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At WHYPAY? we believe that effective business tools shouldn’t cost the Earth, which is why we set out to make the best free conferencing service out there. This got us thinking: if you can get conference calls for no cost, what other great services can you get for free? That is why we have scoured the web to find the best free services to help your business and to bring them to you weekly.

Our first entry into this series for 2016 is MailChimp, possibly the best free tool for creating mass email campaigns.

Why emails are still important

chimp3Email remains one of the cheapest and best ways to get a message to a large user base. With the ability to create highly personalised content, presented using magazine quality design, embed rich media and track links, the humble email has evolved significantly from its early days as a simple text based communication. By cultivating a well managed mailing list from your business, it can also be the channel which is easiest to get people to join.

Although some believe that email campaigns are limited to spamming adverts, they can offer so much more. Here are some examples of what you can use bulk mailing for:

Newsletter – A content rich newsletter can be a great way of reaching out to your audience. By including interesting information, you not only engage your readers, but can also show expertise and knowledge in your given field.

Information alerts – Quite often, email is overlooked as a way of getting alerts to customers. But a channel where you can reach thousands, or even millions, in a short time frame is perfect for getting out a time sensitive message

Sales – The classic use of email campaigns; sending out an engaging mailshot that details your products is a tried and tested way to improve sales.

Employee contact – Mass mailing doesn’t always have to go to customers or third parties. By providing information to your staff you can increase engagement or keep them up to date on important events.

Easy creation, unlimited possibilities

So, let’s say you have the information or message you want getting out and you have your mailing list all ready. Now comes the hard part, creating the actual mail to send out. Well, it would be hard if it wasn’t for the free online tools such as MailChimp.

chimp2At the heart of the MailChimp experience is a powerful HTML mail creating tool. Its simple drag and drop interface is exceptionally well laid out and new users should quickly be able to get the hang of it. With this tool you can easily create whatever look and feel you are after, from image laden adverts to text heavy newsletters. You can also embed links to audio, video and rich media and be confident that this will be displayed correctly in email software. If the recipient has media display disabled in their email client, a plain text version of the content will be available with links to the full HTML version viewable in a web browser like Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.

mailIf you are not that artistically minded, you can use one of the huge catalogue of templates that are available from MailChimp themselves or from the active community. By loading these in, it’s then an easy task to personalise them with your own content and images.

Once you have the content and design you need, you can start setting out who you are going to send it to. MailChimp allows you to easily manage many distribution lists to make sure your campaign gets to the right people. Simply import the lists via CSV and or modify online. Before you send the mail, you can alter a number of fields as well, from subject lines, response addresses and what email address is in the finished “from” field.

Analytics and automation

chimp4After your campaign has been distributed, MailChimp provides comprehensive analytics tools to measure performance. These include email opens, clicks (including details of the specific links individual recipients have clicked), and even geographic locations of those reading your emails. This information is stored online and it’s easy to compare the performance of your campaigns to ascertain how each fared and help inform future campaigns. The analysis is key. It helps you to refine and target your campaigns, to ensure they’re not viewed as spam, but rather they provide valuable information to your subscribers.

MailChimp contains a powerful set of automation tools for users to take advantage of. By setting up a number of common email types you can then integrate MailChimp with your systems to send out automatic responses. For example, you can set it up to send out a welcome mail when someone signs up with your site, or one that goes out automatically if a user hasn’t logged in for a specific amount of time.

Automating a number of mails means that you don’t have to rely on mass emails to keep in touch with your customers, improving your productivity. It increases and improves engagement by generating specific calls to action when the circumstance most requires them.

Working how and where you want it to

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For the automation to work, MailChimp must be able to integrate seamlessly with a number of other services. In fact, MailChimp claims to integrate with over 800 services. So there is a strong likelihood that whatever system you are using in your company, MailChimp will work with it. The system also provides a lot of documentation about its API. If you have access to developers, this allows even greater accessibility and even more customisation options.

Recognising that many people work from outside the office, MailChimp offers a number of apps to take advantage of working on the move. The vast majority of the services and features of the desktop version are fully available on the mobile, allowing you to view statistics, edit templates and draft emails and send campaigns from anywhere. There are also unique services, like MailChimp Snap, a function which allows you to send a quick picture based email to your subscribers. Or if you want to collect those subscribers you could use MailChimp Subscribe to add them to your mailing lists.

Starting price? Absolutely nothing

MailChimp is “absolutely free forever” for small organisations running modest campaigns. Like many freemium services, this remains the case as long as you stay under a certain threshold; in this case, up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. If you want unlimited emails or more subscribers, an upgrade path is available from around £14 per month. The tools available with the free version are more than adequate for many small organisations, but if you feel hamstrung in any way, more can be added for a small fee.

So for any company wishing to take advantage of the benefits of email marketing, MailChimp is there to provide everything you need in one great package.

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