Publish & Prosper

Email Marketing for Authors & Creators

February 07, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 11
Email Marketing for Authors & Creators
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Email Marketing for Authors & Creators
Feb 07, 2024 Season 1 Episode 11
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Matt & Lauren discuss one of the most successful marketing strategies, share ideas and tips for building your email list, and review best practices for keeping those subscribers engaged. 


Dive Deeper

💡 Check Out These Reports

💡 Read These Blog Posts

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [4:49] “The other thing that's great about email marketing though, and I think that is probably the most important thing to touch on, is that email marketing is pretty much the only channel or marketing tactic where you can pretty much own your audience and it doesn't necessarily belong to somebody else. And that's really important these days when you're trying to not only build [an] audience, but build a business over time.”


🎙️ [15:01] “A lot of people will say to us, well, that's all fine and good, but how do I get them to go from my social media account, following me on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, over to my email list? Lauren just laid it out for you, like one of the best and easiest and most beneficial ways to do that. You have to give them a reason to.” 


🎙️ [33:18] “If they don't click through, then what's the point? And they're not going to click through if the subject line doesn't convey the reason why they should.”


Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at podcast@lulu.com
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.


Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Matt & Lauren discuss one of the most successful marketing strategies, share ideas and tips for building your email list, and review best practices for keeping those subscribers engaged. 


Dive Deeper

💡 Check Out These Reports

💡 Read These Blog Posts

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [4:49] “The other thing that's great about email marketing though, and I think that is probably the most important thing to touch on, is that email marketing is pretty much the only channel or marketing tactic where you can pretty much own your audience and it doesn't necessarily belong to somebody else. And that's really important these days when you're trying to not only build [an] audience, but build a business over time.”


🎙️ [15:01] “A lot of people will say to us, well, that's all fine and good, but how do I get them to go from my social media account, following me on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, over to my email list? Lauren just laid it out for you, like one of the best and easiest and most beneficial ways to do that. You have to give them a reason to.” 


🎙️ [33:18] “If they don't click through, then what's the point? And they're not going to click through if the subject line doesn't convey the reason why they should.”


Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at podcast@lulu.com
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.


Matt: Welcome back everybody to another episode of Publish & Prosper, and welcome back to my co-host Lauren. 

Lauren: Thank you so much for welcoming me back. 

Matt: I wasn't sure if you'd come back after last night, since your girl won all those Grammys. 

Lauren: I did consider not coming in today. 

Matt: Yeah, I think Taylor fans all over the world probably called in sick from celebrating too much.

Lauren: Yeah, it was a…it was an unexpected turn of events. I wasn't sure if I was emotionally prepared to come in today, honestly, but on the bright side, I've actually already requested off for the day that her album is coming out, cause I'm traveling that day. So I think I've already submitted a PTO request for that. So at least I got that covered. 

Matt: I'll make sure to deny it. 

Lauren: I won't be here anyway. You can deny it all you want. I'm still not gonna be here. I'll be in Texas. 

Matt: Man, that is a hell of a way to get fired over a Taylor Swift thing. 

Lauren: Well, it's actually over a wedding. 

Matt: Oh. 

Lauren: So. 

Matt: Oh yeah. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Gross. 

Lauren: I'm going to two weddings this year and both of them are the same weekend as a Taylor Swift event.

Matt: I never go to weddings. I haven't been to a wedding probably since my own, my third one, but I actually have to go to one this year. 

Lauren: I love weddings. 

Matt: Ugh, can't stand them. 

Lauren: I love everything about weddings. 

Matt: You might lose your introvert card over that statement. 

Lauren: Well, okay, first of all, my friends are at weddings. Like, I'm going to weddings to spend time with my friends. 

Matt: Oh, see, that's where I'm messing up. Like, the only weddings I end up at are, like, distant family members or, like, people I don't know. 

Lauren: No, absolutely not. No, no, no. No, definitely not. The weddings that I'm going to this year are like my sister's childhood best friend who like, I, I've known all of her friends for decades and haven't seen a lot of them in a long time. And the other one is one of my college best friends. And I also don't see my college best friends very often because we all live all over the country. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: So it's like a reunion and an excuse to wear pretty dresses and get all like made up and dance to a lot of music all night. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Fair enough. 

Lauren: Could be worse. 

Matt: It could be worse. You could be stuck in this room talking about email marketing with me.

Lauren: That's exactly what we're doing right now, though.

Matt: Oh, that's right. Right. 

Lauren: That is just my reality. 

Matt: Oh. I like email marketing. 

Lauren: I actually really do, too. I'm a little bit excited to talk about this. 

