Today in part two of our mailing list series we’ll be discussing the steps to creating a mailing list and adding an opt-in form to your site. If you didn’t catch part one of this series, be sure to check it out here before continuing.
There are a wide variety of mailing list services out there but the one we’ll be focusing on today is MailChimp because it’s the one we use here at Designer Blogs. MailChimp is super user friendly, allows you to send automated emails, offers killer analytics, and we highly recommend it.
Best yet, MailChimp allows you to start a mailing list completely free! You don’t have to purchase a plan until you’ve accumulated 2000+ subscribers. From that point on, you can upgrade as your list grows.
So, are you ready to start the magic of a mailing list? Here we go.
1. Sign up for MailChimp
Step 1: Visit Mr. Chimp
Hop on over to MailChimp and click on one of the big “Sign Up Free” buttons.
Step 2: Create Your Account
Enter in your email, a username and a password and then click “Create My Account.” You will then receive a prompt to check your email to activate your account.
Step 3: Activate your MailChimp Account
Head over to your email account and open the MailChimp email. Click on the red button to get your account activated so you can start the magic.
Step 4: Fill Out Your Personal Information
You will then be directed to a screen that will ask for all of your personal information (name, address, etc.). You must enter this all in before you can continue. When you are done, click “Save And Get Started.”
Step 5: Understand the Dashboard
At the top of the page, you’ll see a menu with several links.
- Campaigns: shows all of the emails you’ve sent out to your list(s).
- Templates: shows the different designs & layouts you’ve created & saved for your emails.
- Lists: this shows the group of people who have subscribed to your mailing list. You can have more than one list.
- Reports: this will show the stats for each of your campaigns and how your campaigns compare to your industry average. This also shows how many subscribers each campaign was sent to and how many opens & clicks each campaign produced.
- Automation: allows you to create automated emails (e.g. a welcome email after someone subscribes). This is a paid feature and can only be used once you’ve upgraded your account.
2. Create a List
Before you can add an opt-in form for your site, you’ll first need to create a list. Click on “Lists” in the menu and then click on “Create List.”
- List name: give your subscriber list a name. If you plan to only have one list that consists of all of your subscribers, you can name it something like “Weekly Newsletter.” If needed, you can set up several lists for your different categories of subscribers.
- Default “from” email: the email address where you want any replies to your newsletter to be sent.
- Default “from” name: the name that will show up in the inbox of everyone on the list who receives your email.
- Remind people how they got on your list: what you put here will show up at the bottom of every email you send to your list. You may want to put something like: “You are receiving this email because you opted in at our website.”
Finish by checking that your address is correct and then select what type of notifications you’d like to receive. When you are finished, click “Save.”
We’ll talk about how to dramatically build your list of subscribers next week in part 3 of this series.
3. Add Opt-ins to your site
To get an opt-in form created, go to “Lists” and then click on “Signup forms.” Note: It may ask you to verify your email and review your information before proceeding. If so, follow the steps to get your email verified. Then click on the “Signup forms” link again.
Step 1: Build the Form
Find “General forms” and click the “Select” button. This will take you to a page that will allow you to build your form. I recommend just asking for a first name and email address because the fewer fields you have, the more likely people will be to sign up. You can click and drag the fields into the desired order.
Step 2: Design the Form
Now it’s time to make your form pretty so click on the “Design it” tab. Navigate to the different areas of the form by clicking on the corresponding links. You can then change the colors, fonts, font sizes and font colors. Make sure the colors you choose compliment your site design. If you’d like a custom designed opt-in box like the one at the top of our sidebar, please contact us for a quote.
Step 3: Add the opt-in box to Your Site
Go to “Embedded forms” and click on the “Select” button.
I recommend sticking with the classic form. I also recommend unchecking the bottom three options as shown below to keep your form looking as clean as possible (you don’t want to distract people from signing up by having too much going on). Leaving the “Form width” area blank will allow the form to take on the width of the area you place the form.
4. Send out your first email
Once you’ve accumulated a few subscribers, you can send off your first email!
Step 1: Create a campaign
Click on “Campaign” and then hit the “Create Campaign” button. Select “Regular Campaign.” Next you’ll be asked which list you want to send the campaign to. Select your list and mark the bubble “Send to entire list.” Then click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.
Step 2: Name Your Campaign
Choose a name for your campaign. If you send out a weekly newsletter, you might title it something like “Weekly Newsletter – June 1st.” This is for your own personal reference. Your subscribers will not see the name of the campaign.
You’ll also need to pick an email subject. Be descriptive and creative. Write something that will tempt your subscribers to open it. Your subscribers will see this.
You can leave the other selections as is, except I recommend also checking the “Google Analytics link tracking” option if you have Google analytics set up for your site. Then click “Next.”
Step 3: Select a Template
Look through the visual options and select a template that will work for you. If you don’t like any you see, you can always create your own template using the drag and drop editor in the next step. What you create can be saved as a template for use on subsequent newsletters.
Step 4: Compose Your Newsletter
MailChimp makes composing a newsletter easy peasy. To edit a section, simply double click on it. You can drag over different sections to create the perfect template.
Step 5: Customize the Design
Click the “Design” tab to customize the fonts, colors, text sizes, etc. I recommend coordinating the colors of your newsletter to your blog or website to help keep your branding streamlined and consistent. Uploading your logo to the top of the design would also make a great statement. When you are finished designing the template, remember to click the “Save as Template” link at the top of the page to save the template for future use.
Step 6: Preview, Test & Send!
I recommend sending a test email to yourself before sending it to your list to double check that everything looks good. Click “Preview and Test” and then click “Send a Test Email.” Enter in the email address to where you want the test email sent and click “Send Test.” Then go check your email to preview the email exactly how your subscribers will see it.
You can also preview the email without sending a test email by going to “Preview and Test” and then “Enter Preview Mode.” When you’ve got everything looking exactly how you want it, click “Next” at the bottom of the page.
After clicking next, you’ll see a list of items that MailChimp double checks before queuing your email to be sent. They may list some things that need to be resolved. Resolve those items and then click “Send” at the bottom of the screen. A pop up will appear showing that your email is prepared for launch. Click “Send Now” to send it immediately.
You can also choose to schedule your email at a specific date and time. If you purchase an upgraded account, you can let MailChimp optimize the time the email is sent for maximum engagement, which is a really great feature. Once you have everything set, click “Schedule Campaign.”
Once a campaign has been sent you can visit the “Reports” tab to review the stats for each campaign.
And that’s it! You are now well on your way to building a flourishing mailing list. Remember, we love designing custom opt-in forms for clients, so if you want a form that is more customized than what you can create using this tutorial, give us a holler and we’d love to make it happen for you!
Stay tuned next week and I’ll give you the inside scoop on how to dramatically increase your mailing list subscribers and target your dream audience. You won’t want to miss it!