Behind the Scenes: Creating Monthly Newsletters with MailChimp
January 21, 2015
What is MailChimp?
MailChimp is an online software that allows you to design and send emails to imported lists. It also allows you to use direct signup forms to add customers to your list from your website. And as many of our customers already know, iClassPro has a direct integration with MailChimp that allows you to export family emails from iClassPro’s family or student pages and into a list you have set up in your MailChimp account. For instructions on how to set up the integration with MailChimp, click here.
How is it useful?
For iClassPro users, MailChimp offers a more comprehensive email marketing platform to compose, send, and track professional quality emails. Complete with auto-responder lists, quick polling tools, social media integrations and click/open metrics- MailChimp is a great extension to iClassPro’s built in features when sending out marketing communications or newsletters.
In fact, we like it so much, we use it ourselves!
Creating our Monthly Newsletter:
Here’s an inside look at how iClassPro uses MailChimp to create monthly newsletters!
STEP 1: Lists Management
Lists in MailChimp are simple lists of contacts for each type of email you send out. Lists can be divided into segments manually after contacts are imported. To create a list, click on Lists>Create List and fill out the required fields.
Once you have done this, the list will be visible in iClassPro through the MailChimp Integration. Simply check families or students from the respective pages and click on the special integration icon at the bottom of the screen to select the list you would like to export the contact information to.
If you want to import a list of contacts from outside of iClassPro, you can import them directly to MailChimp by clicking on your list from the list page and choosing Import Subscribers. You can also use your MailChimp List settings to design and place code on your website for an embedded sign-up form for your newsletter!
NOTE: To avoid abuse reports and possible black-listings, you should always have permission to email each person on your list- either through a business relationship or from an online opt-in form. SPAM laws are strict and actionable. For more information, be sure to read MailChimp's Guidelines for List Compliance.
STEP 2: Using Templates
To start, we created a Custom Email template in MailChimp using the Basic 1 Column Drag and Drop builder (Located under Templates>Create a Template). This allows us to select default color schemes and text formatting to make creating campaigns quick and simple. In addition, we added default text and images to start off each email with the basic desired layout. A handy preview is displayed on the left side of the screen as you create your custom template.
As an alternative to creating Custom Email Templates, you can also choose to use a pre-designed Theme from MailChimp’s library or manually code your own in HTML. These options are available when creating your campaign (next step).
STEP 3: Creating Emails/Campaigns
Start a new campaign email by going to Campaigns>Create Campaign>Regular Campaign. The campaign is broken down into 5 stages. Choosing recipients, setup, choosing a template, content design, and a confirmation stage before sending out the email.
1. Under Recipients: Choose a MailChimp List to designate as the recipients of the email. Then click Next.
2. Under Setup: Fill out the Campaign Info including a title for your campaign, a subject line, from name, from email address and other optional features such as tracking, social media posts and authentication. (Some info may auto fill from your list settings.)
3. Under Template: Choose a template. (We click on Saved Templates and click select next to our default newsletter template to preload the layout we created.)
4a. Under Design: From the basic template layout, enter the content of your email. As you would expect, this is where most of the work comes in from month to month- adding up-to-date content.
For us, that includes:
- Adding custom pre-header text to act as the email preview text in your inbox.
- Switching out the generic “Monthly Newsletter” image for a special image designed for the current month.
- Deciding the most relevant/important updates to include in the Header 1 and Header 2 story sections. (If there's more news, adding or duplicating sections is easy!)
- Creating/Adding new images to support information.
- Including seasonally relevant or popular blog highlights, links and images from our website and support forums.
4b. Use the Preview and Test drop-down menu from the design step to preview content from mobile and full views and to circulate a test email around the office for review and approval.
5. Under Confirm: Review the list, subject line, etc and either schedule a send time or manually send the email out right away. (If you aren’t ready to send or schedule the email just yet, you can use the save and exit option and come back later!)
As you create an email, MailChimp will give you helpful hints- for example, if your images are too big for inboxes. You can also try the “Test your Subject Line” tool to encourage more opens!
STEP 4: Reviewing Performance
After sending out your campaign, you can track the success of the campaign from the Campaign Report in MailChimp! Simply go to Campaigns in the navigation menu and click on the Report button to the right of the campaign title. This report will include information like the open rate, click rate, industry averages, unsubscribes, top links clicked, social media performance (if you used the social media integration to post your email to your fans) and more! This information can help you see what is and isn’t working for your business communications.
MailChimp is a very easy to use, helpful and reliable tool for your business! With all of the features discussed here and more- it can go a long way to making your communications processes more fluid and efficient.