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Sadly, the famous Mailchimp did not live up to my expectations. My list of grievances includes disappointing features, email templates that look like they belong in the 90s, weak automations, a live chat that’s always “currently unavailable,” and unattractive prices. If you’re looking for a professional email marketing solution, I recommend you check out Benchmark’s affordable plans instead.
Does Mailchimp’s Quality Match Its Popularity?
A great comedian once said, “Animals may be our friends, but they won’t pick you up at the airport.” That’s Mailchimp for you. It seems like a super-friendly service, powered by one of the best design teams on the whole internet. But the moment you need to do some heavy lifting, it won’t be able to help you.
You might be thinking, “Whaaat?! Everybody loves Mailchimp!”. There’s an easy explanation to that. Mailchimp lets you open an account for free, and it even stays free as long as you keep your mailing list under 2,000 contacts.
But the thing is, you get what you pay for.
Looking to expand your subscriber base beyond your own social circle? Interested in leveraging advanced analytics to maximize reader engagement? Or in automating tasks and avoiding grunt work?
That all falls under “picking you up at the airport.” It’s practically impossible to do any of these things with Mailchimp, and the more you try, the more you’ll pay for it in the long run.
When I navigated to Mailchimp’s homepage for the purpose of signing up and writing this review, I was excited. The company’s homepage won awards for its perfect user interface and user experience. They teach it at schools. And indeed, it’s seamless. A friend who was passing by behind me as I was working actually said “Wow! So pretty.”
My expectations were at an all-time high, so imagine my surprise when after signing up to the Essentials plan, everything turned out to be bug after bug, half-baked features, and badly designed templates.
Email Campaigns, Templates and Personalization
It all started with an error message. An experience somewhat reminiscent of the time Bill Gates showcased the new version of Windows, just to have it crash during the presentation. I’m not sure who’s Bill Gates in this analogy.
“Looks like there was a problem”? Yeah, I’d say. I had to delete my cookies, clear my browsing history, attempt another login, and then verify it due to “suspicious” behavior on my part.
When the main dashboard finally loaded, I drew a sigh of relief. It was well designed, offering a great mix of usability and brand personality. Creating a new email blast (or campaign, or newsletter – whatever you like to call it) is as easy as clicking Create and choosing the email option. It all works just as you would imagine – pick the sender address, add an audience, write a subject line, and design the content.
I cover this in more depth under Pricing, but just know that Mailchimp limits both the number of emails you can send and the number of contacts you can add. 5,000 emails and 500 contacts on the basic Essentials plan. I haven’t run into any other services that limit both – it’s usually limited contacts and unlimited emails. And most services allow double the number of contacts.
You can integrate your Mailchimp account with social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and simultaneously publish the content of your email blast on each of these channels. Analytics integrations include Google Analytics and ClickTale, which you’ll probably skip, as these third-party services take a long time to configure.
A really cool feature that deserves mention is Mailchimp’s campaign-specific inboxes. You can activate this by checking a box for each campaign you create, and Mailchimp will automatically organize all responses to a specific campaign in a special inbox. This makes it much easier to keep in touch with your subscribers and shows that some thought was put into the actual user experience.
But this is also pretty much where the thought ends.
An ominous sign appeared when I was playing around with my new campaign. I intended to send it to 13 contacts and was about to give it a go. Upon pressing Send, Mailchimp asked me if I wanted to send the email to my entire audience – 24 subscribers at the time. Whoops. Which one is it?
I clicked Cancel and checked to see if there were any mistakes on my part. None. Another attempt resulted in the same discrepancy. And it happened again when I tried creating a brand new campaign. I decided to risk bothering my contacts for the sake of the test, and to send it anyway. Luckily, only the intended 13 contacts received it.
So, we have a feature that actually worked as intended, but scared the bejesus out of me due to some unsynchronized elements in the platform. Why is it so scary? A real-world example would be if you wanted to test an email and send it to a select number of friends, just to have Mailchimp tell you that your entire mailing list will receive it. Would you have clicked the button?
