4 Mistakes to Avoid When Using Mailchimp

Mailchimp mistakesIf you try something new for the first time and you don’t fuck it up, you’re probably not doing it right. Mistakes are natural, normal and help us learn to get better. I’m doing a monthly newsletter full of even more writing tips, competitions, handy writer hacks and news on my progress towards publishing. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can tick that off your list by clicking here. HINT!

I made mistakes. But I’m a writer. So standing up, dusting myself down and picking up the proverbial pen again is in my blood.

When I wrote the post on creating your perfect Author Newsletter I’d already found Mailchimp hard to set up and master. But SO many people said the same thing I knew I had to regroup and share some of the lessons I’d learnt doing my own newsletter.

MISTAKE 1 – NOT SPEAKING THE LINGO

Lists versus Campaigns

Lists

Like every social media outlet, Mailchimp has it’s own secret club language. But rather than handshakes, tweets and statuses, it’s lists and campaigns.

When you first set up Mailchimp – you can’t actually begin to collect email addresses without a ‘list’.

I know. I know. It sounds back to front – how can you have a list without email addresses?  But for Mailchimp – the first thing you have to do is create a list in which the email addresses you collect will filter into. You have to create a list in order to populate it.

The reason, I assume,  is so that you can have one Mailchimp account but multiple subscription lists for different things/projects/clients/books etc.

Before you do anything else – set up your list and name it something obvious like ‘Sacha Black’s Author List’ or whatever, in case you decide later you need an extra list. As far as I can tell (after a quick look) once you name your list, you can’t change it.

Campaigns

A campaign is really just a newsletter or a promo email or whatever you want to send out to your subscribers. For me it’s newsletters.

What’s important to know here, is that 1 campaign = 1 newsletter.

So if you send your newsletter once a month then EVERY month you need to create a new campaign. You can’t reuse a campaign once it has been sent.

MISTAKE 2 – NOT SETTING UP TEMPLATES

If you intend on sending a newsletter or promo regularly then it’s helpful if you don’t have to keep creating your newsletter from scratch. If you want to have totally different content in each newsletter then this won’t help, but I’m guessing even if its just a welcome box and sharing buttons, having it set up as a template will shave a few seconds off. And lets be honest, we’re all busy people, whether its having a toddler attached to your thigh whilst you simultaneously cook, email and iron, or your having a ladies that lunch date, every second counts in this life.

I you want proof it works, because I set up a template, my second newsletter has only taken about an hour to write, populate and link up, where the first took about three.

MISTAKE 3 – SHARING BUTTONS

If you send a newsletter you want it to be read, right? If someone likes it, you want them to share it with other people to in the hope it gets you more subscribers.

Numpty over here *waves*didn’t realise there was a difference between buttons. I really ought to do ‘detail’ more often. Sigh.

Mailchimp has two types of social media buttons:

Button that allows subscribers to share your newsletter with others

Button that allows subscribers to share your newsletter with others

 

Button that allows subscribers to follow you on other social media platforms

Button that allows subscribers to follow you on other social media platforms

Big thank you to Debby for pointing this out to me 😀

MISTAKE 4 – AVOIDING THE SPAM FOLDER

Ah the joys of spam. Until I researched it – I had no idea just how many words and innocent actions would get you sent straight to the spam folder.

Apparently the fact I have a gmail account is a big no no, but not having the time or inclination to set up my own personal @me email address I’ll have to make do. The answer is to ask your subscribers to add you to their address book. Short, sweet and an easy solution.

Here are some of the actions that will get you binned:

Going crazy on the email size

Over doing the image balance

Starting the subject line with Re or Fwd or using all caps

There is a huge list of words that will also get you sent straight to the junk folder, have a look at this list or do a quick google.

What mistakes have you made? What other handy tips do you have for newsletters? Let me know in the comments


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134 comments

    1. Hahahahahahha!! oh sorry it followed on from another post! Probably should have explained – I’ll add a snippet in.

      It’s my newsletter and Mail chimp is the programme that helps me create organise and send them!

      Hope your ok this week

      1. Ah, I see. Only just back so missed the first – still coughing and sneezing all over the place but at least I’m vertical instead of horizontal, which is an improvement. LOL Jx

        1. oh gawd, hope you feel better soon – I am a bit paranoid this week the boy is sick and theres been an outbreak of chicken pox – of which, I’ve never had……… eek.

  1. Sounds like you’re finding out an awful lot baout this. There’s good tips in there as I may need this for my magazine, so thank you.
    When we sign up do you have to manually put our email into your list or does it go into your list automatically?
    Have a great wekk Sacha! 🙂

    1. Thanks Simon – just fumbling my way through really!

      Yes it automatically populates my list – you can manually add people but there’s a whole bunch of legalities around that so best to only do it for people who give permission or are family!

