Many of the portfolio artists websites I create are continuously being updated with art exhibitions, fine art sales and events, so it’s really useful for my website clients if they have a simple way to notify their supporters and art buyers by email, when something is happening. A London artist’s most valuable asset, in combination with their portfolio website, is their email contact list.

mailchimp-logo-darkLike it or loathe it, MailChimp is very handy for keeping your email contacts in order. The interface isn’t that user-friendly, but once you get the hang of it, you start to appreciate the benefits:

  • Making sure you never lose your email lists; brilliant.
  • Ensuring people who unsubscribe stay unsubscribed; fantastic.
  • Making your emails look consistent whenever you send out a bulletin or newsletter; that’s got to be good.

If you don’t mind relinquishing some control over your email operation, you can really benefit from having a MailChimp form on your website which will be connected to your e-mail mailing list.

Create a MailChimp Account

If you don’t already have an account, create a MailChimp account at www.mailchimp.com. This ironically will be very similar to the signup form you’re going to add to your own website!

Create List

Create an empty mailing list which will contain all of your contacts:
–>Lists->Create List
and call it an obvious name such as “MyWebsite Contacts”.

Groups

Set up Groups within that list:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”->Manage Subscribers->Groups->Create Groups

Before entering the group names, MailChimp asks “How should we show group options on your signup form?”. (This is so that, if you want it, a visitor to your portfolio website could choose what kind of emails they are signing up to, for example if they want to be sent an email when there are new designs on the website, or when there are art exhibitions coming up.)
Choose:
–>”As checkboxes”.

Later we’ll adapt the html for the sign up form so that the visitor can’t see the radio buttons, and so that the form adds the visitor’s email address to a particular group. MailChimp has the facility for very complicated and analytical groups and segments, for example to email only customers who did not open their previous email. This is very useful for a targeted campaign, but I’m going to keep it more simple here.

–>Enter the group title eg “MyWebsite groups”.

–>Enter however many group names you need.
Click “Add Groups” if you want more than 3. I’m making just two groups – one for new designs alert list (NewDesignsEmail) and one for special emails (SpecialEmail), such as when you want to invite people to a special artist’s private view. (We don’t want visitors to be able to sign up to that list because it should be exclusive).

–>Save the groups.

Import existing email addresses

Now import email addresses to these groups. If you are still on the groups page you can use: –>”import to”.

Or if you need to navigate to this point:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”->Manage Subscribers->Groups->View Groups

Then choose:
–>”import to” next to one of the groups.
Choose “CSV or tab-limited text file”, or “copy/paste from file”, then:
–>next

You can have several fields in the lists such as email address, first name, last name. If you are copying and pasting you can tab separate the columns, or if you are importing from a csv you can set up columns for these fields. Then click:
–>”next”.

Now you need to match the columns to the data:
For each field, under “Column name”, check that the first one is “Email address” and that the sample data underneath is an email address.
–>Click “Save” where it is correct, or “edit” if it is incorrect or an “unmatched column”.
–>Choose a field name from the dropdown eg “First Name” and “Save”. Once all columns are matched go to:
–>next->import

MailChimp starts to charge if you go over 2000 contacts so a warning message appears before adding new addresses. If addresses are duplicates, they will not be added to the list, which keeps your contacts figure slim, as long as you’re only using one list.  This is one of the marvellous features of MailChimp and worth putting up with some of the other eccentricities.

View and check the list now by going to:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”
You can see that all of the email addresses are in the overview, and the name of the group is shown in the listing for each email address. If you want to add an email address to a group:
–>checkbox the email address ->actions->add to group-> MyWebsite groups->choose relevant group

Allocate signup form to one Group

So why the long narrative about Groups? We’re now going to set up the sign up form from your website so that visitors will sign up to a particular group that you have assigned. That means you can avoid sending out e-mails to everyone on your list; imagine if you sent out an e-mail invitation for a champagne reception at your latest exhibition, to everyone on your mailing list?

Cork

Photo: Miroslav Sárička, freeimages.com

–>Create a website page to hold your signup form, for example “signup.php”. Add a link from your navigation or home page to the signup form page, such as “Sign Up for News Here!”.

Now you’re ready to add the signup form to your website. You are going to make one that is connected to one of your groups in your main mailing list. I want people to sign up to my “NewDesignsEmail” Group, NOT to my “SpecialEmail” group.

In MailChimp go to:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”->Signup forms->Embedded forms
–>copy and paste the code from the “Copy/paste onto your site” window in MailChimp, to your signup.php page.

–>Add style=”display:none” to the groups div to hide the checkboxes (about line 18).
Instead of:

It will look like this:

–>add a checked value to the input tag for the group you want visitors to be subscribed to (about line 20).
Instead of:

It will look like this:

Now go back to MailChimp and hide the groups in the Form Builder, so that the options don’t appear to a visitor if, say, they update their profiles later:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”->Signup forms->General forms->select->Highlight the radio button area in the form preview (in my case called “MyWebsite groups”)

The “Field settings” come into view.
–>Change the “Field visibility” checkboxes from “Visible” to “Hidden”. If this choice isn’t accessible, check that when you created the Groups initially that they were as “Checkboxes” because this functionality is not available for “Radio buttons”. You cannot change the visibility of group radio buttons on a MailChimp form.

Now you have a signup form on your website that adds a visitor only to the group “NewDesignsEmail”.

Send campaign to selected Group

You can send a campaign to that group by going to:
–>Lists->select “MyWebsite Contacts”->Manage Subscribers->Groups->View Groups->Send to

Celebrate

MailChimp has some fantastic options and capabilities but the interface can be confusing. I recommend keeping a note of your workflow, so you can go back and repeat the same steps in the future, without getting sidetracked by the (slightly strange) navigation options. It may be worth having a look at my post on How to keep to the path when you’re trying to design a creative website which might keep you focussed…

Have fun at your next exhibition private view… cheers!

Private View, photo: Alix Marie

Photo: Alix Marie, http://alixmarie.com/82-2