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I wasn’t surprised when news broke a few days ago about a possible MailChimp sale. The email marketing giant is currently exploring options, including a sale valued at $10 billion or minority stakes.
COVID-19 brought a resurgence in email marketing. It’s still ranked as one of the top four most effective marketing channels for small businesses, with a return of $42 for every $1 spent.
I saw MailChimp’s transformation and possible sale on the horizon after MailChimp and Shopify’s acrimonious breakup in 2019. Shopify, an eCommerce platform and point-of-sale system for online stores, fits MailChimp like a glove. MailChimp would collect names and email addresses and facilitate email automation for online stores using Shopify.
Although there were (and are) other eCommerce email marketing options (e.g., Klaviyo, Onmisend, ActiveCampaign, etc.), MailChimp was the best option for small- to medium-sized business owners. Particularly businesses that were expanding into the online sales space or new, lower-budget businesses.
It was a real headscratcher why the two marketing giants would sever their agreement until news broke that MailChimp quietly purchased LemonStand, a Shopify competitor, in the months leading up to their severed relationship.
At that moment, as a digital marketing consultant, I began to give MailChimp the side-eye. Why? Because it was clear that MailChimp pivoted from one of the premier email marketing services into an all-in-one business marketing tool.
Now that a potential sale is on the horizon, it’s another indication that business leaders need to pay attention.
Why business leaders should care if MailChimp sells
As business leaders, we can celebrate such a substantial potential startup valuation and evaluate what it means for our business.
The technology landscape changes rapidly. When one of the major players in the business technology landscape makes a move, it can create a cascading effect throughout the industry.
While your Chief Marketing Officer (or marketing team) may monitor these changes, it’s essential to understand the possible implications for your business.
For businesses currently using MailChimp
If you’re using MailChimp and are happy with the service, you’re in a waiting game.
Make sure to subscribe to their product updates. Typically, companies give you a heads-up if any upcoming changes affect your business.
Here’s what to look out for:
A decline in performance or support.
Specifically, a decline in performance or support for essential features you or your team uses regularly. This could mean a decline in productivity and lost revenues.
All-in-one software is a jack of all trades, a master of none. MailChimp will likely always be strongest in email marketing. Still, all-in-one software tends to pay attention to the most-used services rather than being best-in-class, ensuring your marketing success in one particular area (in this case, email marketing).
You’re better off looking for a provider specializing solely in email marketing and related services to support your needs.
When companies move aggressively into the all-in-one space, there’s often a decline in integration support. Why would a company encourage you to integrate your sales pipeline or client relationship manager (CRM) with their platform if they offer a perfect CRM? MailChimp’s break from Shopify (and its possible sale) could signal further changes.
If MailChimp sells …
If MailChimp sells, research the buyer, even a minority stake. It might give you insights into the company’s long-term goals.
Changing email marketing platforms should never be taken lightly. Take great care and plan the move well ahead of time.
For businesses currently shopping for an email marketing provider
If you’re in the market for a new email marketing provider or MailChimp’s all-in-one capabilities seduce you, it might be time to look elsewhere.
It’s hard to overlook an email marketing provider that consumes over 60% of the market share; however, since 2019, I’ve seen changes to the platform and pricing structure that give me pause.
What to consider before diving headfirst into MailChimp:
The primary concern with an all-in-one platform is it can’t be good at everything. Features that aren’t popular may be removed or left unsupported.
All-in-one platforms offer many options businesses don’t need (and at a higher price). You’re stretching your marketing budget and buying into a suite of features you may never need.
The pain of leaving vs. living with what you have
Although this can happen with any software you use to support your business when you’re using one platform for a CRM, landing pages, store, and email marketing, it means you must ‘live with’ the services they do offer because it’s painful to change.
Choose best-in-class across the board
The flip side of the all-in-one approach is to choose best-in-class software that talks to each other (integrates). Typically, in the software selection game, non-technical people want the simplicity of one system. In contrast, people focusing on long-term growth, stability, and functionality go for a suite of specialized, best-in-class applications.
I always advise my clients to invest in the best-in-class software they can afford, allowing them to grow over time. I still recommend MailChimp sometimes, but it’s always a narrow recommendation for its email marketing and landing pages (not the CRM, website, or eCommerce options).
Integrations, Integrations, Integrations
It’s also essential that any software you buy also communicates (integrates) with other software you’re currently using.
For example, Squarespace, a website platform, now offers email marketing. Although having one account for a website and email marketing is convenient, it’s almost impossible to integrate Squarespace email marketing with anything other than Acuity (which Squarespace also owns). Simplicity in one area could mean complications in another. A good email marketing platform must communicate with sales, website, CRM, and other business functions.
Zoho is another excellent example. Zoho offers a tremendous suite of products, from marketing and sales, finance, customer service, and project management for small businesses to enterprise-grade. And, it’s a closed system that offers few native integrations (meaning you’ll have to use a third-party application (e.g., Zapier) to get it to talk to another piece of software).
Most of the time, it’s wise to think of email marketing as a forever decision. You want the most features you can afford that give you room to grow because it’s difficult to migrate to another platform.
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