Feb 25, 2010

Using Flowtown With Your Email Marketing Lists

flowtownA while back, the folks from Flowtown contacted me about how they integrated with MailChimp via our API. To be honest, I wasn’t immediately sure how I felt about Flowtown. If you’ve never heard of them, it’s a service that lets you import an email list, then they cross-reference that data with public social profiles. I definitely understand how that can help a salesperson with a handful of local clients he wants to follow (and that scenario might even be where they got their name and logo). But what about my email marketing list of 25,000? Okay, so I can find out who among my subscribers is on Twitter and Facebook. It might even tell me who’s influential. What now? It’s not like I’m going to bug those subscribers with "more targeted emails" just because they’re "social." I got one of those emails recently, and I can think of no better way to lose my hard earned subscribers. So I didn’t really think about this Flowtown thing much. Great for 1-to-1 sales, not so much for 1-to-many marketing.

But over time, we added engagement scoring, geotargeting, and the ability to download segments in MailChimp.

The combination of all these new tools changed my outlook completely…

Okay, first things first.

This stuff is new. There are "experts" riding on the social bandwagon who recommend you send targeted offers to the more "social" members on your list, because they might be "more viral." I can see that working once. Not twice. Forget that. Social media is not about spamming people just because you found them on twitter ("hey, I’m on twitter too!"). Social networking is about — well, being social.

Thing is, I’m not a very social guy. I’ve been called "snuffleupagus" by someone in the email industry (and I really, really, love that name, DJ) because I rarely go to email marketing events. Or any event for that matter. So on those rare occasions when I do go somewhere, I need all the help I can get.

Facebook (no, an actual face book)

For example, I’m going to be speaking at an event in San Francisco next month. Now, I’m absolutely horrible with names, but I’m great with faces and even better with company names. It would be great if I could invite my customers who live in San Francisco (or within a 50 mile radius around the city) to attend that event. Maybe give away a guest pass, or send them a discount code. And if they do attend, it would be awesome if I could recognize them. Maybe even memorize a stat or two about them or their company (yes, I actually do that).

So I log in to MailChimp, go to my Lists tab, click on my "MailChimp Newsletters" list (which I assume only my loyal customers would actually subscribe to) click "view all members," and run this segment:

sfo-segment

These are my most engaged subscribers to my MailChimp Newsletter list, who live within 50 miles of San Francisco (using our new geolocation service). Sending them an invitation is super easy now. But wait.

Notice the Excel icon there? I can download this segment. Then, I imported it to Flowtown, and created a new group with this list called, "engaged subscribers in SF." It churns away for a few minutes (about 2 seconds per email address), and I get something like this:

sfo-table-blur

Each one of those icons is clickable. Yeah, that’s pretty cool, right?

Anyway, the first thing I do here is ignore Facebook. It’s not like I’m going to try to "friend" all these people. That’s just annoying.

But I do click into a bunch of profiles to learn more about my subscribers. Before you begin, you might want to sort "by Klout," which is a service that scores people based on how connected they are. I’m not that interested in their connectedness, but I’ve found that the higher their rank, the more likely they are to have more of a public social profile (more pics to look at). Click the little "K" logo, and boom:

sort-by-klout

Once I see the most connected people sorted towards the top, I open them all in new browser tabs.

Mainly, I look at their twitter avatars. I always want to see what my subscribers look like, "IRL" as the kids say.

When I click into a profile, it looks something like this:

ben-chestnut-flowtown

What Flowtown knows about yours truly

Wow, that guy’s handsome! Okay, that’s just me, but imagine a page like that for every one of your email subscribers. You can learn so much about your readers this way. I opened up a couple dozen tabs in my browser all at once, and just clicked through them, memorizing faces and business information of my subscribers.

I actually recognized quite a few faces from a little happy hour that we threw in SF a few months ago. Makes sense. They’re customers, they’re engaged, so they’re most likely to attend one of our events. I wish we had these tools back when we actually threw the event!

So I spent most of my time learning about those customers. I remembered a lot from talking with them over some drinks and food. I remember some were new, some had been with us since 2005. Some were non-profits, some were startups. Flowtown refreshed my memory of those customers. I made a mental note that if our DesignLab creates new t-shirts, we should send these guys the first run.

