A beginner's guide to using Mailchimp
Updated 27th February 2018
Today I’m writing about Mailchimp. How to set up an account and how the basic features work.
What is Mailchimp and why should you use it?
Mailchimp is a web-based marketing platform, that allows you to share email and ad campaigns with clients, customers or other interested parties. At its most basic, Mailchimp sends out automated messages via email, in the form of newsletters or campaigns.
- One of the best reasons to use Mailchimp is that it is free for up to 2000 subscribers. And, if you need more than 2000 subscribers, they have reasonable price plans available. If you want to read about other newsletter solutions, you can read my blog post Why is an email list so important? here.
- It's easy to setup as you will see in the section below. You can be up and running in just a few minutes.
- It is very secure and is trusted by over seven million users worldwide.
- It works well with other platforms, such as WordPress, SquareSpace or Shopify and also with Facebook and Twitter.
- It provides a good user experience, by including a drag and drop editor that allows you to design great newsletters.
What will be covered in this post:
- How you setup a Mailchimp account
- What a list is and how you use them
- How you change the information people see when they signup to your newsletter
- How to add a signup form to your website
- What a campaign is and how you use them
Before we get started, let’s talk definitions. Mailchimp uses words that are a little different from common terms so you might want to have a read of these common terms first.
- Opt-in - This the way people sign up to your mailing list. i.e. filling out a form on your website.
- Subscriber - This is a contact in your list. These people have opted-in to receive emails from you.
- List - Where you store all of your subscribers’ information.
- Campaign - An email you send to your subscribers. Otherwise known as a Newsletter.
- Template - This is the layout for a campaign. You can customise these or design your own.
- Report - An overview of each campaign’s performance.
How to setup an account
Setting up a Mailchimp account is easy. You will need to provide an email address that will be associated with your Mailchimp account and you must be able to access this email account. You will need a unique username, a physical mailing address and a URL for your website or blog.
- Navigate to MailChimp's homepage and click the Sign Up Free button in the top right of the page.
- On the Get Started page, type in your Email, Username, and Password, and click the Get Started button.
- Check your inbox and verify that this is your email address by clicking on the Activate Account button to complete your account setup.
- On the Confirm Humanity screen, check the I'm not a robot box, and click Confirm Signup.
- Once you are logged in, Mailchimp will ask you to fill out some required information in order to finalise the setup.
- Done! You can now get to know Mailchimp’s features.
Working with lists
A ‘List’ is what Mailchimp calls the place where all your subscribers live. You can have multiple lists and you can also have different groups and/or segments within a list.
Group: A group is a category within your list that organises your subscribers by their interests and preferences. They choose their interests at signup. i.e. Favourite colour.
Segments: A segment is a specific set of your list of subscribers with common qualities. Segments can be created to target subscribers by location, domain, products purchased and more.
You need to create a list in order to receive subscribers.
- First navigate up to “Lists” at the top. Then click “Create List.”
- Next, enter necessary information in the forms.
- List Name: Put in something that makes sense. Your subscribers will see this name, so make it appropriate. i.e. Acme Newsletter.
- “From” Email: The email address entered here shows up in your recipient's inbox as the sender, so use something official like “[email protected]” not a Hotmail account. They can also reply to you with this email address.
- “From” Name: Again, this appears in the inbox. Either go with your actual name, or say something like “[your website] Newsletter.”
- Reminder How They Got on Your List: People signup for a lot of things and so might not remember why they signed up to you. Let them know how they signed up for your service.
- Your Information: Your home address will show up at the end of each email and is a legal requirement in every email you send! This is to suppress the amount of spam we all get and is a good thing. If you do not want your home or business address showing up, it is advisable to get a PO Box address and use that instead.
- Form Settings: Make sure that ‘Enable Double Opt-in’ is ticked. Especially if you are in the EU.
- Notifications: Here you can choose how MailChimp tells you about the activity of your list. Choose what you feel necessary here.
- You now have an empty list that you can start filling up with subscribers! If you already have a list from a different service, it is likely that you can simply import it to Mailchimp using their import option.
How to customise your signup form
Signup forms live on your website or blog and allow people to subscribe to your newsletter or ad campaign by filling out a simple, short form.
To create and edit your signup form, click on Lists at the top of the page once you have logged into Mailchimp, and then choose Signup forms from the options above.
