Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Create Compelling Newsletters

Newsletters...writing one is a good idea but do you actually know how to begin?How often should you do one? I can't write or I have nothing to share, I hear this all the time. I've helped create a "few" newsletters! And here are some of my tips to help you get started.

  • The Basics
I suggest publishing on a quarterly basis because most of us don't have enough content to write monthly. I read a lot of newsletters, and the majority of them just aren't that interesting. Even monthly if you have great content, over time it might be too much for your audience. I follow one particular artist and have loved her work for years. She generally does a monthly newsletter and I've been finding myself wanting to unsubscribe because it's just too much.

Many also include artwork and news that I've already seen on social media. No real fresh content and it feels like they are scraping together information just to say that they sent out a newsletter. Not to say that you shouldn't include this but if it's just copying and pasting what you already shared everywhere else, what's the point? A list of accomplishments, i.e. I did some paintings and I'm offering a workshop isn't enough. These are the newsletters that I quickly hit the unsubscribe button. I'm not saying that repeating information isn't good, it's just that it can't feel like leftovers, reheated and served on a paper plate. Keep it fresh and have a little fun. 
  • Always include an Introduction
Many artists just dive right into the news. Take the time to write a personal note, thank your subscribers for supporting you and add a little conversation about what is happening or something that you're excited to share. Treat it like talking to a friend. Without an introduction, if can feel a little mechanical or that you just whipped this out by plugging in information.
  • Don't Copy Someone Else
It's okay to like another artist's newsletter but if you are copying their content and just replacing your name, it is not authentic. While you might think their tagline is great and want to use it, it won't represent you. Be genuine. List words or phrases that describe your passion and art and create your own tag line that comes from within, not taken from someone else. Remember you are selling yourself, your art and if you use their words, it's not a clear representation of you. 
  • Share Yourself
Once again, I read a lot of newsletters and many leave me feeling that I have no connection to the artist. Make it personal. You don't need to over share but allowing your audience to catch a glimpse of your artistic life or your life, in general, is what will help "bind" you to your audience that might have never met you in person. A sense of humor can also help. 
  • Know your Audience
Ask yourself, do you know your audience? Have you just collected names from the internet and have no idea who is on your list or why? Think about what information you are sharing. Would  your subscribers find the information interesting? Act like you are the audience and see if you find your newsletter worth spending time reading. Remember your subscribers might include friends, family, collectors, students, etc. If your newsletter is primarily targeting one segment of your audience, then it's time to rethink the content.

Let's talk Subscribers for a minute.  It isn't about getting a certain number of subscribers, it's about having the right subscribers. Are you just asking people on Facebook to sign up for newsletter without really thinking through you are targeting?  If your Facebook friends are people that you know or are collectors/students great. Not saying that getting people to sign up from Facebook is bad but if that is your primary source of subscribers and you really don't have a strong connection to them, that probably won't turn a whole of lot of sales. Get off the computer and get out into the world. Think outside of the box.

  • Proper Etiquette 

    • If you have someone who you think might like your newsletter, send an email stating that you have a quarterly (monthly) newsletter and ask them if they would like to subscribe. Provide the link for them to do so. You can could post on Facebook a couple of days before you publish your newsletter informing your friends about the upcoming issue and add the link for them to subscribe. Adding people without their permission is against the law. It's also disrespectful to your audience. That is not the way to gain subscribers and can actually backfire. Also think about who you want to add. I manage the emails for a couple of artists and see people add them to their mailing lists with the assumption that because they like their work or have taken a workshop, that gives them permission add to their mailing list. I'm not saying that the artist might not be interested, I'm saying ALWAYS ask permission. It's their option, not yours.

      • Let's Talk Design
      The "hit" list for me is...color everywhere, multiple columns, too small or overly large images, too many or not enough images, long paragraphs that resemble a term paper. It makes me want to scream. Most readers scan first...if they are overwhelmed by content, or it looks like a kaleidoscope, you might get the "I'm outta here" response. 

      Yes, I know we are artists and most of us LOVE color but remember it's your ART that you want to highlight. I realize that purple might be your favorite color but trust me it won't make your artwork shine. On the other hand, black or dark backgrounds with light font doesn't work either. Bullet points with links are a great way to get your point across. It allows your audience to quickly scan the content. If you want to share a blog post, don't copy the entire post, just add a teaser, an image and then link to your blog. It's a good way to direct your readers to your blog, otherwise they may never visit it.

      Keep it clean, simple and well written. You aren't writing the next great American novel. You're just sharing what is happening with your art. Make it easy to read, no "cute" fonts, well formatted and don't include the entire color wheel.

      • Links

      You might think this is not necessary to discuss but I find many newsletters that don't contain links to purchase art, sign up for a workshop, etc. Always include links to your website or include your email. How do you expect your audience to interact with you if you don't give them the opportunity or way to do so? 
      • CTA (Call to Action)
      If you are trying to sell a painting or promote a workshop, do you ask your subscribers to do something? Like "Sign Up Now", "One space left, Sign Up Today" or "Buy Now". You have to ask for the sale and then add a link.
      • Don't Oversell
      Don't make every section of the newsletter about selling something. Provide your readers a little bit of a breather. Find something fun or interesting to talk about that doesn't scream Buy,buy, buy.
      • Be Consistent
      If you announce that you will be doing a quarterly newsletter, then live up to that commitment. If it's too much, then decide how often you can do it. Figure out what you can deliver and then deliver it timely, professionally and beautifully.
      • Test your Newsletter
      I always sent a copy to myself before publishing. I check for spelling errors, make sure links work and look to see how it is viewed on my computer and mobile devices. Ask a friend to review it too. Always good to have 2 sets of eyes to catch the errors.

      • What's Irritating
      Think what you find irritating when you see newsletters or marketing campaigns in your inbox. Chances are the things you dislike are the things that your subscribers will dislike too. Place yourself in their shoes before hitting the send button. 

      Compelling Newsletters

      I have the privilege to work with Haidee-Jo Summers and Johanna Spinks in bringing their newsletters to life. They both have very interesting newsletters that highlight their talents as well as sharing something about themselves as artists. We worked together to choose a tagline that quickly spelled out something about them as well as making sure the content was relevant and engaging. I can't take the credit for much of the content. These two artists have a strong sense of themselves and their audience and were thoughtful about what they shared. Please check out these very talented ladies and see what they have to say.

      The day that Johanna published her newsletter (first time a couple of years), she heard from two former clients ready to book new portraits. Haidee-Jo has had success in her first newsletter (April) with a high percentage of open/click through rates as well as gaining a number of new subscribers and wonderful feedback. So she is off to a great start.

      I hope this post will start the wheels turning for you. Remember there is always a learning curve to creating a newsletter or marketing campaigns. Be thoughtful, creative and professional. Also be yourself.

      If you would like help in starting or improving your newsletter,please contact me or visit my website for this and other services that I offer.