Of course, you can always export subscribers from one list and re-import them into another list. But that takes time. And sometimes these are your Sunday evenings, and silently you know that there are other things you could spend your time with.
Some people begin to question whether MailChimp is still the right tool for them. Competitors offer such features as a matter of course, and it’s not difficult to understand that some are then pondering to switch their Email Marketing provider.
But you know what? The grass is always greener with other tools!
It might very well be that MailChimp doesn’t offer every feature that premium tools like Convertkit or Ontraport advertise with. It might even be that they offer a different or more sophisticated feature set. After all, that’s how the market works: setting oneself apart from the competition with some unique feature or property to be attractive.
But know also, switching tools is a lot of work. Not only is the moving process going to be tedious. There is also a learning curve involved with handling your new shiny tool. More sophisticated features don’t necessarily mean it is easier to handle.
I found some wise words at Brittany’s Berger blog about what she experienced when she trialed other tools in an attempt to replace MailChimp. To read what she finally learned to appreciate about MailChimp and what made her stick to this tool, check out her article.
Automatically Sync Lists in MailChimp
I recently heard someone publicly pondering to move away from MailChimp because syncing its list manually takes too much time, and other tools can do that easily.
I am sure that by now you have heard from automations. The age of business automation is here, and everybody is trying to benefit from it in some way. And sure, why not? If that means you have to work less, and save time and money … there isn’t really much to say against it, is there?
I said before that MailChimp provides an option to manually export and re-import mailing list details.
How if you could automate that in almost real-time?
Readers of my posts know that I am quite fond of business automations, and I am always looking for clever ways to get rid of the tedious tasks in business. I previously discussed how integration platforms can help with making your web tools talk to each other, and also how to strategically identify the processes that you can automate.
To enable internet tools to talk to each other, they either need to have an “opening” that allows the communication with other tools. Such an opening is called an API.
Or, alternatively, they need to be “adopted” by an integration platform. IFTTT or Zapier are popular examples for integration platforms today.
Technically, integration platforms take over a good part of the coding and built the interfaces that then allows this web tool to communicate with the rest of the web tool community.
A quick note about security:
From a security perspective, it is, of course, best to have fewer tools “in the middle”. But if it’s not avoidable to use a bunch of tools, your best bet is to use really good passwords, that are very hard to hack. If you need a little help here, I described an excellent approach to come up with secure and memorable passwords. Client-sided risks about unsafe passwords are zero; only if the online tools get hacked and customer details are stolen is there a risk. But with this technique you can quickly adapt.
Thinking Around the Corner
Now, coming back to the goal of syncing lists in MailChimp. I was looking for ways to automate it, and I first looked at IFTTT.
IFTTT is an integration platform with a pragmatic name: IF This Then That … meaning that an action will be triggered as soon as a predetermined condition is true.
Because IFTTT doesn’t cost a penny, it is quite easy to understand, and automated recipes are quick to set up, it is one of my favorites.
MailChimp is one of the integrated tools (called channels) in IFTTT.
I soon realized that IFTTT wouldn’t offer such a process directly. I needed to ‘think around the corner’ instead.
One way to do this would be by tracking mailing list changes in a spreadsheet – as a stopover so to speak.
Meaning, whenever someone new subscribes to a mailing list in MailChimp, a new row would be added with the subscriber’s details in this spreadsheet.
To make that work, the spreadsheet would have to be stored in a cloud storage application, and not locally on your computer’s hard drive.
When scanning through IFTTT, I was looking how such spreadsheet trackings would be possible.
IFTTT offers connections to these 3 big cloud storage channels: Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox.
Here’s an overview of what these cloud storage apps allow IFTTT to do:
Upload file from URL
Create a document
Append to a document
Add row to a spreadsheet
Upload file from URL
Create a text file
Append to a text file
Upload file from URL
Create a text file
Append to a textfile
Now, all three cloud storage tools allow appending a text to a pre-existing file. Additionally, Google Drives gives allowance to add rows to a spreadsheet.
I personally favor spreadsheets because they are easier to read than text files. That’s why I decided to focus on Google’s cloud storage first.
Remember, in this process, the spreadsheet is only a stopover for syncing the two mailing lists.
Part 2: Tutorial
Now that we are able to add the subscriber’s details to a spreadsheet, we need to be able to have this information being read out and have it added to the second mailing list.
Checking back with Google Drive’s triggers in IFTTT, disillusionment spread out: there weren’t any available trigger for Google Drive.
