Switching Stanford News to MailChimp

We just completed a transition of our Stanford News daily email newsletter, Stanford Report, from using an internal email system to MailChimp. We decided to make the switch primarily based on MailChimp’s intuitive UI, robust features and excellent customer support. Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  • The first step was testing our current HTML email newsletter in MailChimp
  • We explored the idea of a full redesign. In the sake of time, we thought a redesign and migration would be too large of an effort to complete before winter break. So we decided to just focus on transitioning to MailChimp now and then pursuing a redesign next year
  • I looked at few different approaches for migrating our existing design, including importing and modifying existing MailChimp themes
  • I decided the best approach was to build a new template from scratch, referring to MailChimp’s Knowledge-Base as I went
  • After the email development was completed I had it reviewed by our graphic designer and director of web development (my boss)
  • Next I sent out test emails using existing news story copy and art
  • Towards the end of development, I contacted support about a merge tag question. To my surprise, I received a response from the CEO, Ben Chestnut. I was blown away by this. Most companies outsource their support leading to frustrating customer experiences. To have my question answered by the CEO was really impressive and confirmed to me that we had made the right choice
  • I setup training sessions with our three editors, who will be the ones actually using MailChimp each day to send out the newsletter
  • The next week our editors would send out the exact same newsletter using the old internal system and MailChimp (MailChimp just used a small list of our team)
  • We had some lessons learned during that week and had no issues with the Thursday and Friday newsletters
  • On Friday, December 14, we queued up our final newsletter using the old system – it was delivered on Monday morning at 4am
  • On Monday, December 17, we completed the transition to MailChimp and queued up our first issue to be delivered Tuesday at 4am
  • A few of us got up early to ensure there were no problems – everything went perfectly

The switch was a success:

  • Creating the emails, editing copy, scheduling, etc. is much easier and faster
  • For example, adding images to the email is much more streamlined process, just click upload and it’s there. Our old system required manually uploading each image to our server via FTP and then manually linking to it
  • After the emails are sent, MailChimp automatically archives them. We used to have to do this each day manually, saving the email as an HTML file and uploading to our server

Here’s the Stanford Report main page and our first email newsletter delivered by MailChimp:

The Stanford Report page lets you view current and past newsletters

The Stanford Report page lets you view current and past newsletters



Stanford Report newsletter

Our first issue of Stanford Report delivered by MailChimp