When it comes to online marketing, SEO, web development and more, it's very easy to get overwhelmed by various tools and programs that are recommended as "the best" for achieving a certain task. Every day I get emails from new vendors telling me why their products are "the best" and why I need to set aside some time to talk to them.
While I consider new and upcoming programs and services from time to time, I still have my go-to ones that help me achieve the tasks needed to successfully market for myself and my clients online. In the coming weeks, I’ll spend some time talking about each, and hopefully help get you started using some great tools. The first tool is one of my personal favorites…
I’ve written before how email marketing is a very effective arrow to have in your marketing quiver, as well as given some tips on how to improve your email marketing. But I’ve never talked about how I actually go about producing said emails. Well here, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret recipe: MailChimp. Years ago, I began using Constant Contact to send out bulk emails, and it was pretty effective. Being able to send out thousands of messages, protect your domain (don’t ever send out bulk emails directly from your computer) and track responses and click times was a godsend when it was becoming more common. But I always felt the tool was bulky (not to mention a little pricey); enter MailChimp. What began as a simplified, yet charming email client grew in popularity and number of features, and quickly became my favorite tool for emails.
MailChimp has managed to keep its personality while becoming more “corporate” in its features and function. While I miss the regular monkey-related YouTube videos that were linked on the top of each page, they’ve still retained some charm that makes me chuckle every time I see it.
But charm isn’t all that MailChimp has going for it. It really is a full-featured email marketing program that allows you to effectively manage your lists, group contacts by as many categories as you need, and build compelling emails that work well in all email clients.
A few things to note when creating an email list: make sure the people you sign up are people you’ve actually had contact with before they get on your list. Don’t buy lists as unsolicited email is looked down on pretty heavily these days. But, if you do buy or import a list that you didn’t manage or create yourself, don’t worry! MailChimp will take care of that for you – they’ll block your ability to send to a list of contacts if too many email addresses get returned as spam or mark you as spam. This seems like a bad feature, but it’s actually good for you and your contacts. Customers don’t receive unsolicited spam and you keep your domain clean and off blacklists.
But more than that, MailChimp has a pretty robust system for managing contacts. You can enter as much information you’d like for each person, group them by as many categories as you want, and track open statistics, conversations, social media and more on a per-contact basis. It’s pretty cool to see your email subscribers and their interaction – and it can help you identify your biggest fans! Add on the basic tools like a signup form on your website, Excel importing and exporting, and more, and you have a pretty darn good way to keep your list up to date and thoroughly analyzed.
I have to admit, this is my least favorite feature nowadays with MailChimp. I’m a bit old-school, and when they made it more difficult to directly import my own code to create my emails, I was a little bit grumpy. But, I see why their approach to email creation is beneficial for most customers – most people are not coders. When you create an email, you can select from one of many themes and modify the content and be on your way, or you can use one of their basic templates which has the email laid out, but no colors, images or text to start with. Editing each email is pretty easy using their WYSIWYG editor (what you see is what you get) and easy for most people who have any kind of experience using Microsoft Word or some other content editor. And yes, you still can import your own code – you just have to do it on a template level instead of a per-email basis.
Frankly, one of the first things that drew me to MailChimp was the cost. Up to a certain list size, the email system is completely free. Yep, you get a full-featured email marketing program at no cost for up to 2,000 contacts and 12,000 total emails in a month. That’s a total of $0.00 per email! When you get to be more active than 6 emails a month to your 2,000 contacts, the pricing is pretty affordable for more – for instance, unlimited emails to 10,000 contacts is $75 per month which is competitive with, if not less expensive than, most mainstream email marketing systems.
Overall, this post sounded like an advertisement for MailChimp, but I promise there are zero endorsement dollars or credit – I just love the program that much. It’s made what used to be a daunting task of email marketing into something I can do quickly and effectively. Email marketing is important, so find the best system for you and get to staying in touch with your customers today!