For many businesses, an email list of prospects and current customers is a key asset. The number of contacts a business has may reach into the tens of thousands. And out of all the different marketing channels available today, email is a remarkably valuable one. It is the most direct form of communication, it has very high conversion rates, and it outpaces social media for customer acquisition by 40%. It’s also the most profitable channel. For every $1 spent, email marketing generates a $38 return on investment (ROI).
All this email list building, managing, and execution takes a significant amount of time and money. A quick google search reveals nearly four billion hits on how to build a list, with titles such as “The Top 40 Ways to Build an Email List” or “85 Free Ways To Build An Email List Fast In 2019”. And there are now dozens of online tools to manage and communicate with contacts. Just think about the energy and resources you have piled into growing and maintaining your contacts; it’s likely substantial.
So imagine for a brief moment that you accidentally deleted your list of contacts.
And it was gone.
Yes, FOREVER, forever.
It can and has happened. Here are three stories of Mailchimp users who accidentally deleted all their lists and what they did after.
Chanie Hyde from BugHerd
“In more than 12 years of marketing, I had done the mistake every marketer dreads and fears.”
Chanie was just setting out to perform a task which all digital marketers have done at one point: clean up an email list. The audience for BugHerd hadn’t been sent emails in years, as the site was going through some maintenance. And as any savvy email marketer will tell you, sending old emails is not worth your time.
So Chanie took on the monotonous task of cleaning up thousands, upon thousands of email contacts. There’s one catch though: Mailchimp does NOT allow you to make high-volume bulk deletions. Account owners can only delete 100 contacts at a time. Let’s let Chanie explain what happened next:
With almost 20K needing deletion and four clicks per group of 100, including copying and pasting the word DELETE more than 200 times. That’s 800 clicks. Not counting refreshing the page as the application slowed down processing bulk queues of permanent data deletion.
It only took about an hour and a half of my time, but by the end of the process, I was stuck in a quagmire of repetition. This is when mistakes inevitably happen, I just didn’t know how big.
In Mailchimp you have the ability to delete certain segments or portions of your overall lists but you have to select them individually. Otherwise, you may end up erasing ALL of your contacts. This is exactly what happened to Chanie.
As I watched the contact numbers slowly drop away by the 1000s towards zero, I started to panic. The blood drained from my face and an icy grip of fear tightened my chest. I uttered the stricken words “no, NO NOOO” over and over.
Chanie contacted Mailchimp’s online support but they were not able to help – the list was gone. The good news, she had exported many of her contacts into a spreadsheet. The bad news, a manual upload can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. Or as Chanie put it, “What should have taken a mere two hours took an entire day and a half of work (and multiple resources) to fix.”
Olivia Simon from MailChumps
Olivia Simon runs the site MailChumps, a resource for learning the in’s and out’s of using the email software. But even experts are prone to the odd mistake. Olivia was in the process of editing a subscribe form and was prompted by Mailchimp to confirm her deletion. Assuming everything was ok, she went ahead and confirmed. And to her surprise, she hadn’t just deleted the forms phone number field, she also deleted EVERY phone number in her contact list. Olivia added in her blog:
What I’ve found is that the longer I’ve spent on Mailchimp, the more I ignore those delete popups. The word “delete” is now autosaved in Mailchimp and the initial fear those popups inspired has faded. And if you’re a newer user, the terminology in the popups might not be clear, and you could end up pressing delete because you didn’t really know what would happen.
Olivia lost 10,000 numbers which she was not able to recover. She now says she understands the importance of backing up data for Mailchimp, “A lot of people don’t realize the importance of backing stuff up until they’re traumatized. If I hadn’t lost the information, I wouldn’t have understood the threat or danger.”
As a bonus, read Olivia’s post on four other ways you can possibly delete data in Mailchimp.
John White from We Run, UK
John White runs We Run, UK’s largest running coaching company. We Run has a nationwide team of qualified running coaches, who work one-on-one with recreational runners to help them improve their running, avoid injury and achieve their goals. Their Mailchimp list is the core communication tool for distributing resources to running coaches. Keeping up with the trend we have been seeing, John was just doing house cleaning of his list when the whole thing was deleted.
Like Olivia, he made no manual backup of his list. So John had no choice but to begin building his list from scratch. John said that it’s the loss of time spent time constructing the list and the abrupt stop of information to his contacts that caused him distress. He added, “We lost a powerful marketing tool and connection with fans of the business”.
Why Doesn’t Mailchimp Backup My Email List?
Established SaaS companies like Mailchimp work hard to prevent system-wide data disasters. However, most cloud platforms follow the Shared Responsibility Model for data protection. This means they have limitations surrounding the data they protect and backup. While Mailchimp protects the infrastructure that powers its software, you are responsible for backing up and securing your own account-level data.
At Rewind, we call this a “micro-backup”. If account-level data or content is accidentally deleted (and not backed-up) platforms cannot “flip a switch” to restore anything; it may be gone forever.
How Do I Protect My List?
The most common way is to export each data set into a CSV file. This manual download is explained in detail by Mailchimp but has its limitations. It is time-consuming and laborious to sift through multiple spreadsheets. And remember, every time a change is made to your list or settings, a new CSV file must be exported. Think about that for a second, the time commitment involved, especially if you are generating hundreds of signups a month.
The other solution is to use a robust tool, like Rewind, which automates the backup process and can bring back an email list in just a few clicks.
Rewind for Mailchimp offers a 7-Day free trial and is available for free for accounts with 4000 subscribers or less. Paid plans start at $5/month.