Should You Pay for Mailchimp?

…the chimp wants to steal our money… what do we do?

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Pay to Play?

Mailchimp’s been around for a long while, at least in internet terms (it’s almost 20!) and during that time has gone through a number of changes both functional and cosmetic.

In fact, it’s always tried to “up its game” when it comes to adding new features and still maintain its user friendliness.

…and generally, when it does introduce its new features they are available to both paying and free customers, which is great for those who are just starting out.

However, things changed a bit back in May 2019 when they made some fundamental changes to how the platform is set up, and changed some of the things that were available to free customers.

Free customers still get pretty much everything they need to get started, but there were now a few more reasons why you might want to move up to a paid account.

So if you are currently on a free account, here’s some the key things you’ll get (and actually use) when you step up.

Were you a Free Mailchimper before May 15th 2019?

Before going too deep into the case for upgrading, one thing Mailchimp did when they changed the system was to ‘grandfather’ in some of the key tools to people who had used them prior to May 15th.

So (and I’ll highlight these things as I go along), if you had multiple users or multiple audiences before the changeover date on a Free account, these weren’t taken away from you.

…and if you used multi-step automations, or more advanced email templates, and used the scheduling function to time when emails were sent, again, these were kept for those already using them.

So, if you had used any of these things prior to May 15th, you got to keep them… if you hadn’t, then from May 15th, you couldn’t them use them (even though you had a Free account).

If you opened a new account, post May 15th, then things were a bit different! (I wrote an article at the time about the changes, so if you’re a “legacy” free user you might want to check it out)

The Main Reason to Pay

For many, the number one reason to pay for Mailchimp is that the number of contacts you’ve got in your audiences adds up to more than 2,000.

Mailchimp uses contacts as they key number (and not subscribers as it did in the past), as in many instances, someone who has unsubscribed may still be available to market to via postcards or targeted FB Advertising – and so Mailchimp still counts these as part of your contact total.

So if you’ve got over 2,000 contacts in your database, then you’ll be looking to pay.

…and if you don’t want to pay, are close/just over the 2,000 limit and aren’t using the other marketing channels, then I’d advise “archiving” some of your unsubscribes (never delete them), so they don’t count against your total.

Need Help?

Another of the main reasons you’d considering paying Mailchimp is to get access to their support function – and it’s the reason why a number of Mailchimp users I know are on the paid level.

Getting the specific answer to a question about your account and why something has happened is valuable to many – and unlike fabulous support communities like Mailchimp Answers (shameless plug!), Mailchimp have access to the specifics of your account and can advise accordingly.

I’ve found their chat support to be really good and although it can get a bit busy at times, the advice and guidance they give is, to my experience, on the money.

If you’re the type of person who wants an extra bit of support, then upgrading to a paid plan makes sense.

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There are also a number of limitations on the free account that from my own experience give people a reason to upgrade to a paid account.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but for many these are the key reasons:

  • You only get one audience*
    Now, if you ask me, no one should need more than one audience (click here to learn why) so this shouldn’t be a big issue… but for a couple of people I know, they’ve upgraded to get access to build other audiences.
  • You only get one user*
    Again, most businesses have one person as their Mailchimper and so this shouldn’t cause an issue, and with the ability to add an agency to your account you can up the access to two people (click here to learn more about Mailchimp Account Access), but if you need to have multiple users, then you need to upgrade.
  • Multi-step automations*
    A Multi-step automation is one where you can create a series of emails in a single ‘automation’ that follow on from the previous one (so if you’ve, for example, a welcome sequence, you can have 3 or more emails in that sequence, all within one automation). Now, there are ways around this (you can read my article here on how you can do it), but if you’re doing lots of automations, it makes sense to upgrade to give you the flexibility you need.
  • Send Time Scheduling*
    Not a major feature, but certainly a useful tool, in the free account, when you create a standard (i.e. not automated) email, you can only “press send”… but on the paid account you can “delay” it for a set period…  Why would you do that?… I explain one reason in this article.
  • Email Templates*
    In the past you had the flexibility to do what you wanted with your templates, but Mailchimp limited that functionality, so you can only create and use custom templates on their paid plan. So if you want to get creative (which doesn’t always add value, but is good for certain businesses), then you need to pay. Plus, Mailchimp have developed lots of other templates (I’ll admit I’ve never used them!), which you get access to on the paid plan.

 *These are features that if you were using them before May 15th 2019 were grandfathered in for you and may mean you don’t need to upgrade because of this.

There are a few other things that you get if you upgrade (like social post scheduling and retargeting), but these currently aren’t massively used features to my knowledge and as such aren’t “big hitters” when it comes to reasons to upgrade.

Can you upgrade (and downgrade) more than once?

A question that I hear asked is whether it’s possible to upgrade for a period and then downgrade afterwards. This could be because you want to get support for a specific issue, but then don’t want need it anymore.

The answer is that, yes, you can upgrade and then downgrade after, but this option is only available once. If you need to do it a second time, then you will stay on the paid level.

So consider this option carefully before jumping in, because you only get one go!

Also, following a note from a member of the ever excellent Mailchimp Answers Facebook Community, if you are on an “old” Free Account that has some of the features mentioned before ‘grandfathered’ in, if you upgrade and then downgrade again, you will be downgraded to the “new” set up and may lose access to some of the features… so pay attention when you do this to make sure you’re upgrading for the right reasons.

What about the different pricing levels in Mailchimp?

When Mailchimp introduced their new pricing structure, they brought in 2 levels that most would use (I’m ignoring the top level “Premium” option for now), Essentials and Standard.

When you look at each, the difference between one and the other isn’t a massive jump…

If you’ve got 5,000 contacts in your account, you’ll pay $49.99 a month on the Essentials plan or $74.99 on the Standard Plan.

The main difference that I can see between them is you get a few more audiences (5 to 3 – but as I continue to say, you don’t need them!), a larger audience potential (from 50k to 100k), fully custom coded templates, social posting & retargeting, send time optimisation and multi-step automations. There may be others but they’re features I don’t believe many use.

So which level is right for you?

Well, if you just want to add support to your account, go for the Essentials plan as this is included, but if you want to have much more flexibility, then the Standard plan is there for you – and remember, you can upgrade if you want to move from Essentials to Standard.

Concluding thoughts

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all the things you get when you pay for Mailchimp, rather a guide to the key things that most people actually use. If you feel that there’s something you use that you upgraded to get access to that I’ve not mentioned, please let me know and I’ll add it to the article.

…but for most Mailchimp users upgrading should be something that you do for only a few main reasons, namely, you’ve got over 2,000 contacts, you want support, or you want advanced templates… most of the other reasons have workarounds.

Much of the system is still accessible for people who don’t want to upgrade, and it’s still a great system for Free account users – it’s the number one reason why Mailchimp is the biggest in the marketplace – and to get some of their features without paying a dime is pretty great in my book!!!

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Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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