MailChimp Review: Why Is Everyone Switching Away?

Learning to master email marketing is one of the most important things you can do as a small business owner. And a crucial part of making this happen is to invest in a great email service provider.

Many businesses have adopted MailChimp as their ESP of choice. And it’s especially prominent in the startup world.

But is there a good reason why it’s so popular?

I was curious to see what made MailChimp tick, so I decided to signup for a paid account and give it a spin.

MailChimp Review

Last updated: April 21, 2018
First Published on: May 21, 2016

tl;dr Summary
MailChimp’s free plan is a great way to get started with email marketing. But for marketers with advanced needs, there are many better alternatives out there.

What is MailChimp?

Started in 2001, MailChimp is one of the largest email service providers out there.

With its fun logo, easy to use interface, and forever free plan, MailChimp now has attracted more than 17 million customers and counting.

Plus, people love Mailchimp’s ability to create beautiful newsletters.

But as I dug deeper into MailChimp, I found that the service was lacking in many ways. They haven’t been innovating as rapidly as their competitors and many prominent bloggers and marketers were switching away from MailChimp to other services.

While it gives you the barebones essentials to do email marketing, it lacks many of the advanced features needed to really take your email marketing to the next level.

In this MailChimp review, I will first show you how the service works. And then follow with an in-depth comparison with other popular email service providers to show you how MailChimp stacks up.

Looking for the best email marketing service in 2018? Check out our in-depth look at 9 of the most popular email services out there.

How MailChimp Works

MailChimp is similar to most other email service providers you may have tried. It has all the tools you need to collect leads, create emails, and send them out.

Signup Forms

In MailChimp, you create Lists to group a set of subscribers.

So to get started with MailChimp, you’ll need to build some forms to get subscribers onto your Lists.

There are a few different ways to build signup forms in MailChimp.

First, you can build a form using MailChimp’s editor. Once completed, it will provide you with some code which you can embed in your website like in your sidebar or below a post. Or you can use the Subscriber popup option to create a popup style opt-in form.

The default MailChimp form builder is pretty average and the interface is a little clunky to me.

mailchimp-formbuilder

You can’t just click on an element to customize the design of it. Instead, you have to click on the separate Design It tab to do any styling customizations.

I do like how the form editor handles custom fields though. So adding things like checkboxes to your forms is very easy.

Instead of using the MailChimp form builder, I would highly recommend using something more specially tailored to collecting emails like Thrive Leads or LeadPages.

Both will let you design forms that better fit your brand, and they include better templates and advanced features like split testing that will help you get more signups.

Fortunately, MailChimp works very well with these two products, so there is not much need to work with the form editor.

Campaigns

A key concept of MailChimp are campaigns. This is where you will create the emails you want to send.

MailChimp provides a step by step wizard type workflow interface for setting up campaigns.

The first step is to pick your campaign type.

MailChimp Campaign Options

A regular campaign allows you to send HTML emails. Or you can just send a plaintext campaign that has no pictures or special formatting.

The next step is to pick which subscribers in your list to send to. You can, of course, send to your entire list or create a segment based on a set of conditions.

Some interesting segments you can create are:

  • Subscribers who have opened a specific campaign
  • Subscribers who have opened any of the last 5 campaigns
  • A subscriber has replied to a specific campaign
  • Subscribers have accomplished a specific goal

Segments can also be saved for future use.

The third step is to input your campaign info. This includes naming your campaign, your subject line, and whether you want to enable various tracking options. For example, you can track opens, clicks, e-commerce link tracking and more.

Once this is done, you need to create a template. Templates are MailChimp’s preset layouts you can use for the emails you send out. You can pick from one of MailChimp’s pre-made themed email templates or create your own.

mailchimp-themetemplates

MailChimp includes a fairly easy to use drag and drop email editor. The Components tab on the right-hand side allows you to drag various components like text blocks, images, buttons, videos into your emails. And you can re-arrange them as you please to achieve the design you want.

mailchimp-emailbuilder

To change the look of your template, switch to the design tab where you can set background colors, borders, and other style elements to make your emails pop. MailChimp also recently added web fonts which give you more ways to customize the look of your email.

Finally, the last step allows you to review all your campaign options and warn you of any problems in your campaign. If everything is all good you can choose to send this campaign immediately or schedule it to go out at a future time.

MailChimp Automation

Compared to its competitors, MailChimp has very simplistic automation capabilities. Instead of being able to build your own, MailChimp includes 15 pre-made automation workflows to pick from.

You can access these automations by creating a new email campaign and choosing the Automated tab.

One example is the Welcome new subscribers automation. If you pick this one, then you can select whether you want to send a single welcome message, a new user onboarding series or an education series.

Probably the most useful are the E-commerce automations like the abandoned cart email workflow. If you have an online store, using this automation will allow you to send follow up emails to potential customers who have added items to their shopping cart, but have yet to purchase.

Automations can be edited, although it’s kind of tedious and not very intuitive like other automation editors.

This is definitely the weakest part of MailChimp in my opinion.

