Without any fanfare or drama here is an approach to creating a mailing list for your creative customers and clients, no matter where they cometh from.
The cool thing about having your own email / mailing list is you can send emails or messages about your newest blog post, about the crazy new photo shoot you did, new photo products or rave about anything you want.
You can set these emails so they go out to your customers in order (email 1 immediately; email 2 in 3 days; email 3 in 5 days etc) or send out email broadcasts when you’ve got something really important to say, like right now.
Which Email Providers to Use?
MailChimp has an Entrepreneur plan which lets you send 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers free.
I like MailChimp but they stick their badge on every email you send out, if you can dig that. Aweber has been good for me although the interface drives me nuts me sometimes.
BTW, while we’re talking about this stuff, please sign up to my email newsletter right here.
Ready to start?
Time to Rustle up Your Mailing List
Here’s the steps (in summary – details below):
- Test drive an email provider (Aweber or MailChimp) and sign up. We’ll use Aweber in this example.
- Implement your email account (email list name, email newsletter details and at least one intro email)
- Create your first follow up message
- Put the sign up form on your website using either a WordPress plugin or alternative
- Use the Aweber Widget WordPress Plugin (if needed)
- Your form should look roughly like this
- Add a “bribe” to “motivate” your potential customers to join your email newsletter (we’ll do this later)
1. Test drive an email provider
Log in to Aweber or MailChimp.
2. Implement your email account
Sounds a little complicated (but it’s not really). Here’s the steps:
a) Hover over the List Options tab and choose List Settings from the drop down menu. Like this:
b) Under the Basic Settings section, type in a list name and list description. Like this:
c) Enter the From name and email address that you would like subscribers to see when they receive emails from you. (Aweber prefers you don’t use free email addresses like Gmail but Gmail works OK for me).
d) Click the Save Settings button at the bottom.
e) Click on Personalize Your List (the middle one). Like this:
f) Add your company name (if you have one), website URL and email signature (something memorable that reflects what your business does). Add your logo (or get it from your website header).
g) Add your social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. It should look a bit like this:
h) After you’ve done all that, hit save.
i) Click on Confirmed Opt-In (at the top right). Like this:
Play around with the confirmation message until you get something you like. The template is there to modify and customize to your heart’s content.
j) Add a Confirmation Success Page (URL) to your site where you will send people who have opted in. This page is where your “bribe” will be located.
Here’s a good example of a Custom Thank You Page from Aweber:
Note that this page could include:
- Name/Email address that the confirm email comes from (edit this from List Settings in your account)
- Subject line of the email (edit this at the Verified Opt-In page of your account)
- What they have to do (click the blue confirm link)
- Brief reminder of what they’ll begin to get once they click to confirm
- (Optional) – Video showing them how to click the link
3. Create your first follow up message
Now we’re going to create your welcome message (this is your first follow up message). Mouse over the Messages tab and click Follow Up Series from the drop down options. Like this:
a) Click on the big green button that says Create Your First Follow Up. Like this:
b) Play around with your messages – add an enticing title and add the contents of the message. You can thank them for subscribing, point them to your best blog posts, ask them about their own business, etc. I like to keep things lighthearted and fun.
You can see (above) I have set up message #1 to just say “thanks for subscribing” (this message goes out immediately to them), and message #2 I have asked a question – “do you struggle to get your blog going?”
4. Put the sign up form on your website
The sign up form is the way you collect subscribers from your website. Click on the Sign Up Forms tab. On this page, click the green Create A Sign Up Form button.
This takes you to the Sign Up Form Generator where you can design your form, choose a color scheme that suits and do any necessary edits. Click Load Template to edit. A good headline helps your websites visitors understand why they should sign up and what kind of information they can expect to receive.
A bit like this (but hopefully much better):
You may need to play around with this form generator a bit to get the look and feel right.
Name your form. Your subscribers don’t see this name, it just helps you tell this form apart from others you create later. Then choose where your subscribers go after they fill out your form. Aweber offers several default thank you pages, and even a smart version that shows each subscriber how to confirm. A bit like this:
Once done click Save, then click Go To Step 3 (publish).
After you have published the sign up form to your website, sign yourself up to your list and test the entire process. Make any changes to your sign up form in the sign up form generator. (There’s heaps of different categories and sign up form templates to try out). You are now ready to turn visitors into subscribers!
5. Using the Aweber Widget WordPress Plugin
Try saying that 10 times in a row with a mouth full.
If you are using WordPress, use the Aweber Web Form Widget plugin (free) to easily add the opt-in form to your website. It looks like this:
Steps to Installing the Widget
- Install the widget and upload it to your Plugins folder. Activate it on your Plugins page by clicking Activate
- To connect the widget to your Aweber account, first click Aweber Web Form under the Settings tab on the left of your WordPress control panel
- On that page, click the link next to Step 1
- You’ll go to a page asking you to authorize the connection between your Aweber account and the widget. Enter your login name and password and hit the Allow Access button
- You’ll go to a page with an authorization code (a long string of characters) – highlight and copy
- Back in your WordPress account, paste the authorization code into the space provided and click the Make Connection button
You’ll see a box that looks like this saying you have successfully connected your Aweber account:
To allow people to subscribe to a list (above) when you approve their comment or they register for your blog:
- Choose the list from the dropdown under the Subscribe By Commenting heading
- Make sure the appropriate subscribe methods are checked (comments or blog registrations)
- Enter the text you’d like to appear next to the checkbox people will use to subscribe in the Promotion Text area (or leave the default Sign up to our newsletter! text)
- Hit the Save button
To place your Aweber web form (below)
- Go to your Widgets under Appearance on the left side of your WordPress dashboard
- Drag the widget (it will show up under Available Widgets as Aweber Web Form) into the widget area in which you’d like your form to appear
- Once the widget is in place, you can choose which form you would like to appear. Expand the Aweber Web Form widget’s options by clicking the arrow to its right, then use the drop down menus to choose the list you want to work with, and the web form you’d like to place on your blog
- Hit the Save button to save your changes, and your form will be installed on your blog
Once you’ve set up the plugin to your satisfaction, you’ll notice that you now have an Aweber pane on the home page your WordPress dashboard. Here you’ll be able to keep up with the latest news and tips from Aweber as well as see how many people have subscribed by commenting on your posts.
Wider forms may not fit perfectly at first, depending on the theme you are using for your blog. However you can easily resize your form in Aweber’s web form generator.
6. How your form should look (roughly)
Your form should look something like this (above).
Or it might look like this:
7. Setting up an opt-in ‘bribe’
We’re going to do this shortly together OK.
I hope this has helped you set up an awesome mailing list for photographers, creatives and potential customers. Let me know how you go with it and if you have any struggles setting up Aweber! I’m here to help.