You know those ads on the Google Search results page? Well, they make Google a ton of money. So much so, Google can afford to devote incredible development resources toward building robot cars and free products.
While the robot cars are pretty fascinating, small business owners would be wise to acquaint themselves with Google’s Apps product suite, in particular Google Docs and Google Sheets. You can think of Docs and Sheets as free, if less robust, versions of Microsoft Word and Excel. Not too shabby.
If you have a Google account, for example a Gmail account, you can access Google Docs and Sheets via Google Drive — that’s where you’ll be saving your Docs and Sheets. And, that’s the other cool thing: Google Drive is in the cloud, so now you have free cloud storage too. You can upgrade to Google Apps for Business to increase your cloud storage and customize your business email, but for now, I’m interested in the free stuff.
For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to skip ahead a bit and talk about a new “Add-on” to Google Docs and Sheets. It’s an email marketing tool called Merge by MailChimp. Merge by MailChimp is an incredibly robust tool for sending newsletters and other email marketing campaigns, and it’s free.
Here’s how it works:
To Install the Add-on, all you have to do is open a blank Google Doc, click on the Add-ons option in the toolbar, and scroll to get Add-ons From there, a pop-up will appear with logos for various applications you can install.
Your next step should be to create a Google Sheet consisting of the contacts you intend to email. You can do this by entering the contact information directly into a Google Sheet, or by uploading a list of contacts into Google Drive, which then gives you the option of converting the file to a Google Sheet.
Be sure to name the Sheet with a title that corresponds to your email campaign. The spreadsheet should include at least an email address, but you can use merge tags to dynamically pull any other fields in your email, for instance first name.
Now the fun part. The hardest thing about email marketing has always been creating the HTML for the email campaign. The magic of Merge with MailChimp is that it transforms the formatting in a Google Doc to HTML formatting, so all you have to do is type your message into a Google Doc, format it as you would with a word processor, and add images, such as your logo.
While you still have the email doc open, go to Add-ons in your tool bar, scroll to Merge by MailChimp, and select Send email. From there, you will be prompted to select the Data Source. The Data Source, as you can probably guess, is just the Sheet you created in step one. Find it. Click on it.
With your data source selected, a sidebar will appear with all of the control necessary to launch your email campaign. The MailChimp app does an excellent job interpreting your data source, but take a quick look to make sure they have everything correct.
You can then preview your email by clicking preview at the bottom of the sidebar. If you want to get an even better sense for how your email will appear for your recipients, you can click the send a test button, which will allow you to send an email to an email address you want to see a test version.
Once you are all set, click send, and Mailchimp will prompt you one last time to make sure all of your contact information is correct.
Confirm the sheet and columns are correct:
Make sure MailChimp recognizes the merge tags:
Finally, set your return email address, from name, and fill out your business address to be compliant with CAN-SPAM laws:
Perhaps the slickest aspect of this free feature is the reporting. Once you have sent your email campaign, you can track the results with open and click-through analytics.
To see your campaign report, at any time, just click on the Add-Ons link at the top of your toolbar, and instead of selecting send email, click view reports.
Again, the sidebar will appear, but this time it will have the latest data, including the number of unique opens and clicks. Below that data, you will see a list of the recipients and the number of times they opened the email.