Time To Ditch Mailchimp? Marketing Publishing Resources

Mailchimp attracted extreme criticism this week when it became clear how its new marketing services would impact its core email offering — particularly in terms of pricing — leading many long-time users to start explore alternatives (including this one).

I have been a loyal and happy Mailchimp customer for over eight years. I have also recommended Mailchimp to thousands of other authors. There have always been cheaper services, or those with more bells-and-whistles when it comes to advanced automation options and the like, but — for me at least — Mailchimp was always the perfect combination of price, user friendliness, and reliability.

Until yesterday.

FYI: this is a long and comprehensive post going over the changes to Mailchimp’s Pricing Plans and Terms of Use. If you want the short version, if you had a (paid) Monthly plan before May 15, you are protected from the worst of the changes for now, but might still want to scoot down to Alternatives to Mailchimp at the bottom of this post as I still think bad things are on the horizon for you. For everyone else — i.e. Free, Pay As You Go, or New users — the negative implications are much more immediate.

What Happened With Mailchimp‘s pricing and policies?

Mailchimp announced its pivot towards a full-service marketing platform on Monday. But it wasn’t until Wednesday that Mailchimp Legal began emailing existing users about changes to the Terms of Use that were kicking in immediately that day.

These changes included entirely new pricing tiers and policies, and a revamping of associated feature sets, with some pretty radical differences. Mailchimp’s emails weren’t clear on what was changing or who was affected, Help pages weren’t updated properly, and Support was giving out conflicting information.

When the dust settled, it wasn’t pretty.

The biggest change of all is that Mailchimp no longer determines monthly charges based on total subscriber count — as has historically been the case, and as is standard among email services. Instead, Mailchimp now bases monthly charges on a new metric which it calls Audiences, which some users may have noticed appearing in their accounts recently.

Key here is that Audiences also includes unsubscribed emails, meaning that users will be charged for unsubscribed emails as well as subscribed ones. Naturally, this announcement was received very negatively by Mailchimp users, as some would be facing increases of over 100% in their monthly charges (myself included). The situation was compounded with a lot of confusion, as the Help pages at Mailchimp weren’t yet fully updated to account for these changes, and Support seemed confused about whether existing users would be grandfathered in under the old terms.

First, Mailchimp explicitly told me in an email that legacy users would be affected by this new policy.

Mailchimp Policy changes email

Several hours later, after a hugely negative reaction online, Mailchimp appeared to backtrack, saying that legacy users would be unaffected by these changes — which would only apply to new users. Whether this was a change of heart, or muddled messaging, or a simple error, it’s hard to know for sure.

However, this doesn’t appear to be the full story — which seems typical of this bungled rollout. And several more crucial changes buried in the new Terms of Use haven’t been communicated to users at all. Some of which are pretty damn big. (You can read the new Terms of Use here.)

Furthermore, a close examination of the now-updated Help pages shows that legacy users of the Mailchimp’s Free plan will be badly affected by these changes. Previously, Mailchimp’s pricing model was free up until a user reached 2,000 subscribers, at which point you transitioned to a paid plan. It was a clever approach from Mailchimp which got them lots of new customers and made it the easiest service to recommend.

Mailchimp’s pricing policy is now changing. Not only will unsubscribed users count towards the 2,000 threshold, all those on a Free plan who subsequently transition to a paid plan will do so under the new pricing regime with no option to be grandfathered in under the old system.

New Mailchimp policy on Free plans

Additionally, those who are paid customers under the Pay As You Go system — where users pay per send rather than per month, something which was very popular with users who emailed more sporadically then regularly (for example, if you only used your list to announce new releases) — will be adversely affected also, despite Mailchimp’s claims.

First, any credits they purchased before 15 May will expire in one year — despite Mailchimp previously stating that these credits will never expire. That could get Mailchimp in some legal hot water, of course, and has caused extreme anger, particularly among those who stocked up and bought significant numbers of credits recently.

Mailchimp is explicit about not offering any cash refunds for purchased credits, but it seems email credits will now convert into dollar credits towards a Mailchimp Monthly plan. However, anyone converting to this monthly plan, even if they do it right away will be subjected to the new pricing regime, with no option to be grandfathered in under the old system.

New Mailchimp policy on Pay As You Go plans switching to Monthly plans

The only customers spared — for the moment — are those who were on a legacy paid Monthly plan as of 15 May, the day these changes were announced. I asked Mailchimp if they could guarantee that legacy Monthly plan users wouldn’t be forced into the new pricing regime at any point in the future. I also asked Mailchimp if moving to a new pricing tier (i.e. when your subscriber count increases) would trigger a move to the new pricing regime.

Mailchimp failed to respond to these inquiries and would only confirm that if you purchase any add-ons to your legacy plan, this may immediately trigger a move to the new pricing regime. So, I think it’s probably wise to conclude that this change will come to legacy Monthly plans too, sooner rather than later, I would guess — probably under some guff about “harmonizing the Mailchimp payment plans” or similar corporate blather.

Indeed, in a statement to TechCrunch, all Mailchimp would say is that legacy customers will “maintain current pricing structure and features for the time being” — which isn’t very reassuring and sounds very temporary.

Naturally, this has some people asking what the alternatives are, and I’ll get to that in a moment. But you’re probably asking yourself how we get here, and, crucially, whether there is any chance of this change being rolled back.

UPDATE September 11: As predicted, Mailchimp pricing plans for Legacy users have now changed and prices increased have by 15-20%.

Mailchimp’s Big Pivot

Mailchimp has been slowly building out additional marketing services over the last couple of years: customizable landing pages, a real-world address finder so you can do things like send postcards to your customers, and the ability to run Facebook, Instagram, or Google Ads to your email subscribers via their platform.

This week, Mailchimp fully pivoted to becoming a CRM platform — short for Customer Relationship Management. Essentially, Mailchimp wants to be your go-to platform for managing the entirety of your relationship with a customer, not just for email marketing.

