Do Mailchimp Forms Suck?

Should you be using MailChimp's own forms... or something else?

by | May 9, 2019


Free doesn’t necessarily mean good

I recently decided to upgrade my phone… (which was a far too painful process!).

After much discussion, I settled on what I wanted, the tariff, the options and the support and then signed my life away on several forms.

I then received my phone and walked home a happy man…

Of course, the packaged headphones which came free with it left a little to be desired (I felt like I had my head in a bucket of water!)….

So I went out and got some nice headphones that sounded much clearer!

Just because it came free, it didn’t mean it was right for me and didn’t mean I had to use it…

…which is kinda like Mailchimp forms…


MailChimp Forms – Hot or Not?

MailChimp is undoubtedly one of the best ways for businesses to get into email marketing. It’s free for pretty much all functionality and has everything you need to get rolling.

It’s pretty easy to design and send emails, and get people into your database so you can send stuff.

…it’s even got a set of forms which you can use to link to, or even embed in your website – and which handle the entire subscription process (including, if you want it, double opt in).

They’ve even added landing pages, which overcome some of the challenges you have with embedded forms – so you can have a nice pretty page that your lead generation activity can be linked to (you can even add in a facebook pixel to track visits!).

…and for most of us, that’s fine.

However, if you are looking to develop a full “marketing” system of which MailChimp will be a key part… then you’ll quickly realise that MailChimp forms aren’t going to get you where you need to go.

So with that in mind, i’ve identified 5 reasons you should, and 3 reasons you shouldn’t use forms either hosted or created within MailChimp…

…and why in this case… 3 is bigger than 5.

…but before that, here’s a quick insight into the different types of forms that Mailchimp offers you “out of the box”…

 The Mailchimp Form Options

Out of the box, Mailchimp offers four different form options for you to use.

  • The Standard hosted form – This is the basic one that MailChimp hosts for you – every list gets one (but you only get one!)
  • Embedded forms – MailChimp coded forms which you can add to your website
  • Pop Ups – Like embedded forms, but appear as pop ups
  • Landing Pages – A recent addition, they are created and held within MailChimp, but you can design them (with much more flexibility than the standard hosted form) and have more than one for each list…

Each has their own advantages/disadvantages and it’s really down to you to decide how/when/where you want to use them.

Five reasons why you should use forms created within Mailchimp…

So what’s good about Mailchimp Forms?

  1. They’re free!!!
    When you are starting out, using MailChimp for many is an easy decision to make as most of the system is completely free to use… and this includes the forms that you can use… so you can easily add people to your list via forms they fill in (while you put your feet up and relax!)
  2. They’re easy to make look pretty
    OK, so the hosted form can be a bit of a pig at times, but you can still brand it and add text and images… and the landing pages are very easy to make look good using MailChimp’s design system which you should be familiar with from the sending campaigns area …and if you’re ok with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), then making them look good when embedded should be simple.
  3. They handle the full sign up process
    Mailchimp makes it very easy, and within their forms section have all the options you need to sign people up and manage the process, including the whole double opt in side of things (if you are using it), welcome to the list emails, profile updates and unsubscribes – and of course, all of them can be made to look fully branded.
  4. You can make lots of different landing pages and link them to automations
    At times, it was a struggle to create a nice looking form – but then came Mailchimp Landing Pages and suddenly you could easily create lots of different forms and pages, all connected to the same list… and use the “signup source” field to identify people who completed that specific form and send them a welcome email (and thus you could send a document/leaflet just to them – as you’d be able to spot those who completed a specific form which mentioned they’d get the document/leaflet amongst everyone else).
  5. They are GDPR friendly
    It seems a long time ago, but in late May 2018, GDPR became a reality and ensured we needed to track when and how people signed up.  Although it was a bit delayed, MailChimp added functionality into their forms to allow for “consent” to be tracked for a variety of different types of communication and ensured that this was stored within the system so you could prove it if required.

All of these are strong reasons to use MailChimp created forms…

BUT… all these things being equal, does that mean you should use them?

Three Reasons why you shouldn’t use forms created within MailChimp…

Well, much like my headphones – just because they are free, doesn’t mean you should use them.

There are a number of “shortcomings” when it comes to MailChimp forms that if you are looking to be a little more dynamic and creative in your marketing, may cause you to consider other options out there (3rd party form tools).

So here are my 3 big reasons why you should consider other options…

  1. You can’t use them to ‘update’ records
    The biggest issue with Mailchimp forms is that if someone is already on your list, Mailchimp doesn’t update their information if they use the same email to complete a different Mailchimp form. It rejects the form and says “this email address is already subscribed”. So if you are trying to set up two different guide delivery systems for a single list, and some fills in a form for guide A… and then tries to fill in a form for guide B… they’ll be rejected the second time. Not ideal if you’re creating lots of different “entry points” into your marketing system.
    There are work arounds for Mailchimp Landing Pages which makes them a bit more flexible… but all the other forms you’re stuck with the same problem.
    Of course, if you’re only ever going to have one form, then this shouldn’t be an issue… (but who wants just one form?)
  2. You can’t add people directly to groups (easily)
    If you’ve read any of my articles, you know that I’m very passionate about having a single list and using groups as a way of segmenting your database… and for me, that means automatically adding people to a group when they complete a form. If you use Mailchimp hosted forms (the standard form or pop ups), you can’t add people to groups at all when they complete a form (there is a way of doing it by using automations, but it’s a pain). If you use embedded forms, then you can do it, but it requires a bit of coding work (watch this video to learn how to use hidden groups) AND you’ve still got the aforementioned inability to update people.
  3. You can’t embed hosted forms on your domain
    I know this sounds a bit obvious, but you’ve really got two options when you create forms in MailChimp. You can create a pretty landing page, but can’t add this to your own URL (Unless you pay to add your domain… or you can embed a form into your website and domain… but need to know code to make it look pretty.  You can’t have your cake and eat it with Mailchimp forms.

OK… So nowadays, domains aren’t as big a deal as they used to be and so although inconvenient, reason 3 is probably surmountable… but the other two are deal breakers in my book (especially if you are using embedded or hosted forms).

Should you use Mailchimp forms…

The fact is that considering that MailChimp is free for pretty much everything, then for many businesses who aren’t into building an effective marketing system, and who just one one point of entry into their system and just do “newsletters”, then there’s no need to consider anything else but MailChimp forms.

However, if you are considering building a marketing system and grow your business effectively, then the two key problems (updating and groups) in my mind suggest that you should look elsewhere for your form solutions.

Most 3rd party tools whether form creation software, plug-ins or other tools will “update” records and also allow you to assign people to groups automatically… and thus become powerful elements of your marketing system.

What to use… well that’s a whole different blog post!

I’m off to listen to my phone via some nice bluetooth headphones… whilst the free ones collect dust in the drawer.

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 and the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group - the world's biggest Mailchimp User Group. Connect with him on Linkedin.