Planning a MailChimpList

Planning your new MailChimp List

When planning your MailChimp list, its a good idea to start with your end goal and work backwards.

  • Who are you going to be sending emails to?
  • Why are you sending the information – what goal do you want to accomplish by sending it?
  • What information do you need in order to be able to make your emails more personalised and tailored to their needs – in order to better accomplish your goal?

For example consider an Architects practice.

Architect photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

If you are an Architect, you may want your list to keep in touch with people who have expressed an interest in using you, but are not yet customers.

So your goal may be:  ‘To build credibility with potential customers so they come to us when they are ready to discuss engaging an architect.’

Your list includes different types of people

You will almost certainly have different types of potential customers on your list – for example people who are looking to build their own home; and also people who are involved in building public works such a hospitals and schools.  The two sets of potential customers will have different needs and interests.

Think about it from your recipients perspective:

If I want an architect to help me build my own home, and my architect keeps sending me information on the great school they just built, its vaguely interesting at first, but soon I will stop opening their emails and assume they are not ‘my kind of architect’. But….if I keep getting emails about homes they just designed, and tips for ideas for homes, I will look forward to their emails, and assume they are the kind of architect I need… And, when I am ready to build I will probably call them first.

The Answer is Segmentation

You need to be able to tailor your messages to the specific needs of each type of customer , and then only send certain messages to that group. You Segment your list by keeping track of the different groups within the list. So if your mailing list includes a field called ‘Interested in’, you can use this field to tag your contacts with ‘Self Build’ and/or ‘Public Works’. Now you can send a newsletter just to people tagged as ‘Self Build’. Your messages can be tailored to the specific needs of each type of customer to each group.

Segmenting Your List is Vital to Personalising your Messages

Including fields which allow you to segment your list is important. There are many different ways you can segment and personalise your messages. Here are some suggestions :

Product Interest: If you have more than one product – if you know which product people are interested in you can send detailed information only to those who are interested. (e.g. like our architects practice above)

Location: North, City X, Suburb Y, etc   You might invite people to local events – which wouldn’t be relevant to people a long way away.

Sales Stage:.  e.g. looking, interested, proposal received, purchased, installed, etc  You might send different messages to people who are interested, than to those who have installed it and may want details on how to use or care for their product.

Job Function/ Seniority Level: You might send project planning information to project managers, or Return on Investment calculations to a Finance or Accounting person.

Industry: Retail customers may be very different from Engineering customers.

Organization Type: Public Sector, Small,Medium, Large Company, Charity, School – each have their own needs and interests.

Buying Frequency: People who purchase weekly might need different types of information or special deals that people who buy annually or ad-hoc might not get.

Purchase Cycle: Month they purchased in – so you can start messaging them just before their 12 months is up for a new purchase.

Event Attendance​​​​​​​​​​​​​​: This could include the type of event, the topic or theme of your events, or even to people who said they would come but didn’t make it. ​​​​​​​

You can create as many different ways of segmenting your list as you need to fulfil your goal. Every list will be different, so spend some time thinking about what you need.


Planning your list

Now you have your Segmentation planned. What other fields do you need?

You can’t have a MailChimp contact without an Email Address, so that is a given. You really need first name to be able to personalise your messages. Other fields might include:

  • Company name
  • Phone Number
  • Job Title
  • Address

… but try to keep the number of fields to the minimum required to meet the goal of the list. Too many fields will stop people signing up because it takes too long and people don’t like giving too much information.

List Plan

Which information goes in Fields, and which in Groups?

MailChimp has two different ways of storing information about a contact – Merge Fields (or Fields) and Groups (or Interests),

Merge Fields are used for any information that may be different for every customer – first name, last name, company name, address, phone number, potentially even job title.

