Mailchimp Tips and Tricks For Developers

| 9 min. (1757 words)

I’m a big fan of Mailchimp when it comes to keeping in touch with users, and here at Raygun we’ve used it since the very beginning. Although most developers would work their way around Mailchimp with relative ease, there are some not so common features that can empower your lists, increase engagement and help you optimize the performance of your email campaigns. Hopefully in this post you’ll learn one or two things you didn’t know about Mailchimp and try out a few new ideas.

If you told me a few years ago, (well before I started using Mailchimp) that I would look forward to high-fiving an illustration of a monkey’s hand each time I sent out a newsletter, I’d have said you were a few bananas short of a picnic, but Mailchimp’s nice touch of celebrating a newsletter send out can be made far more satisfying if you know that you’ve truly optimized your campaign to drive the best results once that email is out the door. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to getting the most out of each campaign you send to your users and just a few simple things can drive amazing results.

 Get to know your list with segmentation

It’s very easy to bundle all your contacts into one big list and send each email campaign to them, I get it, you’re short of time, but this doesn’t convert particularly well. You’ll already be well aware that the best email campaigns are sent with targeted messages that engage with the reader. Email is effective as a marketing channel, but you’re competing with so many other things inside each person’s inbox it’s hard to get noticed. You have only a few seconds to stand out, creating a link between what the reader’s eyes see and what the brain then decides is interesting needs to be done as succinctly as possible. Segmentation of your list allows you to refine your messages into small niches, giving subscribers call to actions and messages that are more likely to interest the reader and make them want to read on.

Navigate to your list in Mailchimp and then click on ‘Manage subscribers’ > Segments, then click on the ‘Create Segment’ button. You’ll be able to specify the criteria you wish to filter your segment on but be careful to select the correct criteria when using ‘any or ‘all’ here.

If you use the Mailchimp API to sync users between your app and your Mailchimp account you’ll also be able to select criteria that extends into you customer lifecycle. So you might want to segment your users based on what stage they are currently at during the signup or trial process, giving them a specific call to action or custom messages along the conversion funnel can help you increase conversions or simply create a more personal impression of your product. Think about how you can segment your users in order to make the language in your campaigns relevant to each specific individual and send your campaigns to the people on your list, not just blast out a generic email to thousands of users. Remember that each subscriber is a person and not just a number on your list.

When you save the segment you’ll be given the option to have the segment auto-update. This means your segment will always stay relevant and each campaign can be sent to segments with minimal management and makes your life so much easier.


If you have a really big list that you’re looking to segment, did you know that Mailchimp offers a free desktop client called Hairball to make this process a lot faster. There are detailed instructions on using Hairball here. This tool offers a much more in-depth look at your lists which should give you better understanding of who is engaging with your campaigns.

You will be able to sync your lists to Hairball and due to it being a desktop application, it makes sorting through large lists a lot quicker. Hairball isn’t available for all Mailchimp accounts but the people that will get the most out of this tool will have large lists to manage anyway. You can give Hairball a try and see what interesting segments and stats you can come up with.

Custom Templates

Creating a branded custom template for your email campaigns may seem pretty straightforward, but if your marketing team are not skilled in HTML and CSS it can be a challenge to update a custom template with fresh content. Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a custom template which your team could edit within the Mailchimp editor? Well, you can.

When coding your custom template, all you need to do is add the class mc:edit to your code, naming your sections that you’d like to be editable like so.

<td class="defaultText" <strong>mc:edit="body">
</strong><h2 class="title">Primary Heading</h2>
<p>Sample copy. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.
Morbi commodo, ipsum sed pharetra gravida, orci magna rhoncus neque, id
pulvinar odio lorem non turpis.</p>
<h3 class="subTitle">Subheading</h3>
<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.</p>

Upload your custom template to Mailchimp and select it to be used for the email campaign you want to send. Now you’ll be able to use the Mailchimp editor and fill out the content in your campaigns using the content blocks you have designated in your custom template, without any need for coding knowledge, giving you custom branded templates that are easily editable whilst the design remains consistent with your brand.

Click Maps and Click Analysis

If you haven’t ventured into the click maps functionality in Mailchimp before, you’ll find this in your campaign reports by clicking on ‘Links’ in the top menu and then clicking on the Click Map tab at the top. So what’s the big deal about click maps you say? Well, from experience we find that your first link is the most important link in your email campaign, and if this is placed front a center of the main text block, it increases results even further. Looking at this report will give you insight into what’s important in your email campaigns and where to place your links.

The trend we often see is for developers in particular to spend a lot of time building imagery and layout tweaks in their emails. This probably comes from the habits of building web pages that visually need to look good and balanced. Fact is that most people are reading your emails on their phones, on the go, furiously skimming through their inbox. It’s been said that plain text emails without images and fancy CSS actually convert better. Many people don’t have the time to scroll down your email, read every word or be too bothered about layout, so looking at the click map performance will give you a great picture of where to spend most of your efforts and where to place the links you want your users to action. You might find that engagement towards the bottom of your emails is very low, so time spent on optimizing things above the fold might be a better use of your time.

Also, click performance is an interesting data set to look at whilst you’re around these parts. Email is a truly interesting world and human behaviour surrounding emails could become an expert subject, with world class speakers travelling the world to give us insights into just how people use email in such differential ways.

It appears that half of the email receiving population simply don’t open them. For these people if the subject line doesn’t grab them, that email will never see the light of day. These are the people you see with 11,637 emails unread in their inbox, which people like me (who are neat freaks) are truly horrified at when we see this.

Your email campaign stats will reflect that a lot of people simply don’t open your emails, a lot of people won’t read them, even more won’t click and some will open your email multiple times. Using this information within your segments as we talked about earlier, will allow you to focus on the people who are actually reading your emails and are engaging with your content.


Mailchimp allows you to trigger email campaigns based on events that your users complete on your website. For example you might want to send a special offer out to your users and then do a follow up email when they have completed the process, or next steps you’d like them to take.

You can turn on Goals and set them up under your account’s integrations settings. Here you’ll be able to create an automation workflow, ideal for drip feed campaigns or online courses and guides where you can send one campaign with subsequent steps based on the user’s actions.

For those who are more advanced who want a truly custom setup, you can also add javascript events that will trigger emails within Mailchimp to be sent to people who meet your criteria, or you can use these events to create segments within your lists. It’s really taking the hard work out of things longer term, but will take a bit of effort to set it up for the first time. You can read more about how to do this with custom javascript here.

Goals can be used for all sorts of purposes, a good example might be if you ran a sports clothing site and set up an email list with segments or groups for people interested in sports trainers. You could do this using Mailchimp’s groups feature and having them select the categories they would like to receive news about. From an email campaign sent to these visitors with a discount offer, you’ll be able to track if they clicked on the email campaign, made a purchase and a week later send a follow up email to ask how they rated the experience, or if they clicked through and viewed the page but did not purchase, send through a follow up discount perhaps. There are so many options and things you could try, have a think about how you could use Mailchimp goals with your userbase.


Whether you knew about these features and have them set up already, have been meaning to set them up or have learned something new, I hope you’ve been inspired to dig a little deeper into your Mailchimp campaigns and increase their performance. Give new things a try and see how they impact your email success rates.