Today, a client of mine asked if I could produce a pretty email that she could send out to her clients. She sent me an example email. It didn’t look exactly like many of the emails I receive from big brands, but it wasn’t ordinary. This wasn’t an email with plain black text on a white background; this was fancy, colorful, and unique. I told her I’d be more than happy to create one for her, but I’d also give her an option to do this herself for free. I suggested that she use MailChimp.
What is email marketing?
When you willingly (or sometimes unwillingly) provide your email address to your favorite store, restaurant, or online retailer, you’ll probably hear or see a small statement declaring that your offering has just landed you onto a mailing list. When you check your inbox a day later, you find your first welcome letter from that particular company. This is called email marketing. It’s a way a business can keep reminding you of the great deals they have going on, send you a happy birthday card with a coupon, or entice you in some other way. This type of marketing is effective because it’s already known that you are interested in the products or services. How else would they have gotten your email address? It wasn’t a shot in the dark on their part.
What is MailChimp? How can small businesses use it for free?
You, small business owner, can do this too. Yes, you can pay a designer to whip up something super snazzy if you can afford to shell out $100+, but all the essentials to creating a basic email marketing campaign are free. You can start with MailChimp, an email marketing and email list manager. If you have less than 2,000 subscribers (people on your email list) & send less than 12,000 emails per month, there is no charge! Of course, this is a freemium service. Freemium just means that if you desire to pay for upgrades and extra features, you always have that option. It’s how these companies survive. They allow you to use their products for free in hopes that someday you will need or desire the use of their paid features. So for small businesses, this is a great option to have around as you bloom and grow.
There are a few simple steps to creating an email marketing campaign. You can complete them all in one day, maybe even in less than an hour if you are young, quick, and web savvy! No offense Momma! Of course, first you must have an objective for the email you wish to send out and a list to send it to. Before you set up a free account, make sure all the content (text & images) of your first email is finalized. After you are set up in MailChimp here is the quick and dirty rundown of how you’ll get to the finish line:
- You can create different lists of people with their e-mail addresses and other information. Examples: a birthday list, a free product giveaway list, or an invoice list. You can keep these lists separated and add people as you go along. The next time you sign in, they’ll be sitting there waiting for you to do something with them.
- Create a new campaign and choose the mailing list you want to send it to.
- You have the option to choose a template or use MailChimp’s awesome drag and drop editor! I love it! This is the designing part of the process. Type in all the information you want and insert photos. You can even change the background, text, and link colors. I’m so in love with the new drag and drop editor because it automatically creates a mobile-friendly version of the email for you! That is huge!
- Choose when that baby will be sent out and BAM! That’s it; you’re done! Easy Peasy!
- Make sure you follow up. I’m pretty sure that even with the free account, you can track who opens your emails and who doesn’t. This helps to figure out how to eliminate people from your list. Say you have someone who hasn’t opened any of your e-mails in 2 years, you might want to delete that person of your mailing list. It’s not doing anyone any good. Also, your customers are the best gauge you have to understand what works. There is no set method. Pay attention to the results you are getting from your email campaign. Watch, listen, and learn.
The Legalities of Email Marketing
There are some legalities we have to deal with when it comes to sending out marketing emails. These come from the CAN-SPAM Act. Google it if you’ve never heard of it. It’s actually against the law to send out emails without an “opt out” link if it is being used for advertisement. The opt out link allows the recipient to stop receiving emails from your marketing campaign. The law also requires you to tell the person how you got their email address and why they are receiving the email. MailChimp automatically adds this into your email. You’d have to really pay attention if you wish to remove this particular section at the bottom of the email (not recommended). It’s also not a good idea to use misleading subject lines or unethical content in general.
There are tons of YouTube videos, and MailChimp has their own tutorials on their site. So start there if you are brand new to all of this. If you start to get deeper into the details, you can do some pretty miraculous things with MailChimp. There are plenty of shortcodes that allow you to use stored information from a person you’ve entered that automagically (yes, automagically) personalize your emails.
How I Use MailChimp
Personally, I use MailChimp to send out reminders when my clients’ payment due date is getting close. I use MailChimp’s pay-as-you-go option so that I can take advantage of a paid feature called an autoresponder. I have an email list set up with all of my clients, their payment amount, and their payment due date. An email goes out automatically one month before their payment due date, reminding them that the time is getting close. Then a second email goes out two weeks before their payment is due. This feature saves me tons of time and stress that would otherwise be spent making calls, sending snail mail, or tracking down my clients for payment.