In previous articles we briefly touched on the importance of having and maintaining a current mailing list, but how exactly do you do that? Sure, you want people to like you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter, but what happens when people stop visiting Facebook? Don't think it can happen? Just look at Myspace. I remember busting my butt to get as many of our fans to friend us on Myspace as possible. When the switch to Facebook came it was like all that work was for nothing. Maybe Facebook is here to stay, but at the end of the day you do not own the platform and that is risky business.
I think we all realize the importance of staying in touch with people that like your music. I don't see many bands cultivating an email list, and that is precisely why this is such an important topic to cover. I want Cincinnati artists to be ahead of the curve here. If you are doing it right, this will prove to be your most valuable resource when promoting your shows, new release, or page on a new social network. There is a reason every business in the world is trying to capture information about you: it works! They are building a consumer profile about you so they can send messages with content you care about. This "narrowcast" approach is much more efficient than sending mass messages to people. For example, people in Cincinnati probably don't care if you are playing in Cleveland. You need a way to segment your lists so you aren't burning people out by sending them emails every day.
The first step is capturing information. It should be your goal at every show to find a way to stay in touch with every person that showed any interest in your band. Wouldn't it be great if all those people came back next time and brought a friend? The easiest way to do this is to simply ask for their email address at your merch booth so you can tell them when you will be back. Make a spreadsheet on a computer, let them write it on a piece of paper, or you can go crazy and ask them to snap a QR code that takes them to an online opt-in form. Maybe offer a free download, sticker or EP in exchange for an email address.
Online, you should have an opt-in form on your website and on Facebook. Many of the companies I will list below give you very detailed instructions on how to embed these forms. When you sell merchandise online you should be asking people if they would like to opt-in to your mailing list.
Finally, you should be running contests on your website and Facebook page. Not only do these increase your fan engagement, but they also offer an opportunity for what we call an "info grab". Don't require them to opt-in to your mailing list, but always ask.
While on the subject of opting in, we should probably pause to go over some of the guidelines regarding mailing lists. You should familiarize yourself with the CAN-SPAM Act. There are many rules that you must follow when handling personal information and sending email messages. The most basic rules are:
- Only send messages to people that opted-in to your list. Never copy and paste emails, purchase a list, or sell your list of emails.
- Tell people how they can opt-out from receiving your messages and honor those requests promptly.
The frequency of your emails is always a hot topic on marketing blogs. There is no clear answer on how often you should be sending messages. I like to operate under the principle that you shouldn't be sending messages for the sake of sending messages. Only send an email when you have something compelling to say. Otherwise, stay quiet. Scarcity will make your messages more powerful, and people will be less likely to hit the delete button when they see your name.
Mailing List Services
So, how do you send these messages? If you have fewer than 50 emails on your list you can probably get away with just sending them from your band's plain email account. Otherwise, you should be using an email delivery service.
There are many technical reasons why this is a good idea, but it all boils down to the fact that your emails won't end up in spam filters. These companies have employees dedicated to resolving issues with ISPs and making sure your emails are making it to the inbox of the person you are sending them to. They also provide very useful segmentation tools and editors that will help you build and spam-test your emails before you send them out.
Here are a few companies you can choose from. All have their own strengths and weaknesses. Read through all their materials and choose the one that best suits your needs. If you have fewer than 2,000 emails I would personally recommend MailChimp because it is free. They also offer a guide specifically for musicians.
- Constant Contact
- FanMail Marketing (Local reseller of ExactTarget)
- Campaign Monitor
When choosing a service I just suggest that you begin with the end in mind (Yes, I'm a nerd.. Totally stole that from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People). There will come a time when you discontinue your service. You need to make sure that you can export your contacts. Those people opted in to your mailing list. They don't know or care how you are sending your messages. I usually run in to this with companies that provide SMS marketing (more on that later). Laws and regulations are still new, so some companies are a bit over-cautious.
I briefly touched on segmentation. For touring artists I think the most important field you should be collecting is a ZIP code. All of these services allow you to target geographically. If you are sending a message to your list about a show in Cincinnati, omit everyone that doesn't live in Cincinnati. This way when you tour you can email each market individually with detailed information on your show in their city. (You can target your posts on Facebook geographically as well).
If you manage a venue and are reading this article, the same segmentation principle should apply to you based on genres. If someone purchased a ticket for a metal show, they probably don't care if you booked a singer-songwriter, so don't send them a message about one.
Finally, there are best practices for the content within your email and subject lines that will help with deliverability. Campaign Monitor's Resources library is very useful when building your emails. You don't need to know HTML or CSS, but it is extremely helpful.
If you have anything to add, or any questions please post below or on the message boards. Cincinnati is full of people that understand this topic very thoroughly, so there is a lot to be learned from our community. Just ask!