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DIY Email Referrals with MailChimp, Zapier, and Mailgun (sachagreif.com)
68 points by sgdesign on Mar 22, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments

This is one of those really cool use cases we (Zapier) couldn't have predicted. In fact, given the final behavior of Sacha's setup I still have a hard time reversing out the Zaps he used to make it! One of my favorite thing is seeing the new unique use cases folks come up with.

Let me know if there are some parts of my write-up that aren't clear. And thanks for putting together such a great service!

By the way, speaking of incentives Zapier's own referral program is very well done. It's quite fun trying to earn all the extra tasks, and I'm almost there!

Note: I posted this once previously but it seems like it got flagged, because it very suddenly dropped off the front page.

I'm reposting under the assumption that the flagging was a false positive, because I can't see anything wrong with the link itself.

Of course if I did do something wrong, I would love to know what it is so I can avoid doing it again.

A 2.3 conversion rate is very good. You shouldn't be disappointed. This is a very nice DIY system that anyone can replicate. Note that this type of marketing is very effective because it motivates both parties to green light whatever proposition they are facing.

You definitely want to watch the spam rate complaints of these emails vs. your normal sends. Companies like SailThru won't let you (or strongly discourage) using their mail server and IPs to send friend referral emails because they get dunned by ISPs from spam complaints on referral emails all the time.

You can always run this through a separate account or service on a different IP so that your marketing comms don't take any hits over complaints on your referral emails.

I'm not saying you will get them, but just a heads up that it's a common problem as you scale it.

Good point. I didn't get any complaints and my unsubscribe rate wasn't any higher than usual, but that might be because I sent the referral link as part of the regular Sidebar newsletter.

On the other hand, if I had sent out those links on their own, I can see how people would perceive it as spam and complain a lot more. Then again, I might also have had a higher conversion rate, who knows… (but I'm not taking the risk of potentially alienating my subscribers to find out!)

I've been a happy Sidebar subscriber from day one and I always browse through the weekly links. Thanks Sacha!

A quick anecdote: While reading this article I noticed that I don't remember getting my referral link from Sidebar. I searched my Gmail for "in:spam sidebar" and there it was - the only Sidebar email which Gmail has ever flagged as spam.

I know MailChimp has tools for testing the spamminess of a campaign and this message probably passed all of them since there's nothing particularly spammy about it. Maybe it was random or maybe the referral link was just enough to trigger the spam filter in (my) Gmail.

If the open rate for the MailChimp campaign wasn't particularly low spam filtering wasn't probably a significant factor in the overall conversion rate.

Glad to hear you like Sidebar!

And you're right, the open rate is much lower than usual (19% vs 63% for the one before). I didn't noticed it before because the daily edition containing the same referral link that I sent on the same day went through fine.

This happens from time to time and I'm not sure what I can do about it.

I honestly don't understand how Gmail's spam filter can be so "dumb" (at least from a human point of view). You'd think that if someone open, reads, and clicks emails from a particular address regularly, the filter would be smart enough to know that there's a very high probability it's not spam.

Gmail's spam filter definitely seems to be erring on the aggressive side nowadays. I honestly can't remember when any real spam last reached my inbox. On the other hand, I did find many other false positives while going through the spam folder, mainly from newsletters and social notifications I really have subscribed to.

I guess the least we can do is help Google tune their filters and periodically mark all false positives as "not spam".


Additionally one might go as far to suggest false positives are more problematic than the occasional spam mail.

I really want to try this now. Also, I don't think your results were that bad, especially if the referees are more targeted and provide higher value than normal users.

Thanks! I don't know if the referees are more targeted, but now that I think of it the referrers are certainly a high-quality segment.

For example, one Sidebar subscriber ended up referring 8 new people! So it can be a good way to identify your biggest fans.

As a quick aside, does anyone know the best/easiest way to implement "subscribe by email" for a blog/WP site?

Feedburner has very simple implementation but it seems like there's a good chance it will be retired soon so I was hoping for another option.

You could have a look at MailChimp. They have a free plan and there's a few WordPress plugins floating around for it. I'm using one called MailChimp widget. Simple and it works.


Mail Chimp had a transactional email service http://mandrill.com/

They offer free blocks of messages if you're a Mail Chimp customer.

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