Intuit is Slowly Killing Mailchimp's Free Plan, Here's Why

Feb 10, 2023
The inside scoop on the reason Email Marketing's favorite free plan is ending, and how soon you have to switch to a new platform.
Intuit is Slowly Killing Mailchimp's Free Plan, Here's Why


In 2021, Mailchimp was acquired by Intuit for $12 billion in one of the biggest acquistions of a bootstrapped startup, ever.

Similar to Adobe's acquisition of Figma, this resulted in quite a bit of backlash. Mailchimp's acquirer, Intuit, has a long history of spending millions on anti-consumer lobbying. Sound familiar? Courtesy of ProPublica:

Using lobbying, the revolving door and “dark pattern” customer tricks, Intuit fended off the government’s attempts to make tax filing free and easy, and created its multi-billion-dollar franchise [TurboTax]

While we'd like to give intuit the benefit of the doubt here, let's follow up and see how things are going with Mailchimp.

The profit-extraction begins

Just one year post-acquisition, things aren't looking good for customers and employees of Mailchimp.

  • Intuit began dramatically increasing prices, cutting features from affordable tiers, and announcing a 75% reduction in subscriber limits for new customers.
  • Intuit quickly instituted pay cuts for loyal Mailchimp employees, causing an exodus of longstanding talent.
  • It was revealed Mailchimp employees were never given an opportunity to own equity in the company, even after decades of service, and recieved nothing in the acquisition.
  • Founder/CEO Ben Chestnut was forced out due to some bizarre internal drama within the company.

Another classic case of an acquistion not turning out great for customers. Mailerlite was also acquired by private equity around the same time, so expect them to start implementing similar price hikes.

Mailchimp's Free Plan limits get lowered next month

More reductions to the free plan will hit in March 2023. This time it applies to all customers, even existing users. Users who were previously grandfathered into the old 2,000 free subscriber tier are out of luck.

The new, lower restrictions on the free plan are as follows:

  • Max 500 subscribers
  • Max 1,000 email sends per month
  • Max 500 emails sends per day

If you're currently on the free plan, you will either need to start paying every month, or find a new email marketing tool.

But people love Mailchimp's free tier, why end it?

To understand this, you have to look at Mailchimp's roots. This was always how things were going to end.

Mailchimp, like Google, was founded during the first tech boom, so both companies followed the same classic mid-2000s growth strategy.

It can be explained in 3 phases: Undercut, Capture, and Extract.

  • Undercut: To grow fast, a startup needs a unique sales hook. Inspired by what Google did with Gsuite, Mailchimp's founders realized they could grow much faster by making customers an offer they couldn't refuse: A loss-leading free plan unmatched by competitors.
  • Capture: Mailchimp's Forever Free plan was born in the mid-2000s. It's hard to remember, since most B2B software companies offer free tiers now, but this was revolutionary at the time. Over the next decade, Mailchimp grew to capture roughly 73% market share among email marketing platforms. Where they still sit today.
  • Extract: After you've captured the market, there isn't much room left to grow. Hoewver, customers have designed their processes around your increasingly complicated tool, so switching costs are high. Time to monetize that lock-in. Raise prices and let product quality decline while you coast off the reputation you built in phase one. Intuit knows this strategy all too well. Hence where we are today.

We don't recommend sticking around as a customer now that Mailchimp has reached extraction phase. You'll be using an increasingly outdated and neglected product, while more of your money gets taken from you.

A better, more modern Mailchimp alternative

The truth is, Mailchimp has coasted off its dominant position for years while the software has stagnated. Its design and features are rooted in a pre-smartphone, pre-social media era, and have failed to keep up with modern consumers.

Today 82% of marketing emails are viewed on mobile, and building your emails like giant banner ads is a one-way ticket to the promotions tab.

The recent newsletter boom has been a wake-up call for email marketers, prompting a much-needed pivot to customer-centricity.

Just as we've learned on social media, subscribers engage most with content that feels native to the platform and adds value.

This new approach requires a different kind of tool. And its why we created Audienceful.

How Audienceful is different:

  • An editor that works like a doc. Creating in Audienceful feels like writing in your favorite notes app. It allows you to focus on the content, instead of wasting hours over-designing inside clunky "campaign" builders.
  • Minimal templates built for deliverability: By default, you'll send sexy, clean emails that your customers will love opening. Just add your logo and go.
  • A generous, but long-term sustainable free plan: We offer 1,000 subscribers for free (2x what Mailchimp now offers). Enough to grow on, but not so much you need to worry our sending IPs will be tarnished by spammers.
  • Dead simple email automation. Set up welcome drip sequences, email courses, lead magnets and more without needing to hire a consultant.

Email Marketing 2.0

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