A Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up & Using MailChimp

Setup and Use MailChimp for Email Marketing

There are many email service providers out there and really, all of them have their pluses and minuses. In my mind though, the big thing that MailChimp has going for it is the fact that it is a great entry-level option for small businesses and entrepreneurs who are at the early stages of their email marketing efforts. And before you get the wrong idea… I’m not saying it’s basic in any way. In fact, I think it does a lot, if not most, of what all the others do, but its free plan lets you do everything you would need to for up to 2,000 subscribers and it is designed so that you could jump in and find your way around pretty easily.

If you want to be able to send out a beautifully-designed monthly newsletter, the free plan does that. If you’re after an automated email sequence which welcomes your subscribers and then nurtures those relationships so you can build the ‘know, like, trust’ factor – the free plan does that too. Personalized subject lines? Check. A/B testing capabilities? Check. Embedded videos? Check. Sign up forms that sit on your website and capture email addresses? Check. Need to do all of the above on the go with only access to your smartphone. Yep, you guessed it – check.

I like MailChimp. A lot. And every one of my clients right now uses MailChimp too (just so you know – we’re managing list sizes that range from 100 to 3,000 on the platform).

So here’s the deal.

This blog series is going to take you through everything you need to know to set yourself up in MailChimp and to navigate your way around it with very little stress.

Post number one (this post) will take you through the setup process, introduce you to the basic anatomy of the MailChimp environment and cover some of the common newbie questions I’ve come across over the years.

Post number two will cover how you would create a list and template. It will show you how to send your first email campaign. It will also show you how to customize your signup forms and get it on your Facebook page.

Post number three will go through the ever-so-slightly bigger process of setting up an automated email sequence that will continue to work for you long after the setup process.

So here goes…

How to Setup Your MailChimp Account

Ok. No fussing. Here are the steps:

1) Go to https://login.mailchimp.com/signup/

2) Type in an active email address that will be associated with the account, username, and password.

3) Hit Get Started!

4) Look out for an account activation email in your inbox and quite literally follow the instructions/prompts. Note: Part of the activation process involves getting your baseline information on there and verifying your information. You’ll need to provide a physical mailing address, a URL for your website, along with a few other deets. The physical mailing address can be a PO box and the URL could be for your social media profile if you don’t have a website up and running just yet.


Find Your Way Around MailChimp

On your homepage, you’ll have access to all the different parts of your MailChimp account.

MailChimp Homepage

1) Campaigns – This is where you go to create, schedule, pause or send a regular or automated email campaign.

2) Templates – This is where you go to access the various goal-based templates that MailChimp already offer or to create templates of your own. Whichever way you go, you will be able to customize style and colors to match your brand and identity.

3) Lists – Alongside the Campaigns tab, this is the other one that you will spend a lot of time in. Ultimately, this is where all your subscribers live. It is where you create new lists, combine lists, import contacts, add subscribers manually, manage your groups, and customize your signup forms.

4) Reports –  Enables you to review your individual campaign reports, compare your open rates and click rates against the industry average, track your audience growth, campaign engagement etc.

5) Settings – See below.


The menu that appears to the right of your profile picture gets you access to all the administrative bits.

MailChimp Account Settings Menu

1) Notifications – This is your control center, with all notifications turning up here.

2) Switch Account – If you’re like me, and you manage several accounts, this is where you switch between each account.

3) Profile – Access and edit your profile settings (e.g. account name, time zone, 2-step verification settings, contact info, your API keys, integrations and that kinda thing)

4) Connected Sites – I haven’t had the occasion to use this one just yet, but I’m fairly certain this is where you go to hook yourself up to your e-commerce site.

5 ) Account – This one tells you which plan you’re on.


Questions MailChimp Newbies Ask


Q: What’s the best way to integrate a MailChimp signup form onto my website if I use WordPress?

Let’s say you’ve gone all strategic on yourself (woohoo!) and planned a simple sales funnel.

1) You’ve invested money on Facebook ads to send traffic to a kick-ass blog you’ve written.

2) Said blog is set up with a MailChimp signup form which asks your readers for their email addresses in exchange for a compelling and related content upgrade.

3) When people hit your MailChimp list, you want to send them the content upgrade (obviously) and then send them a sequence of emails which nurtures, educates and then leads them to an offer to purchase one of your online courses.

