Email Newsletters | Saying Goodbye to Mailchimp

After several years, I decided recently to shut down my Mailchimp email newsletter. Here’s what I wrote, along with a picture just to make it look nice, in a final email to all subscribers:


[ The email began… ]

Hello – I hope you’re well.

I’ve not been using this email newsletter much recently, which may be a blessed relief to you. The tech platform I use, Mailchimp, has become so off-putting that my heart sinks whenever I even think of writing.

A shop in Hampstead, selling second-hand books, art, clocks, egg-cups – you name it. I drew it as part of an ongoing project.

As soon as I log in, Mailchimp tells me what to do to get more people opening emails, clicking on links, buying stuff… Even when I’m just typing into the subject line, Mailchimp yells:

A great subject line gives your audience a reason to open your email.

Based on best practices

It’s short and sweet: Subject lines with fewer than 9 words tend to perform better
Emojis are great… in small quantities: We suggest using no more than 1
Space is limited: Great job staying under 60 characters
That’s impressive: You got your point across without using too many punctuation marks


Aaaargh.

Mailchimp wants me to behave as if I’m some kind of multinational conglomerate, instead of a chap who likes to publish the occasional email newsletter to a mix of people I do know and people I don’t.

For a while now I’ve found it repellent to be nudged like that while composing something that will go to (among others) my parents, my friends and my neighbours. It’s been getting worse since the company was sold to investors.


Another maddening element: Mailchimp says I’ll get “an average 14% increase in click-rate” if I write slightly different emails to people with different interests.

Well, sure, I suppose that’s true, but it would drive me bonkers to think of all the ways in which readers of this newsletter differ from each other. And even thinking about it seems to make me objectify you as nothing but a target for commercial shenanigans.

Mailchimp was an excellent platform to get started on, and I’m grateful to have learned from it. But it’s clear that it’s (now, anyway) designed explicitly for marketing and business transactions. I’m all for marketing occasionally, and I like to effect business transactions, that’s not what I want from a newsletter.


About a year ago, I started using a different platform, to publish a newsletter called ::Everyday Writing::. It is not entirely about writing, and it doesn’t come out every day, so I probably should have called it something else. But hey, the Daily Telegraph isn’t a telegraph either.

Sign up, if you really must, on this page: flintoff.org

You’ll need to confirm your subscription, or you won’t receive anything. (The confirmation email may be in your spam / junk folder.)

Thank you for reading the emails I’ve sent out from Mailchimp. I shall delete this account, and all emails associated with it.

Cheerio.

PS. Before I press send, Mailchimp warns:

You’re not tracking opens.
You’re not tracking clicks.
You’re not tracking plain-text clicks.
You’re not tracking e-commerce link activity.
You’re not tracking goals.

[ End of the email. ]

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What Happened Next?

I felt a huge sense of relief. A massive weight had lifted. It helped, I’m sure, that I soon started to receive emails notifying me that people had signed up for my ::Everyday Writing:: newsletter.

I posted that goodbye to Mailchimp on LinkedIn, because I felt confident that others might struggle with the same feelings about Mailchimp (and other things like it).

Here are a few comments I received, either directly by email or via LinkedIn:

Hello jp! I loved your good bye to mailchimp:) Thank you for your writings!

Mailchimp is the devil that sits on my shoulder. Thank you for sharing this!

I am offline until Monday 31 January and will reply to your message upon my return.

dear JP that is best darnedest come-on for a newsletter sign up I’ve ever read1. Takes self-deprecating to a whole new level! And using mailchimp to bash mail chimp- genius my friend, I’m just glad those bastards aren’t employing u! or are they…

Thank you for your email. I’m on maternity leave.

Hello JP. I am delighted to sign up for your new(maybe?) definitely different newsletter platform/list. I can entirely relate to what you said about the off-putting ‘helpful’ suggestions from MailChimp and their ilk. I am glad that you are not a multinational conglomerate as I probably wouldn’t want to be on your list if you were. In fact I have spent a chunk of this morning gleefully liberting my inbox by unsubscribing from a collection of mailing lists – some of which needed a bit of perseverence to get to the end where my unsubscription was finally definitely accepted (well, allegedly but I suppose I shall see if it has properly taken…) – but when your email arrived I immediately clicked to sign up for your new / replacement list.