Segment by Gender, Age, Location

Speaking of t-shirts, we recently ran a promotion where we gave away 1,000 MailChimp t-shirts via twitter, facebook, and email (we learned a lot;  here’s the case study). Anyway, on our t-shirt promo landing page, we collected emails from people who wanted to be notified when we had more t-shirts available. I’ve actually integrated that "t-shirts list" with Flowtown, so that in MailChimp, we can segment our list based on gender. Really handy if we have a ton of extra ladies shirts. Here’s a segment I created by gender from that list:

segment-based-on-gender

Flowtown integration also lets me segment by age and location, too. So if I want to send our whacky wolf-meme shirts to a younger female crowd, but only want to pay for shipping in the states, I can do that:

segment-options-with-flowtown

You’ll notice that the segmentation criteria above start with FT-. That tells you it’s pulling that data in from Flowtown. This is really handy information. I can print this list and ship t-shirts to them as a surprise. Or, use the segment to send a quick, personal note asking them for their t-shirt sizes, shipping address, etc. I’d most likely ask them to fill out a Wufoo or Formspring form (they both integrate with MailChimp too, btw) with that info, so I can very easily print shipping labels with them.

Okay, where were we?

Oh yeah, I was looking at loyal subscribers in San Francisco in preparation of this event I’m speaking at…

For some of the profiles on my list, I could click to see their flickr photosets and learn a little more about their interests. By the way, I spend a significant portion of my days watching customers talk to us on Tweetdeck, and I often click into their twitter profiles, then to their company websites, about pages, linkedin profiles, and on and on. Just helps me understand my customer. Flowtown makes this process much easier, especially with their flickr integration:

vintage-porsche

I see some customers are into cars. Awesome. I’m like Rain Man when it comes to memorizing cars, so I can talk about classic Porsches with one customer, and GT-Rs with another. Some are into travel, some are foodies, and some like parrots. Note to self: include parrots in a future email newsletter.

Demographic Insights

One nice feature in Flowtown is their "Contact Insights" link. It shows me general demographic information about the San Francisco segment that I imported:

sf-group

Just for kicks, I imported a segment of my most engaged subscribers from the Atlanta area and compared them:

atl-group

It looks like San Francisco has more people in the 55+ age bracket than Atlanta. Hmm. I would’ve thunk they were all 20-somethings building the next big twitter over there. Upon closer inspection of profiles, I realize that San Franciscans just lie more often in their social profiles than Atlantans.

For example, I know this guy’s not 55:

not-55

:-)

So yeah, as with all stats, take these with a grain of salt.

Flowtown Helps You Write Better Content

You know what the secret to being a good email marketer is? Send useful stuff. Don’t have anything useful to send? Shut up until you do. That’s all I have to say about email marketing anymore (see why I don’t go to email marketing events?).

Anyway, one secret to sending useful stuff is to know what your subscribers like.

MailChimp’s reports already help you see what links people are clicking in your newsletters. Over time, you can tailor your content to their tastes. MailChimp will even show you where they’re opening from on a map, so you can decide whether or not you should include, say, automagic translation options for your campaigns.

But when you combine MailChimp with Flowtown, you get even more insight about your subscribers. Down to a one-to-one, human level.

Flowtown Helps You Be More Social

What do I mean by "more human level?" Well, I currently use Tweetdeck to monitor mentions of @mailchimp, and I always take note of who (in my hometown of Atlanta) tweets something about @mailchimp.

But Flowtown makes this process so much easier.

I can segment my MailChimp subscriber list like this:

atlanta-segment

and just generate a big report in Flowtown, then look at all those faces.

Here’s the human part I was talking about. When I’m out and about, and I see one of those subscribers — um, people at the local coffee shop, I buy them a drink (yes, I actually do that). If I run into them at a meetup, and I recognize their avatar — um, their face, it’s much easier to start up a conversation with them. If one of them invites me to sponsor some local event, I just might be more likely to do that. And if one of them works for an advertising agency, and she invites me to come in and pitch our services, even though we’re a completely do-it-yourself product with 260,000 users and I haven’t given any form of pitch whatsoever in years (and all my dress shirts are in boxes somewhere), I absolutely go! Why? I just want to learn who my customers are, so I can write more useful content for them, or build more useful features into our product. Also, to thank them for being a subscriber. IRL.

Basically, be more social.