Okay, that means we have a spreadsheet in Google Drive with all the relevant information to sync our lists, but IFTTT is not going to help us to read the information out.
But we are not going to give up here.
There are some more automation tools we can use. I didn’t have to look for long. Workato offers the feature I was looking for, namely retrieving new rows that are added to a Google spreadsheet.
Also, Workato integrates with MailChimp, which pretty much looks now as if I found my workaround that lets me automatically sync lists in MailChimp.
A word about pricing with Workato. It is not a free tool like IFTTT, but it comes with a freemium plan. With the free version, you get 100 transactions per month. Every row that is synced counts as a transaction, so more than 100 rows are not possible to sync with this plan. But for the beginning, this should work. And if you have more stuff to automate, Workato has a pretty awesome feature set. You may want to consider getting on a business plan.
Setting up the Syncing Transaction
Here is now a tutorial how to set up this process to automatically sync lists in MailChimp.
The first part of this tutorial covers the steps in IFTTT, the second part describes everything that you need to do in Workato.
Part 1: Recipe-Setup in IFTTT
As indicated above, the first part of this automation is set up in IFTTT.
For the trigger part of this recipe, we choose the MailChimp channel.
From MailChimp’s available triggers we select New subscriber, and choose the list we wish to sync from.
Now it’s time to choose the action. For the channel, select GoogleDrive.
Choose the action Add row to spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet needs already to exist. It is also a good idea to have the column headers already in place (like email address, name, subscription date, etc. – whatever it is that you collected upon subscription.)
Enter your spreadsheet’s exact name, and determine the column titles. You will see some pre-filled column parameter that is in line with how MailChimp’s lists are classified. Delete and re-arrange how you need your spreadsheet to look like.
Finally, specify the folder path where the spreadsheet is located in your Google Drive.
And with this setup, we can move over to Workato to create the second part of our syncing automation between mailing lists in MailChimp.
Part 2: Recipe-Setup in Workato
First, register yourself in Workato, and connect the Google Drive Spreadsheet and MailChimp to your account.
Now it’s time to set up the recipe. We begin with configuring the trigger.
Click on Create a new recipe, and from the dropdown in Application choose Google Sheets.
As a trigger, we want New spreadsheet row added.
In a next step, the trigger has to be configured further.
From the dropdown list, select the spreadsheet that was previously used and connected with IFTTT.
Now it’s time to configure the action of this recipe. We are now going to connect our target-list in MailChimp.
We begin with selecting MailChimp in the Application dropdown window. Choose Add subscriber for the action parameter.
Then we are being asked to specify the list to which details are sent to.
There is another required parameter here.
The Email address is an essential thing mailing lists are made of. Often times, mailing lists also contain first names. Some contain first and last names, and some come with geographical information or log the subscription dates. But all mailing lists have the storage of Email addresses in common.
To assign the correct column for this parameter, drag and drop the Email address tile from the right to the left.
These were the basics, but we are still not finished, yet. Our action settings need some honing.
Because we are copying subscribers from one list to another, all copied contacts will receive an opt-in confirmation request in their inbox. This is standard behavior in Email Marketing tools, to avoid the misuse of email addresses.
You are probably aware that resending a welcome message as part of this syncing process is not very desirable.
We don’t need to bother our list subscribers with the consolidations and cosmetics we are doing behind the curtain. And we definitely don’t want them to get a new opt-in confirmation to this new list they will be on, soon. After all, this is for an internal re-structuring, and reasons for such a move can be manifold. — Of course, I assume you have only good intentions, and you are aware of the legal implications if you disregard international laws and/or MailChimp’s terms and policies.
This is how we will turn off the ‘Send welcome’ and ‘Double opt-in’ options:
Click on the Add or remove optional fields button.
Check both the Send welcome and Double opt-in options from the dropdown.
Now, scroll up again and choose No for both options.
It will look like that:
Now, click the button Add or remove optional fields again, and select Groups name.
In this field, you will drag and drop the First name tile from the right-hand side. This parameter will store your subscriber’s first name (if you collected it).
This is it!
Of course, you can repeat these steps of adding more options – depending what information you have collected from your subscribers upon subscription.
It is now the time to test & start the recipe. In the upper-right part of the window, click Test.
If you don’t get an error message here, you have done everything right, and upon clicking on Start recipe, this recipe in Workato gets activated.
Google’s spreadsheet will be checked every 30 minutes for newly added rows. Contact details of new subscribers are then copied over to your target list in MailChimp.