Email marketing is one of the most important elements of digital marketing for bands and musicians.
First of all, it’s one of the only forms of online communication between you and your fans that is entirely future proof and within your control. Think about it – you don’t own your Facebook fans or Twitter followers, Facebook and Twitter do – and it’s entirely legal for them to charge you to reach them.
Email hasn’t changed an awful lot since it was first introduced in 1993. It probably won’t change much in the next decade either.
But that’s not enough for me to recommend it so highly. Email is also incredibly effective when used well. The combination of effectiveness, ease of use, scalability and control are what makes it so appealing, and a powerful tool for savvy musicians.
I’ve created this monster of a guide on email marketing for bands to help you learn everything from how to choose a good email marketing platform to ensuring you get the best engagement and open rates. Feel free to skip to any part that you feel will help you the most right now, but to get started let’s talk about email marketing platforms.
Email Marketing Platforms – Which One’s Best?
The email marketing platform you use will form the backbone of your email marketing. It’s where you store your mailing list, create campaigns, and schedule autoresponders to keep your fans engaged.
The primary reason for using a platform like Aweber over something like Gmail is the fact that you can send an email to a huge number of email addresses without getting banned or ending up in people’s junk folders. So if you’re getting started, which platform is best?
Which email marketing platform is best to use?
I recently wrote an extensive post comparing email marketing software providers and came to the conclusion that while some providers are better than others, it really comes down to a matter of preference.
That said, most of us want roughly the same thing. We want the most affordable solution that is reliable, easy to use, and enables us to get awesome results from email marketing.
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different providers for Venture Harbour’s various clients and projects, and there are two providers that I find myself coming back to time and time again; Get Response and Aweber.
Get Response is my overall favourite platform. The design of their newsletters are brilliant and the platform is incredibly easy to use and create emails on.
They’ve also got a tonne of cool features, like A/B testing (so you can test two variations of an email to different groups of fans to see which variation drives the most engagement), device previews to see how your emails look on different mobile devices, and something called ‘Time Travel’ which enables you to send emails that land in people’s inbox at the same local time. In other words, your fans in Chang Mai, Chicago, London, and Kyoto can all receive your email in their inbox at 9am local time.
At $15 per month (and a free trial), Get Response is also one of the more affordable platforms for getting started on.
Aweber, on the other hand, have the legacy of being one of the longest established email marketing providers. While their platform doesn’t look as slick as Get Response’s, the functionality is very good and it’s overall very easy to use.
It’s a little bit more expensive than Get Response at $19 per month, but the benefit here is that it is free up to 500 subscribers. That said, by the time you have 500 subscribers you will probably be noticing an increase in revenue to comfortably support the cost of the platform, if you’re using email effectively.
Aweber have an easy-to-use email creator and they have some handy tools to help you find what does and doesn’t work, which is fundamental if you want your email marketing to get better over time.
For a more in-depth comparison of Aweber and Get Response, there’s a comprehensive review of the two here. If you’re still undecided, give them both a shot on the free trial and see which one you prefer.
Building a Mailing List: How & What to Consider?
Whichever way you slice it, building a mailing list takes time, but we’ll talk about a few ways that you can reduce that amount of time in a second. First, let’s get the legalities out of the way.
When building a list, you are legally required to have people opt-in to your email newsletter. This means they have to give you permission to email them, and you must make it possible for people to unsubscribe from your mailing list.
The beauty of email marketing platforms like those mentioned above is that they handle all of this for you. Once a fan has entered their details in a sign-up form on your website they will automatically receive an email to opt-in (also called a double opt-in).
Double-opt in can work two ways. The first is to have fans sign up and then confirm their sign up. The second is to send them an email once they sign up, through which they are given a link to activate their account/membership/signup. This is actually the best way because if your email starts out in the junk folder then they are more likely to take it out when they activate, which will mean subsequent emails are not sent to the junk folder.
Getting fans to opt-in or double opt-in has one major benefit for you; it keeps your emails out of the junk folder.
So now that we’ve got that out of the way, how can you go about building a list? Here are a few ideas to get started.
