Here at FWD:labs, we do a lot more than provide a platform for filmmakers and their work. We are regularly doing custom work for companies looking to directly connect with customers and prospects.
Some of these projects involve the planning, strategy, and execution of direct e-mail marketing campaigns. Instead of relying on Facebook “likes,” Twitter “followers,” or design re-boots to boost engagement, e-mail is still relevant for grabbing attention, has a longer shelf life than newsfeeds, and is important to include in a online marketing plan.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s organize types of people into separate lists. List 1 are the long-term users who are your existing customers. List 2 are the short-term users, who are responding to a one-time call to action. And List 3 are prospects, who are your curious constituents. Each of these lists are opt-in or otherwise expecting to hear from you.
We may reach all three groups in one e-blast, or tailor something for each group in particular. Different approaches garner higher return on investment, depending on timing, relevance, and quality of content. To introduce the strategy, let’s look at each list and how best to engage them. The metrics for success are high open rates, high click rates, and high conversions toward your goal (e.g. purchase, RSVP, sign up), while keeping a low “spam/flag” reports and low unsubscribes.
Examples: alumni, clients, collaborators, users, customers
- Keep it fresh. To abide by CAN-SPAM laws, these should be people with interactions to you or your work/company within the last two years.
- Remember the “unsubscribe” link. Adding this in a prominent position proves to lower the likelihood of being flagged at spam, which can lead to a locked account (e.g. MailChimp, Campaign Monitor) or a blacklisted IP address.
- Consider a schedule. Perhaps the audience is best reached once a quarter with original content, such as videos or articles. Or once a month with profile stories, latest headlines, and/or other methods to cultivate on-going community and affiliation.
- Focus the call(s) to action. At FWD:labs, we’ve re-aligned our e-mail blast to further focus on our creative user base, their accomplishments, and the success stories of the industry at large. As a result, we’ve seen more engagement and interest by laying things out in rows, rather than boxes.
Examples: RSVP list, fundraising drive
- Provide a receipt. The when/where/why should be immediate for easy reference, rather than expecting people to come back to the website for a one-off event.
- Don’t rely on images, which cannot be searched in an inbox. This means HTML e-mails need proper markup for all e-mail clients, keeping within a 600px width, and including ALT tags underneath placeholder images. While it’s nice to have a graphical e-mail, keep it clear, simple, and hierarchical.
- Be clear about dates. One outdoor movie screening in Los Angeles last year sent out an e-blast about a film, but led their first several paragraphs mentioning three different dates but started their e-mail with several paragraphs. At a glance, it wasn’t clear when the headline movie was screening.
- Provide a formal address, including city, state, and zip. This helps smart phones to link to their map app. It’s helpful to save people from having to look up and/or print directions themselves. What if you don’t want to hotlink an address or phone number? Wrap each chunk in <span> tags.
Examples: “interest” sign-up form, fans, followers
- Stay in touch. Consistent updates are an oft-overlooked strategy. Whenever we contact our members, we see a bump in traffic, which can lead to queries, bookmarks, and sales.
- Project personality. Compare how Panavision treats their clients with personal attention with how a small boutique can compete with that. Is it faster in-and-out? Do you profile a job or customer in each e-mail blast? Do you specialize in a certain style or your business embody a focused mission?
- Deliver announcements. Perhaps you’ve got a sale in your store, a new film in theaters, or an upcoming mixer in town. For companies, let your e-mail list have the first look to your new inventory. For films, give your fans and followers some bonus content, news, or trivia. For events, try e-mailing between zero and five days in advance — with our FWD:labs Salon, we’ve found people schedule within one week to six hours ahead, but not more or less than that window.
What’s next? Test something out. Start with a slow, realistic schedule using existing content, rather than tailoring too much. It’s about presenting a crisp, pixel-perfect letter to people where your reputation, motto, philosophy, and/or personality is front and center.