This is part two of a three part series.

  1. Use a proper email service provider
  2. Build a clean, ethical marketing list
  3. Write brilliant emails that make people eager to shop

This is where a lot of ecommerce businesses who get a free Mailchimp account make mistakes. I’ve seen them in my own inbox.

Instead of building an audience of engaged subscribers eager to hear from them - they buy, rent or scrape a list from the internet.

This is bad and makes kittens cry :(

Not only are those practices specifically against Mailchimp’s terms and conditions - it may even be against the law.

The smart people on your list will find the unsubscribe link and click it, telling Mailchimp that they never signed up for the list. The angry ones, or those that don’t know how to unsubscribe, will hit spam in their email program - and that is much worse. That report goes to their ISP, who then send it to Mailchimp. Get too many spam reports and your account is toast.

Remember, when you send email you have to take the marketer’s spin on the hippocratic oath:

First send no spam

Before you worry about selling anything, open rates or clicks, first send no spam. Being a spammer is bad for everyone, especially you.

And once they’ve unsubscribed or reported you for spam, you can never get them back.

The best ways to get new subscribers

1. Have an opt-in form on your website

Every website should have a way for engaged customers to continue their interaction. A newsletter signup form on every page provides just that opportunity. If a customer loves your products but isn’t ready to buy then you can

2. Give people the option to opt-in at checkout

You can hook your Mailchimp account up to most shopping carts. There's a simple app for Shopify that you can add and then Shopify does the rest.

With Shopify the customer has a little checkbox to select if they want to receive marketing emails at checkout. It can be pre-checked by default, but make sure that the option is there for your customer not to receive it.

To encourage more people to leave it checked, let them know you won’t send spam or bombard them with a new email everyday with a little message next to the box.

3. Give them something in exchange for an email address

The most common giveaway for ecommerce stores is some sort of discount code off your first order. This works especially well when you are in the stage of acquiring as many new customers as possible. Once you are starting to worry more about retaining customers and increasing lifetime value, this might not work as well.

You can also giveaway information like ebooks, case studies or email courses - this all depends on the kind of goods you sell. But try and be creative. You'd be surprised what you can offer for your industry

If you want to get going straight away and have a list of customers, it’s not ideal, but here’s the best way to add them to your list:

If all you’ve got is a big list of customers and you want to get them onto your email list, then do yourself a favour and ask them nicely.

Import your customers into Mailchimp, but before you start just sending offers, write a polite email, with absolutely no marketing in it. Let your existing customers know that you’ve just started an email newsletter and as they have shopped with you before you’d like to include them in it. Remember to focus on them, let them know that you’re including them so that they don’t miss out on any deals.

Make it sound like you want them to be part of something new and exciting. It should be abundantly clear that they can unsubscribe right now, by clicking a button (make it obvious) and if they want to continue receiving emails they don’t have to do a thing.

You should expect to get unsubscribes but if you do this right you shouldn’t get spam complaints. I’d even think about sending this email again to those who didn’t open it the first time just to make sure. Once you’ve got this (tacit) permission you can start to send your real emails, just don’t do it right away, leave it at least 5-7 days before you follow up with a marketing email.

Action Step: Setup a form on your website to capture email addresses or import your customer list (but only if you promise to do it responsibly)

By Craig Cooper

Founder and managing director of Pilgrim Marketing®, helps Shopify stores to thrive with customer acquisition and store optimisation campaigns. Connect on LinkedIn or Follow on Twitter.