Mar 16, 2009

Email Marketing for Etsy Artists – How-to Project

the_etsy_logoDid you know that if you have an Etsy store, you can use MailChimp to send automatic email newsletters to all your customers simply by uploading new items to Etsy? You don’t even have to log in to MailChimp to do anything! You can just focus on your art, and let the ‘chimp deliver your marketing, using our handy RSS-to-email tool. All you have to do is setup your template, and point us to your Etsy store feed.

We’ll show you how, using a real Etsy artist page as an example. This project will require the following supplies:

  • A MailChimp account (they’re free)
  • One sheet of construction paper (newsprint will do)
  • Glue sticks
  • Glitter

Got all your supplies ready?

Let’s get started.

Our Gracious Volunteer – Bohtieque Designs

First, let’s thank Bohtieque Designs for letting us showcase her store and use it in our tutorial. Yay.

Here’s a screenshot of her Etsy store:

bohtieque

Second, I have to say that you can also just use MailChimp to send traditional email newsletters every month or three (ish) like most people do. This is a tutorial for artists who want something a little bit more "automagic."

1. Get Your Shop’s RSS Feed

If you scroll down to the bottom of that side navigation column, you’ll see a link to her "Shop feed:"

shop-feed

That’s an RSS feed. If you have no idea what RSS is and why it’s so awesome, that’s cool. Just trust me. It’s neat.

If you have an Etsy store, you have an RSS feed too.

Click on that little icon_rssicon, and your browser will take you to your shop’s RSS feed. It might open a new window, or open up in a new tab or something. Whatever.

Just grab the address of your store’s feed from your browser address bar like this:

grabbing-etsy-feed-url

and copy it to your computer’s clipboard.

2. Setup Free MailChimp Account.

If you’ve already got a MailChimp account setup, you’re awesome. That’s why we love you. So you can skip to Step 4.

No MailChimp account yet? You’re still awesome. But now you need to go setup an account. MailChimp is totally free for people who have less than 100 recipients on their list (which is why so many artists and musicians love the ‘chimp).

You can design really cool HTML email newsletters, and track results, and–well, just learn more about MailChimp by watching these fun videos: http://mailchimpacademy.blip.tv

and be sure to check out these power features videos.

3. Setup a quick test list in MailChimp.

Got that MailChimp account all setup? Cool. In order to send emails from MailChimp, we kinda need to know who you want to send them to.

So you need to have an email list setup in MailChimp before we jump into creating RSS email campaigns.

Don’t worry though, because we can just put together a super-quick "test list" for now. It’s probably a good thing to setup a test list anyway, because you’ll want to subscribe your own email address(es) to your shop’s updates for a few issues, just to make sure it’s ready for prime time.

Later, after you’re happy with the results, you can create your "real" list in MailChimp, and import your customers and subscribers. Then, you can totally customize the entire signup process (landing pages, welcome emails, etc) to match your style.

4. Create RSS campaign

I’m going to run you through how to setup an RSS-to-email campaign really quick & dirty.

Afterwards, you should definitely go back and customize things so they’re prettier (here’s a full tutorial for MailChimp’s RSS-to-email system).

You might bookmark that full tutorial but for now, I just want you to get a good grasp on how things work first, then you can worry about prettying stuff up later.

Create new RSS campaign

Go to the MailChimp Dashboard, and click on the big orange "Create Campaign" button. Pick "RSS-driven Campaign:"

create-rss

Enter RSS Feed

On the next screen, enter your Etsy store’s feed URL:

rss-feed-url

Choose a Schedule

Notice you can also schedule these campaigns to go out daily, weekly, or monthly.

I almost always pick "daily" because if they’re your fans, and they like your stuff enough to subscribe for emails, then they’d probably enjoy your daily emails.

"Wouldn’t Daily Emails Be Insanely Annoying?"

Not really. Keep in mind that no matter which schedule you pick, MailChimp will only send out an email IF you actually have updates posted to your blog. If you don’t post any changes, no emails will go out. So for example, let’s say you select the "daily" schedule option. You update your blog (or Etsy store) with 5 new items on Monday. On Tuesday at 3am ET, MailChimp will check your feed, and notice 5 updates, then will grab those 5 items, and send them in an email.

Now let’s say on Tuesday, you’re too busy working on important stuff (and watching TV and playing with the Nintendo Wii) to update your blog or Etsy store. On Wednesday, MailChimp will check your store’s RSS feed, and look for any updates. Since you were a lazy bum and didn’t post anything on Tuesday, MailChimp won’t send any emails on Wednesday. In fact, MailChimp won’t send anything at all, until you’ve posted an update to your feed. Make sense?

Okay, let’s get back to building the campaign…

Pick Your List

After you enter your store’s RSS feed URL, and picked your schedule, hit the "next" button, and MailChimp will ask you to pick your list (see why setting up a list was so important earlier?):

pick-your-list2

Pick "Send to entire list" and hit "next."