There are several ways to get a MailChimp signup form onto your blog post. I’ll cover two that I use personally. My preference is to go with the second way, but this is really about what you’re comfy with.


Option 1 is installing a free plugin called MailChimp for WordPress that rates well and is super simple to install. It will help you to easily create sign-up forms that blend seamlessly with your website design, and even integrate into existing forms you might have, such as a contact form or event registration form.

Tip: When deciding on a plugin for your WordPress site and before even installing it, remember to eyeball the number of active installs, the star rating and its compatibility with your site.

MailChimp for WordPress plugin installation


Option two involves the following:

1) Have the backend of your WordPress blog post open in one tab, and make sure you’re in the ‘Text’ tab.

Accessing the text tab of a blog post

2) Have your MailChimp account open in another.

3) Starting in MailChimp, go to Lists.

4) Click on the drop-down menu beside the List in question, and select Signup forms.

Signup Forms in MailChimp

5) Select Embedded forms.

6) Customize the form title.

7) Copy the resulting code from MailChimp, hop over to the Text tab of WordPress blog post, place your cursor exactly where you want the form to appear, and hit paste.

Embed a MailChimp signup form in your blog

6) Toggle back to the Visual tab on your post.

7) Admire your embedded signup form!

Q: I’ve heard that MailChimp charges on a per-subscriber basis. What does this mean?

When you hear someone talk about the way MailChimp charges, there is the inevitable conversation to be had about managing lists and duplicates.

Bottom line is, as easy as it is to create a list each time you create a new resource, program or offer, you are probably better off maintaining one master list and segmenting that list into different groups.

The reason I say this is – if you have one person subscribed to three different lists – MailChimp will see (and bill) that one person as three separate individuals. And while it’s not a big deal when you’re just starting out and your list is small, you run the risk of having to upgrade to a paid plan sooner than necessary when you start edging closer to the 2,000 subscriber mark.

Practically speaking, all this means is when you start the process of creating an email campaign and MailChimp prompts you to identify who you’re sending the campaign to, you would:

1) Select your list from the drop-down menu (the Entrepreneur’s Treasure Chest, in this illustration).

2) Click Group or new segment.

3) Select your Group (Entrepreneurs) and Segment (Freelancers).

4) If you want to see how many people will receive your email based on the chosen variables, click ‘Update Recipient Count.’

5) If you’re happy with what you see, click Next and start designing your email!

Using Groups instead of multiple lists in MailChimp

Q: Can I personalize my emails?

Personalizing your emails in MailChimp so that you can, for example, address your subscriber by name or add your subscriber’s name in the email subject line is simple and can increase open rates by as much as 42% (source).

To start personalizing your emails, you’ll be using what’s called a merge tag. Merge tags are simply snippets of language that tell MailChimp to insert custom text in specific locations. Here’s a Merge Tags Cheat Sheet found on the MailChimp website, but if all you want is to include someone’s first name in your Dear so-and-so line, or in your subject line:

1) Place your cursor in exactly the spot you want that person’s name to appear.

2) In its place, type *|FNAME|*

3) You’re done!

Remember though, MailChimp can only draw on data that is there. So if your sign up forms are designed to only request email addresses, then there is no way that you’ll be able to make use of this super cool function.

Tip: When you start using personalization in your email, it’s very important to ensure it all turns up OK. Just before I hit send, I always preview the email beforehand. To do this:

1) Click Preview and Test.

2) Select Enter preview mode.

3) Switch the ‘Enable live merge tag info’ toggle on.

4) Check that your personalization looks as it should.

Merge tags for personalizing emails

Personalization increases open rates

Q: Can I add video to my MailChimp emails?

Absolutely! I am a huge advocate of creating video content, and what better way to reach more people with that content than by incorporating it into your email campaigns. It’s super easy to do. Here are the steps to follow:

1) When you’re in the design area of your email campaign, drag a “Video” block and drop it into the spot you want it.

2) Add the link to your video in the Video URL field (I’ve used Megan Minns’ How to Track and Analyze Your Business Statistics as an example).

3) Add a caption if you like. If you don’t want a caption, just get rid of the placeholder text.

4) Save and close!

Embedding a video in MailChimp

Use Video Content in Your Email Marketing


See you next week with part 2 of 3! x