Producing content and benefits for members when launching your membership site is a huge task. If you’re primarily selling access to members-only content, a lot of time, thought, and effort goes into creating relevant, evergreen content that provides high value to your members.
However, the initial set up investment of your site may be a huge part of building your online business, but it’s not the only investment required for success. While acquiring new members with great content and benefits is needed to grow your business, keeping those members around helps you to continue to grow and drive recurring revenue for your site.
To reduce churn and keep members for the long term, you need to continually offer benefits to members that will keep them coming back to your membership site and paying membership fees. This could mean you entice members with new content, new products, promotions, or a community aspect of your site.
One important piece in communicating new benefits to members is your member emails. While it may be tempting to manage everything you can in WordPress, sending mass emails via your site’s server isn’t a great strategy, as it’s not optimized for email deliverability (especially if you’re on a shared server while your site grows).
We’ve talked about this when we discussed transactional emails, but using a dedicated email service for mass emails or emails for which deliverability is important is a better route than using your site’s emails, and one of my favorite tools to send email is MailChimp.
MailChimp allows you create email campaigns, and send them to entire email lists, or segment those lists to only email subscribers who meet certain criteria. While many marketing email services will work this way, I’m going to focus on how to segment member emails with MailChimp in this article since it’s the tool I most frequently use.
Segmentation allows you to define rules for an email rather than sending an email to your entire list. For example, you could say, “Send this email to anyone who subscribed in the past month,” or, “Send this email to anyone who didn’t open the last email campaign.” More importantly for our purposes, we can segment emails based on user fields, even custom ones we create.
For example, we can add a field for each subscriber to note which membership plan or level the subscriber belongs to, allowing us to email all “gold plan” members at once and only these members. You could also do the same thing with membership status — email all members whose membership is expired (or even email based on the membership being expired been for at least a month).
Segmenting your emails lets you deliver personalized content that relates directly to the subscriber’s member benefits, giving members information they need to get the most out of a membership, and keeping them coming back month after month. Email segmentation should be an important strategy of any membership site.
To get started, we’ll need to first get a member list into MailChimp so all members are subscribers, and then we can look into segmentation. This series will show you how to do so with several membership plugins for WordPress.
Today we’ll look at using Restrict Content Pro to segment member emails.
Step 1: get a list of our members, along with their emails, associated membership levels, membership status, and membership expiration dates in case we’d like to segment based on these.
The good news for this tutorial is that Restrict Content Pro only allows one membership per user, so you could use one list in MailChimp for all of your members in case you’ll need to do mass-emails to all members, then segment for emails specific to certain memberships or statuses.
Restrict Content Pro has a built-in member exporter that’s going to be extremely useful for us. This will give us a CSV file of all members on the site, including data about each user’s membership that we can use in MailChimp.
To export your members, go to Restrict > Export in your WP admin. If you wanted to use separate lists for your members, you can choose to export only users belonging to a certain subscription. If you want to use one MailChimp list, you can export all members.
You’ll probably want to get a list of active members, but can export other membership statuses as well if you’d like to email non-active members.
If you have a lot of members, you may find the member limit and offset values helpful to break the export up into “chunks” to ensure your export doesn’t time out.
Once you’ve exported your member CSV file, you may want to delete some of the fields you won’t end up needing for MailChimp, such as billing address fields. This isn’t a necessary step, as you can skip the extra columns in MailChimp, it just feels cleaner to me this way 🙂
You can determine whatever you want to export, and re-save your member CSV. For example, I’m not going to use the “Discount code” column, but you may want to if members signed up from a certain promotion with this discount code.
Now that you have a list of members, along with columns / fields that we may want to segment by, you can set up the MailChimp side of things and import these members.
You’ll need one or more MailChimp lists, which I’ll assume you already have set up. The benefit to using one list for Restrict Content Pro members is that, should a member update his or her membership in the future, you could merge these changes into your new list. With separate lists, you’ll have to unsubscribe inactive members from lists before emailing, and add them to new lists (for example, if they’ve upgraded a membership).
Since membership level / plan and status can only have one value, you can use a dropdown or radio button field for membership plan and status in MailChimp. You can add a date field for expiration date if desired as well.
To add your fields, go to your member list, and Settings > List fields and merge tags. Click “Add new field” at the bottom. Add a field for each column or piece of member data you’d like to use in MailChimp to segment your emails.
