How To Use MailChimp – From Sign-Up To “Send!”

Jeri Walker-Bickett put together this comprehensive tutorial about using MailChimp, a popular newsletter/subscriber service that allows users to create their own email campaigns. Welcome, Jeri!

I would like to thank Molly for inviting me to write this guest post on setting-up a MailChimp account. First of all her blog rocks, and secondly, she gave me just the push I needed to finally create an email newsletter. Planning an email marketing campaign can feel overwhelming, but a little patience in seeing the process through certainly brings rewards.

MailChimp Basics
mailchimpUsers with 2,000 or fewer subscribers can send 12,000 emails a month for FREE. The free version does not include the use of autoresponders, which is something I hope to implement in the future. Luckily a wide variety of paid plans exist to meet many needs.

Sign up for a MailChimp Account
Initial registration consists of creating a username, password, and security questions. The user’s name and physical address must be provided so MailChimp can automatically build email footers that comply with spam laws. Your mailing address MUST appear at the bottom of the newsletter, so you might want to consider using a post office box. Also, with self-hosted websites you should consider using the customized email address provided by your webhost.

How MailChimp Works
MailChimp enables people interested in your work or products to subscribe and unsubscribe to email marketing lists through sign-up forms, which are typically placed on a website’s sidebar. Emails sent to the user’s lists are called campaigns, which can be sent using reusable email designs called templates. Newsletters fall into MailChimp’s “Regular Ol’ Campaign” whereas having your blog posts delivered to subscribers via email falls into the “RSS-Driven Campaign” category.MailChimpForms&Lists 600pxls

The MailChimp Dashboard
This is command central for creating lists, designing forms, and sending campaigns. At all stages in the process, MailChimp offers clickable links to information that will help you achieve the task at hand.

Create a Subscriber List
A list must be created before the user can send their first campaign or create a subscribe form to place on their website. Email addresses can be manually added or imported, but people need to opt-in or subscribe to your list. That means you have sought their PERMISSION!

Always be mindful of email marketing etiquette and spam laws. If a contact has not given permission, but you feel they might be interested, send just one short email asking them to subscribe and be sure to provide a link to the form. If your account is flagged too often for spam, it can be suspended.

Create a Form
Visitors to your site need to be able to sign-up for your newsletter and/or blog to receive your blog posts via email. First, build the form as needed. Next, design its body, and finally, you can share your sign-up form in three different ways:

  1. MailChimp assigns the form its own URL to make it easy to share via Twitter and Facebook.
  2. An HTML link is also provided for use within documents or in the sign-off section at the end of a blog post.
  3. The final option allows for the creation of an HTML code to create a small subscribe form that can be placed in a blog’s sidebar as a widget. Plan to spend a good deal of time experimenting.MailChimpCreateForms1000pxls

Send an Email Campaign
Once you’ve created at least one list and its sign-up form, you can start working on your first campaign. From the dashboard, select Step 3.

  • Pick a name for your campaign and a subject line of your email. MailChimp offers a subject line researcher which will indicate the open-rate for various subjects, but you have to allow pop-ups on your computer. I went with “January 2013” as the campaign name and “JeriWB Newsletter” for the subject.
  • Design the look of your campaign. Pick a template and start playing with the format. Many have mobile-friendly versions and preview and test email modes can be entered as needed. Plenty of sample newsletters are also available to help you get ideas.

Campaign Template Tips
I picked a two column drop-and-drag template for the design of my first newsletter. The process struck me as extremely user-friendly. Preview mode can be done online or sent to your email as a test. If images are too big, MailChimp automatically prompts you to re-size them. After designing the template, the next step is to okay a plain-text version for people who prefer not to open HTML emails.

During the confirmation stage, various elements associated with the campaign can be clicked-on and edited as needed. The campaign then goes into MailChimp’s send queue, so delivery depends on the number of campaigns waiting in line. At this point, your newsletter campaign can be instantly shared to Twitter and Facebook. This is a great way to get your newsletters noticed by non-subscribers, plus each campaign is given its own URL.

Campaign Reports
Once a campaign is sent, you can view how many subscribers have opened the email or left it unopened, as well as how many clicks the content of your newsletter receives. Information is also provided on bounce rate, whether or not anybody unsubscribes, or submits a complaint. Performance advice also appears on the report such as how your campaign’s open rate compared with your industry. The number of opens is also broken down by country and highlighted on a map.

