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11 reasons why you shouldn't have more than one audience in Mailchimp

Trust me when I say "Mo' Audiences, Mo' Problems"

by | Jul 25, 2018

This article has recently been updated follow Mailchimp deciding to change ‘lists’ to ‘audiences’.

Mo Audiences, Mo Problems…

As the Mailchimp Guy, I get involved in lots of tricky situations with clients who want me to tidy up their unruly Mailchimp account.

Sometimes, it’s templates, sometimes it’s their forms, but usually the first thing they want to sort out is their databases… i.e. their audiences… and consolidate their information down into a single audience.

Why would they want to do this some of you may be asking? Well when it comes to managing your data in Mailchimp, the more audiences you have, the more likely you are going to encounter problems.

it’s the whole reason I coined the phrase “Mo’ Audiences, Mo’ Problems”… which I use again and again in the Mailchimp Answers Facebook Group.

…and with GDPR now in place across Europe, it’s become even more important to move to a single audience, because getting it wrong could prove to be even more painful!

If you’re looking at your Mailchimp audiences and thinking… I’ve got more than 1 audience… am I doing something wrong?… you probably need to read on.

Why Do Mailchimpers end up with so many audiences?

If multiple audiences are such a no no, why do so many people end up with them?  Why is it such a common Mailchimp malady? It usually comes down to one of 3 specific reasons:

  1. Mailchimp’s Main Hosted Form – Once you get to grips with Mailchimp, one of the first things you start to consider is using forms to capture people in your audience. Mailchimp makes this VERY easy and gives you a standard hosted form (stored within Mailchimp) which you can use and which integrates perfectly with the Mailchimp sign up process.

    This is great as you don’t need to stress about embedding a form in your website and you can just provide a link to the Mailchimp one. However, as soon as you decide you want to have more than one form… you’re stuck, because you can only have one core hosted form per list.

    If you want to send out a guide to those completing a form, which is different to those who enter your email system elsewhere… then you need a different form… and then end up with a different list for those people.Once you get your head around Groups & Audiences, and that there are so many other options for creating forms… then this issue becomes less of a challenge.

  2. Importing Data – bringing data from other systems without an understanding of how Mailchimp can be used to update information may mean users default to adding data to a new list. This usually happens where the user doesn’t understand the unsubscribe process and thus can get themselves into a bit of a pickle.
  3. Mailchimp Forms – One thing not many people realise is that if you use a Mailchimp form, whether it’s hosted, embedded, or even a pop-up or a landing page… you cannot update an existing record (check out this article on Mailchimp Forms).  So if you do want to use forms for lead magnets and want people be able to fill out more than one form… you can’t use Mailchimp ones.

    Fortunately, there are masses of 3rd party form tools out there which can do this for you and be used to update information in Mailchimp, which is why for many businesses I recommend moving away from Mailchimp created forms as soon as they can.

  4. You can’t use groups with your forms – Recently, when I was updating this very website I was looking at different options for the forms I wanted on the site.  The theme I used came with form elements “built in” and I thought it would be great… but alas it didn’t allow me to be able to use groups to control and track sign ups.

    When I create a form, I want to make sure as well as the information that is visible to the form completer (typically email, first name, etc), that I can capture into a group which form they filled in.  That way I can set up a triggered automation directly related to that form and be relevant and specific in my emails.  In my book if your form solution doesn’t allow for this… it’s not a great solution for you (and MailChimp).

Chances are, if you’ve got multiple audiences… one of these 4 reasons is why…

OK… so now you know why it has happened… why is it such a bad idea?

Well as promised, here are 11 reasons why having more than a single audience in Mailchimp is likely to be a bad thing for your email marketing (plus a couple of exceptions to the rule…yes, there are a couple of reasons for having more than one audience)

#1 - Managing Unsubscribes and Deletes becomes messy

The idea that someone unsubscribes from your audience once is kinda fundamental. If someone unsubscribes and then continues to receive emails from you… they’re probably not going to be happy (and the same if you delete them).

As such, technically, when someone unsubscribes from one of your audiences, if you’ve got more than one, then they should be unsubscribed from all of them – which requires you to manually go in and do this (or set up a funky link up in Zapier)….

It’s much better to have a single audience and then use Groups as a way of managing preferences and specific information about individuals on your audience.

#2 - It'll cost you more

Although most people who use Mailchimp are on the “free” level, if you’ve an audience of over 2,000 you’re probably paying for it… but if you have multiple audiences and the same people in more than one audience, you’re definitely paying over the odds.

