Mailchimp mistakes
If you're one of the 12 million businesses who use Mailchimp's free tier, then you've probably overlooked these mistakes you've been making
Mistakes with Mailchimp - common email marketing mistakes

3 common email marketing mistakes you're making in Mailchimp

October 24, 2021

Mailchimp has brought free email marketing to millions of businesses and played a central role in what web experts refer to as 'democratising the internet'. In other words, they've made access to software services available to all. But unfiltered accessibility brings some common email marketing mistakes that Mailchimp users regularly make.

Is this just about Mailchimp?

Mailchimp is the market leader for email marketing software:

  • it has 13 million users globally;
  • 0.8m users (6%) pay for the service; 12.2m use the free service;
  • 2.4m users (18%) access the software monthly; 82% less often;
  • In September 2021, Mailchimp became one of the biggest software acquisitions in history when it was acquired by Intuit software for $12bn.

For some, the Mailchimp name has become synonymous with email marketing. Go to a networking event or spend any time in business Facebook groups and when someone says they need to be doing more with email marketing, you'll invariably see or hear recommendations that say no more other than "get a ‘Mailchimp’ account."

It's difficult to criticise people's good intentions to be helpful as they recommend a service that is cost-free for so many. But these recommendations are rarely combined with a prompt for how to use - or even, how to plan to use - the service effectively to do what the business owner intends: to build engagement and move leads along a buying journey.

And so with more users come more people making mistakes. It must be said that these mistakes aren't limited to Mailchimp users. Users of many other popular email marketing services make similar mistakes. The mistakes and advice in this article could equally be applied to users of ConvertKit, MailerLite, GetResponse or Aweber. But when you're the most used service on the planet, the numbers of users stumbling into making common email marketing mistakes is higher.

Let's explore the big 3 mistakes.

Mistake 1: You treat everyone the same

Mailchimp has some impressive and advanced contact segmentation capabilities:

  1. In paid tiers, you can create multiple 'audiences', or what some might call 'lists'.
  2. You can create up to 60 'groups' per audience. Groups can be used to add dynamic content to your emails.
  3. You can use 'tags' to tailor campaigns to people with specific tag identifiers.
  4. Finally, Mailchimp creates 'segment' digital insights based on machine learning: location, signup source, campaign activity etc.

For advanced marketers, the targeting capabilities from these four segmentation methods are powerful.

Service businesses don't segment enough

One of the most common email marketing mistakes, especially for service businesses is that they end up using what we term a 'single bucket strategy'. For all the segmentation capabilities that Mailchimp has, although you think you're adding all your leads to Mailchimp dynamically, the chances are you're just using one route, the same audience, same group, same tag. Everybody goes in the same bucket without any segmentation. It might not look dissimilar to the following:

Mailchimp list segmentation
Mailchimp list segmentation... or lack of it

Count just how few ways you segment your Mailchimp list:

  • even with multiple webforms on your website such as a contact form and a lead magnet form, at most you're categorising leads into Mailchimp just a couple of ways, but more likely just one;
  • leads who've contacted you on LinkedIn and you've added to a Google spreadsheet so you can trigger a step in Zapier to add to Mailchimp: all get tagged and grouped one way;
  • in Facebook Ads Manager - if you run ads with them - you're tagging and grouping everyone into the same list and groups aren't you?
  • when you go networking, and your card scanning app lets you push contacts into Mailchimp... they all go in with same audience, group and tag, right?

Or perhaps you're doing just one of these routes? Your website contact form?

All that segmentation capability in Mailchimp, and in effect, everyone ends up as being a 'Newsletter Subscriber'; any attempts you've made to consider or manage any segmentation at all is a complete waste of your time.

How to solve the segmentation problem

Here are three ways to think about better segmenting your leads and customers:

  1. Consider ways to tag leads better as you capture them - their enquiry type, what they're opting-in on;
  2. Log in regularly to Mailchimp to manually review and put leads into more specific tags relevant to their interests;
  3. If your email marketing service feels like a strange or a duplicate place to do these list segmentation activities, review your options to combine CRM, lead management and email marketing into one piece of software, like HubSpot, Keap, or our own small business management software, Connectably.

