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Home  /  Digital marketing   /  FREE marketing automation for WordPress – Complete, step by step how-to guide

FREE marketing automation for WordPress – Complete, step by step how-to guide

How to set up free marketing automation with mailchimp in WordPress

First things first. I used to work in a digital marketing agency for 3 years, I do digital marketing personally for myself and for some of my clients, so I do have an idea about what I will be talking about – I didn’t just read about marketing automation, I used it on a number of projects.

Secondly, what is marketing automation? Marketing automation is a technology / use of software, that allows someone to automate their marketing services – for example, when someone signs up for an e-mail newsletter, they automatically receive a series of emails. Basically, it allows you to do marketing more efficiently and provide more “personalized” communication – yes, automation can improve personalization, as ridiculous as it sounds.

But imagine for a second: you have a blog about food, where you publish various recipes. You have plenty of resources that your users can download – cookbooks and similar. Now, someone fills out a form, they give you their email, to download a cookbook “10 best vegan recipes”. The old way of sending emails would be to send everyone on your email list the same email, with your most recent recipes for example. But trust me on this one – if you send that same vegan a recipe for the best steak ever, you have probably lost a subscriber. What marketing automation would allow you to do is to automatically segment your subscribers, based on what they have downloaded / on which page did they subscribe and provide them with content, based on that. So your vegans get only vegan recipes and your meat eaters get … well, meat recipes and maybe vegan recipes as well, but hey, that’s your call – you’re the one with the recipe blog.

This is what we will learn today: how to send your subscribers automated e-mails, based on what they download / what form they fill-out on your page.

It’s really simple by the way, so if you have like 10 – 15 minutes, you’re good to go. And if you don’t have 10 – 15 minutes, still let’s go, cause trust me, if you’re serious about your marketing results, you want to be familiar with this.

Free marketing automation for WordPress with MailChimp

I will show you, step by step, how you can send your first automated e-mail marketing campaign. From integrating forms into your website, to building and sending out the e-mails. Step by step, really easy to follow.

To tell the truth, as I am writing this post, I am implementing this myself to, so I will actually do this with you, no bullsh*t tutorials where the one that is telling you the method isn’t even using it.

I will show you two ways of integrating Mailchimp forms:

    • Using Mailchimp signup forms.
    • Integrating Mailchimp with Contact Form 7.


Create a MailChimp account.

Really simple, not much to talk about – visit, fill out the form and follow the instructions.

It’s free.

Free marketing automation with WordPress


Create your first e-mail list.

An e-mail list is where your subscribers are gathered after they fill out a form on your WordPress website. The first list that a big majority of websites need is a list of e-newsletter subscribers and I am no different so I will make a list for my newsletter subscription.

In the MailChimp dashboard click on Lists -> Create a list. Fill out the form, see below how I did it – you can write anything you want, but keep in mind, that your subscribers will see this information. They will see the “list name”, “from name” and “from address”. I like to use my personal name and e-mail address, not info (at) trytoblog (dot) com for example, because it makes communication more personal – as it, in fact, is, since I will be writing every newsletter. Even if you are a big company, I have noticed, that people respond better if they get an e-mail from “Nicki from Nike” for example, compared to and e-mail “NIKE, Inc”. It just makes the interaction more “human” and less cooperative.

Fill out the rest of the form according to your company/organization info – address etc. Just like this:

Mailchimp marketing automation


Create a sign-up form and include it on your website

This one depends whether you would like to use an existing form on your website or create a completely new one – use the Mailchimp form. I already have one form in my WordPress theme, so I will show you how to integrate it with that one, but if you don’t yet and would like to create and use a new Mailchimp form, just scroll down a bit.

Method 1: Using an existing form on your website

Since a big majority of WordPress websites uses Contact Form 7 plugin for contact forms, I will show you how to do it with this plugin, but there is a million of other ways to do it – since Mailchimp is the most frequent choice of an email provider, almost every contact form plugin form allows the integration with Mailchimp.

I have a form like this on my website. It’s a regular Contact Form 7 form, which we will now connect with MailChimp:

Contact form 7 integration with Mailchimp


For that, we will need to install the Contact Form 7 MailChimp Extension which you can get here:

Install it, activate and you’re ready to integrate it with the contact form.

This is my form and I can see that there is a new tab – MailChimp:

Contact form 7 - newsletter sign-up


Open up that tab and there you have to fill out a couple of fields:
First one is MailChimp API key. This will allow this plugin to communicate with your Mailchimp account. To do that, go to your MailChimp account settings:

After that, click on Extras -> API keys. Click on create a key, copy the generated key and paste it into the first field in the WordPress.


Second field is MailChimp List ID. You find this key by going back to your MailChimp dashboard, selecting the list that you created before and clicking on Settings -> List name and defaults. On the right side you will then see the list ID, like here:

Where to find List ID in MailchimpCopy and paste that into the second field in your Contact form settings.


So your settings should now look something like this.
Contact form 7 MailChimp extension


Guess what – click on save and that’s it! Everyone that subscribes on your website will be automatically added to your MailChimp list. How cool is that?


Method 2: Creating a new sign-up form on MailChimp

Don’t have a form yet? No problem! I will show you how to create a new sign-up form and add it to your blog sidebar.

Go to your MailChimp dashboard, select your e-mail list and click on Signup forms -> Embedded form.

