MailChimp is the Go-To E-mail Newsletter Service
Name: MailChimp (Visit MailChimp)
Type: Newsletter Service
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MailChimp is an industry standard when it comes to managing e-mail newsletters. They let you send up to 12,000 e-mails per month for free and offer plenty of free tools to help you get started building a newsletter following.
Since 2013, MailChimp’s Corporate Citizenship team has been working to make our hometown of Atlanta better, weirder, and more human. Today, I’d like to talk about the “better” part. For us, that means supporting organizations working to stop cycles of poverty. All year long, we partner with organizations like Literacy Action and the Gateway Center to help make their hard work possible.
But “better” becomes a special focus during our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service Week.
For Dr. King, achieving economic justice was crucial to the work of achieving racial justice. These are complicated, layered issues—nothing you could easily solve in one week, let alone in one lifetime. But it’s important for us to do our part. So this year, our Corporate Citizenship team partnered with The Mothership, MailChimp’s diversity and inclusion employee resource group, for a week of events to help local nonprofits working on hunger relief and housing. Together, we planned a week of opportunities for MailChimp employees to use their volunteer hours and support these organizations providing vital services to our community.
We started the week at the Women’s Community Kitchen, which is run by Action Ministries in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, just a few blocks from our offices in Ponce City Market. The Women’s Community Kitchen provides fresh cooked meals for low-income and homeless women and children, offering them space to feel safe, valued, and part of a respectful community. MailChimp volunteers cooked and served a meal, then sat down to eat with the guests.
Another organization we partnered with again this year is Habitat for Humanity. This is always our most popular employee volunteer event. At MailChimp, we’re all about giving people the tools they need to succeed, and we also happen to love building things in general, so Habitat is a perfect fit for us. Working with the organization gives us the opportunity to build something alongside our neighbors that can encourage their future success. Over the last 5 years MailChimp employees have helped build 10 houses for local families. This year, we worked on 2 houses for 2 families, laying floors, putting up walls, constructing porches, and more.
To round out the week, we got a lot done without even leaving the office. We had tons of ready-to-make food brought in, and more than 100 MailChimp employees spent a few hours turning that food into SuperPacks with Action Ministries. Many kids at our local elementary schools receive free lunch and breakfast during the week, and these packs ensure they have plenty to eat over the weekend. All told, we put together more than 6,000 SuperPacks for kids at our neighborhood schools.
This year’s MLK Service Week is over, but the work continues. (And not just because one of our events, preparing and serving Ma’s Street Meals with Kashi Atlanta, got snowed out and rescheduled!) MailChimp volunteers made connections during Service Week that continue to reverberate. Our Women’s Empowerment Group recently wrapped a Valentine’s Day fundraiser benefiting the Women’s Community Kitchen, and groups are signed up to cook and serve there in the coming months. And we’ve already got peeps planning to volunteer on their own with Habitat for Humanity this year. Every MailChimp employee gets 16 volunteer hours to use every year, and I’m excited to see what else we can do by showing up, building trust, and being the best neighbors we can be. Here’s to a better Atlanta.
If you visit MailChimp’s Atlanta HQ on a typical Wednesday morning, you might see a lot of people with headphones on, tapping their feet, occasionally laughing in sync. In fact, it might seem a little spooky until you realize we’re enjoying KIMP, our employee-run radio station.
Music is baked into MailChimp’s DNA. Some of us play in bands, collect LPs, or DJ on the weekends. A few of us used to work at a radio station. And several of us have written for or edited various music publications over the years. So when a coworker offhandedly asked in 2015 if MailChimp should start an employee radio station, the answer was resoundingly positive.
KIMP Radio was born.
Now 3 years old, the station serves as a fitting microcosm of the way we get things done at MailChimp. Our core values of humility, creativity, and independence tend to show up in everything we do, and KIMP is no exception.
When the idea of KIMP first emerged, people from various departments stepped up to make an ad hoc team. The naming was easy. In the wake of Serial, It had to be KIMP, even if we are on the “W” side of the Mississippi. People signed up to DJ, but also to spend personal time training fellow coworkers. One of MailChimp’s co-founders, a DJ in his own right, let the studio borrow his turntable setup. The Facilities team put together a sound booth. IT figured out the logistics of audio streaming to hundreds of people. Our friendly Legal team made sure we were legit. Designers made posters. All sorts of people contributed voiceovers.
