Mailchimp is more than just a way to send pretty emails.

Of course, the prettier the email, the bigger the chance it will do poorly it seems lately. It’s all about getting the right content to the right people at the right time in the right way. That’s where the more advanced tools in Mailchimp become helpful.

Once you get your list set up and you’ve fired off a few arms-length emails (come on, we’ve all done it), you’ll find that you’ll start to notice trends: things that are going well, and some things you may want to change. It’s never actually “finished,” where you can set it and forget it, but you will eventually get to the point where you’re thinking about fine-tuning instead of major shifts.

That’s what today is headed towards: tuning. Let’s start with 2 simple ways to divide your data into usable groups or segments, and a quick setup for a simple welcome automation for when new people join your list. Let’s get to it.


Static Segments

Do you love Microsoft Excel? Then you’ll love the mathematical equivalent to playing with your food known as Segments. It’s a way to see your database in many different ways like sorting your list by date added or just spitting it all out and making a Christmas tree for your mom who doesn’t appreciate your special skillz.

From the dashboard, click on your list, then click “Create a Segment” that appears in grey right above the top of your list. This is where you’ll work the Tetris puzzle known as the segment conditions.

When you finish creating the conditions for a segment, you can either pull the report and save it as a static or as an auto-updating segment to use over and over.

A static segment will pull the information once, such as all who are subscribed that haven’t’ opened the last 5 email campaigns. Then you can send an email to them that says “hey, are we still friends?” But once you’re done with that, then you’re done. You can save the segment, but you won’t be able to add any more people to it.

Auto-Update Segments

The Auto Update is an on-going segment that Mailchimp will add people to that meet your criteria as they are added to the list. This is a helpful segment for keeping church members sorted into separate campuses if you are a multisite, or if they don’t open 5 emails and you have an automation that tries to get them back.

Once they are added to the segment, the automation triggers, and they hopefully re-engage with your email like your dog does with you when you come home from work and they realize you didn’t abandon them forever.

The major difference between Segments and Groups is that with segments, you have all the control over the data and your subscribers do not. But there are things Subscribers need and want control over, and Groups are how you can give them that control.


To create a group, click on your list in your dashboard, then under “manage contacts” select “groups.” You’ll notice an option for “segments” too, but hitting the “create a segment” button at the top of your list is one click less.

You can run automation to groups as well, but in my opinion, this isn’t necessarily the best use in the church world. Groups can be selected by the subscriber to determine what type of content they want to receive from you or don’t want to receive.

If you have a parent email for student ministry, one for Kids ministry, and your all-church email, then you should have 3 groups bearing those titles. Whenever a person subscribes to your mailing list, they should get the option to manage their preferences. If they don’t, they will in the footer later.

However, if a person signs up online for the student ministry newsletter, then that’s the only group they should receive an email from. This is easy to do in Mailchimp because the sign-up form allows them to choose the communication they want right then.

Once they join a group, your automation can trigger that group for a welcome series or giving campaign, whatever floats your boat. Each week, you’ll write your newsletter and specify that the email goes to that particular group. This allows you to have one master list with multiple audiences. That’s the dream.

Simple Welcome Automation

Now you’re ready to start building an automation. In Mailchimp, they’re called “on-going campaigns” now, which isn’t as sexy, but it’s more clear, so, whatevs. For each group or for your master list, it’s a good idea to have a few, not many, emails that go out to new subscribers that introduce them to your church, staff, etc.

But I’m not going to write about that here. I’ve already written about it over there. So you can click this giant text link and head over to the other blog to get the free automation….I mean, on-going campai….you know what? I like Automation. Click here to get the automation template to start.

That’s it from me this week. Join The Seminary of Hard Knocks Facebook group to continue the conversation with me and many others and please subscribe, rate, or review my podcast on iTunes here! Thanks for reading!

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