Matt: We're terrible nerds.

Lauren: I know. 


[2:47]

Matt: Okay, well, let's jump in. 

Lauren: Alright. Let's talk about email marketing. I think probably like the real question that is definitely on everyone's mind as they're listening to this, for sure, is email marketing…isn't that a little outdated? Is that still an effective way to market? 

Matt: I think that's accurate. I think people probably are thinking about that. I think everybody thinks about that on their daily commute to work or when they're laying in bed and they can't sleep. I think everybody struggles with the idea of whether or not email is a viable source of marketing still.

Lauren: It keeps me up at night. 

Matt: Yeah, me too. Well, I think that we have some statistics that would support our answer, which is that it is not only a very viable method of marketing, but probably the best long standing method of marketing that has proven results? 

Lauren: I think you might be right about that. If we want to take a look at just like a high level marketing in general, HubSpot does an annual state of marketing report. Their most recent report, they said that 41% of marketers said that email marketing is their most effective channel. So that's not saying that 41% of marketers are using email marketing, 41% of marketers said it's their most effective channel. 

Matt: Yeah

Lauren: Which is a very impressive statistic. And of those people that are using email marketing, 77% of them said that they've seen an increase in email engagement in the last year. So it's clearly still effective if they're seeing, not even just like it's maintaining the status quo, but they're actually seeing an increase in engagement and effectiveness.

Matt: Yeah, those are really big numbers. And again, for people who don't deal with marketing on a daily basis or don't really think about these things, like if you have a channel that you can say is by that number 41% or larger, your best performing channel, that's saying something that's great. And an outlet like email, a channel like email marketing that's been around for as long as it's been around - and quite honestly does not have the track record for innovation and advancements like other marketing channels - that's great.
The other thing that's great about email marketing though, and I think that is probably the most important thing to touch on is that email marketing is pretty much the only channel or marketing tactic where you can pretty much own your audience and it doesn't necessarily belong to somebody else. And that's really important these days when you're trying to not only build [an] audience, but build a business over time. And what that means is there are other marketing channels, obviously you can do social media, you know, that's great if you've got a 50,000 followers on your, your author Facebook account, but what happens when you wake up tomorrow and Facebook decided your account violated their terms and services or something like that, and you lose all of those followers? Like those don't belong to you, they belong to Facebook and the same goes for TikTok and all those others. 
So email is a great way to, to quote unquote, kind of own your audience. And you can take it with you wherever you go. So if you switch email providers, you just export and import your catalog of contacts of your fans and followers and subscribers, I should say. That's really important too. So I think it only makes sense that we start with email in our series of, of marketing channel episodes we're going to do. And again, when you have a number like 41% in favor of email marketing and then, you know, 70-something percent of engagement increases across email. If you're not already using email marketing, you need to pay attention. 

Lauren: We talk a lot about like what Matt was just referring to, with this idea of building on rented land versus building on your own land. And email is absolutely the most effective way for you to do that. 

Matt: Yeah. And if you're still kind of getting into the whole concept of marketing yourself as an author or creator, and maybe you're still not a full-time author or creator yet, we also did our own survey and we surveyed a bunch of full-time creators and authors. And the number one audience building tool that they use is email and their newsletter, followed very closely by Instagram. For those people who are doing this full-time, and they're really making a go at building a business around their brand and what they're creating and their content, their number one tool for audience building, at least according to our survey results and the way that they answered, was email slash newsletter, followed closely by Instagram. So again, for those of you that are really trying to grow your following and your business and your brand, this is the episode to be taking notes on. 

Lauren: For sure. What about the authors in our audience? Not the people that are necessarily content entrepreneurs, although if you're listening to this podcast, you've definitely heard us make the point that all authors are content entrepreneurs, whether you think of yourself that way or not. 

Matt: That's right. 

Lauren: But to those of them that are still not thinking of themselves that way, when we're talking specifically about author newsletters, are those still effective? 

Matt: Yeah, and so we'll refer to our friends over at Written Word Media. They do a survey every year too of a couple thousand of their users who are all authors - primarily fiction, by the way, because that's who they serve for the most part. But of their audience that they surveyed, again, sampling size was a couple thousand, just over a couple thousand, email slash newsletter was the number three most effective tactic that those authors listed behind BookBub deals and promo sites like Freebooksy and stuff. And I would honestly consider those more sales channels, sales tactics anyways. So truly in that list, I would consider their ranking to show that email marketing newsletters really was more like number one. You know, email marketing is no slouch when it comes to how you're gonna get the word out about not only your books, but you as an author, as a creator in your brand. 