Best of all? Everyone did this without being asked. They all came together for a fun side project, quickly and quietly filling in the gaps to make KIMP happen. It was humility at work.
KIMP also reflects our strong sense of independence, including the freedom to fail. Aside from some light embarrassment amongst coworkers, there are no repercussions for awkward on-air moments or playing the wrong song. And because it’s all streamed live to hundreds of MailChimp peeps, it lets us fail safely and noisily, and is helpful for the many introverts here to get experience with “public” speaking. In a way, it’s practice for “failing” in bigger ways, like speaking up in meetings or making suggestions to a team. When you have permission to fail, you’re more likely to try stuff that others might consider weird or unnecessary. A crucial by-product of that spirit is that it leads to innovation, which is essential to our growing organization.
Most obviously, the station is a way to practice creativity. Each week, 3 employees get an hour to play whatever they want (as long as it’s respectful and FCC safe, of course). We’ve had humorous talk shows, an hour of music from a 1994 water park, a show highlighting women in music, and a show celebrating Jay Z’s birthday. If you walked around our office the Wednesday after Prince died, you would have been hard-pressed to find a dry eye thanks to a powerful tribute show. KIMP has become a way to celebrate teams, mark milestones, and revel in our differences.
We even have a KIMP Slack channel where we talk about each show as it’s happening. More than that, employees discuss what they’re listening to, band t-shirts, each week’s new releases, and more. That channel is just one way our radio station has fostered new bonds and improved communication across the company. Perhaps most of all, KIMP has reminded all 800 of us that being yourself makes all the difference.
When I joined MailChimp’s Culture team last year, one of my first projects was developing and launching a mentorship program for our 800-plus employees. Our Culture team exists to make sure all MailChimp peeps have what they need to be their best selves at work and grow in their roles. This includes initiatives like MailChimp University and our apprenticeship program—and we knew adding mentorships to the mix would take it to the next level.
As MailChimp has grown, more and more of our coworkers have been looking for ways to develop particular skill sets and strengthen their weaknesses. A mentorship program seemed like a great way to meet those needs, but we knew we needed to do it right. Often, informal mentorships are formed based on existing social connections or perceived affinities—which, in the tech world, often gives a short shrift to women and people of color. So it was important to us that the opportunity to be a mentor or a mentee was available to everyone at MailChimp, and that our pairs were matched with an eye toward compatibility as well as our ongoing efforts to foster a company culture of diversity and inclusion.
Last May, we began accepting applications for our first-ever mentorship cohort. Anyone who’d been at MailChimp for at least 9 months could apply to be a mentor or a mentee. We designed the application to steer potential mentors and mentees through some serious self-reflection in order to clearly identify the goal or skill set they’d like to work on. And we asked each applicant about preferred communication styles, what kind of match they were looking for, and what they’re involved in outside the office.
We ultimately selected 10 folks to be part of our inaugural cohort (5 mentors and 5 mentees), and we took great care to make each match compatible. In some cases, women and people of color requested to mentor folks from underrepresented groups because they knew first-hand how tricky navigating the tech world can be. We looked at employees’ professional backgrounds and home departments within the company, and considered generational differences, too. We spent hours reading and re-reading applications to ensure that each mentor/mentee pair was similar enough to have a productive working relationship and different enough to challenge one another as they worked toward their goals.
Once we had our pairs, we kicked things off with an introductory session and a few cohort meetings, then turned them loose. Every pair committed to meeting for 1 hour at least twice a month for 6 months. The pairs were largely on their own to decide how they’d work together and accomplish their goals, which ranged from strengthening public speaking skills to learning more about technical career-mapping. We didn’t want to impose a lot of structure—we knew a single approach wouldn’t work for every pair, and we wanted the mentors to feel empowered to coach in their own style. My team and I made ourselves available as a resource, but mostly stepped back to watch the mentorship magic happen.
Our first mentorship cohort wrapped up in February, concluding with a final meeting where everyone came together to talk about their experience and what they learned. All 5 pairs had successful mentoring relationships, but one in particular stuck out.
