In previous articles we’ve been discussing the 4 main tools you’ll need to build your online community of readers and how to engage with them:
- Your Author Website
- Email database and automation (e.g Mailchimp)
- Blog posts
- Social media (e.g. Facebook)
In the article, Social Media Tips for Writers: How to Build an Engaged Community of Readers, we discussed how to use social media to engage your readers. We’ve also discussed the 5 key benefits of using email to engage your readers in Email Tips For Writers: Why You Should Build and Engage Your List of Readers.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the challenges writers and authors face to engage your subscriber list once you’ve started to build your database.
Although this isn’t a definitive list, there are 5 key challenges to engage your subscriber list of readers:
- Gaining New Subscribers
- Increasing Open Rates
- Improving Delivery to Inbox
- Retaining Subscribers
- Low Click Through Rates (CTR)
Gaining New Subscribers
In order to grow your database of emails, you’ll need to attract new subscribers. It can be a slow process to begin with, but here are some things to think about when planning to grow your subscriber list:
- Lead magnet – A lead magnet is usually something you give away for free, such as a small ebook, checklist or infographic, to entice a visitor to your website to sign up to your email list. Only it isn’t ‘free’ as such; the visitor must give you their email address in order to receive the free gift.
- Content is king – Subscribers want to know that you’ll be a great resource for content, whether it’s video content, podcasts, blogs, infographics, checklists, quizzes and templates. They’ll also want to know that this content isn’t available elsewhere, that it’s unique to you and your website.
- No spam! – Subscribers hate being spammed. It isn’t good for your credibility and web presence to be known as a site that spams its subscribers. So be patient with your subscribers and only send them emails that they have agreed to receive.
- Don’t buy emails – It might be tempting to buy thousands of emails to save time in building your list, but in the end it will cost you more than you think. For instance, how many of those emails you’re considering buying have been sold to build other databases? How many of those emails are actually ‘real’. How many people do you think will open your newsletter if they haven’t subscribed to it?
Increasing Open Rates
Although there are many statistics on what ‘good’ open rates are for newsletters, the average for weekly newsletter open rates for publishing and writing industry is around 20%. That means 1 in 5 of your subscribers open your email and read it, on average.
Increasing that open rate is probably the realm of expert online marketers and not for writers and authors, but there are a few things to consider that may help in this regard:
- Email headers and titles – Try to make your email header as catchy and appealing to your readers as possible. Appeal to their emotional side, not their logical side. Headers with ‘Free postage’ or ‘25% discount’ don’t tend to get readers interested anymore.
- Daily, weekly, monthly? – It’s probably best practice to only email your subscribers the amount of times they’re prepared to receive your emails. Daily probably isn’t advisable, and may appear as spam unless your readers are expecting them. Weekly and monthly emails are probably best suited for writers and authors promoting their content.
- Add Value – Get your subscribers excited to receive your emails and newsletters by offering discounts, providing engaging content, providing links to great offers, and giving information they can’t get elsewhere.
Improving Delivery to Inbox
This is a tough one even for expert online marketers. Readers today are inundated with emails. Some are spam and unwanted, some are from the many lists they’ve subscribed to. Getting your emails delivered to their inbox and avoiding their junk folder is a challenge.
Here are some things to consider in this regard:
- Ask your subscribers to ‘safe list’ your email in order for it to bypass email firewalls and avoid being labeled as ‘junk mail’.
- If you’re attaching pdfs and other files, keep the size of your emails below 10mb as some email hosting sites won’t allow files larger than that onto their server, especially work emails.
Once you’ve successfully enticed a new subscriber to join your email list, the next challenge is to keep them from clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of your emails.
Retaining subscribers is almost an art in itself, but here are a few things to consider regarding this:
- Be known to add value – don’t bore your readers with uninteresting content. Keep doing all the things you’re doing to keep your subscribers opening the emails you send.
- There’s a natural attrition rate of emails as subscribers move jobs or change email providers, so make sure to let them know if they change their email they re-subscribe to your email list.
- Keep engaging with them. If you’ve let your emails and newsletters slide for a while, get back in touch with your subscribers and let them know they’re important to you and you haven’t forgotten them.
Low Click Through Rates (CTR)
The amount of times readers or subscribers click on a link or Call To Action (CTA) in our emails or newsletters are know as Click Through Rates (CTR). The lower the CTR, the lower the percentage of readers clicking on your link or CTA.
All your emails and newsletters to your subscribers should have a CTA – something you want them to do. Either it’s to download a pdf or attachment, purchase an item, visit a website, view your social media site (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), or leave a comment on something you want their opinion on.
Getting higher CTRs on your emails and newsletters is a challenge, but here are some things to consider:
- Have only 1 or 2 CTAs in your email – be targetted and specific in what you want your readers to do, rather than have multiple links and CTAs. In the case of emails links, less is best.
- Offer discounts exclusive only to the email you’ve sent.
- Create a competition in which subscribers can win something of value.
- Create a quiz – quizzes are a great information source about what your subscribers like and want.
When it comes to overcoming the challenges to engage your subscriber list, remember to:
- Not purchase email lists – you never know how many times that list has been sold
- Add value to your subscribers
- Keep your emails below 10mb in size if you’re attaching files
- Keep engaging with your subscriber list to prevent unsubscribing
- Have only 1 or 2 links or Call To Actions in your emails – less is best
*This article was inspired by the talk given by the Director of Webaioa, Kris Zelkas, at the 2016 Digital Marketing Workshop sponsored by the Australian Digital Publishing Group.
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