We're stoked to have had the opportunity to be invited by the impressive Elena Verlee, to write a guest blog for PR in your Pajamas. If that doesn't sound comfy enough (as long as you're not going out in public, and in a college town like Chico, even that's sometimes "acceptable"); we break down the four "Lessons Learned from 1,000 MailChimp Newsletterswhen sending newsletters to your clients. Check out the full article in the link above and don't forget to let Elena know we sent ya! -Nate

Lessons Learned from 1,000 MailChimp Newsletters

I’ve written a LOT of email campaigns. I sent my first email newsletter when I was in college promoting swing dances 15 years ago, played with list digests after that, then spent a few years fiddling with sales emails, and (finally) made the jump to MailChimp five years ago, and haven’t looked back since.


Now I’ve read all the guides, and best practices, and do’s and dont's: “Craft a compelling subject line;” “Strengthen your call to action;” “Use better visuals.” But after sending a thousand email newsletters for hundreds of small business owners, I never found myself regurgitating that advice. Not once.

Here’s what I found instead:

Lesson #1: Care Then Sell

Most of our clients want one of two things with their newsletters: (1) to make some damn money, drive sales, trigger donations, etc. or (2) we’ve been collecting emails for three years on a greasy clipboard; we need to send them a newsletter, right?

But what do your subscribers want from your newsletter? Why did they sign up in the first place?

Our instinct usually revolves around something like: “Well, because they care that much about my product/service/cause/widget/idea/movement” or “To get that cool ebook” or perhaps “They want to buy stuff from me,” or even better, “Discount Codes.”

Now maybe your subscribers expect that from A newsletter, but I doubt that they want that from YOUR newsletter. Your subscribers want what most human beings want: a sense of belonging, to be inspired, to be happy, to be loved.

Gooey, kumbaya, glitter. Sure. But it’s what humans want. And last I checked, your subscribers are human (or at least I hope so, [email protected]).

Find a way to connect your newsletter into that soft spot and you’ve got something worth sending. We advise our client to not sell for the first three to six newsletters. You need to earn that right. Get your subscribers to care, and the selling part becomes that much easier.

You unearth what they want (a free tip), discover where it overlaps with what you want (a click), then serve it up via an email newsletter.

Be wary of the tempo and rhythm of your newsletter sales efforts. Alternate selling vs. not selling in your email blasts.

SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL = Monotone, and doesn’t focus attention anywhere

Share, Share, SELL, Share, Share, SELL = Less boring, and focuses attention on the sales.

Continue onto the full article here for more monkey business

mailchimp-logoChicoStart Presents

MailChimp = MakeMoney

with Nate Wright

Get a crash-course in one of the top three email marketing platforms. During this highly interactive, hands-on workshop, you’ll get acquainted with the inner workings of this robust platform and prepare your first, or next, newsletter, with content sure to grab the attention of your audience.

After a rapid-fire do’s and don’ts session looking reviewing actual recent campaigns, you will write your next monthly newsletter for your business, including:

You will leave with a list of truly engaging topics for their subscribers, your next newsletter plotted out top to bottom, and a plan for segmentation of future campaigns. Finally, Nate will be available to answer follow up questions via email for 4-weeks after the workshop, to help you implement what you learned to engage your customers and prospects with MailChimp and start making some money through this often misused marketing channel.

[button link="https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mailchimp-workshop-small-biz-triage-nate-wright-tickets-12454312183" bg_color="#ff0000" window="yes" size="large"]RSVP Here[/button] 

WHENAugust 6th 2014, 4PM-6PM

411 Main Street
Suite 101 (First Floor)
Chico, CA 95928

COST: Free (40 seats, last workshop was overbooked)


We often declare that email marketing is the highest converting form of digital marketing. It's no secret that we love using MailChimp to deliver truly interesting email campaigns for our small biz owner clients. 

Here's your proof of real small businesses using MailChimp to make real money.

Email Newsletter >>> Increases Sales

Turenne Tactical

logo small

One of our most recent campaigns was for a small business called Turenne Tactical.  They had an untouched mailing list of about 900 emails of folks that had bought products from them before.

Our first newsletter for them preformed pretty well for an untouched list.  There were plenty of unsubscribes, but that's to be expected.  Unsubscribes aside, that campaign netted 300+ opens and 100+ clicks directly through to their featured product of the month. That product sold like hotcakes.

