10 Advanced MailChimp Features You Probably Forgot About

Posted on 24 February, 2017 in Email Marketing / 42 Comments

Advanced MailChimp Features

(This post contains affiliate links 💰 – because I’m really good at buying chocolate, and really bad at not buying chocolate.)

You know I’ve seen getting a really bad rep lately? MailChimp. And I don’t really get it.

Suddenly, it’s become the “newbie tool” and “you can’t use it if you’re a serious blogger.”

Seriously?

While I do think that for blog-based entrepreneurs specifically, you’ll eventually want to move off it, it’s far from a “beginners only” tool. Tons of large businesses and startups use it to power multi-million dollar revenue funnels – with all the advanced targeting and automation it supposedly doesn’t have.

Maybe it’s because it’s so great for basics and designed to seem so simple, that people don’t realize how much you can do with MailChimp.

But I’ve been seeing certain statements a lot lately.

In Facebook groups, Slack, Twitter, blog posts…

“I left MailChimp because I can’t track what page people subscribed on.”

“You shouldn’t use MailChimp automation because it’s really just welcome sequences.”

“MailChimp doesn’t let you keep all subscribers in one list.”

“You can’t tag subscribers in MailChimp.”

“You can’t deliver content upgrades with MailChimp – that’s a huge drawback.”

Yeah, that would be a huge drawback! If it were true. But…not so much.

Because all of those above statements are B.S.

It makes me sad because I was one of those bloggers that got tricked into thinking I needed to move away from MailChimp long before I actually did.

I soon realized the grass wasn’t greener and am now in the process of trying to move things back. Some automations in one tool, some lists in another, lots of syncing through Zapier. It’s not too fun.

I’m not knocking the other tools completely, but I didn’t need them yet, and ended up with a less effective and more expensive tool than I needed, and you don’t need to make the same mistake.

Why I Love MailChimp

Well, for one, there’s the cute monkey. I’m not going to lie, I can be swayed by a cute animal cartoon. There are also a lot of features incredibly helpful to bloggers specifically – like RSS-to-email automation and Social Pro.

But more importantly, it’s incredible to use. Things make sense, visually, to me. They’re where I think they’re going to be. They work easily. It’s intuitive.

They’ve built an incredible user experience for a lot of things. Small details like the anticipation they build right before you send a campaign (and how they congratulate you after) shows how much thought they’ve put into it. And it works.

I’ve trialed 4 other tools over the past year or so, and I was not expecting the interfaces to make so much of a difference in productivity. But it was taking painstakingly longer to do things in other tools than in MailChimp, even if it was technically “simpler.”

MailChimp might not have every feature built-in, or right in front of your face, but most of the time for me, “DIY-ing” MailChimp was still easier than other tool’s out-of-the-box software.

Even things MailChimp’s features couldn’t handle on its own – using third-party tools was still faster.

I can set up a content upgrade using MailChimp, Zapier, and OptinMonster quickly and more easily than with the more advanced tools that were supposed to make things simpler.

It was taking less time to log into and set up three separate tools, than to do the same thing in one tool designed to do just that.

That sucked. That’s when I started to realize I might have pulled a Gob Bluth…

I realized that I needed speed and ease of use – I had always thought that meant the minimal number of tools. This taught me that logging into 3 separate tools with great user experiences was actually more efficient than using 1 more advanced tool with a so-so experience.

So that’s where I’d like to get back to – using the best option for each feature, like MailChimp for emails, OptinMonster for forms, and Zapier for like 1,000 things including email marketing. 😉

Before you decide to move away from MailChimp because it doesn’t have the features you need, you might want to double check this list. You can do more than you realize. There’s a shit ton of misinformation about MailChimp out there, and honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that ConvertKit’s affiliate program is so much more lucrative. :/

Want to become a MailChimp master? Download video tutorials for delivering content upgrades with MailChimp merge fields!

