Mailchimp, a bootstrapped startup out of Atlanta, Georgia, is known best as a popular tool for organizations to manage their customer-facing email activities — a profitable business that its CEO told TechCrunch has now grown to around 11 million active customers with a total audience of 4 billion (yes, 4 billion), and is on track for $700 million in revenue in 2019. (Note: Slack’s previous quarter was around $133 million, and it’s operating at a loss.)
To help hit that number, Mailchimp is taking the wraps off a significant update aimed at catapulting it into the next level of business services. Starting today, Mailchimp will start to offer a full marketing platform aimed at smaller organizations.
Going beyond the email services that it has been offering for 20 years — which alone has led to multiple acquisition offers (all rebuffed) as its valuation has crept up reportedly into the billions (depending on what multiple you use) — the new platform will feature a number of new products within it.
They include technology to record and track customer leads; the ability to purchase domains and build sites; ad retargeting on Facebook and Instagram; social media management. It will also offer business intelligence that leverages a new move into the artificial intelligence to provide recommendations to users on how and when to market to whom.
The latter of these will be particularly interesting considering the data that it has collected and will collect on 4 billion individuals and their responses to emails and other services that Mailchimp now offers.
As of Wednesday of this week, Mailchimp also plans a pretty significant shift of its pricing into four tiers of free, $9.99/month, $14.99/month or $299/month (up from the current pricing of free, $10/month, $199/month) — with those fees scaling depending on usage and features.
(Existing paid customers maintain current pricing structure and features for the time being and can move to the new packages at any time, the company said. New customers will sign up to the new pricing starting May 15.)
The expansion is part of a longer-term strategic play to widen Mailchimp’s scope by building more services for the typically-underserved but collectively large small business segment.
Even as multinationals like Amazon and other large companies continue to feel like they are eating up the mom-and-pop independent business model, SMBs continue to make up 48 percent of the GDP in the US.
And within the SMB sector, the opportunity has totally changed with the rise of the internet.
“What’s really key is the role digital apps, digital publishing and social media have played,” said Chestnut. “We can have a 10-employee company with a customer base bigger than 1 million. That’s a combination you couldn’t achieve before the growth of online.”
And within that, marketing is one of those areas that small businesses might not have invested in much traditionally but are increasingly turning to as so much transactional activity has moved to digital platforms — be it smartphones, computers, or just the tech that powers the TV you watch or music you listen to.
In March, we reported that Mailchimp quietly acquired a small Shopify competitor called LemonStand to start to build more e-commerce tools for its users. And the new marketing platform is the next step in that strategy.
“We still see a big need for small businesses to have something like this,” Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp’s co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. Enterprises have a range of options when it comes to marketing tools, he added, “but small businesses don’t.” The mantra for many building tech for the SMB sector has traditionally been “dumbed down and cheap,” in his words. “We agreed that cheap was good, but not dumbed down. We want to empower them.”
The new services launch also comes at a time when an increasing number of companies are closing in on the small business opportunity, with e-commerce companies like Square, Shopify and PayPal also widening their portfolio of products. (These days, Square is a Mailchimp partner, Shopify is not.)
Marketing is something that Mailchimp had already been dabbling with over the last two years — indeed, customer-facing email services is essentially a form of marketing, too. Other launches have included a Postcards service, offering companies very simple landing pages online (about 10 percent of Mailchimp’s customers do not have their own web sites, Chestnut said), and a tool for companies to create Google, Facebook and Instagram ads.
Mailchimp itself has a big marketing presence already: it says that daily, more than 1.25 million e-commerce orders are generated through Mailchimp campaigns; over 450 million e-commerce orders were made through Mailchimp campaigns in 2018; and its customers have sold over $250 million in goods through multivariate + A/B campaigns run through Mailchimp.
There are clearly a lot of others vying to be the go-to platform for small businesses to do their business — “Google, Facebook, a lot of the big players see the magic and are moving to the space more and more,” Chestnut said — but Mailchimp’s unique selling point — or so it hopes — is that it’s the platform that has no vested interests in other business areas, and will therefore be as focused as the small businesses themselves are. That includes, for example, no upcharging regardless of the platform where you choose to run a campaign.
“We are Switzerland,” Chestnut said.
Given that Mailchimp took 20 years to grow into marketing from email, it’s not clear what the wait will be for future expansions, and into what areas those might go. Surprisingly, one product that Mailchimp does not want to touch for now is CRM. “No plans for CRM services,” Chestnut said. “We are focused on consumer brands. We think about small organizations, with fewer than 100 employees.”