We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free ride,” but when it comes to bootstrapping a business, resourceful entrepreneurs and small business owners have found ways to capitalize on free tools and services… at least for a while… until they could afford to pay for a better option. Such was the case for me and many of my clients.
Angie has been a MailChimp “Forever Free” account holder since 2014. Over the years, she worked hard to grow her list which now has about 600 subscribers. She uses MailChimp extensively to nurture those relationships through welcome email sequences and monthly newsletters. To personalize her subscriber communications, she has created 27 separate email lists and 17 opt-ins scattered throughout her blog posts and website pages.
But with the May 13, 2019 announcement by MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut, all that will be coming to an end. How soon? No one really knows. And, like many other MailChimp users, Angie is scrambling to identify other options.
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The Lure Of Free Services
It’s not uncommon for companies that offer digital tools to attract a base of loyal fans with free or low-cost products. This enables them to develop and test new features and products while growing their user base. And it seems like a win-win situation… for a while… because cash-strapped businesses can automate processes that will help them operate efficiently and focus their efforts on revenue-generating activities to grow and become more profitable.
However, at some point, this business model becomes impractical for the digital tools company. I mean, think about it… could you afford to pay for research and development, customer support, and other business expenses without generating revenue?
Banking on the fact that most consumers don’t like change and often remain with a company after becoming familiar with its products, some companies choose to continue to offer a free trial period for anywhere from 7 to 30 days to continue to attract new users.
And it’s clear that MailChimp has reached this point.
MailChimp’s Big Announcement
In its May 13, 2019 blog post, co-founder Ben Chestnut announced that MailChimp is now an “All-in-One Marketing Platform.” The blog explains that this change was the culmination of over two years of software development and testing, supposedly in response to “years” of customer requests for them “to build something that would enable [MailChimp’s users] to do all of their marketing in one place.” He acknowledged that the transition would “seem like a big change” for some of MailChimp’s longtime customers, but didn’t provide any details about the changes or how users would be affected.
Over the next several weeks, MailChimp updated several of its pages and added a Legacy Pricing page to its Guides. These documents, summarized below, describe sweeping changes to its pricing, products, and services.
However, many of MailChimp’s users are still unaware of the scope of these changes and how their businesses will be impacted because the information isn’t clear or readily available in one concise document.
At first glance, the changes don’t seem so dramatic. Here’s what MailChimp’s new 4-tier price structure looks like:
Starts at $9.99/mo
for up to 500 contacts
Starts at $14.99/mo
for up to 500 contacts
Starts at $299.00/mo
for up to 10,000 contacts
* Multi-step workflows, according to MailChimp, include “nurture campaigns, onboarding series, etc.”
However, those customers who have taken the time to dig a little deeper and familiarize themselves with the available information are scrambling to find affordable alternatives. Read on to find out why.
MailChimp Changes That Will Blow Your Mind And Your Budget
- Say goodbye to “Forever Free.” In its Guidelines for Legacy Plans, MailChimp indicates that the Legacy Free Plan is an “introductory plan that existing [free] users are grandfathered into.”
- Say hello to “Audiences” and goodbye to “Lists.” With that change, MailChimp redefined a “contact” as follows.
So now, unsubscribed and non-subscribed contacts count toward the maximum number of contacts allowable for a plan.
Per MailChimp, “Cleaned [deleted] or archived contacts do not count toward your audience limit.” But the problem with that is the GDPR requires data collectors to maintain records of how an individual subscribes to its lists and ensure that no emails are sent to individuals who have unsubscribed. So following MailChimp’s recommendations could jeopardize compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- Test emails now count toward the total email send limit each month.
- Legacy users on the Free plan are limited to sending a maximum of 2,000 emails in any 24-hour period.
- Legacy Free plan users will not be able to create new audiences or new multi-step workflows (email sequences) unless they upgrade to a new paid plan. For the moment, all the lists these users had already created have been transitioned to audiences that can still be used. And the multi-step automations they had are still available. But no one knows for how long.
Changes for Legacy Monthly users are dramatic too.
- Confusing price structure that is based on “total subscribed contact count or send volume.” For accounts with 2,001 to 52,000 subscribed contacts, the price is based on number of subscribed contacts.
