Mandrill Policy Changes are Frustrating
I would like to talk about the Mandrill policy changes announced today, but first let me start off by explaining what Mandrill is for those of you who don’t know. Mandrill is Mailchimp’s transactional email service that was (until today) a completely separate product offering from their promotional e-newsletter marketing service. Mandrill can be used for personalized, one-to-one e-commerce emails, or automated transactional emails like password resets, order confirmations, notifications, and welcome messages.
Why is it called Mandrill?
I always assumed that the Mandrill transactional email service brought to us by Mailchimp was named after the mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), a primate of the Old World monkey (Cercopithecidae) family. The mandrill was once classified as baboons in the genus Papio, but they now have their own genus, Mandrillus. If we leave the monkeys out of it, then I think the original classification of a “baboon” fits nicely for Mandrill in light of today’s announcement.
:a coarse, ridiculous, or brutish person, especially one of low intelligence.
Before I get into the details of the Mandrill policy changes that have caused a lot of frustration for businesses and software engineers around the world; let me give a quick overview of transactional email services.
Why Transactional Email Services are Important
Transactional email has become critical for application based businesses. Not too long ago email marketing primarily focused on promotional email such as newsletters. Transactional email has become much more important with applications that rely on email to deliver notifications to their member base. It’s the driver by which application based businesses communicate with their users and drive revenue upward.
Flash sale sites rely heavily on transactional email to deliver time critical messages to its audience and once purchased, to confirm a sale. Retailers use email to deliver shipping notifications and order confirmations – both of which provide opportunities to upsell other products. Location based apps rely on the timely delivery of transactional email to connect friends and businesses. Any type of notification you need to deliver by email to a member (most the time after a specific action by the member occurs) is considered a transactional email. Transactional email boasts the highest open rates by far in the industry and actively spurs engagement amongst its recipients.
What makes leveraging a transactional email service so enticing is the analytical data and insights at your fingertips in real time! The key to improving email performance or your product offering is having visibility into what’s going on. With a transactional email service you will have detailed reports for open rates, click through rates, and deliverability as well as complete delivery logs for each type of email and recipient it was sent to. The more data you have about your users the better informed decisions can be made to improve your bottom line. Too many times I have seen business owners make decisions based on their opinion or gut feeling instead of factual data. It is rare that an individual continues to find success on a consistent basis by guessing. That’s like trying to win a dart game while playing blindfolded. The odds are not in your favor.
Why the Mandrill Policy Changes are causing Frustration
For me personally I think the largest frustration stems from being given only 3 weeks notice about these significant Mandrill policy changes. Never mind losing any free credits you had, or that the price point is going to be more than double what you were previously paying. If you don’t agree to the new policies which require you to have a paid Mailchimp account; then you could wake up one day to find out your Mandrill account has been terminated! Make no mistake about it, these policy changes are significant and you could find yourself wanting or needing to change your application(s) to use a different transactional email service provider. Below are the dates the majority of these changes take affect, which is right around the corner. If you want some silver lining, then take solace in the fact that 2016 is a leap year and we have 29 days in February.
Whether you are a freelancer, web development company, or an organization that is in bed with Mandrill this could easily require time and resources that you aren’t able to squeeze into the calendar over the next 3 weeks. I guess you either just take it like a man and pay up, or start shuffling some of those project tickets backwards a few swim lanes from the “Done” to “Selected for Development” column.
Wait. It just clicked! Now I know why they named the company “(MAN) + (DRILL)“. Ouch.
Adding Insult to Injury
I took a little journey over to Ben Chestnut’s (Mandrill’s CEO and Cofounder) blog to see how he would try spinning these Mandrill policy changes announced today. I caught myself laughing out loud as I was reading his post. Here is what I took away from what Ben had to say. You can read the full article on Mailchimp’s Blog.
Better template design? Could we get some clarification on the specifics around this Ben? This is confusing because you can already pull MailChimp’s templates into Mandrill. If you want a unique and email template design that works with all different types of email clients then I suggest you create the template yourself. The drag and drop template system provided by Mailchimp may be convenient, but the system can be difficult to work with and the email design doesn’t always appear as intended in different email clients. Their drag and drop template system just doesn’t cut it in my opinion. Maybe that is part of the improvement? We just don’t know at this point.