Telling myself that it did work, scary message aside, I ventured into the template selection. I was thinking maybe the Mailchimp team has brilliant designers, but not the best programmers. Surely, the templates were going to be the best part of the service.
There are almost 100 templates, but I cannot recommend using most of them. Even the few quality ones that exist pale in comparison to what competing platformsoffer. (See GetResponse, for instance.)
They’re simply outdated. Ridiculously outdated. Never-used-after-the-90s outdated. I stared for a long, long time at the “St. Paddy’s Day Banners” one, asking myself if this was possibly some clever retro gag. I don’t think it is.
On the bright side, at least the templates are not heavy with HD graphics or anything that can harm your deliverability. I’ll even say that on the technical side, Mailchimp’s been following best practices. Then again, the purpose is not just to get your email delivered, but also to have it read.
Choosing what I deemed the least offensive template of them all, I attempted to edit it. The editor didn’t seem bad. It’s block-based, and you can drag and drop elements like text boxes and images in between existing blocks.
Problems arose again when I delved a bit deeper. I found that Mailchimp supports only 20 fonts, one of which is the dreaded Comic Sans, commonly known online as the font that shall not be used. While other marketing platforms let you easily add fonts through Google Fonts, Mailchimp does not provide that option.
What you can do is add a code block. This would normally support custom HTML which you can add to your emails, but can also be used for CSS font-face imports if configured correctly. Does this sound like gibberish? Well, if you want to get simple things like fonts working on Mailchimp, you’re going to have to learn what it all means. This is not the case with other top-rated email marketing platforms.
And as we all know, when it rains – it pours. There’s no built-in RTL support on Mailchimp. Personalization (using your contacts’ data in emails) is limited to the subject line. There’s supposedly a very cool design and stock image tool by the name of Creative Assistant, which you can use to find images and play around with them by adding filters and the like. My attempts to use it resulted in errors.
It’s not all bad. I will say that I actually loved Mailchimp’s email preview tool. All of the templates are mobile-responsive, and you can use the tool to see exactly how your email will read on most systems and platforms available today.
There’s also a nifty tool that double-checks that all links in your email are populated correctly, and an app you can download to preview your emails on your own phone.
Before we move on to the mailing lists, let’s just touch on A/B testing. It’s a very powerful tool, allowing you to test two versions of an email on a small percentage of your contacts, and then use the winning version for the rest. Mailchimp offers A/B testing as part of the Essentials plan, but as you might expect, bugs abound.
You’ll be limited to a combination of three variables, but the dashboard will put you at two out of three variables the moment you choose one. Doing so will also grey out any other variables (other than the one you’ve chosen), which as far as I could tell, leaves you with one variable only. Maybe it’s a riddle.
Mailing Lists and Segmentation
The backbone of your marketing operation is your subscribers. Normally, they’d all be organized as contacts in mailing lists. You could then move them between lists (such as “engaged users” and “unengaged users”) according to their behavior, or create additional lists to correspond with the subscribers’ origin – a landing page, a social campaign, imported contacts, and others.
This is not the case with Mailchimp. At first glance, it seems that mailing lists with the service are called “audiences.” But there’s actually a big difference between the two. While mailing lists can be used dynamically, as I just illustrated, Mailchimp’s audiences are static. A contact cannot be moved between audiences. Landing pages, for example, are audience-specific, and the audience which they lead into can never be changed. There’s also a strict limit on audiences – only 3 on the Essentials plan.
What this means, in reality, is that all your contacts for a project will go into one audience, which results in one big, messy list that’s difficult to manage. Tagging contacts helps a bit, but despite what Mailchimp claims – tagging cannot replace separate functional lists. To top it all off, there are serious issues with many of the audience-related features.
