How to Protect Your Business When Powerhouse Companies Break-up

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The number one thing that you can do to stay in the know and to protect your business is to document what you use and how you use it.


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Episode Summary

A nasty break-up in the digital marketing world has left many small business owners scrambling all spring. We talk about what happened, why, and how to protect your business in case it happens to you.

We depend on our software and apps to work forever — especially mainstays like MailChimp and Shopify. So, what do you do when these tools stop playing well with each other? Learn how to protect your business and take action if (when) this happens to you.

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Read Transcript: How to Protect Your Company When Powerhouse Companies Break Up

Hello and welcome to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this week’s show, we’re going to talk about two powerhouses in the digital marketing world, their nasty breakup, and what you can do to make your business more resilient against situations like this now and in the future.

All that and more here on Women Conquer Business.

[Intro]Hello and welcome to the Women Conquer Business Podcast featuring discussions with your host, Jen McFarland. Every week, I discuss a different aspect of building a business while balancing it with an incredibly busy life. I share experiences, successes, and failures, and answer questions submitted by you the listener. Thanks for tuning in. Let’s get started.

The Breakup

On March 22nd, 2019, MailChimp pulled the plug on their integration with Shopify. Now, an integration merely means the two programs are talking to one another. This is a super big important key for any digital marketing strategy.

You want to have more than one program supporting your business. And ideally, all of these programs would talk to each other. Things like QuickBooks and G suite, MailChimp, Shopify. When you put all of these programs together, they should be working together to help you get a complete picture of your business, the customers, the information, everything.

So the really big thing that happened is, on March 22nd, MailChimp said, “We’re not going to have our integration with Shopify anymore. You have until mid-May to figure this out.”

It’s a Nasty Breakup

And the breakup was nasty. So there’s really no reason to think that these two are going to play well together anytime soon. Here’s the statement from Shopify, “It’s critical for our merchants to have accurate, complete insight into their businesses and customers. And this isn’t possible when MailChimp locks in their data. Specifically, MailChimp refuses to synchronize customer information captured on merchants’ online stores and email opt-out preferences. As a result, our merchants, other apps and partner ecosystem can’t reliably serve their customers or comply with privacy legislation.”

Long story short, MailChimp said, “You can’t have all the information that we collect.” And Shopify said, “That’s not cool, man, because we don’t know how we’re going to supply everything to our merchants.”

So MailChimp, of course, disagreed with this statement [laughter], and they had their own statement that they put out. And here it is. “For months, we’ve been trying to work with Shopify on terms that would be fair and equitable for both of our businesses. Throughout these negotiations, we refuse to agree to terms that jeopardize our users’ privacy and require us to hand over customer data acquired outside of Shopify. From our perspective, that is not our data to share.”

It’s Complicated

So if you listen closely to what Shopify was asking for, they wanted MailChimp to hand over everything. And then for that information not only to be for the merchants but also for Shopify and for any third-party extensions that Shopify uses.

Meaning, if you use Shopify, anything else that you tack onto Shopify may have access to that information.

MailChimp said, “No. We can’t do that. That would require us to violate the privacy of our users.” And stuck in the middle, of course, are the merchants who have a Shopify website or point-of-sale system where they’re taking cards in stores. And on the one hand, they can’t use Shopify and get all their information into their email marketing software which is MailChimp.

The Details: Protect Your Business Information

When I dug a little bit deeper into this issue, it seems that, recently, Shopify had changed their terms of service. And part of that is that they have an expectation that when you exchange information including personal information — because some of the information that you take as a business owner is pretty private.

Think about when you buy something and you’re handing over your credit card information, you’re handing over, and then attached to that are your name including often times your middle initial and address to verify the purchase. Sometimes it’s the last three digits on the back of the card.

It’s all kinds of information. Your email address. So you’re collecting all of that information as a business owner. And when you do business with tools like MailChimp or Shopify, you’re agreeing to a term of service for how that company is going to handle that information and then you have an expectation for protecting it.

Handling Credit Cards

If you go to my website and you read on my growth tools site, also known as Jen’s picks, I talk about how you don’t ever really want to be handling credit card processing on your own. Meaning you don’t want people to write down all that credit card information and then be in charge of it.

It’s much better to use Square or something just on the fly where you’re taking credit card information. And it’s because there are all of these rules about how you handle private information. And Shopify and MailChimp are trying to guard against all the issues that can arise from these privacy policies and expectations that people have when they hand over your name and your email address.