One important note: make sure the dropdown choices for membership type match the names exported. In this case, we’ll need to tie the Subscription level from RCP to the membership field, and the field values should be the IDs of your subscription levels (1, 2, 3, etc).
If you don’t want to use the IDs in MailChimp, you could replace all of these values in the CSV before importing it to use names instead; just make sure whatever is going to be imported matches the choices for the membership dropdown (and the same goes for statuses).
Now that these fields exist, not only can we use them to segment member emails, but we could also use them as merge tags in email content. For example,
*|PLAN|* would let me insert the plan that the member has right into the email content. This could be helpful to list expiration dates or current membership status as well.
Now that we’ve got MailChimp fields set up, we can import our members into MailChimp, and make sure that our membership data is set in the MailChimp fields.
For your list, go to Add Subscribers > Import Subscribers, and select “CSV or tab-delimited file” as the source for your import.
When you do this, you’ll be able to match the CSV columns up with your MailChimp list fields — match up every column you’d like to import, and skip the ones you don’t want to segment by:
Once you’ve mapped all columns, you can import your members, and you should have all subscribers imported, along with their membership statuses and levels added to their subscriber profiles in MailChimp.
You can always follow the same process to re-import members in the future! This is really useful to do before sending each email — you can merge the new import with updates to members with existing profiles, letting you update plan types or membership statuses, so your segments are accurate.
Now we’ve got our MailChimp fields set up, and members imported as subscribers; we’re ready to segment an email based on the member data. You can create a saved segment by going to Manage Subscribers > Segments to add a segment.
Here you’ll be able to set up some rules for the segment, then give it a name when you’re done. You can also choose to auto-update it so that if subscriber info changes, the segment is updated in the future.
Let’s take a look at 3 examples of segments we can set up.
1. Email All Active Members
We’ll need to create a segment for our subscribers based on one field: the membership status. This will let us send an email to any active member, regardless of which membership plan / subscription level the subscriber has on your site.
“All-member” emails are great for announcing new site-wide benefits or partnerships that are available to all members. While not as personalized as an email specific to a plan, they can help you get new information to members from time to time.
2. Email Recently Inactive Members
Not only can we segment based on status, but we can also segment based on date. In this example, we’ll email expired members, but only those whose expiration date is within the past month (assuming you’ve imported this field).
To create your segment, set up rules that check for the expired status, along with a comparison to the expiration date field.
This could let you send a “win-back” email for expired members, such as a discount, or perhaps soliciting feedback as to why the user let the membership expire.
You could treat cancelled membership emails the same way — get important feedback as to why these members churn out, and what you could do to prevent it in the future.
You’ll need to edit this segment to change your date cut off before each email, but it lets you catch all memberships that have expired in that range.
3. Email Active Members of a Plan
Here’s another example of segmenting based on two rules. Instead of using a date, we’ll match subscribers by membership status and membership type so that we’re only emailing active members of a certain plan.
In order to do this, we need to remember which membership had which ID in our import (unless you changes the plan names in your CSV before importing), which you can get under Restrict > Subscription Levels.
I’m going to email everyone with Membership “2” (my “eCommerce 101” subscription in RCP), who currently has an active membership.
Notice I’m forcing MailChimp to match “all” of the conditions so I only email subscribers who fit both criteria.
Plan-specific emails can help you ensure that members get content very specific to their needs, interests, and available benefits on your site. Personalizing these emails with your existing merge tags can make these emails feel even more catered to each member.
Send the email!
Once you’ve created a saved segment, you can easily email the members in this segment for any campaign by choosing them as the recipients.
To recap, our basic steps are:
- export members from RCP to a CSV file and modify it if desired
- add fields for membership data in MailChimp
- import members to MailChimp, mapping the data in the CSV to your subscriber fields
- create segments based on the membership data
- before each email, re-import members so your segments are always up-to-date
More detail on #5: you can re-import members before each email send to ensure that your MailChimp data is up-to-date with your site’s membership data so that you’re correctly emailing members based on current plan and status. The ability to “merge” an import with MailChimp is really useful for this, as it can update existing subscriber profiles automatically on import.
This lets you keep member email lists up to date while giving members personalized, current information on membership benefits and changes.