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When it comes to email marketing, I’ve been using ExactTarget pretty exclusively. It’s a beast of an application, with scheduling, automation and interaction options diverse enough for nearly anything. It packs serious power.

However, it’s always seemed a little overkill for a monthly newsletter.

About a year ago I started following a small Email Service Provider (ESP) called Mailchimp, after reading their fantastic study on high performance subject lines.

This week I decided to take a look at Mailchimp and see what they offer and I was amazed. This little app packs a punch, with a full testing suite, a great WYSIWYG editor, support for RSS based campaigns, powerful social media integration, and all this wrapped in an amazingly well designed user interface.

Want to see how easy it is to create a quick campaign for your business?

Create a template. Mailchimp has 30 some odd defaults which you can base your template off. Select one, modify the color scheme, add any permanent images or decorations, and you’re set.

So you’ve made an account and you’re logged in. Can you guess which button creates a campaign? Maybe the big red one.

Lets try something like an A/B Split campaign.

Oh my. This certainly is easy. Notice that you can’t test content though. There’s no option for a simple A/B test on, say, button color. In fact, I am not sure you could even do this, since there doesn’t seem to be a way to select a random sample of users outside of the testing interface.

Next select a list (you have imported your list, right?) and segment who you want to send to (or leave that blank and send to everyone.

Name your campaigns, and select your two subject lines (assuming you chose to A/B test subject lines) or two Send names (assuming you chose to A/B test send names). On this screen you can also connect your account to your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Mailchimp so that it auto posts/tweets about your newsletter. Finally you can set up your tracking, including auto-tagging links for GA.

Select that template you made earlier

Enter your content. Mailchimp has an incredibly good WYSIWYG editor, so you shouldn’t have to mess with HTML too much. Then, if you want to do a text version, enter your text content.

Finally, Mailchimp gives you this nice summary screen telling you what you’ve done and alerting you if anything is wrong.

Then you just test and send. It’s that easy.

All in all I am quite impressed with this program. It doesn’t have the automation power of a highend ESP, but for small businesses looking to get up and running quickly with an email marketing campaign, Mailchimp is it.