Today we are going to answer the question: is MailChimp the ultimate free email newsletter provider? If you Google the sentence ‘email newsletter provider’, you’ll find MailChimp at the top of the list. As one of the most popular names in the email industry, is it worth your time or should you avoid it at all costs?
MailChimp can be overwhelming and can be used for more than simply sending out pretty newsletters. It includes many available features that go beyond email marketing, from landing pages, to form building, simple website design, and social media advertising.
Before you know it, you could go from having zero internet presence to running a website to capture emails, an email subscription newsletter, and a landing page to sell your products and services.
In this article, we’re going to be covering every aspect of Mailchimp. We’ll explore many of the common features that you expect from an email marketing provider, whilst we’ll review its different price plans, the dashboard, email editing, and newsletter creation.
We’ll also review how automation works and how it can help grow your business, plus much more.
There are four levels to choose from, ranging from free options to premium.
The task is to pick the right level for your size of business. If you’ve only just set up shop and have yet to market your products or services, you won’t need all the fancy stuff, before making some profit.
This is why the Free option is a great choice for beginner business owners. Even though it’s free, there are many features that you would expect from a paid service.
For example, you can send a maximum of 10,000 emails per month and have up to 2,000 contacts in their database, along with a CRM, or customer relationship management tool to help organize your contacts.
Also included with the free option is the email builder for personalizing your emails, and the option to create forms and landing pages that can be launched to deliver sales and opt-ins. You also get a creative assistant that offers different content options for promotions, as well as a website builder and MailChimp domain.
The Essentials option is the next plan and comes with 500 contacts. You also get more email templates, an automation tool to help with a multi-step sales process, custom branding, A/B split testing, and 24/7 chat support just in case you get stuck and need assistance.
The Standard and Premium options come with extra features, more custom templates, extra support, and targeting options. We think that by the time you reach this level you will probably move away from MailChimp, as the premium plans are not as good as some other competitors on the market.
As mentioned, we would advise starting with the free option so you can trial MailChimp to see if you get on with it. You can always upgrade later if you are liking the features and find it easy to navigate.
If you’re an established business and have built up a decent email following, there’s a handy scale you can use to determine how much their plans are, depending on how many contacts you have accumulated. As your following grows, you can upgrade packages that unlock more powerful options at that tier level.
The last option is to purchase credits and effectively ‘pay-per-email.’ This option is ideal if you have a low amount of followers or do not send out regular emails.
MailChimp can be integrated into several different options. If you run an eCommerce store, you can connect to your store to unlock more features to help you sell more items, or give more analytics. Or perhaps you are active on several social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which MailChimp is compatible with.
It’s also handy if you run a website on hosts such as Squarespace and WordPress which are also compatible with MailChimp.
There are options to use payment gateways, too. Taking payments from customers is even easier, as providers like Stripe, one of the industry leaders, can be connected to your MailChimp account.
There’s also good news for mobile users. MailChimp offers mobile apps for iOS and Android owners, so you can create campaigns and manage customers from a mobile device. Very handy if you’re away from the office and need to send an email to your list.
The dashboard is as user-friendly as it gets. It will prompt you to import existing contacts or create a form that can be added to your website so that you can begin to capture email addresses for your business.
From here. you can create emails and begin automations so that emails are sent out automatically as soon as a new subscriber signs up.
The sidebar is not complicated, and it features tabs for all your contacts, signup forms, surveys, and tags. You can also respond to emails you receive through your email newsletters, in case a customer has emailed you with questions or queries. This is a great feature as you won’t have to worry about using an external email to answer questions.
One of the most important parts of the dashboard is the contacts tab. If you have a list of contacts that need importing to their database, the process is relatively simple and you shouldn’t have much trouble adding contacts.
If you don’t have any contacts yet, the form builder allows you to create a signup form to be integrated into a webpage. From here, you add fields such as First Name, Last Name, Email Address, and Phone Number. The builder is very basic.
It will do the job if you’re looking for something simple to get out onto the internet, but you won’t get that much sophistication and won’t win any design awards.
There are several options available for creating your first email campaign. Depending on your preferred style, email newsletters are fully customizable.
The good news is that if you’re not a creative type, there are plenty of templates to choose from and you won’t have to start from scratch if you choose one of the templates. There are plenty of layouts, and you’ll be limited to a few if you choose the free plan.
If we’re being honest, most of the templates don’t look very good and other providers like GetResponse have much better template options to choose from. They almost look a bit cartoonish to us and not very professional, unless of course, that’s the style you are going for!
In terms of using the editor, it can take a bit of getting used to and the editing options are not the easiest to use. You drag and drop different elements and place them in your preferred format, such as text, video, and image.
The email preview tool is very well executed, and a much-needed feature for one very important reason; you can view how the email would look on many different systems used today.
Customers that view emails on their phone can be catered to, and often many business owners forget this, only designing an email that would look good for desktop and tablet users. If an email looks terrible on a phone, you might end up losing a lot of sales.
Another nice tool is that you can check that all of the links you have added to the email are working correctly. There’s nothing worse than sending out a dead or broken link to your subscribers.
Once you’ve completed the email, there are a couple of options. You can send out the email immediately, schedule a post, and you can add a social post to your campaign if Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are connected to your account.
