The other day, a reader sent in some feedback. They were curious about how to integrate MailChimp with Sitefinity. I did a little investigation, and while I found it possible, it requires some custom coding. Coding which I didn’t have the skill to effect on my own. (Might return to that later, after I can bug our developers.)
But, it made me think about the larger question. Namely, if I want to send emails to my audience, could I do it through my website?
With Sitefinity, yes you can! The CMS has a built-in Email Marketing service. We’ve mentioned it in the past, but haven’t done much beyond that.
Until today. Let’s take a trip through Sitefinity’s Email Marketing toolset.
The Elements of Email Marketing
You’ll find the Email Marketing toolset under the “Marketing” nav header. There are four elements under Email Marketing: Campaigns, Message Templates, Mailing Lists, and Subscribers.
Emails are grouped & sent out in Campaigns. The messages are built on Message Templates, and sent to Mailing Lists, which are comprised of Subscribers. Pretty standard, right? Most email service providers are built this way.
(Please note: I am just talking about the Email Marketing functionality here. Marketing Automation/the Digital Experience Cloud makes use of Email Marketing, but it has more functions which deserve their own post/posts. If you’re curious about DEC, here’s a rundown at Sitefinity.com: Digital Experience Cloud)
Prerequisite: You must have an SMTP server set up in Sitefinity’s Settings (under Administration). Here’s a tutorial for locating & updating SMTP settings: Configure SMTP Server – Sitefinity Documentation
The Campaigns section is where you house your emails. Each Campaign can contain multiple Issues (Sitefinity’s term for individual emails). Which makes it easy to do A/B testing.
Reports are built-in for every Issue. They’re not incredibly detailed, but they will tell you how many people opened the email and clicked its links.
Any email marketer will tell you – one of the biggest pains is making your email appear the same across all devices. What renders normally in Gmail looks funky in Outlook. An email on a phone needs different rendering than on a laptop. And so on.
We use templates to standardize emails, to reinforce branding, and to save time. Sitefinity treats its Message Templates much like it does webpages. You have three choices for creating a template: Like a Web page, Rich text (HTML), and Plain Text.
- “Like a Web page” means you get the Sitefinity Page Editor to make your template. All the tools & customization you’d get for making pages. That’s a lot of customization power…but it’s also easy to mess up your emails too, so use caution. Don’t get too fancy.
- “Rich text (HTML)” gives you an editor window with all the formatting controls. However, you can’t use widgets. Not necessarily a bad thing though – if you’re working with raw HTML, your emails stand a great chance of appearing consistently across devices.
- “Plain Text” is just like it sounds. You have a menu of basic email widgets to insert (First Name, Last Name, Unsubscribe Link, etc.), but otherwise, your template is basic text. Good for simple follow-up emails and autoresponders.
Could you create an HTML template and upload it? Yes, according to a discussion thread from 2012/2013. However, styling may take some serious trial-and-error to get right.
(Curiously, Patrick posted a link on the thread to Campaign Monitor’s stellar CSS guide. We currently use Campaign Monitor for some of our customers’ email marketing…it’s a great system.)
All those people out there, eager to receive your next newsletter…got to store all those email addresses somewhere, right? Hence the ubiquitous Mailing List.
In Sitefinity, creating a Mailing List is simple…deceptively so. Just go to the “Mailing Lists” section and click the “Create a mailing list” button.
However, make sure you click the arrows next to “Mail Settings” and “Advanced.” Or you’ll miss a lot of options!
Each Mailing List lets you set multiple add-on options, such as a Reply-To email, text to remind subscribers how they got on the list, a “Welcome” email autoresponder, a post-unsubscribe follow-up, and several more.
Once you have a mailing list created, you can invite people to subscribe, using a Subscribe form. Sitefinity has already taken care of this for you, with a pre-made widget. Here’s how you use it.
How to Put a Subscribe Form on Your Website:
- First, create a Mailing List. Use the “Create a Mailing List” button and select the options we mentioned above.
- Then, switch to Pages in Sitefinity. Locate the page where you want the Subscribe form.
- Click the page to open its Editor.
- In the Widget menu list, look for the “Email Campaigns” category. Click it.
- Drag the “Subscribe Form” widget out onto the page. Once it’s in place, you’ll see a command in the form box: “Click edit and select mailing list”.
- Click the form’s Edit button.
- In the Options window, select the mailing list you created in Step 1. If you like, enter a title and description for the form.
- Click Save. The new Subscribe form will appear on the page.
- Click Publish. Done!
Each Mailing List has to have one or more Subscribers in it. But, something important to note here. Subscribers are tied to Mailing Lists—but you can delete a Mailing List and not lose the subscribers. That’s not universal across email service providers. If you plan to use Sitefinity for email marketing, keep it in mind.
Ideally, you’ll get subscribers adding themselves in via your Subscribe forms. But you can create a subscriber using the “Create a subscriber” button. Make sure to assign them to a mailing list when you do!
Sitefinity’s Email Marketing Service: Does What It Says, and No More
The Sitefinity Email Marketing toolset is missing a few of the advanced features you’d get with a dedicated email service provider, like Aweber or Campaign Monitor. But overall, this toolset is perfectly workable as your Email Marketing service. I could use this to send out newsletters, promotional emails, or announcements.
What do you use for email marketing? Please comment or email (especially if you already use Sitefinity for it!). I’d like to hear what your experience is, what you like/don’t like, etc.
On behalf of everyone at PlanetMagpie, Happy Holidays! We’ll see you again in 2017.