Big announcement from Mandrill and the alternatives

UPDATE 26 Feb 2014 12:11GMT: MailChimp have released a FAQ with more details about Mandrill pricing. This article has since been amended taking this into account.

For those of you who don’t know Mandrill is a transactional email service allowing you to send 1–2–1 emails to your customers. These emails tend to be transaction confirmations, password resets and such like. The service has become very popular with developers due to very quick and easy integration options. Mandrill is a service provided by MailChimp the more well known email marketing company. They allow you to send 1–2-many email newsletters.

In possibly one of the strangest bait-and-switch announcements in recent times MailChimp has decided to cease the free version of Mandrill. Not only that it is also forcing all Mandrill customers to be a paid MailChimp customer. Official details of the announcement are here and here.

Servertastic is currently a paid customer of both MailChimp and Mandrill. As a result we can sort of continue using the services without any interruption or changes needed. However the announcement itself lacks any clarity over pricing.

Mandrill Outcry

Following the announcement twitter exploded with disbelief, hate, name calling and hostility towards MailChimp and Mandrill. One of the key issues appears not to be that MailChimp will cease all free Mandrill plans but that they have given just 60 days notice of the changes being implemented.

At Servertastic we have been longtime lovers of MailChimp (or Rocket Science Group to give them their full company name). I have a sense of pride logging into our MailChimp account and seeing US1 as the admin server. Reminds us we were one of the early customers. However the announcement and the way it has been handled shocks us deeply. Having admired how well MailChimp managed social media in the past and always stood out as the “little guy trying to be different” it suddenly seems that has changed drastically.

What is the new pricing?

We are uncertain over how much Mandrill will cost us going forward, probably until we get our first bill. The announcement suggests that customers will need to be a MailChimp pay monthly customer. The current cheapest package is $20.00 $9.95 per month. It also suggests that Mandrill credits will be $20.00 for a block of 25,000 emails. This means it will cost you a minimum of $40.00 $29.95 per month to get started with Mandrill and the credits expire at the end of your billing period if you use them order not. then at least $20.00 per month for MailChimp until you use all your Mandrill credit (which in some cases could be as quick as a day!). You have to pay for MailChimp if you use it or not.

We used to get 32,000 email credits free each month on Mandrill as a MailChimp pay monthly user. It appears this will no longer continue.

Mandrill have released a Transition FAQ which highlights the new pricing model. Our calculations who this means costs for everyone (including us) will increase by roughly 3x.

Messages Sent | Old Price | New Price
25,000 | $9.95 | $29.95
100,000 | $24.95 | $89.95
1,000,000 | $204.95| $729.95
10,000,000 | $1,357.45 | $4,009.95

Why have MailChimp/Mandrill done this?

Only @mailchimp or @mandrillapp can really answer that question. I have a number of ideas about why:

  • Policing abusers on free accounts was taking up an awful lot of time and resources.
  • Mandrill has revenue of $12m (per the announcement). Many of those customers are probably MailChimp subscribers as well. With the data they have MailChimp decided they could remove all the hassle of free accounts reduce the customer base and still have $12m revenue.
  • MailChimp are hoping customers will subscribe to MailChimp to keep using Mandrill and realise how good it is thereby increasing revenue.
  • MailChimp are confident that the features are good enough to make formally free customers subscribe.
  • Mandrill wasn’t making enough profit and so they just want paying customers.

Have MailChimp f***ed up?

This is the big question. Maybe they didn’t realise how many web developers had signed up clients to Mandrill directly to launch projects that maybe only send 100–200 emails a month. I know of one web developer who has over 50 client sites that now need re-coding to work with an alternative provider or they need to convince the client to fork out a minimum of $260.00 a year to continue using Mandrill.

This is something I have seen a number of times from large organisations. Changes made without any real assessment of the customer impact. That or MailChimp simply didn’t care.

What are the alternatives?

If you are currently a Mandrill customer and you just don’t want to be forced into signing up for MailChimp or paying there are some alternatives that do offer free plans. Some may not have all the same features as Mandrill. Just take a look and give them a try:

What will Servertastic do?

We are currently a paid MailChimp and Mandrill customer. Our cost increase is at a point where it is worth the development time moving to an alternative provider. We are not sure of the benefits of having the two linked in terms of data are worth it.

Looking at the pricing we are likely to see a rise of at least $20.00 per month in our fees. However for us the cost increase isn’t really substantial enough to warrant development work in changing provider. But

It will be interesting to see if MailChimp start offering even better integration between Mandrill and MailChimp as a result of the changes or if it is simple a classic bait-and-switch.

What will you do?

Let us know!