This begs a lot of questions of course. Why would Mailchimp want to do this? Well, according to founder and CEO Ben Chestnut, this pivot will help Mailchimp bring in a staggering $700m in revenue for 2019.

The other obvious question is why anyone would want to run their Facebook or Google ads via Mailchimp, and that question is much harder to answer. Mailchimp claims these changes are driven by customer demand but that is difficult to believe.

You may or may not be interested in the deeper reasoning behind this big change from Mailchimp, I merely explain it to show that this is new set of policies has been a long time coming, is part of an overall corporate strategy which Mailchimp views as central to its future. In other words, this approach is unlikely to be reversed. It seems that Mailchimp has invested to much in this pivot.

Which leaves authors with a choice. Can they keep recommending Mailchimp? Can they keep using Mailchimp — even though switching is a giant pain in the ass?

I’ll argue momentarily that the answers to those questions is “No” and “Probably Not” but let’s break down the full implications depending on what kind of user you are, before looking at alternatives recommended by the Newsletter Ninja herself — Tammi Labrecque.

Why Mailchimp’s Pricing and Policy Changes Are Bad

Mailchimp’s rebranding as a supposed one-stop-shop for all your customer marketing needs is more worrying on a general level, as it indicates a lack of focus on the core product — particularly pertinent when Mailchimp launches those other services by making adverse changes to its email offering.

Of particular concern, however, are those immediate and negative changes to email:

  1. Charging by Audiences is patently unfair. You aren’t using those contacts, but you have to maintain records of them for GDPR compliance (and other reasons I’ll get to), so there is no justification for deciding how much you pay based on inactive subscribers.
  2. This will inflate costs for mosts users, significantly in some cases. If you have a large mailing list, you will have a lot of unsubscribes. It goes with the territory. Things that also increase unsubscribes include very common practices such as listbuilder promos, competitions, reader magnets, BookFunnel giveaways, or any kind of advertising aimed at boosting your mailing list. Most galling of all, those who are strict about engaging in email best practices such as list hygiene/list culling and using onboarders to weed out users who shouldn’t be on your list, will have a lot of unsubscribes for the most legitimate of all reasons. Finally, if — like me — you run your onboarder through a separate list, which people do for various logistical reasons, all new sign-ups essentially get unsubscribed when they finished onboarding and moved to a new list. Which means in practice your Audience size will be over double your actual subscriber count. Under the new Mailchimp pricing regime, this means your costs will now double too.
  3. Mailchimp’s justification for charging by Audiences is that you can now use their remarketing services to reach these unsubscribes, like by sending them a postcard or running a Facebook campaign to unsubscribes. But Mailchimp will charge you for unsubscribes even if you never use these services. Which is completely ludicrous. You can’t charge customers for services they have never used and have no intention of using.
  4. Deleting unsubscribes is definitely not the answer, as I’ve seen some suggest. Deleting unsubscribes could cause you two kinds of legal trouble. First, under my reading of GDPR, this will put you in breach of the requirement to maintain records of how a customer subscribed. You can only delete their records if they request a deletion. (That’s my understanding, at least, as someone who is not a lawyer and definitely not a GDPR expert.) Second, if Customer X unsubscribes from your list in the normal manner, and then enters some kind of group competition or promotion (like BookSweeps or a BookFunnel giveaway) that you are participating in, you are not legally allowed email Customer X again. But if you have deleted them as a contact, you will have no record of this unsubscribe, you will add Customer X to your list again when importing all the participants, and then when you invariably email Customer X again you will be breaking the law. Third, if you have any level of visibility, you might be attracting junk/spam sign-ups to your list. If you are a big author, you probably get a lot of junk sign-ups. Leaving these spammers as Unsubscribed acts as a kind of block from them signing up again under that email and keeps the problem manageable. Simply deleting these junk sign-ups leaves spammers to sign up again under the same address, removing your only real defense, other than double opt-in — which doesn’t prevent it from happening.
  5. Mailchimp’s workaround is extremely problematic. Mailchimp has attempted to defend the above by saying, “If you plan to use Mailchimp for only email marketing, you can archive your unsubscribed contacts so that they are not counted towards your whole audience pricing.” I’m not entirely clear on the GDPR implications of archiving contacts, even after reading Mailchimp’s Help pages and explicitly asking Support about same in numerous emails — a subject which was ignored, I should note. Even leaving that non-trivial matter aside, archiving unsubscribes fails to deal with the problems above surrounding importing previous unsubscribes, preserving customer history for various business reasons, those who do onboarding via a separate list, and fails to prevent junk sign-ups. Even with this workaround, it will still increase your costs as Mailchimp’s pricing plan will charge you based on the highest point your audience reached over the last 30 days. It also creates yet another layer of busywork, forcing users to manually archive everyone that unsubscribes, and the more irregularly you do that, because it’s a cumbersome process and Mailchimp hasn’t designed the tools to do it easily and quickly, the more you will end up paying. As with double-counting subscribers who are on multiple lists, Mailchimp has again made a top-down business decision that unfairly costs users unless they engage in continual, maddening busywork. Except this is several factors worse as no one can avoid unsubscribes.

And, of course, there is a massive trust issue with Mailchimp now, where there was none really before. It’s hard to give your backing to a company that has screwed its users in such a dramatic fashion.

UPDATE May 22: A UK lawyer has been in touch to dispute some of my interpretations of GDPR above and I’ve noted those issues at length in this comment below. Doesn’t materially affect the overall post, but fans of GDPR arcanery — everyone, right? — might want to read that.

What Should You Do?

Given all the above, here are my recommendations for New users, Free users, legacy Pay as You Go users, and legacy Monthly users.

I think New users should avoid signing up for a Mailchimp plan unless they reverse these changes — which I doubt will happen. So New users should look for alternatives. You’ll get info on some of those below.

