I get asked all the time, “do I really need to start a newsletter list for customers?” and the short and quick answer is always yes, but there’s a reason for that. Email marketing has the potential to grow your business greater than any other marketing tool. With a goal to find, engage and convert your audience into new readers, it’s a tool writers can’t ignore.
Megan Adams, a Social Media Strategist, shared tips and tricks on the foundation of email marketing in the LinkedIn Video “Email and Newsletter Marketing Foundation” (Adams, 2018), but I’ll be summarizing key points, focusing on how writers can (and should) utilize this tool.
What is the goal of email and newsletter marketing? To cultivate a relationship with your customers. But how is that done? First, consider what arrives in your email inbox. You’re likely already experiencing email marketing as a customer (Adams, 2018). Now is the time to join the “in”-box crowd. Where to get started.
- First, find authors in your industry/genre doing interesting things with their email marketing (join their mailing list). Adams suggests filter these emails to a specific inbox to better organize and keep track of what others are doing (Adams, 2018).
- Next, dedicate some time to observe their approach to email marketing. Watch things like the frequency of their emails, the subject line, content within the email, and the time of day it’s being sent. Keep track of things you likes and dislikes.
Emails deliver the highest ROI than any other marketing method.
So why do you need email marketing?
- A must-have these days. 72% prefer promotional marketing through email rather than social media (Adams, 2018).
- This tool is accessible to any author/business (big or small). And there are often free accounts through email service providers.
- It’s measurable and easy to see how your email marketing is performing. (Through opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes, and social shares)
- Email marketing compliments all other marketing tools.
Ask yourself, what is your goal? How can email marketing benefit your business? Where do you see it complimenting your existing marketing efforts?
Understanding the Basics:
What do you need to consider before getting started?
- Define what your marketing objective is. What will your newsletters contain? Is the focus an awareness of your brand or selling your products? Are you looking for engagement and interaction with customers?
- Be sure to start simple!
- Allocate proper resources, including time and energy.
- Find an email service provider that works best for you. Adams recommend MailChimp (2018), and it is also what I use, but there are others that may work better for your needs. Two major things to consider when choosing an email service provider are:
- Compliance (note: sending from your personal email is NOT email compliant)
- Features (look at what different email providers offer, pricing depending on your user list, and anything unique to your needs).
**Check out more on MailChimp and sign up for a free account here**
Two main things make up a successful email marketing strategy:
- Target: Who is the person you wish to directly market to (your subscriber)?
- Consider where you’ll find these subscribers. They can come from a form on your website, in-person sign-up, previous buyers who opt into your newsletter.
- Create a list of subscribers which can then be segmented by different qualifications, such as new subscribers, those who haven’t opened a recent email, or those who have purchased your product before.
- Open Rate: This will be shown on your email server dashboard for each campaign.
- This is essentially how many people opened the email campaign.
- You will be able to see the click-through rate as well, showing how many people clicked on the link you provided in the email.
A Bit on Automation Emails
Automation emails are a great tool for email marketing campaigns, and something to consider setting up early in the process when starting with a newsletter. This could be a welcome email for new subscribers who join your email list. An example of the automation sequence: email #1 is a general thank you for joining, email #2 includes a general follow up with some commonly asked questions (like which book should the readers start within your series), email #3 is the final email before joining the main list asking if they have any questions and maybe offering a promotional item like a free eBook.
Maintaining your list is key to keeping your newsletter effective.
When setting up and maintaining an email list, there are a few things you MUST do:
- Get permission! The subscriber must have opted in to receive your emails for it to be compliant (and avoid any angry emails from readers).
- Keep one master list (with every subscriber…then create groups from there if you choose).
- Re-engage or remove inactive subscribers (those who haven’t opened or engaged in a campaign for a while.) This can be done by going to your list and clicking “create a new segment” within MailChimp. You want to keep your list fresh and engaged, so if subscribers aren’t engaging then remove or re-engage if possible.
- Don’t let your list go stale, keep it active!
- Keep an eye on email bounces (when your emails can’t be delivered to an email address).
- Soft Bounce (mailbox full) vs. Hard Bounce (invalid email or unexpected error). High bounce rates can happen when a list goes stale
Personalizing your email list will also help with engagement! Using segmentation to speak directly to readers based on their interests and profiles. First, determine what your goal is with creating segmentations (ex. say you write both YA fiction and steamy Romance. You may have a large list of readers who are split in which content they like reading. Having the larger list segmented into YA readers and Romance readers based on things like intake and customer purchase will help ensure readers only get the content relevant to their preferences). Your goal is to foster a 1-to-1 relationship, so it feels like you are talking directly to the customer.
Steps to Creating an Effective Email Strategy:
How can you create an effective email marketing strategy:
- Focus on list growth. Without people, there is no list.
- Have an easily accessible way for customers to sign up. Ex. through your website.
- Have all the permission levels in place (you only want those who want to be on your list to be there)
- Whitelisting: Getting your subscribers to add you to their trusted email list to avoid spam filters. This can be done/requested during the welcome automation phase.
