MailChimp 2 – setting up your list and importing contacts

17 Feb

Welcome to Lesson 2 in my MailChimp series. Following on from MailChimp 1 – Signing up, this time we’re going to learn how to set up the list of people to send your newsletter to.

There are two ways to populate your list:

1. Import members from a previous mailing list (making sure that you have their explicit approval and permission to send out marketing materials to them)

2. Offer people a sign-up form via which they can choose to sign up for your newsletter.

I prefer Option 2, but I’m going to go through option 1 with you in this article then write about setting up a sign-up form next time (if you’re reading this day by day, you will only have to wait two days, don’t worry!).

Why do I need to create a list in my MailChimp account?

Put simply, you need to give MailChimp a list of people to send your newsletters to. It’s as simple as that, and is the second stage in signing up for an account.

Don’t worry if you don’t have an email list to import – you can start off with an empty “list” and a sign-up form that will fill it for you.

How do I create my MailChimp contacts list?

When you sign in to MailChimp, you will find Create a List on your front screen, but at any time, you can click on Lists at the top to get into the Lists area:

MailChimp lists area

Once you’re in the Lists area, if you have any lists set up, they will show here, and if you are going in to do this for the first time, you will see that You have no Lists, and be handily pointed to the Create List button:

MailChimp create list

Once you’ve pressed Create List, you will find yourself in a screen that allows you to create a list. Note here that you can create more than one list, for example, maybe one for customer newsletters and one for general or prospect ones, or I might create one for my social media tips readers and one about my books. For now, we’ll just create one called “My Company Newsletter”.

You can fill in the list title and your email address to show in the “from” section of your readers’ email clients, and you will want to pop a name in to show who it comes from – I always advise using a real, human name, not just a company name.

Remind people how they got on your list gives you a place in which to reassure people that they have signed up for this newsletter and they are not being spammed (you’ll see that I’ve filled this in on the final screenshot – it won’t let you proceed if you don’t).

MailChimp list details

Then we reach the Contact information area. MailChimp is gratifyingly careful to stop you spamming, and this is an important area. If you click on Why is this necessary, you will see this explanatory screen all about spam laws:

4 why they need address

Note here that I haven’t put in a home address, because this is an example, but you should include your full business address here. A disclaimer for anyone who’s on my own list – I haven’t got my exact, pinpointed address on here, because I work from home. But if you’re running a business with a business address, you should include your full address. MailChimp pulls this information from your sign-up information, so you can see there’s an Edit button to allow you to change this if you need to.

Scrolling down to the bottom of the screen. We have an opportunity here to choose how we see our sign-up notifications. I’ve ticked one-by-one because I want to be notified of sign-ups and unsubscribes as they happen, but as your list gets busier and more active, and especially if you don’t have an action you need to perform when someone signs up, you might want to go onto a daily summary.

MailChimp list details

Time to press the Save button – and now you’re returned to the List screen for your list “My Company Newsletter”, which now usefully tells you that you have no subscribers:

MailChimp list subscribers

You can see that under the You have no subscribers message there are two links to click: import subscribers or setup a signup form (or as I prefer to say it, set up a sign-up form). We’re going to learn how to import subscribers now, so we’ll click on that link:

MailChimp import subscribers

The Import Subscribers function allows you to import from a huge range of sources, including all sorts of programs that exist to capture subscriber lists. You can create a list in Excel or export a sub-section of your email list into a .csv or .txt file, or just connect to your email program.

I’m not going to go into detail on all of those options here, that’s something that’s separate from MailChimp (Google or YouTube is your friend if you want to know how to do these things) and I’m really advising newbies to create a sign-up form here. We’ll take a quick look at what happens when you import your email contacts, then next time we’ll do it the sign-up form way.

Here, I’m going to choose Import from Google Contacts:

MailChimp import subscribers

Note here the message from MailChimp – people who you add in this way are not going to receive confirmation emails that you’ve signed them up for your newsletter. When you use a sign-up form, they will receive a confirmation and an extra step to confirm they want to receive the newsletter, which is another reason I prefer that method.

MailChimp also warns you that you must already have permission from all people on your email list to send them newsletters. Do you have their explicit permission? If not, it’s best not to use this method.