Take importing, for example. Normally, I’d expect support for many file types, from .csv to the Excel .xlsx, to text files, and others. Other email marketing platforms integrate with other marketing services and CRMs as well, like Salesforce, making the import process a cinch.
Mailchimp supports only importing through .csv files and copy-pasting. My attempt to import a .csv mailing list did go smoothly, with Mailchimp recognizing most of the fields (email, first name, last name) automatically. Other fields, like “DOB” and “Company,” I had to configure myself. Small extra steps that most platforms do not make me take.
Thankfully, Mailchimp keeps with standard protocol and requires you to confirm that you have permission to add the contacts. It’s not exactly the strongest spam deterrent, but it does show commitment to anti-spam protocol and can leave spammers open to legal action.
Because you cannot create multiple lists, there are no options such as list-specific signup pages or customized confirmation pages. What that means for you is that all your subscribers will basically go through the exact same process. Laser-targeting is what makes marketing campaigns successful, but Mailchimp offers no way for you to do it.
On to list segmentation. This is a super-useful feature, as it lets you set rules and dynamically filter your lists by them. You can create new segments with a few clicks, and it’s easy to set rules that have to do with metadata – such as age, subscription date, gender, etc.
Using behavioral data to segment your audience is a bit trickier. Normally, I would set a rule about a contact’s interaction with a specific campaign (such as “opened email” or “clicked a specific link”).
This cannot be done in Mailchimp. Instead, you can choose between options like “Any of the last 5 campaigns,” or “Any campaigns sent within the last 7 days.” Not specific enough, and not powerful enough. Why should it be impossible to choose the one campaign that was most important to you, and work according to it?
Now is when I usually talk about list hygiene, which is the concept of keeping your lists populated only with engaged, quality contacts. Tools that help you do this include anti-spam algorithms, manual cleaning options, and customized unengaged user lists. Mailchimp doesn’t offer any of these tools, so I guess I’ll just move on.
Mailchimp does let you create landing pages, but this feature is very limited. Only 10 templates exist, 3 of which are more what I’d consider a wireframe than a template. At least they’re all mobile responsive and can be edited using the same editor as the email templates. Also same is the lack of RTL support.
On the bright side, it won’t take you more than a few minutes to get a landing page online, and if you connect a custom domain to Mailchimp, you can choose to use that as the link.
Basic landing page options that I would’ve loved to see, but do not exist on Mailchimp, include the ability to decide what happens to leads generated from the landing page: How are they tagged? Which list do they go into? Instead, it’s a big mess, and to “catch” these leads, you’ll have to create a specific segmentation for each page.
If you were planning on using this landing page feature as a basis for a webinar, a sales page, or a convincing promotion page – it’s not going to happen. These are basic click funnels. Nothing more, nothing less.
Great automation can change your entire user experience, from automating a series of emails that can serve as an online course, to automatically giving your contacts scores and following their engagement. It’s what really separates an email marketing platform from an email service provider, like Gmail.
Mailchimp’s automation is not going to change your user experience. Some parts of it, like transactional emails, are packaged as an add-on service that costs more than the plan itself. Other automations are limited mostly to happy birthday emails, a customized welcome email for new contacts, and abandoned cart recovery.
Mailchimp labels its very basic contact automation as a “Customer journey” automation, and even that is limited in the Essential plan.
You cannot automate segmentation, or use automations to clean your lists and keep them organized. The most you can do is configure that if you add tag X to a contact, email Y will send.
Almost Everything You Need to Maximize Deliverability
Things are better with regards to deliverability.
Despite what you might think, a good deliverability rate mostly depends on you: the foundation you set up, the content you provide, and the contacts you curate. Mailchimp can only give you the keys to success, which it mostly does.
You won’t find any “tested deliverability rate” figure in this section, as those are completely meaningless. What I will cover are the four basic pillars that I expect every email marketing service to provide, and how Mailchimp successfully provides three of them.