For the next campaign, we specifically linked to high profit margin products and netted 66 clicks.  Fewer clicks, but because of the focus on a high profit margin product they made even more money.

robo logo small


Back in July, Ubertronix gave their previous customers a chance to upgrade to their latest model of camera triggers, offering 50% credit towards the new model when they turned in their old one. From their list of only 500 contacts, 302 folks opened the newsletter to find out about the offer, and several redeemed it.

That's an insanely high open rate of 51.8%, for the record.

World Spice

world spice small logo

Our first campaign with them had to be broken up into smaller batches, thanks to their monstrously huge list of untouched customer contacts.  Most of these contacts came from their online store and had expressed specific interest in receiving a monthly newsletter, many contacts came from in-store sign ups as well.

We divided the contacts into batches based on when and where the signed up, and cut loose with a very simple newsletter: one blog article, one recipe, and a link to the featured spice used in that recipe.  

The result:  their biggest sales day since Christmas.

Are you starting to see the common thread here?

Email marketing with MailChimp is the best/least obnoxious way to stay in touch with repeat customers, reminding them you exist and enticing them to repeat business without really having to sell anything. Just pick your focus and don't dilute  the message.

To learn more about how you can use MailChimp to give your business a boost, schedule a FREE one-hour training session with us.

chimpLessons learned from over 200 Mailchimp campaigns

Yep, that's another milestone for the Small Biz triage team.  You may now uncork your champagne bottles. <pop!>

S'alright, enough bragging from me.  If you're looking for a quick rundown of some Mailchimp best practices for your small business, keep reading.  If you're looking for more in-depth answers, read on anyhow, and then schedule a quick (and free) one-hour training call.

Why Mailchimp?

Email is the highest converting form of digital marketing,  but only when done well.  We prefer Mailchimp because it helps us make the best email newsletters and campaigns possible.

From Name

Send it from the heart: use your own name, not some generic [email protected]  More personal = more opens, every time.

Subject Line

Copywriting 101: Combine <choose one: clever, funny, alliterative, off-the-wall, aggressive, deeply personal> with straightforward.  In other words, compelling enough to merit a click, but not so clever, funny, or off-the-wall that it's misleading.


Most email programs will display this as the content preview after the subject line.  Your bonus opportunity to entice an open.  Rules for subject line apply.

P.S. Block

Optional, but an effective place for a "Reply to this email" call to action.



It's easy to embed images in a text block, but will make the mobile version look awful unless they're in between 270 and 285 pixels wide.  Usually you can ignore this issue by using the image cards in the drag and drop editor, which will resize the image for a mobile view.


If you want to entice more clicks with an array of content in your newsletter/campaign, the sidebar is where to put your links/images.  This keeps those links visible up and down the main body of the email, which increases the likelihood of a click.  Some templates in Mailchimp allow you to put content after the P.S. block, but nobody ever clicks down there.  Trust me.


The option to unsubscribe from an email list is required by law, so don't try to disguise it.  Why not embrace it?  Let the folks who don't care unsubscribe, and you'll be left with a better, more effective list.


Use link economy.  Focus only on links where you truly want the readers to click through and they'll have fewer distractions.  If you only have one link you want readers to click, make it a big ol' bright button to make it that much more obvious.  Use a variety of call's to action for your links to keep it fresh and interesting.

6971577682_3f39521af7_bDon't Be Lame

Epitomized by the vlog brother's DFTBA (don't forget to be awesome).  Boring content will either be ignored or deleted.

Stop Selling

The folks on your mailing list are already interested, so don't abuse that privilege.  Give them interesting things to explore.  make your content useful to them in some way.  Show, don't sell.


Early morning is a good time to send a campaign.  The odds of getting a prompt reply will be higher before lunch.  If you're on PST like me, that means you'll want to send it at 4:00 or 5:00 for your readers on the east coast.  The emails will still be there when us west coaster's wake up.  Pay attention to what days of the week your audience is more likely to open a campaign as well.  For some, it's mid week, for some: the weekend.  It really depends on your target market.  If you're an ecommerce site, you probably already know what day of the week is your biggest sales day, so send the campaign that morning.

A/B Testing

aka how we figure all this stuff out.  Create two versions of the same newsletter and see which one performs better.  Should we send our newsletter from [email protected] or [email protected]?  A/B split time, baby!  Do we get more clicks with a sidebar or with one column body/three column footer layout? A/B that stuff!  Remember to be scientific about it though: only adjust the thing you're trying to test.  If you're testing layouts and use different subject lines as well, all you data is meaningless.