Early on, Brandon and Katie weren’t sure why they were paired. Katie, the mentee, was on the Marketing team and presented as extroverted. Her mentor, Brandon, was more reserved. As our Director of Infrastructure, he had a highly technical background, and she wasn’t interested in a technical role. But we had a hunch they’d be a great match: Katie’s goal was to work on her problem-solving skills and learn how to better communicate up to leadership, which Brandon had a lot of experience with. And we knew Brandon—who managed a small team of all men—would benefit from working with a woman. Sure enough, they totally clicked. After 6 months, it was hard to tell who was the mentor and who was the mentee. They both wound up setting goals and helping each other grow, and they plan to keep meeting in the future.
It was a huge relief when our first mentorship cohort ended well, especially since we launched our second cohort about halfway through! We’ve had 12 pairs go through the program so far, with even more coming up. Everyone’s learned so much, myself included. One of our company values is humility, and plenty of people here embody that trait every day, but it’s still rewarding to see it in action. Best of all, this program serves as a reminder that, whether you’re teaching or learning, there’s always something to learn on both sides.
It was a simple proposition: just move some people to a new office to accommodate a growing staff. Except that it was more than just a few people. And they were leaving a creatively adorned office, so the new space had a lot to live up to. And those people had become very intertwined in recent years, so there would be lots of considerations about who moves and when and—OK, maybe it wasn’t a simple proposition at all.
“The way that MailChimp started building our product fundamentally changed,” VP of Customer Support Jon Smith explains. “So we needed more space for those collaborative environments.”
Support is the largest department at MailChimp. It’s big in size, it’s essential to how our company works, and the team is self-sufficient in a way that no other is at MailChimp. Since there’s always someone in Support working around the clock, they’re accustomed to creating unique processes and innovating on the fly without help from the rest of the company. For a team as unique as that, giving them their own space just made sense.
It was July 2016 when serious discussions started, and by October, the final plans were set in motion. With Support as the chosen group, MailChimp’s Facilities team could get to work. Fortunately, we’d held onto some previous real estate from our original Means Street headquarters when we moved to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market (PCM) in early 2015. MailChimp’s Facilities team planned to repurpose and renovate the space, then start moving people over in shifts.
“It’s very challenging because people’s lives are being affected by this,” Jon explains. “They want to know, ‘How is this going to affect me from day to day? My connections here at this building, culturally, to the greater company—how am I going to stay connected?’”
MailChimp’s overnight crew (ONC) was chosen as the first group to make the move. They’re extremely autonomous, creative, and entrepreneurial when it comes to finding solutions—qualities that made the ONC team a perfect choice to brave this brand new office space world.
“They were good pioneers for us, gave us a lot of feedback, went through a lot of final touches of construction while they were over there, and they were the ones that really helped us make the rest of the moves very smooth,” Jon says. “Big kudos to them.”
The Facilities team decided that they’d renovate the 2nd-floor space in 2 different phases in order to allow ONC to move as soon as possible. By April 2017, Facilities had also managed to lease an additional floor for Support and began plans to completely redesign the 3rd floor of the building. With both floors, all of Support would now be able to reside together again.
For the architectural design, it was necessary to find a creative take that was compatible with MailChimp’s unique culture, so they turned to a firm called NELSON. After the company got a feel for MailChimp, they came up with a design aesthetic that incorporated a vampire theme for one floor and a classic rock ‘n’ roll theme for the other. The support teams loved the ideas, and NELSON got to work.
The result included a coffin coffee table, custom leather sofas, a guitar table, a “Count Freddie” vampire portrait (painted by a MailChimp employee’s mother-in-law, no less), and all sorts of other quirky amenities that make it a fun place to work every day. Senior Customer Support Manager Candace Hightower says that “no detail was overlooked when this space was built out. There are warm and inviting places like the library, meeting booths, and little seating nooks that are welcoming—and let’s not forget about the many oh-so-comfortable bean bag chairs.”
“With the pool table and ping pong table in the same room as the video console, our team can often be found spending their lunch breaks together playing games to refresh and relax to make sure they are always on their A-game when helping our customers,” Candace says.
To top it all off, NELSON’s design for the Means Street 2nd floor space won a “Best of the Best” award from the International Interior Design Association in early 2018.
