I held out against the idea of doing an email newsletter for a looooonnnnnnnnggg time. I wanted no part of it. I thought “who wants to get another email in their folder” and I was feeling pretty good about our social media and online marketing as it was. So let’s go through my thought process – how and why my opinion changed and what led me to start an email newsletter.
A Little Side of SPAM with your email perhaps…?
Not that I want to jinx it but I’ve been lucky – I don’t get a ton of obvious spam (my wife Ally – the photographer on our team – seems to get a little more than me for some reason) but I still get my share. Plenty of:
- Viagra at lowest pricesst ever! xrleit Canada make buy here!
- Hi! I like you. Meet me hear http://www.xoroihljh;roh www.havegrateday.net
- Government report on canabis oil helth report!
- Hello, I live in Botswana and I would like to pay you $500,000 if you help me…
You know…. that type of garbage.
Then there’s actual email newsletters that are obvious industry copy where the sender has just copied and pasted their name into the “from” field and it’s like a drab industry report that you have no interest in. The content barely relates to the realtor/dentist/insurance person sending it – it’s a prime example of I don’t really care or have time to do this right but I’m still spraying mud at the wall to see if some of it will stick, and if it doesn’t at least I’ve checked that box. Ugh.
Then there is the marketer’s email that is designed to make you think you’re going to get some really valuable information in the email to help you, but it’s really designed to tease you along for a couple of scrolls down the page to get you salivating over a lot of fluff hoping you’ll click on a sign up link to buy something. Fine – you want me to buy and that’s cool, just don’t make it such a total bait and switch. 4 minutes wasted for most of us…
I CAN’T STAND ANY OF THAT STUFF.
So why would I start an email newsletter?
I started to notice plenty of my marketing friends whom I do respect talk about your email list like it was a given. Like if you didn’t have one and weren’t building one then you weren’t even in the discussion, just as if you didn’t have a website or a social media presence. Well you do listen to people you respect don’t you? That’s kinda the whole point of respect.
So I stopped to actually consider it for a minute and I read posts like this one from my friend Katie Lance‘s website to hear the case for a newsletter and how to write a good one. Katie was one who was jabbing me that email lists are effective. She just finished writing a book recently and of course she’s having plenty of fun now with the fact that I’m doing an email newsletter as you can see…
So anyway, at this point I was starting to get it and the lightbulb came on: I don’t dislike getting emails. I DO dislike getting CRAPPY emails. I started to think about the emails I actually sign up for and enjoy and there are some that I really like when I think about it. There are a few University of Michigan newsletters I get for sports, the school of LS&A, and the Psychology department that I do like. Our friend Jenn Fishkind’s newsletter Princess Pinky Girl is a lot of fun. I remember my buddy Rob from college used to have a newsletter for his band Dr. Fu that I used to look forward to every week because they had cool links of stuff they found on the Internet.
So don’t do a crappy email newsletter and it will be successful right? Okay the idea was starting to take shape, but then I ran into a big perceived obstacle. This is the one that I think most folks run into and likely the biggest barrier to starting email newsletters:
I Didn’t Have Time To (Or The Budget To Hire Someone To) Design An Email Newsletter With Graphics and Stuff
Right? I was already pretty swamped. Where did I start? It seemed like a daunting task and so it marinated for a while in the back of my mind and I didn’t get around to it.
I can’t remember what finally prompted me to check on Constant Contact or Mailchimp – two of the most popular email websites that I had heard of, but I went to Mailchimp and liked what I saw and signed up for an account. It was free. And it was EASY. So self-explanatory and intuitive I couldn’t believe it. Now if you are a complete Internet novice it may not seem that simple, but relatively speaking I was amazed. I was up and running in no time – it was just cut and paste with different layouts available and I have since showed this to other people who don’t have email newsletters who were just as surprised as I was.
So while I’m not a pro on email newsletters yet, we’ve definitely had early success with ours. We sent out our 20th weekly newsletter last week and people are giving us really good feedback. Not only are they telling us they like it, but they are actually opening it and reading it – which we can measure with Mailchimp. We are averaging over 30% of the people opening the email who receive it. The overall average according to Mailchimp is around 21%. Our click rate (people actually taking action and clicking on links in the email) is 5.5% while the average according to Mailchimp is about 2.75%. So it’s working!
So let’s get a little deeper into our strategy and some tips…
How I Started The Newsletter
Here are a few basic steps I took starting out, starting with getting some thoughts down about the purpose and goals for doing this. I thought about what I wanted the newsletter to be.
- I wanted to be able to reach the people (clients, friends, supporters, partners, vendors) who are A) not on social media, B) barely on social media like maybe only Facebook and C) those who may follow us on more than one platform but not all platforms. EVERYONE still has email.
- I wanted to further insulate ourselves from the volatility of social media apps. Like your website and/or blog, an email list is yours, but remember sites like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention Vine, Meerkat and Blab (all three of these are gone) – those are not.
