Hosting Tutorial & Guide

How to Use MailChimp to Start an Email Marketing Campaign

updated on Sep 12, 2015
How to Use MailChimp to Start an Email Marketing Campaign As a leading web-based email service, MailChimp is easy-to-use and costless for beginners. Once you have less than 2000 subscribers and send no more than 12000 emails on a monthly basis, you can use MailChimp for free forever. If you exceed the limits, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan.

It is easy and quick to get started with MailChimp, build your first email list, and send the first newsletter. Also, you can design attractive templates, set up auto-responders and monitor the campaigns. This tutorial offers a detailed guide for starting an email marketing campaign with MailChimp, and introduces some tips which can make your life much easier.

Sign up with MailChimp

Since MailChimp is web-based, there is no need to download or install any application. To create an account, you can visit the official website and then click on the orange button saying "Sign Up Free". When the signup form is displayed, just finish it and then click on the "Create My Account" button. No credit card information is required.

Sign up with MailChimp

Now you need to check your email and activate your MailChimp account by clicking the "Activate Account" button. Once your identity is confirmed, you are provided with a profile which you have to complete. Saving the profile information will redirect you to the dashboard where you can start your email marketing.

MailChimp Dashboard

Create an Email List

The first thing you should do after opening an account with MailChimp is to create your first email list, since a clean and updated email list is the foundation of a good email marketing plan. To do this, you can find the "Create a list" option in the dashboard and click on "Create A List".

In the form prompted, you are required to input some default information for the whole list, such as from whom the emails come, how subscribers get on the list, the contact information, and the frequency of notifications. All of the list details should be dealt with carefully because your subscribers will see them when they receive an email.

Create an Email List

After the list is created, you have to add subscribers to it. Now you have several options:
  • Add subscribers one by one by typing their email addresses.
  • Import subscribers from a CSV or TXT file.
  • Copy the contact information from an Excel worksheet.
  • Import subscribers from a CRM software.
Add Subscribers

We suggest that you should maintain one email list only. This helps you keep the list clean, and potentially lowers the cost. If you have several lists, it is possible that you have duplicate subscribers in different lists who will be counted in the number of total subscribers.

Another suggestion is to segment all subscribers into different groups based on their activities, demographic, purchase history, or any other special standard. This allows you to send different newsletters to a more targeted audience.

Add a Signup Form with MailChimp

If you do not have any subscriber yet, that's OK. MailChimp can generate a signup form for email lists to allow you to collect subscribers. You can customize the form easily and then put it on your website or Facebook. The styles, colors and fonts are all at your choices. To make your own signup form, follow the steps below.

In the management page of your email list, click on the "Signup forms" menu and then select "General forms".

General Forms

In the drop-down menu under "Forms and response emails", select Signup form.

Signup Form

Scrolling the page down, you can see a panel which allows you to design your own signup form. Under the "Build it" tab, you can add or delete fields based on what information you want to collect.

Build the Signup Form

Under the "Design it" tab, you can customize as many elements as you can imagine in your own way, including:
  • Page: background color, header text & header image.
  • Body: foreground color, the font and color of the default texts & the link style.
  • Forms: button background and text, field labels, field text, help text, errors, etc.
With so many options, you can experiment more to find a perfect match for your website design.

Design the Signup Form

To prevent spam subscriptions, you can also enable reCAPTCHA by checking the specific option. All changes made on the page are saved automatically. When you have been done, copy and paste the embed code to your website.

Enable reCAPTCHA

Build a Campaign for Email Marketing

Now that you have collected subscribers, you can send them updates or promotional offers. To do this, you have to create a newsletter which is called a "campaign". MailChimp allows you to create an email message every time there is an update which you want to send to your subscribers, or you can also schedule multiple campaigns in advance.

To create a campaign, you need to choose "Campaigns" in the top menu of MailChimp dashboard, and click on the "Create Campaign" button.

Create Campaigns

On the next page, you are presented with four types of campaigns among which you have to make a choice based on your own needs. Here are explanations:
  • Regular Campaign: An HTML email with an alternative version of plain text. It is a safe choice for sending regular updates or promotional offers.
  • Plain-Text Campaign: An email which is in plain text, with no picture or any special text formatting. It is good if you only want to send a simple email with essential content.
  • A/B Testing Campaign: You can make up to three different designs of a single email and send them separately to find out the best content, design, timing, etc.
  • RSS-Driven Campaign: It uses merge tags to pull in the content of an RSS feed and then sends the latest content to a specified list. This option allows you to schedule campaigns and send updates automatically on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
The example below is to create a regular campaign.

Campaign Types

The first step is to select the recipients. You can select any email list you have created or any segment in a certain list, then click "Next" which is located in the bottom right of the page.

Select the Recipients

The second step is to set up the new campaign. You must fill in the information like the campaign name, email subject, from name and from email, and configure the tracking and social media. All the options are easy-to-decide, so you can finish this step quickly.

Complete the Campaign Info

The third step, then, is to select a template for your email. You can make a selection among the hundreds of free basic templates and well-designed themes, use a previously-adopted template, or even upload your own design. The choice is completely up to you.

Select a Template

The fourth step, which is the most important, is to add your content and format it. As MailChimp offers a drag and drop feature, you can manage blocks easily and freely. Just design the email in your favorite way, and the possibilities are endless.

Design Your Campaign

When finishing the design, you can expand the "Preview and Test" option on the top right of the page to enter the preview mode. This will generate two separate previews for desktop and mobile phone. You can check the design and make further adjustment.

Preview Campaign

The last step is to confirm every element in the email. MailChimp tests your email and lists the important factors. If there is a problem with your campaign, there will be a "Resolve" button shown next to the factor. You can follow the guide to get the problem resolved easily.

Confirm the Campaign

After confirming that your campaign is good in both design and content, you now need to choose whether to schedule the campaign or send it to the selected list now.

Delivery Options

If you are ready to send the campaign, click on "Send". With the other choice, you can see a form allowing you to schedule the data and time.

Schedule the Campaign

Extra tips for creating a campaign
Making a campaign is simple, but don't ever relax yourself when you are sending your first newsletters because a small mistake can damage your business. To achieve the best possible results from campaigns, you need to take the following tips into consideration.
  • Test the campaign carefully before sending it to an email list. You'd better send tests to as many email services as possible, especially the popular ones like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and Outlook. This helps you avoid display issues.
  • Try not to use Flash or other types of code other than HTML because some email programs do not support them.
  • After sending out the campaign, remember to view the reports in MailChimp dashboard, and then make careful analysis on the stats like open rates, unsubscribes and CTR (Click-Through Rates) to help improve the content and design of your next campaign.