What Is Email Marketing?
Email marketing allows you to capture the names and email addresses of your prospects and customers via a simple online form. It facilitates follow-up at scale via a web-based email service, allowing authors to automate their marketing and connect better with their readers.
Instead of writing a single email and adding cc to copy in many recipients, email marketing allows you to send personalised marketing emails to thousands of people at one time. They can be simple text emails or beautifully designed and branded emails, and they should contain links to your work.
Email marketing gives you full analytics about who’s opening your emails and if they’re consuming your content and makes it easy to monitor, tweak and improve what you're doing.
In short, it's an essential marketing component for businesses of any size, including all indie authors.
Is this spam?
Definitely not! Spam is a marketing mail that the recipient never requested and is unable to unsubscribe from. Proper email marketing is always permission-based and we always stop sending emails the minute the recipient wants us to cease.
What is a list?
We refer to a database of subscribers as a ‘list’, and the aim is to grow your list as much as you can with targeted and interested leads, who we hope will eventually become devoted readers.
The bigger your list, the more contact details you have at your fingertips and the more readers you can send marketing emails to at any one time.
It's ‘customers on demand', and every time you publish a new book, you have a ready-made source of buyers all queuing up and ready to make a purchase.
What's the best way to start?
There are many email marketing software services available, but the best place to start is with MailChimp at http://mailchimp.com. Other popular services are AWeber and GetResponse.
MailChimp is free up to 2,000 contacts and 12,000 email sends per month.
That's a great deal for an author who's just getting started with email marketing.
The best way to send out a free e-book
The most common requirement for indie authors is to ask readers to sign up to an email list in exchange for a free book, in mobi. epub or pdf format.
Never send these as attachments in MailChimp. It's always better – and more trustworthy – to deliver via a web link. The simplest way to do this is via a Dropbox share link (see https://www.dropbox.com).
A better resource to use is Book Funnel which is free for new authors: https://bookfunnel.com.
If you're using MailChimp, check out instaFreebie at https://www.instafreebie.com/authors, because it integrates directly with that service and is free for basic users.
You might find my free one-hour quick-start video useful, especially if you're new to email marketing. This presentation will teach you everything you need to know to get started and demonstrate how to set up the basics in MailChimp.
Meanwhile, here are my top three tips for using MailChimp.
Tip 1: Send A Welcome Email
The free level of MailChimp does not allow for automation, and most authors come immediately unstuck when they try to figure out how to send a first email with a link to a free book. That's easily solved without upgrading your account. Navigate to Lists > Signup Forms > General Forms . Then click on the drop-down menu  then select Final ‘welcome' email from the list. You should customise this email and include a link to your free book, delivered via Dropbox, BookFunnel or instaFreebie.
Make sure that you have “Send a final welcome email” selected in your Campaign defaults .
Tip 2: Back-Up Your Data
It's important to remember that when you gather Likes on Facebook and Followers on Twitter, you don't actually ‘own' those fans. It's always sensible not to build your business on somebody else's platform. So, while social media is a great way to find new readers and interact with them, always do so with the aim of getting those fans into your email marketing list. Your list of names and email addresses is an asset in your author business, something that you own and which is portable. To backup your data onto your hard drive, navigate to Profile > Settings > Manage My Data. Click on Build My Data Backup  to create the CSV file and, once the file has been built, click the link to download the file . Store this safely on your PC and repeat the process of a regular basis, depending on how fast your list is increasing in size.
Tip 3: Experiment With A/B Testing
A/B testing, or ‘split testing' as it's known, is the process of testing multiple components of your email marketing to determine what is working and what is not. If you have an email list of a decent size – over 1000 subscribers works best – then you should definitely give this a try. When you create a new campaign, select A/B testing campaign instead of Regular campaign [1/2].
MailChimp allows you to test the following elements:
- Subject line
- From name
- Send time
“Subject line” is the best and easiest component to test for the new email marketer, with “Send time” following after that. Test three different subject lines and determine which delivers the most opens over a period of 1 day or more.
A typical test might be:
- Send subject line 1 to 15% of email subscribers
- Send subject line 2 to 15% of email subscribers
- Send subject line 3 to 15% of email subscribers
After 24 hours, send the most popular subject line to the remaining 55% of subscribers. MailChimp will determine which of the subject lines is getting the best response, and at a certain point, determined by you, it will deliver the winning subject line to the remainder of your email list. Using split testing takes the guesswork out of email marketing, it gives you empirical data on which to base your marketing decisions.
MailChimp is a powerful and free tool which should be used by all indie authors to grow a list of prospects and readers. It is an important asset in any business and will, in time, give you a source of ‘customers on tap' which you can turn on whenever you launch a new book.
OVER TO YOU Like to share your top tips for using MailChimp? Do you have reasons for preferring a different email marketing system? Do tell!