Lauren: If you're curious about any of these things that we've referenced and you wanna deep dive a little bit more into them, I will make sure that I link all of the specific reports that we just referenced in the show notes, so you can find those there and dive more into them. 

Matt: Yeah. You heard me mention a little bit earlier about the length of time that email has been around as a technology, as a marketing channel. And it certainly, it has its moments to shine and its moments where people aren't really paying attention to it. I'd say right now email is in a resurgence. Everybody is really happy about using email to grow newsletter lists. Newsletters are the hot thing right now. So again, I think it's in this state of resurgence. But it doesn't mean that there aren't innovations being made in the world of email marketing and email technology. It's just one of those tried and true stable platforms where not a lot has changed, but it doesn't mean there aren't some cool new things that have been happening, and some brands and platforms out there on the forefront of really trying to make email not only a better channel for marketing and staying directly in contact with your fans, followers, and readers, but making it overall a more user friendly experience for you guys. 


[9:25]

Lauren: So when we're talking about email marketing, maybe we need to be clear about the fact that there are different types of email marketing, different types of emails that you could be sending. 

Matt: Yeah, so if you're Lauren, there's three types of emails you get in your inbox. There's the ones from Taylor Swift, there are the ones from Disney, and then there's all the rest. But for everybody else, there are quite a few different types of email marketing. You're correct about that. And when we say different types, I think what we're really saying is different ways to utilize email as a marketing tool. So you have content-based emails like newsletters that we've been talking about. So things that you would send out on a regular cadence, whether that's weekly or every two weeks or once a month, we'll get into that. But those are generally content-based emails. They're informational. Sometimes there's some links to other types of educational resources or whatever that might be, whatever you choose to do. Some newsletters are funny, some are serious, but again, that's all up to the creator. Then we have more product-based emails. So things like, you know, Lulu might send out an email that's announcing a new feature or piece of functionality that we've just launched. So product based emails would be things like, you know, when you've got a new book coming out and you want to start talking about that book or a new trilogy or, you know, some new merch. 

Lauren: Or even something as straightforward as, hey, I'm doing a Black Friday sale. 

Matt: Sure. 

Lauren: Get 40% off. Don't actually. Don't discount your book to 40% off. Less than that for sure. 40% off is usually going to bring it down to list price. But you know, if you're doing, if you're doing some kind of limited time deal or something like that product based email. 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. And then lastly, or the third one, of the most popular ones, are what we call transactional or automated emails, automated flows. And basically those are the ones that everybody gets them, you know, like when you sign up for a newsletter list, you'll get an automated email that says welcome, gives you a few whatever highlights of what that newsletter will entail. And then sometimes it's, or in some cases, it's asking you to confirm that you want to be a subscriber to that newsletter. But there's lots of other automated workflows and transactional emails. They could be post purchase ones, so like a thank you for your purchase, keep your eyes open for shipping notifications. Shipping notifications are also transactional. A lot of people forget that that is real estate. So when you send a shipping notification, there really should be some information in that email that is not just about the shipping of that book. There should be some other cool stuff in there. You should make full use of that real estate. And then there's also other types of automations and transactional emails. You can do all kinds of cool things with email automations. 

Lauren: Yeah, and you can usually do all of these things within the same ESP.

Matt: Yeah 

Lauren: Email service provider. So if you're sitting here thinking like, I might be on board with an author newsletter, but this transactional automated email thing sounds like a lot of work. It's probably less work than you actually think it is. It’s over there now - there's a wasp in the room with us. We may or may not die. 

Matt: Should we sign up for his email list? 

Lauren: What do you think a wasp is writing emails about? 

Matt: How to treat your stings using baking soda and honey. 

Lauren: Is that how you treat a wasp sting? 

Matt: I think so. 

Lauren: Huh. 

Matt: I don't know. 

Lauren: I want to say that I'll try that next time, but I won't. It's just here. Maybe he wants to learn about email marketing. So let's give him some tips. 

Matt: Yeah. Alright.


[12:44]

Lauren: Alright. So how can our new wasp friend get some people to subscribe to his email list?

Matt: Well, for starters, he should not sting them.

Lauren: That's a great point. Yeah, that's not usually a good, good way to get people on your mailing list. 

Matt: So how would you get people on your mailing list? 

Lauren: Number one best way to do it: offer people something that they want, that they can only get by signing up for your newsletter. 

Matt: Yes.

