They have a great free package that comes with lots of features. But is it really all it's cracked up to be? Not so sure. It's worth taking

One of the most used email service providers (ESPs) seems to be Mailchimp.

I have used them when starting a new list for low budget companies.

And why not?

They have a great free package that comes with lots of features.

But is it really all it's cracked up to be? Not so sure.

It's worth taking another look.

So here goes.

Initial setup

I started a fresh account.

2000 contacts for free is ultra great for someone with a low (or in the case of many small businesses, non existent) budget.

Easy sign up. I’m on the site.

Where’s my list?

Let’s look at the header:

Create, Campaigns, Automate, Audience, Brand, Reports

Is my list the audience?


The free plan allows for one list, one audience.

This may seem enough to start with, but having more that one list is actually important if you want to send out different types of emails (such as a newsletter, updates, course/event emails and so much more).

When you have a different list for different purposes, there's a better chance to give your audience the emails they want, and enable them to opt-out of those they don't.

You can bet your bucks I’ll be segmenting using tags, groups & segments, since Audience is such a broad term and doesn’t really convey that this is a LIST.


Wait, what’s the difference between tags, groups, segments and merge tags?

And how do I create them?

As a beginner I found this confusing. As an experienced user, I found it simply bad UX.

Tags are to mark people, and can also be used for segmenting.

Segments can incorporate various conditions (including tags) and groups - well maybe I can use those as sub lists…

Merge tags are great for personalizing emails, but the setup - oy yoy yoy.

Too many terms, too little explanation.

Moving on.

Landing page

I try to create a landing page.

It’s not something all ESPs have, but I want to create a funnel. Lead magnet, automate with email to send users a file then possibly a follow up email.

I also want to have an opt-in to newsletter option too.

Let's begin:

✔ Create the page

✔ Associate it to an audience

This is NOT the target audience for the page, it's NOT the segmentation, it's actually looking to associate the page to a list, so every new lead will automatically go to that list.

These semantics are killing me!!

Lucky for me, the free plan only has 1 list, errrm audience.

✔ Start designing the page

I really dislike the designer.

❌ The blocks aren't intuitive

❌ Moving from one section setting to the next requires back and forth & understanding the structure, which btw, is so not intuitive.

For example, you can't edit the text in the body of the email/page, you open the block and then edit on the right.

❌ Finding the general definitions to change the page theme is too complicated.

OH, and adding an opt-in checkbox exactly the way I want it is a nightmare.

I want a pre-checked box with text next to it.

Can't do it.

SO not intuitive.

[Yes, I know pre-check is against GDPR and CCPA rules, but I want the option]

Can I get used to it? For sure.

Do I want to? Not at all, when there are better options out there.

Next, I tackle setting up the automation.


I have my audience and landing page set up.

Now I want to automate so that anyone who signs up gets an email with a downloadable file.

Let's see how easy it was. (Spoiler alert - NOT!)

The default automations suggested are limited and not what I’m looking for.

I finally find the option to trigger the automation based on campaign activity.

Since my landing page is officially called a campaign, I try to select that. But alas, Mailchimp doesn't recognize my page as a campaign.

My only option is to trigger on joining my list, which is NOT what I want, so I will have to segment them somehow, or tag them when I want to send the file.

But once again, I run into the same problem of the landing page not being recognized as a campaign.

I'm frustrated already. This would have taken seconds in ActiveCampaign.

Also, the free plan doesn't let you have multi-step automations, and so even if I create the landing page in an automation to begin with, I can't tag them and then follow up within one automation.

My time is too valuable. This is not the right tool for me.

On to the next ESP!