Mailchimp is a great resource for small businesses and one that we’ve used for email marketing for several years. But many small business owners overlook one of the most powerful features of Mailchimp — the ability to categorize your contacts into audience segments.

Segments allow you to group your contacts so that you can target your audience much more effectively. While you can use separate audiences to achieve a similar result, managing multiple lists can be a pain. If you have contacts that fit into more than one group then you have to make sure that they are in all of the appropriate audiences. And of course you have to maintain those lists to make sure they’re current.

Mailchimp Audience List
Mailchimp audience list

Segments make it super easy to build targeted e-mail campaigns from a single audience. Using segments also helps eliminate the risk of sending duplicate e-mails when communicating with your broader audience.

It’s super easy to automatically place your contacts into segments when they complete a form on your website. That’s right – after a little bit of simple setup you can just sit back and let your Mailchimp audience take care of itself. Ready to learn how? Read on!

Before you get started it’s probably a good idea to get up to speed on what segments are and how they work.

Collecting the Right Information

In order for segments to work, you’ll need to collect information from your audience. You’ll use that to organize your contacts. On our consultation form we collect a few basic pieces of information so that we can better understand our prospects’ needs.

If you have more than one form, look at all of them and consider the information you collect. Also think about your customers and what information that would help you better reach them. But don’t go nuts! People don’t like to fill out long forms, so think about that you really need and don’t ask for everything that you think you might ever need. It’s better to have some information than none because people won’t fill out your form.

While none of this is set in stone, it’s better to figure out as much as you can now. You can update your forms and Mailchimp settings later, but it’s easier to get it right (or as close to right as you can) from the start.

Once you’re ready to roll, just log into Mailchimp and choose the audience that you want to work with. From the menu, choose Setup -> Audience Fields and *|MERGE|* tags.

How to access Audience Fields
How to access Mailchimp Audience Fields

Then add the field(s) that you’d like to use to categorize your subscribers into segments. In the example below we’ve added several, including Newsletter, Interest Area, Budget, Action Source, and Company Name.

The Audience Fields list
The Audience fields list

Mapping Your Form Fields to Mailchimp

Now it’s time to set up our form. We’re not going to cover creating and managing Formidable Forms, but if you need help the Formidable Forms Knowledge Base has tons of great resources. And note that while we’re using Formidable Forms in our example (and we’re a big fan), there are other options that will allow you to achieve the same result.

Once your form is built open the form settings and choose the Add to Mailchimp action. You’ll see a list of all of the fields you created when setting up the form. For each field, simply choose the Mailchimp Audience Field that you want the form data to populate.

Configuring field mapping
Mapping the form field to Mailchimp

Save your changes and test your form; you should now see the data appear in Mailchimp when you submit the form.

Creating Your Segments

The last step is to create the segments so that can send e-mail to them. On your Mailchimp Audience page, choose New Segment. Select the conditions you’d like to use to create your segment; for example, you might choose to create a segment for customers who have not yet subscribed to your newsletter so that you can send them signup offers.

Creating an audience segment
Creating an audience segment

Advanced Mode

Here’s an advanced technique that you can use to categorize your Mailchimp audience into segments using hidden form fields. This is useful if you’re using promotional landing pages or other types of signup forms and you want to keep track of how people signed up so that you can better target them in subsequent communications. This is especially helpful for drip campaigns.

The process is almost identical to that described above, with one small twist. When you create your form, simply add a hidden field to your form and assign it a value. Because hidden fields are not displayed to users, it’s up to you to provide that entry. Make it something meaningful; in the example below we’ve used the name of the landing page campaign.

Adding a hidden form field
Adding a hidden form field

Now you just need to map the field to the associated audience field using the same process outlined above.

And that’s all there is to it. As always, we love feedback so be sure to share questions, comments and suggestions with us.

Matt Rife

About Matt Rife

Matt has worked on both sides of the tech/design divide. He started his career in IT and worked as a sysadmin and business analyst for more than 10 years before discovering the wonderful world of design. Now he mostly does UX design while dabbling in code and operating systems in his spare time.