A Tip of the Hat

chimp essentials logo(Specifically, my MailChimp hat – that’s me, Cousin It, circa 2011.)

Before we jump into these things, I want to give credit where it’s due. I thought I was pretty well-versed in MailChimp’s features. But I’ve been going through Paul Jarvis’s Chimp Essentials course and mind. blown. I feel like an idiot.

This was where the “I took 2 projects over to another software” panic and regret really started to set in. :X

The course is only open until March 7, 2017 and then won’t be fore sale again until fall.

Advanced MailChimp Features You Might’ve Forgotten About

10 Advanced MailChimp Features You Probably Forgot About (Or That ConvertKit Affiliates Never Wanted You to Know in the First Place)

1. Keep all contacts in one list

MailChimp might be set up to create separate lists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep all your subscribers in one.

By setting up tracking fields (we’ll get to those in a minute), and knowing what you’re doing, you can keep all contacts in one list, and use segments, automations, and groups to split it up for different campaigns.

And if, for some reason, you need more than one list or prefer setting up your systems that way, Zapier can help manage duplicates. Honestly, it’s not hard at all to manage subscribers to that you never ever pay for a duplicate subscriber in MailChimp. The claim otherwise is stupid.

2. Track opt-in source

Sometimes you might want to segment a campaign or automation based on where someone signed up for your list.

For example, when I wrote about Pinterest custom share links, I emailed people who signed up from this post, since I mentioned them in that post as well.

Using hidden merge fields – which is their version of tags, you can track the page or external source that people converted from. Then use that field to segment campaigns or trigger automations. It all works the same way tagging would anywhere else, and is just as easy once you know it’s there.

3. Collect one-click opt-ins from Twitter

MailChimp’s integration with Twitter makes it easy to set up Twitter lead gen cards to grow your email list.

That means you can create a Twitter card that, instead of previewing a website or image, includes an opt-in form hooked up to your email list.

And Twitter pre-populates the email field with the account email address, as well as passes along additional user info through the back-end.

4. Use a variety of email formats

One thing I see people complain about with MailChimp is that you have to spend hours tweaking the design of a heavily formatted template. But…they’ve seen the options, right? You really don’t – you can easily send a plain text email. Their form and email designers are awesome.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to easily send a plain text email.

I have a variety of email templates – they’re all extremely simple and took mere minutes to drag-and-drop into place.

Nothing crazy that’s actually going to trigger spam filters, which is mostly about the image-to-text ratio than number of images anyway. If a newsletter is taking you ages to put together, that might be a sign you need to rethink your template anyway.

People act like MailChimp is forcing them against their will to use a 7-column template with 8 borders and 1,000 images. Or like it’s not even possible to send a basic email. Ugh, what?

A big thing I like about MailChimp is this kind of flexibility – you can go plain and simple, or vibrant and visual. It’s what you make it. You don’t have to choose between one or the other.

5. Tag subscribers

In MailChimp, merge fields, segments, and groups can all be used to tag subscribers based on their behavior, activity, etc. That’s right kids, tagging in MailChimp is real and it’s spectacular!

These merge fields can track which page a user signed up on, which stage of the marketing funnel the subscriber is in (subscriber only, lead, paying customer, etc.), which products customers have bought or are interested in, etc.

Hell, you can even target MailChimp subscribers based on UTM tracking info, for example, to send a campaign to users to opted in through a Facebook post. That’s some intense ish that took me way longer to figure out in the other tools I’ve used.

6. Create full automation funnels

MailChimp’s automation is a lot more than welcome emails. And there are templates to get you started if you’re new to building workflows.

You can start off with a welcome sequence introducing the subscriber to yourself and your list. Then move them into a sales workflow that pitches a product related to the content upgrade they opted in through.

Based on whether the stage merge field changes, then move them into one of several nurturing workflows based on whether or not they’ve converted.

7. Track leads and paying customers

Want to create an onboarding series for new customers, then add them to your main newsletter list once it’s done? Totally possible.

