Forever Free? Mailchimp Now Charges For Unsubscribed Emails

Mailchimp has found itself in a furor over its new pricing structure.

The service provider, contrary to standard industry practice, will now charge for email unsubscribers as well as subscribers. And this is drawing “extreme criticism,” writes marketing pro David Gaughran.

That news surfaced last week after Mailchimp announced it is moving beyond email and offering a one-stop marketing platform for SMBs covering websites, ad retargeting and social media.

Gaughran, a legacy Mailchimp user, writes that he was informed by Mailchimp’s billing team, “Your account will be changed based off of the whole audience."

How is that defined? “This is the total number of contacts that can be marketed to,” the message continues. “This includes subscribed, unsubscribed, and transactional contacts. Cleaned, archived, and deleted contacts are not included.”

Gaughran notes, “I have been a loyal and happy Mailchimp customer for over eight years. I have also recommended Mailchimp to thousands of other authors.”



Sure, there are cheaper services and some with more bells and whistles, but Mailchimp was for Gaughran “the perfect combination of price, user friendliness, and reliability,” he writes.

“Until yesterday.”

Mailchimp quickly responded to a query on the subject. First, it noted that, "As a paid legacy user, Gaughran is not subject to whole audience pricing and can keep his plan for as long as he likes.” Elaboring, it adds that existing paid customers “can stay on their current plans and are not subject to whole audience pricing, unless they choose to switch to a new plan.”

Then the firm explains the logic behind the new strategy. 

“Our old pricing structure was based on email subscribers, and our new pricing structure reflects that Mailchimp is a multichannel marketing platform," the company informs us. "With that, our new plans are based on the total number of contacts in your audience, not just email subscribers.”

It adds, “That means someone who unsubscribed from email marketing, but may still be eligible for social marketing, postcards, or advertising, will remain in a customer’s audience.” 

“We made this change to give our users a more complete picture of their audience, rather than showing lists of emails, to help them build stronger relationships with their customers,” it continues.

The company also cleared up a bit of confusion about legacy clients, reiterating that existing paid customerscan stay on their current plans and are not subject to whole audience pricing, unless they choose to switch to a new plan.”

Despite that, the new program does raise some questions. For one, are SMBs that want to focus on email going to be forced into scaling up into full omnichannel marketing? Gaughran argues that charging by audience is “patently unfair."

Second, will it raise privacy issues? You can avoid paying for unsubscribes by deleting them, but that might get you into trouble under GDPR? Gaughran asks. 

Well, it’s an open market. Potential clients can demur. And pure-play email vendors will no doubt be jumping on this. But this may prompt some marketers to redefine just what they mean by "audience."

For the record, Mailchimp’s new pricing policy does include one freebie that comes with basic templates covering seven marketing channels. At the high end is the premium offering, starting at $299.99 per month, featuring advanced segmentation, multivariate testing and custom domains. 

As for privacy, Mailchimp informs us that it “doesn't allow users to send email marketing to unsubscribed contacts. Customers have complete control over their audience, and customers who use Mailchimp primarily for email can archive or delete unsubscribed contacts so they won’t be charged for them.”

What will archiving do for you? “Archiving a contact will completely remove it from an audience, so they can't be contacted through any of our marketing channels,” Mailchimp states. “Archiving also preserves all of a contact's data, including records of subscribing and unsubscribing.” 

We suspect we haven’t heard the last of this one.

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