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How to Create an Automated Email Campaign in Mailchimp

Kara McCartney Avatar
Written by Kara McCartney / February 27, 2019
Last Updated April 23, 2019

Email automation lets you send personalized, targeted messages to your audience based on a specific event or timed workflow. For example, you could automatically send a purchase confirmation whenever someone buys a product on your site, or you could automatically send a series of emails sharing your most popular blog posts. The more data you have on your audience, the more personalized your automated emails can be. For instance, if you know your subscribers' birthdays, you can use that as a trigger, automatically sending them a birthday greeting on their big day.

As you can imagine, these kinds of emails save loads of time and cut down on user errors commonly attached to manual messages.

One of the most well-known email marketing platforms is Mailchimp. Here, we'll walk you through how to use Mailchimp for email automation, from getting set up to interpreting your data after a campaign is complete.

How to Send an Automated Email Campaign Based on a Mailchimp Template

Mailchimp offers a number of pre-built templates that'll help you hit the ground running. Follow these steps to use a template for your automated campaign.

Select Campaigns in the top navigation. Then click Create Campaign toward the top right corner of your screen.

Create campaign

Click Email, the first choice on the list in the left sidebar, and then click the Automated tab.

Automated tab

Now, from the second tier of tabs, you'll select the trigger category that best aligns with your objectives.

Subscriber Activity

You may want to send your email based on an action taken by your subscriber. If that's the case, you'll select Subscriber Activity and then choose from the following options:

  • Welcome new subscribers will send subscribers an email when they first join your list.
  • Respond to subscriber updates will send subscribers confirmation of profile changes (e.g., joining a new group).
  • Thank pop-up form subscribers will welcome subscribers who joined through an embedded pop-up form on your website.
Subscriber activity

E-Commerce

If the campaigns you're interested in revolve around eCommerce, select E-Commerce and then choose from the available options:

  • First-time customers will send a thank-you email to a first-time shopper on your site.
  • Reward your best customers will send an exclusive offer to your most frequent buyers.
  • Retarget site visitors will email shoppers to remind them about the products they saw on your website.
  • Turn on abandoned cart email will send emails to retarget individuals who added products to their shopping cart but didn't buy.
  • Enable order notifications will send receipts and confirm customer purchases.
  • Follow up on purchases will send recommendations for other products or ask for customer product reviews.
  • Win back lapsed customers will send emails to individuals who bought previously but haven't purchased in a while.
eCommerce triggers

Date Based

With Mailchimp's date-based workflows, you can express your client appreciation by sending notes on a specific anniversary or birthday. Here are your options:

  • List added date will send an email to thank individuals on the anniversary of the date they joined your list.
  • Say 'happy birthday' will send an email on their birthday.
  • Specific date will send things like appointment reminders.
  • Recurring dates will email customers every year on the same date.

Once you've selected your campaign template, Mailchimp will walk you through the rest of the process.

How to Send a Customized Automated Email Campaign in Mailchimp

If one of Mailchimp's pre-built campaigns doesn't meet your needs—and this is likely the case if you're sending a series of emails—you'll need to design yours from scratch. You'll start by following the same steps listed above for using a pre-built template:

  1. Select Campaigns in the top navigation.
  2. Click Create Campaign toward the top right corner of your screen.
  3. Click Email.
  4. Click Automated.

Here's where the change happens. Instead of selecting a pre-built template, select Custom in the gray box to the right of your screen.

Custom button

Name your campaign and select your list

Now you'll name your automated campaign and select the list you want the campaign to go to.

Name campaign and select list

Set your initial trigger

Every isolated email within an automated campaign has its own, separate trigger. The first trigger will kick off the campaign initially, with each corresponding trigger firing off the next email within the series.

Mailchimp provides default triggers, even in custom workflows. To change a trigger, click Edit next to the description of the trigger.

Edit trigger

Then, click Change trigger.

Change trigger

Select the trigger you'd like to use to kick off your campaign (i.e., what needs to happen for Mailchimp to send the first email in your workflow?). Your trigger can be based on a number of factors, including eCommerce activity (e.g., a subscriber makes a purchase), campaign activity (e.g., someone opens an email you sent previously), and list management (e.g., someone joins your list).

Select trigger

Once you select your trigger, click Update trigger in the top right corner.

Update triggers for every email in your campaign

An automated workflow can contain one standalone email or a series of emails. The next step is to add every email you want within your campaign and set triggers for each. (If you only want to send one automated email, skip this step.)

Select Add Email in the gray box.

