I do get it - your ‘day job’ is not being the publicity officer for a choir! You can’t work full time on marketing your choir – so you want to know what should you prioritise above everything else.
You might be surprised to hear that I say it is not your website, your social media presence or your flyers and posters, important as I think all those are. It is the building of a choir email marketing list of current and potential audience members, supporters and choristers!
Obviously, the email address database is not the end in itself, it is what you do with it that counts. That is your email communications and newsletters. But let’s start with the email list.
Why is a choir email marketing list so important?
Marketing can be a costly business because you can easily waste money. John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a very successful US merchant, religious leader and political figure who is famously quoted as saying “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half”.
Don't waste effort
Although measuring the results of marketing campaigns is a little easier these days there is still potential for wasting time and money. You expend effort and cash to put posters, adverts and social media ads in front of a whole bunch of people who may not have the slightest interest in coming to your concert or joining your choir. Unfortunately hidden among those people are the ones who would be interested.
That’s not the case with your choir email marketing list. Because you will have ensured that they have consciously ‘opted in’ (more on that later) the list will contain individuals who do definitely have an interest. They have either attended a concert, enquired about the choir or signed up to hear from you. They will have friends and family who they know might be interested as well. This list is “gold dust” - messages you send to them are far more likely to be noticed and acted upon. That list will help drive up concert audiences, new choir members and supporters.
You may already have a physical mailing address list of supporters. If so it would be very advantageous to request that they receive email newsletters rather than physical mails. At the very least it will reduce your costs. For every 100 members of your mailing list who convert to email recipients, you will be saving at least £56 on each mailing you send (second class UK mailing at 56p).
But not everyone is on email?
True, but nearly everyone is! The UK Office for National Statistics 2017 Reports on Internet use by individuals and households show that 90% of UK households have internet access and 89% of adults have accessed the internet in the last 3 months, with 80% using it daily. 82% of UK adults use the internet for email, with over 90% of those aged 16-44 doing so.
Your target audience members, choristers and supporters are nearly all ‘online’ – so you need to use this medium to talk to them.
How do I build my choir email marketing list?
“But,” I hear you cry, “we haven’t got a choir email marketing list”. Sorry, but there is not going to be a quick fix - you will need to grow a list. I would strongly recommend not starting off to create the list on paper, spreadsheet or word processing document – use a purpose-built email service such as MailChimp.
Using an email service
There are a number of reasons to suggest this. You will want such a service to send out communications to your list, so you might as well start off using it to store the email addresses anyway. The service provides simple online forms that you can use to capture registrations and to include them on your website and social media pages like Facebook.
One key reason for using an email service to store your email addresses is privacy legislation coming in in 2018, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will strengthen current rules causing you to enable people on your list to “opt-in” to receiving communications from you. Services like MailChimp provide an auditable record of opt-ins and also the facility for registered members to ‘unsubscribe’ – another requirement of the regulations.
Start with your followers
Start creating your list with your choir members – preferably getting them to subscribe online so that it is recorded that they opted-in. Ask them to encourage friends and family to also register. For most choirs, this is bound to include a good proportion of your regular audience.
Then use every opportunity to collect new registrations. Enable visitors to your website and Facebook pages to register easily. If you have a Twitter account, Tweet regular requests to your followers to register. At each concert provide the ability to register, by having a list to sign up, at least on paper but alternatively directly online through, for example, an iPad. If you do have to collect email addresses on paper use the mailing service facility to enable sending a confirmation email that requests the user to confirm that they wish to receive your communications.
What is GDPR?
The existing UK privacy legislation does require that individuals have agreed to receive marketing messages. That is why you have to either have opted-in or not opted-out and have the ability to unsubscribe from marketing communications.
In May 2018, a European Regulation called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, comes into force that makes things a bit tighter, but clearer. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that Brexit will make any difference – it won’t, as the Government has committed to enacting GDPR into UK law after Brexit anyway.
There are many aspects to GDPR and, if you are interested, I can point you to a number of articles and websites, such as this YouTube video from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). However, for this article let’s just focus on the main impacts on your choir email marketing list.
GDPR primarily deals with the collection and processing of ‘personal data’ – any information that could relate to an identifiable living being (called a ‘data subject’ in the regulations). In practice, this could cover names, email and mailing addresses, phone numbers etc.
You should be aware that ‘processing’ does not just apply to electronic communication – it also covers, for example, physical mailing and telephone contacts.
How GDPR affects your email list
The key points of GDPR for your choir email marketing list are:
- Although some organisations are exploring the use of “legitimate interest” as a legal ground for processing personal data this is yet to be clarified or tested. To be safe you should comply with “consent” as your mechanism.
- Consent means that the data subject has made a clear affirmation that they made a “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication” of agreement to have their personal data processed. In other words, they need to understand exactly what you are going to use their data for and have clearly opted-in to that – and you need to be able to prove it. The days of using opt-out or of ready populated tick-boxes are gone.
