There is no doubt in our minds, MailChimp is a fantastic tool for small businesses.

It lets you organise and send marketing emails, allows you to be clever and produce nice looking emails… and gives you the ability to track who’s opened them.  It’s also got a very powerful automation system, which if you know what you’re doing, can have a game changing effect on your business.

But I have to be honest with you…  their forms suck.

Don’t get me wrong… when you are starting out, have a really simple list and you want to capture people into your database, they are great…

…but as soon as you start looking to segment your database – which is where the real benefits of email marketing come into the equation, they can limit you… and unless you are someone who’s comfortable messing around with code, you should be looking for a 3rd party solution.

Take for example a website with two pages offering two different products, red shoes and blue shoes. They are both offered by the same business (and therefore should be in the same list), but you want to be able to add people who sign up on the red shoe page to the red shoe interest group, and the same for the blue shoes.

However, to do this, you need to go into the code of the form, set it so that the form on the red shoe page adds people to the first group, and then form on the blue shoe page adds people to the blue shoe group (if you are really into this – here’s the MailChimp support article – but be ready for some messing around with code!)

Because this is slightly beyond most people, they end up creating two lists, one for red shoes and one for blue shoes (and the added complications of mo’ lists, mo’ problems). If you then decide to add other pages, you end up with even more lists…  I’ve seen MailChimp accounts with over 50 lists because of this!

Using an alternative form tool which allows you to add people to a specific group based on the form they sign up from will allow you to set up specific targeted emails just for them – which is where you can really make a step change in your email marketing.

…and of course, there are benefits in terms of design, getting around the double opt-in, and hidden fields, that these tools can help with (which I’ll come to in future posts)

So in conclusion… if you have a single product, or group of customers – then be my guest, use the MailChimp forms… they’ll serve you well.

However, if you are looking at a different type of solution where you want to send targeted emails to people who are interested in just one thing… start looking at the alternatives to the built-in MailChimp forms – you’ll be glad you did!