If you do only one marketing initiative, it should be to make a concerted effort to develop and maintain your email list. I think I score really high marks for gathering names, although I’m not great at actually sending out the emails–something I need to improve upon in the future. That being said, it’s important that you don’t abuse your list with overuse as people will likely become annoyed and unsubscribe.
Today I’m going to talk about Email List Management Software (which I highly suggest you use), and in a future post I’ll give you some pointers and techniques for how best to collect names for your list. There are many products out there, and feel free to do some searching yourself, but the ones I’ve used most in the past and that I feel comfortable about recommending are:
Keep in mind that the pricing plans may change so use the links and investigate the choices rather than relying on information here, but it should give you a basic idea of how they are priced.
Mail Chimp has two basic plans:
- Free – 12,000 emails sent a month : up to 2,000 subscribers,
- Paid – unlimited number of emails; monthly fee based on subscribers (0-500: $10, 501-1,000: $15, 1,001 – 2,500: $30, 2,501 – 5,000: $50, and so on
Constant Contact has a 60-day free trial (up to 100 contacts) and offers similar plans as Mail Chimp (0-500: $15, 501-2,500:$30, 2,501-5,00: $50) but they also have discounting if you pre-pay 6 months or 12 months at a time
What exactly does thdo.
Both products work fairly similarly they allow you to:
- organize emails into various lists (for instance if you wrote both romance and children’s books you could have separate emails for each)
- push emails out to those emails (both formatted and text-only)
- track who opens the mails, which emails bounce, whether the recipient clicks through
- manages the lists – allow people to opt-in or opt-out
One of the big advantages of using an email list management services is they take great pains to ensure that email coming from their sites are white listed. Which means they aren’t blocked by email programs that are filtering out “spammy” IP addresses. This is a good thing, but also means you need to abide by certain rules to make sure you aren’t misusing or spamming your emails. Some things that they generally require:
- You can’t buy a list and import it into their software because you have no prior business relationship with those people.
- You need people’s permission to send stuff to them (they have to opt-in) they will provide you with a link for people to voluntarily sign up but you can also add people to the list (import addresses) if you first ask their permission. For instance, whenever I run a contest I require an email so I can reach the winner…I also ask them whether they want to be added to my email list…if they so no – then don’t!! If the provider sees that a lot of people “report” your email as spam they might cancel your account or severely limit what you can send and how often.
- You need to provide people a way to opt-out – this will be done automatically by the software. Basically every email that goes out will have a link they can use to “unsubscribe” from the list – once a record is marked as “unsubscribed” you’ll never be allowed to email to them again – the system will automatically ensure that you don’t send to them.
As I mentioned earlier, you can have multiple lists. Some people can even exist on more than one list (maybe they buy both your romance books for them, and the children’s books for their kids). Usually when you make a “campaign” you design the email (what you want to say) and determine what lists it goes to. There are all kinds of fancy things such as scheduling the campaign – so you know what time of day the emails will be sent out. You can use templates they provide to combine graphics and text in a very easy design tool. Some people on your list may indicate that they want only text based emails, while others may opt for the formatted emails that shows all the pictures and various fonts and colors.
One of the really nice thing about these tools is knowing how many people opened the email, and how many followed through with your call to action (clicked to order a book, clicked to get a free short story, clicked to enter a giveaway, etc).
It also knows how you did against industry standards. For instance I sent out an email in July to encourage people to pre-order my new book The Crown Tower. I categorize my lists in a number of ways, and I also tried various approaches (different subject headings, different body copy so while I have more than 5,000 people on my list – I did three different campaigns. Here are my results for one of them:
- 1,876 emails sent
- 60.1 % open rate (industry standard is 17.5%)
- 20.7 % click rate (industry standard is 4.4%)
- 2 emails bounced
- 1 email unsubscribed
This tells me I have a really “good list” all but two of the email addresses were valid and only 1 person said they no longer wish to get emails from me. I know that more than 1,120 people saw the email and opened it, and almost 400 people clicked through on the link I provided. A list with these types of numbers indicates that those on my list are interested in hearing from me.
Summing it up
Of course when you start out you’re not going to have 5,000 or more emails…it takes time and concentrated effort to build them up. In my next post I’ll talk more on how you go about it. But for now your task is to investigate these tools (or find another one you like better) and start playing around with them. They really are easy to use – and they come with extensive training to get you started. In the long run, this will be your most important marketing asset so it’s better to start sooner rather than later.