Is E-Mail Marketing an Author’s Best-Kept Marketing Secret?
A robust e-mail marketing program can be an author’s most affordable effective and affordable marketing tool. It allows you to have regular contact and build relationships with a group of people who are predisposed, by agreeing to have contact from you, to have interest in your books and products. It contains the key element of relevancy, which is the cornerstone of good marketing communication. By providing interesting, highly relevant, fresh content – which is more than simply advertising your wares or services – you can keep a list of customers and prospects interested and engaged with your brand for a very long time.
E-mail marketing is often the basis of excellent and efficient ‘pull’ marketing, where you are using relevant content to pull your target market to your brand and build a relationship based on shared interests, rather than “push” marketing, that pushes your brand out in a scattergun approach through advertising to a more undefined audience. Both types of marketing should be including in a good marketing mix for any business, but pull marketing is more often what keeps a customer returning for more of what you have to offer. It can be the single most affordable way to promote customer loyalty.
All e-mail marketing must comply with CAN-SPAM rules, which require that the receiver of your content must be opted in for contact. CAN-SPAM is the Congressional Act that can be found at 16 CFR Part 316, and authorizes The Federal Trade Commission to “define the relevant criteria to facilitate the determination of the primary purpose of an electronic mail message.” The CAN-SPAM Act applies almost exclusively to commercial electronic mail messages. If you’re “promoting or advertising a commercial product or service through electronic communication,” you have to comply with the law set forth in the CAN-SPAM act or face some hefty penalties. Fortunately, compliance is actually fairly easy.
First, regardless of shared relationships with your lists, such as people who belong to the same organization or are in your email address books, everyone must be opted in for contact. A third party organization cannot opt in others for contact from you and your brand; the opt-in must be specific to the sender. Running a sign-up list on your Facebook page or website is a fine way to opt someone in for contact if your sign-up sheet clearly explains what they are signing up for; the message should be clear and obvious. Once someone signs your list, send them something within the week or sooner, welcoming them to your subscriber community, to help them remember that they did agree to be contacted in this way. If you wait too long, you may lose your new members.
The best e-mail marketing programs are generally conducted through a newsletter service such as Mail Chimp or A.Weber. One of main advantages of using a well-known newsletter service provider is that the sender is and will be recognized by search engine and e-mail programs as sending content that is not spamming the receiver, because of their opt-in policies. These services are free until either your list reaches a particular size or you want to use a digital sign-up form on your website or Facebook page that allows people to automatically sign up. It takes little skill to use these one of the available services, which are generally user-friendly and have training tools and videos as well.
Once a subscriber signs up to receive email from you, indicating interest in what you have to offer, a positive and actual relationship is formed. Unlike a plain e-mail distribution, newsletter services allow you to create rich media content, including images of your logo, product or service, videos of the same or just the use of color to make your messages noticeable and memorable. This in turn makes your brand more ‘top of mind’ to them when they have a need for your product or service, or when you have created that need through your regular contact with them.
A digital sign-up form on your website or even on your Facebook page is a wonderful way to obtain new newsletter or email subscribers. By linking to a newsletter program, your new subscribers will be ‘double opted in,” first, through completing your form, and second, by clicking a link in their e-mail to assure they really want to subscribe. The double-opt in system also keeps out web crawler programs that look for forms to complete. These are not real sign-ups.
Through a newsletter service you can create an ‘auto-responder,’ an e-mail that each new subscriber receives once they have completed the double-opt in process. This is a great time to provide a coupon to sample your goods or services. You can also test different e-mail subject lines to see which ones have the highest open rate. You will be able to track which links in your newsletter have had the highest number of clicks. This service can automatically post your newsletter to social media and also tie your results to Google Analytics. Studying the open rate of different newsletters and subject lines can provide strong and solid clues for which search engine optimizers you should include in your website to garner the highest Google organic ranking. Newsletter services also provide an automatic link for those wanting to unsubscribe.
Speaking of subject lines, your subject line should be honest and describe the content of the email. This is another CAN-SPAM requirement: it can’t offer, for example, a discount or coupon that is actually not included in your transmission. E-mail or newsletter subject lines are not an exact science; by thinking carefully about what your list members might find most relevant or interesting, and including that as a core part of your transmission, you will earn the highest open rate. Beware of using spam trigger words like “sale,” “discount” and similar terms.
If you use a commercial service – and I strongly recommend this path – be sure to regularly clean your lists to omit those who have not opened any of your communications in a given period of time, such as six months. They are taking up space on your list, skewing your open rate and may be causing you to move to a higher pricing tier by making your lists artificially longer than they really are.
If you don’t use a newsletter service and decide to use your e-mail service, be careful not to send to more than about 20-30 emails in a single transmission, and time your e-mails overall to not be too close together, especially if you are using the same content. Otherwise, even your own e-mail provider might flag your own account for spam activity. Place your receiver e-mail addresses in the BCC box; never share your lists or their emails with others. This violates their privacy and may also cause their e-mail addresses to be automatically added to each person’s address book on your list. Nothing screams “SPAM” louder than lists publicly shared, and is a really huge violation of e-mail privacy. This can be very harmful to your brand, product or service image and injure your credibility, sometimes irretrievably. It is not required that you put any e-mail addresses in your “To” box; they can and should all go into BCC.
If you are using your own e-mail account for marketing, it is also necessary, according to CAN-SPAM, to provide a way for those receiving your e-mail to have a way to unsubscribe from your list. This can be as simply as asking them to reply to your e-mail with the word “unsubscribe.” Any unsubscribes must immediately be honored. Other requirements of the CAN-SPAM act include telling the members of your lists how or where you got their name and providing a physical or mailing address where they can also contact you.
How often should you send e-mail campaigns? There is no “bright line” answer; a lot depends on whether you have changing and interesting content to bring to your subscribers. Many e-mail marketing users send a “once a week” e-mail; others transmit less often, such as once or twice a month. Your unsubscribe rate is often a clue that your transmissions might be too frequent or that your content is not interesting or relevant enough for your audience. But don’t make the error of not sending e-mail or newsletters often enough to continue the relationship with your lists that you have worked hard to build.
By following a few simple rules and guidelines, content marketing through e-mail or newsletter programs can be a small business owner’s most affordable marketing tool — the equivalent of a marketing ‘best friend.’
Copyright 2017, Satiama LLC and Satiama Writers Resource