Create a new mailchimp sign-up form


Here, you can play around with some texts, design, select which fields you want to keep, translate the form, etc. After you’re satisfied with the preview you see on the right side, select the code below and copy it.

Mailchimp sign-up forms


After that, go to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance -> Widgets.
Create a new Text widget and paste the code from MailChimp to the content area. Add the widget to the blog sidebar and, click save aaaaand… BAM! That’s it – you have an e-mail sign-up form in your sidebar that automatically adds the subscribers to your MailChimp list! Alriiiight!

Add e-mail signup form to WordPress


Now, if I go to one of my blog posts, this is what I see in the sidebar:
E-mail subscription form in the sidebar

Voila, a fully-working e-mail subscription form!

(Friendly tip – if you would like to redirect visitors to thank you page on your website, instead of a MailChimp hosted site, follow this tutorial on MailChimp: )

Sending automated messages to your subscribers

Now to the fun part – creating the actual automation workflow. I will teach you how to set up Mailchimp, so everyone that signs up to the newsletter will receive one immediately after they sign up, then another one 3 days after that. That way you will learn to put together the automation workflow and you can adjust it however you want to.

So, the first step – go back to your Mailchimp account and go to Automation tab and click on Add Automation. Here you will see plenty of automation options – be sure to check them out as they will give you an idea of what is possible with Mailchimp marketing automation.

For our example, we want to create emails after users subscribe to the list. So we will click on “List Activity” -> “Welcome Series”.

Marketing automation with Mailchimp you can click on Welcome e-mail, but I prefer sending multiple emails to the wonderful people that subscribe to my blog – because if they subscribe, they are interested in what I have to say, so I should definitely use that opportunity to show them what I have to offer to them.

Click on Add automation, name your automation campaign and select the list that you’ve created before.

Free marketing automation for WordPress with MailChimpies of three emails – one to be sent one day after a person subscribes, another one day after that and another one, one after that. We will modify that a bit.

I like to send my first email immediately after a user subscribes because the user is obviously interested in your content at that very moment, so why not make a good use out of that.

Steps to achieve that:

    1. Click on Edit trigger next to the first email.
    2. Change the delay from one day, to immediately.
      E-mail automation for WP and Mailchimpthe top right corner.

Next thing – putting together the actual email that will be sent. Click on Design Email.
Fill out the e-mail information. This is how I did it:
Send your first automated e-mail when the user subscribes

First field – name of your email is for your use only – other people won’t see it so use it to help you immediately know what this email is.

E-mail subject is what users will see in their inbox when they receive this email. So make sure it’s a good one – I suggest thanking people for the subscription to add some emotions to the email. Also, I like to throw in an emoji, just to get a bit more attention.

From name and from e-mail – this is what will be shown to your users as a sender. I prefer using my personal e-mail address and my name, instead of the company / blog name and info@ email address – to help to build a more personal relationship with my subscribers.

That’s it, click on the Next button in the bottom left corner.

On the next step, you can select how you would like to actually build your e-mail. You can code your own e-mail, but if you’re not a developer, I suggest you to use a prepared layout or a theme. Make sure to check some of them out by yourself and choose the one that suits you the most. I picked the “Make an announcement” template.
Templates for marketing automation

Now to the actual building of the e-mail. If this is your first time building / designing an e-mail, it may take you a bit longer, but you will learn very fast, because the Mailchimp interface and the editor is very intuitive and simple to use. I can’t show you every step of the way, so just click around for a little bit, try a couple of things and you will master it quickly.

But you know what, I can help you even better – I filmed my screen while I was building this actual e-mail, so, if you’re a beginner, this might help you a lot – it’s the exact process of how I’ve created my actual e-mail.


And here is the E-mail that I’ve designed:

My e-mail design that you will receive, if you subscribe to my e-mail newsletter.

It’s extremely simple, but it gets the job done – it introduces the mission of my blog to the subscribers, it’s personal, because I’ve included my personal image and it includes a call-to-action button – to redirect users to my blog.

Create additional e-mails in the automation workflow.

By now, you already know pretty much everything that you need to know to automate your e-mail campaigns. Just to make sure all is clear, I’ll tell you how to add additional e-mails to your automation workflow:

  • Go back to the automation workflow page.
  • Click on “Edit trigger” on the second e-mail.
  • This time, don’t set it to immediately, but to couple of days after the previous e-mail. I’ll set it to 4 days, but this is for you to decide – depends on how often you want to send the e-mails. But for the most blogs, it’s probably a good idea to set it to 1 week or less.Welcome e-mail series
  • Update the trigger.

Now all you need to do is – repeat the process of designing another email, following the same steps as you did for the first e-mail.

After you write, design and test your second e-mail, go back to the e-mail automation page, click on Confirm and guess what … YOU HAVE A FULLY FUNCTIONAL E-MAIL AUTOMATION ON YOUR WEBSITE. How cool is that!?

I hope this tutorial was clear and easy for you to follow – in case you came across any issues, don’t hesitate to contact me here:

And what now? Now it’s time for you to play around with all of the possibilities of marketing automation – test different forms, automation workflows, triggers and all the other fun stuff. Be sure to create different automations for different forms on your website. As for everything else in the blogging and marketing world – the more you try out yourself, the more you will understand and the better you will get at it.

Thanks for reading guys! If you like what you just read, feel free to subscribe to my e-mailing newsletter and follow me on social media. to talk blogging, digital marketing, personal-development and much more!:)

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