compared with the $19.95 price point of Campaigner for up to 5,000 contacts, which is still a solid deal. Fortunately, there is no cap on how many messages you can send with the paid plans in Mailchimp.
One thing to remember about the pay-as-you-go plans: If you cancel your account or Mailchimp shuts you down for spamming, then you will not get refunds for unused email credits, which are credits toward your limit on the number of emails you can send.
To help navigate these problems, check out Mandrill. This is a paid add-on for monthly users that contains an API for for handling transactional emails and auto-responder messages triggered by specific events, such as password resets, receipts, and other notifications. It costs $20 for a block of 25,000 emails. Once you hit 500,000 emails, the price drops to $18 per block.
Mailchimp has relaunched to offer companies a suite of services rather than a single feature like email marketing. The company boasts about the ability to let customers avoid fragmentation of services, in which audience data is spread across services like Instagram and Facebook. Mailchimp has added CRM capabilities, a website builder, and additional automation to try to compete with the heavy hitters in the marketing automation category like Salesforce Pardot . The latter still leads as far as enterprise-level marketing automation because of its comprehensive Engagement Studio, which offers loads of options for creating a custom automation campaign. Mailchimp is easy to use, but Pardot offers a lot more functionality, and features like segmentation and search marketing are easier to find.
Another enhancement is that Mailchimp also now lets you target customers through ads on Facebook and Instagram and incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) to provide smart recommendations on how to optimize a marketing campaign. The AI technology delivers insights from user data and best practices in the industry. To enable smart recommendations, Mailchimp also draws on insights relevant to an individual user.
And Mobility, Too
Mailchimp’s mobile app lets you craft and send campaigns from an Android or iOS device. This is one plus for Mailchimp over Campaigner, our other Editors’ Choice for email marketing. Campaigner has an ioS app but lacks one for Android. You can also add promo codes to your emails, landing pages, and even re-market via Google Ads. Mailchimp offers Alerts for pay-as-you-go customers and and chat support for paid customers. Pay-as-you-go customers can opt into Alerts when they are reaching a certain threshold and can automatically reload credits when they’re running low. Mailchimp also lets you use your subscriber data from the service to create custom ads on Facebook and Instagram. It offers a Facebook ad builder within Mailchimp as well as a way to track data on who accesses the ads.
Mailchimp also offers a product recommendations feature, in which it uses purchase data from your online store to suggest products in your store inventory for your email subscribers. When you send emails, Mailchimp can include up to 10 products to recommend. In reports, you can see how many sales resulted from product recommendations in email blasts.
Mailchimp offers automation features to send out auto-responder notes when a customer has a birthday or abandons a shopping cart. We did not create automated messages, but we went through the process and found it simple to navigate. You can schedule a message to be sent when contacts in a segment meet certain criteria or schedule it, for example, every day at 9 a.m. ET.
Inbox Preview is a feature that lets you know how your emails will look across more than 40 desktop, web, and mobile email clients since each service displays HTML in slightly different ways. Mailchimp users pay for this feature by using tokens. The company provides 25 tokens as part of its standard membership, but Mailchimp Pro customers can use 1,000 free tokens per month. The tokens do expire after a 30-day billing cycle. After you use up the tokens that come with a subscription, you can purchase tokens in bundles of 25 for $3 per piece.
Setting Up a Marketing Campaign
Even with the expansion of its platform, Mailchimp still offers its standard email marketing features in a very intuitive workflow. Mailchimp prompts you to finish account setup, then connect your store (if applicable). After that it helps you create your first email, add contacts, and finally send the first email in your new campaign.
Mailchimp does a great job helping businesses get started on the platform. The dashboard lays out the steps very clearly: Start designing your first email, add your contacts, and send your first email. Despite this suggested order, as a first step we import our subscriber list by copying and pasting our contacts from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. When we dragged and dropped the Excel file, all of the contact fields ended up in the same column. However, when we copied and pasted the text into the contacts field in Mailchimp, we were able to have the contact info appear in separate columns for first name, last name, and email address.
Before we could define a campaign, we had to decide if everyone on our list was going to get this email or if only a segment of them were going to get it. Creating a segment is easy since you can manually copy and paste in a list of recipient email addresses, use a segment you have previously created, or create a series of filters to create a subset of contacts. You can filter according to criteria like landing page activity after the last campaign was sent or contacts’ location in within 25 miles of a certain location.
We set tracking options such as who opened the messages and which campaign links were clicked. Mailchimp has an enhanced tracking option that works by linking to our website’s Google Analytics (GA), Highrise, or Salesforce (Visit Site at Salesforce.com) accounts, or by tracking user engagement via Clicktale. You can also send Mailchimp information about which links the recipient clicked and what orders were placed. You can also post on Facebook or Twitter after sending out an email blast.
