There are a vast number of email marketing services available to businesses of all sizes. Since email marketing has been around for a while, many of the services have matured to the point that even novice tech savvy business owners use them with ease.
Last month I launched a campaign using MailChimp for the first time. I’d used and even recommended the service in the past, but it had been a few years. Since so much had changed with the service, I decided to give it a go and document my findings for you along the way. For me, there was an existing list that had to be migrated to their platform, this post touches on the features used to facilitate that process as well as features for beginners and advanced users alike, and even a couple items they could improve.
The list in question was about 2200 subscribers who had previously opted in to content I published over the last couple years. It was important to understand and document where each list came from so subscribers could be reminded, so as create meaningful engagement, while reducing the likelihood of spam complaints.
1 – Let’s Discuss the MailChimp User Interface
This is important for users of all levels. The user interface can make or break a customer experience with a product so important as email marketing.
If it’s hard to use, customers become frustrated and in some cased don’t execute their email marketing plan. This means they don’t get results, and don’t stick around.
On the flip side, if it’s easy, it’s enjoyable.
MailChimp does user interface with excellence. It is simple with a fair amount of white space, leaving you with a sense of “I can do this.” There are small touches like auto collapsing menus when browser is resized, easy to use wizards, and humorous dialogue boxes that keep you on track. Discover if MailChimp is right for your business here.
2 – MailChimp Review, Easy Import of Existing Lists
If you have a list in CSV format, most email services can accommodate and the import is pretty straightforward. MailChimp takes it a step further, allowing you to cut and paste directly from Excel for the import.
The process of moving from one provider to another can be painful, MailChimp does a good job minimizing that pain.
3 – De-duplication of Subscribers in MailChimp
In my situation, I had already de-duplicated contacts so didn’t need this feature, but was glad to see it available. It’s important to note that they can only check for duplicates upon import or opt-in with the same list. Within a list you can segment further. Which leads to the next notable feature of MailChimp. Discover if MailChimp is right for your business here.
4 – MailChimp Review, Creating Segments, Groups, VIP lists
Once you have your list imported, you can create segments based on record information. If someone came to your business from a specific source, you can use that information to create a segment. You can do the same thing for custom field data to track things like customers or prospects of a specific product, for example.
Segments can also be created automatically based on subscriber engagement (opens, clicks). Users can also tag subscribers as VIPs as a special segment. Once you have a segment, an action, like sending the segment an email, can be performed.
This translates nicely on the mobile app as well (more on that in a moment). While looking at a user record, by searching for them, or reviewing activity on a recent campaign, you can manually add the contact to the VIP segment.
Again, in an age where relevance is key to getting to the inbox, and being read by subscribers, list segmentation is key. Fortunately MailChimp makes it easy.
5 – MailChimp Campaigns, Autoresponders, Webforms & More
When it comes to MailChimp terminology of campaigns and autoresponders, this is where I had to spend some time getting educated.
From what I’ve been able to gather, campaigns are pre-programmed messages that are sent as broadcast messages to an entire list or segment and can be scheduled, this is what I’d formerly called autoresponders.
Autoresponders in MailChimp are messages sent based on subscriber activity such as webform being submitted, a link being clicked in a campaign, or a campaign message being opened.
It’s worth noting that autoresponders can only be sent “within the hour” of someone activating one.
Webform Builder allows users to create forms for publishing on websites (there’s one on this page). Giving their website visitors the ability to submit name and email. It took a little time to get used to, but overall found the drag and drop interface easy and intuitive to use.
RSS Integration – Ideal for Bloggers allows users who publish online and use RSS (WordPress uses wordpress), to fire an email to subscribers when a new post becomes available. Great time saver, and great way to build community with subscribers. Discover if MailChimp is right for your business here.
6 – MailChimp Review, Mobile App Excellence
This was one of the most surprising and refreshing features. A fully functional mobile app. I know of a company who recently had a bunch of hype related to finally launching their mobile app, sadly it was anticlimactic. Therefore I was a little jaded, but presently surprised to see STATS and solid functionality in the mobile app.
Users are able to get to all vital data in their account, and even make some modifications from the mobile app. Well done MailChimp!
7 – The MailChimp Dashboard
Upon logging in, users get a snapshot of their recent list activity. Recent Campaigns, List Growth, Top 5, and Chimp Chatter.
This is very helpful as it allows me to get key information as to database activity since the last time I logged in or fired off that campaign. Discover if MailChimp is right for your business here.
8 – MailChimp Reporting, Conversation Tracking
Reports are solid as well. Campaign centric, they inform customers on common success metrics important to email marketers like open rate, click through rate, bounce, and unsubscribes.
It also tracks link clicks, social engagement, 24 hour performance, and found on the advanced tab is “Email Domain Performance” which reveals the success metrics across domains (think gmail.com vs. yahoo.com vs. comcast.net, etc.).
If you enable “conversation tracking” the tab for campaign reporting is populated with replies that you’ve received and responded to with subscribers. Very useful feature for recalling and understanding most engaged subscribers. These can easily be moved to a VIP list for future use.
9 – Team Collaboration on Newsletters in MailChimp
This functions similar to the collaboration available in Google Docs, but with a twist. When composing a newsletter, within the editor you can send it to team members for feedback. The team member replies to the message with their input and it is tracked in one spot.
Very practical and time saving way to get a solid email marketing piece out the door. Discover if MailChimp is right for your business here.
10 – MailChimp Free Version – Affordable Version
Here’s the best part of MailChimp for many small businesses, while you are familiarizing yourself with the system, you don’t have to pay for it if your list is under 2000 records. There are some paid functions, but most who are getting started won’t need that for a bit.
The One Thing MailChimp Could Do Better
With all the things it does well, it is software, and software is in a constant evolution. Perhaps I mis-understood something and these issues are addressed in another way, or are accounted for in a forthcoming product update. At this point, there is one thing that stands out which could be done better:
(Near) Instant Delivery for Autoresponders: There should be a way for an autoresponder to go out immediately. Web visitors aren’t patient. I understand that when a webform is filled out, the required double optin email goes out right away, but an email with the web visitors requested info should be sent immediately upon completion of that process. Or when a confirmed subscriber takes an action triggering an autoresponder, it should be just as immediate.
MailChimp Review – Final Thoughts
If you are relatively new to marketing online, and want an affordable tool to build and manage your newsletter list, MailChimp is a great place to state.
It would be misleading, however, to state it was for beginners only, when in fact, it is scalable. I know of some with 500,000 subscribers who love the flexibility of the platform and it’s email deliverability. It will grow with your business, and it has flexible tech tools (API) that will integrate with other systems as your business grows.
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