So Shopify changes their terms. Meaning that if they’re exchanging information with a vendor, that that information can then be shared out with the partners in the Shopify ecosystem.

Terms of Service? Who Cares?

Well, MailChimp, as an email marketing company, is stuck and they have to comply with the European Union’s data protection regulation. I wish we had these same regulations in the States, although it will be very hard for all of us to comply.

But it really protects us as individuals and how our information can be used out in the wild. So it means that if somebody from the EU submits their email address and name to a company, then the company has to be able to remove that person. And also, if the European person wants to see the information that’s been collected about them, then they also can request that and ask for specific things to be removed.

This is very hard to do particularly in scale, where you’re talking about big companies and they’ve got people all around the world and information about customers all around the world.

It wasn’t really as big of an issue in the small business world. But for MailChimp, which is a global cooperation, they have to comply with that. So it’s very hard for MailChimp, who is under this guidance, to then hand over a big package of all this information, right. And I don’t want to get too tied up in privacy.

Why We Should All Care

But I will say privacy is an issue for the smallest of businesses because 90% of small businesses that have a data breach, meaning somehow customer information gets exposed, 90% are out of business within two years. So these privacy issues that sound so big nefarious and I don’t get it or actually really vital for small businesses to know about. And so I just highly recommend that if you want to get more information, go to, join.

The inner circle has all the free resources, and there is a security survival guide included in there where I go through some of the very basic things that you can do to protect yourself and your business against all of these kinds of security concerns [laughter]. So as a broader scale, when we talk about Shopify and MailChimp and their horrible breakup, it’s all about sharing private information and how far that rabbit hole goes. And MailChimp wasn’t willing to go down there. The thing we’re going to talk about the most, however, is how that affects you as a new or small business owner. And I tell you this whole MailChimp and Shopify situation has been keeping me pretty busy researching all of the alternatives [laughter].

MailChimp – Shopify Integration Solutions

So on the MailChimp website, they do provide three alternatives: Shopsync, which is offered on the Shopify website. Now here’s the problem with Shopsync. It is not an authorized app. I mean, I don’t know exactly how this works with Shopify, but it just means that Shopify can’t guarantee that it’s going to work. So you can use it. It’s free. There are two other options that are paid, which kind of stinks because the whole purpose of using MailChimp is that it’s free for up to 2,000 contacts. And for a lot of small businesses, they’re below that 2,000 people on their mailing list threshold. And you can use Zapier or Zapier. That’s Z-A-P-I-E-R or Now, you can use these things, but they’re both limiting. And Zapier and Automate are also not free.

They’re in the 20- to 25-dollar range. And it just limits because of the limits of [laughter] — the fact that they’re not playing well with each other means that there’s not a lot that you can do about getting all of your information from MailChimp and into Shopify and vice versa. They also offer some custom coding and downloading. But by and large, for most people, it probably means you have to make a decision about getting rid of MailChimp or getting rid of Shopify and then figuring out what you’re going to do. And in most cases, you’re probably going to get rid of MailChimp because Shopify has so much power behind it for a retailer, a small business retailer, and they’re just huge in the e-commerce space.

I’m not going to go into the specifics on what you should use and what you shouldn’t use because it’s different for everybody. So what I would say is — and this goes for all the people who are dealing with a MailChimp and Shopify situation and then also for people like me. I don’t use MailChimp and Shopify. I’m not a e-commerce retailer. I have a very small store on my website with Women Conquer Business products on it, and that’s it. I don’t have an e-commerce business. However, I always pay attention when things like this happen, not only because it’s my job but also because it kind of speaks to this larger ecosystem of what’s going on. And then it helps me to prepare and guide my clients a little bit more.

What Every Business Needs to Know

So here is what everybody in small business world needs to do when two programs aren’t working together one, get clear on how it affects your business so you know what you want to change. And this is really important and you should do it as soon as possible when you hear about something like this happening.

Two, understand the deadlines and what will happen when the deadline passes. So in the case of Mailchimp and Shopify, they made the announcement in March and then all of the users are affected in May of 2019. And then be clear about what happens after that deadline passes.

Research the alternatives or hire someone like me to make recommendations for how to move forward with your business and what changes would actually be the lowest impact to your business. Because if you have to change something, there is an impact.

It does take time. Most of the time, it takes some money, even if the money is just your time. Because time is money and people oftentimes spend too much time working on things as opposed to just getting a direction from somebody else and getting started. And then start implementing the alternatives as soon as possible. Because ideally, you’re going to find out about it early on and you’ll have a solution in place before the deadline passes.