Mailchimp is serious about keeping spammers out. First you have to go to the Domains page under Account Settings to verify your domain. When you enter your email address, you’ll get a send verification email. Then after you click it, you’ll get a notification on screen that the domain has been verified. Mailchimp verifies an email address or the domain by confirming that you have access to the email address within that domain. In the Campaign Builder screen, there is an option to verify the “From:” email address. If you’ve already verified our domain, then you can skip this step.
Crafting the Email
Mailchimp offers various campaigns. The Regular campaign is an HTML email with a plain-text alternative. An Automated email campaign lets you send messages automatically to tagged contacts. For example, you can welcome new subscribers or wish contacts a happy birthday. The Plain-text campaign uses no pictures or formatting. A Multivariate testing campaign lets you test up to eight different variations of email messages in a campaign to test which type of messaging has the most effective results.
The email is template-driven, and Mailchimp offers 14 layouts and 90 themes. There is also an HTML editor to design your own template. The Email Template Reference Guide has code examples and other tips for designing effective emails. That said, unless you have an in-depth understanding of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and HTML, we would avoid the HTML editor and stick with the templates. The editor isn’t that easy to use despite the Help materials. The templates are simple to use though. We dragged and dropped social-sharing elements, footer blocks, buttons, images, and other page elements into the layout screen to
We built a sample newsletter on lamp deals using the existing templates and sent it to six recipients from our contact list. The templates email tool was straightforward and easy to use. It’s a simple process to import images and add text. If you use a template and don’t update each section of the template with new text, you’ll get prompted to do so before sending your message. You can schedule your post and specify the number of batches. The ability to preview and test an email blast before sending it is valuable.
Tracking Campaign Performance
Mailchimp is strong in analytics. On the dashboard there’s a section for “Predicted Demographics,” in which it predicts the demographics of your contacts. This data can help with forming segments and developing focused email campaigns. You can filter by total recipients, opens, and clicks. Mailchimp says you can choose an audience and segment by sign-up source, so you can target the people who subscribe from your landing page. We were able to see a report showing Average Order Revenue, Total Revenue, and the open rate for emails. It’s well laid out and easy to follow. You can download a report that shows total recipients, successful deliveries, the number of people that opened the mail, the percentage of people that clicked, and the percentage of people that opened it. With its strong analytics, Mailchimp is trying to keep up with platforms like Salesforce Pardot, which integrates its Einstein Analytics Platform.
All About Self-Service
If for any reason you need to stop sending newsletters and promotions, then you can pause your account temporarily so you won’t be billed. But you can pause your account only twice a year so carefully plan your hiatuses. And if you are no longer satisfied with Mailchimp, then you can permanently delete all of your mailing lists, email campaigns, and reports. There are options to export and backup your data, which is nice.
Mailchimp relies on self-service to address most customer questions and issues. You can look through guides, Knowledge Base (KB) articles, and tutorials for information. Mailchimp offers help sections for some of its new features like automation. You’ll also find helpful videos on topics like “Create an Automated Email.” In addition, an “Email Us” button to reach technical support and billing, but it’s a little hard to find. Next to it is a “Chat With Us” button for help through online chat.
The Help materials—dialog boxes, support pages, and tutorials—are tremendously helpful and straightforward. Mailchimp used to have funny status messages and cute icons all over its UI. Those have been cleaned up to be more helpful, more professional, and less playful. For example, back in 2009, the status message that confirmed the campaign had been sent was, “You, my friend, just kicked some email bootay!” but now it’s a more staid, “High Five!” or “Done and done!” accompanied by an animated image. It appears Mailchimp decided to tone down its irreverence to attract more straight-laced businesspeople.
Mailchimp is tremendously easy to use, and it’s a great entry point for small businesses that are just getting started with email marketing. The analytics are straightforward, showing opens, bounces, clickthrough rates, subscriber behavior, and more. Mailchimp has everything you need at a price most businesses can afford. With such easy-to-use services, there really is no excuse for a small business to shy away from email marketing.
Mailchimp is our Editors’ Choice for basic email marketing services. The company still offers these basic services, though it has expanded into a full marketing platform that includes CRM. For businesses with large subscriber lists or a mature marketing strategy, Mailchimp Pro, an $199 add-on to the legacy packages, offers advanced user segments, comparative reports, and many other tools. It’s only available to users who signed up. In addition, to Mailchimp, we also recommend considering Campaigner, our other email marketing Editors’ Choice , which offers advanced tools at a range of prices.
|Limited Free Trial||No|
|Social Media Integration||Yes|
|24/7 Phone Support||No|
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