You would use tags to separate onboarded customers from those still going through the new customer automation. Then when creating newsletters and other campaigns, you could create segments or groups that exclude new customers from the mailing.

8. Re-engage stale subscribers

You do pay for MailChimp based on the number of subscribers, just like ConvertKit and other ESPs, so you only want to send emails to people who really want them. Re-engagement campaigns let you identify subscribers who aren’t opening your emails, and try again to get their attention. You can either use this to re-send an important email campaign, or to identify inactive subscribers to remove from your list.

You can create a segment of people who haven’t opened recent emails, and send them one more email – usually something fun to get their attention. At a previous job, I wrote one with a Top Gun-themed email about “losing that loving feeling” that was a hit. 🙂

Once you’ve sent this “last chance,” you can remove anyone who didn’t engage with it.

9. Use conditional merge tags to personalize your content

This is a feature that I just found out about and have gone buck wild over already. Did you know you can customize merge tags beyond the overused “FNAME?” (Seriously, you wouldn’t say my name every other sentence IRL so don’t do it in emails)

For example, you can have a section of your MailChimp template for a CTA that pitches one product if someone’s not a paying customer of it, but shows an alternative pitch for something else for people who have already purchased it.

10. Test timing, subjects, and content

You know what sucks? Having to pay extra for A/B testing. No marketing tool should be making it harder to run experiments – they should be encouraging constant testing and showing users the best way around it.

In MailChimp, you can A/B test the impact of open rates on subject lines or of the day of week on conversion rate, and see which copy within your email can lead to better click-through rates.

Want to become a MailChimp master? Download video tutorials for delivering content upgrades with MailChimp merge fields!

How do you take MailChimp’s features to the next level?

Note: this post was originally published in March 2016 and has been updated as MailChimp features and stuff change. 🙂 

10 Advanced MailChimp Features You Probably Forgot About (Or That ConvertKit Affiliates Never Wanted You to Know in the First Place)

  • Miranda M. Nahmias

    Wow. I actually do kind of loathe MailChimp’s set up, in that I personally don’t think it’s very intuitive or user-friendly, so for that reason I’m happy that I switched to ConvertKit. But now I’m having second thoughts! This is a huge list of things that most people don’t know about, and a lot of them I hadn’t even heard of! Thank you so much for sharing this info, Brittany! This is giving me something to think about.

    P.S. Have you tried ActiveCampaign? What are your thoughts on it?

    • Glad I could help! I guess user-friendliness is somewhat subjective, because I literally lasted 2 days on my ConvertKit free trial before giving up on their interface haha.

      I’m actually on ActiveCampaign now for this blog and one other list I manage right now. I’m waiting to decide whether to stay or move completely back to MailChimp until I see what the new form and email designer updates bring.

      Right now, I love that it offers a lot of features, but find the dashboard and interface really unfriendly – thinks just seem more laborious over there. For example, it takes a lot more time to set up a content upgrade even though it’s technically a shorter process.

  • Wow Brittany! I’ve been using Mailchimp for quite a while and gotten the hang of it, but you’ve given me so many things to think about– specifically tagging and segmenting lists. Honestly, it seems so intimidating. But your post really inspired me to look into it some more.
    I’ve been thinking about taking Paul Jarvis’s course as well–thanks for the reminder!

    • No problem! I went through Paul’s course and was in the same place as you – I’d been using it for awhile and thought I knew most of it, but was proven very wrong. 🙂 It was awesome.

  • Thanks for breaking down Mailchimp in such a digestible manner. Still new with Mailchimp and like it already. Good to know it is quite robust!

    • Hi Claire, thanks for the comment! Yep, MailChimp is so good for beginners because it can be really simple and easy, but also do all this other stuff, so it won’t hold you back once you’re ready for more complicated features. 🙂

  • Wow, MailChimp can do a lot more than I realized! I’ve got to try the Twitter cards. Another cool thing you can do with MailChimp is resend campaigns just to the people who haven’t opened them. It’s not a feature I use a lot, but it’s cool to have. Thanks for sharing these tips. It’s great to know I haven’t made a huge mistake by sticking with the cute monkey 😉

    • Thanks for the comment! Twitter cards are amazing! And re-engagement emails are great, I actually do touch on those in #8! At my last full-time job, they might have been the smartest thing we ever did for email. Some campaigns reached up to 60% more people!

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  • I love MailChimp. I used it YEARS ago when I was volunteering for a professional organization and once another blogger mentioned it could do RSS feeds, I was all over it. I love it and I’m seriously considering upgrading my service (even though my list is tiny) for some of the features and its integration with Mandrill (a fierce, but cute looking monkey as well).

    I want to learn to code my own MailChimp templates.

    • I’ve been using it forever, too! But I’ve used other tools as well, so I know that’s not why I couldn’t get used to the ones I’ve tried recently. I’ve never found anything as easy to use, except for the really amazing and expensive tools for large companies.

      • AliJons

        If you like MailChimp, I think you might also like MailerLite. Compared to MailChimp it’s quite new, but definitely could be called as a rising start in email marketing industry. It is very easy to use and pricing plan depends only on subscriber list you have – I mean you do not have to upgrade your plan to get Automation or A/B test features, you can use those features even in forever free plan (unlimited emails for up to 1000 subscribers). I would be very interested to hear your opinion if you have already tried MailerLite.

    • GothicGourdGirl

      I want to learn to code my own MailChimp templates, too!!! If you find a course or something that teaches that (I’m not sure if the one mentioned here does) post it (or Brittany…this would be helpful to know)…

      • Thanks for the comment! I’m not sure of any template design resources, I’m sorry!

  • I completely agree. I recently got swayed to swap to convertkit. After hours of seeing things up the way I want them I realised that’s it’s not geared up for e-commerce at all. Mailchimp is amazing at that. I can email everyone who bought the same product in one click, but convertkit would only day yes they’ve bought something. No chance of doing an easy product recall. I also hated that you couldn’t just change an email title and resend to those who didn’t open it… I think the generous affiliate program has a lot to do with such flawless reviews. I’m very happy to be back at mailchimp now.

    • Yeah ConvertKit is kind of made for a very specific type of customer and is the simplest and easiest option for them, but stuff like MailChimp can offer something for everyone, even if it can’t do everything for them. I tried CK but I had a lot of multimedia-based campaigns and weekly emails and their email editor is made more for text stuff, so it took a lot of time or better coding skills than I have myself.

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  • I feel like I’m the last person on the planet still using MailChimp. ConvertKit just seems to offer a lot more than I need right now. I’m a huge nerd and I always drill down into everything a tool can do. MailChimp is a surprisingly powerful program for the price!

    • Yes, ConvertKit is great for bloggers and course creators, but it really doesn’t have that much that I would personally want. And I’m the same way with tools! If you’re not afraid of that, MailChimp can do a LOT more because it’s integrations are a lot more developed and have more to offer. When I was testing CK there was a lot I wanted to do around syncing to a CRM and it was impossible to get it to work how I wanted it to. :/ MailChimp took 15 minutes to set that part up, and is a third of the price. 🙂

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  • Thank you for this post, I’m just now getting into Mailchimp. I’ve been hesitant for months because I was afraid it would be so overwhelming, but now I see how simplistic and powerful of a tool it is.

    -Tia

  • Can you please elaborate what you mean by ‘tags’ in MailChimp? If you google ‘MailChimp tags’, only merge tags come up. Is that what you mean? What do you consider to be tags in MailChimp?

