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WordPress and MailChimp: a true love story or just a short-lived romance?

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WordPress and MailChimp for email marketing

Email marketing plays an import role in long-term relationships with your (prospective) customers. Once you have an email address you can directly put yourself back in mind of your audience by creating email campaigns that arouse curiosity and draw the attention to your website. This post will not cover the details how to create successful email campaigns but will dive into the integration of WordPress and MailChimp both of which are widely used in different business scenarios and marketing activities.

Integrating WordPress and MailChimp

There are plenty of plugins for WordPress out there that support a MailChimp integration. I checked out several of them and ended up with MailChimp for WordPress (https://dannyvankooten.com). For the price of $39 you get one year of support and all functionality of the premium version. The setup process is easy. Download the plugin from the website, if you want to get the premium version, or use the plugin installer of WordPress, if you want to get the free version. Then add your MailChimp API key in the settings area et voilà: WordPress is connected to MailChimp.

Setup MailChimp

No matter which plugin you have chosen: you must spend some time to cofigure MailChimp.

  1. Create a list and add your existing contacts First of all you should think about your audience. Do you have different client profiles that need different information provided by your email campaigns? Create lists based on those profiles. For example, you can have two lists, IT and Technology and Marketing and Sales, for both of which you create different newsletters. Excursion: It is a good idea to adapt your email campaigns to your audience’s profiles. Obviously you do not want to confuse marketing people with current trends in the usage of monads in functional programming. Nor do you want to bore developers with conversion rate statistics and ROI discussions. So provide meaningful content that can create some benefit for distinguished target groups.
  2. Find a template or create your own Actually, there are quite a few templates in MailChimp that you can use for your email campaigns. Actually. As soon as you try to adapt them to your needs, you will meet with some obstacles that will not only cost you time but will really hinder you to realize your own vision of a good newsletter. You want to have a short example? MailChimp restricts the width of its templates to 600 px and you just cannot change that, no matter what you do. BUT: As soon as you include images from your blog posts over a RSS feed, the template is not able to rescale them. The result is a broken layout without any chance to solve that problem the easy way. And I spent quite a bit of time trying to solve it.
    Finally I stopped messing around with existing templates and created my personal ones.
  3. Create your first campaign Campaigns use templates. And templates can be filled with content and then be sent to one or several lists. You can schedule your campaigns. You can have your blog content being included into your campaigns via RSS. And you can re-use campaigns once you created them.

Make WordPress deliver content for your newsletters

Your content is in WordPress. Your audience will wait for updates in their email inboxes. And MailChimp somehow tries to tie up those two strategic points. But to enable MailChimp to get the latest content from your blog, you need to tell it where to find the RSS feed. In WordPress it is pretty easy to do so. Just type in http://yourdomain.tld/rss2 or http://yourdomain.tld/feed into your browser and check if a XML file is returned upon that request. If so, your RSS feed is working and can be used for your MailChimp campaigns.

The WordPress RSS feed provides too little information?

When checking out the WordPress RSS feed something is striking you at once: Where are the featured images of your blog posts? The shocking news is: They are not available via the standard RSS feed. The good news is: We can enhance the RSS feed with a proper plugin to include the images in your feed and thereby in your email campaigns. Unfortunately there is no up-to-date plugin available at the time of that post. But it is more or less easy to create a new plugin and enhance the WordPress functionality. So we did. If you are interested in that plugin, just send us a mail and we will send you the plugin with a short how-to.

MailChimp RSS template

Did you already create your MailChimp RSS template? If not, you should do it now. MailChimp offers so-called merge tags that are part of a lightweight markup language to layout your email content. You can find basic information on merge tags here.

Nobody is perfect

It is not the hardest part to create your first email campaign. But once you want to work on the design and layout you are crazily restricted, because most of the email clients out there only support the old CSS2.1 standard. For a detailed overview check out MailChimp’s Email Client CSS Support matrix.

Summary

Integrating MailChimp into WordPress brings along some pleasant benefits for your daily workflows. But it does not come for free. You will have to spend some time to understand MailChimp to be able to automate or at least smoothen your email campaign process. Especially the usage of MailChimp’s templates is cumbersome and the templates’ restrictions are driving you crazy.

Once you got through that, WordPress and MailChimp are a good combination for creating lovely email campaigns and for setting up an easy-to-use workflow. And as in every good relationship it will get better the longer you work on it.

s.gros
By |July 22nd, 2014|1 Comment