How to Create Interest Lists in Mailchimp

People love being able to set up interest lists in ConvertKit. But it's just as possible to create interest lists in Mailchimp! Here's how to segment your email list by interest.

Around the blogosphere, it seems like everyone is getting jacked up about ConvertKit. And trust me, I get it. It seems like an awesome email service provider.

But holy cow, it can be so expensive, especially for those who are just starting out and have limited to no budget.

So, I’m here to help you learn how to hack Mailchimp to get similar features as ConvertKit without the hefty price tag. Some might call this using Mailchimp’s features, but I digress.

Today, we’re talking about interest lists. They’re segments of your master email list that designate your subscribers’ interests. So, if you’re a food blogger, you might have interests lists for vegetarian recipes, Italian recipes, and kitchen tips. I might have interest lists for blogging on a budget, graphic design 101, and being a feminist business owner.

But why the heck would you want these? And more importantly, how do you set them up?

Why do you need interest lists?

There are so many advantages to interest lists.

First of all, it helps you deliver the most relevant content to your subscribers. So, if you’ve got a plethora of recipes on your blog, but you can designate that these subscribers only want vegetarian recipes, you’re not filling their inbox with beef burgers and bacon-lovers’ pizza.

This means you’re less likely to see unsubscribes. Think about it: people are subscribed to your email list because they like your content and feel like it’s relevant to them. Interest lists allow you to hyper-focus that content to what’s really relevant to them, and makes them feel like they really get you.

This leads into a second benefit of interest lists: they help you sell things. If I were to add an interest group all about organizing your blog and then decided to create a course all about organizing your blogging shit, I’d be able to sell more heavily to the people in that interest group. I know it’s already a priority for them, so they’re more interested to buy.

And finally, interest lists let you know what topics are the most popular with your audience. If I’ve got 50 people signed up for my coding 101 interest list, and only 5 people signed up for my blogging on a budget interest list, I know which topic is more relevant to my readers. This can in tern help me brainstorm content and know which areas to focus on for infoproducts!

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So basically, there are so many reasons to start interest lists on your blog. The biggest thing that keeps people from doing it is the tech side. It’s confusing, it’s daunting, and it seems like it can get too big to manage quite easily.

So, let’s break all this down and make it less confusing, daunting, and out of control, shall we?

How do you set up interest lists in Mailchimp?

Depending on how you set up your blog (and you personal preferences), there are three main ways you can set up interest lists in Mailchimp. Let’s go through all of them!

First of all, you’re going to want to set up your main email list, and then set up groups for each interest. I’ve talked before about how to set up groups in Mailchimp to send out content upgrades. Use that tutorial, but instead of content upgrades, label it Interest Lists, and create a group for any and all interest groups you’d want to have in your email list.

1 | Allow them to check a box with their interest.

First, on your initial sign-up form, you could have checkboxes with all of your interest lists and allow them to manually check which topics they’d like to hear about. They can check as many or as few as they’d like. When they submit the form, they would automatically join the list groups associated with that interest.

Just make sure that when you’re setting up the groups you’re selecting “as checkboxes” under “How should we show group options on your signup form?”

This is really easy to do. You set up your sign-up form, create the interest lists in Mailchimp, and you’re done. With the exception of sending out curated content to those interest lists, of course.

There are two downsides to this option, though.

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First, the more work your audience needs to do to sign up for your email list, the less likely they are to actually do it. So, by adding this extra option for them, they’re going to see a longer form and feel as though the time commitment is too great to sign up (even if it really only adds five extra seconds).

Second, it can be seen as tacky. People want things to be clean and simple, and making them choose their interests isn’t nearly as impressive as using crazy digital magic to figure it out. But then you just have to decide: is that really important? Will that greatly impact your brand if people see it as a little tacky?

If you prefer to be a little bit more secretive with your interest lists in Mailchimp, you’ll want to stick with one of the next two options instead.

2 | Sign them up based on content upgrades.

If you’ve already got groups set up based on content upgrades, you can use the system you’ve already got in place. Instead of one big group called Content Upgrades, have master groups for things like “blogging,” “design,” and “feminism,” and have the content upgrades for each topic within that.

The advantage? One less step for you. You’re already setting up these groups for content upgrades, so why invent the wheel? When you want to send out an email about a particular topic, just select the content upgrades that are relevant to that topic.

The disadvantage? It’s not as clear-cut. You’re going to need to remember the topic of each content upgrade in order to send out content for them. Plus, what happens if a content upgrade falls within both “blogging” and “design”?

Your system is going to get a little clunky. Doable, but clunky.

3 | Have them click on a link if they want updates on a particular interest.

And finally, the option I’m currently using. It’s the most manual, but if you have a small list like I do (500 subscribers or less) it’s not too terrible to do.

One of the things I really like about ConvertKit is enabling people to click on a link to join a particular interest group. It’s super easy, which makes me way more likely to do it. Again, even if I’m interested, if it takes too much effort, I’m not going to do it.

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So, how can we replicate this in Mailchimp for free? Simply create a landing page (I used Marianne’s tutorial for a fake Leadpages landing page and just tweaked it a bit) that says something along the lines of “Thanks! You’ve been added to the list!”

Then, in your email, link to that page. I like to say something like “Click here to be notified first about my new course” or “If you’re really here for tips on how to blog on a budget, click here.” Make the entire sentence a link.

After a week or so, go into the report for the email by going to Reports and clicking on the corresponding campaign. You should find a spot that says Total Clicks, and the number is a link. When you click on it, you’ll see a list of all of the links included in the email, as well as the unique and total clicks for each.

Find the appropriate link and click on the number of unique clicks. Here, you’ll see a list of the email addresses who clicked on that particular link. Simply look up their profiles in your Mailchimp account and manually add them to the interest list group!

Again, this is the most manual, and therefore is really only worth it if you’ve got 500 or fewer subscribers. Or a lot of time on your hands / a VA you don’t know what to do with. But it’s the least amount of work for your subscribers, so they’re more likely to join your interest group.

There are additional ways to add people to interest lists. However, all of the ones I’ve found involve some sort of payment. It might be $29/year, it might be $29/mo, but it’s still going to cost money.

If you’re really trying to blog on a budget, these are the best ways to have interest lists in Mailchimp without spending a dime!