Mailchimp has been slowly moving to transform into a broad marketing platform, not just an email provider. Over the past few years new features have hinted at this shift. Mailchimp users may remember seeing the option to create Facebook and Google ads as well as landing pages inside Mailchimp.
What happened with Mailchimp?
On May 13, 2019, Mailchimp formally announced their plan, and some big changes quickly followed. The reaction to these changes has been big, and, if you are on Twitter, you probably noticed all the chatter. In this article we are going to going to explain what’s changed and for who.
We’ll also focus on solutions to potential problems, and provide workarounds to help users adapt to the changes.
Change can be hard for us humans. And it is natural to have an emotional reaction to it, particularly when it is a surprise. If you are impacted by the Mailchimp changes, hopefully this post will highlight how they may impact you and help you decide on a practical course of action or inaction (sans the emotional whiplash).
How do I know what Mailchimp changed for me?
Not all users are impacted by the Mailchimp changes, and different users will experience varying degrees of change. In this section we’ll define four buckets of users, so you can easily focus on what matters to you.
Once you determine which type of Mailchimp user you are, or might be in the future, click the headers below to jump to a section to learn what’s changed for you, and what you can do to turn this into a positive.
I’m a Legacy Free Plan User
You are a legacy free plan user if you had a free account with Mailchimp before May 15, 2019.
I’m a Legacy Monthly User
You are a legacy monthly user if you were on a Mailchimp monthly plan (paid a bill every month) before May 15, 2019.
I’m a Legacy Pay As You Go User
You are a legacy pay as you go user if you paid Mailchimp on a per-send basis and have credits you purchased before May 15, 2019.
I don’t currently use Mailchimp
If you don’t have a Mailchimp account but are considering signing up, this section is for you.
Read through the whole post or click above to skip the section most relevant to you. You can also read Mailchimp’s explanation of legacy plans here.
What’s Changed for Legacy Free Plan Users
The Big Change: Audiences
We’ll start with the biggest change. Before Mailchimps’ announcement, the Legacy Free Plan allowed users to have an email list of up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 10,000 emails per month, for free.
In the new world, Mailchimp still offers a free plan, however the 2,000 limit counts everyone in your “audience”, whereas previously the 2,000 limit counted only users who were subscribed to your list. “Audience” is defined as everyone in your Mailchimp account – both subscribers and users who have unsubscribed. This means that the 2,000 limit will now be calculated by adding subscribers and unsubs together.
For example, under the old free plan, if you had 1,800 subscribers and 600 unsubscribed users, you could use Mailchimp free of charge. Under the new rules you would have to upgrade to a paid plan as the cumulative total of your subscribers and unsubs would be 2,400 (1,800 subscribers + 600 unsubscribed users). Your audience of 2,400 now exceeds the free limit of 2,000. Cleaned or archived contacts do not count toward your audience limit.
Starting on June 18th, 2019, all free plan users will be subject to this change, no matter when you signed up for Mailchimp. If your audience is over 2,000 users, a hold will be placed on your account (you won’t be able to send any emails), until you reduce your audience size or upgrade your plan.
What was Mailchimp thinking?
There’s been a lot of reaction to this change, and it’s easy to get caught up in the outrage. Instead, let’s evaluate why this change was made, and whether you need to do anything about it.
Since Mailchimp is focused on becoming a full-service marketing platform capable of running ads on various platforms and creating websites, the definition of “audience” makes sense from their perspective.
When someone unsubscribes from your list, you can no longer send them emails. However, you are still able to reach this member of your “audience” in other ways. Specifically, you can still reach these users by marketing to them on Facebook or by sending them something in the mail. Both the Facebook Ads integration and Postcards are marketing tools that Mailchimp has rolled out recently. Mailchimp is moving from being an email marketing platform to a full-service marketing platform, so they are also moving away from email based terminology and pricing. That’s why they have made this change.
We can debate the merits of their business strategy all day long. Are they better off focusing on being the best email service provider out there (their old business strategy)? Or are they better off becoming a full-service marketing platform (their current strategy)? We have our opinions, as I’m sure do you. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what we think. Mailchimp has decided on the latter strategy, and your focus needs to be on how that impacts you.
What should you do if you’re a Legacy Free Plan User?
The answer depends on your current audience size and growth projections.
If you don’t have 2,000 users in your audience:
There’s nothing to be done immediately but you should evaluate how fast your list is growing and if Mailchimp’s paid plans would work for you. If you anticipate that your list will grow quickly and you are not comfortable with Mailchimp’s paid pricing tiers, it might be time to look for an alternative.
If you audience total is over 2,000:
You can start by calculating whether deleting your unsubscribed users would drop you below the 2,000 audience threshold. If so, export them as a CSV and save them to your computer. These users may be valuable in the future if you decide to embark on other marketing activities, so you want to make sure to keep a copy of this file.