MailChimp Facilities Operation Manager Lance Simmons says his team had learned a lot during the 2015 buildout and move process to PCM, and those lessons were very useful for the Means Street project. There was a lot more than the usual ones like, say, “construction takes a lot of time.” Organizational stuff like setting expectations and communicating clearly, for instance, are critical, but there were also some new takeaways from Means Street about the company’s office space needs in general: sound masking with white noise, using light to make a room feel larger and more pleasant, and figuring out the right meeting room sizes. It’s the kind of stuff that Lance and his team have brought back to MailChimp’s main space in Ponce City Market where they’re rethinking some things, including meeting rooms.
“We immediately saw how much people used the smaller rooms at the new space, so we’re currently building eight of them at Ponce City Market,” Lance says. “We’re not the geniuses behind the spaces, we’ve just learned to ask the right questions and interpret the needs of our employees.”
About a year into the new space, our Support team is back to business as usual, taking care of customers and making the space its own. Now that her team has really settled in, Candace says that their new office feels like a home away from home.
"We were always a pretty close team, but the space has allowed us to become even closer,” she says. “It’s built stronger bonds of trust and collaboration and created some amazing memories for our team.”
As for staying connected to the rest of the company, Jon’s proud to say that we’re figuring that part out, too.
“We’ve been hosting folks from different departments for ‘A Day in the Life of Support’ and Support office hours every week at Means Street,” he says. “Other departments hold meetings at Means Street from time to time. Employees often reserve desks between locations when they need to collaborate on projects. The most important thing is that we make sure our employees stay connected to the company’s mission and shared values. That’s what keeps MailChimp’s culture intact, whether we’re in Atlanta or anywhere else in the world.”
Update (4/12/18): GDPR-friendly forms are now available for all MailChimp users. Learn how to enable them in your account.
No matter what type of business you have or where in the world you’re located, chances are that you’ve heard a lot lately about the EU’s new data privacy law, the GDPR. As General Counsel at MailChimp, a lot of my time over the last year has been spent preparing our business for this new law. We even released a guide last year highlighting MailChimp’s compliance efforts.
But MailChimp’s GDPR efforts go well beyond making sure we’re ready for this new law—we’ve also been focused on what the GDPR means for you, our customers.
How the GDPR benefits your business
If you’re new to the GDPR, here’s a bit of background: the General Data Protection Regulation is a new law that regulates how the personal data of EU citizens can be collected, used, and processed by businesses. It takes effect on May 25, 2018, and while it’s being implemented by the European Union, it applies not only to organizations based in the EU but also to those that have customers and contacts in the EU. So it’s going to have an impact on businesses all around the world.
While the GDPR requires some effort, it can also lead to some big benefits for you and your business.
- The law will help create a more trusting relationship between you and your contacts. Knowing exactly what kind of experience contacts want from you helps you meet—and exceed—their expectations.
- The GDPR empowers your contacts to understand exactly what data is being collected and how it will be used.
- And since the GDPR provides contacts with the right to easily specify and update permissions (by, for example, allowing them to quickly opt into or out of receiving certain content), it should also lead to fewer unsubscribes and spam complaints, which in turn improves deliverability.
We’re giving you tools to prepare
We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get ready for the GDPR. Our team is hard at work building easy-to-use tools (to be released in early April) that will help you comply with the GDPR’s new requirements. Let’s take a look at the updates that are coming soon to your MailChimp account.
Get consent with GDPR-friendly forms
If you’re going to rely on consent to process your contacts’ data, the GDPR says that you must obtain explicit, opt-in consent, and be clear about how your contacts’ data will be used when you obtain that consent.
- We’re building GDPR-friendly forms that you can quickly set up to help you get—and document—contacts’ consent. In just a few clicks, you’ll be able to enable GDPR-friendly fields for all hosted forms (including landing pages and pop-ups) connected with a list in your MailChimp account.
- These forms will have separate checkboxes so contacts can choose whether to opt in to each element of your MailChimp marketing (like receiving email or being targeted for online advertising, for example), and you’ll be able to customize the field labels, checkbox options, and legal text.
- MailChimp will also keep a record of what each version of your form says, so you’ll always know exactly which fields were present on a form when it was submitted by a contact, and you can prove consent if the need arises.
Quickly handle contact data requests
Under the GDPR, your EU contacts have expanded rights regarding the use of their personal data, and can request, for example, that their data be deleted, moved, or corrected at any time.
