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Getting started with MailChimp email newsletters


What does MailChimp do?

MailChimp is used for emailing a list of contacts. It includes the following tools:

  • Subscriber management – Customizable profile information, sign-up forms, and grouping of contacts by interests, demographics, etc.
  • Email creation tools – Standard email templates that look good on phones and desktop computers, email scheduling, previewing, and archiving.
  • Tracking success and problems – How many people received your email? Opened it? Clicked on a link? How many emails bounced? How many people unsubscribed? Were there any complaints?

In CAES and Cooperative Extension, the MailChimp newsletter service is useful for programs, teams, counties, departments — and really anyone that wants to stay in touch with a list of contacts.

It’s especially useful for measuring and evaluating who has opened your emails.

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A few quick definitions

Audience: Your audience is the list of every person who has signed up to receive your emails.

Campaign: Each email you send is called a campaign. You’ll send campaigns to a segment of your audience.

Segment: The portion of your audience you want to email.

Group: Putting clients into groups is a useful way to create segments.

Tag: Tagging clients is a useful way to create segments.

Confused about another word? Check out MailChimp’s marketing glossary.

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The importance of permission

Tools like MailChimp rely on getting explicit permission from subscribers to be included on your list. They really want to prevent spam emails. So, if for some reason MailChimp thinks you’ve added people without permission, they are not shy about locking your account.

To avoid unintentional violations, we recommend the following.

  1. Encourage new subscribers to visit your website to sign up instead of adding them to MailChimp manually.
  2. Instead of uploading a spreadsheet of clients, send an email to everyone asking them to sign up to your new list. You can include a link to your sign up form directly in the email.

For more information:

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Getting started with MailChimp

As of April 2020, MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 email addresses or 10,000 sends a month. The free plan works for most of our users. MailChimp also offers non-profit pricing for those that choose a paid plan. Check out the MailChimp website for more information on pricing.

Let us help manage your account once you create it. It’s easy, and giving us access will greatly help us support you. To start, just send us the email address you created the account under.

We recommend using our Mailchimp Newsletter Checklist as an outline of all the steps to get your newsletter up and running, from preparing an email marketing plan to sending your first campaign.

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Creating a basic template

Users on MailChimp’s free plan will have a limited selection of built-in MailChimp templates. However, most of these will work just fine! Simple is usually good.

Please make sure you brand your newsletters with the appropriate logos and if you run into any trouble just let us know.

We’d be glad to set up a basic template for you.

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Segmenting your audience

You might currently have a number of separate email lists. For instance, you might have a list for each club, association, or interest group.

MailChimp keeps your contacts in a big list called your “audience.” All your current contacts (from all lists) would be included in this one big group.

But you can divide up these contacts just like you do now. MailChimp has two methods: “groups” and “tags.” They are generally interchangeable, and you can use either method as long as you are consistent. In the end, you’ll use tags and groups to define a “segment” and you’ll send your email to the segment.

See MailChimp’s Getting Started with Groups and Common Segmentation Combinations.

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Promoting your newsletter

The first step is to create a sign-up form. Make sure to collect first and last name. But there might be other optional information you’d like to collect, too!

Next, put a sign-up form on all of your websites. This is a passive way to increase subscribers.

Last and most importantly ask people to sign up! Here are some ways to do that.

  • If you do a presentation, show your sign-up form’s URL in your slides.
  • Ask people to sign up from your Facebook page.
  • Add a link to your sign-up form in your email signature (if it’s okay with your department or district).
  • Include a link in your MailChimp campaigns.
  • You can also ask people to put their name on a piece of paper and add them manually, but be careful not to violate the terms of service.

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Support and training

We have written a number of articles specific to CAES and UGA Cooperative Extension. In addition, MailChimp’s documentation is actually fantastic!

Interested in combining MailChimp and a WordPress blog?

As always, if you need additional assistance please let us know.

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