Mistake 2: 'Email blasting'

According to Forbes research, "the average person receives 147 emails per day." As a sender of marketing emails, yours is one of them.

But look at it the other way around. When you consider how you read emails in your own inbox, you probably find you take more action on emails that directly engage you than with generic 'blast' emails.

A blast email is a marketing email sent to an entire mailing list, without any segmentation by interests or customer status.

So just like you take little action on 'email blasts' that you receive, if you just 'blast' emails to your entire list as well, why would your own business' leads behave differently?

Why 'blast', when as we've established above, Mailchimp has a 'laser-target' switch?


Nothing says any more about how much of a blasting-fanatical nation of small businesses we are than the classic single image ‘Merry Christmas’ email from a business that hasn’t been in contact with you all year. Yay! 'Merry Christmas', and a full three seconds of thought about them.

It's not positive thought though is it? Your mouse cursor's hovering over the 'delete', 'unsubscribe', or 'mark spam' roulette buttons.

Christmas card

What on earth are they thinking?! That you’d fire up the printer for it, and try and awkwardly and limply put their now grainy black and white laser print image up on the mantelpiece next to all the beautiful hand-written cards from people who do actually care about you? No doubt there's a message in there that they're ‘doing their bit for the environment’. Get away. That's just lazy hypocrisy. They're still buying plastic tat shipped from China for their nieces and nephews on Amazon Prime, and their Christmas dinner still has a carbon footprint the size of a small asteroid crater. Let's be real, this is the weariest form of the 'blast' email.

Christmas isn't the only time the 'blast' button gets pressed. Ryan Deiss, in his book, 'Invisible Selling Machine', talks about sending the exact same email to everyone on their list as the second of two common email marketing mistakes (the other 'failing to follow-up').

Ryan Deiss - Invisible Selling Machine:
"When most marketers get a lead, they make one of two catastrophic errors. The first is that they fail to follow-up. The second is sending the exact same email to everyone on their list."
Ryan Deiss: Invisible Selling Machine

The biggest blast damage is done with the 'send to all' monthly newsletter. Here's the actual news: your audience doesn't care about your news. They care about you solving problems they have. And those problems are different, lead-to-lead, client-to-client. So segment that mailing and focus the content on passionately and comprehensively poking the problems, and putting your case for resolving them with those people who care about each problem.

Send To All
Michael McIntyre: Send To All

How to solve the 'send to all' problem

We created a blog on the 'send to all' problem, so head over there to see the full article, but in summary:

  1. Get creative. Hold sessions where you think about your leads' and customers' problems and become the problem-solving superhero when you talk about those problems openly.
  2. Show your leads that you're interested. Start using automations more that follow-up diligently and repeatedly. Don't give up.
  3. Stop forgetting important communications touch points. To your leads and customers, it feels like a cliff-drop.

Mistake 3: Your business is in app silos

82% of Mailchimp's users aren't logging into the software monthly. What are these 10.6m users doing? They're certainly not emailing regularly are they?

Mailchimp's great, but because it's not your CRM home, it gets used as a single long list of all contacts. So you 'blast' everyone then slump into a cycle of no meaningful engagement, low sales, effort wasted and frustration that 'email marketing doesn't work'. Common email marketing mistakes compound.

Small business management software that brings together CRM, lead management, email marketing and automation repairs this broken relationship. 'Interest' tags segment contacts in the CRM so email marketing can be more targeted ????. This speaks to leads or clients where they are in their buying journey with you, addressing problems and fears they have right now, in context. Specificity always beats generality.

Because you're in the small business management software daily, you're more inclined-, and able to keep individual records up to date, so the segmentation and enrichment of information about your leads and clients is more likely to happen.