The first, and most important one, is strong domain authentication. In order for your emails to get delivered, you’ll need to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you indeed own the sending domain. Not to me, of course. I believe you. It’s to the advanced anti-spam algorithms that you’ll need to prove your legitimacy, and what they require is DomainKeys Identified Mail or DKIM.
I’ll spare you the tech talk, but just know that verifying your email address and domain will not be enough. You’ll want to go one step further, and make sure your domain and Mailchimp account are DKIM authenticated. There’s an easy guide on doing so, so make sure to follow it.
The second and third pillars of deliverability are clear and strongly enforced policies towards spam and affiliate marketing. The reason is that you’ll be sharing an IP with hundreds of other Mailchimp users, and what each of you does affects the others. If a spammer is running amok on your IP, you’ll be blacklisted, no matter how good you’ve been. Affiliate marketing isn’t illegal per se, but many affiliate marketers turn to spam or even fraud in an attempt to cash in. This can easily hurt you as well.
I like to test things a bit further, which is why I devised a simple way to test how proactive a service is. By uploading a mailing list file filled with spammy addresses and gibberish, I can check if the service tries to prevent spam before it even happens. This closely resembles what a spammer would do – they simply upload a bought list of addresses, which tends to contain a lot of fake and worthless gibberish.
Sadly, and despite the fact that competing services like GetResponse managed to identify the trap, Mailchimp was not so vigilant. The import worked flawlessly, taking a few points off Mailchimp’s deliverability score.
The situation with affiliate marketing is better than most competitors, as it’s straight-out prohibited here. While other services tend to remain vague – in an attempt not to lose these potential customers – Mailchimp is clear as day on the subject:
The last pillar of deliverability is the option of a dedicated IP. This is an advanced feature, for sure, and normally costs quite a bit. Still, if you can afford it, it can completely solve the potential problems of sharing an IP with others. But alas, Mailchimp does not provide a private IP. Not even on the enterprise plan, which costs hundreds of dollars a month. Meh.
A good analytics board should give you the most detailed breakdown possible of how your campaigns have been doing. From experience, I can tell you that it’s surprising to see how many email marketing platforms ace some sections of my reviews, just to crash and burn when it comes to analytics. Funnily enough, Mailchimp doesn’t do that badly here.
You’ll be able to open up an analytics report for each of your email campaigns, and also for some of the other marketing tools you’d be using – like landing pages. This is rare to see, as many services will not provide reports on how your landing pages are performing. Email reports are still the most interesting ones, but I’ll take any extra data I can get. Data leads to optimization, and that translates straight to monetization.
Anyhow. Mailchimp’s analytics reports are all neatly designed, and you can easily find all important figures for open, click, and bounce rates. You can even break down the results according to the providers’ domain, and see, for example, if Gmail users reacted differently than Outlook users.
Of course, nothing’s perfect. One caveat lies with the fact that hard and soft bounces are grouped together. A crying shame, really. Hard bounces happen when an email address doesn’t exist (and should be immediately removed from your lists). Soft bounces happen because of a temporary issue. Not being able to differentiate between the two leaves you in the dark, unsure about the integrity of your contact list.
Another problem with Mailchimp’s analytics lies in the lack of data about operating systems and screen sizes. The knowledge you could’ve gained from this is immense. For example, with open rates being equal, a high mobile click rate and a low desktop click rate clearly indicate that something is wrong with the desktop version of the emails you’re sending. But no such breakdown exists here.
What you will find, and is maybe of equal value, is a breakdown by locations. Being able to understand which markets are responding to your emails is a powerful tool indeed. This lets you focus your efforts where returns are highest, and might help you understand when your approach to certain markets needs to change.
One last complaint. These analytics reports pack some serious data, but they’re missing the next step. Now that you have the information, you want to use it. Act on it. Immediately edit users’ scores according to their behavior, or tag bounced users as potential fake addresses that need to be tested. This can all be done by going back to the Audiences tab, setting appropriate rules, and creating segmentations, but a really good analytics board saves you that trouble, because it was built with you in mind. That is not quite the case with Mailchimp.