Merge Taggin'

Merge tags are placeholders that will auto-fill with the data you have for each contact.  Example would be opening with |FNAME| tag that is replaced each recipients first name upon sending.  A fantastic way to personalize each email.  Just make sure to QC your merge tags so folks don't get emails that start with "Oh hi there, [email protected]"

That's all for now folks.  There's a lot of nuance to a well crafted campaign, so if you have further questions, why not schedule a free one-hour training call?

arugulacateringSome quick context here:  Earlier this year we met Chuck at the National Conference for the American Diabetes Association in Texas. Soon thereafter, he signed up for our Small Biz Boost Program, a program that is totally free, but has high expectations of those that participate.  Chuck has a lot going for him - plans for a new restaurant in San Antonio, a recently published book, and a legion of fans of his creative and delicious foods.  After a recent TV demonstration of his cooking prowess, the local host dubbed him "The Pesto King".  We'll see if the name sticks!

Anywho, our project with Chuck was all about capturing contact info and MailChimp training, with some best practices implementation work for websites and social media thrown in for good measure.  Using recent successes to find greater success.

After project wrap, Chuck was kind enough to send the following letter, which I can't resist posting:

Dear Seth & Nate,

My recent experience with your team over the past few months have been an incredible one. Our progressive rebuilding of confidence- while being taught to understand the value of the multifaceted social media network- insures our place in  part of industry we have chosen.

Sometimes technology has driven the way so quickly, I had a difficult time understanding the process. I treated it as though it was a conspiracy rather than a helpful tool as Small Biz Triage has shown.

Once the homework was issued and completed, a discovery was made.

I now understand that these tools are ever evolving and that the mentorship is there for the businesses that have fallen to hard times. The reinvention and the worthiness of what one does is constantly an uplifting tool the guys at Small Biz Triage use and never makes one feel that the decisions of the past have to keep you business from moving forward.

I can not believe where my resources are taking me!  It is up to me to translate these ideas into revenues, but I do see the work was already done, I just simply needed a tune up!


Forever grateful and truly at your service,


Chuck Hernandez.
Owner,  Arugula Catering Co.
Author of Pesto Power

Those are some seriously kind words, Chuck, and for them you have our thanks.  

You are indeed, the Pesto King.

Updated 5/26/2016


Uploading your contact list to mailchimp is a big hang-up for many mailchimp users. That's a problem, since it's a pretty darn important step.

Here's the skinny: a little prep work will make this quite easy. I like to start by organizing my contacts in an excel spreadsheet.

At this point, you should think about what kind of segments you might want to use to split up your list and add columns accordingly. Segments you might consider include: location(zip code or major metropolitan area or even street address), interest(do they want to know about live events?).

In addition to whatever segments you want, you should always have two separate columns for first name and last name. This makes personalizing your emails with merge tags quite easy, so don't forget.

In the end, your spreadsheet might look something like this:

mailchimp upload example1

After that, log in to Mailchimp and hit the "Lists" tab. From there you can create a new list, or update an existing one. Using the additional info you added to the spreadsheet will help you maintain just one versatile list, which will save you a lot of hassle down the road.

Once you've got your list going, it's time to import. Note that email marketing best practices demands that the folks on your list have given you permission to send them email newsletters. No point in uploading them if they're just going to unsubscribe after the first campaign anyhow. Overzealous importing of cold email lists will get your account flagged, and potentially suspended.

On the page for your list, select "Import" on the top menu bar. You'll see a lot of options. For this method of import using your prepared spreadsheet, select "Copy/Paste from File" or "CSV"


The text box that shows up auto populates with examples of segments from your list. Don't worry about those, just paste your contacts from the spreadsheet like this:

mailchimp upload example3

UPDATE 12/19/13 - If your data doesn't line up like the picture, don't fret. Proceed to the next step. If the column-matching section is jacked up, click Cancel, then check for spaces and/or special characters, and run the copy and paste routine again.

Hit the "Import List" button.

Now for the fun part, assigning the data you just pasted in there a heading. The screen that comes up next looks like this:

mailchimp upload example4

Hit that "Done" button and you're good to go. The copy/paste method is good for uploading small batches at a time, the CSV option for larger imports. Importing contacts via the many integration options can be handy too, but can get a hairy fast, so if you get stuck, give us a call!

What is MailChimp?

Simply put, MailChimp is our favorite email newsletter platform.  It has other uses, from announcements to invites, and anytime in between when you might need a slick looking email.  If you are subscribed to our newsletter, you've already seen it in action.

mailchimp newdesign

MailChimp recently overhauled their site with a new look and more user friendly functionality, so today seems like a good day to show it off and let you know a little bit more about why we use MailChimp in most of our projects.


