Surge Review: Email Marketing with Mailchimp

UPDATED 24 JANUARY 2018

Stuart Goulden

@StuGoulden

There’s every chance Mailchimp powers how you hear from your favourite people, publications and stores on the web. Sending more than a billion emails a day it’s the world’s favourite newsletter and marketing automation service by some way.

  • Rating 9/10
  • Price FREE+
SIGN UP
  • LOVED
  • Free for first 2000 users. Unrivalled integration.
  • Beautiful templates. Super easy to use.
  • LOATHED
  • Not a lot. Underserves certain niches.
  • Costly over 50,000 subscribers.

What is MailChimp?

Mailchimp.com is a free newsletter service and marketing campaign software that powers millions of businesses around the world.

Mailchimp’s in-built tools help you to design beautiful newsletters without the need to ever write a line of code or hire a designer, send them to finely-tuned segments, trigger clever automations and track your results. Guided by Freddie the helpful chimp, MailChimp can genuinely be described as a joy to use. And thanks to their freemium pricing model, your subscription fees start at zero and grow with your business. But it’s not for everyone…

We look under the hood to talk you through the pros and cons of MailChimp, including when it’s likely to be right for you and when you might want to consider an alternative.


Features.

Templates galore

MailChimp has an incredible selection of responsive templates to choose from. We counted 87 at the time of this review. Thanks to MailChimp’s intuitive drag-and-drop editor and live previewer you’ll find their flexible templates easy to adapt.

Segment and grow

Importing your existing database is quick and easy. From there you can segment new subscribers according your given criteria and watch your list grow and clean itself as people sign up, unsubscribe, and update their profiles.

Super-smart automation

Let MailChimp take care of repetitive tasks and get your marketing working for you 24/7. Welcome new subscribers, follow-up on orders and abandoned carts, and find look-alike customers.

Integration

Life is easier when your services work together. MailChimp’s popularity means it can be hooked up to almost all the big apps and web services, including Shopify, WordPress, Squarespace, Salesforce and G Suite.

Landing Pages

A clear call to action makes it as easy as possible for people to do what you want them to do. MailChimp Landing Pages focus customer attention on the goal of your campaign - and nothing else - dramatically boosting results.

Targeted ad campaigns

Take the guesswork out of social advertising. MailChimp crunches your data to help you find your best customers on Facebook or Instagram, convert any non-buying subscribers, and reach similar audiences at scale.

Helpful analytics

We find the analytics available after a campaign highly addictive. See who opened, clicked and bought from your emails, and compare your stats to industry averages. Also discover unsubscriber reasons.

A/B Testing

Optimise your newsletter with MailChimp’s A/B testing feature. Available for free in every plan, it allows you to run three variations on each test and then automatically send the winning one to the rest of your list.

Freemium service

MailChimp is perfectly priced for start-ups. The generous forever free plan runs until 2,000 subscribers. Above free, you pay a subscription fee for features and then more as you reach subscriber thresholds.


Things to consider.

Grows with you

If you’re a young start-up, your email marketing needn’t cost you a dime. MailChimp’s Forever Free plan gets you access to all the core features from the get-go. It’s in their interests for you to grow your subscriber numbers so they provide the tools for you to do so, such as beautiful templates, landing pages and targeted ad campaigns. Welcome emails and autoresponder series are now included too.

Marketing wizards

A lot of marketers are likely to quickly outlive the Free plan. Enterprise level features can be accessed for a $199 monthly subscription on top of your database size. This gets you: transactional emails; advanced segmentation; multivariate testing; automatic timezone scheduling; advanced analytics; email activity synced with your database via MailChimp API 3.0; and more!

Minimalist option

MailChimp’s stripped-down email marketing service, TinyLetter, has been shut down. It was made for people who wish to send regular updates or digests at speed, without the accompanying advanced reporting or features. It’ll be sorely missed, but Buttondown and Revue more than fill the gap.

Most trusted

Our inboxes are sacred. MailChimp respects that and their anti-spam practices and great sending reputation translate to the best deliverability rates in the business. However not everyone can benefit. Excluded senders include gambling services, affiliate marketers, make money online opportunities and dating services. And if you ever hit send by accident, MailChimp Pro’s stop delivery feature will help to avert a crisis.

Inbuilt design

Thanks to MailChimp’s intuitive drag-and-drop editor and live previewer you’ll find their flexible templates easy to customise and you can see your new design take shape immediately.

Customisation costs

Not money but time. Most basic MailChimp features are incredibly intuitive, but not all. Changing fonts on default signup forms can be tricky and providers such as ConvertKit have the edge when it comes to setting up multiple automated series, for example. Thankfully MailChimp’s popularity means there are lots of helpful guides out there if you do get stuck. Good job too as official support isn’t round-the-clock.

Self-funded

MailChimp has never taken a dime in outside funding. Why is this important? Their success is due to the fact it’s a service people love and are willing to pay for. In return, MailChimp opt to keep their prices low and invest in new features, and are generous in their sponsorship of indie publications and podcasts. Our kind of company.


MailChimp pricing.

New Business

Forever
free-
  • Up to 2,000 Subscribers
  • 12,000 Emails per Month
  • 30-day Customer Support
  • Landing Pages
  • Pop-up Forms
  • Social Ads
  • Marketing Automation
  • Welcome Emails
  • Segmentation and Tagging
  • A/B Testing

Growing Business

Starting at
$10per month
  • Unlimited Subscribers
  • Unlimited Emails per Month
  • Remove Mailchimp branding
  • Customer Support
  • Landing Pages
  • Pop-up Forms
  • Social Ads
  • Marketing Automation
  • Welcome Emails
  • Segmentation and Tagging
  • A/B Testing
  • Send Time Optimisation

Pro Marketer

Starting at
$199per month
  • Unlimited Subscribers
  • Unlimited Emails per Month
  • Remove Mailchimp branding
  • Premium Support
  • Landing Pages
  • Pop-up Forms
  • Social Ads
  • Marketing Automation
  • Welcome Emails
  • Segmentation and Tagging
  • A/B Testing
  • Send Time Optimisation
  • Advanced Segmentation
  • Comparative Reports
  • Multivariate Testing

MailChimp’s pricing plans are triggered automatically, meaning you progress through pricing plans as your subscriber numbers grow.


Verdict.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll struggle to find a better free newsletter service than MailChimp. With its gorgeous templates, intuitive drag-and-drop editor and generous freemium model, you’ll be sending professional-looking newsletters in no time. The convenience and powerful automation presented by its integration with other services cannot be underestimated also.

Being the best all-rounder does involve certain sacrifices. Some niches may find themselves prohibited from using the service altogether, whilst professional bloggers and course-sellers may find dedicated providers have better tools for the job.

Finally, you will either love or hate MailChimp’s pricing. It’s free or extremely cost effective for most small businesses, who are likely to be sending a high volume of emails to a small amount of users. However as you scale up towards 50,000+ subscribers and beyond, MailChimp’s pricing does get less competitive. Moving through MailChimp’s pricing plans is automatic so you’ll want to keep an eye on your plan and should the time ever come to leave you’ll find their migration process as straightforward as importing them was in the first place.

MAILCHIMP.COM

Founder of future-led marketing agency and start-up studio, Like No Other.