Is MailChimp the best email service provider for micro businesses?

Which email marketing service do you use? Over the last few weeks I’ve been asking micro business owners this question and MailChimp was the most popular by a long way, which gave me the idea for this post.

If you’re shopping around for an email service provider you’ll find tons of reviews and comparisons online. These can be useful, but sometimes I’d really love to have an opinion from someone who has used the products. And I mean a real opinion rather than a 100% positive one to get you to click on an affiliate link! So that’s why I’m sharing my opinion here rather than a list of features.

To give you a bit of background info, I used MailChimp myself for several years before switching over to Aweber and I’ve now been with Aweber for around four years.  I’ve also used MailChimp, Constant Contact and Active Campaign with clients. I’ve been very happy with Aweber  but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to all my clients because they will have different needs to mine. Also, clients have often already selected their email marketing service, and if they are happy with it then I’d be crazy not to respect that.

By the way, I switched from MailChimp to Aweber because I needed a service that would allow affiliate marketing. Many don’t allow this, including MailChimp.

So the title of this post is a bit of a cheat. There isn’t any one service that’s best, it all depends on what you need the email service provider to do.

What I like about MailChimp

Happy chimp…

Let’s start with the positives of MailChimp. It has a LOT of features. These include the basics that you would expect from any service including the ability to add subscribers to lists, manage those lists and send emails to the subscribers. But it also has automations (it will send specific emails based on the actions taken by a subscriber), landing pages, pop ups, GDPR features, beautiful email templates, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, integrations with ecommerce, Google remarketing, reporting, testing and more.

Even better, most of those features are available on the free plan. The paid plans won’t break the bank, either.

What I don’t like so much about MailChimp

Many microbiz owners who are new to email marketing are drawn in by the free plan and the friendly interface, but find MailChimp isn’t as easy to use as they expected. In many ways this isn’t MailChimp’s fault – it has a lot of features and that means there’s a lot to find your way around. GDPR has made things more complex, too. Let’s just say there’s a learning curve so you’ll need to allow yourself some time to get used to it.

If you’re struggling I can help you set it up – just drop me a message.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I find MailChimp’s interface a little awkward.  I find it much easier to find my way around Active Campaign, Constant Contact and Aweber than MailChimp. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but if you find MailChimp hard to get around then you might find it reassuring that you’re not the only one!

Then there are features that just seem a bit over-complicated, for example you need to organise names on your list using groups or tags when I reckon it would be easier if they did away with groups and just used tags.

But maybe I’m nit-picking, because despite all of this MailChimp is not bad.

But it’s free… what’s not to like?

True, you do get a lot for free at MailChimp. But don’t let that be the only reason you choose it.

Once you go over 2000 subscribers MailChimp goes up to $30/£24ish a month which is about the same as 2000 subscribers at many other services. If it won’t take you long to go over 2000 subscribers then you won’t be saving much money by using MailChimp. If MailChimp is the best service for you then go for it. If you choose it because it’s free for a while but would actually prefer to use a different service, then you’ll save a little money but potentially create a lot of work when you move service later.

If you’re already over 2000 subscribers then definitely do some browsing around before you choose as there are a lot of services for a similar price.

Keep in mind that you only get tech support with the free plan for the first 30 days, after that you’re on your own. If you weigh up how much time it takes you to work out solutions to your problems yourself, you may find it’s a no-brainer to pay a service like Aweber $19/£15ish a month for 7 day a week customer service.

By the way, many people think that MailChimp is the only free email marketing service, which isn’t true – MailerLite and Zoho Campaigns also have free plans. But do check they have the features you need.

How easy is it to switch?

I’ve heard microbiz owners say “I’ll get started with MailChimp then switch when I get near the 2000 free subscriber limit if I need to. How easy is it to switch?” Good question.

It’s best if you can pick an email service and stick with it but none of us have a crystal ball, so sometimes it’s just not possible to predict the direction your business will take. If you do need to switch email service providers, moving your list(s) of subscribers over is usually straightforward. You export the lists as a CSV file (Excel is fine for this) then import it into another service. The new service may ask you some questions about where the list came from as most now take a dim view of subscribers that haven’t given their permission to be on the list. That’s not surprising because in some countries this is now illegal. But once you have established you’ve built your list in an ethical way, importing is usually easy enough.

The more challenging part of moving is everything else. I’m talking about the landing pages, automations, autoresponder messages and so on. You’ll probably need to set these up again with your new provider, although it’s worth asking if the new service can help you migrate over. Some have guides, such as this one to help you move from MailChimp to Aweber.

In summary

MailChimp offers a lot for free if you have fewer than 2000 subscribers, but all those features come with a learning curve and an interface that isn’t quite as easy to pick up as it looks. It’s a good-looking, powerful email marketing system with paid plans that are at a similar price to other systems. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be fine, but allow yourself time to get to grips with it (or ask me to help you). Customer service doesn’t appear to be as good as some other services.

If you find MailChimp too confusing you might like to check out  Aweber or  MailerLite instead.

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This post contains affiliate links, but it also contains my honest opinion.

6 thoughts on “Is MailChimp the best email service provider for micro businesses?”

  1. I used to use Mailchimp years ago, but I found the interface confusing. I always suggest people try the different ones out. The price isn’t as important as time saving, which is generally why you’re starting to use an email service provider in the first place.

    The other consideration I talk through with clients is does it link to their database, so you’re not double working, or worrying about the GDPR concerns.

    I think the thing with all systems is finding what works for you and your business. Which can take time, but using an expert can help speed that process up 🙂

    • Absolutely, there are so many email service providers that are very cheap compared to the time they save you, and it would only take one sale per month to make your money back anyway. I think email marketing is one of the best investments you can make in a small business.

      I agree, there’s so much choice out there that there’s bound to be a system that works for your business, the challenge is finding it!

  2. Brilliant summary Helen – I started out with AWeber when I started my business 14 years ago and always loved it. However the multiple lists have always been a headache for me when people sign up for multiple things and I haven’t taken the time to really explore my options (I’m pretty sure you must be able to use campaigns with one master list instead of having multiple lists constantly).
    I was therefore wondering about switching to mail chimp.
    But you’ve persuaded me to stick with aweber – I’m not so keen on learning a whole new system – especially if it’s tricky.
    Thank you for your valuable insights.


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