Thursday, June 14, 2007

More E-mail Marketing: Getting Those Names

As a followup to my recent e-mail marketing post, I wanted to share some more e-mail marketing goodness with you. In a recent discussion on the HOW Forum, one of my fellow HOWies, c55 from Saltline Studio (who's right on the Cape - yay!), was wondering how to get more folks signed up for their studio's e-newsletter.

Now, when I first started the zen kitchen's newsletter in March of last year, I had about 120 names on the list - mostly folks that I had culled from the insane business card collection I'd been amassing over the previous few months since opening my studio that January. Previous and current clients, select friends and industry contacts also got put onto the list. Since then the list has grown to about 280 names at last count; still pretty modest, but it grows every month, just in folks who sign up on the site directly, and I've been quite pleased with the growth. Personally, I think it's the recipes (tee!). And I'll also mention that, since the list is small and has grown organically, I have a pretty phenomenal open rate - 40-50% on average, with plenty of clickthroughs (especially with the new format!). The key, I find, is quality, NOT quantity.

Now, how do you start growing the list organically with a good balance of contacts who add themselves and contacts that you add from your networking adventures? There are a few ways that work for me.

In terms of getting folks to sign up, it's important to let folks know what they're getting and how often they're getting it. In networking events, after I've chatted with the person a bit and determined whether they're someone I want to keep in touch with, I say, "do you mind if I keep in touch with you through my monthly e-mail newsletter? It has a case study, some notes from my blog and a free recipe from my own kitchen!" It's incredibly rare that someone doesn't say "yes" (I tell you, it's the recipes!). If, by some chance, I forget to ask them if they'd like to be signed up, I ask in my follow-up e-mails, or if I've sent a newsletter recently, I'll actually forward it to them with an invitation to sign up. Most of the time, you'll find that this practice works just fine - especially if they're someone you got along well with.

In terms of getting them to sign up on the site, you should NEVER, I mean NEVER EVER, have just a little box that says "sign up for our newsletter!" They just don't work. If people don't know what they're getting, and can't figure out whether they WANT to receive it or not, they won't bother signing up. My signup box includes a brief description of the newsletter, and the newsletter signup page has a more detailed description of the newsletter and a call to sign up. Since making the change on the new site, I've seen a significant increase in signups.

Also, feel free to collect more information from the signups (I definitely recommend at least first/last name, company and title, as well as snail mail address for additional marketing if it's deemed appropriate), but don't make it all mandatory for signup. The only thing that you REALLY need is the name and e-mail address; the other stuff is just really good gravy.

Another key way to get more signups is to just be visible - go onto forums where your audience (or hey - your friends!) are hanging out. Make comments on blog posts. Upgrade your e-mail signature. And on all of it, make sure that folks are able to visit your site from your post/e-mail and sign up for the newsletter. I even invite folks to sign up for it in my e-mail signature. In time, you'll build a solid, well-qualified list (and yes, a fair share of folks who are just tagging along for the free info - but I don't mind them. Heck, it's not like it costs me extra if they get my e-mail too!).

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