Same goes for Free users. They may have a little breathing time until they hit that 2,000 Audience total limit, but Free users should start planning ahead and looking at other services.

The same also goes for Pay As You Go users. The situation is a little more complicated for them, depending on how many credits they have purchased. Those with significant credits may wish to interface with Mailchimp’s billing department to see what options are available in terms of converting to Monthly plan credit. But, in general, my recommendation is that Pay As You Go users should look for alternatives so they are ready when their credits are used up. It’s an open question whether Mailchimp is planning to phase out Pay As You Go altogether at some point — it could explain why credits suddenly have a 12-month shelf life.

The situation is more nuanced again for legacy users on a paid Mailchimp Monthly plan (which includes me). For the moment, we seem to be spared this new pricing system. It’s notable that Mailchimp Support were reasonably quick to respond to my other questions yesterday, but pointedly refused to give any guarantees that legacy Monthly users wouldn’t eventually be subject to the new pricing system at a later point, despite numerous opportunities to do so.

My take is that it will probably happen at some point for legacy Monthly users too. Indeed, the new Terms of Use — which everyone automatically agrees to by continuing to use Mailchimp after 15 May — explicitly gives Mailchimp that power.

Mailchimp Billing Changes from Terms of Use

Because of this, and all the foregoing, particularly the trust issue which has now appeared out of nowhere, my recommendation for legacy Monthly users is to start looking for alternatives too — although you appear to have a little more breathing room than everyone else. For now, at least.

More Stealth Changes At Mailchimp

In case you are still unconvinced of the need to look elsewhere for mailing list services, I discovered some more changes which weren’t communicated to users at all. These currently affect new users only, and anyone else switching to a paid Monthly plan, but I think we can expect them to impact everyone eventually. Certainly, they indicate the direction Mailchimp is heading. And that is a very worrying direction indeed.

Basic Mailchimp plans are now limited to just three audiences. In other words, you can’t have more than three separate mailing lists without paying for a premium plan which costs 50% more. This will greatly affect anyone who writes in multiple genres, or keeps separate lists for whatever reason (onboarding, different niche, separate pen name, blog subscription, side business, etc.). Even the premium plan only allows you to have five audiences. To show how limiting that is, I currently have seven audiences before I even launch my new pen name. And, of course, the new pricing regime means you can’t even combine audiences without getting charged double for moving those names across.

Most shockingly, Mailchimp’s basic paid plans will no longer include multi-step automations. This is a fairly basic feature for any email service — it’s normal to welcome new sign-ups to your list with an automated sequence of emails. Mailchimp will no longer include that feature in new Monthly plans, unless you upgrade to a more expensive plan, which will be charged at an even higher rate per month. Also not included in entry-level plans anymore are previously included features such as send time optimization and delivery by time zone.

Another change which is bound to be hugely unpopular, and sure to cause Mailchimp trouble as they haven’t flagged this to users either, is that Mailchimp will no longer automatically move you up (and down) the various pricing tiers depending on your usage/subscriber count.

Mailchimp Paid Monthly Plans - Terms of Use changes

Instead the onus will be on you to continually and proactively purchase higher plans as you grow. If you fail to do so, Mailchimp will levy penalty charges on your account. Despite Mailchimp saying in the new Terms of Use that these charges are detailed on the pricing pages, I couldn’t find them anywhere.

Finally, Mailchimp has had a long-standing and permanent 10% discount for using two-factor authentication. This is now transitioning to a temporary, three-month discount. It’s yet another back-door price increase, and 10% is not nothing either.

To sum up all the financial aspects, Mailchimp pricing has massively increased through underhanded means, and features have been gutted at the same time. To give a real-world example, if I was starting a new Monthly plan with Mailchimp today, the cumulative effect of these changes would mean I’d actually be charged triple what I’m paying right now without even getting the full set of features I have right now. For that, I’d have to subscribe to the Premium plan where I’d be facing an increase of up to 500%. It’s crazy!

Alternatives to Mailchimp

As I have been using Mailchimp for the last eight years, without needing to look at alternatives, I thought it best to bring in a real email expert to make some recommendations here. Regular readers will know that I named Newsletter Ninja as my book of the year in January. Here is the author, Tammi Labrecque, with some quick advice for those looking to switch providers:

If budget is your primary concern, MailerLite represents a nice intersection of cost and functionality. If money is less of an object, ConvertKit is recommended by heavy hitters like Andre Chaperon. And if your focus is robust tagging, segmenting, and automations, ActiveCampaign is an excellent choice (and it’s what I use).

Tammi Labrecque, email expert.

In the interests of full disclosure, please note the MailerLite/ConvertKit links are affiliate links (mine not Tammi’s) but the Active Campaign is not. I’m also a Mailchimp affiliate, and have been for eight years, in case you think such relationships color any perspectives here.

I haven’t made my own decision yet, but I’m personally leaning towards MailerLite. I will send maybe a million emails in 2019, so I’m a reasonably heavy user. While I do have onboarding sequences and engage in a little tagging and segmenting, I don’t go heavy into those activities at all, so, for me personally, I think ConvertKit or Active Campaign might be overkill. But they may suit your needs better, so check them out.

I couldn’t possibly do a comprehensive survey of all available alternatives in this already long post. But if you have personal experience of any service you wish to share, please do that in the comments below; I think everyone would find it helpful, whether your experience was positive or negative.

Making Lemonade

While all this is undoubtedly a giant pain in the ass I’m going to try and weave a silver lining here and redo my automations when I switch. Freshen them up, link to some of the previous highlights of the newsletter. Tweak a few things here and there. Doing all that is a pain normally, but if I must redo them again, I might as well buff them up.

If you want to use this an opportunity to reorganize your lists, change your email approach, get better at automations or tagging or segmentation (or learn what all that stuff is), then I’d strongly advise you to purchase Tammi Labrecque’s superb book Newsletter Ninja.

And if you want much more hand-holding, as luck would have it, Tammi’s excellent Newsletter Ninja course is opening up again in July and there are only a few places left. I took it myself previously and it genuinely was career-changing. I don’t say things like that often, people.

You can check out the course here, but let me just stress that it’s not just a bunch of videos. You get group classes and individual consulting as part of the package, so you really do get tailored solutions for your particular mailing list needs. (I’m not an affiliate for her course, by the way, and only get paid in the frustratingly soft currency of kudos, which isn’t accepted in any of my local bars.)

That’s it! Thank you for making it to the end of this post before dying of old age. Please do comment and tell us about your mailing list provider experiences and consider sharing this post with your fellow writers so they know what’s up.

Oh, Mailchimp. What a self-inflicted and catastrophic fail.

UPDATE May 22: A UK lawyer has been in touch to dispute some of my interpretations of GDPR above and I’ve noted those issues at length in this comment below. Doesn’t materially affect the overall post, but fans of GDPR arcanery — everyone, right? — might want to read that.

UPDATE July 4: I went with MailerLite in the end. I’ve been using them for several weeks and am very happy. I published a guide to from Mailchimp to MailerLite right hereit covers everything from pricing and feature differences, to moving your subscribers, rebuilding automations, logistics, and pitfalls to watch out for.

One last thing…

I hope you enjoyed this post! I just wanted to let you know that I send out exclusive content like every Friday to my mailing list subscribers.

I talk about the latest tricks with Facebook Ads or BookBub Ads, I also get into topics like content marketing, reader targeting, email marketing, and everything else under the sun that pertains to building audience and reaching readers.

By signing up to my list, you get access to the all the old emails too, as well as sneak previews of upcoming books (meaning you get the jump on the latest tricks strategies of everyone else), and exclusive discounts too.

You also get a FREE copy of Amazon Decoded – a book that you can’t get anywhere else! I strongly recommend that you join thousands and thousands of authors and sign up today because I have some really special treats coming soon.

Amazon Decoded Mailing list graphic

341 Replies to “Time To Ditch Mailchimp?”

  1. Hi David
    I’m currently on the free plan and was worried by this. However, it seems free users can archive their unsubscribes etc and stay on the free plan. Here’s the relevant para in the email MailChimp sent yesterday:
    • If you are a current free user
    You can remain a free user so long as you have 2,000 or fewer contacts in your audience, and you’ll now have the new free plan features. If the new way of counting contacts causes your audience to exceed 2,000 contacts before June 15, 2019, we’ll automatically archive your unsubscribed and transactional contacts. After June 15, we’ll begin calculating your audience as described in Section 7B of our TOU, but you can always manually archive contacts to keep your audience under 2,000 contacts.

    1. Hi Roz. After June 15 all Free users will be under the new pricing plans, meaning that unsubscribes will count towards your 2000 total, and you will be under the new pricing regime when you graduate to a Paid plan – with all the attendant issues outlined above. In addition, archiving unsubscribes is not a suitable workaround for all the reasons detailed above (under the heading “Why Mailchimp’s Changes Are Bad”).

      1. Thanks, David. On your recommendation I purchased Ninja and was about to implement the strategies. Really glad this happened before I really went for broke. Thanks for the detailed post.

      2. In about 2 hours, I was able to set-up a MailerLite account, transfer over my MailChimp list, and delete my MailChimp account. The MailerLite features are even better than Mailchimp in my opinion (for the free plan — I have a very small list). Did Mailchimp’s new approach have financial implications for me now? No. But the details of the pricing you nicely outlined is so outrageous, so contrary to logic, that I wouldn’t want to be associated with such a company even for a small free account. I was fine being a Mailchimp. I don’t want to be a Mailchump.

    2. I have been using firedrum since about 2011. All the basics covered and a few extra cool features, very competitive on prices and support is stellar.

        1. Yes I saw that too. It looks like you can’t add a new email to an automation unless you upgrade, but it seems you can still edit emails within an existing automation.

          This sucks.

      1. So sad that low cost, long life pay as you go points packages are gone along with free access to set up automated campaigns.

        My personal website-related email costs will rise from $9 a year to $9.99 x 12 = $120 subs + $150 smallest credits package = $270! = a 2900% increase.

        Guess I’ll go manual! Shame.

    3. Hi Roz-
      I am currently a free user of mailchimp. What is the process for backing up lists?
      Thanks in advance,

      1. Each list/audience has an export button and you can download/export them as a csv file. It’s a good idea to do that periodically anyway even if you aren’t moving right now. You can also export all your account data in one zip file.

        1. Export your list to back it up OFTEN. I did not and MailChimp has managed to delete the last names of ALL my subscribers. I just subscribed (for the moment) at the $10/mo level in hopes I can get someone there to help me rectify this. What a mess!

        2. Oh god, nightmare territory. Hope you get it resolved soon! And thanks for the reminder to back up my data.

  2. Never having used Mailchump, I can only extend my sympathies to you and your 000s of blog subscribers.

  3. Thanks for the speedy and comprehensive update on what’s happening. I’m just starting out and my list is tiny so the move to another provider is not that problematic but I just can’t get over the size of the middle finger mailchimp is giving to it’s existing customer base.

    Hostingfacts.com as a good article about email services (obviously excluding the now outdated mailchimp section). SendinBlue sounds interesting but I have no personal knowledge of it. I would be interested to hear from anyone who does as it sounds about right for me.

      1. Hey,

        Found this article after researching why MailChimp was now difficult to use. Having used them for many years. After reading the article I signed up to MailerLite. And have to say its better than MailChimp, tenfold! (I’m on the free plan).

        Within 2 hours I’d created a new email, imported the address list and deleted the MailChimp account.