Lauren: Actually one of my favorite authors did this so well about a month ago, maybe two months ago now. It was one of those situations where I was actively aware that I was being marketed to and I wasn't even upset about it because I was like, you're doing this so well that I was like, I can't even be mad about this. She sends out an annual, like some bonus scenes or epilogues or something for some of the books. And, I hadn't been on her mailing list previously, but this year, about a week before she sent that annual newsletter, she went on Instagram and she made a post on Instagram saying, ‘Hey, the newsletter with the epilogue for the book that came out this year, it's like a four chapter epilogue for this book that you can only get from my newsletter, it's coming out this Friday. If you want that email, if you want that epilogue, you have until Thursday to sign up for my newsletter, here's a link to subscribe to it.’ And once I immediately did that, because of course I immediately was like, I want this content, I am going to go sign up for your mailing list. And as soon as I did that, I got the automated welcome email that had last year's epilogue download in it. So I was able to get, like, immediate satisfaction of ‘I have new book content that I can read right now.’ And like, you know, it's not like she wrote a hundred pages. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: It was like these little like five page little snippets and epilogues and stuff like that. So it was just pretty easy content. I had that instant gratification of getting that right away. And then a few days later, I got this little bit longer epilogue for this book that I was actually reading at the same time. So like that was perfect timing. And then now I'm on her mailing list.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And now she has me and I'm definitely not going to unsubscribe. So like she did that exactly right. 

Matt: Yeah. That’s really smart. And I want to back up a second. The scenario that, that Lauren just described is also the answer to the question that most people ask us when we talk about not building your house on rented land. So a lot of people will say to us, well, that's all fine and good, but how do I get them to go from my social media account, following me on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok, over to my email list? Lauren just laid it out for you, like one of the best and easiest and most beneficial ways to do that. You have to give them a reason to. 

Lauren: Yep. 

Matt: Most of the time, if they're a true fan of your work, all you need to do is ask them and they'll come sign up for your newsletter. But for those last remaining few who might need a little extra nudge, that's the way to do it. And, you know, like Lauren said, you don't have to write a hundred extra pages or, or anything like that, but yeah, offering them something to come over, uh, some sort of benefit, some sort of value. That's the way to do it. That's how you get them from social media over into your ESP, your email service provider, and their contact list. And I would do that pretty regularly. I would remind people probably weekly, for all the new people that you get every week signing up to your social media channels. Because again, you wake up one morning you may not have access to that anymore, and if you've already done a great job of getting those people from that social media channel into your ESP you have nothing to worry about. 

Lauren: Absolutely. 


[16:07]

Matt: Another great way is as authors and creators and and…hopefully you're attending some events or some signings or conferences, speaking engagement, something, you know, you're getting out there and networking with other authors and fans and readers. And so that's also a great place to capture emails. You can take an iPad with you or even your phone and whatever page you've designed to capture emails on, you just keep that page open and have them fill it out right there on the spot. Again, sometimes you can offer some little freebie there or a little piece of swag or something at your booth or whatever you're doing to further incentivize them. But events of any sort are a great way to capture more emails to add into your ESP.

Lauren: Yeah, and that was also an important little detail in there too. Making sure that you have an email sign up form on your website, that you have, like, a dedicated landing page or somewhere that is very clearly straightforward, something that you can link to. So when you're in those situations, whether it's sending someone from your Instagram or somebody that you've connected with at an event. Maybe you want to do something like have a business card with a QR code on it and the QR code links directly to this landing page with your email sign up box on it. You know, you want that to be kind of a clean page that doesn't have a lot of other things going on to distract people from it. You want them to go straight to the signup box. The wasp is gone, I have no idea where it went. 

Matt: Hopefully it's not under the table. Oh no, he's on the wall right there. 

Lauren: Okay, great, okay. But yeah, you definitely just wanna make sure that you have like a dedicated space for this on your site. And again, like I mentioned with the automated transactional emails, you should be able to do all of this within your email server– 

Matt: It’s dead. 

Lauren: RIP, we won't miss you. Anyway. Anyway, like I was saying with those transactional automated workflow emails, they sound more complicated than they actually are. When it comes to having a form on your website for something like this between your ESP and whatever platform you're using to build out your website, chances are extremely high that they will have a very easy plugin tool for you to be able to have this email subscription box just plugged right into your website. So don’t - 

Matt: Yeah, most of - most of them do.

Lauren: Yeah. Like it's not like we're sitting here telling you to get a degree in coding so that you can build out this form on your website. 

