MailChimp Review: Email Marketing Provider

MailChimpMailChimp is a funny email marketing company. They have gone out of their way to make the language and the feel of their site relaxed, yet their documentation and features are thorough. There is something reassuring to me to see a company that has a rich offering, doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and has far less hand waving than most other email marketing services. They offer a free trial that gives you full access to their services and the ability to send over 600 emails.

User Interface

MailChimp User InterfaceThe “Dashboard” seems set up for the “first time user”, but the more I looked at it I realized it really wasn’t much of a dashboard. There are no stats on recent campaigns, pending reports, or metrics of any kind. In other words, there is no dashboard – just information about what you can do or links to recent blog articles. There is a tab to “chimp chatter” which at first I assumed would be recent conversions from their community users, but it is actually a stream of your recent activity. It’s interesting but doesn’t really meet the definition of a dashboard.

List Import

Importing a list was not as easy as it should have been. They want you to make sure that your list is properly formatted with the same columns as you have described when you created your MailChimp list. So, you have to pre-process your list before using their upload wizard.


They have “on-the-fly” segmentation which is as nice of a component as any of the other Email Marketing services, but I can’t see an easy way to store segmentation rules. You either build them out each time or possibly use the API to create reusable segmentations.


MailChimp’s reporting makes it easy to get a high level view of your email campaign’s performance as well as some other great advanced reporting tools such as the following:

  • Compare to my industry: This allows you to specfiy your industry and then compare your results to that industry average.
  • Downloadable Excel report: Excel reports are readily available and easy to download.
  • View abuse complaints: When an abuse complaint occurs, you can quickly access it and discover how to correct the problem.
  • Opens by location: Large world map with hot spot information about where your email campaigns are being viewed.

Link tracking

Link tracking for Google analytics is pretty straight forward, though I haven’t been able to add a “term” variable to the tracking URL.


I’ll breakdown the tracking string so that we can look at what information will be available to Google Analytics:

  • utm_source=myFirstEmail+List: The name of my list where the subscriber came from.
  • utm_campaign=cf5862a4bf-MailChimp_Test3_18_2009: The id number and internal name of the campaign
  • utm_medium=email: The medium is obviously email so it is difficult to imagine them messing this one up.

Where is utm_term? After some long conversations from their support desk, they just haven’t included it. They say that it isn’t an important feature. In the standardized MailChimp reports you can see which links are getting the most clicks in the “Click Performance” section, but it is not quite the same as being able to use Google Analytics to see what the subscriber did once they clicked on a link.

Why is utm_term so important? It adds a deeper level of segmentation in Google Analytics. For example, not only can you look at the visits, page/visits, revenue, eCommerce conversion rate of an email campaign, using the keyword filter you can see how each link of the email campaign performed.

When "utm_term" is set you can see the performance of each link in Google Analytics
When "utm_term" is set you can see the performance of each link in Google Analytics

anlaytics360Analytics 360

This is a free add-on that pulls additional Google Analytics data into your email reports. I have just configured these and will see what kind of additional features this provides….

I really like this feature because it pulls in ROI data that is already set up in Google Analytics. You can see how much revenue, conversions, bounce rates and ROIs were generated by an email campaign.


A feature you only expect to see with some of the Bigger Email Marketing Service Providers is Autoresponders. The difference is that MailChimp’s Autoresponder system is SOOOOO easy to set up. Their Autoresponder wizard walks you through the processes and makes this an easy and effective automated email system.

Social Links

They have an interesting feature that allows you to send a notice to many of your social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon,¬† Digg, Magnolia, and delicious.¬† It automatically creates intro text (that you can edit) and a shortened URL. The only downside is that it directs those users to the online version of your email; that might not be a bad thing if your email is a newsletter that contains the “new” content, but it isn’t as useful if your goal is to drive those visitors to the website.


A rich API with plenty of example applications, documentation, and an active user community makes it easy for even the novice developer to utilize. Not only have they included plenty of sample applications, they also have wrappers (chunks of code that you can use in your application) and plug-ins that members of their community have developed for use with many different web applications such as Drupal, Joomla, WordPress and more.

The Good:

  • Feature Rich: MailChimp has features you expect only to see in the larger Email Marketing Providers.
  • Easy to use: With all of those features they provide plenty of hand holding to make sure you are comfortable using them.
  • Video Tutorials: All of the features have video links showing how to use a particular feature which is very nice.
  • Price Point: Their pay-as-you-go pricing structure is set up so that you get the “best rates” at a relatively low buy in.
  • API: Yeah, almost everyone provides an API these days, but the attention they put into documentation, sample codes and developer helps sets MailChimp apart.
  • Easy Authentication: To use authentication in your MailChimp campaigns you just check the “Authenticate” box in the campaign setup step (no server setup required). Your campaign will then pass DKIM, DomainKeys, SenderID and SPF authentication…super easy!

The Bad:

  • List Import: Lists have to be formatted ahead of time to fit the structure of our MailChimp lists. In other words, you can’t map your internal names for columns with MailChimp’s external names, so there will have to be a level of pre-processing before you import a list.
  • Saved segmentation rules: If you mail separate campaigns to the same list based on attributes, you are going to have to build that out each time. MailChimp does not have a way to save your segmentation rules for later use.
  • Link tracking in Google Analytics: Not having the “utm_term” string prevents you from being able to track which link was clicked in Google Analytics.

Final Thoughts

MailChimp is a solid Email service provider, and I was very impressed with their offering. I can see our company using MailChimp as a supplement to our current setup and if things go well, we may just move the whole operation over.

Try  MailChimp and get a free 600 email trial and then let me know what you think of of their service.

What kinds of features do you look for when shopping for an Email Marketing Service? Do you find that most of the advanced features that Email Marketing Services offer are not usually used in your email marketing program?