Don't Walk Away From MailChimp... Run!

My thoughts on the recent changes at everyone’s favorite email management service…

and why you should run!

For years now, I and many others I’m sure have directed clients to go with a free MailChimp account when starting their businesses. It just made sense. You could start to build a valuable email list on a business and not have to worry about any nonsense.

There were of course trade-offs for this free service. Things like they’d put their oh-so-annoying monkey badge at the bottom of every email and clunky automations from a usability and design perspective. For example if someone joined a list for a free download and then you wanted to route them into an onboarding series (a VERY common practice btw) it took a considerable amount of effort and it cause duplication of contacts if you weren’t careful too!

This was probably a design decision to have that very thing happen and get unsuspecting users to more quickly “build” their list size to a non-free plan. But as people are know to do, they got wise and began to figure out workarounds to this and many other problems in the MailChimp ecosystem. Like removing people from one list to another. This is a problem for the list-based nature of the system.

This is not just a MailChimp problem either. This is the MO for all email management software (aka. autoresponders) get you in on a free plan or a trial, get you comfortable, build your list and then hit you with a bill when you exceed their free tier limits, either in emails sent or contacts.

A few notes here:

  1. I’m a fan of everyone making money, especially entrepreneurs, but everyone needs their pound of flesh, so don’t hear this as a rant against big email.

  2. The ubiquity of email and cloud-servers has driven the cost of computing power WAAAYY down. I would imagine the cost to send one email is in the milli-cents or nano-cents range.

  3. A lot of the big players in the email space are moving away from the emails sent pricing and into the contact pricing. This is a smart move on their part, because most businesses don’t practice good list hygiene.

  4. Email software providers have the built in “pain of disconnect” factor. Essentially this is like saying, “you will put up with our BS because it will be too painful to move from one system to another”.


Here’s the thing, with little to no warning in mid-July MailChimp decided to pivot their business to be a CRM and an email management service AND turned off all of the existing sequences for the free tier users.

Pro Tip #1: There’s no better way to lose a customer than

to turn off things they are using.

So if you had 100 people in a 7 email sequence building up your street cred in your industry it just stopped! And you were asked to pay. I would say that’s very Vito Corleone of you MailChimp, but at least he was honest about extorting people.

And even more concerning they began to count all unsubscribed and cleaned emails (a fancy way of saying you can’t send to this address) as part of your list! So effectively overnight, they doubled people’s list size!

Can you guess what happened next? Yep, they started sending out messages saying that “you’ve exceeded your limit on the free plan”. Well no MailChimp, actually YOU’VE exceeded my plan limit.

Vito Corleone Pro Tip #2: Counting the same email address

twice (or more)is better for the bottom line…

if your name is Vito Corleone.

If this sounds like you, here’s how to band aid the problem, but I seriously recommend you read this post soon after.

  1. Purge/archive all email addresses that are unsubscribed from your list(s) or cleaned. You can’t send to them anyway, so why have them? This should cut your subscriber # by about 1/2 if you had multiple lists.

  2. Turn all sequences back on that are more than one email long. You will no longer be able to create new sequences of more than 1 email without paying.

  3. If you have a fast growing list implement a list hygiene schedule to do step 1 regularly.


Pro Tip #3: If you want people to pay you,

make a product worth paying for.

Let me say this again, MailChimp and all other companies need to make money. I get it, no one is trying to take a free ride to use the full system. The problem comes when companies try to strong arm free tier customers, who would be extremely likely to convert to paid customers by the way, when they and their business reach a point of success. That’s called nurturing the sale.

I could also understand if they had mad significant upgrades to their system. Like having a user interface that was intuitive and didn’t look like something I built 15 years ago. And again, don’t take features away from legacy customers unless it is fully explained. No one wants to pay for that. That would be like taking the free sample with the fly in it from the tray at Starbucks when there are plenty of other options on the tray.

Bottom line is this… I can no longer recommend anyone use MailChimp either for their email or their new (and unproven) CRM. I don’t see any positive changes taking place there. I hope this changes someday, but until then there are plenty of other tools out there to get the job done… well!

If you are looking for a free service that is well designed check out MailerLite.