On paper, you can contact Mailchimp support 24/7 through live chat, tickets, email, and phone. There’s also a Helpbot and a knowledge base with guides and tutorials. But that’s all on paper. In reality, it depends. It depends on the plan you’re on. It depends on the time of day. It depends on the alignment of Jupiter and Mars, for all I know.
Not surprisingly, if you’re on the free plan you’ll have to rely mostly on the knowledge base. That’s okay in my book. And the fact that for the first 30 days you can also use email support is super fair. The knowledge base itself is well written and well organized, and combining it with a “Yes, I can!” attitude can get you far.
Phone support, which isn’t my favorite anyway, is only available to enterprise clients. That is, clients who pay the company hundreds of dollars a month. Pay any less than that, and your human support is going to have to come through live chat and email. Which could’ve been great, if only they answered.
Live chat is unreachable. For long hours, over days and days, I kept getting the following message: “Live chat is currently offline. Helpbot is available 24/7.”
And here I thought live chat was available 24/7. I’m not saying a service that doesn’t offer live chat isn’t acceptable. It is. It can be. But promising 24/7 chat and then not being available during work hours on a weekday? That’s just shameful.
I sent some emails instead, hoping for a prompt response, and in the meantime, resorted to the Helpbot. It wasn’t that bad. Sure, I had to phrase my questions like I was speaking to a child, and try a few different variations each time, but it did guide me on importing contacts and creating an automation for welcome emails.
The response to my email queries was a different story altogether. I simply did not receive an answer. It seems my tickets got… lost in the mail. Hehe. The only thing I did receive was an automated promotional mail from Mailchimp. It included inspiring success stories of individuals who stood tall and did it their way. I guess they never needed support.
Jokes aside, this is pretty troubling stuff. If your needs are basic and your problems are standard, the Helpbot can assist, somewhat. But what if something serious and unexpected happens, and you really need their help? You simply can’t count on getting it.
I’ll end by saying that I kept returning to try out the live chat, but it was still unavailable. “Currently offline.” Always.
But now for the shortened version. Weighing everything I now know, I’d say that Mailchimp is an expensive service. Yes, there’s a free plan. The free plan that Mailchimp has been using for years to lure potential customers in and make them invest precious time in setting up the service. After that it’s all too easy to convince them that all things considered, upgrading is a better idea than switching platforms.
I beg to differ. The bulk of your time with any email marketing service will be spent setting it up. Sure, go ahead and spend that time with Mailchimp’s free plan if hours of your work are worth less than a hamburger. As one who values his time, Mailchimp offers a deal I’d rather refuse.
That’s because compared to almost every other email marketing service, you’re going to get less. While 1,000 contacts has become the industry standard, 500 contacts is the Mailchimp standard. You can add contacts to your plan in increments of 1,000 for the Essentials plan (or 2,000 for the Standard plan), but for double the contacts, be prepared to shell out double the money.
In an extremely ludicrous move, Mailchimp will not limit your service if you reach any of these thresholds – it will simply charge you automatically. This puts you at serious risk: it means that a few malevolent people with too much time on their hands can bankrupt you by repeatedly signing up for your newsletter.
Not only that, but Mailchimp doesn’t only cap your contacts, as is customary, but also the number of emails you can send, which is not. Factor in inferior features across the board, paid add-ons like transactional emails – which are sold as a separate service altogether -, and a lackluster basic plan, and you’ll quickly see that to get the same level of service with Mailchimp that others provide, you’ll be paying much, much more.
Then, if you fancy spending a little more money, Mailchimp has also launched its own online stores with a Websites & Commerce plan. It includes an appointment booking functionality, and you can build product catalogs and manage your orders and shipping. There is a free plan and two paid-for plans. The more you pay, the lower the transaction fees users have to pay. Sure, it’s another feature for Mailchimp to add to its monopoly, but bear in mind that it’s yet another expense on top of everything you’re already having to pay for.
