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Delivering the Weekly SPoonful with MailChimp

Over at SoulPancake we send out a weekly email campaign called the Weekly SPoonful. The campaign is a beautifully designed recap of the site’s best content from the prior week. The creation of these emails is dynamic in nature, and we integrated with MailChimp to make it work like magic.

Developing a way for our team to easily create a weekly email campaign like this is not so cut and dry. There are many moving pieces and a surprising number of variables to consider. Who’s going to choose the content? How will they tag it? Where will the creation interface live? How do they edit? What about thumbnails? What about campaign stats and open-rates? Where will the scheduling take place?

All of these variables quickly turned into the realization that we needed something special. Something that integrated with our technology, yet was flexible enough to let us retain control. We chose to develop a custom solution that directly addresses all of our needs. We integrated with MailChimp, an incredible email marketing service, and now have a custom Weekly SPoonful creation system that lives within our platform and easily bends to our team’s workflow.

How it works

SoulPancake is powered by The LabCoat Platform. This is our custom development and deployment platform that allows us to bend and scale our technology as needed. Whether it be a new application for us to use internally, new features for applications that we run, or totally custom solutions, LabCoat makes our lives easier. Without LabCoat, nothing moves forward.

We built the Weekly SPoonful creation process to live within all three systems, SoulPancake, LabCoat and MailChimp. This way, it’s a symbiotic connection between all the content we need to access, the creation process, the scheduling/sending process and the crucial (analytics) analyzation process.

Four steps to the Weekly SPoonful

  1. Golriz combs the site for the best content
  2. She tags the desired content with a “MailChimp” tag
  3. She goes to a special URL and clicks the “Create” button
  4. Then she logs into MailChimp and schedules the campaign

Our content team doesn’t need to keep an eye on all the content that’s been tagged. There’s no guessing game with “did I feature this already?, what was that article again?” These types of problems are perfectly suited to be solved by intelligent software. The “MailChimp” tag within LabCoat is dynamic. LabCoat will always pull the latest items tagged based on the content’s original creation date, not the tag input date itself. This way, our content team can login to LabCoat and simply tag away, the system will take care of the rest.

In one sentence: “Every week the system [LabCoat] knows to look for the latest few items that have been tagged with the MailChimp tag.” It’s as simple as that.

After the SPoonful has initially been created, it’s previewed at a special URL and edited until perfect. Thumbnails can be perfected here and the entire campaign can be evaluated before being scheduled in MailChimp. Once the campaign is pixel perfect, we hand it off to MailChimp. At this point, the subject line is spruced up, a few test emails are sent out and the campaign is officially scheduled.

Done.

The powerful tools and analytics that MailChimp provides are pretty amazing. We can see who opened each week’s SPoonful, analyze the general effectiveness of each campaign, how many times it was shared, click-rates, open-rates, the whole enchilada. It’s marvelous.

The Weekly SPoonfuls are carefully crafted campaigns that showcase our content. They take time to create, therefore certain tools are needed to bring out the most value. We send a few hundred thousand of these a month. With MailChimp, open technologies and an itch we decided to scratch ourselves, we have the best solution possible.

If you’re a member of SoulPancake and you’re not receiving the Weekly SPoonfuls, you can signup for them by logging in and managing your notification preferences. They generally go out every Friday morning.

Here are a few Weekly SPoonful previews:
March 26, 2010 – Preview
March 16, 2010 – Preview