Mailing List Tips: Subscription Box and Timing

Mailing list tips: Add a unique subscription box to your website or blog

Many people enjoy getting their favorite new blog posts via email. As such, I have created mailing lists using MailChimp for both this blog (Websites for Small Biz) and my other blog, Sketching Out. MailChimp is only one of many mailing list services (Constant Contact and AWeber are two other popular ones). I’m sharing two mailing list tips that you might be able to use: creating a subscription box on your site and setting up the timing and frequency for mailing your blog posts.

Subscription Boxes on Your Site

One way of getting people to subscribe to your mailing list is to post an attractive subscription box on your site. Here’s how to do it with MailChimp.

From the MailChimp dashboard, select Lists. Select your list. From the top menu, pick Sign Up Forms.
embedded forms on mailchimp

One of the choices is called Super Slim. Here’s how it looks:

superslim embedded form mailchimp

You can then take the code MailChimp gives you, dump it in a sidebar widget, and you have an online subscription form.

But if you know a little CSS or you have a web developer with CSS skills, pick Naked. Then jazz it up. I found some great examples online of blogs with fancy subscription boxes. The key is to create a good, eye-catching background image with some blank area to place the subscription button and input box.

For those comfortable with CSS code (add this to style.css – change details as necessary):

#mc_embed_signup {
    height: 270px;
    background: url('images/tea-cup-watercolor-bg.jpg') no-repeat scroll 0% 0% transparent;
    width: 180px;
    margin: 0px auto;
}

On Sketching Out, you can see my mailbox makeover. Here is how my initial mail link looks:
old mailing list box
And here is the makeover:
be my guest mailing list box

I still haven’t done one for this blog, but here is the link if you want to subscribe to the Websites for Small Biz mailing list.

Timing and Frequency of Your Mailings

When I originally set up my mailing list for this blog, I thought, oh, I only post once per week, so I will select Frequency – Weekly. That certainly sounds like the right thing to do, but what if you set the email to go out on a Monday morning, for example, and you hit publish on a new post on Tuesday? The new Tuesday post won’t go out as a mailing until the next Monday morning. Here is how to solve this problem: from the MailChimp dashboard, pick Campaigns. Pick the campaign you want to edit. You will have to pause it. Select Frequency – Daily. Then select the days. Here’s how it looks when you pick daily initially:
daily every day send mailing campaign mailchimp

So I then turned off some of the days, so now it will only think about sending on Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Note it only sends new posts, and since I only post once per week (on a good week) anyway, subscribers will only get one post even though I have three days checked. This would not be the case for a blogger who posts daily or every other day.

three days mailing frequency mailchimp

Then be sure to save your campaign so it will continue to operate.

Your Turn, Please

Do you have a mailing list for your blog? Do you have a mailing list for your business? If not, what stops you? How do you get people to sign up? Any tricks to share?

45 Responses to “Mailing List Tips: Subscription Box and Timing”

  1. Catarina says:

    Love your subscription box makeover, Leora!

    Still use Feedburner. Maybe I will change in the future.

    Whenever I publish, regardless of day Feedburner sends it out swiftly to subscribers.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Catarina, Feedburner was one of the earliest ways to get blogs into email. A few years back I heard complaints about it; maybe those got cleared up. In any case, I liked all the frills that come with MailChimp (like these choices of forms). And it is free if you only have certain number of subscribers.

  2. Atish Ranjan says:

    Did you put CSS with the form code there? inline CSS?
    I too want to make my box fancy but it seems like all the code is being called from Mailchimp server then how can I put css there and make it cool like urs?

    I will try again. thanks Leora

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Atish, I was tempted to add more about how I did the subscription box when I posted, but I was afraid I would scare off most of my readers by adding code.

      If you pick Naked, you will get minimal CSS. I’ll add the CSS I used to the post. Tweak it as you like.

  3. Leora — I have to admit that my subscription box is dull. I use AWeber but I’m tech challenged and I would never fool with code. I’m assuming Aweber has some design choices, too. I’ll need to ask my webmaster. Thanks for the reminder that our subscription box should enhance our website design, too!

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Jeannette, the main part to think about is the design. What (background image) would enhance the box that you already have? Your webmaster can then handle the code – that’s the easy part.

  4. My subscription box is just about non existent. It is part of the preset package you get with WordPress. I’ll have to keep this in mind for when I eventually create my own website.

  5. Paul Graham says:

    Great makeover of your Subscription Box. I don’t yet use one as my of-the-rack site design will need a complete face-list first. Tempted to get started but will probably wait a while until I’ve seen more great sites like yours. When the time comes a custom box is definitely an attractive idea.

  6. Susan Cooper says:

    That is something I really need to work on. You have given the very push I need to get it done. Before I do that I have been plowing through themes right now (UGH!) trying to cull down the ones that would work with our new direction. So much to do with I’m moving too…. bigger UGH! :D

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Susan, I bet with your artistic skills you could come up with a lovely subscription box. Look forward to seeing what you produce. Think of this as fun instead of a chore?

