Clearing things up: what are MailChimp segments and groups, and how do we use them?

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MailChimp segments vs groups: Which do you use? When? What are they and what are their differences? Let’s have a look at segments vs groups in MailChimp, what they are, and then when it makes sense to each one. Both are ways of organizing your subscribers in order to send better targeted emails to them.

Groups and segments are similar but different.

  • Groups in MailChimp organize folks by interest into sub-categories.
  • Creating segments in MailChimp filters subscribers with specifically similar characteristics.

That might still sound a little confusing or obtuse, so let’s dive into specifically what that means:

What is a MailChimp Segment & why use it?

As I mentioned, creating segments in MailChimp is a way of filtering subscribers. The first step to segmenting in MailChimp is is to actually create a segment, and this helps explain what a segment is as well.

Creating a segment in MailChimp is pretty easy. Create a segement in MailChimp is an easy process that’s included with free accounts.

In the above example, the segment is subscribers bought Chimp Essentials but did not buy the MailChimp Workshop. This would be handy because if I knew who bought one but not the other, I could send an email, just to that segment, and tell them that since they bought Chimp Essentials, they might also enjoy the MailChimp workshop. So, if that email only goes to that one specific segment, I wouldn’t be sending it to subscribers who bought both, because they wouldn’t be in that segment.

So segmenting is a way of filtering your subscribers based on information you know about them. What sort of information can you know about your subscribers?

  • What they bought, if you integrate your ecommerce store with your MailChimp account.
  • What page they signed up on, if you collect that information.
  • What date they signed up on.
  • What campaigns or automations they’ve opened or clicked on.
  • What they filled in for a survey or poll.
  • Cleaning your list and removing in-active subscribers.
  • And much more.

There are two types of segments, static and auto-updating. Static means new subscribers won’t be added to it over time, even if they share the same characteristics as others in that segment. For example, recent attendees of a conference, since that won’t change (unless time machines are invented). Most of the time we’ll be using auto-updating segments, as new people can be added to it, if they share the same characteristics that define the segment. For example, when someone buys Chimp Essentials, they can be auto-added to a “Chimp Essentials Buyers” segment, which makes sense it’s auto-updating.

What is a MailChimp Group & why use it?

The easiest way to to think about groups in MailChimp is think of them like categories. Where a segment is a filter, groups are a way to categorize subscribers, typically organized by interests or preferences.

Groups in MailChimp consist of a group category and then a group name. For example:

Cars (this would be a group category)
Porsche (group name)
BMW (group name)
Mercedes-Benz (group name)

So, a specific subscriber might be interested in Porsches and BMWs, so they could be part of the Cars group category and belong to both the Porsche and BMW group name.

Creating a group in MailChimp. MailChimp groups are a way to divide your subscribers based on their interests and preferences.

So groups are a way of organizing subscribers by interest and preference, and subscribers can be part of any number of group categories and group names. So a person could be not interested in cars at all (and be in nothing in that group) or be interested in all three brands of cars.

There are several ways to add people to groups, including:

  • Manually, by selecting a subscriber and adding them to a group from within MailChimp.
  • Letting subscribers do it themselves, on a hosted signup form, making sure the group is visible.
  • By passing the group category and group name in a hidden way, as code in a signup form (I cover this more advanced topic in my Chimp Essentials course).

One thing to note is that if you want your subscribers to be able to add or remove themselves from a Group, it’s possible if you keep your group visible and link to either your signup form (for new subscribers) or the update profile page (for existing subscribers).

Why would you use a group in MailChimp?

  1. To organize your products, so you could have a group category called “Customers” and a group name for each product you sell.
  2. If your subscribers could be interested in multiple topics, for example: Freelancing, Digital Products and Consulting, then “Type of work” could be a group category and those three types could be group names.
  3. If you run a survey (using Typekit or SurveyMonkey) you can use Zapier to add people to groups based on answers they give to multiple choice questions (I teach this in Chimp Essentials).

How to create MailChimp segments and groups

For both segments and groups in MailChimp, it’s fairly easy to create either. First, click on Lists, then the list you want to group or segment.

If you’d like to create a segment, click on Create a Segment then add in the filters you want to use and click Preview. If the preview looks correct, click Save and segment, and you’re done.

How to create and save a MailChimp segment.

If you’d like to create a group, once you’re on the list you want to group, click Manage Contacts, the Groups. From there click Create Groups and fill in a group category and group name.

Creating and saving a group in MailChimp

Make sure you select how you want your group to show up—or if you want it to show up at all (by selecting don’t show these groups). Once you’ve added a group category and all the group names you’d like, click save.

Now you’re ready to use groups and segments on your MailChimp list. This means you can get more targeted and personal with the emails you send.

Advanced personalization using MailChimp groups and segments

The power of groups and segments in MailChimp is that they let you sort your subscribers by what they’ve done, what they’ve bought, or what they’re interested in. That means you can get more specific with your email marketing, and that leads to generating more revenue.

Here are some ideas that you can use to increase the effectiveness of your email marketing with groups and segments in MailChimp:

  • Create a segment of people who have not bought your product, and send them a pitch email or automation series about the product.
  • Create a group of people based on the type of work they do and send a single campaign or automation series that helps them with that specific type of work.
  • Create a static segment of people you upload to MailChimp after you run an event and collect email addresses at the door.
  • Create a group for purchasers and group names for each of your products. Fill those in with purchasers so you can send a campaign or automation sequence that cross promotes based on what they’ve bought and not bought.

To learn more about these features, be sure to read my articles on personalization and automations:

The final word on MailChimp Groups vs Segments

While MailChimp segments and groups are similar, they’re both ways to organize your subscribers, they’re different too.

To recap:

  • Groups in MailChimp are a category within your list based on what your subscribers are interested in or prefer.
  • Segments in MailChimp are a specific set of filters within your list where subscribers in the segment share common qualities (like signup page, gender, purchase activity).

So groups help you figure out who your audience on your list, and segments help target them based on how they behave, so you can send them better and more targeted emails. Yes, there can be overlap and sometimes it doesn’t matter if you create a group or a segment, but hopefully this guide gives you some insight into which is the best to use and when.

Both are great ways to organize subscribers on a single list without having to create new lists for every product or content upgrade you’ve got. If you’d like to learn how to use groups vs segments in MailChimp more, check out Chimp Essentials.

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