8 Tips On How To Make The Most Out Of Your Mailing List
Over the past fortnight I’ve received a relative smörgåsbord of emails from a whole gallimaufry of artists (Pompous-2-Yorkshire translation: a reet load) regarding their arguably ill-thought-out entry to this year’s ‘Orange Mobile Unsigned Act’ competition (which was won by Sentric artist ‘Envy and Other Sins’ last year, read this before you consider entering).
“Vote for us…” some cry, “We’d really appreciate it…” others plead, “You’re the best fans…” the rest flatter but not one was successful in twisting my arm and making me click on their name. The majority of them I found to be nothing more than a nuisance.
As I take a vested interest in the majority of emails I receive from artists then that should make you realise that to other, less sympathetic folk on your mailing list you may end up being tagged as spam and anything you send in the future will make its way directly into the circular file alongside offers of replica Rolexes and false promises of longer, harder erections (I don’t know what the fact that my two main spam subjects are fake watches and Viagra says about me but I get enough to fill several inboxes everyday. Apart from timing how much longer my sustained erection lasts for I genuinely can’t see any other correlation between the two).
So this week’s newsletter is regarding mailing lists and how you should maintain them, use them and refrain from abusing them. Here are my top eight tips:
1) Treat email addresses like a rotund person treats cake; with utmost love
An opted in email address (note the word ‘opted’ there, very important and shall be returned to later) is either a fan or at least someone who has a slight interest in your music, ergo they might put their hand in their pocket to buy your CD/MP3/T-Shirt/Gig ticket etc. The moment you annoy them and they leave the list thus ending your direct correspondence with them then you’ve shot yourself in the foot. It’s easy to forget that emails are intrinsically personal things when you’re staring at a list of hundreds of them but that is exactly what they are; a direct method of contact. I personally will take more notice of an email over most other forms of marketing (posters, TV/ magazine/Internet adverts etc) as I’ve registered my email with them so I have an inherent interest to what they have to say. So short of Caleb from the Kings of Leon ringing me up and chatting about his new album then you’re not going to get a better marketing tool for your money. Whenever there is a legitimate chance to get hold of an email address to add it to your mailing list then take it. Offer them something in return; a free MP3 or EP maybe? Get people to sign up at gigs (read here for tips on that) or use social networks to gather people’s information.
2) Do not add email addresses to your mailing list without receiving permission first
The Data Protection act 1998 is there for a reason. If you add me to your emailing list without seeking permission first or me opting in in exchange for something (as mentioned above) then you are as no good as the Viagra toting fake Rolex salesman that clog up my junk email folder.
No one likes spam emails. Introduce me to someone who does and I’ll show you my pigeons. (Although saying that I recently had a spate of spam emails with the most fantastically random subject titles which actually made me chuckle somewhat as I deleted them. Some classics included: ‘Harrison Ford kicked in chest by horse’, ‘Paris Hilton lectures on Dickens and Dostoevsky’ and ‘Britney Spears is the Antichrist, says noted exorcist’)
3) Utilise email marketing tools rather than standard email accounts
So you’ve manage to collate a few hundred email addresses together. Marvellous. Now what? Using sites such as Mailchimp, Emailbrain and Reverbnation will offer significant advantages over whacking some text into a Hotmail/Google email account and firing it out to everyone. Here at Sentric Music we use Mailchimp as it’s specifically designed software makes managing email address lists, creating and sending newsletters and tracking performance an absolute doddle. After sending a newsletter out you can discover extremely useful information about your mailing list including;
• How many were successfully delivered
• How many email addresses are no longer valid
• How many email addresses ‘spam trapped’ you (i.e. you went directly to their junk mail)
• How many people opened the email
• How many people unsubscribed from your newsletter
• What links people clicked on
Having this information at your disposal allows you to evaluate and streamline your content to its maximum potential. It also does all the leg work for you in terms of keeping your mailing list ‘clean’ by ridding it of invalid/unwanted email addresses.
4) Learn what ‘BCC’ means and use the bloody thing
If for some inexplicable reason you still don’t want to use any of the tools mentioned above (one of which is free by the way so there isn’t any excuse) and you want to stick with your good old trusty Hotmail/Google account then never, ever, ever add all the addresses into the ‘To’ or ‘CC’ address bars. I know some people who’ll forgive Nazis quicker then they’ll forgive a generic indie band from Warrington who ’released’ their email into the great ether of the Internet just so they could be informed about a gig at their local boozer that weekend. It’s incredibly unprofessional and just simply rude. ‘BCC’ means that all the email addresses in said address bar are hidden from each other so their privacy is kept in tact.
5) Email regularly but don’t be annoying with it
Everybody loves a good piece of oxymoronic advice now and again don’t they? There is a fine line between emailing regularly enough so your name is kept in your fans’ minds and emailing too often so that you just annoy them and they leave the list. A couple of times a month is an acceptable figure in my opinion as long as the content is interesting enough which leads nicely on to…
6) Don’t go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…
This is where the majority of bands get it wrong. Remember this purposely short sentence: Briefness is key. You shouldn’t be sending out wordy emails that go on about your bassist’s opinions on the current power struggle amongst the Labour contingent or you drummers humble musings regarding the credit crunch and what economic theory he suggests to ‘sort it out and that’. A few paragraphs that preferably include at least one ‘call to action’ (a link, a download etc) will suffice so if it is of interest to the reader then they can click the external link to wherever you want to send them; myspace, website, shop etc.
It could genuinely be as brief as:
“Our new song ‘Insert Heartfelt Title Here’ is now available to download, click here to listen and buy”
You don’t need to include a breakdown of the recording process, the lyrics, the influences and the quote from your local DJ calling it ‘Top Notch’ (but you can put a link to somewhere on the web that has all that information available for the hard core fans who would find it of interest). As the rather knowledgeable Andrew Dubber states; “I’m on your mailing list – I’m not your new BFF”.
7) Viral is not a disease
As with most things on the internet, if you can make your newsletter viral then you’re onto a winner. The majority of the readers of this blog were introduced to it by someone forwarding on the Sentric Music Newsletter to their friends or through word of mouth. If you can give your fans a reason to forward the newsletter on to others who aren’t on your list then you’re doing something right so keep it up. Be aware though that this is a fine art and hard to accomplish. Don’t just include a shedload of youtube links of dogs wearing sunglasses whilst skateboarding.
8) Consider compatibility
Just because the newsletter you’ve sent out looks pretty on your Hotmail/Google account doesn’t mean it’ll look as aesthetically pleasing when processed by a Microsoft Exchange Server or on a swanky Macbook. If you are to send out a HTML newsletter always make sure it is hosted on the internet somewhere and include a link that reads ‘If you can’t see the content of this email then please click here’.
You may also want to consider asking new subscribers their preference over HTML emails or plain text emails when they sign up and send out two separate newsletters to coincide with their choice. If your key demographic is Canary Wharf Bankers then they’re not going to be able to read your Rich Text newsletter on their posh little Backberry’s and as they all believe that ‘time is money’ then they’ll probably not re-visit your email when they’re back at their desk, crying as the market crumbles beneath their feet.
So there you go, my eight tips on how to make the most out of arguably your most essential marketing tool. Agree? Disagree? Think there is anything I’ve missed out? Comment or email me with your thoughts…
What I’m reading this week: ‘Kill Your Friends’ by John Niven
~ by Sentric on September 25, 2008.