And you might be thinking, “Well, how do I do this?” Funny you should ask how you do this. So there is a process that will help you stay in the know for your business. And I’m going to share that with you right now. Because like I said at the onset, we are all using so many tools, and sometimes we forget which tools we are using and what does what and how everything connects.

The Number One Thing

The number one thing that you can do to stay in the know and to protect yourself from a potential Mailchimp/Shopify situation is to document what you use or have the person who built it for you document it for you. And what does that mean? It doesn’t have to be anything complicated but it can just be, website: Shopify, email marketing: Mailchimp, and anything else that you have connected. If you are using other tools, like maybe you use Square for your in-person events.

Maybe you’re using Stripe for some of your transactions online and PayPal for other ones. It just means that you’re writing these things down. And if you’re using Shopify for one thing and PayPal for something else, write down what you’re using it for and keep it updated. Because there’s no use having this documentation if when you stop using something, you’re not updating your documentation. So it doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the best thing that you can do and the number-one thing that you can do is document and then update your documentation.

So the next most important thing that you can do is when you pay for or use something, subscribe to the product-update newsletters for the programs and applications that you’re using. So the number-one way that people found out about the Mailchimp and Shopify breakup, so to speak, because most you aren’t hanging out in digital marketing circles or tech circles to find out about all of these things going on — but if you’re using these products, subscribe to the product updates and they will send you a notification saying that something is going on.

So when pay attention to the updates, and it means that you have to read it. It means you have to pay attention to the updates. And it means that you have to read it. I think you pay more attention to those updates if when you change something, you unsubscribe from the product updates for the things you’re no longer using. So in the case of MailChimp and Shopify, if you stop using MailChimp, unsubscribe from their list. Don’t get any more product updates from them. And then, whatever tool you decide to use instead, subscribe to those updates, right?

So what I want you to do is kind of keep track of that and stay in the know. Now, if you have a tech provider, a consultant or somebody else, an employee, somebody who is charged with this kind of thing, then make sure that they are staying up to date with the product newsletters so that you’re not caught off guard when something like this happens. I know it’s hard. There’s so many newsletters out there and you don’t want to subscribe to anymore, but these are the specific types of programs and situations that you want to stay on top of. Because we are so, so dependent on all these tools to help keep our business running.

Another Thing

The other thing that you can do that will really help you in situations like this is whenever possible, make sure that you have a backup on some of this information, right? You can take information from MailChimp or Shopify or whatever tools that you’re using and create backups or have backup systems or processes in place so that you are protecting yourself so that if one day you accidentally, say, delete an audience in Mailchimp or delete a list in ActiveCampaign or whatever tool you’re, you have a backup of your email list.

Save it to Google Sheets somewhere, for example. So there are all kinds of little tricks that you can use, but the top two things that you can do is document and stay in the know about the products that you’re using.

And that is a way that you can actually make — when you start to make things like these processes, a part of, and you systematize and you get all of these things in place, these are ways that you make your business more valuable.

Protect Your Business Assets

Ashley Micciche talked last week about having value for your business so that you can exit your business. If you have all these tools all over the place and you don’t know what’s going on, that detracts value from your business.

Having systems, systematizing your processes, knowing how everything is connected, having it documented, and then being able to move forward efficiently when change happens and pieces aren’t working well with each other, these are all signs of a healthy company and healthy business. And [it all?] help you work through problems and issues much quicker and save you so much time and money.

And you’re able to do that and demonstrate that, not only are your customers happier and your employees but when you go to exit your business in a situation like Ashley was talking about last week, you’re better positioned for that. Because the assumption is that if you’re doing it in the tech realm or the digital marketing realm, you’re probably doing it in other places in your business as well.

In Conclusion

So I hope that helps. Stay on top of it. I hope all you MailChimp and Shopify folks are doing well. If you’re not, give me a call, and we will help you. And the best way to do that is to go to, and I’m here to help you. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please share [it?] with a friend. Next week, we’re going to talk about the most important thing to your digital marketing strategy.

Thanks for listening.

[Outro][music] Thank you for listening to the Women Conquer Business Podcast. You can find us online at You can also connect with Jen on social media at @jensmcfarland on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. This show is produced in Portland, Oregon by Women Conquer Business. Women Conquer Business is available on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, and many other podcast apps. [music]

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