There’s no money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers, and no discounts available for long-term plans. The only way to go is monthly payments. If you still feel the need to part with your money, Mailchimp accepts credit cards and PayPal.
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June 07, 2021
The worst customer service, they don’t understand, never get issues resolves
I would give them 0 stars if I could. If you think you’ll ever need customer support, don’t use MailChimp. I feel like I’m talking to a wall when I contact their support team and often have to repeat myself. They don’t have phone support. Sometimes the wait for chat support can be up to 15 minutes long. Any time I have an issue, I have to expect I will at least be on chat support for a half hour to 45 minutes going back and forth with them. I also use HubSpot and this is not the case with HubSpot. HubSpot’s support is fast and knowledgeable. I’m feeling very frustrated using MailChimp.
Through Mailchimp, I set up a sales funnel for one of my customers.
1. Convenient analytics system with wide functionality. Easily track conversions and bounce rates.
2. Convenient forms for creating letters and the ability to insert your own code.
3. High-quality anti-spam system.
Every campaign we develop with Mailchimp is a resounding success.
To talk about Mailchimp is to talk about excellence, popularity and at the same time of simple software management. Using this software is simple and from the first moment we run into this program, we easily understand what each of its functions is about. One of them is the possibility of programming emails that monitor each of the purchases made by our customers. This helps us to know what types of tastes are handled among our comparators and based on that know a little more their interests. Based on this, we design successful strategies to recommend to our customers new products that are coming to market and that we market.
However, although the service is very complete and covers the needs of our company in terms of tools for digital marketing, I think the prices of premium plans are a bit high. Other services offer cheaper packages that offer the same functions.
In general, Mailchimp has allowed us to make everything related to marketing through email from our business easier. This software automates a part of the process which has made us save time and raise efficiency levels in terms of making our brand known. The work team quickly became familiar with the tool, which has undoubtedly been a great advantage. Mailchimp came to our hands to make us more prosperous and lucky.
Mailchimp also offers a very interesting free version that allows you to reach up to two thousand contacts and that can be used so that those people who have not yet used this tool know a little more about it. In general, it is very easy to use software. I assure you that from the first day you open the application you will feel comfortable handling it because its interface is very intuitive.
A powerful program that will allow you to reach thousands of contacts and conquer new customers
Mailchimp is a very versatile program that has the characteristic of being able to adapt to any type of company, large or small. This service allows you to develop the best and most successful marketing campaigns through email. Mailchimp puts templates at our disposal to give it the professional touch that each of our campaigns requires in addition to making them in the shortest possible time. On the other hand, Mailchimp offers a free version that allows you to reach up to two thousand contacts. It is very good and complete. If you want to expand the number of people to reach a lot more then you can choose between several plans that do not exceed $ 80 per year. Mailchimp really is a great solution.
I compare this tool with Get response which send a watermark (signature) in each mail, that is advertising them more than it shares my messages…
I like the interface. It used to be not as good for the autoresponder, but they fixed it lately (notice if you want to edit a message, you need to pause it first… Why the @$##@$%).
Other than that, it works like charm, they have good Q&A and I recommend using them.
MailChimp is the most optimal newsletter distribution system for www.hecmo.com. It's easy to operate and it's constantly updated, effortlessly improving your productivity and performance. We choose to use MailChimp because of the great balance of features and the reasonable pricing. Also, we are very satisfied with the response from the support team - it seems that the company has the same values as us, and puts the customer above all else.
MailChimp’s robust marketing automation makes sure your emails get to the right people at the right time. Target customers based on behavior, preferences, and previous sales. And when you’re finished, get in-depth reporting insights to make every automated series you send better than the last. By-Hecmo.com
Ben is an avid web developer who really loves to tinker with code, whether in the back-end or in the front-end. He’s searching for the world’s best website host, but also tries to find time for his other interests – comics, traveling, and home cooking.