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If you want to grow your email list, it’s absolutely critical that you offer content upgrades to your readers.
You’ve probably been told that the best way to send content upgrades is through programs like Leadpages and ConvertKit, right? While these tools are great, they’re really expensive. We’re talking $25/mo and $29/mo each, minimum.
Yeah, no thanks.
I’ve talked before about how to give out content upgrades fo’ free, but that involves a redirection away from your blog post. Not ideal, but it’s doable when you’ve got a nonexistent budget.
So, what if you wanted to send content upgrades with MailChimp, so it sends the new subscriber an email? Luckily, it’s 100% possible to send content upgrades with MailChimp, and as long as you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, it’s free!
Set Up Your Audience
First things first, let’s set up your list! In MailChimp, it’s called an Audience. I have one audience called And Possibly Dinosaurs Newsletter that I use for content upgrade deliveries and newsletters each week.
You could create a new audience for each content upgrade, but then you’d have to send out 50 of different copies of your newsletter if you had 50 different content upgrades. So, you want to use the same audience for everything, but you still need something to trigger an automated email. To do this, you’ll use groups! You can create one group per content upgrade, so a) MailChimp can trigger the correct email to go out to your new subscriber, but also b) so you can see what content upgrades are the most popular.
To do this, simply click on the “Audience” link at the top of the page and select the grey “Create Audience” button. If you don’t see this, it’s because you already have a list! If you want to create a new one, go to where it says Current Audience and click on the drop-down menu. From there click View Audiences, and you’ll be redirected to a page where you can create a new audience!
NOTE: You used to have to upgrade your account to get automations, but you don’t have to any more, so you can do this with the Forever Free account until you get more than 2,000 subscribers!
Create Your Group(s)
Once you’ve got your audience set up, we’ll need to create some groups for your content upgrades!
At the top of the page, go to Audience, then find the drop-down to the right that says Manage Audience. Select Manage Contacts from the drop-down. On the new page, scroll down and click on Groups. Before you can create a group, you’ll need to create a section that organizes your groups.
To create this section, click on Create Groups. Title it whatever you want (I simply call mine Content Upgrades. The simpler the better, in my opinion.) Then, create as many Groups as you have content upgrades for. (If you only have one, simply click on the minus sign next to the extras to delete them.)
You’ll also want to check the box that says “Don’t show these groups on my signup form.” This will be something we use behind the scenes, so we don’t want it showing up on your forms.
Here’s what it should look like (replacing Content Upgrade 1, Content Upgrade 2, and Content Upgrade 3 with the titles of your content upgrades).
Once you’ve got it filled in, hit save! You’ll see a message appear asking if you want to import subscribers to your new group, but we don’t want to do that, so simply click “Done For Now”!
Create a “Joins List Group” Automation
Now that we’ve got your group(s) set up, it’s time to send content upgrades with MailChimp! We do this by creating an automated email that’s triggered by someone joining your list group.
Automations are a type of Campaign, so they’ll live under the Campaigns menu at the top of the page. To create a new one, you can either go to Campaigns and click Create Campaign, or, more easily, simply click Create at the top of the page. From there, select Email, and then choose Automated.
You’ll then see different options for automation type. Choose Subscriber Activity, and then Respond to Subscriber Updates. The first option should be Added to Group, which is what you want!
Next, name your automation (I typically just do the title of the content upgrade so everything is clear). Select your list from the dropdown and click Begin!
At this point, MailChimp is going to auto-populate two different emails for you. We only need one, so go ahead and delete the second email by clicking on the arrow next to “Design Email” and hitting “Delete Email.”
Now that we’ve got our one email set up, we want to set up the trigger. Above the email, you’ll see a line of text that says “Trigger: 1 day after subscribers join the grouping, * | Select List Group | * – Edit Trigger.
Click on Edit Trigger, because we’ve got some changes to make!
First of all, we don’t want people to have to wait an entire day for their content upgrade. They want it now! So make sure the “Delay” is “immediately,” and select the corresponding group under Settings.
Once you’ve got the trigger set up, click Update Trigger! Now we’ve got to design the email!
Design Your Email + Link to the Content Upgrade File
To design the email, simply click the “Design Email” button on the right side of the screen.
