Sorry, Tarzan. There’s a new hero in the jungle. He takes my hand and tells me not to worry, he’s there for me. He takes me places you never did. He leaves me sweet notes that make me smile. He’s real smart. And he likes bananas as much as I do.
If I hadn’t needed to create and manage an email marketing campaign, I’d never have met him.
His name: MailChimp.
We’ve been together a few months now and I couldn’t be happier. I was pretty nervous when we first met; online relationships can be risky. But MailChimp didn’t put any moves on me and when I was ready to take it to the next level, he showed me how. I also hung out with him a while to see the company he was keeping and hear what others had to say about him. It was all good.
I’ll never forget how he stayed by my side, coaching me through labour with our first child in September.
We’re great together.
MailChimp rocks my socks
See what spending time with MailChimp does to me! In all truth, MailChimp really does fulfill my newsletter needs wonderfully (and wackily).
A woman’s relationship with her hairdresser is usually special. I know mine is. My bond with MailChimp is along the same lines. I can count on MailChimp to make me look good: my client’s newsletter comes out when I want it, how I want it and I get honest feedback to boot!
But let’s back up a bit. How did we find each other? How did I know what to look for?
Some of it was intuitive. For a communications practitioner, knowing your audience and setting a course to meeting their needs is core to most strategies. However, I’m relatively new to the small business neighbourhood and not entirely sure whom or what to bring to their BBQ.
How should I dress? When should I arrive? How will I know they like me?
Since early summer I’ve been reading many blogs and newsletters, building my understanding of business-to-business marketing. The following are among my most-thumbed:
- Andy Beals Marketing Pilgrim
- B2B Marketing
- Small business marketing blog from Duct Tape Marketing
- Marketing Sherpa blog
- Six Pixels of Separation
- The Canadian Marketing blog
As for the BBQ, they advised me:
- Send your email marketing newsletter Tuesdays to Thursdays;
- Offer subscribers both plain text and html;
- Open rates of newsletters vary by industry e.g. 15.2% for consulting.
I found great guidelines here in this Drayton Bird article on producing breakthrough sales copy. I especially love: “They don’t care how wonderful you think you are. They want to know what you have for them.”
I have also been absorbing tips and advice from reports and guides, offered in many cases through the email marketing software providers. At the time of writing, MailChimp alone has 17 guides, one of their latest being – Let’s Get Social.
I’ve also watched what highly successful bloggers were applying to their newsletters and noted their pitches and op-out wording. Why not learn from the best.
Choosing a partner wasn’t easy: AWeber, MailChimp and Constant Contact were strong contenders. Each offered flexible templating, good support, list management, campaign analysis, scheduling, autoresponders and more. MailChimp seemed especially thorough and easy to use. I dug further into their resource materials and help forums.
In the end, it was MailChimp’s friendliness that won me over. And it sure helped steady me as I descended deeper into my very first campaign.
I did have to invest some hours in creating my initial HTML template. Their WYSIWYG editor was intuitive and I managed to find and match my client’s brand colours with eyedropper. A puzzling formatting problem turned out to be a Microsoft Word carryover.
Constructing the email marketing newsletter
In a nutshell, effective permission-based marketing directs relevant messages to people who want and expect to get them. If you don’t follow that construct, it’s likely your dispatches won’t get cracked open. They might not even get out the door.
Let’s start with the relevant messages bit.
I had several objectives in mind:
- Building a national brand for the company in Canada;
- Generating awareness, referrals and leads for its 36 offices;
- Demonstrating the advantages of using a qualified business brokerage service;
- Positioning Sunbelt as the go-to company to buy, build, value or sell a business.
The target audience would be people wanting to buy, build, value or sell a business in Canada. To be relevant, the content of the newsletter would need to equip and inform, inspiring confidence in my client’s expertise and resources.
Those were the outcomes I pictured as I determined what content should be included as 1) boilerplate and 2) features in each issue, targeting September for our first release.
MailChimp has wonderful widgets to make and present the connections.
See how good mine look.
MailChimp makes it easy to share.
In each issue, readers can expect:
- a profile/success story of someone who has recently bought or sold their business through one of my client’s offices;
- tips and hints on buying, building, valuing or selling a small business;
- links to the most recent posts on our Real Deal weblog.
We launched our WordPress-hosted blog in late August of this year and of course, we want to increase visits to our posts.
I have increased the number of click-throughs substantially by including a content summary with each of the links listed in the newsletter.
Reversing the love, I’ve used WordPress as a workaround to host the full text of my longer newsletter articles. My client’s website isn’t currently set up to host the articles so I had to find somewhere for my read-more pieces to sit. So I created mini-site on WordPress and associated it with the newsletter, making it clear to anyone who arrives there that this page is where we host the full text of the articles we publish in the Sunbelt Canada newsletter.
Surviving a spam alert
What else? Ah, yes, the permission-based part. That aspect was much more involved than I expected. It also gave me more anxious moments than anything else.
MailChimp can sniff out spam thousands of miles away. Before getting the go-ahead for my first campaign, I had to tighten up my subscribe/unsubscribe message:
In the past, registering as a buyer or seller of a business, you provided Sunbelt Business Brokers with your email address so we could provide you with information regarding the buying or selling of a business. This newsletter contains tips we think you will find useful in buying, valuing or selling a small business. If at any point in time you wish to stop the newsletter from hitting your inbox, simply find the unsubscribe link provided in every email and click it. We value your privacy as much as you do and we will always keep your email address private and unsubscriptions will always be honored.
- establishing the connection with the company;
- defining what the newsletter was all about;
- stating how often and when the newsletter would be delivered
And yes, the forms were generated by MailChimp. MailChimp, I KNOW I love you.
It was exciting yet terrifying to send the first issue out, a bit like seeing your firstborn off to kindergarten. I got called up about my child’s misbehaviour though, that first time out the door. MailChimp takes intimations of spam VERY seriously and rightfully so—our credibility and success are linked.
What happened? We were getting too many hard bounces/automatic rejects. The CRM system that gave us our first mailing list was not well maintained. My list is now well scrubbed and I’m happy to report that out of more than five thousand emails sent with our November issue, there were 0 spam complaints and our open rate continues to be better than the industry average.
There’s still much to work on, though. Ooops, play with… Where to, MailChimp?
Would love to hear about your e-mail marketing adventures. What advice would you give to those of us who are new to this activity?