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Don't get lost in the 'How' - Step 2: Storage

Why planning is so important when you start stepping up your MailChimp game

by | Aug 20, 2018

This is the 3rd of a 5 part series on MailChimp planning. You can read the first post here, and then about sendingcapture and the conclusion.
Alternatively, you can get a download of all 5 posts as a easily readable pdf by clicking Here.

Any good system needs fuel to run… the right type of fuel

I’m not particular practical when it comes to stuff around the garden or house. Put me in front of a computer and within a few minutes I’m running at a high speed.  Put a paintbrush or a hammer in my hand… not so much.

And I definitely do not have green fingers!

Which is unfortunate as we’ve got a massive garden and over the summer I lose many an hour trecking up and down the garden with the lawnmower.

Fortunately, it’s a nice petrol lawnmower, which makes quick work of our expanse of green stuff (or yellow stuff as it is in the moment in the midst of an extremely dry summer).

Unfortunately, I’m consistently getting the wrong mixture of fuel when I have to top up the tank on the mower… and it coughs and splutters and starts to struggle.

…and it’s this where lots of people struggle with their MailChimp activity. They’ve got a clear objective and a list of what emails they want to send… it’s just they then struggle fuelling that objective with the right information… and their system starts to cough and splutter.

So here, in the third part of this “planning your email system” series, I’ll cover the area of what information you need to store in MailChimp and how to store it. 

(You can read the previous post about sending here)


Dull but essential

So now that you’ve considered the emails that you will want to send, you need to make sure you’ve got the data in the system to allow you to do this.

And unless you’re a data freak, chances are this is the bit you’ll be least interested in…

…but as with most things, it is the thing that’s very easy to get wrong and if you do, can cripple your entire system.

When it comes to data, there are two things you need to consider.

  1. What data do you actually need? – which is usually driven by what emails you want to send
  2. How will you store it? – which is all about how MailChimp stores data (and because every Email Marketing System (EMS) manages data in a slightly different way.

Start with working out what data you actually need and then work out how you’ll store it to allow you to send the emails that you want to send.

  • What information do you REALLY need?
    • Almost every time I sit down to look at someone’s data in MailChimp, there’s information in there that they don’t need.
    • It could be information that’s “nice to have” e.g. phone numbers, that they shouldn’t be storing in MailChimp, or information that is no longer relevant.
    • You should only be capturing information that you are going to use. If you’re not going to use it for emailing… what’s the point of having it stored (MailChimp is NOT a CRM system and although there’s nothing stopping you from using it as one, it’s not something I recommend).
    • In my book, information falls into one of these categories:
      • Core – information you can’t live with out… so in that sense, their email address!!!
      • Personalisation – information that you are going to use to ‘personalise’ an email – First Name is the most obvious.
      • Reference – Information you’re not actually going to use in an email, but will help you identify people. Last Name (and in a B2B environment, Company) are good examples of things you’d like to know, but are unlikely to actually use in an email
      • Segmentation – Information that allows you to segment people into groups. e.g. What they are interested in? or Whether they are a customer or not.
      • Activity – Information about how they have interacted with previous emails. i.e. opens, clicks etc.
    • Knowing what emails you want to send (the Who, Why and What) will underpin your choice of what information you need, but don’t fall into the trap of capturing too much information.
  • How will you store it in MailChimp?
    • Knowing how you are going to use the data also impacts on how you store it – and every email system works slightly differently.
    • This is not the place to dive deep into how MailChimp stores data, which is a big subject in it’s own right (here’s a good place to start), but understanding if your data needs to be stored in Lists, Groups, Segments or Fields really matters.
    • Here’s a few things to consider:
      • Understand how many lists you need (hopefully, it’s just the one).
      • Know what data goes into a field or a group (or even a segment or tag)
        • e.g. an automation can be triggered by someone joining a list, group or a field change, but not by a change in segment or tag.
        • if it’s an OR piece of data (i.e. male OR female, 25-35 OR 36-45) or is specific about the individual (name, address, etc) then it’s a field.
        • If it’s an EITHER/OR (i.e. cars and/or bikes, fish and/or meat) or is something that can be applied to several people it’s a group… and I then use Segments/Tags to analyse the data at a deeper level.

This step is usually the one that trips everyone up the most – because it’s about the language of MailChimp. Once you speak it, you’ll be fine, but it does take a little time to get your head around it.

…but once you do… you’ll have made a huge step in the right direction.


Once you know the Fuel you need… you actually need to go get it!

Knowing the information you need and how you plan to store it in MailChimp is a big step in the right direction.

…but you’ve still got to actually get the information into the system… and that is the fourth part of this email series – i.e. Where do you actually get the information and how does you get it into MailChimp without killing yourself.

Which will be covered in the next article in this series.

This is the 3rd of a 5 part series on MailChimp planning. You can read the first post here, and then about sendingcapture and the conclusion.
Alternatively, you can get a download of all 5 posts as a easily readable pdf by clicking Here.
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% geek, 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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