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Mailchimp: How to set up email automations
Mailchimp: How to set up email automations

Automate your email sequences in Mailchimp.

Manuel Frigerio avatar
Written by Manuel Frigerio
Updated over a week ago

You've created your referral program and it's running in your newsletter.

What next?

Now it’s time to make sure your subscribers know about your ambassador program and engage with it. Keeping subscribers engaged can be the difference between a referral program that’s successful and one that isn’t.

Luckily, you only need to set up a few automated emails to achieve this goal.

⚠️ These emails are recommended for any referral program, regardless of your goal or rewards.

How to set them up in Mailchimp

Reward email:

Intro email:

First Referral email:

Referred email:

Send reward emails through MailChimp

As your subscribers refer their friends and win rewards, it's important that you notify them via email.

Luckily, you can set these emails up using MailChimp automations in a few minutes.

Step 1: Log in to your MailChimp account.

Step 2: Go to the Campaigns page and click on the Create campaign button.

Step 3: In the pop up, choose Email then switch to Automated and click on the Custom button.

Step 4: Give the automation a name, select the right audience and click on Begin.

Step 5: Click on the Edit link to edit the trigger of this automation.

Step 6: Click on Change trigger.

Step 7: Under Audience management choose Changes in a subscriber’s audience field.

Step 8: In the Delay section, you can specify the delay between the moment a subscriber wins a reward and the moment the email is sent (you can set this to "immediately").

The Settings section is the important one. From the dropdown, select the RH_TOTREF and set the value to the number of referrals needed to win a reward.

For example, if you want to send this email when a subscriber wins a reward that requires 5 referrals, set the value to 5. Remember to save the changes by clicking on the Update trigger button.

Here's what's happening: We are setting up an automation that is triggered when the custom field RH_TOTREF of a subscriber (which stores the number of referrals) changes to a specific number (e.g: 5).

SparkLoop automatically updates the RH_TOTREF value every time a subscriber gets a new referral.

Step 9: Now it's time to design the email. Make sure to congratulate the subscriber for winning the reward and add any information they need to redeem it.

Step 10: Done. Review and enable the automation.

⚠️ IMPORTANT: Remember to create an automation for each reward!


SparkLoop makes it easy for you to segment your subscribers and send them targeted messages, for example:

  • Send a message to all subscribers who have been referred.

  • Send a message to subscribers who have 3 or more referrals.

  • Send a message to subscribers who haven't referred anybody in 2 months.

You can set up these segments very easily using SparkLoop-generated custom fields, in particular: RH_ISREF, RH_TOTREF and RH_LASTREF.

How to create a segment in MailChimp

In this example, we are going to create a segment of subscribers who have 3 or more referrals, but the same process can be used to create any custom segment.

Step 1: Go to your MailChimp's dashboard > Audience, choose your audience and click on View contacts. Click on New Segment.

Step 2: Here you can decide which criteria to use to create your segment. For our example, we are going to choose RH_TOTREF is greater than 3.

⚠️ You may want to use multiple conditions for your segment.

For example, you might want to create a segment of super-engaged subscribers, people who have referred 3+ people and whose last referral is less than 1 week ago.

In that case, you simply need to click on Add and add an additional condition.

Step 3: When you've added all your conditions, click on Preview segment. MailChimp will show all the subscribers that currently match your conditions. Click on Save Segment to save your segment.

Using segments in MailChimp

So you've created a segment in Mailchimp.

Now you can target specific segments with targeted emails and/or automations.

For example, you can:

Conditional blocks

MailChimp's conditional merge tag blocks is one of their most powerful features.

In short, it allows you to insert dynamic content into your email campaigns, enabling you to show different content to different subscribers based on their custom fields.

When you run a referral program, you might want to display a different message to your subscribers depending on some conditions, such as how many referrals they have.

This can be a fantastic way to show targeted copy and foster greater engagement.

Imagine a scenario in which you have two rewards:

  • An exclusive report for 2 referrals.

  • A 50% off coupon for a conference ticket for 5 referrals.

In this example, we are going to show a different message to our subscribers depending on how many referrals they have:

  • If they have 0 referrals, we show them a message of encouragement.

  • If they have 1 referral, we tell them they are just 1 referral away from the exclusive report.

  • If they have between 2 and 4 referrals, we tell them they are very close to the 50% discount for the conference.

As you can see, the goal is to increase engagement by focusing only on their next step.

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with MailChimp's conditional merge tags blocks. Click here and read this support article.

Step 2: Go to your newsletter template and add the following text in a text block:

*|IF:RH_TOTREF = 0|*
You have 0 referrals... for now. But every long journey starts with one small step.
How? Easy: grab your referral link below and send it to a few friends or colleagues you think will like the Brew. Trust us, they will love you for that!
You have 1 referral. You = Amazing. But did you know you'll get our exclusive XYZ Report if you invite just one more friend? Grab your referral link below and send it to a few friends or colleagues.
You have *|RH_TOTREF|* referrals. That is HUGE. But you know what is even cooler? 50% off our exclusive conference in Chicago (worth $700). You're just a couple of referral away. You can do this 💪

Feel free to update the copy but pay attention to how the conditional merge tags are used.

When you're done, the "Refer-a-friend" section in your newsletter should look like this:

Step 3: It's very important that you test your conditional block with all possible scenarios. In our case, we want to test these scenarios

  • Subscriber has 0 referrals

  • Subscriber has 1 referral

  • Subscriber has between 2 and 4 referrals

You can send a test email to yourself and change the value of the RH_TOTREF custom field in your test subscriber's profile each time.

However, the easiest way to test this is to preview the email by entering Preview mode and enabling Live merge tag info. As you switch between subscribers with different RH_TOTREF values, you should see the conditional block changing.

An easy way to do this is to change the value of the RH_TOTREF custom field for a couple of subscribers.

If your conditional block does not work as expected, check out MailChimp's troubleshooting steps and if the problem persists, get in touch and we'll look into it for you.

⚠️ Don’t forget to update your email automations when you add, delete, or change rewards.

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