How To Import Contacts To Mailchimp
In this in-depth MailChimp tutorial, updated October 2020 and accounting for recent changes to the MailChimp Platform, I'm going to show you how to import contacts to MailChimp using CSV file import. It is a simple process, a little technical, and requires some know-how of how to create a CSV file.
A Quick Note Before We Begin:
If you choose to import contacts to MailChimp without their explicit permission, it is not only poor business practice, professionally unethical and in violation of MailChimp’s Acceptable Use Policy, in violation of international privacy laws including GDPR, it's also a shitty thing to do. So if, like me, integrity and honesty is important to you and your business, then don’t do it. Adding people to your email audience just to get numbers is marketing at it’s worst and completely counterproductive, because people will resent you and your brand as a result. If you’re even remotely interested in building an audience that supports your business then you’ll care about ethical marketing.
Here’s some light reading for you on the subject;
So with that little detail out of the way, let's get cracking.
How You Build Your MailChimp Audience Ethically
The thing about building a strong email audience is that there are no shortcuts. You must be prepared to put in the work required to build your audience online. You can either do it by organic means through content creation, or you can pay for advertising. Sometimes both together work well.
But whatever traffic generation method you choose, you must take the time to understand the needs of your audience. Failing that you will waste countless days, months and even years going down the wrong road (like I did).
Start small, be humble and open-minded. Don’t rush it. Crawl, then walk, and when you begin to click with people, when what you’re doing seems to resonate, pick up the tempo.
The Bad News
The bad news is that this process could take quite a while – 2 years is not an unusual amount of time to build your email list to a reasonable level whereby it supports your business.
The interim is where you test and build out your offer. It’s in this place we remain relatively unknown. It's where we do the hard work. It may not be 2 years for you, it might be six months. If it is shorter than 2 years, then that’s a bonus.
However, the interim period requires focus on the work for the work's sake. If we have our eyes on the prize, so to speak, then we have our eyes off the work and quality will suffer.
So settle in, develop a process, and do the work.
The Good News
Play the long game, pursue quality, slow cooking so to speak, and your open rates on your email list will be high. An open rate under 16% is low. MailChimp reports an average open rate for their millions of users at 20.81%. Lower open rates are what you can expect from adding people to your list without their permission.
What you’re looking for is 30% or 40%, and you can achieve that if you play the long game. You might even be looking at 60% or 70% open rate on campaigns if you really focus on quality. Also, you don’t need a big list. A small list with high open rates is exactly what you're after.
In time, your MailChimp audience members will grow. They will admire and support your work. So for now, subscribe for weekly updates and follow what I’ll show you here. I’m on the slow and steady buzz and I won’t send you astray.
Now, down to business…let me show you how to import contacts to MailChimp.
How To Import Contacts To Mailchimp
A couple of things before we start…
- Your contacts list will need to be in CSV file format. Find out more about CSV files for MailChimp here. I’m using Google Sheets to modify the CSV file for this demo. Where ever you grab your contacts list from, make sure the file is in .csv format. You can use Excel or Open Office to edit your CSV file.
- The contacts I will import for this tutorial is a former MailChimp Audience that I downloaded earlier. Yours may be from an email list held with Infusionsoft or Aweber that you’ve decided to move. As noted above, I discourage you to add contacts from Gmail or LinkedIn who have not previously voluntarily joined your list.
- The MailChimp account I am using is a free account I use for demo purposes.
Step 1: Go to Audiences in Mailchimp
First, log into your MailChimp account and click on Audience
If you are a first time user, you’ll see the following message in fig. 1.
Step 2: Create A MailChimp Audience
Time to create an Audience
Step 3: Add Audience Details
The following window will open, inviting you to create a Audience in MailChimp. Add the details as shown in fig. 4.
- Add an audience name that reflects your business newsletter
- Add a default from email address. This will show up in your recipient's inbox.
