Gathering email addresses and the right to market to them — what Seth Godin long ago dubbed “permission marketing” — is a crucial part of any author or publisher’s marketing effort.
What kinds of books and email campaigns work best? What are some of the best practices publishers use to drive engagement?
At the Digital Book World conference in New York City, BookBub president Josh Schanker sat down with Jim Hanas of HarperCollins, Jeff Angle of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Ricci Wolman of Written World Media to discuss email marketing’s role in publishing. Here are our top eight takeaways from this panel discussion.
1. Build one master list of subscribers, then segment.
All three panelists had different strategies for segmenting their email lists. But they each suggested having one master list of subscribers, then creating targeted segments within that list. They pointed to the following benefits of this approach:
- You can send targeted content to relevant audiences to increase engagement rates.
- It’s easier to manage one master list than several fragmented databases.
- You can easily track one contact’s engagement across multiple segments.
- You can control the amount of content one contact receives across multiple segments.
2. Cater the content to a targeted audience.
Sending one email to all subscribers is generally a bad idea — instead, send targeted content based on individuals’ interests and their place in the buying cycle. You can know what subscribers are interested in based on the specific lists they’ve signed up for. In general, the more targeted the self-identification, the higher the response rates.
Advanced email service providers like Eloqua (or simpler platforms like HubSpot or MailChimp) can help you tailor your content to readers. These tools allow marketers to send a series of emails to readers customized for their place in the buying cycle and their actions.
3. Keep your email list engaged.
Regularly send your contacts valuable content. Keep everyone engaged so that when you have something specific to sell, you have an audience to reach out to.
Also, keep your list clean. If people are not engaging with any of your emails, remove them from your list. Not doing so will decrease engagement rates and can also hurt your deliverability scores.
4. Experiment to find levers you didn’t know you had.
Email is one of the most controllable marketing environments. You can easily test to see what kinds of content and copy impacts revenue the most. You may have powerful levers that you didn’t even know existed. Don’t be afraid to experiment and fail, because you might find a tactic that blows your numbers through the roof.
5. Focus your content with one primary call-to-action.
In general, short-form emails with highly engaging content perform better. Set one goal for your email. What is the primary action you want recipients to take?
Also, buttonize everything. Calls-to-action that are buttons get higher click-through rates, particularly on mobile. But make sure your buttons are HTML styled with CSS — never use images as buttons, as some recipients will have images turned off by default.
6. Avoid all-caps and exclamation points.
Although panelists pointed out that it was a preference, and that they had no data to support the preference, they suggested avoiding all-caps and exclamation points in subject lines. Using these make it feel like you’re screaming at your recipients. However, using exclamation points within your email to emphasize a point can work well if used sparingly.
7. Pay to grow email lists faster.
Organically growing your email list can take a long time. If you want to grow your list quickly, set a small budget to target a specific audience and drive them to your email signup page. Give people a reason to sign up to your list — offer a discount, free content, or something valuable other than simply signing up to a newsletter.
You don’t have to invest a lot. Target a narrow audience based on your business goals. One word of warning about building lists with advertising: Make sure you have a way to track the quality of your signups. You’ll waste a lot of money if you pay for a list of email address that don’t open your emails.
8. Align your success metrics with your goals.
As with any other marketing activity, it’s important to set clear goals before segmenting your lists and creating content. If branding and visibility are your primary goals, looking at your open rate and click-through rate might be enough. If increasing revenue is your primary goal, it’s important to examine your conversion rate. Knowing your goals will let you define targeted lists and what content you should send to each list.
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