There’s a dark, ulterior motive to what you’re doing online. It’s not a quest to sell music, gain fame, or even stop folks from posting obnoxious pictures of their pets. Worse: you’re a lead generation machine! You’re collecting email addresses at a furious pace with every free download and merch purchase you offer. That is the true value, and often the reward, of your online efforts.
In an age of constant distraction, people still consistently manage to check their email. It remains the most successful way to get your message to your masses. More than Twitter, even more than Facebook, email is where it’s at.
First things first, you’ve been collecting all this analytics data and you’re using it to make smart decisions (glad you’ve been paying attention!). From what you’re seeing, you can deduce where your fans are, what they’re interested in, and perhaps a few other interesting facts (which songs are more popular, etc.). Take that all into consideration as you plan your email blast.
A newsletter should include information that your FANS want to know coupled with what YOU want them to know. For example, if your analytics dictate that fans are driven to your cover of “A Fifth of Beethoven” then you might want to mention or promote that. Maybe you’ll want to offer an exclusive/demo/free version of the song to anyone on your mailing list. They’ve already expressed an interest, and wow, how cool of you to offer that little something special! Remember “connecting with fans?” This is it!
Beyond that, you’ll want to share the news – upcoming gigs, recap of former gigs, news about new recordings, whatever. Think of it all as a delicate balance – you’re offering new goods, but you’re also using some insider intelligence to provide fans with something they’re looking for.
There’s a rumor floating around that McDonalds re-introduces the McRib when the price of pork drops to a certain level and stop selling the tasty goodness when the price of pork rises. Publicly they re-introduce a coveted fan favorite and build demand by having McRib “only available for a limited time.” That’s a better pitch than saying “pork’s not cheap enough to justify selling this sandwich.” Your newsletter should be thought about in the same (oh, so delicious…) way. Like everything else, your newsletter is a carefully composed marketing tool with opportunities to collect additional information about fan interest, prospective opportunities, and sales. But if you market it that way, it’s just not cool or interesting. Better for fans to think that there’s something special in the newsletter just for them!
Preparation and distribution of your newsletter is a whole ‘nutha thing. There are a variety of companies that offer very slick services that create HTML (laid out, designed, not text-only) emails for you to dazzle fans with. They each offer pre-designed and customizable templates to work with, and you can create something that matches the branding/design of your website, include your band’s logo, and all kinds of other fun tricks. Beyond that, these services let you upload your fan list so sending email becomes a well-tracked, simplified operation. As a marketer, you like things like “well-tracked.”
It’s worth noting that if you’ve already signed up with some direct to fan companies, they’ll have email distribution built into their platform. Most of these aren’t quite as sophisticated as dedicated email providers, but hey, it’s already integrated into your system, so it can be a good way to go.
Here at D.I.-Why, we use MailChimp. Despite the fact that they’re not paying us for this blatant endorsement, we find them to be the simplest platform available, and they’re free for up to 2,000 emails/month! Fanbridge runs a close second, but their free plan stops at 400 emails/month.
Let’s assume you’ve figured out what you’re going to say, and which platform you’ll be using to say it. Now it’s time to actually design the email!
We encourage you, at this point, to un-cool yourselves. While it’s important to be unique and special, your newsletter shouldn’t be overdesigned or cluttered up with stuff. Ultimtely, your goal is to convey information, so nothing should compete with that. No super-jazzy multicolored backgrounds that make text impossible to read, and avoid a black background with dark gray text.
Keep newsletters brief, to the point, and clean. Think of how companies like Apple are totally stylized and effortless in their design. Being that simple is actually quite difficult.
When you’re putting the newsletter together, be sure to devote attention to the subject line. Think about what the most interesting section of content is and use it as a reason for someone to actually open the email.
Subject: September Newsletter
Subject: Mick Jagger, New Shows, Exclusive Tracks
It’s entirely possible that either one of those would contain identical content, but one of ‘em is enough to pique even the casual fan into taking a look. Also, don’t lie. We’d use that subject line if there was some connection between Mick Jagger and D.I.-Why, but if it was a total red herring, that’d just annoy people and you’d likely see open rate drop on your next email.
Always include links in the email: to your website, to buy tickets for your next gig, to your Facebook page, but specifically to anywhere you want to direct attention. Otherwise, you have to assume that whoever reads the email will remember to take those next steps on their own. Right when they’re about to search for a link to buy your new EP, they get a phone call/text/bright shiny object that distracts them. That opportunity is gone forever. You should’ve made it easier for them!
Once you’ve sent an email, you’ll start generating data: who opened your email, when they opened it, what they clicked on, and where they are. Lots of other info will be generated as well.
Focus first on your open rate. That’s a percentage indication of how many emails were sent vs. open. 100 sent, 25 opened, that’s a 25% open rate. Not too shabby, but remember – there’s still 75 people that didn’t see what your wrote!
Take a look at what info was clicked on, focus on more of “that” for the next message. If what you thought was important got ignored, it’s a great opportunity to adjust and refocus your strategy for next time.
When you send an email often influences open rates. In the pre-smartphone age, you were presumably sitting at your desk when you checked email. The logic progresses to assume that emails sent on Friday night or Saturdays would just get buried and ignored when you sat down next.
This isn’t quite as rampant as folks are all over their iPhones these days, but we’ve still noticed that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are consistently better times to send emails. Nobody is buried catching up from the weekend, and they’re not quite overloaded yet as they race out of the office on Fridays. This varies from artist to company to band, but test it out for yourself and see what happens.
Frequency is your next concern. Too many emails and fans get annoyed; too few and they forget you. Our experience is that if you don’t have anything to say, don’t send an email. If you’re struggling for content, you’ll likely find readers struggling to read the message. Start with a monthly email, and if interest/engagement is strong, move to an semi-monthly (twice per month) newsletter. Again, just make sure you have something valid and enticing to say in each message.
As your building a mailing list, be considerate of who’s actually on it. If you’re handed a list with a thousand random email addresses, and you add those names to your list – technically you’re spamming those people with every message. All of the major email distributors will shut you down if there are too many spam complaints coming in. We strongly recommend using an opt-in solution – that’s where someone agrees to be on your list, then gets a confirmation email that they must click to confirm. This will limit spam opportunities and keep your list to people that are actually interested in you.