MailChimp review

Is the amusingly-named MailChimp email marketing service sweet as a banana or a bit of a howler? Karl Wright finds out in our review.

Email marketing is cheap, effective and a campaign can quickly be set up. However, it can be difficult for small companies to do well. For a start, if you're not careful your campaign will get caught in the recipients' spam filters. It's easy to make design mistakes, such as not creating an alternative plain text version, and it's difficult to track the success of a campaign.

MailChimp is an online mailing system designed to solve these problems. With it, you can send 6000 emails a month to 1000 recipients for free. If you want to send an unlimited number of emails or you want to target more than 1,000 recipients then you'll need to pay either for a monthly plan or, for less frequent campaigns, on a price-per-email basis. There area huge variety of plans to suit almost any number of recipients.

You get a range of free, easy to use templates and, more importantly, MailChimp produces fairly comprehensive reports for each campaign. These allow you to see exactly how your campaign went down - who opened your mails, what the clickthrough rate was and so on.

From signing up for an account to creating and mailing your first campaign, using MailChimp is a doddle. Signing up takes just a minute or two; creating your first mail list about the same. You can either create a list from scratch or import your contacts from a range of online marketing tools and other web services (we did have some problems importing from GMail, but we suspect the problem was at Google's end).

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Once you've created your list, the next step is to start creating emails (each mail is referred to as a "campaign"). The html templates for these aren't offensively bad and can easily be customised using a web interface that's reassuringly like a word processor. It's almost too easy; you can fire out your first campaign within just a few minutes of signing up for the service.

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