Business Unusual

MailChimp - odds are you received an email from them in the last 7 days

This is the story of MailChimp as told through the history of email.

Email is the original digital disruptor, resulting in post offices worldwide going into terminal decline.

The history of the internet begins with the message and that message was email.

The first actual email was sent in 1971. It was not actually called email until the 90s and during the 80s it was possible to have email sent via the post for those that could not receive it.

Email gave us the modern use of the @ sign as well as the idea of a domain name to determine where a message should be sent.The first email marketing mail was sent to 400 people and resulted in a reported $13 million in sales.

From the Radicati email report

It has had it fair share of trouble too - just ask the person that sent 840 000 people a blank email, only to have dozens reply to all crashing their own mail servers.

Spam and scams are a serious issue with as much as 30% of all emails being spam.

Not to mention the dread of opening a mailbox to find hundreds of unopened mails.

Nevertheless, with half the planet having access to an email address, and an average of over 100 emails being received per day, it is fair to say email is a very big business.

From the Radicati email report

MailChimp is a private company with over 10 million customers that send about a billion emails every day. They may be newsletters, sales promotions, surveys or just about anything.

The 500 plus staff want to both keep their customers happy while not upsetting those receiving the mails. It may surprise you how detailed email marketing has become with lists becoming highly specialised and open rates and clicks monitored very closely.

In a stroke of luck or good foresight it sponsored the podcast series Serial, which had over a million listens per episode. It's ad that flighted before each episode became a minor hit thanks to a mispronunciation of its name as MailKimp. The company's group photo of staff reflects this. The name comes from Freddie the chimpanzee which was a design the founder had on his desktop when set up the company. Had the domain ChimpMail been available it would have been their name, but it was not and so MailChimp it was. These days they own both so you can use either.

The site is, and the service has, a focus on good design and ease of use which has netted them praise from users and accolades from peers and the online industries.

picture credit: Mailchimp

They are unusual for not basing themselves in Silicon Valley; they did not pursue venture capital and did not look to cash in with an IPO. The founders Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius were retrenched and started a web design company in 2001; the actual mail business only started in earnest in 2006 to assist small businesses. The option to open the platform with a free version took place in 2009 and it appears they have found the perfect mix of paying versus free users based on how many receive the emails.

Spam is a massive industry issue and they have built a product called Omnivore to monitor the content of emails and the behaviour of those that receive it. If it indicates spamming behaviour the accounts are suspended.

For a business the opportunity of reaching those that have at some point given permission or requested you send them email updates is a great sales opportunity. You can develop a relationship over time that is more personal than you might via a website.

For individuals, it is not only the standard way to communicate for business, but also allows you to track developments about issues you are interested in as well as receive offers that are relevant to you rather than having to search or visit stores.

The future may feature others ways to send information, but MailChimp's investment in optimising a user's experience will probably see them maintain a leading position whatever the future holds.

3 ways to switch your mailbox from a productivity drain to a efficiency engine.

Manage your risks

Emails are typically not encrypted or secure, sending sensitive documents or information like passwords or banking details should be avoided.

Your are a target of scammers, they might want to compromise your online identity and phish (the term for accessing personal details through misrepresentation) for personal information. They might try copy the look and details of an email you may receive from your bank in an attempt to access your login information. You may receive offers that turn out to be fraud and you could be stung in a straight up con by someone looking for you to donate to a worthy cause. Finally, you may be invited to click on an attachment (in such cases it would be called malware) that may harm your machine in a variety of ways.

In all of the above cases; assume everything is a potential scam until you can satisfy yourself otherwise.

You can report or block emails that you believe contain malware or are phishing.

Delete without responding to any mail you are not completely sure is legitimate. Unsubscribe from any mailing lists that are no longer relevant or that you did not ask to join.

Manage the size of your inbox

When you have a certain number of unopened mails, you tend to feel helpless to get through them all. The ultimate is to have no emails in your inbox. That can best be achieved by dealing with each email only once before moving it from the inbox.

Use a “file” folder for emails you may want for reference, an “action” folder for those that need a reply or work to be done and your “trash” for everything else.

On average, you may get about 100 emails a day. If you have multiple email addresses that can be a significant drain on your time.

Manage your time

Emails are not usually a time specific communication tool. A response, if one is required, is not immediate, although many tend to respond to emails as soon as they receive them.

If your time is allocated for other tasks don’t keep checking emails. Set specific times for checking and processing and ignore it the rest of the time.

Use a messaging option like WhatsApp or a phone call for urgent items.

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