    1. I think someone has commented below about SendinBlue, Alistair. Feel free to ask them more questions and I’m sure someone can fill you in.

        1. Hi Alastair,
          Re: SendinBlue: It’s been a couple years since I went through that fiasco. On paper – well, not even paper – via ether, they sounded great. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember exactly the muddles, but there were several. They are not forthcoming, and they pulled a shocking bait-and-switch. Again, apologies for my lack of memory regarding the details. (Too many positives in life to savor to bother with giving negatives more energy.) Bottom line, I spent several months trying to make it work and never got a single newsletter out.
          There are many other superior options.

      1. Hi Blythe Ayne!

        I’m Noelia Santa Ana, a community and brand builder for Sendinblue. I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with us, but we really appreciate your feedback — it’s how we always continue to improve!

        Please give us another chance! We’ve made a ton of changes and added several new features to the platform to take your marketing even further (landing pages, Facebook ads, retargeting ads, chat, and more). We’d love to have you back and hear your thoughts!

        1. I just mailed a campaign through SendInBlue yesterday. Works fine, great pricing. A simpler, more intuitive interface, imo, than the chimp.

    2. I use sendinblue and it’s considerably cheaper and seems to work fine. Have never understood why it’s not more popular.

  4. Great article, David. I switched from MailChimp to MailerLite a couple years ago and haven’t regretted it. I stuck with them through their short-term problems. They’ve added a bunch of features and the prices are reasonable (unlike MC). Customer service has been responsive. Unless ML does something similar to what MC is doing, I don’t plan to change.

    1. I’ll second this about MailerLite. I mvoed over to them as soon as I outgrew the 2,000 free subs at MC and I haven’t regretted it. In my opinion, their interface is actually easier to use, especially their automations. If they have any savvy at all (and I think they do) they’re watching and learning what NOT to do from this debacle!

        1. I’m with Mailerlite too, and very happy. You guys must be cracking open the champagne after one of your competitors just shot themselves in the foot so comprehensively.

          What is it with internet companies and that dreaded, much-loathed buzzword … pivot? Next they’ll be trumpeting something to do with blockchains.

          There’s nothing wrong with starting up a business to do something reasonably well, and then sticking to it. Refine and improve, sure, but ‘pivoting’ (ugh) ala Mailchimp and Instafreebie/Prolific Works is nearly always a mistake.

        2. Simon, for some reason I cannot directly reply to your comment.

          When you become so big you start looking for other ways to expand and grow. Obviously, there will be some unhappy customers who just want a simple tool to do one or two things and not overpay for additional functionality that’s not even necessary for them.

          The good thing is that you have so many options to choose from and you are not limited to only one. Very happy you chose MailerLite! :)) Thank you!

      1. Waitaminnit…
        The CEO of ML just commented? Okey dokey… decision made. TTYL ML peeps.
        (Now I gotta redo 90 titles’ mailing list magnet manuscripts and reload them to Amazon… thanks MC)

        1. I’m in the process of doing this (not for that many, because most of mine are through my publisher and I can’t change them). What I did was create a page on my site in WordPress, which will stay constant, and embedded the form there. So if for some reason I ever need to change again, that will stay the same. (And I can’t believe I was so short-sighted that I didn’t think about that from the start.)

      2. Ilma, I would like to believe this, but MailerLite did recently change pricing, or at least removed some of the features of free accounts. (If memory serves me correctly there may have been price increases as well, but I can’t 100% confirm that without research.) Unfortunately, when the changes occurred, people were not grandfathered in.

        In light of the above, can you clarify what you mean when you say ML won’t change prices?

        1. I’m pretty sure Ilma said they “wouldn’t change the pricing as MC did”, not that they wouldn’t change the pricing.

          I’m sorry, but as a business owner, prices cannot remain stagnant forever. That would be the perfect way to go out of business quickly.

          I would expect prices to rise gradually, in line with inflation every few years, or even due to rising running costs, but not change dependent upon variables such as those chosen by MC.

  5. This is worrying for a relatively new author like myself. I have few enough subscribers to make moving providers be not too much hassle. But, come on, shouldn’t we be able to just use an email provider with automation without worrying?
    I was with MailerLite, but changed to MC because Adam Croft came across an issue where emails were not being delivered. He has a big list. His Indie Author Mindset Group will give you more details, but he recommended changing away from ML.

    Where does this leave me? Well, I’ll explore it all a bit more but might well change to the one that the Ninja advocates.

    Thanks David for keeping us from becoming mushrooms.

    1. I don’t know the exact reasons Adam changed his recommendation (I do remember him being a big fan of Mailerlite previously but I know they have had a couple of issues in the last year too). Unless money is no object and/or you can really justify the expense of some of the pricier services like ActiveCampaign, I don’t think there is any service that you can give an unqualified recommendation to – they all have their pros and cons. I think it’s most important to figure out what YOU need, rather than what any one person recommends, and then find the right service to serve that set of needs.

    2. I’ve used AOL mail for about nine years and it’s always free and doesn’t pull the stuff that MC does. I feel so sorry for everyone going thought this. I guess Mail chip doesn’t want its free members to become happy paid members. Wonder what idiot is their CEO?

      1. Hi Ilma,

        I conduct training courses teaching insurance agents to use MailChimp to keep in touch with their clients. Over the last 2 years, I have gotten more than 500 signups with MC. Due to this incident with MC, I am deciding to switch to Mailerlite.

        When I checked with support, I found out that I can only have one domain email address per account. Meaning that john@abcinsurancecompany.com and jill@abcinsurancecompany.com can’t have their own separate account and must share the same account.

        Can you confirm this?

        1. Hi Scott,

          You can definitely have multiple emails (users) under one domain. If you have domain “abcinusrancecompany.com” you can have both emails under the domain John and Jill. You can also set up their user level – administrator, manager, viewer, accountant and custom. Does that answer your question?