As of right now, all MailChimp users can access their MailChimp lists to correct or update information upon the request of their contacts. If a contact signed up for a list through a MailChimp hosted form, you can export that list and see the date stamp, timestamp, IP address, and more for the signup and confirmation time for contacts on the list.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing updates that are going to make it even easier for you to access and manage your contacts’ data.
- The process of updating, exporting, and sharing contacts’ data upon request will be quicker and simpler. If you receive a data request from a contact, you’ll be able to send them the data they’ve requested in a single step from within your account.
- When you delete someone from your list, we will remove all traces of that contact’s personal information from your reports as well as your list. Anonymous, aggregate reporting data will remain visible in your account, but any use of a deleted contact’s name and email address, for example, will be removed.
As always, your contacts can continue to update their own data, too, by contacting us or choosing to update their preferences in any email they receive from you.
Keep your data handling and processing compliant
Wondering about whether you’ll still be able to store your contacts’ personal information in your MailChimp account? Good news: we’ve already implemented strong privacy protections that mean we’re handling your contacts’ data appropriately and in line with EU legal requirements.
MailChimp has certified to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework, so you can transfer your contacts’ personal data outside of the EU to MailChimp in the U.S., so long as you:
- Complete our updated data processing agreement and
- Get permission from your contacts to transfer their data. Permission terms will be built directly into our GDPR-friendly forms, but you should copy that language over to your other list building methods, too.
What should I do next?
The GDPR goes into effect on May 25, but there’s still time to make your preparations. Review our GDPR guide to see what you can do, right now, to get ready.
We’re working hard to get ready, too. Our goal is to have all of the updates outlined in this article ready for you in early April, so be sure to visit the What’s New page to stay in the loop. I’ll be turning things over to our data protection officer in the coming weeks, so please be sure to look out for any updates from her, too.
MailChimp is a restless collection of creative minds that celebrate each other whenever an opportunity arises. Sometimes, that means teaching a coworker new skills or hobbies or listening to them read or riding bikes to a team lunch. Recently, our VP of Marketing, Sean Cook, took the idea to heart while decorating his office.
“When it was time for me to decide what to do with the blank walls, I thought back to earlier days in my career, when I was the director of a contemporary art gallery,” Sean says of his previous life at Atlanta’s famed Heath Gallery. “I had the opportunity then to work with a lot of fantastic artists, some well-known and others just starting out. And when I look around at MailChimp, I see many artists among us and I’d love to celebrate that.”
The Cook Gallery now plays host to exhibitions from MailChimp employees and their significant others. Each exhibit, rotating every 6 weeks or so, features a single artist. The gallery is also another way for employees to connect with each other in a way they might not otherwise do because it gets different parts of the organization coming by to say "hi." And yes, there is wine and cheese at the openings.
Meet the artists
The Cook Gallery’s Fall 2017 exhibition highlighted new works by one of our Social Support Specialists, Austin. Titled, “Analogue,” the show included Austin’s latest work, which consists of black and white compositions examining the relationships between shapes and letters. Austin had only started taking himself seriously as an artist 5 years ago. The Cook Gallery took him out of his comfort zone in a good way.
“It was actually the first place that I got to put together a body of work by myself specifically for the purpose of displaying it together for a group of people, which is really rad,” he says.
One of MailChimp Pro’s Customer Support Technicians, Dorothy, found that the Cook Gallery gave her a chance to fly solo with her work. “The Unity of Opposites” debuted in January and marked a collaborative departure for Dorothy. Previous to this solo show, she’d been showing her works around Atlanta since 2008 as part of the Plastic Aztecs collective, as well with her artist husband, Bo. At the Cook Gallery, her recent drawings, block prints, and screen prints at the office are finding a new audience.
“When you show in a gallery, the people that come are already sort of a part of that community, and they’re seeking that experience, or they know you already and they’re familiar with your work,” she says. “Showing it in the office, you get a chance for people who wouldn’t normally seek that out to see your work.”
Turns out, that’s exactly what Sean hoped would happen.
“If I find people that love art and connect them with somebody that is creating art, fantastic,” he says. “And for me to be able to have a place where they can hang it on the wall and have people come by and enjoy it? That’s a big win for me.”
