Top tips for email marketing, part 1: Getting started and building a list

In an era with more and more options available for communicating with your audiences, email remains one of the most effective - 91% of adults check their email at least once per day, and promotion via email is reckoned to be 40 times more effective than social media. In part 1 of this guidance we'll cover the basics of marketing via email: where to send from, to whom, and what how to stay on the right side of the law.

Part 1: Getting started and building a list | Part 2: Building a great email

Content:

  1. Where to send from
  2. Who to send from
  3. Building a subscriber list
  4. Keeping on the right side of the law
  5. Getting started and further reading

Where to send from

The first thing you need if you're going to broadcast marketing emails is a platform from which to send.

You can, of course, just send from a 'personal' account (e.g. an Outlook, Yahoo or Gmail account), but there are several advantages to using a specialist tool such as MailChimp (one of the biggest and best), which is free for lists of up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails sent per month:

Design:

  • Different email programmes display formatting in different (sometimes infuriatingly so!) ways. An email that looks lovely in your Outlook account might look very different, or even 'broken', in a recipient's Gmail account. Most broadcasting tools make it easy to ensure that your email looks the same for everyone.
  • With specialist tools, you can be more adventurous and creative in the design of your emails, easily using columns, buttons, images and more

Email template examples

Management:

  • Sending to big lists from a personal email account can quickly get you marked as a spammer and result in your emails being blocked. Specialist programmes have built up the technology and reputation to avoid this
  • Managing lists (adding new people, removing 'dead' accounts etc.) can be time-consuming. Specialist tools take a lot of this work off your hands, and can allow people to sign up to (and remove themselves from) your emails easily via an online link or form.
  • Specialist tools automatically take care of many of the legal requirements (see below) that you would otherwise have to perform manually

Reporting:

  • Specialist tools allow you to see how many of your subscribers have opened and clicked on your emails, and often also which bit they have clicked on. This allows you to monitor your progress, identify the things that result in the best impact and tailor your future sends for best impact.

MailChimp reporting interface

Who to send from

Whether you're sending from a personal account or a specialist tool, the 'From' name and address are important to get right. Studies have found them to be the most important factor in whether an email is trusted enough to be opened or not. So what should you aim for?

'From' name:

This is the name listed next to an email in your recipients' email programme. Aim for one that is easily-recognisable for your recipients, so that they can easily see that it isn't spam, and that it might be of interest. The best approach is usually to use your group's name or a variation on this (e.g. 'Penbury Choir' or 'Penbury Choir - Events'.

In some cases, using a real person's name (e.g. 'Chris Benson') rather than a group name can be effective, but this only usually works if that person is well-known to the recipients. On that basis, you'd be more likely to use a person's name for internal emails (e.g. rehearsal reminders for members) than for ones to potential audiences.

N.B. Some email programmes will only show a limited amount of characters for a 'From' address, so try to keep it short or keep the most important words at the beginning.

'From' email address:

As with the 'from' name, the 'from' address should be recognisable to the recipients and should reflect the group's name. Do make sure it's a valid email address (so that people can reply to your emails easily) and if you can, avoid using free webmail addresses (e.g. 'penburychoir@yahoo.co.uk'), instead opting for an address registered through your group's own domain (e.g. 'info@penburychoir.com' or 'events@penburychoir.com'). Consult your domain name provider if you are unsure of how to set one of these up. 

Building a subscriber list

The basis of effective email marketing is a 'clean', growing list of subscribers who have opted in to receive your messages. Aside from the traditional Excel spreadsheet, there are a number of ways you can ensure as many people as possible sign up to receive your emails.

Pop-up suscriber form

Create an online sign-up form:

  • Most specialist tools will include the option to create an online form from which users can subscribe in one click. These emails will then be automatically added to your lists for sending, with no need to import or copy-and-paste them into your 'To' address.
  • Make the form as short as possible - the longer it is, the less likely people will complete it. The usual standard is name, email and a confirmation that they want to receive emails from you (see below)

Make the form visible to your audiences:

Once you have a sign-up form linked to your broadcast account, you need to make sure it's somewhere people will see it.

