Manage a mailing list with MailChimp

Another useful feature of MailChimp is the ability to divide your mailing list into groups: for example, you might have one list of people who want to receive all your emails, another list that wants to see emails from you only once a month, and a third that only wants to hear about special promotions. You can manage your groups by clicking Groups on the list-management page. You can also allow people to choose which group they join when they sign up, via radio and tickboxes, or a dropdown menu for people to classify themselves. When you create email campaigns, you can then filter the recipients by group.

Importing an existing mailing list

The ability to manually add email addresses directly to a list is useful if, for example, you’ve been collecting email addresses via physical sign-up sheets, or if you’ve previously been using a different system to manage your email subscriptions and want to switch to MailChimp without requiring everybody to sign up again. MailChimp allows you to import mailing lists as CSV files or paste them in from a spreadsheet program. You can also manually type in addresses one by one.

Be careful not to sign up recipients who aren’t expecting to hear from you, however. Using email addresses you’ve acquired from third parties, whether bought, rented or simply found, is a strict no-no. The same goes for simply dumping your Outlook contacts database into a mailing list – you’ll inevitably end up adding users who don’t want to receive emails from you. This will attract spam reports, and MailChimp takes spam very seriously – with 1.2 million users sending more than 95 million emails a day, it can hardly afford to be blacklisted by ISPs or spam-detection services. So if you receive more than a few spam reports per month, you can expect the company to take action.

The golden rule for avoiding suspicion of spamming is to explicitly tell new sign-ups that you’ll be using their email addresses to get in touch with them. If consent isn’t given, or is only implied, expect MailChimp to take tough action if you receive too many complaints. If the number of abuse reports hits one in 1,000, you’ll receive a warning; go far beyond that and you’ll be suspended until you can prove your mailing recipients definitely asked to hear from you.

MailChimp is easy to use, and for small and simple mailing lists it's free

Creating your first email

The emails you send from MailChimp to your mailing list are known as campaigns. The first step in creating a campaign is deciding how you want your emails to look. The simplest approach is to use one of MailChimp’s bundled templates. These are all but guaranteed to work in a wide range of email clients, and they’re highly editable, so you can add your own company artwork and brand colours to make them less generic.

If you can’t find anything suitable among the templates on offer, it’s possible to use bespoke templates. You can use an HTML editor to put together the kind of box-based design MailChimp expects, complete with editable content areas for images and text, which can then be imported or pasted into MailChimp. The process is similar to creating a web page, but with caveats: for one, mail clients aren’t guaranteed to render CSS layout information correctly, so old-fashioned nested tables are a safer way to specify your email’s layout. Second, although you can use CSS for styling text, your message must be self-contained, so you’ll need to use inline styles rather than attempting to call an external sheet. You can group CSS styles at the top of your HTML template if you like; MailChimp converts them to inline styles when the template is uploaded, so they can’t be stripped out.

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