          1. Best advice ever then – You fucked up in my place so I don’t have to lol
            If I fuck it up I’ll let you know mine too ok? 😉

          2. No idea. I’m not self hosted either. Basically I just attach a link everywhere to the subscribe page it’s a webpage like everything else. But mail chimp in itself is a totally different web programme that’s not attached to WordPress

      1. Thanks for that, it useful to know. I can’t get any plugins for my site until I can self host thogh. So I will have to wait until I get that set up.
        It looks like I can still use it in the meantime.

        1. ha, ok. Well I mean it’s not the easiest thing to master I have to say. Why not try another provider though? There are loads, mail chimp isn’t the bee all and end all

  2. Helpful post! I’m still up in the air about whether I should do a newsletter or not.
    Also, on a complete side note, how did you add the StumbleUpon sharing button? I joined StumbleUpon recently and I can’t figure out how to put the button up. Thanks!

  3. I’m a long way from using MailChimp but when/if I do I know where to find helpful info. I had a look at the list of spam words to avoid as well – interesting that Fwd and Re: are included. Must remember that when I hit the forward button.

    1. I know right! very annoying. Although I think its more if you send an email with that in as a first email. So if you are replying its ok. The point they are making is that some people try to fool spam folders by pretending this first email is actually just a response….

  4. Hiya Sacha. I have been using email management software for a long while and MailChimp does organize things a little bit differently from the others. 🙂 I did want to note that you can “Replicate” a campaign after you’ve sent/saved it. This is good news in case you weren’t sure your campaign was template-worthy. Happy newslettering–you’re doing swimmingly!

    1. Ahh I didn’t know you could replicate the campaign – is that literally like a copy and paste job? I use the same template campaign on campaign – but say all the sign ups since I sent the first one never got it and won’t get anything till the end of this month – so I contemplated sending them the first newsletter but couldn’t figure a way of doing it without recreating the whole thing. FYI – you are on my mind – I defo want a catch up I just STILL haven’t written my marketing plan!

      1. Yes. On the main “Campaigns” page, there is a list of your past campaigns. (I organize them by name and date, “Define Readers, March 2016”–that sort of thing) There’s a little toggley arrow where you can replicate the campaign (it appears as “Define Readers, March 2016 (Copy 01)”, and in the next screen you can change the title and contents. You can replicate the campaign multiple times and you can opt to send a replicated campaign to folks who signed on to your list only after you emailed the earlier campaign. 🙂 It’s easier to do than describe. 😛

  5. Having just recently sent a first newsletter, I was also hit as spam in many people’s email. Thanks Gmail! Also when scheduling, dont forget to check what time period you are set up on; mine was set to Timbuctoo time, or something, and went out at totally the wrong time. I had to go into my account settings and manually change it to Dublin time.

  6. This is really helpful! I’ve only recently set up a MailChimp account and am still learning my way around, so this information is both useful and timely! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for allowing me to learn from your mistakes, Sacha. I’m hoping to set up a newsletter as part of my (hopefully, fingers crossed) forthcoming website, so this information is very valuable. 🙂

  8. We started using MailChimp a few years ago at the day job and agree, it can take a bit to get used to. You think going in, all you have to do is offer the charming Monkey on its logo a banana and he does all the work for you, but no.

    1. I know right! and then there’s all these sodding marketing gurus who chime on about give a freebie away and you will suddenly have 50923905723p9834 subscribers. It’s all a load of shit! Mail chimp is hard to master – but once you do its actually pretty intuitive. Getting the subscribers however… well… thats another post for another day…. for another blogger! lol

      1. Never trust marketing gurus – they are probably just trying to sell you something 🙂

        I can only write about how not to get subscribers. I am awesome at that.

  9. Great info, Sacha. I actually figured out MailChimp enough to do my first campaign, but…didn’t know about the templates, or share and follow buttons, And boy, I am the queen of ending up in spam, and not just with MailChimp. This was helpful!

      1. It’s in my sidebar. I’m not nearly as ambitious as you – the woman that doesn’t sleep and survives on coffee! I’m just sending occasional updates on new releases and promos. Nothin’ fancy, but it’s a start 😀

        1. done and signed up – I was just being blind!

          haha – true story that – the non sleeping. Although I have admitted defeat and dropped to just two posts a week. MUST finish my book. The edits are gruelling and I want to have two finished this year!

  10. The biggest mistake I made? Not doing the WordPress 101 Blogging course sooner.
    If you are new to blogging then it’s a must do and will launch you into the blog world along with gaining quite a few new followers. What you learn about WordPress and blogging in 12 months you’ll learn in 4 weeks by completing the course.

  11. Don’t have a newsletter but am bookmarking this for future reference. I love that you share your mess-ups and learning curves with us so we can avoid them. You’re so generous. 💖

  12. I actually found I got better open rates when I ditched custom graphics and headers and so on. Keeping them simple a) makes them look more like regular emails and less sales-y and b) also works better for anyone who prefers plain-text email. Sure, I put photos in the text if necessary, but I try not to need too many bells and whistles so it feels more personal and less of a mail blast!

    1. Open rates? But how would they know you had custom things inside before they opened it? Feel like I missed something here.