Mailchimp charges based on active subscribers in your audience… and doesn’t account for the same email appearing in more than one audience…

So avoid paying over the odds and consolidate your data into one audience.

#3 - Automations are a pain

Automations are all connected to a specific audience… which means if you’ve got more than one audience, you can’t “daisy chain” automations and move people through a funnel.

A single audience makes it much easier to push people through specific email series depending on where they are in relation to your offer…

#4 - The Challenge of hunting for data

“Can you update my preferences”… we all get this request from contacts… and it becomes a logistical challenge to find the right audience they need to update if you’ve got more than one.

A single audience helps manage this much more effectively.

#5 - When 'Send to Everyone' means you need to send an email more than once

If you’re sending an email to everyone on your system, then you need to send more than one email because you can’t send an email to more than one audience.

A single audience means everyone gets the same email and no need to waste time duplicating.

#6 - When 'Send to Everyone' means you need to manually filter duplicates out

…so you duplicate the email because you’ve got more than one audience… but what about those emails who are in each of your audiences?

If you want to avoid sending more then one email to the same person, then technically you need to remove those people who are duplicates… which is a big pain in the butt.

A single audience avoids this problem completely… 

#7 - No single place to understand what your prospect has done

Understanding where prospects and customers are in their interaction with you is important if you are going to be able to market correctly.

The right message at the right time to the right person is dependent on knowing this information.  More than one audience… this is not easy to work out.

#8 - Keeping track of forms (and where they are connected to) becomes a pain

Knowing how to use forms effectively, is one of the biggest routes to success there is in Mailchimp… but if you’ve got more than one audience they can become a pain to manage.

…especially if you’ve got multiple forms and multiple audiences.

#9 - It's time consuming to move data around to get it in the right place

Moving data from one form to another is challenging – especially if data doesn’t match.

A single audience means that no one is in more than one place… and therefore no data to move around

PLUS… it removes the chance of data error.  The more typing you need to do, the more chances you’ve got of making an error

#10 - There's no way to automatically move people from one audience to another

If you’re going to take people on a journey via email, then you want to set up ‘stacked’ automations… i.e. when someone completes the first one, they’ll automatically go on to the next one.

With multiple audiences, that means moving people automatically from one audience to another… which (unless you’re using a tool like zapier) can’t be done.

#11 - You may not be GDPR compliant

…and to wrap up, and linking back to #1… when someone unsubscribes, in the past you just had the issue of working out how to remove them from multiples audiences… or maybe forgetting one.

Now, with GDPR, you really do need to remove them if they ask to be unsubscribed or deleted… and that becomes exponentially harder when you’ve got multiple audiences.

The exceptions (yes, there are a couple)


As you would expect, it’s not a complete washout… there are a few specific reasons why you would have more than one audience of data on your Mailchimp Account

  1. You’ve got different brands – this is not uncommon. Having multiple brands suggests that each brand should have a different audience, even if there are cross-overs in terms of email addresses.
  2. You’re lists are focused on different aspects – Having one audience for “customers” and one audience for “suppliers” is also another really good reason to have a Mailchimp account with more than one audience.

My main criteria for having more than one audience is “will I ever need to send the same email to everyone?” If the answer is yes… that’s an audience, if not, then you can split it up.


But I don’t want to change…


There are two main objections I hear from those who try and maintain multiple Mailchimp lists:

  1. My forms don’t let me add people to groups (as I mentioned earlier).  My response is always… get a better form solution!

    Forms are, in my mind, one of the most important aspects of making Mailchimp work effectively, they keep the wheel turning… and as such, don’t waste time on form solutions that won’t give you what you want, because there are many out there that will.

  2. I want to give people the chance to unsubscribe from “an aspect” of my business, but keep them on other aspects. This is usually from people who have related strands to their business and want to allow people to “opt out” from one, but be kept on another.

    My view is very clear – an unsubscribe is an unsubscribe.  If you have different brands, then it’s fine to have more than one audience, but otherwise when someone makes a choice to unsubscribe… they want to stop emails… period.

    If you want to give people the option to choose how they consume your information (e.g. weekly or fortnightly), then you can use the profile update page to allow them to adjust their settings and “opt out” of one or the other…


As you can see, I’m very passionate about the area of multiple audiences and how they are a serious drag on time, energy and your ability to be an effective email marketer.

My experience has repeatedly suggested that a single audience is the ONLY WAY to be successful with your email marketing in Mailchimp, and I’ve yet to see a convincing argument otherwise… but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

If you have more than one audience and believe it’s right for your business, feel free to comment below as I’d love the feedback!

Otherwise… just remember…

“Mo Audiences… Mo Problems”

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 degree's 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.