Deleting inactive Mailchimp subscribers

By Tim Priebe on December 25, 2019

By Tim Priebe on December 25, 2019

In May 2019 Mailchimp changed how their pricing worked. They added limitations that weren’t previously there and overall just moved to a new pricing model. Users of the free plans were impacted the most, but plenty of people across the internet were not happy.

Keep in mind that Mailchimp’s paid plans are very affordable, with plans starting—as of this writing—at $9.99 a month. If you’re not getting more than $9.99 a month ROI for your email marketing, you’re probably doing something wrong!

Sorry, I started to get on my soapbox there for a second. Moving on…

Regardless of the reasons, maybe you want to keep the free plan or stop your paid plan from going up in pricing. If you’re willing to do some work, you may be able to do just that! Your work will most likely center around keeping the number of contacts in your audience down.

What is a Mailchimp audience?

In Mailchimp, your audience is all of the contacts in your system. Yes, it includes subscribers. But now it’s based on all the contacts in your system, including unsubscribed people. That’s important because for years the pricing was based on subscribers, but now it’s based on contacts.

What does that mean from a practical standpoint? Let’s say you used one Mailchimp account to create and manage three email lists. And let’s say I’m a big fan of yours, so I’m subscribed to all three of your lists. At that point, I actually count as three contacts, not one.

What happens when someone unsubscribes from Mailchimp?

Let’s take that example one step further. Even though I’m a huge fan of yours, one of the email lists doesn’t really apply to me. I feel horrible about it, but I go ahead and unsubscribe from that list.

Obviously I’m no longer a subscriber. However, Mailchimp still keeps me as a contact in the audience. Does that seem weird? As far as I can tell, they’re doing it for two main reasons:

  1. You can still look at how I interacted with your emails historically.
  2. Mailchimp knows that I unsubscribed so I can’t accidentally get resubscribed if you import a bunch of email addresses that includes my email.

In fact, even if I unsubscribed from all three of your email lists, I still count as three total contacts. That’s great from a data retention standpoint, but not so great from the financial side of things.

What can I do to keep my contacts down?

So you’re about to hit the limit on the contacts in your audiences. What are your options?

  1. Do nothing. If you go this route, you’ll keep all the data and simply pay more.
  2. Do some major list clean up. This could consist of deleting those who have unsubscribed and even unsubscribing people that haven’t had any activity in a while then deleting them. If you actually unsubscribe people, I recommend only doing it to people who haven’t opened or clicked your emails in 6-12 months.
  3. Combine several lists and segment it. If you have multiple lists, this is always an option. While maintaining multiple audiences has pros and cons, this will reduce your overall contacts if you have a lot of overlap between lists. It will take a lot of work both in your Mailchimp account and in any sign-up forms you have.

I should note that Mailchimp makes an interesting case for using their service as a CRM. If you are thinking of going that route, you should definitely go with option #3.

If you’re worried about the dollar investment but you hardly send any emails, you may want to try Mailchimp’s Pay As You Go plan. But most likely you and your subscribers would get more benefit if you sent more emails.

Want to go with option #2 or #3 but need some help? We often help our clients manage their Mailchimp lists and would be happy to talk about your options and see if we might be a good fit. Feel free to reach out!

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