Simplify Your Email Marketing with MailChimp Automations


By this point in our series, you know how to set up MailChimp for your business’ email marketing and how to use it for things like list building and sending out newsletters. This final post will talk about how MailChimp goes beyond being an email marketing tool and reaches into the time saving and process efficiency space too. This post is going to be all about using MailChimp automations to connect with and retain your customers on autopilot.


What Kind of Messages Can I Send Through Automation?

The MailChimp automation function helps you create what’s sometimes called an autoresponder which is essentially a pre-written email (or sequence of emails) that is triggered to send when a customer meets a set of pre-defined criteria.


There are a whole range of triggers at your disposal—you could trigger an email to send after someone on your list opens (or does not open!) a specific campaign. You could trigger an email to send when someone signs up to one of your lists. You can trigger an email to go after a subscriber clicks on a specific link in a previously sent email. You could even trigger an email to go out based on a birthday field in your database of subscribers. You get to decide the timeframe and what days of the week you want your automated emails to go out. You also get to decide the order of the emails and how much time should pass between each email sent.


Common automations include:

  • Client welcome or onboarding emails
  • Getting started with your product or service–type emails
  • Working through a 30-day challenge–type emails
  • Abandoned cart emails
  • Milestone emails (birthdays, membership anniversary dates etc.)


Putting in the hard work of planning your entire email sequence, writing them out, and setting them up in MailChimp just once at the very start of your process, and then letting it run on autopilot seriously takes the hassle out of having to manually send emails to each and every person who does something significant like make a purchase or subscribe to your list.


Reflected as actual scenarios, here’s how you might use an automated workflow in MailChimp:

Scenario 1: The New Customer/Subscriber

Danielle has offered new subscribers a free download of 15 sales copy swipe files. Using MailChimp, she sets up an automation that is triggered by the action of someone subscribing to her list. The automation email, which Danielle designs to include the link to the freebie download and customizes to be sent immediately after the person subscribes, is sent automatically to her new subscriber.


Scenario 2: The Friendly Re-Engagement

Paula wants to reconnect with subscribers who haven’t opened any of the last 5 emails she sent. She sets up an automated email that is triggered accordingly. In her automation email, she includes a special coupon code that encourages users on her list to visit her online store, in order to get them excited about the company again.


Scenario 3: The Virtual Assistant

Gaell is organizing a 1-hour webinar and wants all her registrants to receive the webinar log-in information and a related offer. So she creates an automation triggered by the user’s registration that sends them the login and event info ahead of time and a reminder email on the morning of. The automation also includes a follow-up email the day after offering those on her list a link to the limited-time-only replay and a teaser on how to claim on an exclusive give away.


Scenario 4: The Product Experience

Brigette wants to send customers some additional information about how to set up and use the product they purchased. She uses MailChimp to send out a series of automation emails triggered by a customer making a purchase. The first email is sent immediately after the purchase and gives the customer set up instructions. The second email is sent three days after the purchase and includes some FAQs about how to get the most out of the product and suggestions for alternative uses for the product. The last email is sent one week after the purchase and includes a link to a survey, so Bridgette can get (and deal with) early feedback.


How to Set it & Forget it

Follow these steps to create a new automation email or series of emails:

1.     Navigate to the Campaigns page, and then click Create Campaign.

2.     In the pop-up, click Create an Email. Then, click Automated.

3.     Choose the automation you want to use by clicking on the category tab (If you can’t find what you’re looking for, click Custom to start from scratch).

4.     Enter your campaign name, and select the list you want to be associated with the automation.

5.     Click Begin, and you’re ready to create your new automation email(s)!

Depending on the type of automation you choose, MailChimp will automatically add a preset number of emails to the automation. Within the Automation Builder, you can add, remove, or reorder those emails any way you choose, until you have a customized automation that fits your needs.


Customize to Meet Your Business and Marketing Needs

Your emails make an important impression, so customizing the design is essential to making your automation emails an integrated part of your marketing plan. Follow these steps to design your emails:

1.     Click on Design Email.

2.     You’ll be prompted to setup your email. This is where you’ll set high-level details like your email name, subject line, and preview text. Once you’ve finished with these settings, click Next.

3.     This brings you to the Template step, where you can choose a template from one of MailChimp’s many customizable templates or from one of your own previously designed templates.

4.     Next is the design step, where you add features to your email design. This is where you can do the customization that will make your emails feel like part of your brand – including colors, logos, fonts, etc.

5.     When your design is complete, use the preview and test tools to fine-tune your design. It’s always a good idea to send yourself a test email, so you can see how your email will look when it hits someone’s inbox.

6.     When you’re fully satisfied, click Save and Return to Workflow, which will save your design work and take you back to the timeline for your automation.

To change the trigger, delay, schedule, segment, or activity settings, or to reorder emails in your automation, edit the automation on the Emails step of the Automation Builder.


Confirm and Start

Now that you’ve designed your emails, configured your workflow settings, and tested everything, it’s time to start your automation!

1.     On the Confirm step, review the checklist provided and click Resolve or Edit to make any changes to your automation.

2.     When you’re ready, click Start Workflow.

That’s it! MailChimp takes care of everything else, leaving you with more time to focus on the rest of your business.


Frequently Asked Questions

I have a sequence of 18 emails in my automation. I’ve only written up the first 10 but don’t want that to hold up the launch of my upcoming challenge. Can I start the workflow anyway and keep adding to it as I go?

Yes, you most definitely can! What I tend to do is add all the emails I need in my entire sequence, start the automation and simply pause the individual emails that aren’t ready. You can then edit the paused emails as people progress their way through the earlier part of your workflow, and when the final touches are ready, unpause everything and you’re set.


If I were to pause an entire automation (for whatever reason) and then switch it on again two months later, what happens?

When you unpause an automation, it will quite literally pick up right where it left off and send the automation emails to the folks who were already ‘in the queue’. Bear in mind, doing this would have messed with the delay you had previously set for the sequence. As an example, an email that was meant to hit your subscriber’s inbox 1 day after the previous email, will now be sent two months later so you’ll have to make sure the email copy still applies.


Let’s say I have an automation set up and running for one of my lists. Is it possible to import new subscribers to that list and set it so that they don’t receive the automation emails?

Yes! You can import email addresses to a list with a running automation and set it so that the new subscribers aren’t sent the automation. Go into the Automation Settings for the automation in question, set it so that the automation is disabled – and that’s done.


Is it possible to change the list associated with an automation? I have an automation set up for one list, but I now want to use it with a different list.

Once an automation is set up, you cannot change the list it sends to. Instead, to have your current automation applied to a different list, you will need to replicate the automation and then set up that new automation for the list you want.