Mailchimp + iPad = Newsletter Success

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One of our clients recently asked us to develop a piece of software that would allow them to run an iPad sweepstakes to incentivize people to subscribe to a new monthly newsletter. The software would take a list of invitees, and handle the rest itself. Though we do love working on new projects, we try to leverage existing tools whenever possible to keep costs down. In this case, we figured that Mailchimp would suit our purposes nicely. Turns out, we were right. Not only did Mailchimp fit the bill, but the campaign has been a huge success. If you’re looking to pile on the subscribers, consider leveraging the draw of the iPad, and a lesser known Mailchimp feature for pre-populating forms. As always, make sure you have permission to contact people before you send that initial email. Keep reading for the details.

Step 1: Create a list of invitees

Your invitees list will include everyone you want to invite to your drawing. Rather than enter everyone manually, you’ll probably want to import your list.

Step 2: Create a list for subscribers

Create a new, empty list for subscribers. When a user signs up for the drawing, they will be added to this list (more on this to come).

Step 3: Get the signup form URL for the subscriber list

  1. Click on the forms link for your invitees list.
  2. Click “Signup Form.”
  3. Find the message “Your list’s signup form is hosted on our server at: http://eepurl.com/…” and click on the link. This will open the signup form page in a new tab.
  4. At this point, you’ll notice that the URL in your navigation bar is much different than the one you clicked on. It’ll probably look something like this: http://setaris.us2.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]” This is the URL you’ll need. Copy it and keep it for later.

While you’re looking at the forms, you might want to spend some time customizing the signup process so that it matches your brand.

Step 4: Create the invitation email campaign

The invitation email will go out to all the people you want to invite to enter, and will include a link to the signup form (that link you copied in the last step). The trick here is to pre-populate the signup form based on the information known about the recipient. If recipients were required to fill out that information, you’d very likely lose a number of people that would otherwise have entered. Fortunately, Mailchimp allows you to pre-populate their forms using this method (warning: this stuff gets a bit technical).

Let’s use an example to make things a little more clear. Say that both of your lists have first name, last name, and email fields. If you created these fields in order, you’ll probably find that first name is associated with the merge variable MERGE0, last name is associated with MERGE1, and email is associated with MERGE2. In this case, using the example URL from step 3, you’d use the following signup form URL:

http://setaris.us2.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]&MERGE0=|*MERGE0*|&MERGE1=|*MERGE1*|&MERGE2=|*MERGE2*|

Things like |*MERGE0*| are replaced by the value for that particular merge variable, while “MERGE0=” tells the signup form to use the value after the equals sign and before the ampersand (i.e., &) to populate the form.

If you’d like to give it a try, click the “Popup Preview” at the bottom of the screen where you’re editing your campaign email, and then, at the bottom of the popup, click “View live merge info.” Once that’s clicked, your URL should incorporate the information you have about the intended recipient. For example, it might look like this:

http://setaris.us2.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]&MERGE0=Joshua&MERGE1=Fialkoff&MERGE2=joshua.fialkoff@setaris…

Even better, you can click on that link to make sure everything is in working order.

Step 5: Reap the rewards

Once you’ve sent a sample email or two, and run through the signup process to make sure it’s working smoothly, go ahead and schedule your campaign for delivery. Next up, how to deal with all those new opportunities ;).

Joshua Fialkoff

Joshua’s tech and management expertise has been honed over time by the vast array of products he has helped architect and create. Since the dot com boom, he has worked as a manager, developer, graphic designer and entrepreneur. Today he shares his experience and knowledge with others in pursuit of great products and successful businesses.

As a proud and ambitious Setaris co-founder, Joshua is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve culture, generate excitement and make Setaris the best technology and marketing firm on the market. Joshua holds a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering from Cooper Union and a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with an emphasis on pattern recognition and signal estimation.

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