Groups are used like Categories – to enable you to tag contacts who have certain interests. A group consists of the Group Name (e.g. ‘Interested in’) and a number of defined values (e.g. ‘Self Build’, ‘Public Works’, ‘Retail’, ‘Enterprise Office’). Groups also let you move subscribers from one category to another – like skill level or lead type – as their relationship with your organization changes.

So most personalised data will go into Merge Fields.

Most segmentation data will go into Groups.

Creating your MailChimp List

Create your MailChimp Account

Now you have planned your list, lets set it up. If you haven’t already – create a new MailChimp account here:

Its free to create an account with up to 2000 contacts. After that its still not too expensive.


Next create your new list:


Create a list

To create a new list you will need to enter:

List Name: Your subscribers will see this so make it something appropriate (e.g. ABC Company Newsletter)

Default ‘From’ email address: This is the address people will send to if they reply to your messages. You need to know where this will go.

Default ‘From’ name: Ideally you will assign a real person so it feels more friendly and personable.

Reminder of how they signed up: This is used so that people know your message is not junk mail or spam, but that they did request it. (You shouldn’t just be adding random people who don’t want your information.)

Contact Information: This is a physical mailing address and is a requirement of Anti-Spam laws .

Form Settings: Enable Double Opt in.

Double opt in is a requirement for several Anti-spam regimes. It means the user gets a message to confirm they want to receive your messages. Think carefully about your signup process and how you get people onto your list. If in doubt – use double opt in. The penalties for not having a record of permission to add the contact to your list can be quite high.


Adding your Fields

By default when you create a list, MailChimp creates five fields:

  • Email Address
  • First Name
  • Last name
  • Address
  • Phone Number


MailChimp Initial Fields

You can get DELETE any you don’t want (except Email Address), and add any additional fields.

There are lots of different types of field in MailChimp, but my advice is – unless you have a very specific requirement, stick to text fields for simplicity. For example MailChimp has a specific ‘Address’ field type, but if you are missing any values (say Zip code) MailChimp will not accept the address. Similar for ‘Number’ type. If it has any text – or spaces in the middle (such as 0232 456 7890) – number won’t work. Stick to Text if you can.

In my example below I have deleted address and phone, and added company name.

Updated Fields


Set up your Groups

Create your Groups

To set up your groups – from your list select ‘Manage contacts’ and then ‘Groups’.

Click ‘Create Groups’.

Click Groups

You now have options for the type of Group.

Signup Form Considerations

MailChimp allows you to create a signup form for your list. We are not discussing signup forms in detail in this post, but when you set up your groups, you are asked to define how the group will be shown on a sign up form. For example in the form below, the Group is called ‘Event Types’ but the label says ‘Which event types are you interested in’, and the options are show as check-boxes.

Signup Form

When you create your Goup you will be asked how you want it to look on the sign up form (see below). On your sign up form, Group information can be shown as:

  • Checkboxes
  • Radio buttons
  • A dropdown box
  • Not shown at all on sign up forms (e.g.hidden from contact)

Create a Group

Check boxes allow the contact to select several options.

e.g. What types of event are you interested in: Sports, Pop Concerts, Classical Concerts, Holidays.  A contact may indicate interest in more than one event.

Radio buttons allow only one option to be selected.

e.g. What age group are you in: ’25 or under’, ’26 – 45′, ‘over 45’.  A contact can only be in one of these categories.

Dropdowns only allow one selection – similar to Radio buttons.

If your group requires just one value to be picked from a list – select dropdown or radio buttons. If your group can have multiple selections picked from a list, select check boxes. (If your group requires free format text not picked from a list – its not a group. Go back and add it as a field.)



Next enter the ‘Group Category’ which is effectively the name for your entire Group. e.g. ‘Event type’

Finally add the ‘Group names’ which are the individual values in your list. e.g. Sports, Pop Concerts, Classical Concerts, Holidays.


Add as many groups of different types as you need.

Now your list is ready to go,and you can start to add or import contacts to it. There is a post here which will help you get your contacts into MailChimp.