Mailchimp and how to make sure people read your newsletters

This week I’ve been having a bit of clear up of Mailchimp newsletter mailing list. We’ve built it up over the years from people who were fans of Heavy Load, fans of the Heavy Load movie, people who wanted to support the Stay Up Late campaign and latterly people interested in Gig Buddies.

Over this time there’s lots of reasons why people might stop engaging with our newsletter. They might have changed jobs, changed email address, lost interest in our work and all sorts of other reasons.

Of course there’s also the possibility that our newsletter just wasn’t that interesting too!


About Mailchimp

We use Mailchimp to manage our emailing so we can hopefully send personalised, and interesting content to our supporters but there’s a couple of problems with Mailchimp that we’re trying to work round:

Problem 1. The cost

Mailchimp charges you according to how many people you have on your mailing list so it makes sense to only have engaged people on your mailing list. If you’re sending emails that don’t get opened it’s just a waste of money.

The good thing though is that Mailchimp enables you to look at all sorts of statistics and run off reports to help you learn from what you’re doing.

Since starting using Mailchimp probably around 4 or 5 years ago I’ve never got round to cleaning up our lists. So I decided to try and clean up our list by sending a personalised email to people who hadn’t clicked on one of our last 5 emails newsletters asking if they still wanted to be contacted.

What was reassuring was loads of people said yes they still do, but that they hadn’t actually seen an email from us in absolutely ages.

Something a bit mysterious also happened…

I thought this was a bit weird. I got a load of replies from people saying they’d love to be contacted (and a few who said they’d rather not) but what was weird was they’d seen this email and not all the other ones! So I started doing a bit of research and found out something interesting which will hopefully be of use to any other community groups and charities using Mailchimp.

The email I send asking if people still wanted to be in contact with us was done just using a mailmerged email through Outlook. It contained no images and no links and consequently went straight through to everyone’s inboxes.

Problem 2. Google!Mailchimp

Google automatically sees our newsletters as ‘Promotional’, which is a polite version of ‘junk’ and means we’re filed alongside all those latest offers and discount vouchers and countless other money making schemes. Unfortunately the way Gmail is organised means that any newsletters like ours will automatically be sent in to the ‘Promotions’ tab on Gmail, and there you will probably find loads of old emails from us, as well as loads of other interesting things from other organisations you’re interested in.

We’re a charity trying to do some good in the world, we don’t want to be filed under ‘Junk’ or ‘Spam’ and I’m sure loads of other charities wouldn’t want to be either!

Of course sometimes we are trying to promote stuff because we need to try and sell a few t-shirts (and clear some of the CDs from the office) but more importantly we’re also wanting to share what’s going on around the country to enable people with learning disabilities to lead great lives.

We think there is something we can do about this

Counter to all the other social media, and website, advice you might read design isn’t actually everything. At Stay Up Late we do put a lot of thought in to the way we make things look, and that’s find when it comes to websites, social media, leaflets and just about everything, BUT Google doesn’t like images and links in emails. So a really lovely looking email newsletter might actually not do the job you want it to.

This means there’s a trade-off:

1. Nice design

We could either spend a lot of time trying to make our newsletters interesting, full of content and look quite nice OR

2. No design

We can make them short and to the point and not look that great!

We’ve decided that the second option is best for us at the moment. We’d rather people were engaged in our work, and support our efforts to create a national movement for change, rather than write nice looking newsletters that few people read.

Of course in the interests of accessibility and making things much more pictorial there’s an obvious argument to make things as designed and easy to read as possible. But will anyone see these?

Our statistics

Our average ‘open rate’ for our newsletters is currently 21%, so for every 100 people we write to 21 people open the email which is a little below the industry average of 22% and around 6% of readers actually click on the links in our emails.

Personally I don’t think that’s very good and we need to up our game as a charity and find a way to get more people to engage with us and join us in our work to make lives for people with learning disabilities better.

What we’re going to try

So there’s going to be some changes, we’re going to start sending out much shorter, and much less designed emails, with less links and see what happens. We have no idea if this will work but we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get more people to read what we’re sending them, maybe reduce our costs, or maybe even increase our reach (and increase our costs!).

Further reading

You can read more tips about how to target your emails straight to someone’s inbox here from Luke Guy.

There’s some really useful resources on Mailchimp’s site to help you with cleaning your mailing lists, and all sorts of other advice.


I’ve also been reading David Hiatt’s excellent new book ‘Do Open – How a simple email newsletter can transform your business (and it can)’ which will also give you some ideas on what to write about.

Hope you find this useful and armed with all I’ve been reading I’m off to write our next newsletter, hopefully give you something interesting and engaging to read and also stop making a monkey of myself!

Don’t forget to join our mailing list!

To get our regular (and now much shorter) newsletters please click the link at the bottom of this page

Paul @heavy_load


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