First it’s going to ask you for information about your email, like the name, subject, etc. To keep everything simple, I use the title of the content upgrade (again) as the name of the email (it’s only going to be seen by you, so keep it easy to understand), and I use the same subject for all of my content upgrade delivery emails: “Your free downloads are inside! 😍” (Because honestly, who doesn’t love a good heart-eyes emoji?)
I also keep my From Name and From Email Address the same as my regular settings.
I have a saved template that I use for everything, but feel free to design your email however you’d like.
The main thing you need to include is a link to the content upgrade! You’ll want to upload it to the Media portion of your website and then find the URL. Simply click on the file once it’s been uploaded, and find “URL” on the right side of the Attachment Details popup. Copy the URL in that content box.
Once you’ve typed in your message in the body of the email, create a link (using a button or some text, it’s up to you) and link it to that URL. Once you’ve done that, click Save and Continue to return to the workflow!
Send Content Upgrades with MailChimp Automation
Once you’ve got your trigger set up and your email designed (with the link to the content upgrade!), click “Next” in the bottom right corner of your screen. This will take you to a review, where you’ll want to ensure that everything is set up correctly.
If it is, click on the blue Start Workflow button in the bottom right!Trying to send out content upgrades with MailChimp? Here are step-by-step directions!Click To Tweet
Set Up the Content Upgrades Forms to Add Subscribers to the Corresponding Group
Now that the workflow is started, we have to make sure your subscribers are joining that group when they sign up for your email list.
The instructions for this will change depending on what you’re using to gather their information in your blog post.
If you’re using the Layered Popups plugin to create fake Leadpages popups (see the tutorial here), you’ll want to go to the Integration tab on the Edit Popup page. If you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see all of your account’s groups. Simply check the appropriate one and new subscribers will be added to that group.
Conversely, if you’re Mailmunch (see tutorial here) so you don’t have to pay for the Layered Popups plugin (although it’s only $20, so I recommend using the plugin if you can!), your setup will be very similar. Once you get to the Integrate part of creating your form, you’ll see your groups listed. Once again, just select the appropriate group and the subscribers will be added to it!
While this may seem like a long process the first time around, it’s actually much easier once you’ve got it set up!
The next time you need to send content upgrades with MailChimp, create a new group and go back to the Automation page. Find the email you’ve just set up, and click on the down arrow next to the word “Edit” on the right side. Once the dropdown menu appears, click “Replicate.”
From there, you’ll simply click Edit on the replicated email, edit the trigger, upload your content upgrade to your website, and edit the email. Bam! Much easier that time, right?
You don’t need to spend a fortune on your blog to grow your email list or treat your audience to free goodies! Don’t feel the need to go out and buy expensive software like Leadpages or ConvertKit if you don’t have the budget for it!
Oh, and don’t forget to track all of the content upgrades you’re creating so you can promote them! Check out the tracking spreadsheet I’ve got for you FOR FREE below!
Hey—want some one-on-one help getting this set up? Book a 20-minute consultation and we can work through it via video chat!
Rachel @ STCL says
Getting my email list started has been on my radar for a while now. Saving this for reference once it’s time!
That’s great, Rachel! If you have any questions as you start your email list, don’t hesitate to ask! 🙂
Magdalena Górecka says
Thank you for this tutorial. It was very helpful!
You’re very welcome, Magdalena! So glad I could help! 🙂
This post was so helpful!!! Quick question on using groups and automated emails. When they enter through the pop up and subscribe, does the automated email for the content upgrade automatically send? I had a double optin before set up before through Mailchimp. This techie stuff isn’t easy 🙂 thanks for a great tutorial!!
Hey Heather! If you set up the popup to assign them to a group, and you create an automated email with that group as the trigger with no delay, it will go out immediately! 🙂 I believe if you’ve got the double optin, it doesn’t go out until they confirm their subscription, but I’m not 100% on that.
Adrienne Luedeking says
Caitlin, this is gold. Thank you so much. And your fake LeadPages tutorial was amazing. I’m so glad I found this blog.
Thanks so much, Adrienne! 🙂 That means a lot!
Hi Caitlin – first of all, thanks for an awesome blog. Lots of great content and the step-by-step process is great.
A quick question for you – I am confused as to what the customer who uses a content upgrade (rather than a lead magnet) sign-in form receives by way of email/thank you pages following the process in this blog post.
