- Free up to 500 subscribers
- Forever free option up to 2000 subscribers
- Pay as you go option
- Tech-friendly API
- Easy to edit templates
- Many of the "extras" cost extra
Mailchimp may not be as well known as some of the other players in the e-mail marketing service industry, but their solution is top-notch. Plus, many users will find their "forever free" plan to suit them fine, at a price you can't argue with.
Signing up with MailChimp is quick & simple: fill out a short form, confirm your email address, and your account is created. However, before sending any emails, you have to fill out some other information to comply with CAN-SPAM laws, which takes about 30 seconds.
During the signup process, you can connect your MailChimp account with your Twitter or Facebook accounts for additional features. Or, if you prefer, you may do this at a later time.
Before you create your first campaign, you must choose what type of account to sign-up for:
- Monthly - send often, list bigger than 1,000, no affiliate badge
- Pay as you Go - send infrequently, list bigger than 1,000, no affiliate badge
- Forever free - send up to 12,000 emails per month, up to 2000 subscribers, branded image in footer
Once the account type is chosen, there's a 3-step process for getting started:
- Create a List
- Create a Campaign
- Check reports
Creating the List
After filling out a short form to create a list, you can now import contacts from a number of different sources, including SalesForce, Highrise, Google Contacts, etc. In addition, if you're moving from Constant Contact, Mailchimp makes it easy to import that list as well.
Of course, when importing your list, MailChimp reminds you not to import scraped, purchased, or third party lists. This is part of maintaining a CAN-SPAM compliant list.
When you add people, there are many demographic fields which you can update, including their social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc). However, to take advantage of these demographic fields, you must be a paying member, and then purchase Social Pro, which costs an additional 20% of the regular monthly price.
Building the List
Creating a form to add to your website is an easy process, and MailChimp gives you the ability to quickly customize the colors to match your existing site. If you have trouble with HTML or CSS, you can simply add a link to your existing site, sending visitors to MailChimp's site where they can signup for your list.
If you have a large list and want to show off how many people enjoy receiving your newsletter, MailChimp offers "Chiclets" which show how many people are subscribed to your list. However, the Chiclets only links to MailChimp's homepage, and does not offer any sign-up functionality for the user.
Sending an E-mail
When creating a mailing, or a campaign as MailChimp calls them, you can select from one of four main types. Everything with MailChimp is wizard-based, and they always tell you what step of the process you're in, and give you the ability to save & come back later.
Personalization with MailChimp is easy once you understand their "merge tags", however it would be nice to simply have a drop-down with available fields and have them added to the message.
MailChimp offers over 100 email templates to use when connecting with your list. When editing a template, there are specific regions that can be changed one-by-one. This is convenient, as it keeps areas from overlapping. Changing the image and default text from a template was extremely easy, and after the changes were made, the message could be saved as a new template, so those changes (like the logo, links and company name) wouldn't have to be changed again next time.
After the HTML message has been designed, and a plain-text version created, you'll have an opportunity to review the campaign before sending it off.
Also, for an additional $14, you can purchase Inbox Inspector, which will preview your message in over 30 email clients before sending out. Because email clients (AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, Thunderbird) render emails differently, Inbox Inspector will send your message to actual accounts, and give you screenshots of the results. Inbox Inspector will also tell you if your message may be blocked by spam filters.
While Inbox Inspector will tell you if your email may be blocked, if you want to know why, you'll need Delivery Doctor to give you an idea as to why. For all monthly or pay-as-you-go (ie: not free) accounts, this is a free add-on. You'll be able to get a spam rating on the message, to get an idea whether or not the email will be delivered to the inbox, or the spam folder, of the contacts on your list.
File attachments up to 10MB are allowed, but they will be hosted at MailChimp and not attached directly to your email newsletter.
Finally we're ready to send the e-mail! One last preview, then the message can either be sent immediately, or scheduled for later.
Shortly after sending our test email, the message was in our Inbox, just as designed. We tried out the Forward to a Friend feature, but were greeted with CAPTCHA errors (Input error: Invalid referer). Most likely a temporary glitch. UPDATE: this has been fixed within a couple of hours.
I like the one-click unsubscribe (double-opt-out is not user-friendly, if you ask me) and I love the follow-up email giving the user the ability to resubscribe, if they unsubscribed by mistake.
The reports from MailChimp were thorough, providing all the information required, including open rate, bounced messages, click rate, etc. There's also a count for complaints, the ability to download a list of who opened the emails, who "liked" the message on Facebook, and more. Knowing who opened the messages, you could then create a segment of the list of those who didn't open your first email, and send them a reminder. Or, write to those who did open the first email with a follow-up message.
Overall, MailChimp provides everything we're looking for when evaluating email marketing services. If you're just starting out, their "Forever Free" account is ideal and once your list grows, it's easy to upgrade to a paid plan.