Email has become a resource many of us would have trouble living without these days. However, email is more than a convenient method for keeping in touch with friends and relatives, or receiving inter-office memos. When used effectively, email is a powerful marketing tool.
An email list is the most valuable asset for any photography business. It’s the easiest and most direct way to engage with past and potential clients and encourage them to do more business with you. In fact, most photographers book more clients after sending out an email, than at any other time during the year. However, if the emails are never opened, they are obviously of little effect. When you send an email to a list of 1,000 people, 300 might open the email driving 50 clicks back to a website. How many of those visitors lead to new business? A strategy for getting emails delivered, opened, and clicked is essential!
It’s cost effective. Sending email is free. Unlike Facebook, you own your contacts and you can reach every single one of them every time you have something to share. Building a list takes time, but most things of value do. Joy Vertz has told us that she has to hire an additional assistant to answer phones in her studio the day that she sends out her newsletter because the phone does not stop ringing. Wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have?
It keeps you on their mind. When potential clients first visit your site, they may love your work, but if they’re not ready to book, they may never come back to it. Giving them the option to sign up for a newsletter allows you to nurture a relationship with them so that when they or someone they know needs a photographer, you are the first person they think of.
Mailchimp is an easy to use email platform that is free (for up to 12,000 emails and 2,000 subscribers). There are other similar services, but Mailchimp is one of the most popular, and has great documentation to make it easy to get started.
*Install an email collection form on your home page using the instructions here. Keep the form simple. The more information you ask for, the less likely people will be to fill it out.
* Give people a reason to subscribe! Offering them the chance to win a makeover with a partner business is a great incentive. Be creative though! Think about your target client and what they might want. We know of family photographers who offer a “Tips for Taking better iPhone Pictures” guide and wedding photographers who offer “Tips for Planning a Wedding”when clients sign up for the newsletter.
[Related: Aweber vs Mailchimp]
You have 3-5 seconds to convince them your email is valuable
Before crafting an email, create a value proposition. That’s a fancy marketing term telling the user what’s in it for them and what action to take. This should be something that grabs their attention right away. Your proposition might be education (what to wear, tips for hanging prints) or an offer (discount to loyal customers, limited holiday sessions available). Attention to subject lines will drastically affect how many users see your emails.
Tell the user what to do
Write about what your target clients care about. A good newsletter establishes you as an expert in your field and showcases your work, but it also needs to be about something other than you. If you want people to open your email, you have to create content that is interesting and helpful.
For example, Heather Donlan, a destination photographer in Naples, FL photographs a lot of people who are on vacation. Her newsletter includes information about attractions and the best new restaurants in town. Your newsletter doesn’t have to be lengthy. Start simple.
Every email needs a call to action that tells the user what you want them to do. The best calls to action reinforce the subject line and are repeated in various ways throughout the email. For example a subject line of “7 Tips for Better Wedding Photos” may have a link at the top that says “View examples of better wedding photos,” a button at the bottom that says “Contact Zach to get better wedding photos,” and a clickable wedding image on the right that says “Click the image to see Zach’s best wedding photos.” No matter where the user clicks, you achieve the goal to get the user to view more images or contact you. Timing also affects a campaign’s success. You wouldn’t send an email in June talking about Christmas sessions. Similarly, don’t send an email on Sunday evening if your subscribers respond to email during business hours. The most effective time to send emails is Tuesday mornings, but you can experiment with your list to see if that holds true.
Give a reason to subscribe
There are many businesses that offer periodic newsletter subscriptions to their customers, and other visitors to their websites. This is a great way to promote your business and remain in touch with past and future clients. However, if the client is unsure how the newsletter will benefit them, they won’t give up their email address to simply “subscribe”. So what can you offer an existent or potential client to interest them in receiving your newsletters? Perhaps tips on taking photos at home, preparing for a photo session, or ideas to hang portraits. You can see how this sort of information is written in the interest of the user and therefore captures more interest than an email newsletter that simple “sells.” For return customers, I offer an email subscription to my blog posts. People who read the valuable content in my posts like them are likely to sign up to receive them in email.
Build a scheduled series of emails
However, newsletters can be a very time-consuming endeavor. This is why I use auto responders. An auto responder is a scheduled series of emails that walks a subscriber through my most important information. My website with web marketing ideas for photographers uses an example of this. 5 pre-written emails get automatically delivered over time to educate new website visitors with valuable information. The content is excellent, stuff I normally charge for. Each email is an opportunity to expose my brand, build trust, and get someone to contact me.
– Subscribers have a reason to sign up (valuable information)
– Everyone starts at the beginning
– I only have to write 5 emails instead of an ongoing weekly newsletter
– Grows 5-10 times more quickly than other email campaigns
– People can’t wait for the next email (high open rates)
– People refer their friends to subscribe
Auto responder benefits over traditional email newsletters:
– Huge time savings. It takes 5 minutes to email the text of a blog post and hours to create a newsletter
– More readers to your blog
– More comments on your site because you reach more people with blog content
– Ability to up-sell with promotional messages (can’t do that with RSS subscribers)
Maximizing your Impact
* To maximize your impact, think carefully about what the subject of your email is. Your email subject is the difference between your email getting opened or not getting opened. Think about what types of emails you open in your inbox, and try to use that to get inspired for your own email subjects.
* Write your emails in your own unique voice. Once the email is opened, your unique voice that resonates with your audience is what is going to get the email read.
* A great way to spread your brand is to have your emails forwarded to other people. Think about what types of content is more likely to get shared by your audience. Helpful tips and cute pictures are some examples of content that is likely to get shared.
* First give, then ask. If you want to ask for business, or a referrals, you’re more likely to get results if you first give. Give tips. Give great content. Give advice. And then, once your audience trusts your email content, you can ask for something. Always ensure you’re giving more than you’re asking, though, when it comes to email; otherwise, your audience may unsubscribe from your email list
* Monitor your email open rate. Mailchimp and other services allow you to track a lot of data related to the emails you send. Take particular note of emails that perform either very well, or very poorly, and try to figure out why. That is the best way to learn and improve your content over time.
Like many new tools, email marketing takes a little bit of time to figure out. The more you do it, the easier it will get. The easier it gets, the more you can do it.
Remember to give people a reason to subscribe, open, and act on your emails. Strong subject lines, call to action links, and autoresponder emails can help accomplish this to make the most out of your email marketing efforts.