RSS-Driven Campaigns
This process is similar to creating a newsletter, only you will need to access your blog’s RSS feed so your posts can be delivered to subscribers. (Link here for more information: What’s An RSS Feed & How Do I Find It?

The templates will make the email delivery of your posts much more visually-appealing than the subscribe-to posts forms generally offered by most blog templates, plus you can add sidebar information such as call-to-action buttons, follow-me icons, and other products and features. As with newsletters, user-reports can be created.

By this point, if you’re like me, you might be experiencing MailChimp overload. Just remind yourself all good things come with a learning curve and learning a new process takes time.

Let’s learn together, and may the MailChimp force be with you!

About Jeri
JeriWBJeri Walker-Bickett was born and raised in Wallace, Idaho, a rough and tumble mining town with a checkered past. The storytelling urge struck at a young age, but an undergraduate degree in writing led to a graduate degree in English education. Between living the scholarship-laden life of an academic bum, she did seasonal work in national parks. Jeri met the love of her life in Yellowstone and later married him in Las Vegas. This phase in their lives sparked an obsession with food and travel. They currently live in North Carolina with their pets. She recently published a collection of literary short stories titled Such is Life. Her forthcoming novel, Lost Girl Road, is a ghost story that takes place in the woods of northwest Montana.

You can connect with Jeri’s social networks via her blog, JeriWB: What do I know? She also invites you to browse the selections on her Amazon Author Central page. If you enjoyed this post and like critical book reviews, writing tips, and author interviews, opt-in to receive blog posts three times a week from JeriWB: What do I Know? For related extras, sign-up for the monthly JeriWB Newsletter. Both will be brought to you by the awesome power of MailChimp!

Additional Resources:
Mailchimp: Ten Reasons it’s the Best Program for Authors Since Twitter

If you have questions about the MailChimp platform and how it works, search the Mailchimp Knowledge Database for the answer. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, contact Customer Support. Best of luck to you all!

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25 Responses to How To Use MailChimp – From Sign-Up To “Send!”

  1. Molly Greene February 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Jeri, thanks so much for your hard work and generosity! Now I have absolutely no reason not to bite the bullet and create my first MailChimp newsletter as well. You’ve made it sound easy, thanks!

    • Jeri February 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Molly, thanks for having me write this post. I knew if I gave myself an assignment, I would have to deliver!

  2. Anne R. Allen February 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    You make it sound almost possible. Luckily Blogger has got Feedburner up and running again, and that comes with the template of a Blogger blog. But if I ever need to try to put my techie hat on and wrestle with this stuff, I’ll know where to come. I’ve got it bookmarked.

    One note of warning: authors should be very careful about newsletters. Once a month is as much as most subscribers can stand. I’ve unsubscribed to most because my email inbox made me want to cry every morning. As it is, I get about 500 writing-related emails a day. So be very sure you’ve got content people can’t get elsewhere, or you’ll wear out your welcome fast.

    • Molly Greene February 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      I agree, Anne. Content must be packed with value. Terri Long’s newsletter goes out in place of a “new blog post” notification and includes links to her posts from that week.

      • Jeri February 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

        Anne, MailChimp is totally possible! Even when donning my techie hat, it still took hours to get it all up and running. And yes, now comes the task of trying to deliver unique content.

  3. Jill Paterson February 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

    Your blog is such a wealth of information, Molly, for writers and aspiring writers. I’d like to award you a Versatile Blogger Award – visit my blog to read more about it.

  4. Larry Crane February 4, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Hello Molly and Jeri — Great post. Thanks. Is there a threshold number of subscribers that would warrant sending out newsletters?

    • Jeri February 4, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Larry, I waited until I had enough solid contacts on my mailing list for me to feel it would be worthwhile to put effort into a newsletter, but that starting number is bound to differ from person to person. I’m most excited about being able to now use MailChimp to deliver my blog posts via email since the visual layout is much more appealing.

  5. A.K.Andrew February 5, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    Really helpful post, and perfect timing as I have been planning to switch to Mailchimp for my blog post delivery as it is so much more visually appealing. I don’t think I’m ready for a newsletter yet, but this way I’ll at least have an account with them. Really good to point out about having to put your address. Have already put this on Evernote so I can refer back to it. Thanks so much for the post Jeri.

