Reading this great post about mailing lists by Sam Flegal inspired me to share my own two cents about mailing lists and their uses for artists. Now that I've returned to conventions, I've been sharpening my marketing strategies and trying to figure out more efficient ways to keep in touch with my fanbase as a freelance artist.
While I do hope to work with more studios and publishers in the future, it's useful for me to nurture my independent career by also nurturing my direct relationship with my fans as well. After all, I have a lot of personal projects that I do for no one else but myself and the fans that offer me opportunities under my control instead of at the whims of another entity.
Benefits of a Mailing List
For one, I've realized that the advantage of a mailing list is that while not everyone is on every social media outlet ever, most everyone has an e-mail. Even if my newsletter gets put in the Trash, it's still a central method at which I can communicate directly with everyone without relying on the sporadic shotgun method of hitting all of the social networks and hoping someone sees it.
This is especially relevant in an age where our posts are getting lost to social network feeds that now require small businesses to pay to even be seen (ie. the recent neutering of the reach of unpaid posts on Facebook Fan Pages).
What to Use
I personally use Mailchimp, which is free to use up until you hit 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. After which, I'd be happy to pay, considering the usefulness of this service!
Essential Setup of Your Mailing List
After setting up your mailing list, these are the two essential parts of your list that you need to set up as well.
The Signup Form
Check out my signup form to see an example of one in action! You can also see the Wordpress signup Widget in action on my website.
An autoresponder is also linked to your unique list and is the automatic e-mail which is sent out after a subscriber signs up for your list. Mailchimp has a default one, but it's wise to customize this e-mail to your business to make a more personal connection with your fans. I use my autoresponder to inform my new fans about what kind of updates they can expect from me, provide quick links to my social networks, and pitch my Patreon page in an unobtrusive way.
The autoresponder is also a great way to reward your new fans and make them feel special! For instance, I offer a link in my autoresponder to a free gift of a coloring book that would usually be a paid item. Other ideas for shareable promo items could be downloads of your art as wallpapers or a discount code to your shop.
Here's a screenshot of my autoresponder (or you can see it in live action by signing up for my list, if you like!)
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Segments & Groups
EDIT 8-25-2012 I've discovered the use of Segments and Groups within Mailchimp and added this section. They're quite invaluable to a tidy list!
Utilizing Groups within your mailing list's subscribers means you can have a Sign Up form with checkboxes detailing what kinds of updates the person would like to receive (aka. the Groups that you can make dictate the kinds of updates) while also cutting down the number of lists you have and redundant signups.
I made a Group and corresponding list Segment in my mailing list for people who might be interested in following my Ladies of the Months series outside of Kickstarter to test this out.
You can see the checkboxes/Groups in action here.
You'll have to remember to update your Automation/Autoresponder to respond to the individual list segment/Group too!
For the full technical instructions for this process, check out Mailchimp's documentation on the subject.
Promoting Your List
So now that you have a list, don't forget that it exists! Here are some ideas to gain new subscribers.
- Etsy Shop - Include a link to your singup form in your shop announcement and in your automatic sale letters so your customers can remember to keep up with you. (The same goes for your social network links!)
- Giveaways at Conventions - Host an exclusive giveaway at conventions to entice people to sign up for your mailing list. Doing this also encourages people to come back to visit against, which provides an extra opportunity for them to be tempted by your shinies.
- Monthly Giveaways for List Members - I already do exclusive monthly giveaways for my Patreon patrons, but I have seen other artists encourage signups on their mailing lists by offering exclusive giveaways only for those on their mailing lists. This makes your fans feel extra special!
Maintaining a Newsletter Schedule
One of my biggest mistakes was to overshoot my goal and try to keep a really active newsletter. Create a schedule for yourself that you know you can maintain!
For instance, I used to do a mailing list every month, but the fact is because I work so slowly, I didn't have a lot to share each month. In the end, it was easier for me to do a quarterly (once every 3 months) newsletter instead.
It's also smart to keep your newsletter text short and sweet! Big chunks of text do okay in journal entries, but people have very short attention spans for e-mails. Keep your text relevant and to the point!
I hope this info helps some of you out there who might be struggling with how to communicate with your fanbase or who were just not sure what to do with a mailing list in the first place.
If you have any tips for mailing lists I didn't mention, please do share in comments. Good luck, everyone!