  7. I have used subscribe2 for a very long time…but I realize it’s ineffective when you get too many subscribers. It’s also not very prominent on my main page OR each post! It’s one of those things that you have brought further up on my To Do list!

  8. Hi Leora,

    I think I am going follow that mail box
    subscription. This has become my favourite to
    to act upon it soon. Lovely points you deliver.

    Keep sharing your worthy knowledge.

  9. Jeri says:

    I’ve been using MailChimp for about a year now. I’ve been wanting to spruce up the plain Jane subscription box they allow users to make, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve customized all the various forms and am still tinkering with an truly effective bi-monthly newsletter. Most of all, MailChimp has been a great way to truly get a sense of who my most engaged readers are thanks to all of the reports the program supplies.

  10. A.K.Andrew says:

    This is perfect Leora as I’m about to switch to mailchimp – I’m with Feedburner at the moment. Would like to have a slightly bigger subscribe box, but maybe I’ll look at their options. I glanced at it when I signed up, but I was a bit tired, saw the word campaigns & thought -OK must come back to this of a morning.
    Thanks so much.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      A.K. – MailChimp gives you a lot of options (it can be a bit overwhelming), and as I showed in this post, you can take their bare bones layouts and embellish. I got an email last week saying they are redoing their layouts in a more user-friendly way – you may want to investigate that.

  11. I’m still using Feedburner and I have to admit that I pay virtually no attention to my email subscriber list. I’m drowning in email, so I hesitate to be any more “in your face” with my readers about subscribing. This is probably the wrong attitude. I should be concentrating on making my content good enough that they are not “annoyed” when they receive an email about a new post.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Suzanne, yes, don’t confuse yourself with your readers! They might look forward to emails about your posts, especially if you make them extra-enticing.

      And maybe you should have two email addresses: one for less important emails and one for those you get excited to read. I have three: one for work and family; one for important contacts like camp and my son’s college and programs I’ve signed up for; and the Yahoo one, that I use for buying stuff/orders. Companies send all sorts of marketing to that one. I usually hit delete.

  12. Well, wow. Learning how much you don’t know is a good way to start learning, I suppose–I’ll have to bookmark your page to come back to when I’m tinkering with things on my site!

  13. Cheryl says:

    I always learn something new with your blog posts and today is no exception. I love the makeover box you did. For me I know what I like, but have no imagination to come up with items like that myself. I use Mail Chimp, though I have not accessed it in some time now. I understand that some changes have taken place. This post is a reminder that I need to check it out again.

  14. Greg says:

    Nice one Leora, glad someone else can pull of a coding tut too :)

    Does MailChimp offer a simple JavaScript copy paste too?

  15. Thanks for this tutorial Leora. A mailing list is on my to-do list. I have a simple one through feed burner, but I’ve been wondering about Mailchimp and Aweber.

  16. Jason B says:

    Excellent tips. I use mailchimp. Can you change the frequency of the e-mail deliveries with the free version or is it only with the paid one?

  17. Good explanation. I use Feedburner and have an opt-in on my website, but it’s for free tips, not my blog (via MailChimp) I am a member of several blogging groups and my subscriptions have shot up of late. If someone wants to subscribe to my blog, they can via the Feedburner. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Hey Leora,

    I have played around with an email list, but I haven’t considered it as a serious investment, until recently.

    Right now, building an email list is one of my goals (If you ask me why, I don’t have a clear answer. I want to interact with others…on a different level, from my blog readers….and I want to make some money while helping others :D).

    I do use Mail chimp, and I am loving it! I don’t use the RSS to email feature (I have used it in the past, and it’s great). One of the few things I decided to do (when I started my current list) is not to email subscribers about new posts (at least not actively).

    Email list is just for tips and discussions (and some promotions…but it is limited to products I have tried and loved).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this Leora :) Appreciate it!

  19. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Nice! I really like your customized design. It’s a great way to continue your brand even into forms.

  20. Hello Leora,
    I have an opt-in on my website connected to AWeber autoresponder service. The RSS is still there for those who care to read the blog posts that way. I love how you’ve used your artistic talents to create your subscription box.

    Kind Regards,
    Bill

  21. Becc says:

    Mine is rather tiny and insignificant. I haven’t done much about it because I have not yet put together my newsletter or any sort of reason for people to sign up. It has been on my list for forever! I do need to do that as my mailing list doesn’t grow anywhere near the rate of other ways people read my blog.

  22. Leora,
    I love your new subscription box! I really need to do that. Thanks for the simple CSS code too.

    As always, you’ve shared an easy to understand and actionable tip. Thanks!

  23. Arleen says:

    Leora- I never thought about sending out emails about my blogs. We use Mail Chimp for email blasts of specials. With my audience I do not want to overwhelm them with emails. The idea of the blog sounds great. I think it may not be a bad idea to offer them a $10.00 to $25.00 discount of their order if they leave a good comment on my blog. I really appreciate your idea, got me thinking.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Arleen, well, yes, if you already have mailing lists about your business, it might be overkill to have one for your blog as well, although maybe some people just want the option of reading blog posts by email? But you could certain spruce up a subscription box for your regular mailing list in the same way. Find or create a great background image and use it to encourage others to sign up.

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