I've just signed up to MailChimp and sent off my first email campaign. I'm quite excited about it and would like to share what I learned from Liz Harris of Monton Marketing who taught me everything I know about it.
When I went to see Liz at SHV Training a few months ago, she gave me some excellent advice on how to improve my online marketing. A marketing consultant, she knows everything you need to know about promoting your business online. I did everything she suggested about the website:
- use smaller words and short, snappy sentences.
- Use a more compact layout.
- Add more links to the menu.
- Use words like "provide" instead of "offer."
The next suggestion I had a bit of trouble with because I had no clue what to put in it:
- Use MailChimp email newsletters.
Okay, but how, and to whom do I send them? This is what I'm going to share with you today.
1. Send to many
Mail Chimp are pretty strict about spam. As far as they are concerned, it's evil and illegal. I had been advised to get people's business cards from the rec room at SHV and approach them for business. One thing I really hate is being rejected. I've had a few good responses from randomly emailing people before, but in the main I find it a waste of time because my emails almost certainly end up in the spam folder - or get sent there. What Liz said was that I'd be rejected anyway for reasons of cost, unfamiliarity ("who's this random stranger?") or the idea that what they have already is just fine, thank you. By using MailChimp, you get to send bulk emails that look attractive enough that people will actually read them because they're done in HTML which means nice pictures and a pretty layout. One of the recipients would, by the law of averages, at least consider contacting me as a result. Oh, and MailChimp makes you tell them where you got their contact details from. This is good because once they realise that you're in the same boat as them, they're more likely to consider doing business with you.
2. Offer to give them what they need
Your first goal when sending an email newsletter is to avoid being sent to spam or considered a nuisance. Liz suggested that the content should be interesting, informative and useful. If I just said, "I'm a web designer. Hire me now!" that would fail. If I sent some tips, tricks, and useful advice, they'd be more likely to retain it, send it to their friends (you want this to happen) or even contact me with a view to hiring me. What useful information could a web designer supply to prospective clients without putting herself out of a job? The trick is to drop some subtle hints about the fact that they need to get things done by a professional. Create the impression that they're missing out on something and that you can provide for that need, but don't be too direct about it. Don't be too preachy or too vague. The idea is to be considered a source of useful information.
3. Attractive layouts
One of the most important things to consider when sending an email newletter is the layout. MailChimp provides a lovely range of templates or you can design your own using a range of layouts from their selection. For my first ever newsletter I chose the 1:2:3 layout on the left. I customized it with my own colours and added some pictures of my work. Naturally, being a Wendy Cockcroft production it's verbose. The next one will have to be shorter. The point is, I've been able to use it to display some of my work and to demonstrate my knowledge of my subject matter.
Breaking up the content in this way makes it easier to read and provides a similar reading experience to that of a newspaper. There are other layout options - I'm fairly certain I'll be using a different one for the next newsletter. The point is, the more pretty and clever it looks, the more likely your readers are to keep it and not send it to spam.
4. Present content effectively
Have a read through it (subscribe to the newsletter if you have trouble reading it as it is) and you'll see what I'm doing with the wording: I'm creating a question in the minds of my audience. Do they have this stuff on straight, and if they don't, should they talk to someone who does (i.e. me)?
Casually mentioning facts that may not be widely known (such as Linked In company pages and what you can put on them) helps to promote the idea that you know things that your readers may find useful.
By presenting the content in an attractive way in an email newsletter you can get the attention of your readers in a way that ordinary emails don't. The colours and columns are as important as the content itself but the way that is presented needs to make sense. This layout works for an introduction, two very important subjects and three slightly less important subjects. For a newletter with fewer or more subjects, I'll have to use a different configuration.
5. Integrate with social media
MailChimp has a range of apps that integrate with Facebook and Twitter. It also gives you widgets to add to your blog or website. Every time you send an email campaign out, MailChimp offers to tweet and post to Facebook. If you have the Twitter app on Linked In, it will appear there too.
This helps to increase your online reach by bringing the message of your email newsletter to people you would not necessarily send it to. They may decide to send it on because they find it useful. Fans on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In may decide to subscribe. You never know.
MailChimp is ultimately only as effective as you are. If you send a self-centered "hire me" email campaign out, chances are it'll end up in the spam folder. If you send out vague platitudinous mush, chances are it will end up in the spam folder. If, however, you send out a campaign stuffed with information your readers find useful, chances are they'll respond in a positive way. Time will tell if the one I've just sent out is in any way effective. I'm new to this and have much to learn. However, I've designed it as nicely as I can and have included some useful information with a hook that readers will hopefully find attractive. I've got the theory on straight, but I need to practice.