Canadian Mailchimp Alternative

Mailchimp is the 800 pound gorilla of email marketing providers but they aren’t a fit for all organizations. 

In this article we’re discussing how Envoke, a Canadian email marketing software used by many ex-Mailchimp customers, compares to the most popular bulk email service. 

Because Mailchimp is so big many people assume – understandably – that switching to any other service means inferior features, loss of revenue, unhappy contacts and more overhead. 

This simply isn’t the case. In this article we’ll discuss an alternative to Mailchimp in Canada.

“Very customizable features. Used to use Mailchimp and Envoke is a very good alternative!”
Samantha Bruin / BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute

What is Envoke anyway?

Everyone has heard of Mailchimp and millions of people have had an account with them at some point. 

You probably haven’t heard of Envoke. But a stranger is only a stranger until you meet them so let us introduce ourselves briefly. We’re a Canadian company through and through. Owners, servers, support staff and our customers are all Canadian. As such we’re experts in the Candian landscape of marketing, communications and legislation.

We’ve been around since 2007 and that says a lot. Companies simply don’t stay in business for over a decade in the hyper competitive world of email marketing and keep getting five star reviews by accident.

Hopefully this puts you at ease that you’re not dealing with an immature startup.

How is Envoke different from Mailchimp?

We’ll give you three answers: the one liner, the two minute version and the ten minute version. How much time do you have?

The one liner answer goes like this: “Envoke is the Candian Mailchimp”. This will do in a pinch if we only have a few seconds. But it doesn’t capture it all. We’re not simply a Canadian copycat. There are differences in functionality and customer care.

The two minute answer is to think of Mailchimp as a hotel and Envoke as an Airbnb property.

The hotel includes so many amenities you won’t possibly have time to use them all – or care for all. You can call the front desk with questions and requests. They will give anyone with a credit card a room.

For a similar price you can stay at an Airbnb. You get to talk to the owners before and during your stay. They may or may not accept your booking (mostly they do). The owners are local and know the neighbourhood inside and out. (They even spell “neighbourhood” the Canadian way!) After a few days you may be on a first name basis. There aren’t any elevators, yet you won’t be missing them. In fact you’ll enjoy a variety of amenities that hotels don’t provide. The experience is more personal, local and customized.

And for the ten minute answer, read on:

Data storage in Canada

American bulk email providers such as Mailchimp (and others such as Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, AWeber, Sendinblue, etc.) have one thing in common: they operate on US based servers and don’t store data in Canada.

This is one of many differences between Mailchimp and Envoke. Envoke stores all data in Canada on Canadian data centres in compliance with common Canadian data security and privacy guidelines. Mailchimp stores data in the United States and as such access to data is subject to the Patriot Act.

Compliance with CASL and other privacy legislation

Envoke is not only fully CASL compliant out of the box but CASL compliance is fully automated to eliminate laborious and error-prone manual work related to establishing and maintaining CASL compliance.

“After researching various newsletter software, Envoke seemed to check all the boxes of its competitors and we felt provided a better overall value. A bonus was that it’s a Canadian owned company which put a high emphasis on following Canada’s CASL legislation”
Reade Beaudoin / City of Fort Saskatchewan

Examples of CASL related features are the ability to send regulatory emails (even to unsubscribed contacts), automated expiry of implied contacts, automated consent expiry reminders, supporting nine different consent statuses, a proprietary dynamic consent request option and automated detection of country based on IP address. You can read more about our compliance features and all CASL related functionality.

Target market and buying process

Mailchimp is a software behemoth. Its target market is diverse with a strong emphasis on small businesses. 

Envoke also serves small businesses (in fact many of our small business customers have switched to Envoke from Mailchimp) but we also accommodate large organizations where deep compliance, data security and privacy are of utmost importance. 

In addition to free trials we also do discovery calls and demos to accommodate buyers in the various stages of their hunt for new software. 