Something to bear in mind with the Free account is you will have a MailChimp logo stamped to the bottom of every email, which can look unprofessional. The only way around this is by upgrading to one of the paid packages.
If you’ve ever used a/b split testing in your business, you’ll love this feature MailChimp has offered. Rather than only testing one variable of an email, you can test multiple elements, such as headlines, send times, and content.
The only thing to bear in mind is this feature is pretty useless at low subscriber levels, and will only really be effective with a large sample size. We recommend only using this feature if you have well over 1,000 subscribers. More than 2,000 is even better.
With any email marketing provider, expect it to come with a reporting feature that provides you with all of the important information regarding your sent campaigns and automation. Without them, you’ll have no idea how many of your contacts are opening your emails and clicking the links.
The usual reports are found with MailChimp reporting, including open rates and click rates. With the paid plans, you’ll get more advanced reporting options not available with the free package.
You can also select individual contacts and generate an activity report to determine how to behave and the content they like to engage with. You’ll be able to see which emails they’ve looked at, also when they opened them and if they clicked any links when reading the emails.
The report function is pretty straightforward and we found it to be easy to view. A nice feature is that it also shows the industry standard for such metrics as open rate and click rate, so you can compare your stats to the rest of the industry. This was quite motivating, and we were always pushing ourselves to beat the industry average.
You’ll also be able to locate where the majority of your subscribers are geographically located, with the top locations tool. This is a really handy feature and will be useful for the Facebook Ads feature we’ll review in just a second.
The only downside is that hard and soft bounces are not separated and get grouped together. A hard bounce is when an email you’ve captured doesn’t exist, and a soft bounce happens because of a temporary issue and does not necessarily mean the contact is redundant.
This allows you to map out the journey your customer goes on when subscribing to a newsletter or sign-ups to a landing page. You can choose what you want them to do after that by tagging the prospect and adding them to certain lists, depending on whether they clicked through on one of your links embedded in your email newsletter.
If you have contact information such as birthdays, you can even send out birthday vouchers and direct the customer to a special discount funnel.
This is a powerful feature that any established business will incorporate into their marketing and sales funnel, and MailChimp’s is very user-friendly and is not complicated to try. The only downside is that it’s not very pretty on the eyes, and is hard to create dependencies between automatic emails.
However, the automation features so fall-short of many other competitive brands. Other email automation tools such as ActiveCampaign are much clearer and offer a better visual roadmap for automation.
The segmentation feature is also not very powerful and is lacking for what should be one of its core functions as an email marketing provider. This is where you can create different segments of your audience and funnel who did or didn’t open certain emails or clicked certain links, or who clicked an email and left without clicking any hyperlinks.
Facebook Ads Campaign
With pay-per-click advertising becoming more popular, MailChimp now has the option to help you reach a wider audience, using the Facebook Ad Campaign feature. You’ll have the chance to create and purchase ads for Facebook and Instagram through your MailChimp account, so you won’t need to log into any of your social media accounts to do this.
This is a nice addition for new businesses wanting to reach a wider audience who have some disposable cash. When compared to Facebook’s native Business Manager interface, this is definitely the ‘diet’ version, so expect a simple set of instructions rather than the sophisticated tools and analytics you’ll get with Facebook Ad Manager.
Using your list of contacts, you can choose to target people through ads, as well as find similar audiences to your most engaged customers to drive up sales. You can also use your reports and target certain geographic locations, depending on where your audience lives.
This is where Mailchimp falls down, in our opinion. First off, it will depend on the plan you use, whether you receive support or not. The Free package does not provide any support, so don’t expect to get any with this.
With that said, when you move up to the paid packages, you either get 24/7 email and chat support or phone support which is with the Premium package.
We generally found their customer service and chat support to be slow and not very useful. We have also read many reviews that show the customer support option is not very well managed, and you could be waiting a long time using their chat support, as phone support is behind the premium paywall.
This can be very frustrating; especially if you have put a lot of time into building a website using their services and for some reason, it doesn’t work which a lot of customers have reported.
MailChimp is a strong and reliable newsletter tool for small to medium size business owners. Generally speaking, it is user-friendly and the drag-and-drop email editor is a simple to pick up design.
The freemium package is the perfect companion for a beginner email marketer. If you’re in the early stages of growing your email list, you’ll probably never run out of emails as the free option gives you 10,000 emails per month, and will give you plenty to get you started.
It’s a great all-in-one tool. You can create landing pages, a website and form for capturing emails, automation to take your customers on a journey, and drip campaigns, with the bonus of responding to customer emails without having to use an external email address.
If integration is one of the features you require, MailChimp will offer hundreds of different options and is ideal for Squarespace and WordPress websites.
The standout feature in our opinion is the Facebook Ads Campaign option and email reporting. Two very useful tools to help you gather information on your target market, and to then re-target them with ads for business growth.
By far the biggest letdown was the support, and we expected better from MailChimp. Although the knowledge base was very well put together for free users, this won’t be helpful to a lot of beginners and the live chat was sometimes unreachable. Support needs to be improved if MailChimp wants to maintain integrity in its brand.
One other thing we didn’t get on with was the automation tool which was hard to grasp, and if you are moving toward a large number of subscribers we recommend you look elsewhere, as there are other providers that offer more intuitive automation and email editors.
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