Setting up a mailing list and connecting it to your site
One of the big ways artists attract and keep long-term fans is by engaging with them on a regular basis. Art enthusiasts love to feel that they know something about the artist behind the work. Starting and maintaining a mailing list is an excellent way of keeping in touch with potential buyers, sending them information about exhibitions, events and new pieces you’re working on.
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to set up a free account at MailChimp.com (a mailing list management system), how to connect that account with your WordPress website, and how to put a simple sign-up form on the your home page.
Setting up your mailing list with Mail Chimp
1. Go to MailChimp.com and click on ‘Sign Up Free’.
2. Enter you email address, create a username and password, and click on ‘Create my Account’.
3. Now check your email. You should have received a message from MailChimp that looks something like this (check your Spam or Junk folder if you can’t see it). Click on ‘Activate Account’.
4. You’ll then be taken to a form. Fill in all required fields with the relevant information.
Once the form is complete, click on ‘Save and Get Started’.
5. Click on ‘Create a List’.
6. Click on ‘Create List’.
7. Give your list a name and fill in all the required details. The ‘default “from” email’ and ‘default “from” name are the email address and name that subscribers to your newsletter will see when you send them an email via MailChimp.
8. Once you’ve completed the form, click on ‘Save’.
Excellent. You have now created a list which fans and potential buyers can sign up to.
Finding your API key at Mail Chimp
In order for you to implement a sign-up form on your website, you need to know your mailing list’s API key. Here’s how you find it.
1. In MailChimp, click on your username, then ‘Account Settings’.
2. Next, click on ‘Extras’.
3. Then click on ‘API keys’.
4. On the next page, click on ‘Create a Key’.
5. An API key will then have been generated. Make a note of this key code for use later on.
Installing the Easy MailChimp Forms Plugin
The simplest way to put a functioning form on your site is to install the free Easy MailChimp Forms Plugin. This is how you do it.
1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard. Hover over ‘Plugins’ and click ‘Add New’.
2. In the search field on the next page, type in ‘Mail Chimp’ and click ‘Search Plugins’.
3. Once search results are generated, scroll down until you see the plugin named ‘Easy MailChimp Forms’. Once you find it, click ‘Install Now’.
4. Once the installation process is complete, click on ‘Activate Plugin’.
Connecting Easy MailChimp Forms to your MailChimp Account
Now you have the plugin, you need to connect it to the mailing list you created at MailChimp. This is where the API key you generated earlier comes in.
1. From your WordPress dashboard, hover over ‘MailChimp Forms’ and click on ‘MailChimp Settings’.
2. Enter the API Key in the field marked ‘Your MailChimp API key’. Once it has been accepted as a ‘Valid API Key’, click on ‘Save Settings’.
Creating a sign-up form
The next step is to actually create a form so that visitors can sign up to your mailing list. As the name of the plugin suggests, this is made extremely easy!
1. Hover over ‘MailChimp Forms’ and click on ‘Manage List Forms’.
2. From the drop-down menu on the page you are taken to, select the name of your list (you created this name when you first set up the list over at MailChimp.com). Next, click ‘Create a Form For This List’.
By default the form that you create will have 3 fields: Email address, first name and last name. If you want to get more information about the people signing up to your mailing list you can easily add more fields.
3. To do this, go back to MailChimp.com and log in. Click on ‘Lists
4. Click on the downwards arrow next to the word ‘Stats’, then click on ‘Signup Forms’.
5. On the next screen click on ‘Select’ directly below the yellow circle with the title ‘General forms’.
6. Here you can add fields to your sign up form. Simply find the field title you’d like from the menu on the right, click on it and it is automatically added to the form. If it isn’t listed, you can create a custom field by clicking on ‘Text’ or ask a question with multiple set answers using ‘Radio buttons’, ‘Check Boxes’ or a ‘Drop Down’.
7. Click on ‘Save Field’
NOTE: You can also remove unwanted fields by selecting them on the form and clicking the minus button (-). You will be asked to confirm by typing the word ‘DELETE’.
8. Now go back to WordPress. In ‘MailChimp Forms’>’Manage List Forms’, click on the yellow button that reads ‘Re-import Form Fields from MailChimp’.
The new fields that you added will now appear.
Adding the form to a page of your site
In order for visitors to sign up to your mailing list, the form will need to be easily accessible on your site. Using the short code generated by the plugin you can place the form on any page you wish. Here I’ll show you how to put it on the homepage.
1. Staying on the page ‘MailChimp Forms’>’Manage List Forms’, select and copy the Shortcode that has been generated for the form you’ve created.
2. From your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Pages’>’All Pages’.
3. Find your home page (or any page you’d like to implement a sign-up form on). Click on it.
NOTE: Here I’ll show you how I implemented the form on DarenRedman.com. This will be particularly useful if you followed all of the tutorials in Section 2: Building Your Artist Website where I showed you how to use the Klasik WordPress theme to create your online portfolio.
4. In order for the form to fit neatly alongside the text, it’s possible (with the Klasik WordPress theme) to create 2 columns; one for the written content of your homepage and one for the sign-up form. In the visual editor, type this piece of short code before your written content: [column_1_2]. After the written content, type the following short code: [/column_1_2].
5. Now create the column for your sign-up form; below your last piece of short code, type the following short code once again: [column_1_2].
Then type a ‘Call to Action’ for visitors to sign up to your mailing list. For Daren’s site, we simply chose ‘Keep up to date with all my news by signing up to my newsletter’.
6. Then insert the short code that you copied in step 1 from the ‘Manage List Forms’ screen. Finally, type the following short code: [/column_1_2].
7. Click ‘Update’.
The result should look something like this: a simple unobtrusive sign-up form neatly displayed adjacent to the text of the home page.
MailChimp will send you updates on how many people are signing up to your newsletter. You can also view this information by signing into your account and clicking on ‘Lists’. You can send the entire list emails very simply directly from your MailChimp account by clicking on ‘Campaigns’ and then ‘Create a new campaign’. There are excellent tutorials over at MailChimp that go into more detail such as this one: How can I create a campaign?
So there you have it; in a few simple steps, you have created a mailing list, connected it to your website and implemented a sign-up form. Of course, mailing lists are just one way of engaging with your visitors; many artists nowadays are having great success with blogs.