Inside MailChimp

Inside MailChimp

After the previous two posts, we’re ready to look inside MailChimp. I’ll be explaining lists, segments, groups, and tags. Resist the temptation to skip over this information. By understanding these features and knowing how to use them, you’ll actually send less email to people. (They should only be receiving what is relevant to them.) Like the uniquely-colored maple leaves, some of your readers want everything you send, some want monthly summaries, some only want family news, … The options might seem overwhelming. Hang in there. I’ll help you master MailChimp.

A Look inside MailChimp

First off, why use MailChimp? You have other options which you may even prefer. I use MailChimp because it’s powerful and free. By using MailChimp, you know who opens and who clicks on your emails. If you send more than 12,000 emails a month to 2,000 subscribers, then you’ll need to pay for MailChimp’s basic services. You’ll find the free services more than adequate for your needs.

Some Definitions

Before explaining definitions, a few general statements will be helpful.

MailChimp has three sources of information available for filtering (or personalizing) your emails:

  1. Segments: you’ll create filters using MailChimp’s data
  2. Groups: you’ll send specific mailings requested by subscribers
  3. Tags: you’ll send emails based on your knowledge

Feeling like a MailChimp ninja yet? You will by the end of the post. In this post and the next, you’ll learn how to personalize and schedule your email campaigns (each mailing is a “campaign“).

Only One List

Your subscribers are your names in your list. Those in the list who are engaged with you are your audience. You might have two audiences in your one list, for instance:

  • a ministry partner audience and
  • a family audience.

Use tags to identify these two audiences.

You should have only one list in MailChimp. If you create a new list for each mailing or audience, for instance, MailChimp adds the lists together. You could reach the 2,000 subscriber mark this way even though you only have several hundred unique subscribers.

If you have more than one list because of a glitch in syncing MailChimp and MPDX, that issue was resolved. Contact the MPDX support folks for how to clean up your MailChimp lists.


Create segments based on:

  • location,
  • opens,
  • date added,
  • groups,
  • merge fields,
  • tags,
  • and much more.

Use up to five conditions (per segment) to make any unique segments within your list. For instance, two simple segments could be:

  • all the new names added this past year and
  • all the names within 25 miles of your next MPD trip destination.

One great thing about segments is they’re dynamic.  That is, once you set up a segment, the names come and go within it. For instance, if you have a segment for Seattle, then anyone in that location is in the segment. People moving in or out of the area are added or subtracted automatically.

Try It Out: Make a Segment

  • Go to your list in MailChimp
  • Click Manage Contacts and then Segments
  • Click Create Segment
  • In the first drop-down, choose “Location” under Subscriber Data.
  • Select the radius (25, 50 miles, etc.)
  • Choose a city
  • Validate the location
  • Preview and save your segment
  • Name your segment after the city

Learn More

About Geolocation in MailChimp.


By creating groups, you’ll discover your subscribers’ interests. You’ll also respect their preferences for the kind of emails they want to receive from you. To get started, you’ll build a group in your MailChimp list and then add the group to your signup form. It’s also possible to have hidden groups to help you manage your list better.

If you never had groups in your signup and  already have a list without any groups:

  • Create the groups you want.
    • I recommend using a drop-down format to keep the values unique. (More in the next post.)
    • Some suggested groups:
      • Monthly or weekly feeds from your blog
      • A regular prayer email for your top prayer team
      • Events
      • Downloads, eBooks, or other things you might offer
  • Follow these directions for bulk editing. These steps won’t take you very long.

Do your bulk editing before a campaign. MailChimp won’t allow some bulk edits for a week after you send a campaign (they’re processing your subscribers’ responses).

Using Groups as Merge Tags

Merge Tags come from two sources. All these Merge Tags allow you to personalize your campaigns.

Your groups are available as Merge Tags.  From the above group examples, you might use your groups to send:

  • a monthly email from your blog,
  • an in-the-moment prayer request for your campus event, or
  • an invitation to FamilyLife in their location.

Some Merge Tags also come from MailChimp, like:

  • the RSS feed for your blog,
  • the first name,
  • the email address of your subscriber,
  • and many more.

You’ll use these in the subject line and/or body of your email.

Now to clear up a little confusion. Tags are new in MailChimp. When you sync MPDX with MailChimp, you’ll actually find your MPDX tags imported as groups in MailChimp. So, the functions and names are a bit different between the two. I will address this more in the next post.

Learn More

Use Groups to Find Subscriber Preferences.

All the Merge Tags Cheat Sheet


Think of tags as associations. Don’t go overboard. Keep your data from becoming cluttered. Less is more. Unless you have a need to tag people with their favorite sports teams, for instance, why not try a few of these:

  • Influencer
  • Referrer
  • Has children
  • Has grandchildren
  • VIP
  • Staff
  • Engaging on Instagram

Tags will help you trigger or exclude an individual for a campaign. Tags are easy to mass update in MailChimp. This post is already long, so I’ll cover that more in next week’s post.

I’m enjoying walking through end-of-the-year tasks with you. Next week I’ll help you put together your MailChimp reminders to follow up your end-of-year ask. This series of posts is also useful more generally, too. I’m thinking I’ll do a beginning of the year post or two in January as well.

Again, please don’t be overwhelmed. Pick out the action steps you want to take right now and consider some other steps for the future.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.