After you have saved your unsubscribed users to your computer, you can delete them from Mailchimp, and get below that 2,000 threshold.
Next, you will want to evaluate how quickly your list is growing, and what your projected monthly cost would be in the coming months as you pass the 2,000 user audience threshold. Then you’ll need to decide if you want to stick with Mailchimp on a paid plan or move to another email service provider (ESP).
Other changes to the free plan
Mailchimp says here that legacy free users will still have access to the free features they already use, but some features, like adding audiences to your account, will be “limited.”
What “limited” means we don’t know exactly, but there are some clear changes. One is that new users, or users with fewer than three audiences or lists in their account, will only be able to create up to three. If you are an existing user with more than three audiences, it appears that you will be able to keep your audiences over the limit of three. But, you won’t be able to create any more.
Free users will also no longer be able to create multi-step automations. Automated welcome emails will still be available though. And, to our knowledge, existing multi-step automations will not be impacted.
The free plan will also be limited to one user who can login to the account. At this time, it appears that free accounts with multiple users won’t have users removed forcefully, but if you have more than one users and remove one, you won’t be able to add them back.
If you are a free user and see something change, please let us know.
If the new audience calculation isn’t an issue for you and you don’t need to set up a new automation, it’s probably worth sticking with Mailchimp for now. Switching providers could be a waste of energy, and you can always do it later if need be.
What’s Changed for Legacy Monthly Plan Users
Good news here. Nothing has changed! In fact, Mailchimp doesn’t even allow legacy monthly users to switch to their new monthly plans at this time.
If you want to stop paying for your legacy monthly plan, you can switch to the new free plan. After you change to the free plan, you will have 90 days to re-upgrade to your old legacy pricing. If you don’t re-upgrade in 90 days, legacy pricing will no longer be available to you.
It appears that you will only be able to do this once, so no repeatedly re-upping for one month and then cancelling to keep your legacy pricing.
Are things going to change?
There’s been a lot of speculation and outrage over what Mailchimp has done this month, and a lot of assumptions are being made. Things may change in the future, but, at this time, we don’t know of any plans to switch things up.
Until Mailchimp says something is going to change, or you see something change, there’s no need to react.
Setting up a new email system is time consuming, and without a concrete reason to do so, it just doesn’t make sense.
Plus, if you are looking to expand your online book marketing efforts, Mailchimp could be rolling out some cool features in the future. They were long considered a fantastic email provider for authors and small businesses. Who is to say that they can’t do the same with online marketing?
What’s Changed for Legacy Pay As You Go Users
This depends on if you have any credits from before Mailchimp announced their changes.
If you have credits that were purchased before May 15, 2019:
- You are still able to use these credits to access the same features as the legacy monthly plan.
- Written Word Media has confirmed with Mailchimp that these credits will expire on May 15th, 2020.
- If you have a large batch of Legacy Pay As You Go Credits, Mailchimp says users have the option to exchange credits toward a monthly plan. We recommend reaching out to them if you don’t think you will use your credits before May 15th, 2020.
If you purchase credits after May 15th 2019:
- These credits will expire 12 months after your purchase date
- You can only use your credits towards features within the new Essentials plan. Effectively this means you have access to: all email templates, 1-click automations, A/B testing and customer support.
- You cannot use your credits for premium features such as automation series, retargeting ads, custom templates, advanced segmentation or advanced audience insights.
What’s Changed for Authors Considering Using Mailchimp
The big change is that a lot of information on Mailchimp will now be outdated. If you’re reading reviews on Mailchimp to decide if you want to sign up, make sure to check the publish date to ensure the information is accurate.
If you read something and don’t see it in Mailchimp’s documentation, try to find it from another source, or contact Mailchimp on social media to clear things up.
As you are deciding on which service to use, you will have to take a longer view on your marketing strategy so you know whether you are looking for a pure-play email service provider or a more holistic marketing solution. Below we list some pure play ESPs, but Mailchimp is still a good option if you plan to deploy a marketing strategy that incorporates other channels in addition to email.
If you are just getting started with email marketing or are looking for more information on how to sell more books with email, check out our guide to email marketing for authors.
Overview of the Mailchimp controversy
Mailchimp users are mad, and it’s understandable. The changes to the free plan are significant for a lot of users, and if it means you have to start paying and/ or switch providers it’s just bad news.
However, a lot of users aren’t going to see any negative impact from the Mailchimp changes. It’s important to evaluate what’s actually going to change for you, instead of jumping to doomsday scenarios.
Mailchimp is a big email provider, and that alone comes with perks like integrations with Facebook and WordPress signup forms. Make sure you take the time to review everything you get and use from your email provider when considering a change.
Take a breath, see how you are impacted, and make a decision.
Alternatives to Mailchimp
Whether you are looking to switch right now or just want to know your options if the day comes, here are some alternatives to MailChimp.
In the first grid, we’ve listed each option’s cheapest plan and it’s features. In the second grid, we’ve listed costs by email list size. If you see your list growing quickly, make sure to look at how pricing could look for you in the future.