  6. I can’t tell you how valuable this was for me. I spent a lot of time setting up a mailing list using MailChimp over the last five years or so. Your article has saved me countless more hours of researching and agonizing over what to do now. Thank you!

  7. Hoorah David!

    As someone who can’t yet afford a paid plan, I’ve been using MC’s Free Plan. I currently onboard people using various reader magnets and I’ve tailor-made some lovely welcome sequences for each giveaway, which means I have several lists (audiences, whatever – insert eye roll). Once they’re through the welcome sequence, I then copy them over to my main newsletter list (audience, sigh) and unsubscribe them from the original list (screw it, I’m using the word List!!). So, yeah, my unsubscribes are fairly high because of the way I manage my lists.

    Sure, I could export those lists so I have a record of everyone and then archive the unsubscribes as MC suggests, but the issue for us Free Plan folks on this new scheme is that we’re only allowed ONE audience and, from what I gather, they’re taking away the onboarding sequence feature for free users. It’s like a chimp-sized “F-you freeloaders” from MC.

    I’m failing to understand why MC thinks you will continue to “market to” someone who has unsubscribed. From my understanding of both U.S. law and GDRP this is completely illegal.

    Anyway, thanks again for putting to words everything that’s been screaming through my head for the past few days. Time to go hunt for another mailing list option.

    1. “I’m failing to understand why MC thinks you will continue to “market to” someone who has unsubscribed. From my understanding of both U.S. law and GDRP this is completely illegal.”

      That was my take, too. If someone has unsubscribed, why would I want to reach out to them again? In the off-change that they changed their mind? I certainly don’t intend on using a CRM system (I, like you, am on the free plan right now) and I don’t want someone else doing FB ads and targeting user who already said, “No thank you.”

      1. Have you ever seen the show Father Ted? The priests have a housekeeper who is always pushing tea on people whether they want it or not. Maybe this is the new MC Theory of Marketing. “Aw, c’mon, you want an email, don’t you? Surely, you’re wanting an email from me. Go on, take it.”

      2. Suppose you wanted to that. ‘Retarget’ unsubscribes with a facebook ad. Okay…. what’s to keep you from downloading a CSV from your provider of your unsubscribes, then taking that list and uploading it into facebook and run an ad? Why do you need to pay mail chimp (or anyone else) to keep track of a dead list?

      3. Same. I read that but under Canadian CASL legislation my understanding is if someone is unsubscribed, that’s it – no more marketing to them whatsoever.

    2. Totally. There was all sorts of stuff I could have gone into more detail on but this post was already getting aircraft carrier size trying to cover the main angles. All of the plans (for new users) have been gutted. The free plan is losing a ton of features, and the threshold for going paid is effectively lowered now, whatever Mailchimp officially say. The basic plan has tons of features stripped out, and the price is effectively higher now, as they are counting by Audience. Even the new middle-tier paid plan has less features than the basic paid plan pre-May 15 had, and it is 50% more expensive. And the premium level STARTS at $299 a month now before you get into counting the size of your Audience. Yikes.

      As for contacting people after they unsub and whether that is a GDPR breach, again, not a lawyer or GDPR expert, but my understanding is that emailing them after they unsubscribe is definitely a no-no. Running a Facebook ad or Google ad to unsubscribes seems to be legally permissible, but ethically questionable perhaps – that appears to be a personal call, but I understand the queasiness. Sending them a postcard after they unsubscribe is hilariously creepy. “NOBODY LEAVES MY LIST. YOU ARE IN MY AUDIENCE FOREVVVVVVERRRRRRRR.”

      More seriously, this is a good reminder to be 100% GDPR compliant with your mailing list sign-up forms and ensure you have a Privacy Policy on your website which says you may use sign-up/traffic data for remarketing purposes, if you so desire. Mailchimp now requires same in the new Terms of Use too FWIW.

      1. Identifying real-world addresses for email addresses for any reason is worrying. When did that become a thing?

        And what about Aweber? I haven’t seen any mention of it so far.

        Switching is going to be a pain. It means downloading all lists from MC and uploading them to a new service. That’s not so bad. The heavy work will be changing the links for new subscribers in all my books and re-publishing them.

        1. As for the links, as you are going to the trouble of replacing them all anyway, consider pointing them to a sign-up form on your site, instead of one from whatever mailing service you use.

          Example: https://davidgaughran.com/amazon-decoded-landing-page/ – that’s hosted on my site, not Mailchimp’s. So when I need to change, I just have to fiddle with some back end stuff on my site. I don’t have to go around and reformat 10 books. It doesn’t get rid of ALL busywork, but does massively reduce it, and future proofs you to some extent.

          Also you get more control about how it looks, and so on. Those little things can make a big difference to sign-ups.

        2. JJ Toner, a solution to the links is your books is (if you use WordPress) is to use a plugin called Pretty Link. It lets you create links using your domain (like mydomain.com/gohere). Put those in your book. Then if you have to redirect the link, it’s easy to do from your website and you don’t have to make any changes to your book.

    3. Hi Tammie,

      I don’t know if this will help your onboarding process but what you wrote seemed similar to what I’m trying to do with MC, which is not send people my main newsletter while they’re still in the welcome sequence.

      At the end of my welcome automation, I have the last email in that automation tag them as “regular” (MC call this a post-sending action). And when I send my main newsletter, I only send it to people who have a “regular” tag in their profile.
      Might that help you at all?

      Incidentally, I freaked out about losing my automations too, but it seems we might now be on one of MC’s “legacy” pricing plans where we keep those features – for now. Like everyone else though, I’m worried. This could be the writing on the wall for the (frankly incredible) free service I’ve enjoyed up to now.

      1. Thanks Pauline,
        It would help, but I have various giveaways for my lists (different first in series, for example) and I have the welcome sequence for each list oriented around those giveaways.