Bloody love this. No, we aren’t machines. We have souls that want to communicate with other souls. Thank you JP.

Hello JP. I loved your latest newsletter. I’ve just started out on planet MailChimp – did my very first one last week – so am right at the other end of the tunnel from you. However, as the whole tech thing is like trying to untangle a zillion Christmas Tree lights with oven gloves on, I’ll have to put up with being spoon fed (albeit with dodgy ‘sell sell sell’) advice for now.2

Hello again.

This whole engagement thing has become a nightmare. Do you let me know if you find a better platform!

I love that mailchimp still offered me the opportunity to subscribe.

I am no longer working at XXXXXX.

Hahaha I hate Mailchimp so much too. I am using ConvertKit3 now and it’s an active pleasure by comparison. Hope you’re doing well!

Thank you for your email. I am on holiday returning on 31 January 2022. If you require urgent assistance, please contact XXXX XXXXX.

I’m just writing to congratulate you for disengaging from Mailchimp, given your explanation. I wish that more people would refuse to do business with Amazon for their undesirable practices.

Hi JP I loved your last Mailchimp letter, it touches on something that feels so important. Ironically, I wanted to share it but I don’t think it had a weblink! I experience a similar thing on LinkedIn where all these tricks undermine the whole experience. The tedious tagging of people, the stupid surveys etc. I was thinking of hosting some conversations about un-marketing, doing pretty much the opposite of everything we’re told to do to promote ourselves.4

You don’t need to delete them – you can export them! Try Flodesk. We love it.

Hey JP. Who are you using for your other newsletter? After being with Mailchimp from the very start of Mailchimp I share your sentiments so would like to move elsewhere.5

Hellooooooo.

After a couple of days, my ::Everyday Writing:: subscriber base had grown a fair bit, but only by a tiny fraction of the people who had been on my Mailchimp list.

Do I mind? Honestly, I don’t think so. A few years ago, I would have minded terribly. But something has shifted. I’m better at being OK about it if people don’t see, or even actively ignore, my newsletters. And I take care not to receive notifications about people unsubscribing. I’d rather not know.

If people unsubscribe – well, I’m sure they have their reasons.

I wouldn’t want to feel guilty unsubscribing from emails, and I don’t want anybody else to feel that way either.

So: feel free to come and go as you please.

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Deleting The Emails

I still had to delete all the contacts on my Mailchimp account. If I didn’t, nobody would know except me, but I don’t want to operate that way.

So I went ahead and reduced my readership to zero:

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Anything Else?

That wasn’t the end, because then I remembered one thing I can’t do with the new email platform I use: automation.

As a general rule, I loathe the idea of automated emails, but there’s one situation where they are handy.

Since publishing A Modest Book About How To Make An Adequate Speech, I’ve run an occasional speaking course. I send participants information they need at regular intervals. The emails are simple, but scheduling them can get complicated if I do it manually – either I send material people aren’t yet ready for, or I forget to send anything at all for weeks on end.

I wondered if I should keep the Mailchimp account after all, only for automations.

I logged in, clicked through to the pages about automations – and felt the familiar wave of revulsion as Mailchimp hollered at me:

Nurture Relationship: Welcome New Contacts
Re-Engage Contacts: Recover Lost Customers
Sell Stuff: Send Multiple Offers To Abandoned Cart Customers
Share Information: Email Tagged Customers
Sell Stuff: Create Repeat Customers

If you have any ideas how I can set up a simple email automation, I’m keen to hear.

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Thoughts?
Please jp at this domain name

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1 best darnedest come-on. This made me laugh, spluttering tea over the kitchen table.

2 spoon fed advice. It should go without saying that I don’t object to anybody else using Mailchimp, and have nothing against Mailchimp as such. It’s just not for me.

3 ConvertKit. I made a note of this, and will investigate.

4 conversations about un-marketing. I replied: Nice idea. I hope you don’t find too many people joining you, or you’ll get a toxic injection of dopamine, and become an evil marketing wizard despite yourself.

5 would like to move elsewhere. I replied: I stumbled on a thing called Buttondown, which is used by three writers I like. It’s got a simple interface, and what I like is that it’s run by a man called Justin who basically does it all, and responds quickly. I recently upgraded to the paid plan, just because I have enjoyed using it and because I like him – but it turns out that the paid plan brings me (at this point) literally zero benefit. I just feel better about it.