It’s time to set up autoresponders in MailChimp! Have you ever wondered how you will sometimes subscribe to an email list and then you begin receiving emails that directly pertain to the reason you subscribed to the list? Maybe they are customized to the purchase you made, the download you wanted, the training you opted into, or the coupon code you signed up to get. These types of emails are automated email campaigns. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to set up autoresponders in Mailchimp.

If you’re feeling a little #TLDR today and already know your way around Mailchimp pretty well, then feel free to skip down to the section titled, “Setup an Autoresponder Campaign in Mailchimp Based On Your Goal.” If you’re a bit of a beginner to Mailchimp, you’ll want to read through the whole article.

How It Works:

Before I teach you how to implement them yourself, I want to teach you how they usually work from the perspective of a customer. 

Step 1: You give your email address to a company via some sort of an opt-in

Step 2: That email address gets added to a list that the company has predetermined you belong on

Step 3: You begin receiving (hopefully) relevant emails over the course of a predetermined trigger. For instance, maybe 3 days after you received the first email, you get another email in your inbox. 

Step 4: This cycle continues, and perhaps, over time, you end up getting additional emails, like newsletters or other offers from the company that you subscribed to. 

Key Terms You Need to Know:

Next, I want to review a few key terms that you may be familiar with, but if you’re not, knowing what I mean for all of these, especially when it pertains to Mailchimp will be helpful. 

When you’re logged into Mailchimp, the bar above is what you’ll see across your screen. It’s your main navigation bar. If you select Create, you’ll have a myriad of options to choose from including email, ads, website, landing page, survey, social post, signup form, and postcard. 

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll be sticking with email. 


Campaigns are basically the different types of emails you can send. Each email or autoresponder group of multiple emails you send is its own campaign. 

The way Mailchimp sorts these out, the campaigns are largely organized by status and type, to make finding your projects simpler. You can also create your own folders to keep emails organized. 


A light bulb may have gone off in your head for this one since we’re talking about automating emails. We’ll come back to the Automate option, but within Mailchimp, you can use the Automate function to send out emails, ads, and postcards.  


Your audience is where you keep your lists within Mailchimp. You may have multiple audiences or only one. You keep your contacts in your different audiences. Contacts can be organized in a few different ways. You can sort them by group, tag, or segment. 

Anytime anyone subscribes to receive an email from you, you’re going to add them to an audience. Sometimes this is done manually (let’s say you meet someone at a networking event and they tell you to send them emails about upcoming events), or you can add them automatically (this is usually done based on some sort of an online opt-in like a freebie download, coupon offers, purchase, sign up of some sort, etc.)

I’ll break down how you can categorize your audience coming up.


This section stores some of the useful assets that you might need for a campaign. For instance, you can save email templates (these are great to have for autoresponders) or content in your Content Studio. 

Reports & Clients:

I’m going to gloss over these sections since reports automatically show for each Campaign under the Campaigns tab. And if you don’t have clients who you work on their behalf, you won’t need to worry about Clients, either.

How To Set Up Autoresponders in Mailchimp:

Now that you understand the basics, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of how to set up autoresponders in Mailchimp. 

Plan Your Strategy: 

You have several options for how to do this, but the first thing I like to do is to plan my strategy. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

  1. What your goal is
  2. Who your target audience is
  3. How you will gather email addresses
  4. How many emails you want to send

Who Is Your Target Audience?

I know; I know. I’m going out of order. I’m assuming you know what your goal is already, but within Mailchimp, you can’t quite set up that part without identifying the audience parameters first. So, we need to figure that part out. 

As I mentioned earlier, there are three different ways to sort out your audience, in addition to your lists. Here are a few helpful tips (descriptions taken directly from Mailchimp):

  1. Lists: “Your Mailchimp list, also known as your audience, is where you store and manage all of your contacts.” You can have multiple lists in Mailchimp, but I recommend against it. If you have one list, it helps to keep track of everyone. It also helps with your billing. For instance, if you have 1000 people on one list and then 300 people on another list, but those 300 people happen to also be on the first list, you could be billed twice for them. So, I’d vote to keep all 1000 on one list and categorize them out. More on that next…
  2. Groups: “Use groups to sort your subscribed contacts based on their interests and preferences. [They] function like categories, and are an excellent way to manage diverse contacts in the same Mailchimp audience. Groups can be the basis for building audience segments for sending to targeted audiences.”
  3. Tags: “Tags are labels you create to help organize your contacts. Tagging lets you bring your own contact structure into Mailchimp and label contacts based on data you know about them. Tags are highly customizable, so you can create and assign them as you see fit.”
  4. Segments: “With Mailchimp, you can use audience and contact information to target and filter contacts into segments. Our segmentation options are extensive, so you can choose a single condition or combine up to five conditions with positive and negative relationships to target the right contacts for each campaign.”