1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
A good question to ask is “why should a fan join your mailing list? What’s in it for them?”
Once you know the answer, asking for their email will be less awkward. If you offer 10% discount on merchandise, or give exclusive access to new music to your mailing list, fans will be more inclined to join your list.
I recommend asking for emails everywhere. If possible, set up an iPad at your merch table offering people the 10% discount if they sign up. Have a sign-up form on your website. Run social contests and require an email address to take part. The more you ask, the more you’ll get.
2. Social contests & using tech platforms to gather fan emails
One of the fastest ways to gain a huge number of fan email addresses is to combine Facebook advertising with a social contest using something like ShortStack orPageModo. There are also a range of awesome music-specific platforms, such asFanDistro and Jango (now called Radio Airplay) that enable you to see the email address of every fan that has interacted with you. Another great passive technique for building your list.
3. Give away exclusive content to encourage sign ups
As emphasised in point one, people need a reason to join your list. As an artist, your have one thing that your fans want; music, photos, stories. Use that content to get fans to sign up to your list and encourage their friends to do the same.
Ideally, building your list should be a passive activity. In other words, it should run in the background while you focus on more important things. Sure, you’ll have to invest some effort into getting the flywheel moving, but once it is moving and fans are joining your list, it shouldn’t slow down.
Writing & Sending Emails That Engage & Monetise Fans
Let’s tackle the elephant in the room; we’re not doing email marketing for fun. It’s an investment of time, energy, and money, that we want to see a positive return from. Now, for some of us that may mean more gigs or just happier fans, but for most I imagine revenue will be an important outcome that we’ll want to see from email marketing.
So how can we measure or at least ensure that our email marketing is having a positive return on investment?
As an artist, it’s likely that most of your income will come in spikes; the day you release a new album, the day you sign a sponsorship deal, or the day you’re paid from a tour. As such, the investment in building your email list may not pay itself back until you reach that next spike.
In my experience, having a good list of loyal fans makes those peaks higher.
Having control over your fans can also pay itself back in better deals. If you’re negotiating terms with a label or a potential sponsor you’re more likely to get a more favourable deal if you can say that you have a list of 100,000 fans that you can message at any time.
That said, I track everything. Most email marketing providers will give you reports on your open and click through rate, and if setup correctly you can even find out how many fans went on to complete certain actions, such as downloading a song from your website. This information will enable you to measure the impact and ROI of your email marketing.
In order to give ourselves the best possible chance, we need to write good email campaigns. So what makes a good email?
What makes a compelling email?
Great email marketing is about offering consistent value to your mailing list in a way that makes them glad to see your emails arrive in their inbox. Fundamentally, that’s what it all boils down to.
Here are a few good tips to ensure that you’re writing good emails.
1. I, me, we, and us
Before you send out any email campaign, see how many times you use the words ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘us’, or ‘we’. The purpose of this is to identify whether the email is about you or the people you’re emailing. The more it’s focused on them, the better you’ll do.
2. Writing amazing subject lines
Advertising legend David Ogilvy said that “When you write your headline you’ve spent 80 cents out of your dollar”. This is because 80% of people will only ever read your headline. Unfortunately, this is also true with email marketing, which is why you need to learn to write great subject lines.
3. Keep it concise
Don’t write long essays, keep it short and sweet. Even consider embedding images into your emails to convey messages visually.
4. Make your call-to-actions clear
Don’t expect your fans to download your single if the only way to do so is through a hard to find linked bit of text at the bottom of your email. Make sure that your call to actions are nice and big and intuitive for your fans.
5. Getting your email frequency right
If you research this subject thoroughly, then you will find many differing and contrasting opinions. The truth is that you need to judge your frequency based on your target audience.
I’d recommend starting out by sending one email every two weeks and testing different frequencies to gauge which frequency works best for you.
Email marketing’s not easy, and you won’t get it right first-time, but it’s worth sticking at. The quickest way to get better at email marketing – or anything – is to measure what matters to you and focus all of your energy on improving it.