    • Molly Greene February 5, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      Jeri and A.K., Toby Neal uses “General Delivery” in her town as the address on her newsletter, and I thought that was a good idea. ALSO, I have a question about using MailChimp for blog delivery – how do you plan to do that? Are you going to create a newsletter format for every post or send several post excerpts at once?

      • Jeri February 5, 2013 at 8:46 am #

        Molly, MailChimp gives two options for campaigns. One is for newsletters and the other if for an RSS-driven campaign. Each newsletter has to be formatted individually and sent out each time by the user. However, with the RSS-driven campaign, formatting only needs to be done once and the campaign can be set on auto-pilot. The user can selects how often their post subscribers receive new posts. I really liked how the RSS-driven campaign allowed for setting up a side-bar with additional info.

        • Molly Greene February 5, 2013 at 8:58 am #

          I think it’s the “RSS-driven” that’s throwing me off. I’m not able to get my head around how blog posts can be sent to email subscribers via an RSS-delivered MailChimp campaign?? Ack!

          • Jeri February 5, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

            It will make total sense once you do it, trust me 😉

          • Molly Greene February 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

            LOL I will trust you! Thanks again, Jeri.

  6. Susan Cooper February 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    I have been wanting to get more info on MailChimp. Now I have it which saves me SOOO much time. Thank you for this. It is awesome. 🙂

    • Molly Greene February 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Hey Susan, me too! Jeri has made it easy for us with this post. Thanks again Jeri, you rock!

  7. S P Mount February 6, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Always impressive when someone goes above and beyond to educate the rest of us when it comes to these things. Very useful tool and, as I’ve come to expect from Jeri, nicely presented in getting it across too… I see the teacher in ya! Thanks. 🙂

    • Jeri February 6, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

      S. P. thanks for stopping by. Once a teacher, always a teacher!

  8. Debby Gies September 23, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Hi Jeri and Molly, so glad to have found this older post here. I know I asked you Molly about putting the address on as ‘general delivery’ and I made up a new town and state as well. (I am Canadian) I’m just a bit leery of this because it states it is the spam law to put your address or there can be fines. I find that statement ominous so I am asking if anyone was aware of the ‘fine’ for not putting your real address? I am always worried about not following procedures to the letter and don’t want any fallout. On the other hand, I can’t imagine that any author would put their real address there to be publicly exploited? What’s your verdicts?

    • Molly Greene September 24, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Sorry Debby, I’m not communicating well. I have a post office box where I receive ALL my mail. I’m comfortable with the way I have my MailChimp contact info set up, but my system may not be ideal for you. At this point and given your level of concern, I think it best that you ask MailChimp directly about their rules and how best to fulfill them.

      Again, I am not an attorney or an expert on CAN–SPAM, which dictates the issue of providing email subscribers with a way to contact you if they have complaints or concerns. I want to put that statement out there so anyone reading this comment queue is aware. If you want to truly understand the details of MailChimps’ and anti-spam law requirements, I think it best those questions be addressed directly to MailChimp. Their staff is very responsive, and they’d be happy to open a dialogue with you about this issue.

      So sorry! I just don’t want to assure you that doing what I do is right for you. Hope this helps!

  9. sam October 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Jeri, thanks for your informative and helpful article. I have a quick question for you. Many of my subscribers want to print my newsletters. Is there a way for me to send them as a PDF or a way for them to open them in a print-friendly version?

    • Molly Greene October 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Hi Sam! I’ll answer for Jeri. MailChimp won’t allow you to send a pdf of your newsletter as an attachment to the email, but you can create a pdf from the email itself. MailChimp tell you how here. Perhaps you could post these pdfs on your blog and explain how to access them in the newsletter itself.

  10. Bobby December 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm #


    I’m trying to figure out, can you put the reader’s name in the email when you send out a campaign?

    Would really appreciate the help.

    Thank you,

    • Molly Greene December 12, 2013 at 9:18 am #

      Sorry Bobby, I’m not sure. However, MailChimp’s Help Desk is quite responsive and well, helpful. I’m sure they can answer your question!


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