The great Mailchimp ripoff

by | Fri 3 Nov, 23

Another Mailchimp price increase? Yep, you should be used to it by now.
Hi, I’m Doug, CEO at MailNinja, and I’ve followed Mailchimp’s journey from scrappy startup, to world dominating behemoth, to corporate American entity, and I guess this is a good place to start, the start.
This isn’t a growth story, it’s a story about how Mailchimp have hiked up their pricing in recent years, and as a result have nudged away (or are nudging away) their core customer base – small businesses.

The Mailchimp story, so far

Humble beginnings

Mailchimp began life as a web design agency called the Rocket Science Group, ran by Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius. They had their sights set on bigger things, and as email marketing was starting to take off, they jumped in at a pivotal moment. Back in 2001 when Mailchimp launched, the only players in the space were the likes of iContact, Constant Contact and Aweber (to name a few). These companies had the edge over Mailchimp feature-wise, but Ben and Dan knew their customer base and saw an opportunity to service small business with a simple and fun offering that made people want to adopt the chimp.

Free forever

Between 2001 and 2009, Mailchimp grew, but slowly and organically. It wasn’t until they launched their freemium plan in 2009 that they hacked their growth and become humungous! Their ‘free forever’ plan was super generous, and no one was offering such a plan back then. There’s loadsa articles online about Mailchimp’s freemium plan and how it catapulted them into orbit. It’s an inspiring story, and one that can still be replicated to hack growth today.
It was around this time that MailNinja was starting out life as a web agency, and decided to apply to join their partner program (or experts directory, as it was called back then). Their partner-team-of-1 accepted us, and the rest is history. We swam like a small fish alongside the big chimp-shaped whale, and gobbled up the scraps and grew a company of our own. A story familiar to many Mailchimp partners over the years.

The all-in-one marketing platform

Pre-covid, around 2019, we were Mailchimp’s #1 partner globally, and we had an amazing relationship with them. They flew us over to Atlanta to meet the founders, and we met with various people from their top team fairly often. I look back at this time fondly, and am eternally grateful for the opportunity.
During this time, Mailchimp decided it was going to become the ‘all-in-one marketing platform’ and take on Shopify (ecommerce), Hubspot (all-in-one solution), Buffer (social), GoDaddy (domains) and Wix (websites). We met with folk from their team who felt strongly that they’d identified these ‘competitors’ and were going to “eat their lunch”.
@DavidGaughran nails it.

The results were underwhelming.
  • Mailchimp fell out very publicly with Shopify
  • Their subsequent ecommerce solution was so basic it didn’t suit 99% of people
  • Their social posting feature didn’t match Buffer, or even close
  • Their website builder was also pretty poor
I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing the lukewarm response to their attempt to be the all-in-one marketing platform for small business is the primary reason Ben and Dan relented and sold.
At this time, Mailchimp had a marketing campaign ‘now what, that’s what’
You just tried launching an all-in-one marketing platform and it didn’t work out, now what? Sell for $12bn and walk away, that’s what!
This isn’t a judgement on them, who wouldn’t do the same?

Intuit comes knocking

So, in 2021, when Intuit said they’d like to acquire Mailchimp for a paltry $12 billion (I jest), my guess is that the 2 founders (with 100% ownership and no outside investors), acted cool, but then proceeded to jump around the room like kids when the Intuit board ended the zoom call.
$12 billion is a huge amount of money, and likely the primary reason prices have risen so steeply in recent years.
This now brings us up to date, that’s your history lesson for today…
Let’s look at their pricing!

Mailchimp price increases

Mailchimp are naughty scamps. Checking Wayback Machine for a history of their pricing doesn’t really serve up any results, as their pricing is loaded from some database, which I guess is now moved or removed, hence why if you try to look back at their pricing you get this… A whirling wheel of doom.
Fear not, as Mailchimp are super-huge, there is plenty of write ups whenever they update their pricing, which is often!
I don’t have an exact record of when their prices were updated, but after reading various blog posts from the last few years, I can look back and get a record of their pricing at various points along the way.
One other thing to note, is that I’ve taken some of these prices are used today’s currency rates to convert this from dollars to GB pounds, so there will be some flux in the numbers due to inflation etc.
There was a price increase in 2019, and we even published a post about it here, but we stupidly didn’t log the before and after prices. Doh.
So, the time periods I’ve logged are as follows:
2020-2021 At some point between 2020 and late 2021
Mid 2022 Some time in 2022, I estimate mid-year
Early 2023 Mid 2023 Late 2023 More recently, I have 3 points in 2023 where I found pricing, with the most recent (Late 2023) when their pricing was updated November 2023.
My goal is to keep this up to date and add more changes as they arise, but, for the eagle eyed out there, if you know any other dates for the contact amounts shown, please share this with me at [email protected].
Let’s dive in!

2020-2021

First, let’s look at the pricing as of 2020 to some point in 2021.
It’s hard to say when their prices increased if at all, seeing as the world was suffering a pandemic and small businesses were hit hard.  It’s around this time Ben and Dan likely realised their all-in-one marketing platform wasn’t flying like they’d hoped, and Intuit started to take notice.
Here’s the breakdown:
  • 5,000 contacts: £40.94
  • 10,000 contacts: £61.42
  • 50,000 contacts: £212.12
  • 100,000 contacts: £408.67

Mid 2022

Post-Intuit-takeover, Mailchimp started to incrementally increase their prices. They were full steam ahead adding new features to the platform and the focus was shifting from ‘mom and pop’ startups to slightly larger companies, potentially Quickbooks users!
Here’s the breakdown:
  • 5,000 contacts: £43.40 (6% increase from before)
  • 10,000 contacts: £64.69 (5% increase from before)
  • 50,000 contacts: £221.12 (4% increase from before)
  • 100,000 contacts: £442.07 (8% increase from before)

Early 2023

The first of the 2023 increases sees a big jump up (10-12%), which also coincides with the introduction of AI tools like creative assistant. I guess Intuit want some of their money back!
Here’s the breakdown:
  • 5,000 contacts: £48.30 (11% increase from before)
  • 10,000 contacts: £71.23 (10% increase from before)
  • 50,000 contacts: £244.79 (11% increase from before)
  • 100,000 contacts: £495.32 (12% increase from before)

Mid 2023

The biggest increase we tracked, between 16 and 18%, wow!
Here’s the breakdown:
  • 5,000 contacts: £57.08 (18% increase from before)
  • 10,000 contacts: £82.72 (16% increase from before)
  • 50,000 contacts: £289.51 (18% increase from before)
  • 100,000 contacts:  £579.03 (17% increase from before)

Late 2023

Another big increase, slowing nudging out the little guy!
Here’s the breakdown:
  • 5,000 contacts: £62.33 (9% increase from before)
  • 10,000 contacts: £91.42 (11% increase from before)
  • 50,000 contacts: £319.97 (11% increase from before)
  • 100,000 contacts: £664.86 (15% increase from before)

All together

Now here’s how the increases look over time.
What’s interesting when you look at the trend lines, is that the biggest increases over time are for plans with higher contact counts.
During this time the 5,000 contacts plan increased by £21.39, which is 52%
Whereas the 100,000 contacts plan increased by £256.19, which is 63%
A 63% increase, in a time of global financial uncertainty really does not fit with the mantra Mailchimp have been chanting for decades, which is to support small business, it smacks of greed and complacency.
Not sure Ben and Dan would approve of this shift change, but hey, $12bn is a lot of money.
Let’s keep the conversation going…

👇

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