A client recently came to us asking for a 3rd party full-featured mass email service integration with their current iMIS 15.  Several different 3rd party solutions were considered and, in the end, the decision was made to integrate MailChimp.  MailChimp was selected due to ease of use and MailChimp’s existing API wrappers for several different programming languages.
For this implementation the client required several key pieces of functionality:

  • Automatic creation of MailChimp user (MailChimp’s equivalent of an iMIS Name record) accounts, 
  • Automatic subscription to any and all available mailing lists,
  • Automatic updates to user information in MailChimp anytime it is changed within iMIS and
  • The ability to set up targeted mail campaigns based on location.

The first step in this process was to create the necessary MailChimp lists and custom merge fields.  The list IDs were then placed into a table within iMIS to be used by the integration service. This would allow the client to create new mailing lists at will and automatically have users subscribed to that mailing list.
In order to automate account creation and account updating, a web service was created and scheduled to run automatically every 30 seconds.  This service checks to see if any users in iMIS have not had MailChimp accounts created.  It also checks for updates to accounts.  After the service has collected the information, an API call is made to MailChimp and accounts are both created and updated at the same time.  Because the service runs so frequently a large number of MailChimp accounts can be created (20,000+) in just a few minutes.
Since MailChimp uses email addresses much like iMIS uses ID’s the service also unsubscribes users if they have updated their email address, preventing multiple accounts from receiving the same email from MailChimp campaigns.
Custom merge fields were added in order to allow for the targeted email campaigns.  Merge fields –  non-standard fields that can be added to any MailChimp list — are used to create different filtered lists for email campaigns. These fields included member type, designation, join date, paid through date, chapter, City and State.   A custom address field was also added that would allow zip code filtering options as well. Because MailChimp is fairly flexible and allows various types of merge fields to be created almost any information found within iMIS may be added to these custom merge fields.
MailChimp turned out to be a great 3rd party application to integrate with iMIS15 thanks to the extensive API wrappers available and MailChimp technical support.  And in the end our client received a very powerful email campaign solution that is constantly kept up to date with the latest iMIS15 user data thanks to our automated service.