      Good point on the plain-text not that I really understand all that yet! It’s funny, because of the subscriptions I receive I actually prefer the graphic heavy ones. I am more likely to read them than a dense text based email. I actually got pulled up on it the other day ironically – someone followed up and asked why I hadn’t responded – I’d skimmed it because it was a long text based email and missed the question in their newsletter that they wanted feedback on.

      anyway, I think with most things its all about balance. But I do love to know what works for everyone, theres always a lesson to be learnt.

      1. I suppose I changed my subject lines as well and that made a difference to the open rate. I’m not saying don’t use graphics at all as you do need some kind of imagery, but some readers don’t like newsletters with fancy templates because they look more impersonal. As for them being text heavy, I know what you mean! I try and break text up with headings to help with skimming.

          1. is that through her site? I signed up to her website, I have now seen a couple of videos – one which has totally inspired me to follow her advice!

  13. Thanks for sharing the info. I’ve been told for years that I need to set this up. I’m resisting feverishly. Every learning curve makes me bang my head against the wall. It feels so good when I stop.

    1. haha, I feel your pain – and this one really isn’t easy either. But once you master it, it becomes like any other social media – intuitive. But there is a bit of a hump to get over first.

  14. This is an interesting topic, so thanks for bringing it up. I had been doing an author newsletter once or twice a year, just from my desktop, using Outlook. Very simple, text only. Then one of my newer subscribers mentioned that, the way I had it, anyone who received the newsletter could get the e-mail of anyone else on the list and possibly use it for… I’m not sure what he was concerned about, but something nefarious, I suppose.

    But in the modern era, I guess the concern about privacy is a real one, so I did turn to MailChimp. I’ve been using it since about January this year. Actually, I haven’t stumbled over most of the issues you mention. I just went slowly in order to understand each step as it unfolded. Some things were not really obvious right away, such as how to find results of a poll. However, it becomes familiar the more I use it.

    I use the free version, because it covers my needs. I don’t really need the high-end analytics offered for commercial advertisers.

    1. No problems – thanks for reading. I agree, I don’t need the high end analytics either – I think thats probably reserved for the big corporate giants that need it. It’s good to hear you haven’t found Mailchimp an issue, especially when I know so many that have 😀

  15. I did look into this a few weeks ago, but found it really confusing. Plus how do you link a pop up to your blog? Was told only possible if self hosting but there is a Mailchimp widget type thing on my list of widgets.

    1. A pop up is only possible on a Self hosted site as far as I am aware. I wanted a pop up and the happiness engineers told me it wasn’t possible. So now I use an image widget in my side bar or put a link (embedded) at the bottom of each post. I wonder what the widget looks like if it’s a mail chimp specific one – I’ve not heard of that before.

      1. Ah okay. I will move eventually, but not quite ready yet.

        Happiness engineers hahaha.

        I found it when I updating my widgets, changing a few etc, no idea what the hell to do with it. It asks for a code I think.

  16. I enjoy reading newsletters. I had no idea there was a list of words that sent mail to spam. I get a lot of newsletters/email from authors and bloggers that somehow end up in my spam folder. I’ll have to check to see what is triggering this. Do you mind if I forward this post on?

    1. Absolutely go for it – share away hopefully it will help others – the best way to combat that trigger is to add their email address to your address book – apparently that puts them on what’s called a white list which makes your email provider think they are awesome no matter what!

  17. Reblogged this on BOOK CHAT and commented:
    Do your emails and newsletters end up in someone’s spam folder? Do you spend too much time writing and sending newsletters? Check out these tips on Sacha Black’s blog.

  18. Had to LOL as I read this and saw you mention my name for helping YOU with mailchimp, because I use it and I’m friggin’ lost! LOL, when I first had my website done, I paid someone to set it up and they also set up my mailchimp. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone there to try and create a specific newsletter and gave up. I don’t understand the lingo, nor do I have the time right now.
    So when I decide to get serious and do more with it, I’ll be coming to you! 🙂 <3

    1. haha well – credit due where credits due. You can totally come to me for help – I’m only at the other end of Facebook or Skype 😀 sending my love and hoping the healing is moving along xx

  19. Thank you! I was seriously one click away from deleting my Mailchimp account after logging in 38 times and still not understanding what the heck I needed to do! I think I even typed in some expletives into the search bar “how do you use this &!#@! thing!”

    I’ve used Aweber in the past and it flows the way a person *thinks* it should…sweet and easy. MailChimp? Not so much.

    I’m still a bit confused but “might” give it one more shot since I don’t really want to pay for an autoresponder this time around if I can help it.

    With setting up so many things on the backend of a brand new site – before you even “get” to the content…the last thing a person needs is some simple thing like an email system to take days or weeks! Perhaps I’m just dense, lol.

    1. Ahhh you must!!! It’s really hard to start, but once you create your list everything gets a lot easier. There are a ton of youtube tutorials too if you have a quick search on there.

      So many lols to searching with expletives!!!!!!! That made me roar – I’ve been there! You’re not dense, I really struggled setting it up too, but now it’s intuitive. You just have to get that first bit done.

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