#6: Creating User Groups & Sending Emails

Email lists are an extremely effective marketing tool for farms, but creating and managing them can be time consuming and cumbersome. That’s why Small Farm Central has integrated a mailing list function right into our websites. Managing email lists and sending batch emails can be done quickly and easily right in the Control Panel.

The Small Farm Central Mailing List tool also makes sure that your emails are not flagged as spam and that your members' email addresses aren't shared with others on your mailing lists as they might be if you just authored from your email program. The Mailing List tool sends each email individually, includes a self-unsubscribe functionality, and follows anti-spam laws.

In this article we will go over the following Mailing List actions:

 Creating a User Group
 Adding Users
     -Adding a Single User
     -Using the Batch User Tool
     -Importing Mailing Lists from a Spreadsheet
     -Inserting the Mailing List Widget
 Composing and Sending an Email

( Note: Be sure to check your subscriber plan to see what email options are available to you. )

Get Started!

Creating a User Group

Mailing lists are lists of email addresses grouped together and labeled. This makes the process of sending an email to multiple people much faster, since the emails are already grouped together and you won't have to type in all the email addresses every time you want to send an email. At Small Farm Central, we call the people that you have collected contact information from "Users." This can be anyone from your CSA members to your restaurant clients to someone who signed up for your mailing list. Since mailing lists are made up of the email addresses of Users, we call our mailing lists "User Groups." Some User Groups will be formed automatically. For example, a User Group is created when people sign up for a CSA and select a pickup location. All the Users who choose the same location are now in the same User Group.

For now, however, before you can start sending emails, you must create a User Group to send it to. Login to the Control Panel and follow this path to create a User Group:

   Administrate > Users > Manage Groups

This will take you to the "Manage User Groups" page. See below:

Manage_User_Groups_640_2014.PNG   Figure 1. Manage User Groups Page

To create a group, simply type in a title for the group that you would like to create in the "Group Name" field and press Add group. Here are some examples of User Groups you might want to send emails to:

  -General Mailing List
  -Farmers Market Patrons
  -Wednesday CSA Members 2012
  -Restaurant Clients

Once you have created a group, you can move on to adding members in the next step or you can continue to create more groups. The User Groups you create will form a list which you will be able to choose from when you are ready to send an email. If you have a group that you no longer send emails to, but still want to keep those emails grouped together, you can click on the "Archive" button next to that group. (See Figure 1.) This tool will take the group off of the email list, but keeps it stored as a group. You can always "unarchive" a group to bring it back up on the email list in the future.

Adding Users

Now that you have created some User Groups you will want to add users to them to create your mailing lists. There are several ways to do this:

  Adding a Single User
  Using the Batch User Tool
  Importing Mailing Lists from a Spreadsheet
  Inserting the Mailing List Widget

Adding a Single User:

To add a new person to your User Groups, go to:

   Administrate > Users > Add User

See the "Add User" page below:

  Figure 2. Add User Page

Fill out the user's account information (at least their first name, last name and email address) and select the groups in which you would like this user to be included in. To finish, click on the Submit button at the bottom of the page. You would also use this form to add an existing User to a new User Group.

Note: Underneath this list, there is an option to have an email sent to your user to let them know that they have been added to one of your User Groups. This will also provide them with a password for logging into special sections of your site (for example, a "members only" store). If you are adding to a group simply for the purpose of sending emails, do not check this box as they will be confused by the password.

Using the Batch User Tool:

To add more than one user (and up to twenty) at a time to your User Groups use the "Batch User" tool, here:

   Administrate > Users > Add Batch Users

You will need to type in the name and email address of each user to add them using the Batch User tool. However, you can use the email address in place of the name if you do not know what the user's name is. Once you have inserted all of your users, select the group you would like them to be included in and click the Submit Users button.

Note: If you need to add more detailed information (such as address or phone number) about each user, you will have to add them one at a time. Follow the Adding a Single User steps to learn how.

Importing Mailing Lists from a Spreadsheet:

For larger User Groups, Small Farm Central can import all the addresses at once so you won't need to copy & paste or type out each name and address. If you have an existing mailing list of users that you would like to be added to your groups, send the names and addresses in an Excel Spreadsheet to support@smallfarmcentral.com.

Inserting the Mailing List Widget:

A "Widget" is a simple software application. You can learn more about widgets by reading the "Using Widgets" article. The Mailing List Widget is a tool which allows people to sign up for your general mailing list by typing their email address into a box on your website. This is what the Mailing List Widget looks like on one of the Small Farm Central websites:

  Figure 3. Mailing List Widget on Website

Most Small Farm Central templates include a Mailing List Widget on the homepage. You can also add the widget by going here:

   Display > Widgets > Add prebuilt

Scroll to the bottom of this page and you will find the Mailing List Widget under the category "Other Widgets." Here you can change the title and weight (For more about weights read the "Menu Weight" article.) or just click the Add this widget to template button to finish. View your Mailing List Widget by clicking on the "Open Public Site" link in the upper right-hand corner of the Control Panel.

When someone signs up for your mailing list via the Mailing List Widget on your website, they will be sent a confirmation email. Once they have confirmed their sign up, you will receive an email letting you know that they have been added to your general mailing list.

Composing and Sending an Email

Now that you have User Groups to send emails to, you are ready to write and send emails. To do this, go here:

   Connect > Mailing list > Send mail

Note: If you are using the Member Assembler software along with your website, your email system will default to the Member Assembler mailing system. This system creates mailing lists based on member groupings like pick-up locations and member types instead of User Groups that you create. To switch from Member Assembler mailing to Regular Mailing List mailing, simply click the link on the top of the Send Mail page.

Follow these steps to compose your email:

  1. Fill in a Subject. This will be the text that shows up in your users' inbox.
  2. Write your Content. You will be using the Rich Text Editor tool to compose your emails. Write your content in the white space below the toolbar. Use the tools above to format your content. (To learn more about how to use this tool, read the "Getting Started: Using a Rich Text Editor" article.) Here is an example of a composed email:


  Figure 4. Composing an Email for a Mailing List

  1. Share your content. Click the first checkbox to add your content to your Blog or RSS feed.

  2. Send yourself a Test email. This is an important step to make sure that the formatting of your email looks the way you want it when your users open your email. You will also want to check any photos and links to make sure that they are loading and working properly. Click on the Send Test Email & Save Draft button. Then, go look for the email in your inbox.

  3. Choose the User Groups that you want to send this email to.

  4. Save a Draft. Use the Save Draft button to save this email and come back to finish or edit it later. You can find your drafts in the "Mail Archive" under the "Mailing List" menu tab.

  5. To send an email, Schedule a time when you would like it to be sent by putting the date and time (use the following format: '6/23/2012 3:30pm') in the "Schedule sending" field. You can also use the default setting of "now" to send the email right away.

You will receive a confirmation email after your email has been sent. If you add your email address to all of your User Groups you will receive your email just as your users will, so that you can make sure that it went out on time and in the way that you composed it.

Ready to move on? Click on another article below: