(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.”
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.
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. :/
A Tip of the Hat
(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
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.
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.
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. 🙂