Do I need a paid account?

No! Unless you have a database of over 2000 emails. When you hit that benchmark you can upgrade to a paid account. Also, congratulations on having a huge database. Not everyone knows how to put that kind of volume to good use, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Just one reason I love MailChimp

Just one reason I love MailChimp

When you find your account approaching the 2000 email mark, it's a good idea to scrub out the lower value subscribers and make sure your list is truly high quality before upgrading. No reason to get a paid account if your list sucks, dig?

How do I build my email list?

There are many options. We've had success in the past by offering promo codes for discounts ranging from 10% to 20% off purchases in exchange for a subscribe. Mailchimp makes this extremely easy. Once you have set up the promo code, all you need to do is include it in the final welcome email, found under "Lists".

Or, wait a minute.  This was extremely easy a week ago, before the redesign of their dashboard.  I'm going to have to turn this over to the experts:

Did I mention the support team is awesome?

Did I mention the support team is awesome?

Another method is to include a check box on your check out page that allows folks to opt in to the newsletter just by clicking on it. If they're fans of your products, they will. Subscribers generated through this method are awesome, because you know for a fact that the customer wants to hear from you.

Some folks will buy lists, but that's a spammy move and the quality of the contact info just isn't there. Don't waste your your money.

How will an email newsletter help increase business?

Even if you're not technically an e-commerce site, a newsletter can be the most effective, most efficient way to stay in contact with folks that have already bought from you before.

This is really marketing 101 here. A newsletter should have news, obviously, and whatever you're selling shouldn't be as obvious.

Some newsletters should leave out sales entirely, as in the case of an alumnus of a workshop. They don't need you to sell the same workshop to them, and will unsubscribe if you try. However, a well crafted newsletter may warrant forwarding to friends that haven't taken to program.

Remember that you build your list from folks that have bought from you before. All you need to do is remind them of the satisfaction they get from using your product/services, and maybe entice them with the promise of future satisfaction.

There are many ways to accomplish this, and it will vary from project to project. If you want more specific advice, you know who to ask.

How do I maximize the outcome of my newsletter efforts?

NEVER SPAM. Seriously. If you promised folks one monthly newsletter, best not to surprise them with two. It can be tempting to send extra blasts when you're desperate, but all you'll get from it is a flood of unsubscribes. So don't do it.

You should, however, observe all the usual copywriting best practices, e.g. scannable copy, clickable images, bullet points. Make it useful. Make it fun. Change up your calls to action to reflect the attitude voiced by your writing. Make it personal.

mailchimp segments

Another extremely handy tool to maximize your effort is the power to divide your list into segments. Knowing which segments you can sell harder to and which you can't can help you create multiple versions of the monthly newsletter, each tailored to a different market. Each subscriber still receives only one email, but the'll love you all the more for knowing what they're looking for and giving it to them.

How do I design a great template?

The right template for you will evolve over time. The drag and drop editor makes creating your first draft easy/awesome.

I also highly recommend using the image cards rather than embedding images in the text blocks, as this will allow the images to scale for mobile users, which is pretty much guarantees to be a majority of your audience.

Make sure it looks good in preview mode for computers and mobile devices, and go through few drafts with your team to ensure quality. Then send it!

Give it a few days and check the report. You'll be able to see what parts of the email were enticing enough to click on, and you can incorporate more of those elements in your next newsletter.

Click map from part of our May newsletter - Trying not to take it personally that no one clicked on the TARDIS.

Click map from part of our May newsletter - Trying not to take it personally that no one clicked on the TARDIS.

You can use your last newsletter as a template for the next one simply by choosing "replicate campaign", and then make your edits from there.

My open rate is abysmal! Help!

When it comes to your open rate, there are three factors you need to consider:

1. Subject line

It better be enticing enough to merit opening the email. If you're subject line is too boring, you won't get many click. Fortunately, MailChimp has a tool for researching terms you might want to use in your subject line, comparing their performance from previously run campaigns. That's just cool.

2. The preview area

This little box contains the text that folks will see as a preview of the email that shows up after the subject line in their inbox. Make sure it rocks!

This little box contains the text that folks will see as a preview of the email that shows up after the subject line in their inbox. Make sure it rocks!

3. Previous history of receiving emails

Some folks will sign up for a newsletter and then never open it. Repeatedly. You can probably drop them from your list, or set their info aside in a segment that you won't send emails to.