MailChimp Pricing

MailChimp has a bunch of different pricing options. It can actually be a little confusing, so make sure to read the pricing page carefully before deciding.

For newbies, there’s the Forever Free plan which gives you up to 2,000 subscribers and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month.

mailchimp-pricing

The other option is a monthly subscription where you pay based on how many subscribers you have in your account. For example, between 0 and 500 subscribers you’d pay $10 a month. If you got up to 10,000 subscribers you’d pay $75 a month.

If you don’t like paying monthly, you can also Pay as you Go which is a payment option unique to MailChimp. This allows you to purchase credits and pay per email you send out. So if you wanted to buy 1,000 credits it would cost you $30 ($0.03/per email). The more credits you buy at a time, the less you end up paying per email.

Finally, there’s an add-on option called MailChimp Pro which is an additional $199 a month. This gives your account advanced features such as Advanced Segmentation, Comparative Reports, Multivariate Testing Campaigns, Compliance and Delivery Insights and Priority Support.

MailChimp: The Best Email Service Provider for Beginners | Smart Business Trends

MailChimp Alternatives

Should MailChimp be the email marketing platform you choose for your business?

As I was doing research for this review, I couldn’t help but compare it to several other email service providers we have already looked at on this site.

While MailChimp can handle all the email marketing basics, it still feels rather bare bones to me, when compared to services like ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, and Drip.

It doesn’t have some of the essential features I feel you really need to compete in the email marketing space now. Especially when it comes to its marketing automation capabilities.

Plus, MailChimp also does one thing I hate which is that they charge you for duplicate subscribers. There are many scenarios where you might end up having the same subscriber on multiple lists, and being double charged for them is a big negative in my opinion.

Let’s take a quick look at where else Mailchimp is lacking when compared to some of its competitors.

MailChimp vs ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign has been one of our top picks for awhile now because it can pretty much do it all without making a huge dent in your wallet.

Unlike Mailchimp’s rather inflexible, pre-made automation templates, ActiveCampaign offers an extremely nice visual automation editor that allows you to make simple or sophisticated workflows.

ActiveCampaign also supports tagging, which Mailchimp does not. Tagging makes list segmentation super simple, and combined with automations can make sure you are always sending out the most targeted emails to your list.

MailChimp does have a better email editor than ActiveCampaign, but other than that it can’t really compare. Price wise, ActiveCampaign is even a bit cheaper, especially as your lists get bigger and you get a full 14-day free trial to test it out.

David Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers wrote a very informative post detailing why he switched from Mailchimp to ActiveCampaign.

MailChimp vs ConvertKit

ConvertKit is one of the up and coming email service providers and has really skyrocketed in popularity since Pat Flynn moved to the platform.

What makes ConvertKit stand out is that it manages to be simple, yet still quite powerful. While its automation capabilities aren’t quite as dynamic as ActiveCampaign’s, it still handles many of the most important use cases most people would need. And it has a much lower learning curve.

What I like about ConvertKit compared to MailChimp is the flexibility that it gives you.

MailChimp limits you to 1 form per list. So if you want to have multiple content upgrades on your site, you will need to create a new MailChimp list for each content upgrade you make. With ConvertKit, there is no such issue since you can use multiple forms and segment based on tags.

ConvertKit forms are much more customizable and come with lots more options than MailChimp’s. ConvertKit allows you to create inline, modal, and slide in forms. And you can trigger them on exit intent, scroll percentage or via 2-step opt-in as well.

The main upside Mailchimp has over ConvertKit is the price. ConvertKit doesn’t have a free plan, and it is relatively more expensive at most of its pricing tiers.

I liked this post by Donnie Lawson from Just A Girl and Her Blog, detailing why they switched from Mailchimp to ConvertKit.

MailChimp vs Drip

Drip another email service provider that is getting a lot of traction lately. Especially since it was bought by LeadPages.

Drip has a very powerful visual automation editor, which is very comparable to ActiveCampaign. It has both tags and lead scoring built in which makes for a very powerful combination.

Mailchimp’s lack of flexibility in its automation offering stands in stark contrast to Drip’s.

What has drawn many customers to MailChimp in the past is it’s forever free plan. However, Drip has its own Starter plan which is completely Free for under 100 subscribers.

What’s great about this free plan is that it’s not limited at all, so you can thoroughly try it out to see if it will work for you.

Drip is comparatively more expensive than MailChimp for most pricing tiers, however. So it may not work for those of you on a budget.

Richard Patey wrote a great post about why he switched from Mailchimp to Drip.

Final Thoughts

MailChimp by itself is certainly a solid email service provider. It provides all the basics you need to add email marketing to your business. And if you’re new to the email marketing game, it’s Forever free plan does make a compelling argument for you to try it.

Its email template builder is quite good, and it also integrates with a ton of other products and services since it is so popular.

However, if you compare its advanced features to other email service providers out there, MailChimp is looking a little long in the tooth.

Especially when you look at the marketing automation side of things. Without support for tagging and some sort of visual editor, it really lags behind the pack when you compare it to the competition.

That’s why so many prominent bloggers and marketers are switching away from MailChimp and using other services.

