May 3, 2010

Using groups to manage your lists

With the release of MailChimp v5.1, there are a few new features for groups, including the ability to have multiple groups fields, hide your groups, and even import into groups. What I’ll try to do is introduce you to the concept of groups with a specific example.

Groups give you a powerful way to segment your list based on user preferences. It is at its core a segmenting tool; use it with the guiding idea that you’ll be using it to manage your campaign sends. There are plenty of powerful segmentation features and groups give you one more way to target your subscribers and the additions to the latest release make the set up process even easier.

When setting up your list, the first thing to ask yourself is what your existing subscriber-base looks like or what type of subscriber-base you’re looking to grow. Are you planning on emailing people about specific product categories? What type of updates do you email about? You might even want to consider sending frequency. I’d like to go with the groups approach rather than using a separate list for each category.

Let’s take a look at a scenario involving a student organization that has an active membership base. Some of the members also want to hear updates about various happenings in addition to the general membership information. So what types of updates do they want? Hrrm. Well, for the most part, it’s a student organization so its core purpose is to host events, hold fundraisers, gather information about internships, and let them know about volunteering opportunities.

What else should I consider? How about my sending frequency. I want people to know about internships immediately; I think it’s important to get that information out just because there’s such high competition for these things; the earlier they get looked at, the better. I also don’t want to clog up the inboxes of people who don’t want to hear about it.

Fundraisers and volunteer opportunities happen on a weekly basis. They’re usually on the weekends (oh, those busy students) so maybe this is a Thursday afternoon email or something like that. (Oooh, sounds like a nice experiment to test with an A/B split…) Thing is…fundraisers aren’t as often as volunteer opportunities. I’ll have to separate those out as well.

What about the general information about the group, about meetings, and other announcements. Meetings are monthly so maybe I need another group for that…wait. I could create a group, or I could just resolve that the entire list is that group. If this changes at some point, I can rethink my groups at a later date. Suffice it to say that if you’re not on the list, you don’t want to hear from us.

So, after some planning, here’s what my segments will end up being:

  • Fundraisers
  • Internships
  • Volunteer Opportunities

Here’s an article that has the full story on how to add and create groups in your list. Below is an example setup.

Groups with interest categories

So, now that that’s settled, I don’t have much of a need for a sending frequency category. It’s kind of embedded in the groups model in the first place. I send out daily-ish updates about internships, weekly ones for fundraisers and volunteer opportunities (but the fundraisers might be more along the lines of fortnightly updates), and then general information is on a monthly time-frame.

Now, you could take this a step further. Turns out, one of the board members of the organization noticed something interesting. The internships are targeted at individuals with differing ranges of experience. Some ask for people who’ve been in school for two years (no more…no less) and some go to those who’ve been there at least one year. It might be good to enter the year they entered in case I want to target that. I don’t want to get someone’s hopes up by sending them info directed to someone who’s a fourth year.

Here’s an example of what that setup looks like. I’ve gone ahead and used radio buttons since each of the choices is mutually exclusive. No one could enter in both 2007 and 2008, could they?

Groups setup for year

Once all this is in place, I can finally start getting signups (for those who are signing up on the organization website) or upload my list (for members who inform us in person that they want updates).

This is a specific use-case, but hopefully it gives you some ideas on how you can use groups to your own advantage. Groups can give you some powerful ways to segment your list and overall helps you get into the habit of good list management. From here, you can start using some other neat tricks like dynamic content based on interests and sending to particular segments of your list based on these groups.