Who’s excited about what e-newsletter provider to use? *Crickets*
(If you missed out on the rest of the 5 part e-newsletter series, it is as follows: the importance of having an e-mail newsletter, the broad planning of what you will offer, choosing a Service Provider, and What goes in the Welcome Email, Just Because You Build it, Doesn’t Mean they’ll Come. be sure to see the whole series.)
I know. The thought of picking an e-newsletter provider is just overwhelming, right? I wasted almost a YEAR trying to decide. But I made a New Year’s resolution to break free of the Perfectionist Trap and took this quote as my inspiration:
There are hundreds of different email marketing providers out there. Probably more. Now, before you think “Can’t I just email them from my google/ Yahoo/ Outlook?” please keep in mind that in this case you can’t because of this lovely thing called the CAN-SPAM act. There’s a lot to it, but the important points are that if you are sending mass transmissions (IE, an e-newsletter) then the person on the receiving end has some rights. 1. They have to have subscribed. You can’t just add everyone in your list. 2. They have to be able to UNSUBSCRIBE at any time that they choose. And about seven other important things that you really should read for yourself. Go click on the link above. I don’t have a lot of space here, people!
Which E-newsletter Tool to Use
So now that you’re back, we need to talk about what e-mail marketing provider to use. This is tricky, and the thing that hung me up for about a year. Getting an e-newsletter set up is an arduous process. I know, I did it for my old job. But I didn’t have the budget to go with the provider they went with.
However, because of working with the Lambo of e-mail marketing services, I knew all the cool bells and whistles I wanted/needed and most of the other guys don’t provide them all. Which is a little sad. We work with the budget we have, though, right?
So, you do want to know what bells and whistles you want. You also want to know what you can afford. You need to have a good sense of how technically inclined you are, and how technically challenging the software is.
Here is a great Top Ten Mailchimp Alternatives list so you can look at features and compare in-depth, but his graphic is really amazing:
Also, Tim Grahl and several other big-name authors are big fans of ConvertKit
I researched them all, over and over and over until I couldn’t remember who offered what. I created an ugly excel spreadsheet version of the pretty graphic above and listed every single feature listed on every single platform.
But at the end of the day, I chose Mailchimp. It lets you have 2k subscribers free. I figured it was a good test run and although the cost after that is higher than many of the other plans, it offered the features I was most interested in (Automation, A/B testing, advanced segmentation, social media ad integration, online store connection, and incredible analytics!) so my e-newsletter could grow as my business grows. A test run proved to be pretty user-friendly. (Secret Confession: I am technically illiterate and am just really good at faking it! I’m like that dyslexic kid in 4th grade who always carried a book around so people thought she could read, but technology really is a huge struggle for me and NEW technology, NO, PLEASE, NO! My husband holds my hand A LOT, techno whizz that he is!)
Even after Wix (My website provider at the time. I told you I am techno-illiterate!) stopped supporting the Mailchimp subscriber plug-in (NO!) I changed my blog to WordPress, because while it was arduous, I would rather do that than change from Mailchimp
Now, if all that stuff I just said is a bit overwhelming, don’t panic. Those are all really advanced features that you might not need right now. So let’s unpack the things you do want to have, whichever provider you choose:
Must Haves for an Author Newsletter
- You want the provider you choose to offer a subscribe form to allow people to automatically subscribe. It’s even better if that button can be used in multiple places. Every single one of the options on these lists offers this. Even MailerLite. (For the super techno-illiterate who also knows little about marketing. This is like riding a trike. No harm starting here if that’s what you prefer.) Why is this important? If they can’t subscribe, you can’t email them, right? And if you have to create a form yourself, you will have to regularly import all those people into your mailer. My workaround on my website was that I used Wix’s blog subscription, which meant that every week before I sent my e-newsletter, I would have to import all of those people into Mailchimp. It was a pain. If you can avoid that hassle, do it at all costs.
- You want an auto-responder as soon as they subscribe. This allows you to make sure that you don’t end up in their spam, thank them for joining you, and if you give a sample away, it sends it to them automatically. Why? Well, when I first started with Mailchimp, they didn’t have that for free. Which meant that I had to send an email every time someone subscribed giving them that information. I didn’t do it at first, and found I was losing a lot of subscribers on their first email. Why? Some of them forgot a week later that they had subscribed, or didn’t understand what they were signing up for. Since I added my autoresponder my unsub rate has dropped from 30% (Kinda high!) to less than 2%. We’ll talk more next week on what to put in the autoresponders, but for those who want to see how mine works. Feel free to subscribe. You’ll also get awesome bookish e-news in your inbox once a month!
- Fits your budget. A lot of these offer free features up to XX numbers of subscribers or XX number of emails sent. You have to weigh out when your list might become profitable if you need your book sales to pay for your project. For me, Mailchimp allows 2K free subscribers before you start getting charged. There wasn’t a limit on the number of emails. That was important to me as I was sending weekly e-newsletters and most of those weren’t selling my books. I know that I only publish 3-5 books a year, and even with sales, that list wasn’t going to be able to support sales for awhile. (Keep in mind that the average sales conversion rate is less than 24% of your audience. And I doubt they will be buying each book more than once. It’s complicated math. My husband did it for me.)
Those are the three basic things you really must have. (Besides the Can-Spam requirements, but I don’t remember coming across a single company that didn’t provide those, and certainly all the ones mentioned here do.)
Extra Features You May Want
If you are a multi-genre author or offer multiple services besides your e-books, you might want to include:
- List segmentation- This means that you can have a subscriber list for each genre. I plan to do this in the near future because I’ve learned that not everyone wants that weekly e-newsletter, and not all my readers cross all my genres. I will put the e-newsletter sign up for those segments in the back of each genre to match that segmentation so I don’t lose people. I’m still in the world view stage working on those.
- Good Analytics- Authors do not spend enough time looking at analytics (except maybe their sales and KENP charts, I think!) I get it. I’m not a fan of stats. Trying to understand what everything means is a bit of a brain wrap. But those analytics let you know if what you are doing is working people down the sales funnel. For example, just because you send an email out to your 500 subscribers, doesn’t mean they all open it and read it. Right? It also doesn’t tell you if after they opened it, they clicked on anything inside it, let alone what they clicked on. Mailchimp offers analytics, but they are based on open rates as reported by e-mail providers and that’s spotty, at best. I linked google analytics to my Mailchimp and according to Mailchimp, I only have a 24% open rate (A little above average) and a 2% click-thru (A little below average.) However, thanks to google analytics, I know that my click-thru on most emails is actually closer to 15%, which is really high! The key to this information is that you have to direct people to your website link rather than your amazon link if you want to be able to track this information. But it is definitely worth it!
Now, are you a social media hound and do social media advertising? You want social media ad integration to grow your list. (Yep, I cared, and Mailchimp has it.)
Do you have a webstore? You want the online store integration. (This is a paid feature on Mailchimp, but I know one day I plan on having this, so I wanted it with Mailchimp too.)
Are you ready to flex your marketing muscles? A./B testing allows you to send out slightly different e-newsletters to different parts of your list to see which one performs better. This allows you to improve your content to get better analytics and constantly up your e-newsletter game!
I know, this is a lot to unpack, and we only had a little bit of space, but if you have questions go ahead and drop them in the comments below. I’m always happy to help!
Until next time,