Getting Started with Campaigns

There are a lot of names for the email you send with MailChimp–-mass email, newsletter, e-blast, e-zine–-but we call each email message a "campaign." Our Campaign Builder walks you through building a campaign, step by step.

We'll cover a few basics about Campaigns in this article, including what you need to know before you start building a campaign, and an overview of our Campaign Builder tool.

Things to Know

Building a campaign is a little like baking a cake, in the sense that you should have all the ingredients lined up before you start. Find and edit your images, compile and edit your text, and find the right links for your click-throughs.

You'll build and design your campaigns in the Campaign Builder, where you can send a campaign immediately, or schedule it to go out later. As you get started, explore our Knowledge Base articles on Campaigns to help you along the way.

After you send a few campaigns, learn about advanced targeting and scheduling with Automation.  

Types of campaigns

The first thing you'll do in the Campaign Builder is choose what type of campaign you want to send. There are four campaign options, each with different, flexible settings, so you can choose the one that fits your needs.

  • Regular Campaigns
    The most common type of campaign, you can design and customize your content, and choose whether to send immediately or schedule your campaign for later.
  • Plain-Text Campaigns
    These are the simplest form of mass email you can send. As the title suggests, these campaigns contain only text and have no formatting options.
  • RSS Campaigns
    RSS campaigns allow you to automate your email marketing by combining content from an RSS feed with user-friendly MailChimp templates. Like the other campaign types, you can control when these campaigns go out and who receives them.
  • A/B Testing Campaigns
    Use an A/B Testing Campaign to test things like your campaign subject line, from name,  content, and send time. We'll send up to three versions of your email to a small part of your list, track its performance and send the winning version to the remaining subscribers on your list.

Campaign vs. Template

An important distinction we make at MailChimp is the difference between our templates and our campaigns.

As you know, a campaign is what we call each email message you send to your subscribers. Templates are the HTML files that serve as the starting point for any campaign. The template you use determines the layout of your images and text. Essentially, it's a container for your content.

The Template step of the Campaign Builder asks you to select a template for your campaign. We have a lot of predesigned templates for you to choose from, so if you aren't an HTML whiz, you'll still be able to create and send great-looking campaigns. Look for Drag and Drop templates, to make the process even easier.

If you are an experienced coder, you can also edit our templates, code your own, or create an editable template with our Template Language.

Building a campaign

The Campaign Builder walks you through the entire process to set up, design, and send your campaign. Here's a brief description of the steps in the Campaign Builder when you create a Regular Campaign.

Footer ribbon showing five steps of the Campaign Builder process - Recipients, Setup, Template, Design, and Confirm.


In step one, Recipients, you'll tell us who's going to receive your campaign. You can choose a list, pick a saved or pre-built segment of the list, or create a new segment.

choose recipients


In step two, Setup, you'll input important details about your campaign including the email subject, from name and email address, and whether you want to personalize the To: field for your subscribers. This page also includes settings for Tracking, Social Media, and other options.
Campaign Info headline with options available on setup step.


Step three, Template, is where you choose what template layout to use with your campaign.

  • Basic templates are simple layouts.
  • Themes include images and color schemes.
  • Code Your Own templates are completely customizable.

After you've used MailChimp for a while, you'll see templates appear in the Saved Templates and Campaigns tabs, too.


Now you're ready to design your campaign. Step four, Design, is where you will actually design your campaign and add your content. Click anywhere on the template you've selected to bring up the editing pane and get to work!
Email designer shows campaign content on the left pane with editing options on the right side.

You can use the navigation bar to Preview and Test your campaign at any time, which we encourage you to do often. If it looks good to you, you can move on to the final step.


The final Confirm step shows you all the decisions you've made so far. This checklist displays whether each item is complete, can be edited, or has a problem that needs to be resolved. You can return to any of the other steps from the Confirm screen, or click to Edit or Resolve anything that needs attention.

If everything looks good, click Send to distribute your campaign right away, or click Schedule to tell us when you want the campaign to go out. Scheduling campaigns is helpful if you plan a series of emails, or if your subscribers need your message at a specific time, but you won't be in front of the computer then.
Confirm step shows You're all set to send with checkmarks on each row.

At any time in the Campaign Builder, you can click Save & Exit to save your work so far and return to another section of MailChimp or Log out.

So now you know a little more about how to create a campaign in MailChimp. As always, check out our Knowledge Base or  Glossary for more information.

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