Build Better Mailchimp Contact Forms to Personalize Emails

Building emails your subscribers will want to read starts with collecting detailed data in your signup forms, then using that to personalize each message with their interests.

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If there’s one good thing about algorithmic social networks feeds, it’s that you see more posts that interest you. If you enjoy rock climbing, you’ll see more updates from your gym about bouldering and fewer about yoga. Ideally, anyhow.
It’s not so great as a business owner though. You have to trust the algorithm and hope your posts don’t get drowned out in the crowd. That’s partly what’s driven the resurgence in email newsletters. Inboxes might overflow, but at least your email has an equal opportunity to get noticed.
And if you personalize emails, your newsletter will have a much better chance of getting read every time. Here’s how to take a page from the social network playbook and build customized emails specific to your followers’ interests, using Fillout forms and Mailchimp dynamic content.

Build Mailchimp forms to tag and segment subscribers

It starts with data collection. Alongside its core email tools, Mailchimp also includes a basic signup form tool to gather names, emails, and the like. It’s enough to get your first subscribers, but not enough to personalize messages.
Individualized details about your subscribers. Their preferences. Their exercise routine, for a gym or sports store. Their favorite food, for a restaurant or store.
You can’t gather all of that data in Mailchimp forms. Not easily, anyhow.
Mailchimp forms include every field in your Audience database, whether relevant or not. You can hide fields, but if you delete them, Mailchimp will delete that field from your database. Mailchimp forms also can’t tag contacts based on their responses, or show follow up questions based on previous responses. And since Mailchimp automations typically start when a contact is tagged, you’ll have to manually tag people who sign up with your Mailchimp form to start automations.
A better option is to use Fillout to build your forms and add data to Mailchimp.
Fillout forms can dynamically show fields based on prior field input
Fillout forms can dynamically show fields based on prior field input
First up, you can show fields dynamically based on prior responses. Your gym or fitness-focused newsletter signup could ask respondents their favorite workout activity. If they choose running, the form could ask if they’re training for a 5K or a full marathon—but hide that question if they’re only interested in swimming.
In Fillout, add the questions, then select the optional field and in the right-hand column choose the Logic options. Set it to show when the prior question contains the correct answer—so when the “favorite workout” option contains “running,” in this example.
Add the remaining questions your signup form requires, manually or using Fillout’s AI-powered form builder to quickly add name, email, and other standard fields.
Tag Mailchimp subscribers based on what they entered in Fillout forms
Tag Mailchimp subscribers based on what they entered in Fillout forms
Then, time to connect your form to Mailchimp. Click Fillout’s Integrations tab, connect your account, then choose your form’s email field to link up with Mailchimp’s Email address field. Do the same with the Audience fields, matching up names and other info to their Mailchimp counterparts.
Now for the tags—the data crucial to building individualized emails. Choose a tag from Mailchimp (or go back to Mailchimp and add appropriate tags, if you haven’t already), then add conditional logic to watch your Fillout fields for the required data. For workouts, we’d watch the favorite workout field for running and link that to a running tag in Mailchimp. Repeat the process to pair up your form data with tags.
It’s a bit of upfront work but it's more than you can do with Mailchimp forms and it will pay dividends when creating personalized content.

Create dynamic Mailchimp emails with tags

Now for the fun part: Building personalized emails.
Mailchimp includes a few tools for personalization:
  • Merge fields like *|NAME|* to include names, dates, and other personal details in an email. They’re how you can start emails with Hi NAME!, with each recipient’s name auto-included.
  • Segments to send emails to all subscribers with specific tags
  • Dynamic Content powered by groups to show specific content in emails depending on which group a subscriber is in
Mailchimp Segments let you email a list of people based on their tags
Mailchimp Segments let you email a list of people based on their tags
Segments are easy to add to Mailchimp. Once you’ve tagged your subscribers, open your Segments tab, add a new Segment, give it a name, then have Mailchimp watch for people with a specific tag. Now, you can start a new email campaign targeting only the runners in your audience, or drill down further and only message those who plan to run a marathon.
Dynamic content in Mailchimp requires groups—which Mailchimp can automatically add from tags with a customer journey workflow
Dynamic content in Mailchimp requires groups—which Mailchimp can automatically add from tags with a customer journey workflow
Dynamic content is a bit trickier to set up but worth the trouble. You can set any bit of content in your emails—images, text, CTA buttons—to dynamically show to certain subscribers. That way, your weekly promotions email could tell your runner subscribers about an upcoming marathon, while mentioning that the pool is closed for maintenance on Friday to your swimmers.
First though, you’ll have to get your subscribers in groups with a Mailchimp automation. Create a group and subgroups in Mailchimp—for example, perhaps a Sport group with running, swimming, and your other sub-groups underneath.
Then create a new automation journey. In the workflow, have Mailchimp watch for subscribers with a specific tag, then add a Group/Ungroup action and have Mailchimp add them to the group you want (so, those with the running tag get added to a Running group, say). It’s a bit of duplication of effort, but Mailchimp does it for you automatically. While you’re at it, you could have Mailchimp send a personalized welcome message to everyone who gets added to that group if you want, too.
Show or hide parts of your email based on what subscribers choose, with Mailchimp Dynamic Content
Show or hide parts of your email based on what subscribers choose, with Mailchimp Dynamic Content
Now it’s time to personalize your email campaigns. Build out your email newsletter as normal, and include everything. Start with a general message for everyone, perhaps, and add sections for each of your sub-groups, too. Once you’re done, click the sections you only want to show to certain people, and in the left sidebar select the Dynamic Content option.
Here, tell Mailchimp to only show this block to people in a specific group. Choose your group name—Sport, say, for our example email—then choose your sub-group—Running, and confirm. Repeat that for every other section you want to show only to specific people.
Now whenever you send your newsletter, the runners will see details about the marathon, the swimmers will see the pool notice, and the triathletes will see both messages.

Build Mailchimp emails your readers will want to open

With those tools in your email workflow, you can start building emails that are far more likely to get opened and read.
It all starts with your forms. Use Fillout to gather as details as info as you want about your subscribers. Sign up for a free Fillout trial, if you haven’t already, for unlimited free forms and a thousand responses per month.
Then experiment. Add merge tags to use that data to customize emails with subscribers’ names and interests. Segment people in Mailchimp based on their tags, so you can send emails to the people who care the most. Have people opt-in to the emails you want, then use those tags and segments to send product updates to some people, company news to others, and so on. And then go deeper into dynamic content, so each email is more like a social network feed, customized to show exactly what people want to see most—and nothing else.
Image credit: Lego photo by Mourizal Zativa via Unsplash
Matthew Guay

Written by

Matthew Guay

Matthew Guay is a writer and co-founder of Pith and Pip. He previously was founding editor of Capiche and Zapier’s senior writer and editor.

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