MailChimp is the largest email and marketing automation platform, used by everyone from small, independent newsletters to large-scale brand campaigns. They’re a well-known company, partly due to a wildly successful podcast marketing campaign in 2014.
It’s easy to see the reason for their success: their online email building platform is simple to use, their analytics are user-friendly and useful, and they have a reasonable pricing structure that grows with your subscriber base.
Note: this roundup is part of a whole week’s worth of email content on Tuts+ Web Design–check out the Mastering HTML Email learning guide for more!
Why Should You Launch an Email Newsletter?
E-mail newsletters are arguably the most essential part of any marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter if you have a shiny website, a killer Instagram account, or cool print ads–without email, you don’t have a way to actively engage and reach out to your audience.
Newsletters are an ideal way to create a consistent platform to talk directly to your audience. You could write a newsletter that’s weekly, monthly, or somewhere in between (we wouldn’t recommend a daily newsletter, unless people are really into your content or you run a news aggregator, it’s overkill). Here are some golden rules to follow for newsletter-writing:
- Have something to say. This seems obvious, right? But make sure every email you write passes this test, and that you’re not just sending off a newsletter to check the box on your marketing strategy to-do list.
- No email blasts. An email blast is an email that’s sent out to your entire subscriber list. According to the experts at Campaign Monitor, email blasts are no longer “best practice” in the marketing world. Instead, they recommend sending targeted, segmented emails, and tailoring that content for each segment. While I generally agree with this, I think there are some exceptions–for example, a regular monthly update that’s relevant to all of your subscribers.
Add value for your readers. When was the last time you had a really great conversation where the other person talked about themselves the entire time? Probably never, right? Email is no different. It’s a conversation, and your audience wants to get something out of it. Share links to cool industry news, or send a special offer just to them, but don’t make it just a sales pitch.
Email Marketing 101: Defining the Terms
Email marketing is simple. Talking about email marketing gets complicated. Here are a few terms you might have heard in the email marketing world, and a plain-English definition:
- Marketing automation: This is a popular topic in the marketing industry, and especially for MailChimp users. Essentially, it just means setting up a series of emails that are sent automatically in response to an action taken by your subscribers. For example, they subscribe to your list, then automatically receive a welcome email; or leave something in their shopping cart on your website then receive an “abandoned cart” email; etc.
- Open rate: The percentage of people on your list who opened your email.
- Responsive: Whether or not emails show up properly across devices, i.e., does it look as good on your iPhone as on your friend’s PC? If so, it’s responsive.
A/B testing: A simple way to test different email strategies. MailChimp has A/B testing for several different factors, like subject line or send time. Basically, you’re creating two different versions of an email, then seeing what wins.
- Conversion: This refers to the number of people who did what you wanted them to do in the e-mail; so, the portion of your audience which was converted into buyers/subscribers/etc.
Whitelist: The process of adding a sender to the “good” list, i.e., the opposite of marking them as spam.
- Click-through-rate: The percentage of readers who opened your email and then clicked on a link inside the email.
- Segmentation: This refers to splitting your subscriber list into different segments, and sending specific content based on those categories. For example, you could segment your list by “geographic location = Australia”, and then send summertime-related content in January.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of emails sent that aren’t delivered–maybe they get caught in spam, or bounced back due to a wrong e-mail address. Ideally you’d want this number to be lower than 5%.
Do You Need a Custom MailChimp Template?
The MailChimp templates available on MailChimp’s default system are fairly customizable. Below is an example of what MailChimp’s drag-and-drop email builder looks like (image from the MailChimp homepage):
But if you want more flexibility and complete customization, you may find the default templates a little limiting. Plus, with so many people using MailChimp today, you’re bound to see the same one over again, which won’t help you stand out in a crowded inbox. Spending a little bit of your marketing budget on a customizable MailChimp template will give you more freedom and flexibility to make creative, unique emails.
We’ve rounded up some of the best MailChimp templates, available as a single downloadable file or as part of an Envato Elements subscription.
MailChimp Templates Available for Individual Download:
These templates are available to download at one price, generally around $10-30 per template. Many of them come with multiple themes and various templates–read below for details!