For accounts with more than 52,000 subscribed contacts, MailChimp will factor “monthly email campaign sends” into the plan price as well. And “non-subscribed and unsubscribed transactional recipients will count toward your monthly bill if you’ve sent to them in the past 30 days.”
- Monthly payment will be based on the HIGHEST total of subscribers across ALL AUDIENCES over the previous billing cycle. We all know how fluid subscriber numbers are. If you run a challenge, make a special limited-time offer, or host a webinar or online event, the number of subscribers can soar. But over the next several weeks, they may start to unsubscribe.Depending on how successful a campaign is at attracting subscribers, such growth could easily take a user’s account to the next pricing tier or higher. And, under MailChimp’s new pricing structure, account holders will be billed as if they had that peak number of users for the whole month! For example:
Standard Plan on 1st of the month = 1,000 subscribers @ $49.99/month
An online summit is held in week 2 that adds 6,000 subscribers
Total subscriber count week 2 = 7,000 subscribers @ $99.00/month
Over the next several weeks, most of the summit participants unsubscribe
End of month subscriber count = 2,000 @ $49.99/month
Bill from MailChimp = $99.00
That’s a 98% increase in cost, even though their end-of-month subscriber count puts them back in the same price tier as they started at!
- Billed for a contact each time they appear in ANY audience. Because MailChimp treats each audience in an account as a completely separate entity, contacts who are subscribed to multiple audiences are counted multiple times. This means that a subscriber who has subscribed to three different audiences will be counted three times.
- High-volume senders will pay for subscribers PLUS send volume. MailChimp considers accounts with more than 52,000 subscribers to be high-volume senders. In addition to paying for the highest total subscribers in all audiences in the month, these senders will also pay for the number of emails they send. See MailChimp’s Legacy Pricing Plans Guide for more details.
And Pay-As-You-Go accounts are affected as well. Under the Legacy Pay-As-You-Go Plan, infrequent or inconsistent senders can purchase email “credits” to pay for periodic emails like quarterly newsletters or seasonal promotions. Credits are sold in blocks that start at $150 for 5,000 credits.
For this plan, each email sent to an individual costs one credit, and credits are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Each ATTEMPTED email send… including test emails, automations, and emails that bounce or are stopped due to compliance review… costs one credit. And, in order to send an email, the number of available credits in the account must be equal to or greater than the number of planned recipients.
Because Angie uses multi-step automations like a welcome sequence, email challenges, and other multiple-step sequences in her business, she can no longer remain on MailChimp’s Free Plan.
Here are her options:
- Remain with MailChimp, retain her 27 audiences, and upgrade to a paid plan. This change will cost her $299 per month because she will need to upgrade to the Premium plan in order to retain her audiences.
- Remain with MailChimp, consolidate her subscribers into ONE audience. This will cost $49.99 per month for the Standard Plan PLUS a one-time fee of $1,500 or more to have a Tech VA create groups to segregate her audience, consolidate all subscribers into one audience, and then update all the opt-ins throughout her website.
- Migrate her emails to another free email service provider such as MailerLite. While Mailerlite currently offers a free plan for users who have up to 1,000 subscribers. Under this plan, users can send up to 12,000 emails per month and create automations to send email sequences. However, you can only have ONE list that can be segregated into segments and groups.
So, even though her monthly email service will be free, the transition can cost her a one-time fee of $1,500 or more to have a Tech VA consolidate and segregate her list, migrate it to another service provider, configure it to work with her website, and update all the opt-ins throughout her website.
And, as I mentioned before, free plans can be and often are discontinued with very little advance notice. So does it really make sense to go to the expense of changing email service providers when that free service may not continue to be available?
If your marketing strategy includes creating new, high-value opt-ins to nurture business relationships and develop long-term, loyal customers, the longer you wait to migrate to a paid plan with an established, trustworthy email service provider, the more costly and complex your migration will be.
That’s why I’m recommending my clients migrate to a paid email service provider and why you may want to as well.
CAVEAT: There’s one situation when I believe migrating to another free email service provider makes sense. If you send only a few emails each year (ie: quarterly email or seasonal promotions) and have less than 1,000 subscribers, a free email plan may work well for you.
Why I Recommend ConvertKit To My Clients
There are so many options when it comes to email service providers it can be overwhelming to choose the one that’s best for you.
For most, the choice really comes down to:
- A platform that operates as promised, without interruptions in service.
