10 common Mailchimp mistakes - mailboxes

10 Common Mailchimp Mistakes – And What To Do Instead

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Mailchimp is one of the "big dogs" (the big ape?) in the world of email marketing. Because it's relatively simple to set up and FREE for up to 2,000 subscribers, many people start out with Mailchimp when they first set up their email marketing.

The combination of free and easy-to-use turns out to be a double-edged sword. Sure, you can get going quickly. But it's likely that you're also making some common mistakes when setting up your account and then, without realizing it, continuing to do the wrong thing.

Here are the top 10 mistakes I see people making with email marketing, and specifically, with Mailchimp.

"[Email] Marketing is like sex: everyone thinks they're good at it."

Steve Tobak

#1 - Using multiple lists

This is probably the biggest mistake I see Mailchimp users make. People set up a separate list for each group or segment they want to market to, such as customers, leads, event attendees, interested in XYZ, etc.

But, now that Mailchimp has made it easy to set up and use groups within your list, there are very few cases where you actually need more than one list.

Plus, there are some very good reasons why you do NOT want to use multiple lists, including:

  • Your Mailchimp billing rate is based on the total number of subscribers in your account. Each list is counted separately. So, for example, if someone is on three lists, they count as three subscribers. You could find yourself paying far more for your Mailchimp account than you need to.
  • When someone unsubscribes from a list, they're saying "I don't want you to send me any more emails." Under most of anti-spam laws (e.g., CAN-SPAM, CASL, GDPR), you cannot send them marketing emails after that. You'll need to check all of your other lists and manually remove an individual if they appear on those other lists so you don't accidentally send them an email from another list. What a headache!
  • If you want to send a campaign to all of your subscribers, you'll need to duplicate the campaign and send it individually to each list. That's bad enough, but what's worse is that every subscriber who's on multiple lists will then get the same campaign multiple times.
  • It's difficult to keep track of things since all of your reports will be broken out by list, preventing you from getting a good overall picture of how well your email marketing is working.

#2 - No immediate confirmation or welcome email

Mailchimp can send a default confirmation email to new subscribers (if you enable it). It's pretty basic and impersonal but covers the essential details, like which list they've subscribed to, data and time, and their subscribed email address.

Most people never get around to editing it and that's a real opportunity lost.

Take the time to either rewrite it or, better yet, set up a welcome email automation that's triggered whenever a new subscriber joins your list. You can even vary the welcome email based on which group someone joins within your list.

Let new subscribers know what to expect, like how often they'll hear from you, what kind of content they'll receive, if there will be any coupons or special offers, and how they can contact you.

That first email is a good opportunity to ask them a question about their needs/desires etc. - they're at their most positive and so are most likely to actually respond.

#3 - Sending emails from a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. address

What's your email address? Do you have one specifically for your business?
I'm not talking about something like treeguy846@aol.com. Customers aren't likely to look at you as a "real" business with an email like that. You need something that makes it clear that you're a professional with a legitimate business. Believe it or not, that one thing alone will set you apart from many of your competitors!

If you don't already have a professional email - one on your domain - then set one up ASAP. It should be clear exactly who you are and what company you're with. For example, my email is mhemingway@itgmultimedia.com (email me any time!).

You don't even need to have a website. Just register your domain (I suggest GoDaddy) and then use Google G Suite to set up an email account. It's only $6/month.

Then, when you set up your Mailchimp account, make sure emails come from that professional email address. (You must have a working email account at that address because Mailchimp will make you verify ownership by sending you a confirmation email. If you can't receive that email, you can't send Mailchimp emails from that address.)

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#4 - Sending emails with the wrong "from" name

Most people send marketing emails from their company name. And, in some cases, that's fine. If subscribers don't know you - for example, if you represent a large company or an e-commerce site - then they'll easily recognize the company name.

But if you're a service business where customers (and subscribers) deal directly with you, then the email should come from you personally. For example, "Mark at Smith's Lawn Service" or "Mark Smith, Smith's Lawn Service".


Because people develop relationships with other people, not with a faceless corporate entity. Those relationships help to develop a sense of familiarity and trust that, eventually, leads to a purchase (or repeat purchase).

#5 - No sign-up forms on website

Mailchimp's opt-in (sign-up) forms aren't the prettiest but they're simple to add to your website by just copying and pasting some code. Plus, if you don't like the default forms and don't know how to customize them, there are many tools that will insert a nicely-formatted opt-in form that's connected directly to Mailchimp.

For example, if you have a WordPress website then check the plugin directory for easy-to-use options.

So there's no reason why you can't put an opt-in form on your site. And you'd be surprised at just how many people will subscribe from your site - all with no ongoing effort on your part!

For that matter, you should also be asking people to subscribe wherever you interact with them online, including your website and social media accounts. The contact form or "request an estimate" form can include a checkbox asking people if they'd like to subscribe to your list (just be sure to give them a good reason why they should do so).

#6 - Too much text and/or images

No one will read it if it's too long! Most email recipients want short messages that get directly to the point; they're not willing to scroll through reams of text.

The same goes for images. Sure, they can look nice and they can help convey your message. But each image comes with a cost in terms of hogging bandwidth (which is especially problematic for people viewing your email on a mobile device) and delivery problems (the more images, the more likely the email is to be screened out by internet providers).

Be strategic with both your text and images. Use just enough to capture someone's attention and get the message across. Less is more.

#7 - Including only images (with no text)

Approximately 50% of email users have images turned off in their email app by default. They simply cannot view images in emails without manually clicking and saying "yes, I want to see this image".

Marketing emails that include only an image, usually with text superimposed over a background graphic, will show up as nothing but a small, empty box for about half of your subscribers. They won't have any idea what your email is about.

Those large graphics can look wonderful - but if you use them, also include text describing your offer or message so subscribers with images turned off will still "get" your content.

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#8 - Using links instead of buttons

With over half of all email opens happening on a mobile device, it's important to make sure all subscribers can take the action you're asking of them. Usually, that's some sort of "click here".

The problem is that links embedded in email text are really difficult to click on, especially when there are multiple links close to each other. "Fat finger syndrome" is a real problem for some of us!

Instead, use buttons instead of links wherever you can. Not only are they more visible (so your CTA stands out) but they're also much easier to click.

#9 - Not sending emails regularly

If you've trained your subscribers to expect interesting information, special offers, a heads-up on upcoming events, or anything else of value to them, then they'll be watching for your emails to arrive in their inbox. One of the ways you "train" them is by sending emails regularly - preferably on a set schedule, like every second Tuesday - so they know when to expect them.

But if your emails are hit or miss, or if subscribers have to wait a long time before hearing from you again, you'll "untrain" them. They won't know when to expect your emails and will eventually forget about you. They may even mark your next email as spam when it finally does arrive.

So be consistent. Set a schedule and stick to it.

#10 - Hitting 'Send' without testing

Mailchimp gives you an opportunity to view a preview of your email before sending (it'll show you what it looks like on both desktop and mobile email apps). That's a good first step but it's not enough.

I'm always amazed at how many poorly formatted, error-ridden emails I receive from companies (even huge multinationals make mistakes). What's worse is that most of those mistakes could've been fixed by simply testing the email before hitting "Send".

Before sending an email to your subscribers, always send it to yourself first. Look at it on both a desktop and mobile device to make sure the layout looks right, images are showing up, links/buttons are working, preheader and subject line text are correct, and that there aren't any typos. It's much easier to catch errors on your phone or desktop than it is when viewing the email through the Mailchimp preview pane.

And there you have it - 10 common email marketing mistakes that can easily be avoided with a little planning, know-how and perseverance.


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