Outside of the gallery, the experience provided more opportunities for both of the featured artists. “That body of work ended up landing me work outside of here,” Austin says. In fact, Austin picked up some big commissions, including painting a mural at MailChimp’s newly renovated Westside Atlanta office. Meanwhile, Dorothy’s sold more than a few of her prints to Cook Gallery visitors, and now feels like she’s ready take on her next solo show.
“It’s really important to me that we at MailChimp are strong advocates of creativity in our communities,” Sean says of one of the Cook Gallery’s primary goals. “I don’t think a community can really thrive without it. It makes us better as a city, it makes us better as a company. I think that’s what we need to be known for.”
“What’s your favorite thing about working at MailChimp?”
I’m coming up on 8 years here, and it’s still a tough question to answer. I’ve given lengthy monologues about my great co-workers. I’ve gone on and on about our commitment to experimentation and the ways we embrace and learn from failure. I’ve even rambled about all the cool stuff we do in our local community. But throughout all those answers, I’ve always found a common thread in my response: the importance of the people involved.
Starting in Tech Support, I grew into a manager role. To keep up with our growth, I spent a lot of my time focused on hiring. Eventually, when our talent team was formed, I realized that’s where I should be spending my time. I’ve been a recruiter ever since. Our team has grown from 2 to 11 people in 5 years, and I’ve been lucky to recruit alongside them.
Our candidates come from all over, everyone from Glassdoor enthusiasts to former users. From “I ate some of those crushed potato chips” (,FailChips!) to the ubiquitous “Mail…Kimp?” reference. And they all want to know why I enjoy working here.
We work to build a community at MailChimp that supports and welcomes everyone. We experiment to ensure new ideas are a common part of our culture, all while highlighting our unique perspectives. We democratize technology to help our customers grow. I’ve been able to take these inspirations and apply them to our candidate experience.
Applying for a job isn’t always easy. You can feel vulnerable, anxious, and even intimidated at times. I’ve heard this from folks who got the job, and those who didn’t. As a recruiting team, we do everything we can to reduce this discomfort.
One of our most powerful tools is our candidate survey. It’s sent to every person that we bring into the office for an interview, and responses are anonymous. It asks a variety of questions about the hiring process using the Likert scale combined with free form text fields. We use the overall percentages to see trends and set goals, and the text fields provide details about each individual’s experience. Capturing these positive trends or areas of opportunity in the moment allows us to adjust quickly to continue optimizing the candidate experience.
We work closely with hiring managers to create job postings, which helps ensure we end up with a role description that accurately communicates the available position. From there, we review the language used in the posting to make sure it’s inclusive of and inviting to a diverse audience. We use Greenhouse as our applicant tracking system.
One of my favorite features is the ability to fully customize messaging we send to candidates. By writing our own messaging, we get to speak directly to candidates’ questions and concerns, and we do so in our own voice.
The in-office visit is another opportunity for us to focus on the candidate. We love to introduce out-of-towners to Atlanta and the neighborhoods surrounding our office. It’s a chance to show off our great city and get to know candidates better. Some even use this as a jumpstart for scouting neighborhoods if they’re relocating. Once we get to the office, it’s time for a tour, which is a great chance to get a feel for what the environment is like while also highlighting some of my favorite spots.
If all goes well in the interviews, it’s time to make an offer. This is both an exciting time and a very important one. As recruiters, we partner with hiring managers and candidates to ensure we highlight the value the candidate is bringing to the team. We believe in and practice equal pay, and current salary is not part of our discussion.
Unfortunately, we can’t offer a job to everyone we bring into the office for an interview. In those cases, we start with empathy and provide as much insight as possible about the decision. And we consistently revisit candidates when new roles open up. This long-term view and focus on building relationships is one of my favorite parts of how we approach recruiting at MailChimp. And the result is that it’s not uncommon for one department’s previous candidate to get hired on a different team in the future.
All told, 93% of candidates who take our survey say their interviewing experience was a positive one. We’re proud of this, but we’re always looking at ways to improve it. It’s in our DNA as MailChimp employees to listen hard and change fast. We seek feedback, make changes, and iterate. More importantly, we never forget about the human on the other end and how we can best serve them. I guess you could say that’s another one of my favorite things about working at MailChimp.
Speaking of working at MailChimp, we’re hiring!
