Mailchimp Automations – Where to start

Always remember… what’s your trigger?

Mailchimp Automation triggers matter
“I got my finger on the trigger…
…is the automation ready to go?”

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Action and Reaction… Newton’s 3rd law of Physics states, for every action there needs to be an equal and opposite reaction.

You do one thing… something else happens – it’s a fundamental law of physics.

…and it equally applies to email marketing and Mailchimp (or at least it does if you want to succeed with it!)

When something changes, something else should happen.

…or to put it another way, when something happens in your database, you should have an automation set up to react to that change.

Automations are the ultimate when it comes to effective and efficient marketing, but they all get started by something happening, a trigger, to get the ball rolling.

From an email marketing point of view, every automation you set up in Mailchimp needs to have a trigger.

The trigger is a change somewhere in the audience that Mailchimp spots and uses it as a signal to start the automation sequence.

An action… and a reaction.


The Common Automations

So what are the most common types of automation you can put in place to help your email marketing?… and what are the triggers you need to get them started? From our experience of looking at hundreds of Mailchimp accounts, we see 2 types of automation set up again and again – ones that in our mind, everyone should have.

The Welcome Automation

Trigger: Joining the audience… Action: Welcome Email sent

This is the classic first automation that we’d recommend everyone has in some form, and the trigger is simply the first time that someone is added to the audience.

Because it happens when they get added, the recipient can only get this automation once (technically you can only join an audience once!).

You do have the option of not sending this automation to those people who you manually add or import into Mailchimp (it’s an option you can set), so that it goes just to those people who have filled a form in somewhere or been added via an API connection.

Typically this automation is an opportunity to welcome and indoctrinate your subscribers into who you are and how you operate (and what makes you different) – as it does go to everybody…

The only word of caution we’d advise is make sure you’re not suffering from ‘email clash’ by having one of these and then a specific automation linked to a specific form (the next trigger/automation).

The Confirmation Automation

Trigger: A subscriber fills a specific form out… Action: an email sent related to the form and incentive offered for completing it.

This is probably the next most common automation we see and it’s used when you’ve got more than one form or signup method and you want to ensure that people who sign up on a particular form get a specific response (i.e. a specific email).

This is usually because there’s a form on your site offering some form of incentive (discount or guide) that you want to email to someone when they complete it. If there are other forms on your site not talking about this offer, then you need a way of identifying the different people and forms they complete.

OK, so what’s the actual trigger?… How can you tell Mailchimp that someone has completed a specific form on your website – and thus what actually “changes” in your website to trigger the automation?

In most instances, we’d suggest using a tag to do this – here at Chimp Answers we call them “tracking tags” (n.b. they’re still just tags, but we try and class tag types so we know what they mean).

Most form tools (be it Mailchimp’s embedded form or other options) give you the ability to assign a tag to someone who completes a specific form – and if you’re using one that doesn’t then I’d really suggest that you look for one that does.

This is the initial action in the database… the tag being applied to the contact.

…and thus the trigger for the automation is “when a specific tag is applied to a contact”.

Since the only way that this specific tag can be applied is by someone filling the form out and submitting it, the only people who get the automation are the people who do just that.

Don’t worry that this person may also be “new” to the database – if Mailchimp sees the tag added to someone, new or old, it’ll still fire and start the automation.

This is a great way to handle “multiple” sign up methods, each with a different “incentive” – so if someone completes form A for incentive A… and then completes form B for incentive B – they’ll receive both automations – if they’re set up based on a tag for form A and a tag for form B.

Just make sure that if you’re doing this, you manage any “Welcome” emails which are triggered by joining the list. We do this by making sure all of our forms have a tag assigned to them (and an automation set up accordingly), and then set up the welcome automation’s first email to be sent 1 hour after the “form triggered” email – this ensures no email clash.

So, it’s not the “form” submission that triggers the automation, but rather the tag associated with that form being submitted, which is added to the contact, and that’s what triggers the automation.


Using just these two automations can give you a pretty effective email marketing system and they are the foundation of many successful systems we’ve built.

Just remember, when it comes to automations in Mailchimp, they all start with a trigger – something changing – it’s down to you to decide what that change is and what happens when it changes.

Robin Adams

Robin Adams

Robin Adams is a business owner who is passionate about helping businesses build effective marketing systems that work and don't waste money. Having a lifetime of Marketing experience (he's got a degree in Marketing before there were degrees in Marketing!) and having worked for big and small businesses and both client and agency side, he understands not only the theory, but the systems that are required to underpin everything.
51% marketer and 49% Chimp, Robin is the main man behind chimpanswers.com and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.

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