UpshotMediaGroup February 25, 2016
by UpshotMediaGroup,
Project Manager
10 Comments

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.

ba·boon
NOUN
: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

Mandrill Policy Changes

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.

Mandrill Important Policy Changes

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.

Thank you Man Drill

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.

Mandrill Looking Ahead

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.

Exhibit A:

Mandrill Blog is Closed for Discussion on Policy Changes

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.

Exhibit B:

Mandrill Blog Post Comments

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.

OR

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….

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.

ox·y·mo·ron
NOUN
:
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.

Conclusion

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.

Mandrill Monkey

PLEASE DO SHARE THIS BLOG POST WITH ANYONE YOU FEEL MIGHT BE INTERESTED!

Back to Blog

10 Comments

  • Alex Vojacek says:

    They definelty needed to close the gap between Mandrill and Mailchimp and they had done so effectively.

    From now on Mandrill and Mailchimp will be remembered as being the abusers who tried to force it’s free customers to pay.
    Forcing a customer to pay for a service that it doesnt want or need and doing so in a 3 week period is ultimately a death sentence for credibility. It’s so much so that tons of users are now looking for alternatives to Mailchimp since they already stopped believing in the “Free Forever” motto they have on Mailchimp. I for one changed to Mailerlite and SenGrid.

    Check out this response from SendGrid prior to accepting my provisioning:

    Thanks for contacting SendGrid’s Support team!

    We’ve received your request, and we’re diligently working 24/7 to address your issue. We’re currently experiencing a high volume of inquiries. We will certainly help you out as soon as we can.

    That should be enough evidence that this PLAN on removing free accounts would backfire real quick.

    • UpshotMediaGroup UpshotMediaGroup says:

      Well said Alex. I appreciate your feedback on the matter. Mandrill pulling this stunt was the best free marketing their competitors have probably ever had!

  • Tassilo says:

    Dear Mandrill power users, I strongly suggest to boycott the merge of your accounts into MailChimp. 25,000 emails used to cost only 5$, now they will cost 25$. This means a price increase by 400%! I personally will move next week either to Amazon SES or SendGrid, which are both a lot cheaper. And possibly also more reliable than Mandrill. Mandrill CEO Ben: he does not even allow comments on his blog post announcing this big change! Censorship at its best. Boycott this terrible company.

    • UpshotMediaGroup UpshotMediaGroup says:

      Hello Tassilo,

      Thank you for sharing. I agree that the increased costs could be significant, especially for large list holders. As mentioned in my post, I am also equally surprised that Mandrill is not allowing any open forum to discuss this dramatic change with their user base. I can only imagine their customer service base has had a flood of phone calls and emails with some disgruntled individuals.

      • Tassilo says:

        It’s impressive how they drive away their loyal customers, be it small or large scale clients. In both segments the price increase is vast. It’s funny to see how SendGrid now is offering a discount for Ex-Mandrill clients 😉 https://go.sendgrid.com/switch.html
        If one is using any of those services just as SMTP (not the API) then the switch is rather easy.

        • UpshotMediaGroup UpshotMediaGroup says:

          It will be interesting to see what happens to the company’s bottom line. To be completely transparent I actually tried getting setup for an affiliate account with Sendgrid, but because they have been so busy dealing with provisioning the approval process is taking some time. Thanks for sharing.

  • James Thomas says:

    What’s irritating to me is that we just finished doing an API integration with Mandrill so we could keep track in our system (and let our users know) of what emails have bounced, weren’t delivered, etc. This is, in my opinion, inexcusable. We are probably going to go with either SendGrid or MailGun (haven’t decided yet but leaning toward SendGrid). I posted a comment on Ben’s page but it was moderated and they chose not to show it as I called them out for their decision (it’s not about us, it’s about them – which I don’t mind as they are a business – but don’t give me spin – be HONEST). We’ve been using their system for sending emails (about 450,000+ each month) for about 2 years now and just expanded our use of the system.

    • UpshotMediaGroup UpshotMediaGroup says:

      Hello James,
      Thank you for sharing, I couldn’t agree more. I am still shocked about how they handled this. One of the startups I have invested in just signed some rather large contracts that look to start sending monthly transactional email in the millions. They just lost this business because we simply can’t partner with a company that we can’t trust. I think many feel this way and it is an unfortunate decision by Mandrill. They had to be talking about this for a long time, so my biggest gripe is the way they rolled this out. Classless. I hope you come back to visit soon.

  • Mat Smith says:

    Great article, good rant, nice side-swipes.
    Having battled with running my own SMTP server – and frankly being way out of my depths – for years, just so I could have my freelance website contact form send emails to me when someone wants to hire me, I was thrilled to start using Mandrill which basically took all of the reliability problems away. No more worries about having to test emails every day in case my server was hacked, no more finding out that for the last 4 days my website viewers haven’t been able to make contact with me, etc.
    I don’t get a huge number of enquiries per month, we are talking in the low hundreds if that. But I do desperately need something that is reliable. I don’t mind paying small bucks for high reliability but what’s with having to pay 10 dollars for 25k emails, when I send a couple of hundred?
    That’s my perspective on Mandrill’s move, I’m sure it’s a small subset of the frustrations others feel and certainly a small subset of those issues that your article draws on, but it means everything to me and my small business.
    Grrrr!

    • UpshotMediaGroup UpshotMediaGroup says:

      Hi Mat,

      Thank you for sharing the information with us. I agree with you. Additionally, you now have to have a paid Mailchimp account which is an additional fee. I am surprised they didn’t throw in surveymonkey and force everyone into a platform suite of tools for 1 price (all or nothing). I have seen companies do that before. I made another post with several reliable services that offer some FREE services here: https://upshotmediagroup.com/blog/web-development/mandrill-alternatives/. Please feel free to take a look at it for an alternative to your mandrill service. Please do come back and share or follow our blog. We just finished up our rebrand so we will be posting more frequently moving forward. The topics will cover a variety of things but focus heavily on great SEO tips and methods, quality link building to out rank your competitor, and other marketing tips that are useful for website owners and small businesses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *