The more you can reach a potential customer with content they enjoy, the better your chances of closing a sale, and how to do it for more profit
So what exactly is the big deal about email lists? Why do I devote so much screen real estate to get people to sign up?
If you’re older like myself, you might remember the early commercials for the phone service Sprint … Candice Bergman dropping a pin. If you watched TV back then, you saw it a lot. The reason we saw it so much is that market research showed that the average viewer had to see the commercial up to ten times before they understood the message. Yes, sometimes people make buying decisions on the spur of the moment. But think about it, you’re asking someone to buy a print to hang on their wall, where it becomes a part of their daily life.
Will showing them a few images once close the sale?
Selling online successfully requires that your audience like what you’re selling obviously, trust you as a business, and develop some interest in you other than the idea that you have pretty photos on your site. After all, there are millions of photos on the internet to look at, and no reason why they have to come back to your site after the first visit.
Getting their email address gives you permission to send them your work
Hopefully this creates an interest in what you do, and over time builds trust. Think about it … don’t you have a lot better chance at making a sale to someone who frequently sees your work, looks forward to seeing it, rather than just blow someone away with the first image they happen to land upon on your site?
It’s called permission marketing, a term put forth and expanded upon by Seth Godin, and certainly worth checking out in great detail. It’s similar to the concept of Facebook and other social media, where you’re given sales messages based on referrals from your friends. In ideal circumstances, you’ll be able to reach a potential client both through email, and referrals from their friends.
With email marketing you not only see who opens your emails, but what they click, which gives you a much better idea of what a potential customer is looking for.
I could for instance, take note of who clicks on images related to historical sites, versus haunted sites, and then develop email campaigns which more specifically target their interests.
This same kind of information can be found through your Facebook stats as well. While it might seem like it’s best to just spray your entire audience with everything you sell, that’s not the best idea. It leads in fact, to people opting out of your emails because they aren’t interested in what you’re showing them. Remember, they gave you permission to show them things they’re interested in, not a little bit of everything.
For email marketing I use Mailchimp.com, which for a certain number of contacts on your list, and limited number of emails sent is free. If you’re just starting email marketing, odds are you’ll fall into the free category. They offer list building and maintenance, easy template based email creation, and a fairly robust set of features which tracks what your users click.
To get a start on my email list, I downloaded a spreadsheet of my past customers from SmugMug, and added people who have signed up for emails through various seminars and talks I’ve given.
It’s incredibly important to remember that you have to have permission to mass email people on your list
To add people willy nilly is not only irritating, but illegal. People can, and will report your emails as spam, and it’s the quickest way to get your Mail Chimp account closed on you. Don’t be an asshole. If you don’t have permission, don’t send a person an email.
Why not just use your own email program to do this?
You can, but having the hang of html emails is likely outside of your realm of expertise, or you wouldn’t be hiring me, yes? Also, you have to give the person a single click option to opt out of your emails. It’s a lot easier to use Mail Chimp than to do this by hand. I’ve yet to come upon a client who isn’t better served, and more inexpensively served to use a service like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or My Emma for mass emailings.
So what goes in the emails?
Keep in mind that many people are checking their email on their phones, and they don’t want to download a lot of large images. 750 pixels in width is standard, and more than two in an email can bog load times down considerably. Including a few thumbnails isn’t a bad idea, which link to larger versions on your site, but keep an eye on your load time when you test your emails.
If you’re a blogger, then include links to recent articles, and yes, having a connection between your images and your articles is a good idea. Keep your text to a minimum as people don’t typically spend a lot of time reading emails. If you have videos, that’s excellent. The click through rate for videos is higher than for still images or articles.
It’s the clicks to your site that you want to track
Obviously you want to get them to your site because that’s where they can buy things. But it also shows you what your visitors are looking for, and the more you know about that, the more sales you make.
Then there are coupons
Coupons should be of limited duration and valuable enough to turn heads. It’s a good idea to give all new email signups a coupon, even if it means your first sale might be for less than it could be. Remember, if someone is looking for a specific image, they’re likely to land on that image first, and if they’re interested, they might buy it on the spot. If so, they likely won’t see the offer of a coupon for signing up, and you don’t lose the amount of the discount.
Once they’ve purchased, send them a coupon for their next purchase. Being nice makes friends.
30% has historically been the ideal percentage to make sales. We’re all nervous about charging too much, but let’s face it, the average photographer or artist isn’t going to compete with the big sites on price. If a visitor doesn’t make an immediate purchase, they have plenty of opportunities to know about how to save 30%, so having a price high enough to cover the discount and preserve your profit isn’t a big deal.
There are times when people are more likely to make a purchase than others
The holiday season, Valentines Day and in my own case, Halloween are all times when people are looking to buy. These are excellent times to pull the coupon out for your most dedicated fans, and might just be the push they need to make a sale.
So it’s important to have enough padding to make your coupon’s offer a good one, with real value for the customer
Getting two bucks off a print that a person has been eyeballing for a month or so isn’t going to do the trick. So don’t be afraid of raising your prices. If you price your work like a commodity, it’s going to be viewed as one. Chances are that’s not why people follow your work.
So have faith and raise your prices, but be prepared to experiment.