This walk through instruction is intended to help you get up and running in MailChimp. It doesn’t cover every possible action you can take because there are great instructions at MailChimp on all of these tasks, I have simply brought the main tasks together to give you an idea on the work flow.

Email Addresses

Get your email addresses into a .CSV file – export from Excel into a .CSV format (in the “save as” drop down).
If you have first names, put these into a separate cell. These are not essential but you can format your messages to automatically add first names to personalise your emails.
Postal addresses are only needed if you are going to separate (segment) the subscribers to send to different people in different places. For example, if you are organising an event in Perth you may choose to not tell your subscribers in the UK.

Signup for your MailChimp account

MailChimp is free and doesn’t require you to enter any credit card details.

Create your list

A screenshot showing the list buttons in MailChimp
Click on “Lists” in the top menu then “Create List” button to the the right. When asked, select, “Create List”.
You can call this anything but there are places where subscribers will see this name so “Your Business Name Newsletter” is a safe name.
After it is created, there will be a drop down to the right of your list name and you need the option, “Import”.

Select the top left option is “Import from a CSV or txt File”

After the emails are imported you will be given a table view asking to confirm the columns MailChimp has identified are the same ones you want to import. Email Address, First Name etc. Confirm these columns and after a short period you will have your first list – this is now your master list.

You will receive warnings from MailChimp about the validity of imported lists and how everyone on this list needs to have agreed to be emailed. MailChimp will not stop you sending an email to this list but if you then get a high number of unsubscribes and / or bounces, your account may be suspended.
For your first email you need to choose if you are going to start your email campaign with a double opt-in message or just a regular message.

A double opt-in message requires the reader to click a button to confirm that they are happy to receive further messages from you.
A regular message assumes that they are happy to receive further emails from you. The single click unsubscribe link is still at the bottom of both these emails.
If you collected these email addresses from people who have had contact with your business and the first email doesn’t come across as being spammy or a shout in your face special offer then you can feel reasonably safe in sending a regular message. Those who really don’t want to hear from you will unsubscribe and those who are happy to receive your emails don’t have to do anything.

Write your content

What is your strategy for this email campaign? Are you going to send informative emails about something you are passionate about; professional or personal insights? Is this about building a club of subscribers who want to know what your latest products are? Are you going to entertain with stories or videos?

What are you offering?
The exclusivity that email marketing offers is a great way to advertise special offers to a manageable audience. Limiting the number of special offers (only 6 promotional coupons) and / or limiting the time available to take the offer up can be effective ways to get subscribers to take action.

Create your campaign

MailChimp offers a very user friendly experience when you understand a couple of key concepts.

Glossary

  • List – This is you list of email subscribers. You can ‘segment’ your list into groups of email addresses based on information included with these emails; state, city or preferences that you have asked them at an online signup form.
  • Campaign – This is the email that you will send out. Sent as HTML to your list, or segment of your list, you will be able to review analytics on this campaign including how many people opened it, clicked on any links in the email and how many unsubscribed (it does happen!)
  • Template
    If you are just starting out with MailChimp it is a good idea to use a predesigned template. With lots of colours and layouts to choose from you should be able to find something to match your business personality. These templates can also be edited if you have html skills.
    I suggest you look for the simpler designs when choosing a template. The simpler template will be easier for you to add your content to and from a readers point of view, your content will often be easier to read with a clearer layout and graphic style.

Create your Campaign

Screenshot of the create a campaign button in MailChimp
Click on the “Create Campaign” button on the right of your dashboard page.

Select “Regular Campaign”

Select which list you want to send to. At this point you will only have one list. Send to the entire list.

The next page where you enter the campaign name etc. has easy to follow prompts on how to fill out.

Next is the fun bit!

Choosing a template

Basic – These templates are structural only with no styling of colours or fonts. Great for readability but can be plain, if you don’t do a little work to edit fonts and add images and logos. Choose based on what content you are going to include in your email.
Themes – These are the pre-designed options that can give you a very professional look to your campaign – but, if you don’t format your content correctly within these themes, they can look a little half baked.
Saved Themes – These are either themes you have designed and built yourself or predesigned themes you have edited and saved.
Campaigns – These are previous campaigns you have sent. This is a great way to ensure consistency across your campaigns as you can keep the same header, logos, footer and layout on all your emails.
Code your own – If you know html and want to design and build your own theme, this is where you upload it.

Clicking on the image of a template, you will be taken to a preview of how it will look in an email to a client on a computer and on a mobile phone.

Click “Select” on the template you want to work with. The window you will now see is the editing window.

Screenshot of the editing window in MailChimp

The left hand column is where you edit the structure and the right column is where you edit / add your content.

Drag and drop an element from the right hand column onto the layout column on the left and this element will be added. Elements include; blocks of text, sections for images, buttons and dividers and these are all dragged and dropped onto your email layout.

Clicking on these elements on the left, then brings up the content editing window on the right. It is here that you copy and paste or type your written content. You will see recognisable text editing menu items at the top of this window.

It is advisable if you are pasting text into this window to do so from NotePad or TextEditor and format the text as “plain text” before you do. This will ensure no formatting information is brought over from Microsoft Word.

More advanced (but not overly complicated) options include adding social sharing buttons to make it easy for people to ‘Like’ your Facebook page etc. and the ability to add a link to your Youtube of Vimeo video.

MailChimp automatically adds the copyright information and an unsubscribe link to the bottom of all emails.
To the top right of the editing screen you will see a “”Preview and Test” link, select the second option “Send a test email” and enter your email address. Click send and check your email on the computer and be sure to always preview on your phone. You can send as many of these tests as you like and you can send them to other people for feedback.

When you are happy with your email, copy the content from the last test and add this to your blog / articles section of your website. I suggest removing any offers you have made to your subscribers. Be sure to include a link in your email campaign to this blog post.

Send your campaign

If this is the first email you have sent from a new account, there will be a delay as MailChimp will have a human review your campaign and list before allowing it to be sent. Unless you have done something ‘spammy’ your first email campaign will then be on it’s way!

Analytics

Depending on your list, the offer, the formatting and the content of you campaign, checking your analytics can be a lot of fun or a place of great learning. Either way, it is important to review your analytics the day after you have sent a campaign. You can check it every hour for a blow by blow!

Email Marketing can be a fun and rewarding to reach out to your prospective customers and build a relationship beyond a simple website and for this reason – you need to look after your list. There are spam email signup engines that can fill your list with farmed email addresses that when sent will ‘hard bounce’. If you get too many hard bounces in an campaign your account can be suspended.