Contact the Locals with MailChimp

Send RSS to Email with MailChimpI’ve set up a few MailChimp accounts for different clients and uses. At this point, I’d say I could set up an RSS based email campaign without batting an eyelash, because that’s what I’ve done the most.

I know, however, that although this is an incredible feature (one which is still not offered by one of its competitors *ahem*), it’s not scratching the surface of some of the amazing that MailChimp can provide.

For instance, last year, Carrie Dils wrote a nifty tutorial about how to set MailChimp up to email customers automagically on their birthdays.

Here’s a different circumstance: what if you’re a local business and you’d like to offer your local customers opportunities that might not suit your more long distance friends? I mean, if you’re going to throw a party in downtown Chattanooga next week, your friends in Texas might be a little bit bummed out to get emails from you about it.

Well. MailChimp has got you covered! Did you know that, if you are in the US, you can actually (and easily) email a group of subscribers based on their proximity to a zip code? I don’t know if this little feature is actually all that hidden, but it was new to me this week, so I thought I’d share.

Set Up Your List

First things first: you need to make sure that you actually know your subscribers’ zip codes. So you’ll want to go to your MailChimp List, and then under Settings, look for List fields and *|MERGE|* tags. You can add all kinds of fields to your list, but the one we want today is just the zip code field. If your subscribers aren’t in the US, sorry, this won’t work for them. All you need to do is add the field.

Add zip code field to MailChimp

Create a Segment

Next, let’s go back to our list, and in the Manage subscribers menu, we’ll want to click on Segments. You may not have any segments yet, but you’re about to create one.

Note: if you’ve used MailChimp before, you’re probably familiar with Groups. Groups are, well, groups of subscribers based on criteria you set. They may be able to choose which groups they’re in, such as RSS Subscribers, or Parents, or Monthly Newsletters, but the groups don’t change unless the user (or you) change their preferences. Segments are different, and they can be a little more dynamic, or magical. See, you can set a segment up by a rule, such as a merge field, and the segment can update itself based on the user data you have, instead of relying on what your users input. (for more information, visit the MailChimp Knowledge Base)

Click on the Create Segment button. Change the first option, which is probably starting out as email address. You’ll want to change it to your new merge field, which is the zip code. The next option will say “is”, but now, since your first option is your zip code field, you’ll have a new choice, which is “is within distance (US-only)”. Pick that, and the third option now becomes a number for “miles of zip code”, and a fourth option appears with [your] zip code already entered. All you need to do is decide how large of a radius you want to include, put that magical number of miles in, and MailChimp will now filter your list for you.

Create a local segment in MailChimp

Save your segment and you’re done! Now you have a new group, or segment, of subscribers you can email based on how close they are to you. Even better, if someone updates their zip code, or a new subscriber adds themselves to the list, the segment will automatically adapt to include new subscribers in this radius.

Carrie’s post did a great job on talking through options of how to get your email signup form on your website, so if you need help with that part, read her post. I use Gravity Forms for a lot of these, which is great. Gravity has a field which will accept a number, but it’s not specifically set up to accept only proper zip codes. If you’re willing to live with that, then go with it.

Send That Email

When you’re ready to invite your Chattanooga area friends to your party/event/sale, all you have to do is select that segment when you create the email campaign, and MailChimp will make sure that your local friends get the email, but that’s it. If you travel for business, you could use this to contact subscribers in the area where you’ll be visiting in order to let them know you’ll be in their neck of the woods.

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