- I wanted to put out a fun recap of what happens during the week on Fridays that people could look forward to.
- I wanted people to be thinking about our studio because we educate, entertain, provide value and involve our community in our content so we can continue to GROW the business without selling AT people which has always been our M.O.
Next I had to figure out how to build the list. I already had many of our clients emails in our system and I even had a few checked off that in the past had requested that we keep their email only if we needed to contact them but not for an email newsletter. I didn’t have a great way to sort these though and I didn’t want to just blast the entire database in spammy fashion right out of the gate. I certainly didn’t want to bug everyone with phone calls which would have taken way more time than I had, so I did the best I could sorting my clients starting with the most recent transactions and omitting the ones I knew wouldn’t want the emails. The first email went out to 262 email addresses with an introduction, a brief outline of what to expect, and an invitation to unsubscribe if they don’t wish to receive these and that it was okay. I was a little nervous truth be told. 10 unsubscribed but no one reported the emails as abuse – I felt that was a pretty good result. 20 newsletters later we’re up to 315 subscribers and I’m happy about that. We only average about 1 unsubscribe per week at this point which is fine – it’s hard to be perfect on that score. We are not a huge volume studio and we have always liked to build our community organically one true follower at a time.
NOTE: There may be people who rip me apart and say no way should I have put people on the list without them asking specifically to be on it. Just because they gave me their email once doesn’t mean they were signing up for an email newsletter – which is true. I know this and this is part of the reason I was nervous and slightly conflicted about doing it this way. I do believe I handled it responsibly though and I would advise you to be careful too. I’m just being honest about how I did it, and frankly I believe that our clients give us the benefit of the doubt because of the way we’ve built our relationships. It was a slight gamble that worked out in our favor. This was not just some typical random spam and this was not a sales pitch, this was just a personally written hello and announcement about the newsletter. It included an update on the studio with nice photos with a disclaimer that they can go ahead and unsubscribe if they don’t want the newsletter. If that really upsets someone then uh, oh well I guess…
Calls to Action
- Make sure you provide the link to sign up for your newsletter on your website, your Facebook page, and in your calls to action – make it easy for people to sign up! There is actually a setting on Facebook that allows you to place the link in the margin. Let’s start there with some step by step screenshots:
Our link to sign up has a pretty prominent spot in the tabs in the left margin of our Facebook page which you can see above. To add it start by clicking “Settings” as shown above which takes you to the page below:
Click on the “Edit Page” button as shown above which takes you to the next page below where you’ll see the “Tabs” menu:
At the bottom of this page there is an “add a tab” button – click it to add your newsletter link:
Next you can see where you add and save the email newsletter link settings – easy!
- You should also make sure you add a sign up link to your website – ours is at the bottom.
- Put the link in your YouTube descriptions as a call to action as shown below:
- This one is a little more creative – we did this for Instagram and got a small handful of people to take action:
Get the idea? Put it out there and get people to sign up!
There are plenty of other hacks and tricks too. For example if you use Periscope you can use Fullscope to import signups right from your broadcast if people just type their email into a comment – so cool! That’s more involved but now we are picking up new subscribers directly from our broadcasts!
Tips For Content
- The article on Katie Lance’s website that I linked earlier talked about making your email content personal and valuable. I would add to that make it match the culture of your brand, or if you’re still figuring that out, make it match what you want your culture to be! Think about what resonates with your audience elsewhere and deliver what people have come to expect from your brand. Build on the strengths that make your brand successful!
- Provide at least one thing that is exclusive to the email. For us it’s a little video introduction to what’s on tap for this week’s email newsletter from me and Ally that we record right before I send it out on Fridays. It’s a fun way to kick off the newsletter and welcome everyone.
- Continue to innovate and evolve. We didn’t get the idea to add the video intro until newsletter #7, and we started adding “Doug & Ally’s picks” in newsletter #17 where we just highlight something that we like or a business of a member of the community – we love the #Frameables!
There are many more advanced tips and techniques for growing your email newsletter. You can segment your email lists, use A/B testing to send the email at different times to track which has better opening percentages – lots of knowledge I don’t have yet. As I said on this topic I’m somewhat of a newbie (only 5 months in), but I’m learning fast and I’m seeing results. You should consider doing the same!
If you have something to add to the discussion by all means add your comments below! I hope you enjoyed this post, and of course – be sure to sign up for the Frameable Faces Newsletter!!!
Frameable Faces Photography
Frameable Faces Photography is a small biz retail mom & pop shop of Doug&Ally Cohen located in the Orchard Mall in West Bloomfield, Michigan, United States Of America!
Being “Frameable” is an attitude, a community, a way of life – a life you would want to celebrate and display on your walls for all to see! Tell us… ARE YOU FRAMEABLE?
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