If you don’t want to be stuck with MailChimp, check out our post on the best email marketing software to find a more viable MailChimp alternative instead.

Start Sending Emails with MailChimp Today

MailChimp Pros

  • Clean, fairly intuitive interface.
  • Integrates with most 3rd party apps and services.
  • Very nice e-commerce support.
  • Very good A/B split testing support for broadcast emails.
  • Well designed email templates.
  • Solid reporting.
  • Generous, though limited Free plan for under 2500 subscribers.

MailChimp Cons

  • Very list-centric which limits flexibility.
  • No support for tags.
  • Unable to create complex marketing automations.
  • Really can’t use for live events like webinars.
  • Charged for duplicate subscribers.
  • Average form builder.
  • Non-existent community.
  • Bhavesh says:

    HI,

    I have tried both Mailchimp and getresponse for my email marketing. I personally like getresponse. Mailchimp is also good tool.

  • chandana says:

    hello,
    mailchimp does have a few unbeatable features.Specially the templates. But i personally feel that it is a little costly for beginners or intermediate businesses. i feel that other tools like Easysendy Pro would be much more cost efficient.

  • X MailChimp User says:

    Avoid MailChimp at all costs – You will waste a lot of time and they constantly search for reasons to block your account. They are great at accepting your money though. I’d strongly recommend looking elsewhere.

  • Unhappy custmer says:

    I’ve been a customer of Mailchimp’s for many years and can’t wait to get away from them. I cant get access for my account (authenticator code is broken) and the team at Mailchimp won’t allow me back in until I give them answers that are only accessible via logging into my account!! I send a weekly newsletter that people expect and my clients pay for and I cant log in!
    Seriously, just move on these guys don’t appear, in my opinion, to care about the damage they do to people’s businesses, but, as the comment outlines above, are really happy to keep taking your money!

    • Kinley McFadden says:

      Sorry to hear your bad experiences about Mailchimp. Is there a reason why you haven’t switched to another service yet?

  • ryan says:

    I recently had my MailChimp account suspended. One of my sites is in the ‘make money online’ space. It’s a completely legitimate website, but apparently if your emails contain keywords they don’t like, they will suspend you. I would not recommend using them. Contacting support I just get form responses that are completely unhelpful.

  • Abhinav Bhardwaj says:

    I too had got my mailchimp account suspended. They have too tight policies for startups with their omnivore system. Automated system of mailchimp does not give any space to learning curve for Entrepreneurs.

    So if you are new entrepreneur and new to email marketing, Stay away from mailchimp. They have too tight policies and don’t accept exception and mistakes from Human Beings for maintaining good delivery which is fair enough.

    In my case another interesting part is Stage of blocking. When i approached mail chimp for purchasing paid version and shared my situation myself, they blocked my account which i was running. “So if you are using if for free, keep using it don’t go for paid version”. 😉

  • Madilyn says:

    Interesting summary, I’ve also switched. I don’t see https://www.getresponse.com mentioned in the alternatives. I’ve been testing for some time now, and so far, it seems quite good. Anyone else have any experience?

  • Art Anderson says:

    These are comments directed only at the Contact management features. I inherited a MailChimp account to manage as part of other marketing tasks for a client. Immediately I was hitting barriers to getting an efficient list of contacts that had useful information and in a familiar database or CRM arrangement.

    MailChimp introduces some cute terminology that does almost the same things as a database but with much less flexibility. You’ll have to dumb down and do things the MailChimp way. They’ve gone out of their way to try and make this more friendly, I guess. But in the end it’s limiting.

  • Terre says:

    Thanks so very much for your help, Kinley. I’ve been on your site for a couple of hours and can’t seem to click away. (smiles) You’ve assembled some really valuable and useful content here.

    Don’t mean to be picky, but I think that in the MAIL CHIMP PROS section — 2nd Bullet Point — you might’ve meant to place the word “party” inbetween “3rd” and “apps”.

    Glad I found you, via Google, doing a search for ActiveCampaign reviews — Take care!

  • Fantastic post, Kinley.

    I was looking to understand the challenges people find with MailChimp and this certainly delivered.

    MailChimp is a good product and has captured a significant market share but there are definitely much more powerful and cost-effective options for specific scenarios, such as when it comes to lead generation tools.

    Keep up the great work!

  • DimuDesigns says:

    Some of those cons can be mitigated by following best practice (for example; using a single, heavily segmented, master list instead of multiple lists; thereby avoiding charges for duplicate subs) and effectively leveraging Mailchimp’s APIs (for example, to get around the one-form-per-list limit as well as using groups to simulate tagging and a multitude of other features).

    Mailchimp offers a fair deal more than most realize but a lot of that power is locked behind its REST-based APIs and most marketers don’t have the technical background (or the budget to hire the talent) required to take full advantage of it.

  • V says:

    DO NOT USE FOR ECOM SITES. Mailchimp only works for transactional emails if the order is fully shipped in 24 hours. What a fail, wasted a week getting this setup to find this critical flaw. Support is pretty useless other than identifying that there system does not work for ecom…

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