9 import subscribers

You can see from the above screenshot that clicking on Authorize Connection will take you through to the service in question, in this case your Gmail, and will ask you to log in in order to populate the list. This will also happen if you click on any of the other buttons with service names on them (if you click on excel or .csv, it will just ask you to go and find the file). I didn’t go through with this because I didn’t want to import people who hadn’t given permission into MailChimp, but it will walk you through the steps to import the contacts and end up with a list.

What you really want to do is create a sign-up form, right? If you’re reading this when it’s published, you’ll need to wait two days for that (if you’re a new visitor, do add this blog to your RSS reader or click for email subscriptions). If you’re reading this after 19 February, you’ll be able to click here to find out how to create a sign-up form.

So, in this article, we’ve learned how to access the Lists part of MailChimp and how to import contacts. The other MailChimp articles will be listed below as I add them to the blog. You can find a growing set of articles on blogging, social media MailChimp etc. in my resource guide. Do click on the share buttons below or comment if you found this article interesting or useful!

Other relevant posts on this blog:

MailChimp 1 – Signing up

MailChimp 3 – setting up a sign-up form

MailChimp 4 – setting up your newsletter template

How to avoid two common MailChimp errors


Posted by on February 17, 2015 in Business, Marketing, New skills, Newsletters


Tags: , , ,

13 responses to “MailChimp 2 – setting up your list and importing contacts

  1. nathan

    October 24, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    My sign up form will ask only for a subscriber’s email. However, I will eventually want more information from my subscribers.

    Does mailchimp allow me to create an email with a link to an extra form where I can gather this extra info? I do not have a website so will the form have it’s own URL? I have read that emails embedded into with forms will get put in the spam box…so I would like the form to have it’s own URL…is this possible?


    • Liz Dexter

      October 25, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      You can add as many questions and options to your sign up form as you want – personally, I would do it all on one form, as I don’t know if people will want to go off to an extra form to fill that in, to be honest. Also, if you’re raising awareness of or selling a product or service, it’s a good idea to have a simple website, even just a one-page one, so people can find you (you can use the free version of WordPress for this; see my posts on that topic). Then you could set up a form on there. I think that an email with more questions is not likely to get much response, although I could be wrong of course. Hope this helps!


  2. Ronnie

    March 16, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Good Morning,
    As a 78-year-old Man I have difficulty understanding mail chimp! I must be perfectly honest with you I have spent a couple of days trying to import my customers, incidentally I have a small website selling fishing baits, and I have quite a few customers asking for a sale. I can of course reduce the items on each page but I’m sure that will be very monotonous. It’s importing my customers that is the problem. I have read repeatedly people saying I need a CSV file but not knowing what to do to create one is a problem I wonder if you could spare a couple of minutes of your valuable time and point me in the right direction so that I can import my customers so that I can make up a sale for my website. Originally my website had the facilities to write to all my customers with a newsletter but since the upgrade from my web designer I am told to go to mail chimp. Could you help? Ronnie


    • Liz Dexter

      March 17, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Hello Ronnie, can you tell me what format you have your customer list in at the moment? Is it in an excel spreadsheet, for example, or just a list in Word, or in some part of your website? Once you can tell me that, I might be able to help further. Feel free to email me at liz AT libroediting DOT com for more help.


  3. Htranadmin (tom Clements)

    June 11, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    How do I edit my list? I have 276 names that I have imported but I see some last names as first names, no names as I only had saved their email address and some mislabeled email addresses.


    • Liz Dexter

      June 13, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Go into List and bring up the list you want to edit. Click on the person’s email address and you should get the option to edit it. I hope that helps!


  4. carrie ungerman

    April 25, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Hello. I’m having trouble with my contacts. I have a master excel spread sheet with my addresses formatted in the columns that MailChimp wants. The first time I imported it, it worked well. As I update my master list I reimport it knowing that it only imports the new ones. This also worked the first few times. I added significantly more names to my spreadsheet, but this time in MailChimp, my list is scrambled and not in alphabetical order.
    Any tips?


    • Liz Dexter

      April 26, 2019 at 5:24 am

      Thanks for your question, Carrie. I’m afraid this is outside my experience or knowledge, so I’m unable to help you directly. However, people do sometimes reply to questions on my blog even when I can’t, so I’ll leave it up here. In the meantime, I’d suggest contacting MailChimp support.


      • Carrie

        April 26, 2019 at 6:24 am

        Thank you. I will try that next.

        Liked by 1 person


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