Use RSVPMaker + MailChimp To Send a Weekly Newsletter

Here is how you can use RSVPMaker’s built-in email utilities to send a weekly newsletter built around your upcoming events and recent blog posts. You can send to a MailChimp mailing list or to the members of your own website (if you provide user accounts).

I’ll be hosting a webinar on these techniques Weds. July 20, 2016 at 4 pm EDT.

The newsletters will look something like this when they arrive in the recipient’s inbox:

newsletter-in-gmail

In a separate tutorial, I showed how to create an email broadcast built around an individual event or blog post. Here the idea is to set up a template for a broadcast that will go out on a regular schedule, including some standard elements.

The RSVPMaker events post that serves as the basis for this newsletter consists of a couple of WordPress shortcodes, placeholders for the dynamic content to be included. In the WordPress visual editor, the rsvpmaker_upcoming shortcode is represented as rounded blue box that you can click on for a popup menu of options. Here, I’ve set it up to pull only the webinar events off the RSVPMaker site (since most of the other events are demos).

The other shortcode displays headlines and excerpts from recent blog posts.

newsletter-editor

If I were to preview the email with just those settings, here is what I would see. The subject line would be the title of my post, RSVPMaker Roundup.

newsletter-basic

To send this out on a schedule, I need to set the options in the Scheduled Email section.

newsletter-settings

Newsletter basic settings

Here I have specified that this newsletter should go out every week to the RSVPMaker email list, on Wednesday at 10 am. Also, I want a preview sent to me 2 hours prior to the scheduled broadcast (a reminder of any last-minute changes I might need to make).

The “Test for” option allows me to set a condition, such as that the email newsletter should not be sent if there are no upcoming events on the calendar.

This gives me an email newsletter that can go out week after week, always with fresh content. However, I might also want to highlight specific items or add some particular customization to a specific week’s broadcast. The Editor’s Note section allows me to either enter a note or specify a blog post to be featured in the next scheduled email broadcast.

This also modifies the subject line, with either the title of the featured post or the headline of the editor’s note appended to the email subject line.

Example: RSVPMaker Roundup – Wednesday Webinar on RSVPMaker + MailChimp

newsletter-editors-note

Adding an Editor’s Note

The settings shown above would give me an email newsletter that looks like this. This note and headline would only be applied to the one specified week’s email.

newsletter-preview-note

Editor’s note

Here is an example of a newsletter with a featured blog post included up top (note that the featured post is not repeated in the “From the Blog” section generated by the recent posts shortcode.

newsletter-preview-blog

Featured blog excerpt

This combination has served me well, and I hope you can also put it to good use.

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How to Change the RSVP Now! Button

One of the basic customizations I should have documented long ago is how to change the RSVP Now! button. Here is the default button, originally created for a political campaign (hence the red, white and blue):

RSVP Now!

You can change the text, the colors, the fonts to be whatever you would like by modifying a snippet of HTML code with embedded CSS styling. It’s an option on the Settings -> RSVPMaker page about halfway down. Continue reading

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How to Promote Events with MailChimp + RSVPMaker

Here is how you can promote events through a MailChimp email list and get people to register or RSVP, while driving more traffic to your website in the process. MailChimp support arrived in RSVPMaker with version 4.0 and makes it easier to craft broadcast email messages that incorporate RSVPMaker events and other WordPress content.

You begin by composing the content of your event using the standard WordPress editor. I will use the example of a July 20th webinar I’m planning.

Composing an event

Composing an event

Below the content editing area, you will complete a series of event options such as the date and time. Here, I’m asking for people to register so I’ve checked the Collect RSVPs checkbox.

Event options

Event options

Because this event is a webinar, I’ve created a detailed confirmation message that includes the links people will need to follow to attend. You can see a little of it on the screen above, but I composed it by clicking on the Hangouts Setup link and following the prompts to set up an HTML message like the one shown below. (See more about support for Google Hangouts on Air).

I’ve also set the website to send a reminder message to attendees two hours before the event.

webinar-reminders

Confirmation and reminder messages

I also customized the signup form, mostly to simplify it by eliminating options like the blanks for adding guests (which make more sense in the context of an offline event).