Will they receive all the double optin responses (optin confirmation email and confirmation thank you page) as well as the triggered automated email with the content upgrade download? That seems like a lots of things of the customer to deal with? Can you have different confirmation thank you pages for each group in a list (so that you can just have each content upgrade link within the relevant confirmation thank you page? Or can I only do this if I have separate lists for each content upgrade?
I am pretty new to mailchimp, so apologies if my question is confusing!
Great questions! If you’ve got the double-optin email enabled (I don’t), they’d likely get the confirmation email, THEN the triggered automation with their content upgrade, as they wouldn’t be fully added to your list until they confirm their subscription. That’s actually pretty common, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it being too many emails.
If you’d prefer to link to the content upgrade in a thank-you page, I recommend checking out this blog post that talks about how to set up a thank-you page for free. However, I’d make sure it’s a big enough call to action / button on the page so they’re aware that they have to download it from the thank-you page, it won’t be emailed.
Conversely, you could also do this and set it up so it redirects to your content upgrade instead of a thank-you page (and it’s free!).
I hope this helps! 🙂
Tiny T says
This post helped me so much!! I was struggling with the best method to easily get my content upgrades to my subscribers, but also being able to be unique while doing it. Thank you! I have now automated my mail chimp account and feel better with having the ability to send emails with the content upgrades directly to my subscribers easily.
I’m so glad to hear that! Happy to help. 🙂
Melissa Leithwood says
Oh what if they are already current subscribers? Will Mailchimp send them the upgrade or will they be taken to their subscriber update area?
As long as they aren’t currently in that list group, they should get the email! That’s why I recommend using a new list group for every single content upgrade. Their existing contact record will be updated with the list group if they fill out the form, which will trigger the automation. 🙂
Hi… so the user will not have a duplicated email..? Their details will simply be updated..?
Correct! As long as they use the same email address to subscribe.
Pauline Wiles says
(I just found this helpful post!)
So, if someone is already on your list, they might already have had your welcome sequence. Then, they spy a new lead magnet, sign up for that, and get added to the lead magnet’s group, yes?
At that point am I right that:
~ You can send the lead magnet automation email based on them being new in that group, but
~ The list welcome sequence won’t send again, because they’re not new to the list as a whole?
Very many thanks.
Caitlin Honard says
Exactly! When they fill out the form the second time, as long as they’re using the same email address that’s already signed up for your email list, they’re simply updating their contact record. So they’ll receive the email with the lead magnet, but they won’t receive the welcome sequence a second time. 🙂
Ashley Perry says
This doesn’t work for me. 🙁 Says that I am already subscribed to the main list so won’t register that I want to join a new group.
I’ve never seen that before! Where are you getting that message?
Brad Klassen says
I am having this same problem. I have my list. I created a freebie group, and then tested it with my email address and it said I am already subscribed to the list. How do I fix that? I want them all to be on the same list but for sure want all my existing subscribers to be able to get freebies that I offer. Please help!!!!
Caitlin Honard says
Hi Brad! Unfortunately since I haven’t had this problem, I’m not sure what would cause it or how to fix it. I’d recommend reaching out to MailChimp to see if they can help!
Hi have you tested this yourself -this isn’t possible according to my tests and research. MailChimp will not auto update someones list choices ie: if they are already on your list -please auto-update me to be in this group. This won’t work for people already on the list from many tests and research. I’d love this not to be the case of course. But seems so.
Caitlin Honard says
This is exactly how I have my MailChimp account set up. 🙂 I’ve tested it with my own email address and it works!
Awesome stuff. Thanks
ohoh. I loved this and signed up for the tracking sheet – but it never arrived. Dang.
Thank you so much for letting me know! It looks like the automated email accidentally got paused and was never resumed, so you should be getting it shortly!
Brandy Calderón says
Hi, thanks for your response.
… but the problem is that if I offer 10 eBooks in 10 different landing page. And to all I add to the same list, but to different groups. Then a user could only download a single eBook, since if he tried to download another, in another form he would get the error.
Then I would have to create 10 different lists for each of the eBooks, and if I intend to have many more, it is an impractical method.
Hi Brandy! If someone who’s already subscribed to your list signs up with a different form, it should simply update the groups on the existing contact record. I currently have 24 content upgrades set up this way and it works fine!