Mailchimp Alternative - Connectably Lead Management Software
Connectably small business management software: lead management

How to solve the 'apps in silos' problem

  1. If you're using Zapier to move information between apps, ensure you're using it more in a loop. So when there's an update in one app, ensure that the same information gets updated in all other apps that connect to it. If you don't, you'll find information gets chaotic and out-dated quickly. Not only that, it's a GDPR nightmare.
  2. Alternatively, reduce the number of apps you're using. Your time should be more valuable than the app subscriptions you're paying for (or not). Stop going for 'free' and all over the place; and go for 'paid' and complete instead. We've recommended looking at HubSpot, Keap and - hey why not - our own product, Connectably.

The relationship between 'free' and common email marketing mistakes

Many of these mistakes are created by the way we sign up for and use free services like this. When we're less invested, we don't spend the same amount of time researching how to do things properly. Our perception tells us that there's less financial risk by getting it wrong. But in actual fact it costs double:

  1. When it doesn't achieve the results we want, we're financially impacted by not making the progress we could have had over months and years of poor practices, and;
  2. It's a time suck - to implement and manage across the chaotic, disconnected free software.

2 steps to better email marketing

There's always a cost to 'free' in business. Facebook, for example, is 'free' because their product is your attention that is the commodity that is pitched to advertisers. With Mailchimp, it's free at the entry tier but the cost to you is that you're making compromises elsewhere in your business because you're not joined up with CRM, and you've overlooked the value of properly planning your segmentation and messaging strategy.

Thankfully, those issues can be overcome in two simple ways:

  1. Recognising the importance and value of email marketing to your business and developing more knowledge on it so you can make better decisions, and;
  2. Investing in processes that manage Mailchimp better, or investing in tools that combine lead management, lead segmentation and email marketing all in one place.

Step 1: Understanding email marketing better

In all likelihood, it's reasonable to think that Mailchimp users who haven't invested in paid tiers of the software, or who've only begun using the product on a Facebook Group or networking contact introduction are less likely to have invested in the expertise of an email marketing coach to help them put strategy before tactics.

So here's a call to arms to you taking learning your first step in avoiding common email marketing mistakes. There are thousands of books published on small business marketing; hundreds specifically on the topic of email marketing. But here's a focused recommendation: invest £56.88 (Kindle £27.79) and a few evenings' reading in the following four books on email marketing:

  1. Kenda Macdonald: Hack the Buyer Brain (£26.98 / Kindle £7.49)
  2. Jon May: Send Better Emails (£14.99 / Kindle £9.99)
  3. Rob Drummond: Simple Story Selling (£7.28 / Kindle £3.64)
  4. Ryan Deiss: Invisible Selling Machine (£7.63 / Kindle £6.67)

By doing so, you'll not only save hundreds or thousands on email marketing strategy training, but you'll come out the other end far better equipped to manage your business' email marketing strategy in a way that delivers the results that so many in digital marketing claim it will, and yet has felt so far off to you until now.

Once there, move on to step 2....

Step 2: Better email marketing systemisation

The economic cost of these three common email marketing mistakes is costing your business far more than a $10-15 per month Mailchimp subscription would cost. But is Mailchimp, or indeed any of the other 'email first' services like ConvertKit, MailerLite or Aweber where you should be investing your time and money in turning around engagement in your business? It's unlikely, and the biggest email marketing service provider on the planet already gives us a clue on that.

We know from Mailchimp that almost 82% of their users aren't accessing the service every month, and this in spite of 94% of its users not paying a penny to access it.

In other words, it's a great tool, wildly popular, with huge engagement potential, but in the wrong place, and not valued enough by business owners to use it.

Perhaps it's time you took a look at the alternatives. Look for services that combine email marketing, CRM, list segmentation, and a way to manage leads and workflows. Because when they're all in one place, you're considerably more likely to manage them effectively and with care. These are the popular ones:

If you want to follow a buyer's checklist to choosing small business management software, then click here, or watch the demo via the link below.

Connectably Watch Demo


Gareth Everson

Gareth's the founder of Connectably. He's a business systemiser who helps small business owners who aren't always natural "software people" to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business. Connectably is a self-funded software business (founded 2017) that serves other small businesses. You can follow Connectably here, and connect with Gareth here.
Author: Gareth Everson - Founder Connectably

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