When you first sign up for MailChimp, you set up your account, create your list, and create a template. Those are typically all one-time activities. So once those are done, it’s time to start creating Campaigns.
In MailChimp’s terminology, a Campaign is essentially an email blast. So each time you want to send an issue of an e-newsletter, or maybe a one-off promotional email, that’s a Campaign.
Type of Campaign
When you log into MailChimp, there’s a button at the top right to create a campaign. Once you click that, you can see that there are several types of campaigns available.
Regular ol’ Campaign – This is a just a normal campaign, where you send an HTML email along with a plain-text alternative version.
Plain-Text Campaign – This is a plain text email, with no images, but it also doesn’t do link tracking well. When we do plain text campaigns for our clients, we typically still set them up as Regular ol’ Campaigns.
A/B Split Campaign – This is where you can send a slightly different version to a subset of your list, have the system pick a winner, then send the best performing version to the rest of your list. You can test two different subject lines, from names, or delivery dates and times.
RSS-Driven Campaign – This can be set up to send updates from an RSS feed to an email list on a regular basis. Although this can be used to automatically send blog articles, I personally recommend doing that manually through a Regular Ol’ Campaign so you have more control.
For this article, we’re just going to look at the Regular ol’ Campaign, as that is probably the kind you’ll send out most often.
Picking Your List
Once you’ve selected Regular ol’ Campaign as your type, MailChimp will prompt you to select which list you’ll send to. Many people manage multiple lists, but you may just have one.
Once you select the list, you’ll have a few options, although they can really be boiled down to sending to everyone, or sending to a segment. Segment is a MailChimp term for a subset of your list.
We’ll actually look at segmenting in the future, so for now let’s just select Send to entire list.
On the next screen, you’ll have a whole lot of options. 95% of the time, all you have to worry about is the top left Campaign Info section, with your Campaign’s name, Email subject, From name, and From email address.
For convenience, I typically use the same thing for my Email subject and Campaign name. However, Campaign name is only for your reference within the MailChimp system, so you can include additional notes in there that you may not want the recipients to see.
Again, there are a lot of other options on this screen as well. I don’t recommend that the average MailChimp user mess with any of the other settings. If you have someone who is more experienced in MailChimp helping you, they will know when and how to adjust the other settings.
Selecting a Template
Next, you’ll be given the option to select a template. If you’re publishing a newsletter on a regular basis, you’ll probably already have a Saved Template, and can click on that option. Or you can click on the Recently Sent tab to start with the Template and content from a campaign you sent recently.
If you’re creating a one-time email blast, you can pick a Basic Template, and customize it with your branding. Or you can pick a pre-made Theme if you want a little more custom looking design. Code Your Own is only for really advanced one-time email blasts.
For Newsletters, we like to click on Recently Sent, though the first time you do it you’ll have to do Saved Template.
For one-time blasts, we like to use Basic Template, and customize it with colors, styles, and images that fit the needs of that Campaign.
Regardless of which option you go with, I highly recommend picking one of the options that say “Drag and drop” below it. That lets you use their extremely flexible drag and drop editor, and results in a mobile friendly version of the email as well.
Designing & Entering Content
Although MailChimp refers to the next step as “Design,” if you’re creating a newsletter, you’ve probably already done the bulk of the design work when you created your template. Instead, this step is where you’ll go in and customize the content for this specific issue of the newsletter.
You’ll want to go in and change out the information and text in the sections you normally have in your email newsletter, and if you have special content that’s different than normal, you can drag one of the blocks from the left into your newsletter in the appropriate spot, enter your content, then customize the design and settings of that block.
Once you’re done, I also recommend using the Preview & Test option to view your email in Preview Mode, and to Send a Test Email to yourself.
Preview Mode will get you email pretty close to how everyone will see it across all email clients. Test Email allows you to look at it specifically look at it in your own email client, and really test all the links.
Even if some of your links are the same in ever email, I still recommend testing each link every time you sit down to create a campaign or multiple campaigns.
Confirm the Details
Finally, you’ll be able to confirm all the details, and optionally schedule the email for delivery at a day and time in the future.
If anything in the email does not have that check mark next to it, but has an exclamation mark instead, make sure you understand why it has that, and that you’re okay with whatever decision that reflects.
Once you’re okay with everything, you can either send the campaign immediately, or schedule the email for delivery at a future date and time.
If your email includes a link to a blog article that’s scheduled to be published in the future, a good rule of thumb is to schedule the email newsletter to go out at least 15 minutes after the blog is scheduled to go online, just to be safe.