  • Embed it on a page on your website - broadcast tools like MailChimp allow you to copy HTML code to paste on a page on your website, making it easy for visitors to sign up when they pass through
  • Add a subscriber pop-up form to your website - with a bit more work you can also add a pop-up form that appears to your website's visitors when they spend a certain amount of time (e.g. 3 minutes) on your site, or after they look at a particular page. This is a bit more advanced, but there are lots of modules and apps for Wordpress and Drupal sites to help you do this and it can be very effective.
  •  Add a sign-up form to Facebook - if you have a company page on Facebook for your group, you can add a sign-up form so that a 'subscribe' button appears next to your photos, 'likes' etc. on your profile page.  

Target your existing audiences:

Although some may already be email subscribers, it's unlikely that everyone at your concerts will be, and since you've just given them a great show, they have a good reason to want to hear from you in the future. Offering them an early-bird rate on tickets for the following concert, for example, has the double-benefit of providing a reason for people to subscribe and encouraging early bookings for your next event.

  • Make sure you have an easy way to sign up - either a paper form, or (usually better) an iPad or computer with the sign-up form open and ready
  • Make sure you ask people to sign up - don't be embarrassed to ask people if they would like to sign up at the end (or beginning) of the concert. Few people will gravitate towards a table with a form/computer on it, but if you point it out to people on the way in or out (or in the interval) you'll likely get a few new subscribers
  • Include a mention of how they can sign up in your programme (so they can sign up when they get home or the next day)

Finally, make sure you give people a reason to sign-up!

incentive to sign up

Wherever you give people the option to subscribe to your emails you should briefly explain why they would want to. That might involve offering a discount on the next booking, for example, but often is simply a case of re-framing the act of signing-up in terms of the benefits they get from subscribing:

E.g. 'Be the first to hear about our concerts' or 'Get access to early-bird discounts' will almost always get a better response than  'Sign up to our emails'.

Keeping on the right side of the law

Whether you're sending marketing emails from a personal account or a specialist tool, there are some fundamental rules that you need to abide by in order to keep on the right side of the Data Protection Act (1998) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (2003). The good news is that these are mostly common sense and a lot of them will be automatically covered by most specialist broadcast tools.

  1. Ensure you have permission to email the people on your list

Before you are allowed to email someone, they need to either have consented to receive emails from you or to have previously been a customer for a related product/service (e.g. they gave you their email when booking a ticket for a previous concert).

The simplest way to ensure you have a recipient's consent is to have them fill out a form (online or offline) to sign up to your emails with a tick-box to confirm their consent. This should include a clear and specific description of what they are consenting to (e.g. 'I would like to receive emails from GROUP NAME...') and of the type and content of emails they will receive (e.g. '...about forthcoming events, concerts and performance opportunities.').

  1. Include a contact email and postal address in your email footer

Although this isn't always necessary, it's a good thing to include.

  1. Include a method for users to opt-out in every email you send

Every marketing email you broadcast has to include a clear way for recipients to 'opt-out' from being sent emails by you in the future. This is usually in the form of an 'unsubscribe' link at the bottom of the email. This either automatically removes the recipient from your mailing list (if you're using a specialist tool), or allows them to email you to request being removed (if you're sending from a 'personal' account).

It's good practice to also include a reminder of why they have received the email, as this will help reduce the risk of recipients forgetting they have signed up and marking your email as spam. E.g.

"You have been sent this email because you opted in to hear about our forthcoming concerts and other events. If you would no longer like to receive these, please reply to this email with 'unsubscribe'."

Once someone has 'opted-out' you should ensure that they are promptly removed from any mailing lists for sends in the future (ideally immediately, but at most within 3 months).

  1. Ensure you abide by the Data Protection Principles

Finally, as with any situation where you are collecting and storing people's data, you should ensure that you are abiding by the eight Data Protection Principles. You can find out more about these in our guidance notes.

Now you know what you need to do to build your subscriber list, and who and how to email them. Next we'll move on to cover what you should include in your email itself!

Read part 2: Building a great email


Further reading

Choosing an specialist email broadcasting tool:

Collecting subscriber emails:

Regulations:

Monitoring and improving:


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.