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Brylie Christopher Oxley
Brylie Christopher Oxley

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Mailchimp makes contact management difficult

TLDR: Mailchimp should offer a unified 'contacts manager' to help users effectively manage their contact list. This would help reduce waste and honor communications preferences for recipients.


While helping our marketing team manage contacts, I learned that we had around 45% - 55% duplicate records across several of what Mailchimp calls "audiences". At first, I was concerned about the data practices of the marketing team, but then I realized that part of the issue was related to the Mailchimp interface. In particular, Mailchimp doesn't seem to allow customers to manage a unified contacts list.

Current design

The Mailchimp Dashboard menu consists of the following top-level sections:

Mailchimp dashboard menu

Of note, the Audience link is singular, implying that there is one core audience, perhaps broken into overlapping segments (my interpretation).

Having a segmented audience is easy to understand from a marketing perspective. Conceptually, an audience is all of the people interested in your offering. Segments would then be audience members grouped into various demographics, useful for tailored communication.

Design implications

In practice, Mailchimp audiences are distinct contact lists that allow duplicate contacts to exist in multiple audiences.

Contacts can sometimes have opted out of one "audience", having no effect on their communications preferences in another audience. This can cause frustration when contacts receive communications after having opted-out. It can also lower a company's reputation, particularly when users report the company's communications as SPAM.

Likewise, your company will be billed for duplicate contacts across audiences, as if they were distinct contacts. This might be unnoticeable for smaller contact lists, but is still wasteful (like leaving the lights on when you're not home).


In our case, we had the same contacts in as many as five audiences. This was adding up to several hundred euros a month, just to pay for duplicate contacts.

After archiving and merging contacts from the multiple duplicate "audiences" that our marketing team had created, we reduced our contact count by almost half!

Financial conflict-of-interest

Whenever we use a service company (be it AWS, Mailchimp, etc) that charges based on resource usage, that company has financial incentive to encourage inefficient, or excessive, use of the related resource(s).

In this case, Mailchimp stands to lose a considerable portion of recurring revenue, if it were to engineer unified contact management and de-duping into its platform. That said, it is not a foregone conclusion that Mailchimp won't offer effective contact management at some point in the future.

Not placing blame

I don't believe the fault here lies completely on the marketing team or Mailchimp, but the combination of inadequacies in Mailchimp contact management and choices made by the marketing team added up to a costly monthly bill.


I am not saying that Mailchimp is a bad actor here -- far from that since they provide a user-friendly, honest service.

I am just staying that Mailchimp contact management could use some significant improvement.

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Top comments (4)

cookrdan profile image

Hey I just want to chime in as a Mailchimp user that it is possible to have a unified list. You must set up groups in the audience.

  • Put all contacts in one audience.
  • Each contact should belong to one or several groups that you define.
  • Segmenting for marketing can be done based on groups/any field/any tag/etc.

You can allow clients to specify which group as a preference on forms, or you can keep that hidden and manually specify it for each client. There may be more options on paid tiers but I’m on a free tier so I don’t know.

You can read more here

brylie profile image
Brylie Christopher Oxley • Edited

Thanks for the solution Dan. I'll recommend that we take that approach.

In effect, we can stop creating multiple audiences. I suspect most organizations don't need "audiences" as defined by Mailchimp.

Having "audiences" as such a prominent feature in the UX likely contributes to wasteful spending, undesired duplication of contacts, and even frustration when recipients try to manage their communications preferences and happen to be in multiple audiences.

cookrdan profile image

Yeah I understand what you mean. I spent a lot of time reading their documentation before I began setting up our audience. Not straightforward. I also had to just sit down and brainstorm what I really needed as well.

heshiebee profile image
Heshie Brody

Coming from constant contact I totally agree.
Recently I tried sending an email multiple lists and it wouldn’t let me do it unless I tagged all of those contacts first with a unique tag.