To Ben’s next point. E-commerce automation Workflows…Again, could someone from Mandrill please elaborate because you can already dictate your automation workflow while using Mandrill. What exactly are the planned improvements?!
The last point Ben brings up is that “all your data will now be in one place”. Hooray! I guess? This obviously doesn’t matter for those that aren’t using Mailchimp, and as a paid member of both services I still could care less. Give me the free email credits over a single-sign-on any day. Just don’t force me to purchase your other product and then try to convince me it’s in my best interest.
In the end I think we all know this is about increasing revenue. You can dress up these so-called “advancements” with fancy buzz words like “automation workflow”; but it seems clear there is an alternative motive here. While we are on the topic of advancements, how about a little more advance notice than just 3 weeks?
With all that said. I get it. You see an opportunity to increase revenue and make stakeholders happy. I am sure these decisions did not come lightly, but it does feel as if Mandrill could care less about the impact this might have on its current user base. Perhaps your intention with these Mandrill policy changes is to simply rid yourselves of low volume users and freeloaders? I guess this does give you an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Mandrill Not Allowing Blog Comments on their Policy Changes
Something else I thought was interesting was the fact that this topic was closed for discussion once the announcement was made. Either this was incredibly intelligent, or very poor judgement. Either way it is risky as hell. Mandrill is letting us know they aren’t going to take any battering from disgruntled users in a public forum. I guess they do have the right to do that for better or worse. That’s too bad, the comments could have got juicy quick! I did verify that their other blog entries not only allow, but encourage comments. So the decision to lock this topic down so no public comments could be made is definitely not the norm. Take a look for yourself. As you can see below the Mandrill policy changes are not open to discussion.
The discussion has now been closed? The Mandrill policy changes were never open for discussion. However, as you can see from the below example their blog announcements typically encourage comments from users. I guess discussions are allowed when they know people won’t be pissed off.
A decision as bold as this obviously had to be approved from the top, but if this idea derived from Kaitlin (Mandrill’s Product Manager) then one of two things are going to happen in the not so distant future.
A) Kaitlin is going to be carried on the shoulders of executives and shareholders as they prance around the office after their year end review which showed revenue growth above their estimated benchmarks.
B) Dare we say, Kaitlin is going to be the fall girl for a bold idea that ended up causing too many users to jump ship in favor of other transactional email service providers.
We wish you luck Kaitlin!
I am sure the data has been looked over numerous times by C-Level Management before this move was made. It’s possible that the majority of Mandrill’s clients are already paying subscribers of Mailchimp. Still, I don’t know if people like to be told they can’t have one service unless they pay for the other. Not after being able to do so for 4 years. It does certainly make it a tougher decision to move to a different service provider if you have to replace everything related to your app’s email service. It’s the “all or nothing, so just deal with it” mentality.
Wrapping up my Rant on the Mandrill Policy Changes
As I bring this ridiculously long blog post to a close, I feel as if I must address the following statements by Mr. Ben Chestnut….
If giving software developers (possibly with numerous web applications) only a 3 weeks notice is what you consider making things easy; then please invite me to come out and meet your software engineer team. I have questions for them! In the very next statement Ben acknowledges his understanding that this will cause disruption for some Mandrill users. That could be the understatement of year, but we are only two months into 2016. Sorry, I feel I must hit the dictionary again.
:a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a perfect example of an oxymoron, but let’s run with it anyways.
So what am I going to do about the Mandrill policy changes? The first order of business is to look at this beautiful mandrill for a short stint because it’s just downright gorgeous. Next I will start adding tickets to Jira for my software engineer team to start swapping out transactional email service APIs (on numerous web applications) with one of Mandrill’s competitors. After all, the price points of these competitors suddenly look more attractive today. Additionally, I am hopeful they have more respect for their user base.
I guess time will tell if Mandrill makes the endangered species list.
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