Jul 22, 2013

Tracking Your Welcome Email With Mandrill

Update (6/27/17): This post contains information about features and workflows that are no longer available. To learn more about using Mandrill—now an add-on for paid monthly MailChimp accounts—visit our Knowledge Base.

Update (3/16/16): Mandrill is now an add-on for paid monthly MailChimp accounts, and is no longer available as a standalone service. Existing Mandrill users have until April 27, 2016 to merge their Mandrill account with a MailChimp account. See this article for additional details, including pricing information and instructions for merging your accounts.

Regardless of whether or not you own a business that sends receipts or invoices, you’re a purveyor of transactional emails by default with MailChimp. When a new subscriber signs up to receive your email, after confirming their subscription, they typically get a welcome email. Since that email is sent on a one-to-one basis (meaning you only send an email to one person based on an action), it’s considered a transactional email.

However, one small drawback to the default welcome email sent through MailChimp is that we don’t currently track opens or clicks for them. We’ve seen some MailChimp users get creative and use our new hourly autoresponders to send in the place of a traditional welcome email, but sometimes waiting until the top of the hour to send an email won’t cut it. That’s where our pals at Mandrill come in.

Using Mandrill to send and track your welcome email

Like MailChimp, Mandrill offers users 12,000 free credits every month for all of your transactional sending needs. And, if you’re a monthly MailChimp user, you get additional Mandrill credits every month with that free plan. Mandrill has built-in email tracking for measuring opens, clicks, and overall engagement of your email. We also recently announced that Mandrill activity is automatically imported to your MailChimp account. This means that if you send your welcome email through Mandrill you’ll still be able to measure the results and segment your list based on opens or clicks for that Mandrill-powered newsletter.

If you’d like to give Mandrill a shot, setting it up to send your welcome emails instead of MailChimp is a good way to get started. First, we’ll have to make one small change to your MailChimp list. You can disable MailChimp’s automatically generated welcome emails by going to your list and clicking Settings -> List name and defaults. From there, uncheck the Send a final welcome email option.

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Now that we’ve paved the way for Mandrill to handle sending the welcome email, you’ve got a couple of options as far as how to execute.

Third-party solutions (the easier way)

If you’re not an experienced coder, you may want to use a third-party service that’ll handle any potential messiness for you. If so, Zapier and ItDuzzIt are excellent solutions. With these services, you can sign up for a free account, then link your MailChimp and Mandrill accounts. It’s worth stating up front that if you use this method, Zapier will check every 15 minutes for new subscribers, which means there could be a minimal delay in the time a subscriber signs up and the time they get the welcome email.

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Webhooks (the less easy way)

If you’re more comfortable with code, you may want to look into using MailChimp’s webhooks option and a wrapper of your choice for the Mandrill API. Without turning this into a tutorial on how to write your own Mandrill integration with MailChimp, you’ll basically want to set up a webhook in your list so that when a new subscriber is added, MailChimp triggers your script to send the welcome email via Mandrill.


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Sending targeted email, automatically

Now that you’ve got your email ready to go, let’s have some fun. Let’s say you’re a musician who’s offering an MP3 in your Mandrill-powered welcome email.


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Using MailChimp’s segmenting and autoresponders, you could send a follow-up email to just those new subscribers. They clicked to download your MP3, and now you’re thanking them for listening or offering up a promo code to download the entire record. To do that, you’ll create a new autoresponder and segment your list to just those subscribers who opened/clicked (your choice) the Mandrill welcome email.


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Although there’s no wrong answer to how soon you should send that follow-up autoresponder, you might want to give your subscribers a little bit of time before sending them another email. After all, a confirmation email, a welcome email, and then a "promo about your new album" email would be a tad overwhelming within an hour.

Other Mandrill usefulness

So maybe you’re not interested in measuring the engagement for your welcome email. That’s cool, and there’s a lot you can do with a transactional solution like Mandrill. For instance, with Mandrill’s webhooks and a developer, you could construct a couple of pretty cool integrations:

  • After sending a transactional email through Mandrill, add that recipient to your MailChimp list via a webhook and the MailChimp API so they can get a series of follow-up autoresponders.
  • When a subscriber clicks a link in a Mandrill email, move them to a specific group or static segment in your MailChimp list.
  • If a subscriber marks a Mandrill email as spam (or the email bounces), have them automatically removed from your MailChimp list as well as your Mandrill list.

Or, if you’re a real fancypants…

  • Use Mandrill’s Inbound Email Processing API to set up an alias so new subscribers could just send an email to join your MailChimp list. To do this, you (or your developer) would set up a script on your server that listens for the Mandrill webhook, parses out the email address, and then uses the MailChimp API to subscribe them to your desired list.
  • If you’re an agency and you want your client to send you their campaign’s content, set up the Inbound Email Processing API to serve as your own custom email beamer address. Similar to the above option, the script listens for the webhook, parses out the HTML content of the message, and then uses the MailChimp API to create a campaign with said content.