A portion of Envoke’s customers are communicators not marketers. They include Canadian public sector organizations, higher education institutions, associations, commercial companies, healthcare, financial sector and SMBs. See a sample list of our customers and industries served by us.

Account setup and support

When you open a Mailchimp account you’re more or less on your own. Of course, there is lots of great documentation and chat, email or phone support (depending on your plan) but ultimately you and your team need to go through all configuration steps on your own.

In contrast, Envoke offers a comprehensive and free onboarding program to all customers, big or small, so users don’t have to learn one-time setup options that they will never use again later. 

We get it: starting with new software is a chore at best and outright scary at worst. This is why the onboarding program includes a one-on-one training call and helps with migrating contact lists, email templates and forms from your existing system. We help to set the best default settings and review segmentation and other settings and guide you through technical setup requirements that involve your IT team.  

This hands on approach ensures you hit the ground running with your new account and it ensures continuity of service from your current provider. Your contacts won’t even notice you’re using a different service to send them emails.

“We had to switch from a competitor product and we were able to be up and running with Envoke very quickly, thanks especially to the support team.”
Christopher Wise / Concordia University, John Molson School of Business

As for ongoing support, Mailchimp’s support is tied to your pricing plan and even their premium plan doesn’t include as much as Envoke gives to all customers no matter the account size.

In addition to documentation, generic how-to videos and chat we often send short, straight-to-the-point and customized video recordings (they are so much more efficient than typing lengthy responses) and you can also book video calls to troubleshoot complex issues. Again, the operative word is ‘efficiency’ between a regular phone call and a screen share.

Our support team is an extension of your organization to help you get the most out of your account.
Read more about Envoke’s account setup and support options.

“I’ve been using Envoke for a long time and every time I have a question, their support team is always there to help. The waiting time is usually less than specified in chat and they even can provide a video instruction customized for your needs.”
Nadia Kovaleva / McGill University

Pricing

Both Envoke and Mailchimp offer a monthly subscription option (based on the number of contacts on your list) and a pay as you go plan (based on emails sent). This is where the similarities between the two pricing models end.

Envoke’s pricing includes unlimited lists with no effect on pricing. Our prices are in Canadian dollars and pricing designed to be straightforward and transparent without surprises. 

Yes, we also want to make a profit but we value a long standing relationship over trying to squeeze every last penny from every customer no matter what.

In contrast, Mailchimp’s pricing is hard to understand and even after you read through all the definitions and details there may still be surprises when you get your invoice. It takes a lot of brainpower just to figure out just exactly how much it costs to have a Mailchimp account to start with and how much it will cost in three, six and twelve months with extra functionality you’ll likely need as you start using the account in earnest.

And while Mailchimp’s free and ultra low-cost plans seem like great deals, these cheap plans are only useful for very small accounts. Mailchimp pricing can quickly become expensive as add-ons and more advanced functionality are required. You start with a cheap plan and before you know it your monthly fee has doubled but by then you invested too much energy and backing out is painful and needs even more energy.

Envoke doesn’t include a free account like Mailchimp. We can safely say that organizations that find the free Mailchimp account (and the 30 day email support that comes with it) an appealing solution are not a good fit for us. We believe that the CA$49/mo starter fee is a fair price for all the features and service we provide.

To wrap up this section about pricing here’s an example to illustrate the fundamental difference in how pricing is approached:

In Mailchimp unsubscribed contacts count toward the monthly plan limit because unsubscribed contacts have the potential to receive transactional emails, ads or postcards.

In Envoke unsubscribed contacts can still receive transactional emails but they don’t count toward the monthly plan limit because email blasts outnumber transactional emails by a huge margin. 

Unsubscribed contacts can make up a sizable portion of anyone’s list. These contacts made it clear they don’t want to hear from you again. 

It’s like having to pay property taxes on a house you sold because you may go back as a guest later.

List management

Instead of managing independent audiences, as it’s done in Mailchimp, in Envoke you can view a list of all contacts. Each contact can be part of one or many lists and you can have unlimited lists independent of pricing. 