        If I learned how to tame my “generosity” and whittled down to one list (which MC is forcing Free Plan folks to do), that would absolutely work.

        Since I’m currently a freeloader, I am not considered legacy and will lose not only my ability to have multiple lists with MC, but also my ability to have an automation sequence.

        Since I can’t afford any of their paid plans as yet and even their cheapest plan won’t allow me to keep my current automation/list structure, it’s off to some other service for me.

        It’s all really disappointing and frustrating and going to be a huge time suck away from writing to get it resolved.

        1. Tammi, I’m in the same MC-freeloader boat. In fact, I recently finished your book and implemented your on-boarding strategy. I’ve also been running two highly successful automated email courses for a couple years now. Poof! That’s all gone now. Please keep your fans posted about which service you choose. I’m probably going ActiveCampaign or Mailerlite. Both seem to offer what I need in terms of automation and subscriber mgmt at a fraction of what it’ll cost me at MC once the changes go into effect.

          Great book, btw!

        2. MC hasn’t taken away lists we already have. We just can’t make more new ones now as long as we’re Free.

          Archive your unsubscribes.
          Existing automations still exist.
          Cleaned emails are counted for Audience, but those can no be deleted, unlike before.

    4. And in Canada, you can’t market to someone who has unsubscribed … canada’s CASL laws are too strict and regulators are too money hungry. Just LOVE handing out fines. Ask CIBC who incurred a huge fine. But you need to maintain your contacts, subscribe & unsubscribes for record keeping. So Mailchimp – goodbye!

  8. Thanks for such a thorough review. I use MC and Mailerlite at the moment (for reasons) and in my opinion, Mailerlite is a much better service and much cheaper. I’ll be switching everyone over now.

  9. Hi David,
    Super useful post as always!
    I used to use Mailchimp, until they flagged my account and requested a bunch of information over, and over, and over again. I lost patience with tech support and started looking elsewhere. I tried Klaviyo, which is another option (great optics and design!) but more expensive, and finally landed on Mailerlite. To date with them, my experience has been phenomenal. Their website is easy to use, way more user-friendly than Mailchimp, and the automation sequencing is awesome 🙂
    Keep up the awesome posts!

  10. I have had a Mailchimp account for almost as long as you have, David. I was on a monthly paid plan ’til I took a real job managing a set of much larger lists (first in Aweber, then in ActiveCampaign), and left my own peeps hanging in email purgatory.

    As I’m getting ready to get serious about an upcoming fiction release, I checked out ConvertKit but ultimately decided to make the jump to MailerLite. It’s definitely got its quirks, but it’s a great value for the price.

    I just spent this morning wrapping up all my forms and automations in the new system so now I can reach out to my old Chimp list, invite any of them over to the new space who want to come, then nuke that whole account.

    Bye Felic– I mean MailChimp!

    1. Is there some reason you wouldn’t just import those contacts and resume emailing them from Mailerlite? Or is this a long-dormant list or something?

      1. Yeah, the list has been dormant for a couple years, and it’s a bunch of early-stage writers, not genre-specific readers — I’d be sending something totally different from what they signed up for and that’s just uncool.

        So I’m going to send them a little “Christmas Newsletter” with what I’ve been up to and the blurb and covers for my new series today, invite them to join if they want, and nuke the rest. How’s that for commitment to my new direction? 😉

  11. When my MailChimp costs hit US$100/month, I moved to a self-hosted AWS-based application, Sendy ( sendy.co/ ) and immediately cut my costs to $5/month. The program itself is a one-time cost of $60, but you’ll need a reasonably technical server guru to set it up; it took my coder about ten hours. There are also managed Sendy services like EasySendy ( sendy.easysendy.com/ ) with monthly subscriptions that are vastly cheaper than MailChimp.

      1. I love the drag and drop on mailerlite. I think it’s much smoother than Mailchimp. I just switched back today from mailchimp to Mailerlite. I wish I never moved in the first place

  12. David, thanks for the comprehensive analysis. What do you think of the platforms focusing on editorial and personal newsletters such as Revue and Substack? Are they useful to authors?

    1. I don’t know anything about either other than I’ve seen a few journos using Substack recently. Feel free to fill us in!

      1. I actually don’t know much about Revue and Substack, I just signed up for both tools and looked around a bit. They have clean user interfaces and are simple and pleasant to use but they lack the automation features of marketing-oriented newsletter platforms, which may be a deal breaker for some.

        They both support also paid newsletters but monetizing this kind of content may be difficult for authors who aren’t influencers or celebrities.

        1. Yeah I think authors generally want to use their newsletter to sell products or deepen relationships (or best of all: deepen relationships to sell products!), rather than monetizing the actual newsletter. But thanks!

  13. Thanks David for staying on top of this issue. I used MailerLite a few months ago to do onboarding for subscribers from a group giveaway and I liked it.

    This couldn’t come at a worse time as I’m planning a big launch next month and will now have to move my list over to ML and set up new automations, but I’ll just have to buckle down and do it.

    1. It is a pain, but probs best to get ahead of it and have the new automations ready for the bump in traffic so you can start winding down the others (this I am not looking forward to – I just had to redo them all in Jan/Feb after a huge Mailchimp bug cratered them all…)

  14. Thank you for digging into this – the vaguely worded email they sent out yesterday was … not great. I’m a legacy paid monthly user so theoretically not immediately impacted but as you say, it’ll come soon. I’ve got 10K+ unsubscribes which presumably they’ll want to charge me for shortly. Like you I’m uninterested in basically all of the integrated marketing services they want to sell me – postcards (seriously? POSTCARDS?), retargeting FB ads towards people who unsubscribed (no thank you), etc. But switching out is a HUGE hassle.

    Am nervous about MailerLite because I’ve heard (internet rumor) that you’re messages are more likely to be flagged as spam. This could be total bunk. But like you I don’t need the bells/whistles of ConverKit. So what WILL I DO? Complain and drink. Blah.