Lowest Price Plan with Features
|Provider||Cheapest Plan||Subscribers||Email Sends||Automation||A/B testing|
|Convert Kit||$29/m (14 day free trial)||1,000||Unlimited||Yes||Yes|
|Send In Blue||Free||Unlimited||300/ day||For up to 2,000 contacts||Yes|
|Active Campaign||$108/ year||500||Unlimited||Yes||Yes|
|Mailchimp||Free||2,000 (Subs and unsubs)||10,000||Single Step||No|
Cost of Service by Email List Size
|Provider||2,500 Users||3,000 Users||5,000 Users||10,000 Users|
|Send In Blue||Pricing is based on the number of emails sent instead of the list size.|
|Mailchimp (Standard Plan)||$49.99/m||$74.99/m||$74.99/m||$99/m|
MailerLite is a nice option when considering cost and features. If you are new to setting up an email list or don’t have many subscribers, MailerLite or Mailchimp will likely be your best option.
ConvertKit is a great fit for those of you that are ready to really dive in to email marketing. It has all the basic features you would expect but also includes a fantastic automation tool. Using their visual automation builder, you can create complex automation flows based on the actions a user takes. It is more expensive than other options, so this is likely a better fit for authors with large lists and established success with email marketing.
Send In Blue
Send In Blue, like Mailchimp, has moved to focus on being a marketing platform and CRM (customer relationship manager) instead of just an email provider. Depending on the plan, they offer text-message sending, Facebooks ads, landing pages and customer tracking. We think these features are likely overkill for most authors, but if the new marketing features on Mailchimp interest you, it’s good to have a look at what else it out there.
Active Campaign, like ConvertKit, is a more advanced platform that offers a robust feature set. Advanced segmentation and automation make this a good fit for those who have large lists and complex automation needs.
MailerLite or Mailchimp will likely be the best options for most authors, but everyone is different. Nick Stephenson has some more thoughts on Mailchimp and other email providers on his blog if you are looking for a bit more context.
Were you impacted by the Mailchimp changes? How are you dealing with them? Let us know in the comments!
12 comments on “MailChimp Changes: Everything Authors Need to Know”
Thanks for sharing. Very helpful!
We have 1.7 million pre-purchased credits remaining that we picked up because Mailchimp said that they wouldn’t expire and we thought that would take care of our needs for a couple of years. Now they’ll be gone in a year. That’s bad business and probably violates some part of the UCC. Anyways, there’s nothing MailChimp can do to keep us as customers at this point short of honoring their original agreement and even then this has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
I understand that Brian. I would recommend reaching out to them if you haven’t already. It’s quite frustrating that they don’t intent to honor their agreement with customers who bought credits without an expiration date.
Great and thorough review.
Wishing we’d set up our planned automation before the changes kicked in. We’ve got one in place but had another mapped out.
That’s the big impact for us, otherwise I think their audience calculation is fair and I was expecting to pay when we hit 2000 anyway
We use Mailchimp and have the monthly plan so not much has changed. We did do a test try of another provider and it made us realize how much we get from Mailchimp. First and foremost, it is easy! This matters to a lot of authors. We will be sharing your info with out authors so they can make the right decisions.
You’re welcome! That’s a great point. Ease of use is a huge factor, and sometimes it just comes down to what you are familiar with.
Thanks for your comment, David. All valid points. We too have concerns that Mailchimp may roll out the pricing changes to legacy monthly users in the future. But we think that, even in that eventuality, users will get advance notice. What we want to highlight to authors on the monthly legacy plans is that they do have time to evaluate different options and decide what’s best for them. If they device to switch they can do it on a schedule that works for them. Waiting also give authors the added bonus of following and learning from people like you, who are making the switch and sharing your experience.
I think this is the advance notice! I don’t disagree with anything you have said, but this kind of tech company pivot rarely ends well, and speaks to shifting priorities (both away from email and towards serving themselves rather than their customers). Yes, people have time if they are on a legacy paid monthly plan, and they are spared the worst of the changes… for now. But I’d strongly recommend at least having a Plan B ready, because I’d bet anything the hammer will drop on them some time in the next 12 months too.
I’m curious that you didn’t include Constant Contact in your comparison of alternatives. Would you say more about that choice?
There are many great ESPs out there and we picked a handful to highlight that we know are popular with the authors we serve. Our list is definitely not exhaustive. If you are using Constant Contact to manage your email list, it would be great if you could share your experience with us in the comments.
We have a free legacy user account, and I just got stung by the limit on the number of audiences we can have. We had a large number and were unable to add another as “we had already reached the maximum number of audiences for this account”. So I went and deleted a number but the message remained unchanged. I deleted all but the latest audience, and behold, we STILL have the maximum number of audiences. One. Not three. It appears that we now have to make do with ONE audience, create a new account or move platforms.