- Timely delivery of emails to subscribers’ inboxes rather than spam folders.
- Good Customer Service: It’s inevitable that questions and unexpected issues will arise. When they do, it’s important to receive support in a timely manner that provides answers and gets things running smoothly again.
- Features that make it easy to:
- Affordability: A price structure you can understand and afford as your email list grows.
And this is why I recommend ConvertKit over other options.
Nathan Barry, ConvertKit founder and CEO, and his team are focused on one thing: making email easier and more robust for users so their users can earn a living online. They would rather do a few things excellently than more things mediocrely.
They are committed to teaching everything they know and sharing what they learn (successes as well as failures). I guess they believe, as I do, that it’s faster, easier, and more affordable to learn from others’ mistakes.
They value existing customers over new customers because they feel that if they don’t treat existing customers right, they don’t deserve new ones. And they treat their customers as they would like to be treated.
How To Know If ConvertKit Is Right For You
ConvertKit is NOT right for you if:
- You’re committed to using fancy email templates.
They don’t offer that feature, and here’s why. ConvertKit delivers over 1 million emails a day and has conducted extensive testing which proved that simple, text-based emails perform better than fancy templates. Specifically, they found that text-based emails:
- Arrive in subscribers’ inboxes more reliably.
- Keep readers focused on the main message so are more effective.
- Are mobile-friendly. And, since up to 66% of all emails are opened on mobile devices, being mobile-friendly is important!
- You want an all-in-one marketing platform or customer relationship management system (CRM).
I think we’ve all had the experience where some program updates on our computer and suddenly a bunch of other things stop working right. Technology is like that. The more tools and features you add, the more expensive it is and the more difficult it is to get things to “play nice.”
That’s why ConvertKit focuses on doing ONE thing with excellence. They provide a robust email marketing platform that helps customers grow and profit. Then, they partner with other industry leaders, who also focus on their own zone of genius, to provide integrations to the best services and tools for your business.
- You send infrequent emails that don’t sell products or services.
If you only send out one newsletter a quarter, or an occasional announcement about a sale or special promotion, there are other options that may be a better match for you.
- You aren’t willing to invest money in an email marketing platform. The ConvertKit team plans to be around long-term and provide their customers with a great email marketing platform, important tools and resources that help their customers grow and profit, and world-class customer service. They invest money in research and development to bring you the tools to stay at the top of your game. And, just like you, they understand that you have to make money to remain in business.
So they charge a fair price for a quality service.
Benefits of Using ConvertKit
So let me share a few of the reasons you’ll be glad to switch to ConvertKit.
- More of your emails will arrive in the INBOX instead of the promotions tab, junk mail folder, or spam folder. So don’t be surprised if subscribers who’ve NEVER opened your emails suddenly start opening them!
- No more paying extra for duplicate subscribers. With ConvertKit, you have one list of subscribers. So no matter how many freebies they sign up for, you only pay for them once.
- Only pay for ACTIVE subscribers. ConvertKit does not charge for unsubscribers or the number of emails you send.
- Tagging and segments make it easy to provide subscribers with a custom experience. Each time a subscriber opts in to one of your offers or clicks a link in one of your emails, you can add a tag to the subscribers profile. Then, you can dynamically create customized emails based on a subscriber’s tags. For example, if you want to share a link in one of your emails, but only with people who follow you on Facebook, and omit that link for subscribers who don’t follow you, with ConvertKit you can do that!
- Tagging also makes it possible to automate processes. For example, you can use tags to send new subscribers a welcome email sequence and, when that completes, send them your monthly newsletters… without having to do the actual work yourself!
- Easily re-send emails only to subscribers who HAVEN’T opened an email yet. Timing is everything, and sometimes emails get overlooked. But instead of re-sending an email to everyone on your list (and potentially losing subscribers), with the click of a button, ConvertKit lets you re-send an email only to those subscribers who haven’t opened it yet.
- Reporting features that help you know, at a glance, what’s working and what isn’t. ConvertKit shows you statistics for every form, sequence, broadcast, and subscriber. When it comes to knowing where to invest your time, energy, and money, this information helps you make the best choices for you and your business.
I could go on and on. But, perhaps the best way to know if ConvertKit is right for you is to try it yourself!
Click here to start your risk-free 14-day trial.
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