Lists can be private or public. Public lists can be managed by contacts on their own, while private lists are only available for administrators to aid with internal segmentation. 

When you send emails you can combine subscribers so a single message is sent to contacts who are part of multiple lists in a way that one contact only receives the message once. 

Contacts can opt-in/out from any subscription at any time – not just from the list the email with the unsubscribe link was sent to.

Multiple departments and users

Universities, colleges, municipalities, franchises, fitness clubs and many other organizations have multiple departments. Lists and other data shouldn’t be shared across departments but operating a stand-alone account for each department is not practical. This can be achieved with sub accounts.

With Envoke you can manage unlimited sub-accounts for any organization. Mailchimp only allows sub-accounts for agencies and franchises.

Both platforms include user roles to control what functionality each user can access.

Integrations

To handle integrations Envoke includes APIs to achieve one way or bidirectional contact syncing with external CRM systems. Integrations are also possible via Zapier.com. 

Mailchimp’s extensive integration options are offered as “off the shelf” solutions while Envoke integrations requires more upfront setup involving your IT team. 

In the end, after the initial setup is completed both integrations will deliver the same outcome of synced databases.

Automation

Envoke’s drip campaigns allow sending a series of emails to contacts with some delay between messages. These messages can be used to send a series of welcome emails or follow up messages. The automation can be triggered by form submissions or in bulk via an import or the API. You can have any number of drip campaigns with unlimited messages per each campaign.

A journey builder that includes branching of automated messages based on various conditions isn’t included with Envoke. Complex rules in automation sequences are no doubt a tempting addition to marketers’ toolboxes but we found after working with clients (with a different product that did have complex automation rules) that in most cases well intentioned contact journeys don’t materialize due lack of content.

Reporting

Both platforms include extensive reporting. Aggregate reports for the account (emails sent, open and click rates, consent status, list growth over time) and reporting by email campaigns (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, links clicked, preference changes) are comparable between the two providers. 

Mailchimp’s reporting shows email opens by location, social media activity and e-commerce details.

Envoke includes a more transparent email failure report with unfiltered failure codes sent by mail servers (it makes troubleshooting of bounces easier) and a detailed contact activity timeline to track activity for each contact on a single screen.

Forms

There aren’t major differences between forms functionality. Both systems provide an easy to use visual form builder with a multitude of formatting options, notification settings and customization. The primary purpose of forms is to help with list growth via form submissions but both systems also offer “contact us” forms to capture inquiries and route responses to your inbox.

Email campaign workflows

The email editor and related features in Envoke and Mailchimp are very similar. Both systems include an easy to use drag and drop editor, pre-built templates and responsive design out of the box.

Envoke’s email sending workflow involves fewer page loads and fewer clicks. While this may seem like a superficial difference, users spend most of their time in the email editor and these small time saving measures quickly add up.

Dynamic content blocks and AB testing are offered by both Envoke and Mailchimp.

“The builder is both easy and intuitive to use. An important combination for email marketers who are on the platform daily.”
Ruth Bord / Automotive Group (switched from Mailchimp

Locked template zones are only offered by Envoke. Parts of each template can be marked as locked by admin users to prevent standard users from accidentally changing certain elements. This ensures email layouts and design always stay on brand and users can focus on content instead of worrying about adherence to branding guidelines.

Deliverability

Email delivery rates to inboxes are great in both platforms. Envoke and Mailchimp are both well established with extensive experience in sending emails, feedback loops, warmed up IP addresses and support for custom domain authentication (DKIM).

Conclusion

Mailchimp is a great software. They rule the world of email marketing with over half of all the market share. They have rich functionality and the interface is modern and clean. It’s no accident they have a vast customer base. 

But they aren’t for everyone. 

Envoke’s focus on compliance, servers in Canada, stellar customer support and easy-to-use features make it the ideal Mailchimp alternative for Canadian organizations.

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