I also specified that I would like an “Add me to your email list” checkbox to appear on the signup form. This will allow people who aren’t already on my email list to join it at the same time that they complete the RSVP form.

In other words, I hope to build my email list at the same time that I am registering people for the event.

Setting up the form

Setting up the form

Once I am happy with the event I have created, I can create a draft of a broadcast email message based on that event.

A Send Invitation link now appears on the listing of events. There is also a Content for Email screen you can use to select content to be included in an email broadcast (which also allows you to import blog posts or listings of posts).

Send Invite link

Send Invite link

Imported content is loaded into the WordPress editor, now being used to compose email content. The default title includes the title of the event, along with the date. The email message does not necessarily have to include the verbatim content of your event, but you can use this as a starting point for your invitation email. The imported event includes the RSVP Now! button to encourage people to respond.

Imported content also includes a placeholder (the “INTRO” text) for you to add an introductory message.

Composing an email based on the event post.

Composing an email based on the event post.

Once you are happy with the content of your email broadcast, you can preview it on your website. It will be displayed in a special template specific to events. You can customize the HTML to be used in the template from within WordPress to add elements such as a logo or change the default background color.

If you see changes you want to make, click Revise to go back to the editor. I also typically send a preview version of the email to myself before submitting it to MailChimp.

When you are ready to send your broadcast, check the MailChimp list checkbox, confirm that you have the right list selected, and click Send Now.

Previewing and preparing to send the email.

Previewing and preparing to send the email.

I’ve actually used related techniques to send email broadcasts and regularly scheduled event roundup newsletters to various communities for several years. That approach has also been standardized as part of this latest RSVPMaker release.

As you can see, I’m planning a July 20 webinar to showcase these features and gather feedback on how to make them better. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Posted in Announcement, MailChimp, RSVPMaker Mailer, Tutorial | 1 Comment

Event Type Pages and RSS Feeds for RSVPMaker

If you assign an event type to an RSVPMaker post, site visitors can now click through to see an archive of related events. This is similar to how you would view all the blog posts in a category, except that only future events are shown in order of event date.

You can now also share RSS feeds of upcoming events and event types. Once you find the url for an event type archive, just add /feed/ to the end to get the RSS. Here are a couple of examples.

A feed of all the upcoming events tagged as featured:

http://rsvpmaker.com/blog/rsvpmaker-type/featured/feed/

A feed of all the events on the RSVPMaker website:

http://rsvpmaker.com/rsvpmaker/feed/

(Most of them demo events).

Here is an example of an event type archive. If you are ambitious enough to modify your theme, you may be able to improve the default display by creating custom templates. The naming convention is archive-rsvpmaker.php for all rsvpmaker posts or taxonomy-rsvpmaker-type.php for event types.

A listing of posts tagged with an RSVPMaker Event Type

A listing of posts tagged with an RSVPMaker Event Type

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RSVPMaker 4.0 Adds Integrated Mailer with MailChimp Support

You can now use RSVPMaker to send email invitations to events, as well as other messages relevant to the community you have built around your website. If you want to send messages to a large list, you can use RSVPMaker’s integration with the MailChimp broadcast email service. Independently, RSVPMaker will allow you to send messages to members of your website (for community-based sites that provide user accounts to members), to people who have signed up for an event, or to past attendees at events.

send-invitations

Send Invitation option on menu

In addition to sending single messages, you can schedule a newsletter such as a roundup of upcoming events and recent blog posts to be sent out on a daily or weekly basis.

The new options appear on the RSVP Mailer menu, immediately below RSVP Events. By default, the ability to create and send messages is restricted to the administrator only, although you can grant permission other user types on the settings screen.

RSVPMaker has actually included features designed to work with MailChimp for years, such as encoding on the RSVP Now! button that is replaced with the recipient’s email address when a message is sent. Previously, I provided support for sending MailChimp emails through a separate plugin, ChimpBlast, which I made great use of but few others seemed to appreciate. The RSVP Mailer feature of RSVPMaker is a new, improved version of that functionality. It’s also been updated for version 3.0 of the MailChimp API (with the help of a PHP class wrapper by Drew McLellan – thank you!), whereas ChimpBlast was several versions behind.