A multipurpose template that’s compatible with MailChimp, as well as with Stampready, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, Freshmail, and more. It has a responsive layout, so you don’t have to worry about mobile compatibility, or having your text show up super-small on mobile devices. The live-preview feature on the demo of this template is helpful for imagining what your campaign could look like, even before you commit to purchase.
Minimal design and white space is a good, safe choice for newsletters. You don’t have to worry about how it’ll look on different email clients, or whether the background will show up correctly. But that means that most inboxes are full of the same emails: white background, black text, maybe a header image or some graphics. Want to stand out? Use a full-color background, like in this template (which comes with a handful of color options).
Stick with one color consistently, and your readers will come to associate that color with your brand; the teal-green background of The Wheeler Centre’s well-crafted emails is a great example of this.
Switch is another template builder by Stampready that’s compatible with pretty much every newsletter software and email client. It’s responsive and has a modern design, with drag-and-drop content blocks that are easy to customize.
Are graphics and images more of a distraction than a value-add to your message? Keep things simple with this all-text template. The fonts used are Tahoma, Verdana, and Arial, which are popular for Macs and PCs, and they’re clean and easy to read.
This would be an especially good choice for newsletters written from a personal point of view–something that feels more like a letter from a friend than a sales message. Some email studies show that all-text emails are actually more effective for click-throughs and engagement, so give it a try!
A professional email template created by Envato Power Elite Author EverPress. It has a 4.49/5 star rating, has nine pre-built layouts, and twenty four color variations. With nearly thirty different elements, there’s over a million different variations of email design and layout to explore.
According to reviews, this template is “very easy to use with MailChimp” and has great support from the design team. Includes MailChimp-ready templates, and unique layouts for different email needs.
One of the most modern designs on this list, Travelkar has over 70 modules, which makes it almost infinitely customizable. It has layouts for sections like “about us” and “services”, which makes it ideal for an introductory email for your business or a sales pitch.
Note: image above shows demo options from their website, and not an actual email design.
8. Milia 100
A bright template collection geared towards startups and businesses. It’s bright and clean, made even more modern by the addition of the gradient backgrounds and designs (though, of course, that’s all customizable).
A simple template with the option to add up to three columns, or keep it simple with a streamlined one-column look.
Have you ever noticed how quickly holidays sneak up on you in marketing roles? No matter how many planning meetings you have, or content calendars to cross-reference, it always seems to come as a surprise when it’s suddenly the end of October and, oh, should we send a Halloween-themed email?
Do yourself a favor and plan ahead by building your library of holiday templates early this year. Here are a few good ones we like:
- Happy Holiday – Responsive Email Templates
- Promo, Holiday Email Template + Builder Access
- Festival - Christmas Responsive Email Template
- Scary - Halloween Email Campaign Template (pictured above)
Email Templates Available for Unlimited Download:
Not sure how you want your email to look yet? Is your goal to build a library of ready-to-go templates for your MailChimp campaigns? Envato Elements is a monthly subscription service, and for one monthly subscription price, users can download unlimited items. There are currently nearly 200 MailChimp templates in the library. It’s also useful to check out the other categories in the Envato Elements library, such as stock photos, icons, and graphics–all items that would come in handy when building an email.
Last year, I wrote a big list of the best MailChimp templates available on Envato Elements. Below, I’ve chosen a selection of my favorite templates on that list, plus new designs for 2018.
Sartre is an impressive “email design toolkit”. It includes templates for agencies, architecture firms, barber shops, travel companies, restaurants, and more. They also have specific templates for email auto-replies and transactional needs, like order confirmations, abandoned carts, password reset, welcome emails, order invoices, and shipping confirmations.
Here’s one that really demonstrates the financial value of sticking with a subscription model for your email templates: this template is available for $18 as a single download, and the monthly subscription price (at time of writing) is only $10USD more. It’s MailChimp and Campaign Monitor ready, responsive, and has modern, clean typography choices.
Rockefeller is professional and clean, with a bold black-and-white design that looks almost like a creative agency website or a well-made PowerPoint presentation.
The header on this template is particularly creative, with the three-color boxed links. It’s a simple way to put important links or calls to action at the very top of your email.
This template is brightened by the use of colorful icons, full-width images, and an alternating grey-and-white color block structure.
Looking for more? Browse all Mailchimp-ready email templates in the Envato Elements library.