    • Hi Lizzy, there are a lot of different ways you can create tag functionality – I explain the specifics in point #5, “Merge fields, segments, and groups can all be used to assign subscribers tags based on their behavior, activity, etc.” 🙂

  • Emma-Louise Smith

    Hey Brittany – love this post and the content upgrades pdf/videos. So does this way of handling content upgrades bypass the problem of someone signing up twice to the one list? I’ve set up separate lists for content upgrades and it gets hard to manage. Could I use a similar method for when someone buys one of my products? Thanks!

    • Hey Emma, thank you so much! Yes, I actually wrote a whole separate post about the way you’re currently handling upgrades! http://www.brittanyberger.com/deliver-content-upgrades/

      What you can do with the separate lists methods to make things easier on yourself is keep the initial set up the same, but then you can use Zapier to automatically transfer the contact over to your main list and remove them from the contact upgrade list once they confirm their subscription. 🙂 Then you don’t have to manage it at all yourself!

      • Emma-Louise Smith

        Thanks Brittany! Yes I had already read that post too. I couldn’t cope with all the different plugins/apps needed to get Mailchimp to do what I wanted it to, so took the leap and moved to Convertkit. Loving it so far. (totally going against the grain of this post!)

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  • Great eye-opener Brittany. I am still analyzing learning about Mailchimp and to my understanding, with Mailchimp’s RSS Campaigns, it won’t track clicks, just opens being that merge tags are used. Well my question is what’s the best/simplest way to track opens on these RSS-driven campaigns?…Google Analytics, Google Short URL, other?

  • For number 2, how do you do this? I imagine you a merge field called “source” or something and record page or post ID/name?

    • Hey paul, that’s exactly how you do it – each time you embed the form on a different page, you can customize what goes in that merge field to enter the name of the page you’re putting it on. 🙂

  • Nancy Sheed

    Thank you Brittany! I am a huge MailChimp fan but was starting to feel like I was running into a wall for content upgrades and easy opt-ins. This is just what I was looking for so thank you for keeping me from jumping ship!
    PS – I love you easy opt-in forms with your blogs!

  • lauriebidaho

    Lordy, girl, you are a godsend. Seriously, I love Mail Chimp but need mucho help. Found you on Twitter, of all places, because someone decided to tweet this blog post

    • Hahaha thank you so much! Chimp Essentials is also actually open for enrollment now too, so you have EXCELLENT timing. 🙂

  • Steph

    Really great post, I pinned to refer back to! I use MailChimp and really like it, however I am somewhat of a beginner and have considered switching to get those nice email sequences. It sounds like I need to dive into MailChimp a bit more, because those are possible – so much to learn! Thanks for sharing.

  • GothicGourdGirl

    I just bought the course (had I known you were an affiliate, I would have purchased it through your link…sorry). I’ve always loved the freaking monkey, and frankly, have been suspicious of EVERYONE seeming to tout the wonders of ConverKit. It’s expensive! I checked it out, along with Mad Mimi, AWeber, and this new one I forget I signed up for..ha! See…ConverKit has a 30 percent affiliate rate. That’s pretty big. NO WONDER everyone is recommending it. I don’t blame them, really, but…I know that MailChimp does all the things all the other companies do, and for a LOT less. You just have to learn how to do it…hence the course, to teach me more than the basics. I really wish I could make a nice template, but I think Paul is going to cover that, too. So yes, totally agree. You go, girlie!!

  • Loralee

    Thanks for the greate update Brittany – feeling silly that I missed this round of Pauls course (my timing’s a bit off)… I’m pretty tired of the “mailchimp isn’t for serious {fill in the blank}” too. I remind people to follow the thread right to their aff link for something that pays better than Mailchimp 🙂

    Like you, I bought into the notion that it wasn’t “good enough”, even though I was already leveraging 1 main list, with subgroups, segments, and clearing out my “content upgrade lists” every couple of weeks. I think I might have moved the first time, just a week or two before they added in all the cool workflow sequences. … and I’m now I’m patching things back together, too

    I’m heading through to test out that utm post… and implement it 🙂 Thanks

    • You’re welcome! Glad to hear I’m not the only one to make this mistake!