If you just read through these and feel like they pretty much all sound like the same thing – a way to organize your contacts, you are correct. It gets a little bit confusing. But if you are going to set up autoresponders in Mailchimp, you need to know about them to know which one will work the best for you. 

What do Forms have to do with it?

Within Audiences, Mailchimp has a feature to create a signup form. This is where we’ve used groups the most. If you want your subscribers to choose what they are interested in, for instance, you could label your groups as such. 

We have our audience broken out into a few groups including one that just contains clients, and another that’s broken down by “I’m interested in…” and contains options for “Classes and Events” or “Blog Updates.”

If you set up a form for your list, which you can embed into a website, then you can have your subscribers opt-in to the group(s) most relevant to them. You can do this via a URL link, a pop-up on your website, a custom embedded form, or an integration from Wufoo or Squarespace.

I’m going to let you in on a little insider secret, though. I hate the way Mailchimp does their forms. I want my forms to be able to automatically opt people in based on a group or tag I preselect for them. Doing this with Mailchimp’s basic form functionality doesn’t work well. So, coming up, I’ll tell you how I get around this little hiccup. 

But, if you want to keep your opt-ins simple, the Forms feature is one way to do it, using Mailchimp’s built-in group functionality. 

How To Add Tags To a Subscriber in Mailchimp:

Tags are a newer feature in Mailchimp and I love them. Why? Because you can sort contacts by multiple tags. Plus, you can send your autoresponders to tags vs. sending them to an entire group. 

This is my chosen method. So, before you begin automating emails, go into your account and add a tag for the campaign you’ll be sending. 

This is simple to do by going into Audience > Manage Contacts > Tags. From here, simply press the “Create Tag” button and label it accordingly. 

How Will You Gather Email Addresses?

We’re going to backtrack again a bit to get things set up before we finish up the autoresponder. 

We already talked about forms. This is one way that you can gather email addresses to add to your audience. 

However, I like to create lead generation funnels instead that will automatically assign specific tags to users based on a simple opt-in. Protip: I’ve found that third-party software does this better than Mailchimp does and is simpler to integrate into websites. This is especially true if you’re using a WordPress website. 

In our case, we typically use an opt-in software called OptinMonster. (<— This is an affiliate link and we will receive a commission if you sign up for OptinMonster. It will cost you no extra money. We just like the software and actively use it on this website.) We can create fully customizable opt-ins that will link to tags vs. groups. Genius!

Landing Pages

You can also use landing pages to gather opt-ins. For instance, we have a software called Kajabi that we use for our landing pages. 

We hook Kajabi together with Zapier to allow contacts to automatically be tagged and added into their appropriate category when they opt-in. This is a bit of a workaround method, but it does the trick and I wanted to show it to you because you might find that you need to create workarounds to get your opt-ins to go where you want them to go automatically, instead of having to constantly hand-update and tag your audience. (Who has time for that???)

If you run an ecommerce website, you likely collect email addresses upon purchase. You can hook up ecommerce parameters into Mailchimp, too, and select autoresponders to those people, as well.

If you own a business like a hair salon, you may be tracking appointment dates in Mailchimp. In that case, you could potentially set up autoresponders that are date-based, too.  

Now, you don’t necessarily need to get your opt-in page, popup, etc. figured out before you actually set up the autoresponder campaign in Mailchimp, but you will want to make sure that you have a software (or a combination of softwares) that will do what you want it to do. 

We’ve worked with plenty of web developers who even get stumped when it comes to adding people into groups or audiences with the correct parameters within Mailchimp. So doing some of the prep work will be helpful when you need to finalize your implementation. 

