E-mail is the fastest, easiest way to communicate directly with many people at one time. An effective e-marketing campaign begins with the creation of a quality mailing list. Developing that all-important distribution list is an ongoing process of acquiring contacts and managing the list serve.
A mailing list is a lot like a Rolodex: It can either be chock full of business cards of people you met once who do zero for you, or it can be selectively filled with names of people who are right for your business.
Who should be on your mailing list? Your supporters and those who can propel your art career forward. Clients and potential clients, family and friends, talented and interesting people you know from a diversity of professions, demographics and personalities who can be valuable personal and business connections. You should also include art professionals — gallery owners, art consultants, art dealers and designers — that are attracted to the type of art that you create. (Emerging artists, you will likely be more successful by starting geographically closer to home and building a reputation with the local arts scene before seeking national connections.) Remember also local, state, regional and national arts organizations to which you are affiliated—both those specific to the medium in which you work and groups inclusive of visual arts in general.
The media, though a primary recipient of your press releases, is not generally included in your marketing campaigns. Only send marketing announcements to those members of the media with whom you have developed a personal relationship and who are interested in receiving your newsletters and other promotional mailings.
E-mail is considered spam (also known as unsolicited commercial e-mail) when the message in the e-mail is sent to multiple recipients who have not specifically requested it. Adhere to the following best practices to avoid spam accusations: Use a permission-based mailing list where addresses are obtained through an opt-in subscription method; do not purchase or rent address lists from a third party; do not send mailings to nonspecific addresses such as postmaster@[domainname].com or sales@[domainname].com unless you know the recipient and permission is clear; do not send messages to distribution mailing addresses (an e-mail address that mails to more than one e-mail address).
Now that you have assembled names and addresses, get consent before you start firing off bulk mailings. Follow CAN-SPAM rules*, and you won’t have to worry about violating spam regulations. In fact, if you subscribe to a reputable e-marketing service, you will be required to state that you have permission to send mailings to these addresses. What constitutes permission?
Frank Fusaro is a member of the list review team for Constant Contact, one of the largest providers of e-mail marketing and online survey tools for small businesses and nonprofits. Fusaro states that Constant Contact’s terms and conditions allow that “as long the people in your list know who you are and would expect an e-mail from you,” then you do not have to seek further consent.
Fusaro advises Constant Contact customers who do not have a prior relationship with people they want to add as contacts to seek permission by using an e-mail account outside of Constant Contact, such as Outlook. Essentially, the sender e-mails a message inviting prospective contacts to opt-in to receiving mailings from the Constant Contact account. The message directs individuals to a sign-up box on the sender’s Web site. Fusaro notes that Constant Contact offers a wizard for creating the sign-up box as well as a sign-up form. Those who do not have a Web site can paste a link in the message that will direct recipients to a Constant Contact Web page where they can register to receive mailings.
When you seek consent, you could offer multiple consent boxes that allow individuals to choose whether they want to receive only press releases and announcements or also promotional mailings. (Some artists and arts organization marketing directors prefer to send press releases to members of the media via their personal e-mail account because people on the distribution list are familiar with the sender’s e-mail address.)
So far, you have amassed at least five contact categories: family and friends, clients, art professionals, arts organizations, and press. You may think of more (“students,” “artists”) and that’s great! Create these categories in the contacts section of your e-mail account. When you enter the contacts (double-check manually-entered addresses for accuracy), save them to the proper categories. This will save you time when you want to send targeted blasts.
The more details you include about each contact, the easier it is to send blasts to a defined audience—people in a particular city, state, or region, or previous attendees at your shows, workshops, classes, or art fair booth.
Grow the list
How do you capture more names? The Internet, in-person encounters, even paper documents offer the chance to add another name to your mailing list, while retaining its serviceability since contacts will have chosen to be on the list:
- On the home page of your Web site and your blog, add a “Sign up for my newsletter” box or a link to a “Join the mailing list” form.
- On the signature line of your regular e-mails, invite recipients to join your mailing list and include the link.
- Include a “forward me” feature and a “sign up” feature in your e-newsletters, announcements, and other digital mailings so that the recipient of a forwarded e-mail can automatically subscribe. (If you use an e-marketing service, just enable the “forward e-mail” and “subscribe me” features when you create the e-mail. Otherwise, have your Web developer program these into the mailing.)
- At your art fair or festival booth, place a mailing list sign-up sheet on one of your tables.
- When you meet someone who you want to build a relationship with, ask him as you are exchanging business cards or contact information, “May I put you on my mailing list?” A less “in your face” method is to include the question in a follow-up note or e-mail.
- On any written form that people return to you via U. S post or courier service, ask for an e-mail address. Add the phrase “May I send you information via e-mail?” followed by two unchecked boxes labeled “Yes” and “No.”
Tricks for a more effective list
Keep the list current. Promptly add new subscribers and remove those who have unsubscribed. If you use an e-marketing service, this is done for you automatically. If not, you will have to do this task manually. Always include a link in your e-mail that allows subscribers to change or update their e-mail address.
Follow-up immediately with new contacts. Autoresponders are helpful for managing this task. If you subscribe to an e-marketing service, simply customize the body of the welcome letter template; and schedule a site visitor signup report to be sent to you regularly.
The wonderful thing about using e-marketing service is that you can track results for every mailing. Analyze addresses that bounced. Did some fail because the address is nonexistent? In that case, check whether you typed the wrong address or else contact the person and verify the address. Perhaps the mailbox was full, in which case, you could resend the mailing to that contact later. If your message was blocked, you could attempt to obtain a different address for that contact or ask the person to take steps to get the block lifted.
Quality beats quantity
A good mailing list does not have to be huge. What you want is a responsive list that creates relationships for you. You want a packed gallery of art-lovers at your upcoming exhibition. You want eager art students to fill every space for your next class or workshop. And yes, you want those periodic feel-good replies (“Beautiful piece!”) that encourage you to keep doing what you love. If you make it a priority to develop your mailing list, your contacts will grow and your opportunities for success will increase. AC
Contributing writer and communications consultant Ligaya Figueras specializes in business writing, marketing and media relations for visual and performance artists, writers, nonprofit organizations and specialty service providers. Follow Ligaya on Twitter at twitter.com/LigayaFigueras, or friend her on Facebook at facebook.com/ligaya.figueras.