MailChimp 101: Lists, Groups & Segments

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Running good marketing campaigns is based on knowing who you're talking to, what they are interested in and how they might behave. MailChimp helps you break down your contacts using lists, groups and segments. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of lists, groups, and segments. We'll also go over what you need to know before you start importing contacts into MailChimp. 

Before you start building and organising your contacts, make sure you get permission from them. It's a requirement from MailChimp, and also just common courtesy. Read more about permission here.

What are Lists?

MailChimp's email marketing platform centres on your list. Lists store your contacts’ email addresses, plus any other info they provide (such as their location). 

Before you start writing any emails, you'll need to select the list of subscribers it will be going to. You'll need to create a list of subscribers and do a bit of setup before you can import them into MailChimp. You can start by making one general list for everybody, or if you already have different kinds of groups in mind, set those up as separate lists in the first place. 

What Can You Do With Lists?

Lists are the foundation for segments, which allow you to write extremely targeted messages to people based on filters of all sorts. You use lists as a starting point, then include conditions to come up with a narrow group of contacts. For example, you might want to write an email to anyone who is living in the Melbourne area between the ages of 20-35 who has spent over $60 and has been to your store in the past six months to tell them about an upcoming pop-up market you'll be at. Your list may be everyone who lives in the Melbourne area, and you can segment the rest to come up with your group. 

Importing your existing subscribers

MailChimp’s List Import Builder is your starting point for importing existing contacts. You'll need at minimum the email addresses of people who have opted in to receive email marketing (though any other info, like their full names, is useful too. 

The basic idea is to put all of your existing contacts onto a blank spreadsheet, such as in Excel or Numbers, download it as a CSV file, and upload it onto a MailChimp list.

You can also copy and paste your spreadsheet into MailChimp. If you don't have existing contacts, you can type them directly into a new list. If it's not working right away, take a look for tricky things like extra spaces -- they can stop the process and aren't always the easiest to spot. 

Still need help? Here is a simple step-by-step guide as to how to import your subscribers to your MailChimp list. 

How To Reconfirm a List of Old Subscribers 

You've been collecting emails for years, and are unsure which are actually still subscribers. Not a problem. "Stale addresses" are old or invalid email addresses that haven't received anything from you in a long time. They can lead to higher bounce rates, which is likely to get you marked as spam. 

To reconfirm a list, you'll need to export your list, bulk unsubscribe those addresses, and send the subscribers a link to your new signup form.

Here is a step-by-step guide as to how to reconfirm a list of old subscribers. 

What are Groups?

Groups are one step down from lists, and are a collection of contacts that are put together in some sort of category. 

Start by creating a list as described above, then decide what kind of groups you think would be useful to divide into. 

For instance, say you offer a cosmetics line that you want to market to women, based on their age. You can create a list of women subscribers, then break it down into groups "women 16-21" "women 22-30" "women 31-45" and so on. 

Alternatively, you may have different kinds of newsletters you want to send out. When your subscribers sign up, they can opt-in to a monthly newsletter, a daily digest, or email alerts for certain topics. If that's the case, you can have them automatically put into groups based on what they sign up for. 

Read more about MailChimp groups here.

Segmenting your Lists

What are Segments?

Your list contains tons of information about your contacts, from demographic information to what they buy and how often they click on your emails. The more you filter through your list, the more targeted your emails can get.

Segments are used to create target audiences based on several things they have in common. When you create a segment, you’ll filter your contacts based on up to five conditions that you set.

You can build segments for emails and ad campaigns, just before you start writing. You can also save a segment in the list view if you know you want to target the same contacts repeatedly. Create as many segments as you want, and add contacts to multiple segments.

Here are some examples of segmentations you can create:

  • Subscribed contacts who opened any of your last five campaigns
  • Subscribed contacts who didn't click in your last campaign
  • Subscribed, unsubscribed, or non-subscribed contacts who recently purchased a product  

Check out another one of our articles to find out more about segmentation.

What is the difference between Groups and Segments?

Groups are a bit more stable, while segments generally change around. For example, you can set a group based on demographics (male subscribers over 50, for example). You'll then set segments based on how they behave (Male subscribers over 50 who haven't clicked on an email in six months but bought a gift last Christmas).

In essence, groups help you figure out who your audience is, and segments help you target them based on how they behave. There's definitely overlap, and it's up to you to figure out what are the most important types of segmentations or groups you need to create effective targeting. 

Next Up In Our Series

We’re rolling out a series for more tips and tricks on MailChimp, and will go into more detail for segmentation in the next article.

For more information on MailChimp and how it works, feel free to contact Elkfox today! 

Image via MailChimp