Add email

Set the trigger for your second email by selecting Edit, and repeat the process from the first trigger. Each following email in the workflow will be based on the previous email, or the subscriber's interaction with the previous email. For example, you could trigger the second email to send one day after the previous email was sent, or you could trigger it to send one day after the previous email was opened.

Edit each trigger

Set your schedule

Before we dive into scheduling, it's important to understand the difference between schedules and triggers. A trigger is what fires off an automated email in the first place (and every other email in the workflow). A schedule, on the other hand, will limit an email send to particular days or times of day. For example, if you set your schedule to exclude weekends, an email that is triggered to send on Saturday will not be sent to the subscriber until Monday.

To set your schedule, on the first email of your workflow, select Edit next to Schedule. Then select which days of the week you would like the first email to send, and whether you would like to send the email at specific times.

Click Save schedule in the top right corner, and repeat the process for the rest of the emails in your workflow.

Filter by segment

Rarely will you want to send an automated campaign to your entire list. Why? Because your customers probably get a hundred different email messages in their inbox on any given day. They will only open (let alone click on) what's relevant—which a blast to your entire list is not.

Your segments can be as specific or generic as you want them to be, but it's important to keep them up to date.

To select your segment, click Edit next to Filter by segment or tag. Then check the box next to Choose segment or tag. To filter by tag, check Contact is member of a segment or is tagged, then select the tag from the dropdown menu.

To filter by a new segment, check Subscribers match the following conditions, then select those conditions. For example, if you want to filter for customers based in California, you could select State is CA.

Select segment based on conditions

Select your post-send action(s)

There's one last thing you need to plan within your workflow: post-send actions. Here, you can choose if sending the previous email will change how a subscriber is organized within your list. You can populate a field, add a tag, or delete them from the list entirely.

When would you use this? It depends on the type of automated series. For example, if you sent out an autoresponder thanking customers for attending your free book signing, maybe you want to retain this information in your list. To do this, you could add a tag to all event attendees.

To select your post-send action, select Edit next to post-send action, then select your desired action from the dropdown list.

Select post-send action

Click Update Action, and repeat the process for every email in your workflow.

How to Design an Automated Email in Mailchimp

Now it's time for the fun part: designing your email. How you choose to design your email comes down to you, your brand, and your connection with your audience. If your following would respond better to a simple, text-based email, do that. If they enjoy photos, colors, and product features, you can include those through Mailchimp's easy, drag-and-drop email builder.

To design each email in your workflow, click Design email to the far right next to the email in question.

Design email

Give your email a name, subject line, and preview text (the text that appears after the subject line before a person opens the email), and decide who the email is coming from.

Give email name, subject line, preview text

Click Template, and select a pre-built template from one of Mailchimp's professionally designed emails.

Select template

Click Design, and then use Mailchimp's drag-and-drop builder to swap out elements, change colors, and add text. When you're done, click Save and continue.

Design your email

How to Analyze Your Automated Email Campaign Data in Mailchimp

Unlike one-off emails, an automated campaign might run for an extended period of time—even for the entire lifetime of your business. But that doesn't mean you should set it and forget it. You should be taking a look at what's working and what's not, so you can refine your workflows.

Mailchimp's ready-made reports make interpreting your data pretty simple.

To navigate to your campaign's report, select Reports in the top navigation. Then select Automation and the campaign you'd like to analyze.

Analyze reports

Scroll down to view information about the open rate, click rate, and unsubscribes from your campaign.

Data in Mailchimp
  • Open rate: This is the percentage of people who opened your email once it reached their inbox.
  • Click rate: This is the percentage of people that clicked on your email (implying that there was something in your email that drew them in).
  • Unsubscribed: This is the number of people who opted-out of your list after receiving your email.

Mailchimp makes note of your list average and industry average for each of these, giving you a frame of reference.

To improve these statistics, you can try a couple things. If you have a low open rate, try a new subject line to increase interest. If your click rate is low, your email might be too long or cluttered, distracting people from moving on to your website, or your calls to action (CTAs) may not be strong enough. Or maybe the subject matter simply doesn't interest them, in which case you need to reconsider how you segment your list.

Connect Mailchimp to Other Apps

Mailchimp offers lots of native integrations, but with Zapier's Mailchimp integration, you can extend Mailchimp's email automation capacities, connecting it to 1,000+ other apps. Here are some of the most useful workflows—mostly intended to add subscribers to your lists—but you can create your own depending on your needs:


By setting up automated campaigns from the get-go, you'll save yourself time down the road—and ideally delight your customers with personalized, timely messages.

Getting Started with Zapier

Need more help? Try the Zapier Help Center