    1. This is the one thing giving me pause about Mailerlite. I know quite a few of the… shall we say blacker hats in the author community were using Mailerlite. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Mailerlite then had issues last year with getting some of their servers apparently marked as spammy – which had a knock on effect on legit users.

      They appear to have recovered from that quickly and there doesn’t seem to have been a recurrence. But, yes, that’s a worry.

      1. So this sucks. I was with MailerLite up until the ‘incident’ last year when there servers were affected. It had a terrible knock on effect, as in suddenly half of my list weren’t getting my emails and even my website’s spam score, which had always, always been clean, was negatively affected. I decided to leave MailerLite and go back to Mailchimp soon after, tagging my former MailerLite list so I could keep an eye on their performance rates after the switch. Guess what? Months later, nearly all the subscribers I moved over now all have 2 star ratings, which I can only assume means my emails are going straight into their spam folders. I’ve always followed the rules when it comes to mailing lists and have strong ethics when it comes to spam. Even if MailerLite have fixed the problem, it seems like my mailing list was tainted because of what happened. So I guess I’m now looking at one of the more expensive options. Sigh.

      2. I have Mailerlite (paid) & MC (free plan). I like ML’s customer service and the dashboard/set-up is pretty similar, so it works for me.

        My two concerns are: 1) my open rate is MUCH lower with Mailerlite, and 2) the spam issue. After sending ML newsletters, my email address did start being marked as spam for some people who I email regularly. Actual people I connect with.

        My suggestion would be to set up a separate email address dedicated only to newsletter, and have the ‘sender’ email address be that one, vs. your main email addy.

        I’m thinking about going full Sendy, and being done with newsletter providers. For ppl with huge lists or frequent sends, it might be worth looking into. You’re managing all compliance, etc yourself, so there are some drawbacks, but might be worth it.

      3. I have Mailerlite (paid) & Mailchimp (free). I like Mailerlite, their customer support is great, and their dashboard is fine for me. Maybe not as slick as MC, but fine.
        I have 2 problems with ML:
        1) my open rate is MUCH lower;
        2) the spam issue. After sending ML newsletters, my email address suddenly started being marked as spam by people who I interact with. Real humans, who I know, people who’ve emailed *me.*

        If using Mailerlite, my suggestion would be to set up a separate, newsletter-dedicated email address, and have the emails come from there. Don’t taint your ‘real’ email addy.

        I’m thinking of just going full Sendy. You’re managing all the design, compliance, etc yourself, so there are downsides, but it has all the features (tagging, you can sent up automation, etc) and for those with big lists or many sends, (like you, David) it might be worth it.

        If anyone does go Sendy, sign up for your Amazon SES account before you leave, to make sure you get approved.

        And be sure to download your favorite newsletter templates from Mailchimp before you go! Then you can import them into Sendy, b/c Sendy has no ‘done for you’ stuff like other newsletter providers. B/c they’re not technically a newsletter provider. Of course, it’s only $79, paid once. And the send rate for Amazon SES is $1.00 per 10K emails.

      1. Hi Paul, I appreciate Mailerlite engaging here in the comments, and that survey is interesting. However, it’s not that scientific in that the sample sizes are really small on those tests. It might be an excellent barometer of where everyone is with deliverability right now, it might be selling you a little short, or it could be being generous – you really can’t say when there are only a handful of emails in each test. Indeed, the wild swings that some companies have inbetween such tests would seem to back that up.

        Is there anything more comprehensive that you can link to (or any internal such data you can mention?) It’s definitely better than nothing – so thank you – and what I’m asking for might not exist, or be publicly accessible, so it’s welcome nonetheless. But I thought I’d ask, just in case.

        1. Hello David,

          Industry benchmarks. Different data than Email Tool Tester provides but it still may be useful https://www.mailerlite.com/blog/compare-your-email-performance-metrics-industry-benchmarks

          The idea of doing something more comprehensive that can be easily shared and understood is interesting and worthy of consideration.

          However, data and testing provided by independent, 3rd parties will probably be considered more objective in any case. Also, just like the industry benchmarks, deliverability is something that depends on many different factors and users can have a very big impact on that as well – the quality of email list (bounces, spam complaints), previous engagement of receivers.

  15. Thank you for digging into this – the vaguely worded email they sent out yesterday was … not great. I’m a legacy paid monthly user so theoretically not immediately impacted but as you say, it’ll come soon. I’ve got 10K+ unsubscribes which presumably they’ll want to charge me for shortly. Like you I’m uninterested in basically all of the integrated marketing services they want to sell me – postcards (seriously? POSTCARDS?), retargeting FB ads towards people who unsubscribed (no thank you), etc. But switching out is a HUGE hassle.

    Am nervous about MailerLite because I’ve heard (internet rumor) that you’re messages are more likely to be flagged as spam. This could be total bunk. But like you I don’t need the bells/whistles of ConverKit. So what WILL I DO? Complain and drink. Blah.

  16. I can fully understand launching a new business as a one-stop setup to automate advertising over multiple platforms. In fact, I’d be interested in learning about such a startup company. I see its value to a busy writer. But as my dad often said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    I like Mailchimp for what I originally contracted them to do five years ago; deliver my newsletters twice a month. Why make it a mandatory change to “this and that” when a separate market can be established for “this or that?”

    This kinda reminds me of the joke where the old Sunday school teacher is given a hotel bill that includes all the amenities she didn’t use, but was asked to pay for “because it was there and available.” She submitted her own bill, charging the hotel manager for her personal escort service, “because it was there and available.”

    C’mon Mailchimp, I like the idea of eating healthy, but when I go to a pizza parlor, I don’t want to be forced to buy a salad, just because some bean counter at corporate says it will be profitable. Just give me the pizza. And I’ll pay you for the pizza. Done deal.