MailChimp is a popular email campaign services, especially for people starting up because you can use it for free for up to 2,000 subscribers to send out a total of 12,000 emails per month. It has all the features you'll likely need, is pretty easy to set up and use. Like the others, there is naturally plugins available for most popular CMS'.

Signing Up | Creating a List | Design an Opt-In Form | Design the Email Look | Plain-Text | Sending The Emails | Unsubscribing | Reports | Language Issues | Alternatives

Signing Up

Be sure to read all of the information on each screen of the sign-up process. Some people skip over the terms of service and end up locked out of being able to use their account.

  1. Go to the MailChimp website and click the Sign-Up Free button.
  2. Enter the required information (name, user name, password, etc) and click Submit.
  3. Check your email. You will find an email to activate your account. Click the Activate Your Account button.
  4. On the Confirm Humanity page, enter the Captcha code. If you can’t read what the characters in the Captcha, click the reload button
  5. Login. Enter your username and password, and click the Log In button. The email you received above will contain your username but you will need to remember your password from step 2 above.
  6. Enter the required information in the Let’s get started page (security questions, name and address, Organization, Timezone and optional MailChimp Getting Started emails). Click the Save And Get Started button at the bottom of the page.
  7. Read “Here’s How MailChimp Works” and click the Let’s Go button at the bottom of the page.

That’s it! Your account is now set up and ready for you. Getting started with MailChimp can be accomplished in a simple three step process:

  1. Creating a list
  2. Designing an Opt-In form
  3. Sending an email campaign

From the dashboard, you can find additional instructions by clicking on the Learn More link below each of the three buttons. There you will find videos and articles to help you through each of the steps. You can always click the pause button or rewind if you missed something.

Tip: If you need more help, sign up for the Free Online Training Videos available in their Support centre. This are includes videos on:

  • Creating and Importing a List of Subscribers
  • Building a Sign Up Form
  • Creating and Sending a Campaign
  • Reports and Stats
  • Integrating with Facebook and Twitter
  • Social Merge Tags
  • MailChimp & WordPress

Creating a List

The Learn More link below Create A List also offers an additional link to a webinar. This will display a video that will show you how to create a list, create a sign-up form and import your list information. I highly recommend you watch this if this is your first time using MailChimp.

  1. From the Dashboard, click the Create A List button to get started.
  2. On the Set Up Your New List page, enter the information that will describe your list. MailChimp allows you to have more than one list. For example, you might have a list for your newsletter and a list for a particular event. You can even have a list for your English speaking customers and another for your French ones.
  3. Next, Import your list. The easiest way is from Excel. You will need the following columns: Email Address, First Name, Last Name.

Designing your Opt-in Form

[information to be added]

Sending an Email Campaign

At any point during this process, you can click Back or Next to move through the steps. Don't forget to click the Save & Exit when you're done.

Step 1: Recipients

Select the list of people you want the emails to go out to and click Send To Segment or Send To Entire List. Send to Segment allows you to send emails out to only part of your list. If you don't see a list, you probably skipped the Creating a List step above. If this is the case, just click Create A New List button.

Step 2: Setup

Specify the Campaign information:

  • Name Your Campaign: This is simply a name for your to to keep track of your campaign in MailChimp. It won't show up anywhere else so make sure it is meaningful to you. For example, if you are creating a campaign for a trade show, you could call it "Trade Show -- October 21 2012"
  • Message Subject: This is the subject that will appear in the emails you send out. Really think about this. If you were to receive an email with a a particular subject, would you be compelled to open it?
  • From Name: This is the name that will appear in the From field. You can actually put any text here. While it could be your full name (recommended), if you are sending out emails on behalf of a company, you could put the companies name instead. People will open emails coming from people or businesses they recognize and trust. So just put the name that most people will trust. How about just your first name? Think about this… would you open emails that come from someone simply called "John" or "Jane"?
  • Reply-To Email: This is the address that will appear in the email From field. It will also be where a reply will go if people click the Reply button. I don't recommend that you put something like unless you really don't want to hear from potential customers. If you are really concerned about ending up on a spam mailing list, I recommend getting some good spam filtering software or using Google's GMail. Alternatively, you can create a temporary email address, just for this campaign but just remember that legitimate customers may contact you a year or more down the road as a result of this email. Do you really want to take a chance that your email address won't work?

Don't forget to specify the information for Tracking, Social Networking and More. These settings are for tracking the progress and effectiveness of your campaign. In general, the defaults will be sufficient. Only change them if you have a specific reason. There are also Advanced Options further down. Click the link to make the options appear.

Step 3: Design

This is where you choose how your email message is going to look and enter the content. Have fun exploring the different templates. Which one you will use will depend on what you need it for. For example, the Basic template is great for an annoucement but might not be as suitable for a newsletter (though it could too). Until you send out your campaign, you alwyas go back and change the look as often as you want. However, once you star entering information, some of that information may not be visible in some templates because they all have different sections. Make sure you have all your information saved somewhere else, like in a Word document or Notepad.

