Friday, August 5, 2011

New Mailing List Software

If you subscribe to my blog through email, you'll notice a big change today. The content is essentially the same, but the style is totally different.

In addition, you'll see a bunch of new stuff at the bottom of the page. There are links to manage your subscription, and a multitude of social networking "share" links. If you want to take a break from receiving these emails from me, you can unsubscribe or "update your profile".

When I started this blog, I used Feedburner to manage my email subscriptions. It has worked very well, but the time has come to integrate my blog subscriptions with the rest of my mailing list world.

Why a mailing list?

Just before I started the Kickstarter project a month and a half ago, I circulated a mailing list signup form at an event full of my friends. I told them that we'd be doing a fundraiser and that we'd need their help getting the word out.

As I learned the ropes of internet fundraising and revved up my own little PR engine, I realized that sending individual emails was not going to work. I needed to be able to group people together into lists, and send unified messages to those lists. I needed some way to know how effective my campaigns were. Were people opening my emails? Were they following the links I was sending out? Were they forwarding them to their friends? How could I give them the option to stop receiving emails from me or give new people the ability to opt into my communications?

I needed to start using real mailing list software.

And once I set it up for the Kickstarter project, I realized that I had a whole untapped resource of my own customers. I had been collecting email addresses and asking people if I could add them to my mailing list for years, but never doing anything with them. So I started another mailing list that will receive my own little newsletter. And, rather than just throw the email addresses of all my past customers into that list, I sent them an email telling them who I was (hey, remember me?) and asking them to subscribe to my newsletter. The result was about average: 5% of my past customers signed up. It's better to know that they want to receive my newsletter than to be silently building resentment by sending it people who don't want it. (If you want to sign up for my mailing list and receive my monthly newsletter, click here:

And then I realized that there is a group of people who read my blog through email. Why not integrate everyone who receives any correspondence from me into the same system? So today I did that. I migrated all of the email subscriptions from Feedburner to my own "Blog Subscribers" mailing list. I then set up a new campaign that will send an email every afternoon at 3:00 if I've posted anything on my blog that day.

Now, when you forward my emailed blog post to a friend, they will have the easy option of subscribing to the blog themselves.
I also updated the Subscribe sidebar item on the blog page of my personal website and my blogspot site. These both refer you to my mailing list manager now. (To sign up to receive my blog through email, click here:


And who is this mysterious mailing list manager, you might ask? MailChimp.

It's not the most professional name, in my opinion, but their service is AMAZING. They make it dead simple to do everything that it takes to have a successful mailing list:
- create opt-in lists and let users manage their own subscriptions
- compose beautiful emails with feature-packed templates
- create campaigns and deliver them to your lists
- track all kinds of data from those campaigns

They even have a simple-to-use iPhone app that lets you track campaigns and manage mailing lists from wherever you are.

It's an amazing set of functionality packed into a well-designed and rock solid system. I can't wait to really get going with my newsletter using their template system. Maybe September 1st will be the first one...

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