- Add the default from name. This will show up in your recipient's inbox
- Customise the domain if it's available in your account. (Learn more about setting up custom domains here). This helps verify your identity in the recipient's email client, such as Gmail and Yahoo.
- Finally, add a piece of text that tells recipients why they are receiving the email from you. Be friendly here rather than stuffy and business-like. Remember, you're communicating with humans, so be human.
Step 4: Edit Contact Info & Other Audience Settings
On the same page, edit your contact information where necessary (fig. 5) so that recipients can contact you. Then adjust your Form Settings (fig. 6) by checking the relevant boxes. I recommend clicking “Enable double optin” because it ensures a higher quality subscriber.
To receive notifications when subscribers join your audience, click the relevant boxes. However, I'd advise leaving these unchecked, especially if you're receiving many sign-ups per day. But it's up to you.
When you’re happy, click Save
Next, you’ll arrive at the following screen (fig 7.) inside your newly created MailChimp Audience. On the same screen, click on Import contacts to add your contacts (fig. 8).
Step 5: Uploading Your CSV File
Next, choose file upload (fig. 9) as your method and import your contacts.
Step 6: Editing Your CSV File As Necessary
Although this next bit is not essential, for beginners I recommend you follow it. We’re going to leave the MailChimp window open and go to the Excel or Google CSV file that you intend to import.
To make things simpler for the next part we’re going to remove all unnecessary columns from the CSV file. Without doing this, our job syncing details will be over complicated.
IMPORTANT: If you need other data imported such as IP address, geographic address, birthday, phone number, company etc. leave these columns intact in the following step.
So, open the CSV file that you intend to import to MailChimp (I’m using Google Sheets).
Keep columns A, B & C (email address, First Name, Last Name). Delete all other unnecessary columns.
When you are happy with the changes click; file, Download as, .csv current sheet to download to your computer (Fig. 11).
Step 7: Select Your File For Upload to MailChimp
Now, go back to MailChimp and click on “continue to upload” from step 6 (Fig. 9) and you'll see the following window (Fig. 12). Now you’re ready to upload the CSV file.
Click browse and locate the file on your computer. Probably in your downloads folder.
Step 8: Continue To Organise
Your CSV file has been uploaded, and now it's time to organise the data. Click Continue to Organise to proceed (fig. 14).
Step 9: Organising Your Contacts
In the next screen (fig. 15), you'll need to select your new subscribers' status. This will most often be “subscribed” so select that from the drop-down.
Then check the box, “update any existing contacts”.
Click, “Continue to Tag”
Now you'll need to pick a Tag for your subscribers. choose one that reflects the nature of their relationship with your business. For example; if you are a dog groomer, these contacts might be “Large Dog Owners”. Here I chose “customer”.
When you're happy, click “Continue to Match”.
In the next screen, you'll see that MailChimp has seen and recognises the three columns from your CSV file;
A – Email Address
B – First Name
C – Last Name
This is what you want.
Had you left all other columns in place instead of deleting them, you would have had to match each of these new columns in MailChimp. You can also choose not to import the data. Either way, it can be a bit confusing for beginners, so that’s why I told you to delete them in step #6.
Where columns are not matched, you'll see the following highlighted in red.
When you are happy that all data is matched in MailChimp from your import file, click “Finalise Import” to review your import.
Step 10: Import Successful
Happy days! Your list of contacts is now successfully imported to your MailChimp Audience.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully added your contacts to your newly created MailChimp Audience and you're almost ready to send them your first campaign. But before you do, you'll need to create an email template.
Check out, How To Create An Email Template In MailChimp
I know I said it a few times in this post, but I want to stress again…
Please don’t sacrifice your personal and professional reputation by adding people to your audience who have not specifically requested it. It’s a really poor show to do this.
Take the time to attract the right people to your audience by offering them value. This is the foundation on which your business will be built.
Don’t be a spam head – Stay in touch with new articles and tutorial videos here on ChimpTutorials to discover ethical and reliable ways to grow your email audience.