A Year of MailChimp


I've been recommending MailChimp for years. Probably as far back as 2009. Part of that is because they have a free plan which is great for small businesses. The other part is that they have a phenomenal user experience. Everything in their system is easy to use. That's why when I started marketing my book I signed up for a MailChimp account. As of today I've been using it a full year and I've learned quite a lot in that time. I hope you can learn from some of my mistakes.

Slow Steady Growth

Let's take a look at how my newsletter has evolved.

MailChimp List Growth

My list growing over the past year.

Without fail the list has grown every single month. On average I'm gaining 35 new subscribers and losing 2.  That's basically 35 people that want to know more about me and what I'm doing. Now you probably can't make a living off of 35 fans but when you grow a list for one year you end up with 419 fans and those fans have been reading your emails and they're primed to buy your products.

Incentives Work

Let's take another look at the last month in that graph. See how it's much bigger than any of the previous months? That's because I added an incentive to my signup. After I launched my book I started giving away a chapter of the book as a reward for signing up for my list.

For the first 11 months my average newsletter growth is +30. When you compare that to 90 people that joined in April you can see that that incentive has increased signups by 3X. I added the incentive on April 18th which means that number could have been much bigger. If I added the incentive at the beginning of the month I'm sure I could have gotten 5X as many subscribers maybe 6X.

Just a note about this incentive. It doesn't have to be exclusive. This sample chapter is available on both Amazon and the publisher's website. These subscribers might not have ever found the sample chapter on those sites.

My Opt-in Forms

I have three forms where people can signup for my newsletter. The first is the standard signup form in the sidebar. The second is an opt-in I add after any post about WooCommerce which contains the sample chapter incentive. The last place people can sign up is when they leave a comment.

I've been playing with different opt-in plugins over the past year but for about the past two months I've been using OptinMonster and the stats provided within the plugin are great. You can clearly see which opt-in is more effective.

Opt-in Stats

The conversions for two of my opt-in forms.

Sidebar Opt-ins

People don't give Sidebar opt-ins enough credit. It's not very specific which is actually great. I have a ton of posts about WooCommerce but also posts on plenty of random topics like how to fix problems in MAMP, or summarizing a conference I just went to. If they find my site through one of those related topics and they want to learn more about WooCommerce great. Signup via my sidebar.

They have a pretty low conversion rate of 0.09% which means you need about 1,000 visits to get a signup. Definitely not great but it's on every single page on my site and it's not annoying like a popup.

After Post Opt-ins

Anytime there is a post that's tagged with woocommerce my WooCommerce Cookbook opt-in is displayed after the post. I love these types of opt-ins because they're out of the way and only interested users will scroll down far enough to see the form.

If you have a popup that asks for an email after 5 seconds you may get more subscribers but they don't know anything about you and they probably aren't going to be your biggest fan. Having a form after a post means they know at least a little bit about you.

The conversion rate is much higher on these opt-ins. Mine is sitting at 0.29% which is one subscriber for every 300 people. The conversion rate is higher because it's about specific content and only appears on relevant pages. it also has an incentive.

I don't have exact numbers here but even before I added the incentive to this opt-in it still had a much better conversion rate than the sidebar opt-in.

Comment Opt-ins

Comment Opt-in Form

The comment opt-in on my site.

This opt-in is a bit unusual. I found the plugin by accident and decided to give it a try. Honestly I've only gotten maybe a dozen signups. It doesn't work with MailChimp groups which means you can't use advanced functionality and the UI is weird. The checkbox has it's own styling and it's ugly. I could fix it but for the amount of effort that's required I'm just going to get rid of the plugin.

Use Groups for Different Interests

When people signup through my WooCommerce Cookbook opt-in I add them to a specific group in MailChimp. This allows me to send email to subset of people on my list. In the email marketing world this is called segmentation. This way anyone who's interested in my book can get all of the details while people who signed up via my sidebar might get one email blast a month about general e-commerce topics.

Groups make things much easier. I use MailChimp automation to automatically send out the sample chapter of my book based on which form they used to signup. This is awesome because with MailChimp I can track exactly how many of those people are opening those emails and downloading the sample chapter (surprisingly many people don't actually download the book after it's sent to them).

Know Your Audience

When someone signs up via the sidebar I use MailChimp automation to ask them what their biggest challenge is with WooCommerce or e-commerce. I've had a few people respond to that email and we've had some good conversations. You can help them with a problem they have and you learn a little bit about your audience.

After enough of these conversations you'll understand the problems your audience has and you'll be able to create a product or service to help them automatically. It really is a win win.

What You Should Do

Alright this post is getting a bit lengthy but I want to add some suggestions for anyone who's just getting started and wants to know if email marketing is worth it or how they should approach it.

1) Start capturing leads today even if you don't have a product, or an incentive, or whatever. Just put something up there so you have a chance to capture today's traffic. If you spend a month figuring out the perfect incentive you've missed out on all of that traffic.

2) Create an incentive to multiply your list growth. It doesn't have to be exclusive or large. It could be a 20 page e-book. I could have launched to 1000 people instead of 300 people had I followed this advice.

3) Use a generic opt-in and content specific opt-ins. Both have their place. If you have the time create a bunch of content specific opt-ins. They convert better but take time to setup. Skip the comment opt-in.

4) Use groups to segment your list. This way you don't drown mildly interested subscribers in updates.

5) Use an autoresponder to contact each new subscriber. Ask them what their problems are. It's free and only takes a few minutes of your time.

Alrighty. That's all from me. I hope you have as much success as I did with email marketing. Happy MailChimping! 🙂


One thought on “A Year of MailChimp

  1. Great observations here.

    1. Totally agree. Start collecting emails today no matter how large your audience is.
    2. Yes! With WooCommerce, you can also provide a discount code for those that have signed up.
    3. I haven’t experimented with this yet but agree that it’s best to target your audience here. Comment check-in box has the lowest conversions for me.
    4. You can take this a step further to automate sending of emails depending on the posts they visit. This may not be as useful until you get thousands of emails but handy to have if you’d like to get additional feedback on a post they’ve read.

    OptinMonster is missing WC integration though thus missing out on some handy merge tag and eCommerce360 integration features that’d be nice to have. Like “email to those that have purchased X but not X” or “email a discount code to those that have visited 15 days ago that have not purchased X” or simply “email those that have not purchased X”. The true power of using MailChimp Automation with an eCommerce site is the ability to use Product Specific emails.

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