Set up Autoresponders in Mailchimp Based On Your Goal

Here we go! This is going to be the step-by-step process you’re going to need to set up your actual autoresponder campaign in Mailchimp. We’ll do two versions of this. One is more detailed than the other, but we’ll start with the simple autoresponder campaign. 

Simple Autoresponder Campaign

  1. Along that top bar at the top of Mailchimp that we touched on earlier, go ahead and select “Automate > Email.”
  1. From here, you’ve got a few different options and these are ultimately going to depend on what the goal of your campaign is. Once again, Mailchimp gives you some options here, and you will see some of these options duplicated under other tabs. They also give you an option to create a custom campaign.
  1. For our example, I’m going to walk you through setting up a campaign as a “Welcome Message.” So I’d select “Welcome new subscribers.” This means someone new is signing up for your audience and you’re going to send them their first email. We use this type of campaign the most for our purposes, and I think it’s a good type of starter campaign to begin with. 
  2. From there, you’re going to need to select the purpose of the autoresponder and you’ll also need to name it. You’ll want to make this pretty specific based on the purpose of your autoresponder campaign so you can keep them organized in the backend of Mailchimp. I’m going to start with a single email for this campaign. But, remember earlier when I told you that you needed to know how many emails you wanted to send? Here’s where it’s important! I’ll put together an email for new subscribers to our monthly newsletter, just to keep things simple. 

This campaign could also be for an ebook download, a coupon code, or a myriad of other things. 


Then, select your audience. If you keep pretty much all of your contacts in one audience like we do, you’ll want to select that main audience. Then, select “Begin.”

  1. Now you’re going to get to a page with some additional options of how to set up the actual campaign. You’ll want to go through and fill out all of these additional fields. 

This sends to your entire list. It will not break out your contacts by group, segment, or tag. If you want to do that, you’re going to need to use “Advanced settings” that you see in the image above. (More on that coming up.)

I’m going to make my autoresponder send immediately after they join my list. I’ll keep my “From” information the same, but you’ll want to make sure whatever you include here is easily recognizable. I’m going to update my subject. Then, I’m going to update my design by pulling in a template I’ve used from another campaign and just customizing it. 

There we go! The final step is to press “Start Sending” along the top to begin sending your single-email campaign to your entire list. 

Advanced Autoresponder Campaign 

Now, I’m going to walk you through some of the more advanced features, because truthfully, there is rarely a time when I want to send an autoresponder campaign to an entire contact list within Mailchimp. I pretty much always want to segment down the people who receive those emails. 

Repeat steps 1-3 from above. Once you get to step 4, you’re going to select Onboarding Series. I almost always send multiple follow up emails after my first one. This type of campaign will let you do that. 

For this email, let’s say I decide to give out a coupon code to our online course. Then, I’m going to draft up some subsequent emails with some additional features of the course. It could be an email with a free 10 minute phone call if they have questions before purchasing.

You’ll notice the interface has changed a bit here, because now I have multiple emails I can send. 

With this version, I automatically get an option to Filter by segment or tag under each email blast, which makes this super simple. Again, you can also do this with a single email send under “Advanced Options.” It will switch you over to an interface that looks remarkably similar to this one.

I’ll go ahead and make sure new subscribers are part of the tagged audience, “Website Opt-in” for this example. I could optionally segment them based on different conditions too. (See why it’s important to set those tags up ahead of time?)

You can also update your Post-send action if you’d like to. 

From here, you can design your email just as we did before. However, if you’re sending multiple emails, you’ll want to go through each one to make sure the settings are all correct for your purposes and the emails are all designed out the way you’d like them to be. 

Once again, your final step will be to “Start Sending” before they will actually go out to anyone. 

Conclusion for How to Set Up Autoresponders in MailChimp

Setting up an autoresponder in Mailchimp isn’t difficult. It helps to be informed ahead of time so you know your options and you can make educated decisions when you go to set it up. 

Your company may want to use some of the more advanced features like ecommerce integrations or subscriber activity and break down how emails send based on further segmenting. 

Don’t be afraid to play around with the various options, but be sure you don’t start sending an email to the wrong list, group, tag, or segment!

Need help to set up autoresponders in MailChimp for your business? Contact us for options, today. 

Set up Autoresponders in MailChimp