A Few Tips

If you composed your content in a Word document, be sure to use thePaste from Wordicon to paste it into your email. Otherwise extra codes will be inserted which could cause your email to be stopped by spam filters or prevent it from displaying properly in some email systems. It can also make it difficult to edit and format the way you want it.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 or 9 and find browsing the templates or designing the templates slow. You are not alone. Until Internet Explorer 10 comes out, use Google Chome or Mozilla Firefox.

Important note regarding sending Test Emails: There is a limit to the number of test emails that you can send. For free accounts, you can send to 6 email addresses at a time and you can send 12 tests per campaign and 24 tests per 24 hour period -- whichever comes first. Use Open Popup Preview in the Preview and Test button and save the Send Test Email feature for when you are really ready to test.

Step 4: Plain-Text

Plain-text is essentially your email without all the formatting. It is useful for people on devices that can't show formatted text (also known as Rich Text or HTML) and for text to voice and text to braille readers for the visually impared. While you can take time to make it look good, it will look different on different devices. It is better to just let the text wrap naturally and keep it readable.

See the note in Step 3 regarding sending out Preview Emails. Be sure to do at least one Email Test in the Design and the Plain-Text steps. You might be surprised at where lines get wrapped.

Step 5: Confirm

Review the information displayed in each of the sections. You can quickly make changes by clicking the Edit button at the right end of the line. Be sure to address any section in the list that appears in RED.

Once you approve, either click the red Send Now button or use the Schedule button to set a specific time at which your messages will be sent.

Depending on how many recipients you have, it can take several hours for MailChimp to send all of the emails so take this into consideration if you don't see an email arrive in your inbox right away.


When someone clicks the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email, they will see a message in their browser confirming that they have been removed from the list. In addition, one final email is sent to them to confirm this too. The message also offers them a link toreturn to our website as well as the following small survey.

If you have a moment, please let us know why you unsubscribed:

[ ]   I no longer wan tto receive these emails
[ ]  I never signed up for this mailing list
[ ] The emails are inappropriate
[ ]  The emails are spam and should be reported
[ ]  Other (fill in the reason below)


MailChimp's reports include a lot of useful information that will help you determine the effectiveness of your efforts. For example, it includes the number of:

  • Emails that were sent out
  • Emails that were successfully delivered
  • Emails that bounced (were undeliverable)
  • People who opened the email
  • Emails still remain to be opened
  • People clicked on a link in the email and even which links were clicked
  • People who unsubscribed from your mailing list
  • People who complained about being on your list

About Bounced (Undeliverable) Emails

When you send out emails to hundreds or thousands of email addresses, you are bound to have some that can't be delivered for one reason or another.

MailChimp uses the term Soft Bounces to identify emails that were rejected for reasons like "user over quota," and "server temporarily unavailable.". You might try these again for your next campaign.

Hard Bounces are emails that came back undelivered because of things like "Account does not exist," and "domain does not exist." This can be a result of either email accounts that no longer exist, companies that no longer exist or may have changed the name of their domain (, or because of a typo when the addresses were typed in. What can you do about them? Start by looking over the email addresses. Sometimes it's easy to identify a typo. You can also contact the email address owner and find out what their new/correct address is. This is an opportunity for you to connect with your clients.

You can learn more about bounced emails on the MailChimp website.

Language Issues

By default, MailChimp creates Opt-in, confirmation emails and Opt-out forms in English only. However, it is possible to create these in any of 30 languages. See the MailChimp International Guide in their Resources centre for details on supporting other languages such as French or Spanish.

When you first import your mailing list, you can also edit the language preference for each individual. This will control certain features such as the text that appears when they try to update their settings or unsubscribe.

Other Alternatives

  • Aweber is certainly one of the most versatile services available. These folks boast a delivery rate of about 99.34% as a result of their "personal relationship" with many of the major ISP. As part of your subscription, AWeber includes a Sales Tracking Tool and an Analytics Tool which, among its many features, can show you who opened your email. AWeber's trial offer is only for 30 days and cost $1 so you will need to provide a credit card up-front unlike Constant Contact and MailChimp. However, they will gladly refund your buck within the 30 days if you are not happy with the service for any reason or automatically bill you.
  • Constant Contact also has a free trial offer. It lets you send to the same 100 people as often as you want for 60 days to test it out. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee. You can also pay to send to your full list. If you aren't satisfied, you can get a refund within the 30 days. Constant Contact offers ease of use and boasts a 98% delivery rate to the inbox. They also offer friendly customer support.  The Aberdeen Group's recent study indicated that they help deliver 36% higher open rates, 60% higher click-through rates and help generate 29% more revenue compared to other email marketing tools. Naturally this is all subject to your content. With unlimited emails, this service can be cost-effective as they only charge you by the number of subscribers, not the number of emails you send out.