While ChimpBlast was lagging, RSVPMaker itself had added several email-related features related to confirmation messages and reminders. I have also been hearing from more people who run membership websites who would like to be able to email the members of their organization without necessarily relying on a service such as MailChimp. So adding a more full-fledged mailer only made sense.

You can create an event invitation from the RSVP Events screen by selecting “Send Invitation” from the menu that appears when you hover your event over the title. Alternatively, you can pick an event from the “Content for Email” screen. Imported content will be loaded into the editor, with a placeholder for an introductory message you can add.

send-invitations-edit

Editing the draft of an email event invitation

Other options include importing the headline and excerpt / content from a recent blog post to serve as the basis for an email broadcast. Or you can import a listing of recent posts.

Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.

Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.

Once you have edited your email draft to your liking, you can preview it on the website and send it to a MailChimp list, user list, or attendee list. The controls for sending messages only appear when this page is viewed by a user authorized to send messages.

send-email-ui

Previewing and approving messages on the website.

To create an email newsletter that works with the RSVP Mailer, I would use a series of shortcodes. Of these, rsvpmaker_upcoming is the familiar tag used to display a calendar and events listing on your website, and you can use the popup editor to modify the settings. Two additions are rsvpmaker_recent_blog_posts, which will display blog posts from the past week (if there are any) and rsvpmaker_looking_ahead, which displays linked headlines of events beyond the period covered in the full events listing.

[rsvpmaker_recent_blog_posts]

[rsvpmaker_upcoming calendar=”0″ posts_per_page=”10″ type=”” one=”0″ hideauthor=”0″ past=”0″ no_events=”No events currently listed” nav=”bottom”]

[rsvpmaker_looking_ahead title=”Looking Ahead”]

The options for setting a schedule for distribution of a newsletter or other scheduled broadcast are at the bottom of the RSVP Mailer editing screen. Once you have turned on this feature and specified which list you want to send to, you will also be given the opportunity to add an Editor’s Note for a specific edition of the newsletter. This is a good way to call attention to a specific event, or a specific blog post, or to add a personal message.

Options for scheduling email.

Options for scheduling email.

The resulting newsletter looks like this:

A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.

A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.

The Email Template screen is where you can set options such as the background color to be used with your emails and CSS parameters for HTML tags and classes. These will be added inline to your HTML content when the message is generated, since email clients don’t otherwise reliably process stylesheets in the head of a document.

Posted in Announcement, MailChimp, RSVPMaker Mailer | 2 Comments

Duplicate Dates Glitch

A few sites have reported an issue where, after upgrading to the latest release of the plugin, the date for an event previously entered into the system will be displayed twice.

This should not be an issue for anyone upgrading to version 3.9.9 from any version before 3.9. However, if you saw this issue crop up after upgrading to one of the earlier 3.9.x releases, updating will not necessarily fix it. Here is a workaround you can use if you have this problem with events currently displayed on your site.

Add the query string ?clean_duplicate_dates=1 to your web domain and load that page. Example:

rsvpmaker.com?clean_duplicate_dates=1

 

Then take another look at your calendar to confirm the duplicates are gone.

Posted in Bug Fix | 3 Comments

Using RSVPMaker on Membership Websites

Version 3.9.7 adds better functionality for membership websites, where the people entering RSVPs have user accounts and log in prior to responding.

  • The system will now automatically look up any previous RSVPs associated with the same account (which for unauthenticated users only happens if they click the update link in a confirmation email).
  • Form fields will be filled in based on user metadata, provided that the form field names match the usermeta fields. Example: a membership site records the user’s work number as work_phone, and the form field is also labeled work_phone, so the work phone number on the user’s profile is filled in by default on the RSVP form.

Here is an illustration of that last point:

Adding the Work Phone field in the form generator.

Adding the Work Phone field in the form generator.

The generated code for the form, with Work Code as the label displayed to the user but work_code as the field ID.

The generated code for the form, with Work Phone as the label displayed to the user but work_phone as the ID for a text field.

The work phone number is filled in by default on the form.

The work phone number is filled in by default on the form.

The RSVPMaker form generator is a simple utility that does not address all possible variations. One that would require manual coding is to make a field containing profile data a hidden field rather than a user editable one. For example, a hockey league that contacted me with the request for this feature has a custom profile label for “Team,” which is a value they might not want users to be able to alter on an event-by-event basis. Or you simply might not want to display information including name and email address that is already in the user profile table.

