After having a couple of people asking me how I created my mailing list, I decided to make a blog post about it. After I started using mine, I noticed an increase in both my blog and site traffic and wouldn’t go back for anything because it has definitely proven to be an essential tool to grow both your business and blog.
For those who don’t know what a mailing list is, it’s basically a collection of email contacts that usually have other data attached (like name, country, website, etc.) that you collect from your subscribers when you use email marketing services such as MailChimp, Benchmark Email, Mad Mimi and others. Each service has its pros and cons so if you’re not sure which one to pick, do a little research and see which one works best for you. Almost all of these services have free and paid plans so if you’re not planning on spending money, choose one with a good free plan.
For me, the best option was MailChimp and till today I haven’t had no major problems using it (besides taking sometimes way too long to send a confirmation email to the subscriber). It’s simple and their free plan has all the basic features and tools I need to manage my subscribers and newsletters. Here are a few details on the free plan (information taken from here):
– Free account signup;
– Includes 2,000 subscribers and you can send up to 12,000 emails a month;
– You can use their templates (includes responsive feature) or you can create them yourself;
– You can embed signup forms on platforms like WordPress, Etsy and Facebook;
– Analytics that tell you how many people opened your newsletter and other stats;
– A bunch of features that I’m still discovering.
So here’s how you start:
1. First head over to MailChimp, click on Signup Free and you’ll be redirected to a normal signup form. You’ll need to confirm your account, so make sure you have your email open.
2. Once you’re logged in, you’ll encounter MailChimp’s dashboard. In here you have the main menu (top left) and “your name” plus the Help menu in the top right corner and at this point, you’ll be guided through what you should do first and what features are available.
What you should do first is to set up your Profile and Account (top right corner after clicking on your name). After filling the basic information in the profile, you will encounter some important features in the Account area. In here you’ll get a resume of how many subscribers you have, how many emails you’ve sent, account settings such as account and contact details, security, billing information (in case you’re on a paid plan) and integrations for services like Facebook, Etsy, PayPal and others. Take some time exploring and updating this area before going to the next step.
3. Now it’s time to create your first list.
From your MailChimp dashboard click on the Lists menu and then click the Create List button that appears in the upper right corner. On the List details page, you can choose a name for the list, set the default ‘from name’ and email address, write a short reminder to your subscribers on how and why they’re receiving emails from you, basic information of the sender (you) and notifications. Below you can see an example:
When you’re finished, click save and you’re done. You’ve created your first list!
Since most of you probably won’t have any subscribers at this point, MailChimp will automatically generate a signup form for your list, which you can customize and publish on your website, blog and Facebook, for example. If you want to customize your forms (and you should because it gives a more legit look to your business) you can do so by following these steps:
From the dashboard click the Lists menu and then select the list you’ve created before (you are brought to what we are going to call the list main panel). Once again take some time to explore the features available.
Once you’re done, click on the Signup Forms and from there you can choose four options: General forms, Embedded forms, Subscriber pop up and Form Integrations. In here you need to choose which one you think it better matches your platforms and approach in business.
For me, since I wanted to have control on how the whole form would look like and I’m not a big fan of pop ups, I choose the General form and from there I was able to customize pretty much anything I needed: form fields, footers, banner, colors and fonts, a bunch of things to in the end make it look like this.
I haven’t explored much of the other three so I’m only going to talk about the option I choose. After you click on General forms, you’ll find a drop down menu called Forms and Response emails. If you are familiar with the subscribing process, you know that after you type your email into a subscribing box you will receive a confirmation mail in your inbox, then a welcome mail and in case you unsubscribe, there’s even an email for that. In here you can pick which one of these email actions and responses you want to customize and make them less “robot auto response” and more you.
Once you have your form built and customized, it’s time to start gathering subscribers. You have three options:
- You type in the subscriber contact information (make sure you have permission from those people before doing so);
- You already have a list of contacts and you’ll be importing them (learn more about importing list);
- You do it the old fashion way by sharing your form and mentioning it around your circle of friends, colleagues and potential business partners.
I went for the third option. I created a banner to place on both my blog and website with a hyperlink to the newsletter. You can get this link once you’re done editing your forms by copying the short URL from the Signup form URL right under the drop down menu mentioned before.
My advice at this stage is to be patient because unless you already have a crowd of followers and fans, your list won’t jump from 3 to 30. Spread the word around, make sure the forms are working properly (make a test drive with a fake email or ask a friend) and you’re set.
Let me know in the comments below if you found this article helpful and if you have any question regarding any of the steps, feel free to ask.
Also, would you be interested in a second part where I would give some tips on how to build and design a newsletter?
( photo – Death to the Stock Photo )