Photos: Dian Lofton / TED, Elizabeth Zeeuw / TED
Like most things around MailChimp HQ, we try to take a slightly less prescribed, slightly more off-kilter (and fun!) approach to sponsorships. We love partnering with organizations that feel authentic and thoughtful, as well as groups that encourage a creative community. Our sponsorships excite us the most when we’re able to provide a spotlight and a platform for the people that MailChimp, as a company, champions: independent creators and entrepreneurs who see the world a little differently.
So it’s no wonder that the TED Residency program felt like such a natural fit. Based in New York, TED Residency is an incubator for breakthrough ideas and innovative thinkers. After a thoughtful and thorough application process, individuals are chosen as TED Residents and then spend 14 weeks at TED HQ, working on their ideas.
The program’s goal is to highlight thinkers, makers, inventors, advocates, filmmakers, photographers, musicians, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organization heads, and social activists. TED Residency celebrates the unconventional and encourages creativity, which, incidentally, are a couple things we like doing as well.
One unique part of the program is the use of physical space to create a community. Each resident is required to spend a certain amount of time each week at TED headquarters to workshop their idea with the other residents. Although the final product might range from a piece of artwork to a manuscript or a strategic plan, each Resident also develops a TED talk that’s delivered on a TED stage.
And all this ties back to the TED ethos, “ideas worth spreading,” which includes posting the video content on their website. Cyndi Stivers, encourager-in-chief of the TED Residency, explains, “Our goal is to help the Residents further their important work and facilitate their collaboration with one another as they refine their messages.”
People from diverse backgrounds, solving unique problems and then sharing the process and outcomes with the world? That’s exactly the type of thing that gets us excited at MailChimp. More of this in 2018, please.
No matter what type of business you have, A/B testing can be a great way to generate more engagement and revenue from your email. The idea behind A/B testing is simple: send 2 different versions of an email campaign and find out how modest changes—like subject line, from name, content, or sending time—can have a big impact on your results.
Our research has shown that not only do A/B-tested campaigns lead to much better open and click rates than regular campaigns, they typically yield more revenue, too.
But not all A/B tests are created equal. The length of the test and the way you determine a winner play key roles in a test’s overall effectiveness.
Test what you’re trying to convert
Before you set up an A/B test, it’s important to decide the goal—and the intended outcome—of your campaign. There are plenty of possible reasons to choose one winning metric over another, but these 3 scenarios can give you an idea of how to pick a winner based on your goals:
- Drive traffic to your site. Perhaps you run a website or blog that generates revenue by hosting ads. In this type of situation, your winning metric should be clicks.
- Have subscribers read your email. Maybe you’re sending a newsletter that contains ads that pay out by the impression, or you’re simply disseminating information. In those instances, you should use opens to decide the winning email.
- Sell stuff from your connected store. If you’re using email to promote your newest and best-selling products or you’re testing different incentives to encourage shoppers to buy, you should use revenue as the winning metric.
Why does this matter? The table below shows the amount of time you should wait for each testing metric before you’ll be confident in the outcome, based on our research.
You’ll notice the optimal times are quite different for each metric, and we don’t want you to waste your time or choose a winner too soon! Now, let’s dig into the data to take a closer look at how we came up with our suggested wait times—and see why it’s so important to use the right winning metrics.
Clicks and opens don’t equal revenue
Since it takes longer to confidently determine a winner when you’re testing for revenue, you might be tempted to test for opens or clicks as a stand-in for revenue.
Unfortunately, we found that opens and clicks don’t predict revenue any better than a coin flip!
Even if one of the tests clearly emerges with a higher click rate, for example, you are as likely to select the test that generates more revenue as you are the test that generates less revenue, if you choose the winner based on clicks. It’s a similar story when trying to use open rates to predict the best revenue outcome. So, if it’s revenue you’re after, it’s best to take the extra time and test for it.
How long should you wait?
We looked at almost 500,000 of our users’ A/B tests that had our recommended 5,000 subscribers per test to determine the best wait time for each winning metric (clicks, opens, and revenue). For each test, we took snapshots at different times and compared the winner at the time of the snapshot with the test’s all-time winner.
For each snapshot, we calculated the percentage of tests that correctly predicted the all-time winner. Here’s how the results shook out.
For opens, we found that wait times of 2 hours correctly predicted the all-time winner more than 80% of the time, and wait times of 12+ hours were correct over 90% of the time.