To make the form fields hidden instead of editable, we would manually change the form code “textfield” to “hidden” as in this example:

<p class=”work_phone”><label>Work Phone</label> [rsvpfield textfield=”work_phone” ]</p>

Becomes:

[rsvpfield hidden=”work_phone” ]

Whether this will work with your membership plugin of choice depends on how it handles custom profile data. So far, I’ve tested it with my own RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugin as well as the Ultimate Member plugin (which is used by the hockey league I mentioned). You can also program your own user profile fields by creating your own plugin or custom theme (with the code added to functions.php). For RSVPMaker to retrieve custom profile data, it must be recorded as standard WordPress user metadata, which is recorded in the database table typically named wp_usermeta (some sites may change the prefix to something other to wp_). The user metadata field names must also follow the convention of being all in lowercase with an underscore in the place of any letters or punctuation, which is the same way the RSVPMaker form generator formats field names based on the label text.

Posted in Announcement, Release, Tutorial | 4 Comments

Making RSVP Fields Match Pricing Choices

RSVPMaker now does a better job of handing more complex event pricing scenarios, such as a scenario where attendees may or may not pay for all the meals at a weekend conference. If they select a price that does not include a dinner, then we shouldn’t show them the meal choices on the form.

I have seen this handled elsewhere with a multi-page form, where your choices on the first screen narrow the choices presented on the second screen. Instead, RSVPMaker can now dynamically change the form to hide and disable the form fields that do not apply. You specify the setup for this in the pricing section of the editor for an RSVPMaker event.

Conditional display of RSVP form fields.

Conditional display of RSVP form fields.

You can see the effect of these choices in this sample event post:

No events currently listed

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Introducing Timed “Early Bird” Pricing for Events

The latest release of RSVPMaker supports more complex pricing scenarios with different price breaks, associated with deadlines for each tier (“early bird”, “on time”, and “late” registration for an event). This is one of several ways the new RSVPMaker improves the process of setting up events and accepting payment via PayPal and adds flexibility.

The example embedded below is loosely based on the variety of pricing packages my local Toastmasters district uses for its regional conferences. Click on the “RSVP Now!” button, and you will see two sets of prices with the “early bird” rates available until about 1 month before the event date. After that deadline, all the early bird prices will disappear from the options website visitors can select from the menu. (I picked a date in 2018 to keep the expiration dates from arriving too quickly.)

Timed pricing options

Timed pricing options

The corresponding administrative user interface for setting up pricing looks like this:

earlybird-admin

Pricing setup

No events currently listed

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RSVPMaker Webinar Replay

Here is a replay of the February 24 webinar, which gives a pretty good tour of the site’s features.

One thing I said I was going to explain, but then forgot to, is how to embed an event in a blog post. The scenario here is that you’re announcing an event that you want people to start signing up for, but since the event is months away it wouldn’t show up prominently on the list of upcoming events. So you create a blog post promoting the event, with your boosterish marketing copy about why everyone should sign up soon, but you want to embed the actual event listing in that post.

Here is what that looks like. First, I click the calendar icon on the WordPress editor’s button bar:

calendar-button

Then from the options on the popup form, I use the Pick One? drop-down list to select my event.

Targeting a specific event.

Targeting a specific event.

Note that when you pick a single event, most of the other options become irrelevant because we’re not showing a whole calendar of events.

Here is a live example of an event embedded within this post:

Wednesday August 17th, 2016 7:00 PM EDT
 
Our hero

Our hero

The RSVPMaker Entrepreneur Of The Year Program is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, and as we kick off our search for the country’s most innovative entrepreneurs, we invite you to nominate someone in your community, or even yourself, to be named among the next generation of legacy builders.

Entrepreneurs are not easily defined. They are men and women, old and young, educated in the Ivy League and at the School of Hard Knocks. This much about them is consistent, however: They are visionaries. They are people of passion. And they have the ambition, drive and talent to take an idea and create a market where none existed before.

98 signed up so far.

RSVP Now!

Event Types:

Posted by David F. Carr on July 13, 2016

 

 

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