You’ve heard you need a mailing list, but you don’t have a website yet. How do you start a mailing list without a website? It feels like putting the cart before the horse, doesn’t it?
Believe me, the mailing list is more important than a website. Much more important! In fact, I wish someone had been able to convince me of this much earlier.
If you are writing your first book or you just need to start a newsletter for any reason, give MailChimp a try.
MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. Even though I pay for Convertkit,* I still use MailChimp for temporary projects because it is free, and all of MailChimp’s functionality is included in the free version.
Step One: Create a MailChimp account if you are new or log in to your existing account.
Step Two: Create an Audience. These used to be called Lists, so be aware of that if you see old documentation. You need to decide if you only want to collect email addresses or if you need to collect first name and/or last name too. The more fields you require, the greater the “friction” or resistance potential readers will feel during the subscription process.
Step Three: Click the CREATE button and choose Landing Page.
Step Four: Give the Landing Page a meaningful name. I chose “MM Back Page Subscribers” to let me know where the subscribers originated. Yay! These are people who have actually read my first book. I will treat them differently from people who sign up to receive a free book.
Step Five: Choose the Audience the reader will join. My audience is called “Reading Crew.”
Step Six: Next, choose a template. MailChimp will inform you: “These templates may include placeholder stock images and copy. Before you can use a template, you must accept our additional terms.” Accept the terms. I chose “Grow Your List.”
Step Seven: Customize your landing page. I added the cover of my series prequel, a heading, some copy, and the fields I want to collect. I changed the button to say “Get Pirate’s Wager” from “Submit.” I also changed my Confirmation message to say: “Success! You’re in the Reading Crew!”
Step Eight: After you finish creating your landing page, then click the SAVE & CLOSE button. Now, give your page a name. The Page Title you assign will appear on the browser tab. Assign the end of your URL; I used “reading-crew”. MailChimp assigns the middle portion of your URL. More about this later.
Step Nine: Scroll down before you hit the PUBLISH button and click “Edit” for Settings & Tracking. At the very least, choose “Track with Mailchimp” to collect your conversion rate. Click the SAVE button.
Step Ten: Click the PUBLISH button.
Step Eleven: Once you publish your landing page, MailChimp takes you to the “High five!” page. Click the REVIEW EMAIL button. This is where you tell your wonderful, new subscriber how to obtain their free book or whatever you are using as a lead magnet. This is a two-step process. First, edit the design. When you are ready, then click the START SENDING button at the top right-hand corner.
Step Twelve: Test the process.
If you are willing to spend $99/year, you can have a custom URL, but the whole point of this exercise is to create a landing page for free.
The free URL which MailChimp creates is ugly. My example URL is https://mailchi.mp/xxxxxx(ugly random number)/reading-crew. Ew!
However, let’s think about this. Most of the time, people are clicking on a link in a social media post or in the back of a book or in an email.
Readers don’t care if the URL is messy or long, and hyperlinks in a newsletter or blog post allow you to assign a meaningful title to mask the URL. With this in mind, it’s hard to justify spending money on a custom URL.
If you think people will need to type the URL in their browser’s search bar, then shorten your URL by using bitly.com or TinyURL. Paste your long URL in the field, and click the button; it’s that easy.
PRO TIP: Keep a spreadsheet of URLs you plan to share; record the long, messy URL and its shorter counterpart.
Question: Have you tried creating landing pages in MailChimp? What was your experience?