- Segment your list as you grow (grouping people according to specific variables you decided on).
- Automations are best to set up early so they’re already going as you build your list.
- Build a content calendar to determine when you will send your emails and what they will contain.
Steps to creating an effective email campaign on MailChimp
So, you understand the importance of creating a campaign, but how do you actually set one up? The steps below are specific to MailChimp, but the tips apply to any email service provider. Many servers such as MailChimp have step-by-step guides and tutorials to help you along the way.
- Click on Campaigns “New Campaign”.
- “Campaign Name” is NOT visible to anyone but you, so make it obvious so you can track it easily.
- “To” is your list. This is where you can choose a segment if you’d like.
- “From” will show your name and email address that will show up (make it obvious so readers know it’s you).
- “Subject” Adams suggests adding it after the campaign is created (2018). It is the FIRST THING customers see on your email and is very important. There is a subject line and preview text that shows what will be included in the email. Write out 10 punchy subject lines and choose the best. Test it out.
- “Content” is your actual email and everything that will go in the email.
Adams (2018) implores that the best way to create effective campaigns is to SEND THEM! This is the only way you will figure out what will work when to send out your emails, and what your customers want.
Themes can also help draw in your readers. You can create custom templates with themes specific to your emails or use one created by MailChimp (or your email service provider). This is done within the “content” button of your campaign. Again, Adams suggests you test out themes to determine which draw in the most opens, clicks and engagement.
Scheduling your campaign is the last step you will take. Here, you can choose the date and time to send your email, or send it immediately. When first starting out, chose a variety of dates and times throughout your campaigns to see what works best.
How do you create high-performing campaigns?
Ensuring you have the following checked off for each campaign will help your email perform stronger.
- Include a logo/image that customers will identify with your brand at the top.
- The 1st header needs to be precise, it’s a one-liner to let readers know what to expect from the email you’ve sent (similar to the subject line but not necessarily a repeat of it).
- Include images to show your product.
- Make sure there is a call to action links (in the form of a button or link within the text).
- Keep the content short and to the point.
- Once the content is complete, review your subject to ensure it fits.
- Use the subject line researcher button on MailChimp, “How do I write a good subject line?” Enter a word you wish to use and see how it rates on specific subject lines.
- Here, you can also look at how past subject lines performed in previous campaigns.
- Look at the preview mode to see how it will look on a desktop, mobile, and email. Look at how the to/from will appear, as well as the subject and preview test.
- In mobile preview mode check if the main content shows up without having to scroll down.
Utilizing Analytics to Determine the Success of a Campaign
Paying attention to your analytics is key to hitting your marketing goals. The two most important things to look at are:
- Open Rate
- Click-through Rates
The dashboard will show the overall open rates for each campaign in list form. Clicking further on individual campaigns allows you to see the details of your open rates and click rates. This will tell you how many times emails were opened and which links were clicked. You’ll be able to see your top links and how many times it was clicked, as well as social performance, and top locations by open rate to determine better demographics to target. **example from MailChimp below**
You may be asking…But when should I send my email? What day of the week is best to improve open rates? The only way to know this is to test it. Understanding your audience helps you determine content, but testing will determine what actually works.
A/B Testing is a great tool that allows you to send out the same campaign in two separate emails with one or more elements changed to determine which works best. In MailChimp, this is done right when you click on “create new campaign” and choosing the A/B Testing tab at the top. You can choose what you want to test, up to 3 options, but Adams suggests trying just one when you first start out (2018). This tool, however, is recommended for lists of 5000 recipients and up. So if that isn’t yet you (as it isn’t yet me) keep growing your list and testing out different strategies regardless.
These tools are simply the foundations of email marketing, and there is so much more to delve into regarding this strategy (something for a future blog), but there are a few key takeaways. First, choose an email provider that best works for your company’s goals. Remember there are free and paid options but ensuring it will work for your needs is the most important. And lastly, map out your marketing strategy calendar and get started. There is no better time than the present to join the email marketing crew.
Email marketing is so important for writers, even if you currently don’t have any published books. This is a fantastic way to grow your audience and build a presence early. This tool is especially important in a growingly competitive market such as book writing. To stand out above the rest you must do the basics first, and I hope this blog sheds some light on the basics of email marketing, but I encourage you to check out the full LinkedIn Learning video for even more details. I’ve had a newsletter through MailChimp for some time now, and still, the information I learned through Adam’s video was incredibly helpful. Automated emails are something I’ve only explored a little, and subject line research wasn’t even something I knew about at all. I intend to use these tools and strategies to improve my own email marketing and hope you all do too!
If you’re looking for an author to follow to see how I use email marketing to the best of my ability, feel free to join the AJ Eversley Newsletter today.
Adams, M. (2018). Email and Newsletter Marketing Foundations. Retrieved from LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/email-and-newsletter-marketing-foundations/welcome?contextUrn=urn%3Ali%3AlyndaLearningPath%3A56d7a3f83dd559b764b88a8f
MailChimp. (n.d.). Retrieved from MailChimp: https://mailchimp.com/