Here’s why small-business kingpin Intuit is buying Mailchimp for $12B

Intuit, the company behind TurboTax and small-business accounting software QuickBooks, has announced plans to acquire marketing automation company Mailchimp for about $12 billion in cash and stock.

Leaders from the two companies say that the acquisition will let users more easily use their combined marketing and financial data to plan advertising campaigns to maximize return on investment and bring in the best customers for them.

Mailchimp, based in Atlanta and privately held, got its start in 2001, initially focused on email newsletters and email marketing, primarily for smaller businesses. Since then, it’s expanded to other areas of online marketing, including social media posting on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, advertising through Facebook and Google, exchanging texts with consumers, and even dispatching physical postcards through the mail. The company also lets its users host online stores and other web content, making it a one-stop shop for small businesses needing a digital presence and an organized customer relationship management tool.

Mailchimp boasts about 13 million users around the world, including about 2.4 million monthly active users and 800,000 paid customers, according to the companies. CEO Ben Chestnut, who plans to stay on after the acquisition, says he expects the company’s pattern of innovation to continue.

“The message from both sides is accelerate,” he tells Fast Company.

Intuit, based in Mountain View, California, does have a consumer side, offering popular-but-controversial TurboTax as well as services it’s acquired including financial tracking tool Mint and the free credit monitoring service Credit Karma. But it’s also the maker of QuickBooks, the dominant accounting software for small businesses. The company said in a presentation about the acquisition that it will help Intuit realize at least two of its “big bets”: to “be the center of small-business growth” and to “disrupt the small-business mid-market.”

While company officials interviewed by Fast Company didn’t rule out the possibility of future integrations between Mailchimp and Intuit’s consumer-facing products, the clear goal of the acquisition is offering a comprehensive suite of tightly connected accounting and marketing tools for small businesses.

At present, QuickBooks contains billions of data points about its small-business clients’ transactions with their own vendors and customers, but it doesn’t itself provide a direct way to harness that data for marketing and communications, says Alex Chriss, executive vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business and Self-Employed Group.

“We actually have no way for them to communicate with those customers,” he says.

That changes with integration with Mailchimp, which already provides capabilities to automatically or manually segment customers based on all sorts of data points. “There’s just an immediate opportunity to enable our customers to leverage our data that’s purchasing data,” Chriss says.

Additionally, being able to access QuickBooks data about cash flow and budgeting will help Mailchimp guide customers in picking the right marketing channels for them and maximizing their returns, Chestnut says. Features of Mailchimp like appointment scheduling will benefit QuickBooks users in the services industry, while those selling physical goods can take advantage of Mailchimp’s e-commerce tech, Chriss adds.

The companies already have some integrations in place between their platforms, though the executives say the details of combined offerings will be announced at a later date. Chriss says both companies are also committed to remaining open platforms, which means that integrations between one platform and a competitor of another shouldn’t disappear.

The acquisition is expected to close by late January 2022.

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