E-mail marketing is a great low-cost way to engage your customers and run promotions. But there are many online tools available to business owners. Which one should you pick? We will talk about 3 very popular tools in our Email Marketing Review Series, starting with MailChimp (disclaimer: we previously used MailChimp for our email lists). Stay tuned to find out what the others will be!
MailChimp is one of the most affordable email marketing services for small businesses. Their basic plan is free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month and offers a lot of email basics. Pricing beyond the basic plan starts at $10 per month, which allows more email subscribers and includes other features such as A/B testing and delivery by time zone.
You might ask why you need a tool to send out emails. Well, the biggest reason is that by law, you need to offer a way for your customers to unsubscribe from your email list. 100% of E-mail tools offer this. In addition, the tools ensure the deliverability of the emails and offers metrics on open rates and click rates. In other words, you will have a good idea if people respond to your emails with the marketing tools. You will need to do a lot more to achieve that if you just send an email from your gmail/yahoo mail account.
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I created an account through MailChimp for my (fake) business, a Hair Salon. I confirmed my account and was directed to the “let’s get started” page, where I was prompted questions about my organization. MailChimp asks these questions in order to benchmark your performance against others in your industry. You can look over their Email Marketing Benchmarks here.
When you initially sign up, MailChimp offers a “walk-through” of what all their features do— how to search through your email lists and campaigns, how to access your campaigns, reports, and account settings.
The first thing I did to get started with my account was to import an email list. The functionality is pretty simple in MailChimp; create a list name, a default from and reply email address, etc. One of the great aspects of MailChimp list creation is that you can import a list from a bunch of different sources, as well as connect your MailChimp with different CRM tools.
The easiest way for me to add emails is storing email signups in an Excel spreadsheet and copy/pasting from the spreadsheet. If you have a very large spreadsheet of emails, you can import your emails by uploading an Excel file instead.
In addition, your email lists are always editable. You can manage your subscribers by creating email segments (to target specific subscribers by location or engagement) or groups, deleting subscribers manually off your list, or unsubscribing existing subscribers. When a subscriber clicks on “unsubscribe” in the emails you send out, they will be automatically removed from the list and you will get an email notification from it.
Composing an email
To create an email, it’s best to first create an email template. An email template can serve as your base for future emails and help keep newsletters, etc. consistent over time. MailChimp offers basic layouts to choose from to get you started, and they have over 300 pre-made customizable themes. You can even code your own template using HTML and CSS for those savvy enough to take that on. If you’re lacking creativity with your emails, you can also get inspiration from their other users here. Some look incredibly professional and easy to replicate!
To create my template, I put my company’s logo at the top of the email. You can select an email theme color using RGB color palette or a hex code, so your email can easily match the color theme of your website. They make it easy to drag and drop new elements into your email template. I added an “image group” with 2 images from my “business.”
Creating images is a piece of cake too— after inputting my images, I was able to resize and edit them using MailChimp’s built-in editing tools. MailChimp helps keep your email looking nice by alerting you of inconsistencies in image size.
Now that I’ve created my template, I can start a “campaign,” or email that I plan to send to my existing list that I’ve created. I’m prompted about what type of email I’d like to send and to which list I’d like to send my email. A “Plain-Text” campaign will allow me to send out a simple, text-only update to my email list, and a “Regular ol’ Campaign” will allow me to access the lovely template I just created, as well as add more pictures and text. I selected a Regular ol’ campaign.
Campaign information is next. MailChimp gives you the ability to personalize the “to” field to give your customers the feeling of a personalized email.
Hammering out the campaign information includes making decisions about tracking information, of which MailChimp offers a myriad of options. For example, if your business has a website that is using Google Analytics, you can set up MailChimp to track website traffic and revenue that you’ve generated from each email you send out. MailChimp’s tracking devices seem to be comparable to other competing email marketing services.
I then found my template under saved templates. The email I plan to send out contains a 40% off coupon for my customers’ next visit. Creating an email is a very similar process to creating a template. For my particular email, all I did was add a couple of text boxes to my template. However, when I previewed my email, I saw some inconsistencies between the web and mobile version.
This is something you should be very careful of with MailChimp! Even if your email looks great as you are designing it (and looking at the web version), the mobile layout of your email could look drastically different. This is one downside that you’ll have deal with, and it’s not always easy to fix. I went back to settings and found line spacing options to correct this. It took me a while.
Even if you view your email in “preview mode” and it looks okay, make sure to send yourself a test email before sending a final version out to your email list. The formatting doesn’t always look the same in preview and in your inbox.
You’ll receive the test email in under a minute. Make sure you check this email on both your computer and on your mobile devices. If it looks good then you’re ready to go! Head back to your MailChimp account, where MailChimp will confirm all your information before sending out your email.
Email Reporting Metrics
After sending out my email, I can begin to review my email’s performance using MailChimp’s built-in email review devices. I can view the reports under My Campaigns.
MailChimp’s reports are pretty comprehensive. I can see the open rate and click rate (of links included in my email) of my email as compared to industry averages. I can see how many subscribers opened my emails and clicked on links, as well as who specifically opened the email and what links they clicked on.
MailChimp’s performance graphs give you a great idea of when your subscribers are opening your emails and when they are clicking on your email’s links. Making adjustments based on these metrics will be key to improving the success of your emails overtime.
The report tells you which links within your email were clicked most often, which subscribers opened your email and clicked on its links the most, and where your true customer fans are.
If your email contained more than one link, a useful tool for you will be link tracking. You can view the performance of your individual links as well as see a “click map” of which shows you which links were clicked on most often within the layout of your email.
Overall, MailChimp is pretty user-friendly for beginners to get up-and-running quickly. It is FREE for new users with small email lists (<2,000 subscribers), it comes with a myriad of templates to help those who are just getting started. The main downside is that MailChimp can be difficult to work with if you’d like to get more creative and personalized with your emails. Bottom line — Mailchimp is a great tool for small businesses who are starting out with their email marketing. It’s very reasonably priced even if you have over 2000 subscribers. We highly recommend it!
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