Setup Campaign Info

Now, you’ll need to enter some campaign setup info:

setup-rss-campaign
  1. Give the campaign a good, descriptive title. Your campaigns dashboard will soon fill up with LOTS of different campaigns, so you want to give good titles so you can easily find stuff.
  2. The default subject line is something like, "Posts from RSS:FEED on RSS:DATE" or something cryptic like that. Normally, that would actually be fine, because it’s meant to describe frequent blog updates. But you’re sending automatic alerts when your Etsy store is updated (not from a blog). So you might want to change the subject line to something more appropriate. See: Tips for crafting a good subject line
  3. Enter a recognizable from-name (either your name, or your company’s name) and reply-to email address.
  4. You should probably go ahead and turn tracking on, so you can see how many opens/clicks you got. Unless you have an ethical issue about that sorta stuff.
  5. Authentication is usually checked by default. In general, you should leave that on, because it might help your deliverability. You can learn more about authentication here, but it’s dead boring unless you’re an email nerd like me.
  6. In my screenshot, I’ve activated "Google Analytics Integration" because that’ll allow me to track clicks to my website, and see how many people bought stuff. It’s a great way to track conversions and ROI from my email campaigns. Except I forgot that these would be pointing to Etsy.com, and not your personal website. So you won’t be able to see any Google Analytics reports. So I’m an idiot. Just leave that un-checked for your Etsy-RSS campaigns.  But at least now you know what that checkbox thingy does, and you can use it for your other email campaigns.

Select a Template

Next, you’ll be asked to select a template. Most likely, you don’t have any templates saved yet, so all you’ll see are 5 really basic/blank layouts.

Even if you do have templates saved in your account, let’s just pick one of the stock templates anyway. Just to keep the tutorial simple.

Under the "New Email" tab, select the first template (called "Basic"):

select-template

Next, MailChimp’s going to churn for a minute or two, while it preps your template.

FYI, behind the scenes, MailChimp’s automagic email designer is visiting your website and analyzing your CSS files to see if it can detect any colors, fonts, and logos that we can pull into your template. It almost never works perfectly (because everybody codes their websites differently) but when it does, it saves a few minutes. It would probably work pretty good for your personal website. Maybe not so much for your Etsy store. That’s because companies use fancier tools to build big giant websites, and the filenames aren’t simple, like "my_awesome_logo.gif" It’s more likely something like, "img_bnnr_q39434239048234923042.png."

But I digress.

When your template appears, don’t worry about the way it looks. Yet. You can always come back and make it pretty later.

Sigh. Fine, I know you can’t control yourself. Go ahead and make it pretty, then come back. I’ll wait here.

Done?

Okay, now that your template’s beautiful, you’ll notice that there’s some funky looking "RSS code" in the content area:

rss-code

Notice the "RSS_POSTS_HTML" stuff?

Leave that alone for now. But just so you know, that’s telling MailChimp how you want to format the RSS content that we pull from your Etsy store.

For example, the default setting will pull in the summary for each post, along with any pictures you might have included.

But you can tweak that code so that it pulls the full article, or just the text, or no images, etc.

I don’t recommend tweaking that stuff until after you’ve sent yourself a couple test messages and fully understand how all this stuff works (because all RSS feeds and blog engines behave differently). But when you’re ready to customize, bookmark:

Our full tutorial for MailChimp’s RSS-to-email system, and

the MailChimp Merge Tag Cheatsheet

I’ve got my template design pretty far along now (they’re never quite "done" are they?). Just click pop-up preview to check the design:

bohtieque-popup-preview

MailChimp will pull in the content from the Etsy RSS feed, so I can see what it all looks like "in real life."

I don’t really like the way the "Title" is a big red link, so I’m going to open the MailChimp template designer to tweak my template stylesheet for links:

change-link-styles

I’m gonna make it a shade of green, instead of red. Notice how MailChimp’s color palette also pulls in colors from the Bohtieque.com website? Yeah, that’s the automagic email designer at work. If you’ve got some nice colors designed in your website CSS file, we’ll pull them into MailChimp so you don’t have to hunt down your HEX codes. Anyway, I tweaked the link colors, and hit pop-up preview again:

change-link-styles2

And now I’m satisfied (for now) with my design.

So hit next, and you’ll see the plain-text version of the email. This is a very important step. But I’m gonna skip it for now. Because it’s boring.

Hit next again, and you’ll get to the pre-delivery checklist. Hit the "Start RSS Campaign" button:

rss-button

And you’re done.

So now, you just sit back and wait. The day after you post something new to your Etsy store, we’ll automatically send an email to your test list. I recommend waiting for a few posts, just to get the full experience.

Tweaking more

If you ever want to tweak the campaign, such as to change the list that you send it to, or to tweak your template design in any way, go to your campaigns tab. You’ll see all the updates that we’ve sent, plus the original "RSS email campaign" (it’ll have a little "pause" icon). Click on that campaign to edit the settings:

campaigns-dashboard

5. Create a self-congratulatory plaque and hang it on your wall.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of RSS-to-email, you deserve a plaque.

Take a sheet of construction paper, and spell out "I’M AWESOME" with your Elmer’s glue.

Sprinkle the glitter (make sure you’re wearing some safety goggles) on top of the glue, and wait 30 minutes.

im-awesome

Bonus Project: PayPal Integration

Want some extra credit?

In your MailChimp account, activate our PayPal add-on so that when customers buy stuff from your store, they can be added to your MailChimp customers list!