The Importance of an Email List

Last week, in a post about top mistakes artists make on their websites, I briefly touched on the importance of an email list in order to keep in contact with your base. Today I’d like to expand on the topic and give you an in-depth look at the function of the email list, how to manage one, and what to expect when you go to create that very first bulk email.

Having a website is all well and good, most would say it is a necessary piece of being a successful working artist. But you can not rely on this stationary clearing house to maintain contact with your audience. Even if you’re blogging, there is absolutely no guarantee that anyone will remember to take a minute to visit. People lead busy lives. Don’t leave it up to them to schedule you into their mental calendars.

Enter, the email list. What does this mean? How do you get one? Once you have one, what do you put in it? And even after you’ve created an email, who do you send it to? Fear not–I’ve got all the answers below. Read on and by the end of this post, the idea of an email list won’t seem at all intimidating.

The first step in creating your email list is choosing a host site through which you will design and send your messages. There are several out there all with slightly different bells and whistles. Some of the major options include Mail Chimp, AWebber, and iContact. Each site offers something a little different but the basic gist is the same. A service that allows you to design beautifully customized emails and deliver them to a large contact list. These sites go a step further offering the ability to track your emails’ progress, find out how many of your recipients opened them, employ data to see how you’re doing over all, and more. Depending on the level of your subscription, experts are also available to assist you with an email marketing campaign. But the good news about sites like these is that they almost always have a free option when you begin with a small list or no list. One other benefit to using an email site that you might not consider is that, unlike simply typing out a gmail and using the bcc function, hosts like these allow your readers to manage their subscriptions, even to unsubscribe if they prefer. This is of course not the desired outcome, but it is very important to allow your readers the ability to be in charge.

Once you have decided on an email platform, get to know the site well. Learn how to use the templates provided to customize your emails for maximum effect. All of these services allow you to include beautiful, full-color digital photos of your work to enhance communications. Be sure to read up on all the helpful tips each site offers. Everything from ideas for a successful email campaign to how to track your data. Before you type a single word in an email, you should be an expert in the site you’ve chosen understanding exactly how you can make it work for you.

Now that you’ve chosen your email server and have a good understanding of how to stay in contact with your site visitors, it’s important to be sure they actually provide you with an email to which you can send these masterpieces. That’s where your website comes in and is probably one of, if not the most important aspect of the entire site. There are two spots where you’ll want to include a sign up for your email list–on the Contact page and on the Home page. That’s right. As soon as someone lands on your site, it is absolutely critical they be immediately presented with the option to sign up. Why? Because who knows whether they’ll make it to the Contact page. You have mere seconds to bring new people on board. Be sure there is absolutely no way they can miss your email sign up. You can also add emails from previous lists you have, like friends and family and people who have bought or shown an interest in your work in the past.

The actual content of your email is up to you of course. Some basic guidelines are to keep things relatively brief–you don’t want to send a novel to your email list each and every time–and to keep things fresh and current. Have an upcoming show? Devote an email, or at least part of an email, to promoting it. Let your audience know what’s happening in the studio, keep them aware of upcoming projects, grants, awards, anything and everything pertinent to your career right now. Be chatty, not formal like a straight announcement, explain what you are doing in the studio, what you are reading, what excites you, and ask your readers questions, be creative.

The most important thing about your emails is that they should never be stale. Unlike your website which is relatively static (although there is merit to changing and updating your site too, of course) emails are newsletters packed with the current events of your life and art career.

Make the most of your templates. Include images–after all, you work in a visual field. Photos of your work, your studio, your day to day life, whatever seems engaging and appropriate for the content. The sky’s the limit. This is your chance to connect on a regular basis with your audience. Personalize these messages, strive to let your voice truly come through. Relax into the writing and the words will come. The best way to improve at anything is to keep doing it. So email regularly and build your list. It’s one of the best ways to be sure you keep your audience engaged. How often? Once a month at a minimum, but consider twice a month or more as you get going!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Brainard!

    I have had a loyal following for years – I have switched website and email services many times! I find it hard to grow my list. I have a guest book out at any exhibitions I do and a sign up on my website. I am looking more closely into instagram and Pinterest but I feel it’s difficult to promote the site and sign up on social media without coming off as obnoxious. Thoughts?

    • using your blog can help drive people to your site if your blog is on your site, as well as creating games – like “sign up for a chance to win a free print” or a pet portriat, etc., can generate a lot of email addresses if you post that on facebook more than once 🙂

    • One way I like to build my email list is offering a free gift for signing up. Can you give people a free download of a piece of your art, or a checklist that relates to art you create (for example 10 things to do to get motivated when you don’t feel like making art) Or if you teach art a small free lesson? Think about your ideal customer and what would appeal to them. Once this is created it will encourage people that visit your sight to sign up and you can share it around the internet (like social media) to find new people.

  2. Hi Brainard,
    Thanks for all the info about e-mails. I have checked out the sources you listed. I have connects for the free month. However my big problem is I don’t have an e-mail list yet because I’m just getting started. Have my friends and a few others but is sooooo small. Any suggestions?
    Gail

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