- You must offer a simple way to unsubscribe or change their communication preferences.
As I said previously – using a service such as MailChimp for your electronic mailing will help you with this.
Can’t I just communicate using Facebook?
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a great way to communicate with choir supporters, and I would encourage choirs to exploit them.
However, they do not take the place of a choir email marketing list, because:
- Email is still the most popular online communications channel. Despite the popularity of social media platforms, the UK Office for National Statistics 2017 reports show that 82% of internet users use email whereas 66% use it for social media. This difference is even more marked in older generations with 81% of those aged 55-64 using email vs 51% on social media and for the over 65s, 56% use email vs 27% on social media.
- You’re in control. Facebook controls who see what posts in their timeline. So, do the other social media platforms. With email, you know who you have sent the email to and so you control what your recipients see and when they see it. And it’s not just whether your recipients see the post – Facebook and the others control the formatting of the message as well, whereas you design your emails to look the way you want them to.
- The information has a longer life. With Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, once a post has passed by your timeline you are unlikely to look for it again, or if you do it will be difficult to find. Your email recipients can always return to your email to find the information they need, such as where to buy concert tickets.
This does not mean that social media does not have an important role to play in your choir marketing. Facebook, in particular, has a very good targeting capability to reach people who could well be interested in your choir. You will have to pay for the privilege of reaching them with an ad, but it is not as expensive as other forms of advertising. You can also use social media to expand the reach of your email newsletters by promoting a link to them from your emailing service. You can even use social media posts to get subscribers to sign-up to your email list.
What do I do with my choir email marketing list?
Earlier I said that your choir email marketing list is “gold dust”. Unlike pure gold, however, it will tarnish if it is neglected. You need to be consistently using it to communicate with your subscribers.
Outside of the fact that you do want to build a relationship with your subscribers such that they will feel more inclined to come to your concerts and even join your choir, there are practical reasons for regular communications:
- You need to keep the addresses up-to-date. People change email addresses and so you will want to make sure that they think to change their subscription email address before stopping use of their old address. If they are receiving regular communications from you it will prompt them to change.
- Your email is more likely to get to their inbox. These days all email clients filter out what they think is ‘junk mail’. They use complex algorithms to decide whether an email is coming from a reliable source. One of the factors involved in that decision is whether you have read email from this source previously, and how often you do.
- You actually want to lose uninterested people from your list. Your email has to include an ‘unsubscribe’ link. Another of the factors affecting whether your email goes into the junk box of a high proportion of recipients is the number of people who reported your emails as ‘spam’ or if you have had a high number of unsubscribes on a recent email. If you don’t communicate very often then you will probably get a larger proportion of unsubscribes when you do, which could trigger your emails being classed as junk.
When I say, “regular communication” I do not mean that you should continually bombard subscribers with emails. Although the actual definition of ‘spam’ is receipt of something that you have not signed up for, many people colloquially use it to mean receiving too much email. You really want to avoid being labelled as spam. I would suggest that sending something out every month or two is a good balance.
The mainstay of email communication tends to be a newsletter. Whether you send a newsletter out monthly, quarterly or annually you will want to ensure that the content is something that your subscribers want to read about.
That sounds obvious, but it is very easy to get carried away and dump a whole load of content into it that never gets read.
I would recommend using the modern style of e-newsletter where you have short articles with links to more information or longer versions that the reader can click through to if they wish.
Make your newsletter interesting to look at – use quality images and even links to video and audio recordings to make it more engaging. To keep a consistent ‘brand image’ make sure you use your choir colours and logo. As with other visual promotions, like posters, do not get carried away with weird colour mixes and multiple font types. Keep it simple. Email services like MailChimp help greatly with the layout and formatting, and they provide some suggested templates for you to use.
Other email communications
Full newsletters are not the only email communications you can send out, here are a few other suggestions you might like to try:
- Individual items of news
- Announcements about the choir
- Concert updates
- Ticket reminders
- Availability of new CDs and recordings
- Appeals for new members
Don’t forget mobile
In general, more people now look at their email on a mobile phone than do on a PC. Viewing an email on a smartphone is very different to viewing it on a desktop or laptop computer. For a start, the screen is much smaller on a phone. If you tried to view what takes up a whole screen width on a PC you would either be scrolling backwards and forwards or the text font would be way too small to read.
Just as with your website, you need to make use of ‘responsive design’ in your emails. Responsive design detects what type of device is being used and presents your content in a way best suited to that device.
Luckily MailChimp, and other email services, will ensure that your email is responsive if you use one of their templates. Another reason not to try coding the emails yourself.
So - if you haven’t done so yet – your priority should be to build your choir email marketing list, so start now! If you would like any further help just get in touch.