Bless your heart thank you so much for this tutorial! So so helpful for the technologically challenged like myself 😛
So glad you found it helpful, Megan! 🙂
Bear Cat says
This is a really well-written and detailed post, thanks! I have a question though, in Mailchimp, if I have a subscriber signing up to Group 1, in week 1 for Content upgrade 1, can that same person sign up for Group 2, in week 2, for content upgrade 2, and go into the same overall mail list? Or will it give an error message that their email has already been entered? Thanks!
Great question! If they use the same email address, Mailchimp will automatically add their existing contact record to Group 2 as well, and they’ll get the Group 2 welcome email with the content upgrade. They won’t have a duplicate record in your email list, and they’ll still get the content upgrade delivered automatically. 🙂 The only thing that wouldn’t happen is if they tried to sign up for the same content upgrade a second time to get it re-sent to their email address. That wouldn’t work–they wouldn’t get an error message, they just wouldn’t get any email.
Gail Kennedy says
Hey i loved your tutorial its made this mailchimp business alot easier as ive been stuck on how to add content upgrades.. however im not clear on how to direct readers to the right group. im not using the plugins you mentioned i just have the mail chimp sign up form on my site. how do i send people the right way.
Hmm, I’m not sure it’s possible with Mailchimp’s integrated forms. Since Mailmunch is free, I’d recommend downloading that one so you can add them to the right group!
Aska Kolton says
I loved this blog and the tips. Ive created the groups and email sequence and a challenge…to only find out that when the subscribers sign up for my challenge they also receive the email sequence for the main list. Is there a way to sign up for the group and receive the email sequence for the group but not the email sequence for the main list. Often people from my main list will be signing up for specific groups so I don’t want them to receive the main list email sequence like 5 times;-)
Oooh really good question. What I would probably do (though feel free to search for another answer that’s less complicated) is create a segment of your list that auto-updates (there’s an Auto-Update button on the top of the Create a Segment section) and says “Contacts match all of the following conditions: Groups>[your group section]>contains none of>[select all of the groups in that section]” and repeat if you have more than one group section. So, it’s an auto-updating segment of subscribers who aren’t in any groups. Then update your welcome email sequence to go to that segment instead of everyone on that list.
Keep in mind that even if they sign up for new groups, as long as they’re using the same email address, they’ll only get the main email sequence once. They won’t get it every time they join a new group, because when they “sign up” for that opt-in, they’re just updating their existing contact record, not adding a new one. 🙂 But I totally understand wanting them to not receive your challenge AND your welcome email series at the same time if they’re a brand-new subscriber!
Aska Kolton says
thank you so much for your answer! I need to read it properly and try to set it up to understand it fully;-) Can you just help me understand if this method is going to work for me?
Every group represents a new opt in and should have a separate email sequence leading to a different product. So if they sign up for the list they are supposed to get one email sequence. And if they sign up for a few different groups they will receive corresponding email sequences but not the one for the list, right?
Correct! As long as you set up the welcome sequence for the main list to exclude any groups, they would receive the corresponding sequences for any group(s) they sign up for, but not the one for the main list.
Aska Kolton says
Oh, that could work…but how do I exclude groups from the main list?
Caitlin Cheevers says
You’d want to create a segment of your list that auto-updates (there’s an Auto-Update button on the top of the Create a Segment section) and says “Contacts match all of the following conditions: Groups>[your group section]>contains none of>[select all of the groups in that section]” and repeat if you have more than one group section. So, it’s an auto-updating segment of subscribers who aren’t in any groups. Then update your welcome email sequence to go to that segment instead of everyone on that list. 🙂
I just stumbled upon this and am going through the steps, but I don’t see a tab that says “Automation”… Has Mailchimp moved things around since you originally wrote this post?
Caitlin Honard says
Yes! I’ve been meaning to update it. You should be able to create a Campaign and select Automation from the options. They switched things around so you don’t have to pay for automation if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, and it’s housed under Campaigns now.
Hilary L Hahn says
I would love to see the update! I got about half-way through this post and the automation tab is no where to be found! I have just about 2,000 subscribers and I’m feeling a bit lost with the group automations.
Caitlin Honard says
Thank you for the reminder! I’ll add it to my list for March. 🙂
Tiffany Ima says
What I am trying to understand is the form. Did you use the form builder in mail chimp?
Caitlin Honard says
No, I don’t make the forms in MailChimp. I use Layered Popups, but I’ve also used MailMunch in the past. Those instructions are in the section labeled Set Up the Content Upgrades Forms to Add Subscribers to the Corresponding Group 🙂