Once you arrive at the signup forms page you have four options:
- General forms: This is where you build and design your signup forms and responsive emails.
- Embedded forms: This is where you generate HTML code to embed in your website or blog to collect subscribers
- Subscriber popup: This is where you design a pop-up signup form for your website.
- Form integrations: This is where you can create signup forms using Mailchimp’s integrations
We will just concentrate on the first two in this post.
Click on the Generate forms icon and make sure you have ’Signup form’ showing in the dropdown menu. Notice that there is a ’Signup form URL’ for your form. You can use this URL on social media and is a great way to share your form to a wider audience and get more subscribers.
There are three options for this General forms section and they are:
- Build it: This is where you customise your form by adding and removing fields to your signup form. Mailchimp makes this easy for you as it has a simple drag and drop form builder. In my forms, I tend to just use an email address as I want to keep it as simple as possible for my customers, but you can have it however you like.
- Design it: This section controls how the forms look. You can add a logo and adjust the colours and fonts. You should notice that changes here are made universally over all forms, so that you don’t have to change the look of each form your customers see.
- Translate it: This is where you can edit specific translation if you are reaching non-English-speaking countries. You also have the option to auto translate.
If you want to send your new subscribers a free gift like an ebook, PDF, audio file or printables, you should edit the ‘Confirmation thank you page’, by clicking on it from the dropdown menu. You can add your free gift as a link in the ‘Design it’ section.
How to add a signup form to your website
Once you have built and designed your General signup forms, you are going to want to embed them in your website or blog. The great thing about Mailchimp’s popularity is that there are loads of ways of doing this.
- Via a plugin: This is probably be the easiest way of doing it. Install a reputable Mailchimp plugin for your chosen platform ( for example Mailchimp for WordPress ), enter the Mailchimp ARI key (Application Program Interface - it’s like a little secret handshake for computers) and follow the plugin’s step by step guide.
- Embed the code manually: If you don’t want to, or are not able to use a plugin, you can embed the HTML code directly into your website’s code.
- Other: There are other options, such as using Mailchimp’s own integration option if you have SquareSpace, or their Pop-up option or there is sumo.com that can do it for you too.
How to create a Newsletter Campaign
Okay, now that you have successfully created your list and setup your Signup forms, you are ready to create a Newsletter Campaign.
- Navigate your way to ‘Campaigns’ at the top of the screen.
- Then click the grey ‘Create Campaign’ button to create a new campaign.
- In the following window, choose ‘Create an Email’.
- In the following window, leave the already selected option ‘Regular’ as it is. There are three other options, ‘Automated’, ‘Plain-text’ & ‘A/B Test’, but we're not interested in them in this blog post.
- Give the campaign a name, using an interesting subject line and click the grey ‘Begin’ button.
Next we need to go through the setup screen with the following information:
- To: Click the ‘Add Recipients’ button. This step allows you to choose the list you want to send your email to. You can either include the entire list or segments or groups of the list, then click ‘Save’.
- From: Click the ‘Add from’ button. This step allows you to add the name of the person sending the email and the email it is coming from. Click ‘Save’.
- Subject: Click the ‘Add Subject’ button. This step allows you to create a quality subject for your newsletter and some preview text. Click ‘Save’.
- Content: Click the ‘Design Email’ button. This is the fun bit.
The Design window allows you to choose from a myriad of templates, ranging from ‘Layouts’ (Both Featured and Basic), ‘Themes’, ‘Saved templates’ (templates you have previous created yourself), ‘Campaigns’ or you can ‘Code your own’.
The Featured Layouts are an excellent starting point for your first newsletter. Click on the layout you want to use and it will take you to the layout creation window. Here you are able to change text, fonts, colours, swop out images, add links and much, much more. Once you have finished creating your beautiful newsletter layout, I highly recommend clicking the ‘Save as Template’ at the top. That will make it much easier to select your custom template in your next newsletter so that you don’t need to create a new one every time.
Once you have saved your newsletter you can send a test email to yourself to see how it looks in your inbox and phone and you can check that all your links work correctly.
When you are happy with your newsletter, you can either click the ‘Send’ button, to send your newsletter out now, or the ‘Schedule’ button and tell Mailchimp when you want to send it. This means you can create your newsletter long before you want to send it out.
That’s it! You can now officially call yourself an email marketer.
If you have a comment or want to ask any questions about Mailchimp or newsletters in general, please leave a message below.
Until next time…