Expert Author Joshua Fialkoff

Getting people to sign up for your newsletter isn't always easy. Even if you have killer content, the hurdle of signing up is often too much of a barrier. If you're finding signups to be a little slow, consider leveraging Mailchimp and the draw of the iPad. We use a new iPad to incentivize new subscribers, and make the whole process super easy for them by using a hidden Mailchimp feature: a pre-populated signup form.

Step 1: Create a list of invitees Your invitees list will include everyone you want to invite to your drawing. Rather than enter everyone manually, you'll probably want to import the list. In Mailchimp, you can do this by first creating your list (Lists > Create List), and then importing that list (click the Import link for the list you want to import to).

Step 2: Create a list for subscribers Create another list for subscribers. Leave this empty for now. When a user signs up for the drawing, they will be added to this list (more on this to come).

Step 3: Get the signup form URL for the subscriber list

1. Click on the forms link for your invitees list.

2. Click "Signup Form."

3. Find the message "Your list's signup form is hosted on our server at: [some URL]" and click on the link. This will open the signup form page in a new tab.

4. Copy the full URL for the signup form - we'll need it later. It's important that you copy the full URL you see in your address bar now rather than the shortened URL you clicked on in the last step. It'll should look like this:

[Base URL]/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]

While you're looking at the forms, you might want to spend some time customizing the signup process so that it matches your website.

Step 4: Create the invitation email campaign The invitation email will go out to all the people you want to invite to enter, and will include a link to the signup form (that link you copied in the last step). The trick here is to pre-populate the signup form based on the information we already have about the recipient. We don't have to pre-populate the form but a pre-populated form lowers signup friction and helps to increase conversions. I'll use an example to show you how to do this in Mailchimp.

Let's say that both of your lists have first name, last name, and email fields. If you created these fields in order, you'll probably find that first name is associated with the merge variable MERGE0, last name is associated with MERGE1, and email is associated with MERGE2. In this case, starting with the example URL from step 3, you'd use this URL in the invitation email to bring people to a pre-populated signup form:

[Base URL]/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]&MERGE0=|*MERGE0*|&MERGE1=|*MERGE1*|&MERGE2=|*MERGE2*|

Things like |*MERGE0*| are replaced by the value for that particular merge variable, while "MERGE0=" tells the signup form to use the value after the equals sign and before the ampersand (i.e., &) to populate the form.

If you'd like to give the link a try, click the "Popup Preview" at the bottom of the screen where you're editing your campaign email. Then, at the bottom of the popup, click "View live merge info." At that point, the URL is rewritten to contain the information you have about the intended recipient. For example, it might look like this:

[Base URL]/subscribe?u=[some crazy string]&id=[another crazy string]&MERGE0=Steve&MERGE1=Rothburn&

Even better, you can click on that link to make sure everything is in working order. Go ahead, try it!

Step 5: Reap the rewards Once you've sent a sample email or two, and run through the signup process to make sure it's working smoothly, go ahead and schedule your campaign for delivery. Now all you have to do is figure out how to deal with all those new leads.



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