Clicks with wait times of just 1 hour correctly chose the all-time winner 80% of the time, and wait times of 3+ hours were correct over 90% of the time. Even though clicks happen after opens, using clicks as the winning metric can more quickly home in on the winner.
Revenue takes the longest to determine a winner, which might not be surprising. Opens, of course, happen first. Some of those opens will convert to clicks—and some of the people who click will end up buying. But, it pays to be patient. You’ll need to wait 12 hours to correctly choose the winning campaign 80% of the time. For 90% accuracy, it’s best to let the test run for an entire day.
A quick recap
So, what are the key takeaways from this data? When you’re running A/B tests, it’s important to:
- Pick a winner based on the metric that matches your desired outcome.
- Remember that clicks and opens aren’t a substitute for revenue.
- Be patient. Letting your tests run long enough will help you be more confident that you’re choosing the right winner. We recommend waiting at least 2 hours to determine a winner based on opens, 1 hour to determine a winner based on clicks, and 12 hours to determine a winner based on revenue.
Keep in mind that while this data is a great starting point, our insights are drawn from a large, diverse user base and could differ from the results you’ll see in your own account.
Each list is unique, so set up your own A/B tests and experiment with different metrics and durations to help determine which yields the best (and most accurate) results for your business.
And if the size of your list or segment doesn’t allow for our recommended 5,000 subscribers in each combination, consider testing your entire list and use the campaign results to inform future campaign content decisions.
Each of our customers has a unique story, which we love highlighting in our What’s in Store series. Every week we showcase another e-commerce brand, including the tips and tricks they use to navigate the ups and downs of running a business. Our hope is that you can use that information to improve your own e-commerce operation.
To kick off 2018, we asked 7 of our customers what their New Year’s resolutions are, and the answers we got were so insightful and motivational that we had to share them. Without further ado:
Third Piece wants to get consistent.
“My 2018 resolution is to really focus on the brand’s messaging and create a consistency online and offline. We have a truly unique business model where we want to inspire people to explore the craft of knitting, whether it’s through our handmade collections, knit kits, yarns, or through our knitting classes.”
—Kristen Lambert, Founder
The Harvard Shop would like to home in on its target audience.
“We’ve consistently emphasized how The Harvard Shop is run by students, but this year, we’d really like to transition into something that is not only by students, but also for students. Even though tourists or alumni might be a big part of our market, we believe they will support and like what the current students like. So making ourselves more accessible and visible on campus to students through campaigns, advertising, and social media directed to students would be a big improvement.”
—Christi Lee, Marketing Manager
Smudge Ink will work on setting time aside to organize to avoid a big rush.
“Marketing is always less stressful when I plan ahead and work in batches. My goal for 2018 is to schedule more planning days (and more batch days to execute said plans) so that I’m not rushing at the last moment to put together emails and social media posts. I’ll commit to at least 1 full planning day per month at the bare minimum.”
—April May, Owner
Made With Love Brands is going to increase its web presence.
“Our new year’s marketing resolution is to make more meaningful connections with customers via video reviews and features, Facebook lives and Instagram lives, giving customers access into our world. More behind the scenes.”
—Uyo Okebie-Eichelberger, Founder/Creative Director
Adventure Cats wants to partner with similar brands that share their mission.
“I think we do a great job of engaging our audience, but this year we’d like to focus more on reaching relevant brands that share our mission and look for ways we could potentially partner with them.”
—Laura Moss, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Native Bear will use its voice to connect more.
“More newsletters and more blogging. I know everyone says they’re going to blog more and they never do it, so I hope I didn’t just jinx myself. I love to write, and I find that Native Bear is a lot more than just a bunch of products. People really like to hear about your perspective and what you’re all about, and I’ve found whenever I post anything remotely personal on social media, I get a huge response. We all need more connection. So, I’m going to focus on using my voice more this year.”
—Leela Hoehn, Owner and Artist
Georgia Crafted is going to interact more with its clients.
“Our goal is to be more interactive with our customers! We only did one live Facebook post last year and plan to do these fairly regularly in 2018. Everything from updates on our website to live interviews at farmers markets and various Georgia Grown events.”
—Erin Zwigart, Founder
Still looking to improve your e-comm ways? Try these 10 resolutions that MailChimp can help you keep.