How to build a mailing list to promote your art
According to the Exact Target survey (2013), 91% of internet users check their email every single day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a plethora of other online platforms offer alternative means of communication with potential art fans, but email is the most direct, personal and effective way of creating targeted campaigns to promote events, exhibitions or your artwork in general.
And email is still the most trusted means of communication for marketing of any kind (Communications Market Report 2014). Of course your email communication has be done in an artful way to yield results; to find out more about crafting a compelling update via your newsletter see our recent post on the subject.
But before you can even start to create a great email campaign, you need to build a list of willing and enthusiastic recipients. In this article we’ll take a look at a few ways to tempt potential fans to sign up to your mailing list. We won’t be covering the technicalities of setting up a mailing list with one of the free services (here at TextileArtist.org we use MailChimp – find out more about setting up a free MailChimp account).
What does your audience want?
A tried and tested method of getting people onto your mailing list (and thus providing them with regular information about your art and current activities) is providing what internet marketing guru Pat Flynn calls an opt-in magnet. Basically it means offering an incentive; an instant win for the subscriber.
Here at TextileArtist.org we offer a free inspirational eBook that charts the journey of artist Sue Stone; this is sent directly to the inbox of anyone who signs up for our monthly newsletter.
As an individual artist, you might offer a complimentary eBook exploring your process or tracking a piece of work from conception to creation. Alternatively, you could create a simple PDF, an exclusive video or a free podcast episode.
The important thing is that the process of receiving such a free gift is simple and painless; if you force subscribers to jump through too many hoops they’ll lose interest and not bother seeing the process through. Ideally the free welcome gift should land in their inbox directly after signing up (most email marketing providers require double opt-in meaning that subscribers will have to confirm first via email that they want to receive communication from you).
What else is in it for them?
In your sign-up area (which is normally in a sidebar on your website) make sure you outline the other benefits of signing up for your artist newsletter. In the TextileArtist.org newsletter we often run competitions; prizes have ranged from magazine subscriptions and books through to having your own artist website designed and built by us.
Can you offer something similar? Or do you have contacts that can help give discounts for events and exhibitions? Could you give away prints of your work? Use your imagination and tell your audience what they can expect to gain from signing up.
Why should people trust you?
Through experience we’ve discovered that it’s unlikely people will hand over their email address the first time they come across your site or blog; email subscribers need to feel they can trust you. How do you convince them that you are indeed trustworthy?
Firstly, tell them. This may sound simplistic, but assurance that they won’t be spammed by you or third-parties, that their inbox isn’t going to be overwhelmed with updates and that you will never pass their email address on without their permission can go a long way to relieving their anxieties about handing over their email address. Make sure you tell them (again in the sign-up area) that you’ll only ever get in touch with something that may be interest, or that will educate or benefit them in another way.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to produce other types of content that can be consumed by your audience prior to them making a decision about whether they are happy to sign up to your mailing list (content that they access without sharing personal information). Your blog and social media platforms are the perfect places to give tasters of what people can expect if they sign up to your newsletter. If you are a likeable expert in your specific field and you demonstrate this you’ll establish trust more easily.
Remember, all of this content should have a clear benefit to the reader. It should not be purely self-promotional – this will not encourage trust or give people a reason to deepen their connection with you and your art. Can you teach them a skill? Or give them something they can’t get anywhere else? How can your work as an artist inspire them? You need to use your imagination to do all of the above artfully, but it is possible. Ultimately you’ll nurture a much stronger, more loyal relationship with your audience this way.
Who else is already benefitting from your content?
One of the most effective ways of convincing people that you have something of value to offer is social proof; everyone wants to be part of something big. Even people professing to be loners eventually find other loners to hang out with. The more you can make your newsletter subscriber list a community of like-minded individuals the more attractive it will seem to others.
If you already have a healthy list of subscribers, you can use a headline such as ‘Join 5,000 other art fans and sign up for my monthly newsletter’. If this isn’t the case it’s time to get creative.
Why not add testimonials from respected figures in the art community? Mine your contacts and pull in a few favours. Which gallery owners you’ve worked with would be willing to say something positive about you and your work? Has a magazine given you a brilliant review recently you can quote from?
Perhaps you don’t have many newsletter subscribers but you do have a large number of Twitter followers; using these figures to convince people they will be signing up to be part of a larger, enthusiastic community can be a really effective.
How easy is it for your audience to sign up?
Free services like MailChimp make it super-easy to create simple forms for people to sign up to your newsletter. You can create as many custom fields as you like; my advice would be to only ask for the essential information – a first name and an email address. Asking potential newsletter subscribers to hand over an endless amount of information before you send them your updates can be a turn-off; the more straightforward the process is, the more likely you are to entice people to opt-in.
Are you using every opportunity to build your list online?
Make sure your sign-up form is in a position on your website and blog where it can capture the attention of visitors. We use a pop-up sign-up form on TextileArtist.org; internet marketers have varying opinions on the effectiveness of such tactics. Many feel pop-ups are intrusive and distracting. As long as they are easy to discard, I don’t see a problem; our opt-in rate has seen a significant increase since we started using the pop-up and we’re not forcing anybody to sign up, merely making sure they know it’s an option.
You can also easily place a form on your Facebook page making it easy to convert fans into newsletter subscribers (remember email is a far more effective way of engaging with people on a deeper level than the throw-away culture of social media).
You can tweet links to your sign up forms to take advantage of any followers on that platform too.
How about offline?
Internet marketing is highly effective, but it’s a mistake to concentrate all of your list-building efforts online. It can actually be really useful to spend some time promoting your newsletter at live events. Engaging with potential fans and buyers on a personal level is priceless and a real conversation can lead to a much more dedicated follower who wants to know more about you and your work.
Why not have easily accessible sign-up sheets in prominent areas at exhibitions, events and arts and craft shows allowing visitors to leave their email addresses? You can then add them manually to your mailing list later. This can work just as well at workshops and talks.
A small side note here: never add an email address without the recipient’s consent – you’d be amazed how many mailing lists myself and Sam (in our capacity as the co-creators of TextileArtist.org) have magically been added to without giving our permission.
Finally, it can be a good idea to add the URL of your sign-up form to postcards, business cards and other promotional material. Keep an eye out for any opportunity to let people know they can keep up to date with what you’re up to.
A mailing list can be a highly valuable and ultimately lucrative asset. Have you started building yours yet?
Have you found any effective ways of building your mailing list that we haven’t covered in this article? Why not let us know in the comments section below?