Some folks, on the other hand, might have seen previous newsletters and decided they don't seem very interesting anymore. I've been this guy myself before, and sometimes I'm just to lazy or too attached to unsubscribe. Not much you can do about it, except for make your newsletters better and hope they start opening them again.

Remember that any open rate above 20% is actually pretty good, so don't cry if not everyone on your list opens the thing.

There's a lot more to MailChimp than just this stuff, but as always, leave further questions in the comments and we'll answer 'em! Thanks for reading!

When I first moved to Chico, I was still reeling from the anti-social passive aggressive brainwashing, also known as *living in Seattle for six years*. So in true I don't like humans, so I'll hide behind my computer fashion I hit up Twitter and found - well - not much.

Twitter to Email to Meeting

Not much, except for this one equally anti-social Joomla nerd at this Chico-based dev shop called TriniTronic.

TriniTronic Small Biz Triage Twitter Convo

So in true anti-Seattle-ite form, I insisted on a meeting place that was not Starbucks, and found this cool little donut shop - Donut Rising (now a client) - and requested a meeting with Michae. And waited.  And waited. Two months later we finally connected and set our first Donut Meeting as they came to be called.

Donut Rising lobby in Chico, CAAnd then we had another meeting.

And another meeting.

And another.

 And ... well you get it.

Fast forward to six meetings later and we decided that he didn't like client work (which I love). I hated product work (which he loved). So I called up the Dundons, the cranky Irish brothers I hate to love, and Seth and I figured out the details. It started as a "little plugin project". Dundons would build it, Michael would launch it from his well established plugin/extension sales platform, and Seth and I would market the living hell out of it. If it worked out, we would do another one. So I built this gnarly plugin spec for a social proof sidebar for WordPress, worked out a split commission arrangement with the team, and everyone dove in.

False Starts vs. Starting Small

Another month goes by, work is done by all concerned, and we still hadn't gained any real traction.

Reason: the technology just isn't there yet. Social media API's (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and especially Google+) are notoriously tough to work with and change often, rarely in concert with their competitors. And formatting those little media counters in a non-generic AND truly cross-browser / cross-platform fashion was preposterously complicated.

Back to the square one.

Last year John Dundon had created a little plugin for Small Biz Triage as part of an old campaign landing page. He wasn't grooving on MailChimp's hella clunky form embed system, but knew that the spec required that integration. So he built a lean, but effective integration plugin to connect MailChimp's API and the WordPress Contact Form 7 plugin. After some careful deliberation (5 minute conversation to be exact), we decided to make that bad-boy marketplace-ready. Effectively moving from the turkey dinner to the day-after-super-duper-turkey-sandwich.

Easier to make, easier to sell, easier to market.

a brother needs to get paid

While I worked up the marketing piece, and John added some killer features, Michael tackled a better way to pay the team their per person % splits leveraging Paypal's rarely used feature in their API for split-payments. In plain english, this would change the process from a administrative-heavy affiliate pay-out system with 60-90 days delays in payouts, to a real-time scenario:

  1. Customer buys the plugin online
  2. Paypal takes that payment, and issues payments based on the pre-established percentages, i.e. Dundons 50%, Trinitronic 40%, Small Biz Triage 10% - in realtime!

As you can imagine, this helps remove hesitation people have when working on sweat equity projects.

The Partnership

During the past two months, we've enjoyed working with Michael so much, that we discussed other ways of helping each other out. Fast forward through another slurry of emails, phone calls and chats in the smokers pit at the office, and we decided that our oddly symbiotic relationship would  benefit BOTH of us if treated as a proper partnership.

Now Small Biz Triage is the "Marketing Department" for TriniTronic - the more ass we kick, the more money we all make. We are only about 4-weeks into this new arrangement, but we are already seeing the benefits, such as:

  1. Uncovering new opportunities, such as guest blogging for each other, joint email campaigns, savvy cross-promotion, etc...
  2. A shared focus of providing services *and* products that our customers (small biz / website owners) actually want, removing a lot of the guesswork.
  3. and most importantly, social pressure. Since we are now lashed onto to the same life-raft, it becomes more important to paddle and kick harder to get Small Biz Triage and TriniTronic to their shared goal that much faster. It's really hard to be "that guy" faking effort, when you are literally spitting distance from each other.

What now?

Contact Chimp and the split payment system are rolling out in June. Our combined traffic is up in all departments, and we've recently launched a video series focused on the how-to's of small biz ownership in the internet age.

Oh, and join 500+ other small biz (and website) owners and sign-up for our newsletter. We send out crudely brilliant monthly updates on this and our other donut-fueled business shenanigans.

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