Matt: Definitely not no, she's right. Most, most ESPs will have some way for you to spin up a very simple what they call a capture page. It's just, again, it has that little box where they can put their email address in and subscribe. You can put a little bit of copy or whatever you want on that page. And the ones that don't, you know, there are landing page tools out there that are very inexpensive, if not free, that will help you spin up a pretty easy landing page to do that as well, so. It's not super complicated, but it's definitely really important. It's definitely important that you have one of those if you are going to be at events, like I said, trying to capture email addresses. These days, your email list should be your foundation. You really want to drive everybody to your email list because when you have that single source of a way to communicate with all of your followers and fans, it's much easier to talk to everybody at once as well as sell future books. So, super important.

Lauren: Yeah, I saw something recently and I feel really bad because I can't reference this directly because I've been reading a lot of content marketing materials lately, including a couple of Tilt Publishing books that are going to be coming out soon. Inside look at those. But I saw someone recently referencing that where email marketing is the most effective is that social media is like people that are interested in you, and then converting them from social media followers that are interested in you to email subscribers that are active fans of yours. Like that's really the primary objective with your audience. It's like social media is where you start courting people to be like, look, my content is kind of cool. Like you want to have more of my content. You want more access to this. You want to buy my books or read my blog post or listen to my podcast episodes or whatever. And then email marketing is them saying, yeah, you know what I do want. That's the real, like, that's the real end goal, is you want to have them on your email newsletter subscription list, or whatever. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: However you're doing that. Which is also why having this landing page, a built out landing page with your email capture on it is great, because you want to make sure that you're periodically sharing that on your social media. I mean, you also probably want to make sure that you have it like, you know, wherever you have a profile bio, this should be a link that you should consider having in there, strongly consider having in there. 

Matt: Yeah, I would say the two most important links to have in all your bios is a direct link to buy your book directly from you, not to Amazon. You don't want to give Amazon your traffic. And the second link that is the most important is a link to sign up for your newsletter. 

Lauren: Yeah. And even if those are both landing pages on your website, even if those are both just like sub pages on your website, still link to them separately. 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: Anything that you can do to streamline the click through experience for your potential customers or your potential fans or your potential subscribers. 

Matt: And let's face it, that's what they're after anyways. If they're that interested in you, they want your book, if they don't already have it, and they want to be on that email newsletter list. 

Lauren: Yep.

Matt: So. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Make it as easy as possible for them. 

Lauren: Yeah. Another way that you can make it as easy for them as possible. If you are selling direct, you can consider including an opt-in for customers as they're checking out. So, you know, I'm sure we've all seen this on websites that we've been on when we're buying from online ecommerce stores. If you're checking out, there's always that little box that says opt in for email promotions, stuff like that, blah, blah, blah. And sometimes it's even pre-selected and you have to be the one to manually uncheck it. It's up to you to decide whether you want to default to having it pre-checked or letting your customers check it themselves. But it’ts nice to provide that option there.

Matt: Well, a little pro tip on that one, is that if you're inside the US, you can have it checked already by default, and they have to actively uncheck it. But if you're outside of the US, you should not do that. You can get yourself in some trouble there, so. 

Lauren: Good to know. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: We do not encourage breaking the law on this podcast. 

Matt: Not actively. 

Lauren: Or indirectly. We do not encourage breaking the law. 

Matt: It took you a second to come back with that. But whatever she said, we'll stick with that.


[22:08]

Matt: Lastly, one of the things people really like to do, especially people I know, and sometimes it's extremely annoying, is they like to forward an email to you and say, hey, check out this email I just got, it's awesome. Sometimes it's great, other times my friends are not so selective with the emails they forward me and I wish they'd stop. But anyways, making it easily shareable is really important. So there are some ways to make your email a little more shareable, depending on the ESP that you're using. There's a thing called Forward to a Friend that some of them have where it's a built-in little button, click through at the bottom. But either way, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to share. And keep that in mind that if it is being shared, you still want to provide a way for them to sign up for your newsletter. So if I got your newsletter forwarded to me, make it very clear to me somewhere, probably in the bottom of your email down in the footer, how I can sign up to get it myself every week or every month or whenever you send it. So that way if I do like it and one of my friends actually did right by me, and forwarded me an email that's worth it, I need to be able to subscribe to that email pretty easily. 

Lauren: That was one of those things that when I first heard about it, I was like, what, that's ridiculous. Who does that? Like, what? And then very quickly realized how often…we're constantly sending each other like, oh, I just got this email from such and such, I thought you would find interesting. Even if it sounds weird to you right now, if you're listening to this and you're like, who does that? Like people actually do that. 

Matt: Absolutely. 


[23:33]

Lauren: Alright. So, I mean, hopefully you didn't need us to convince you that email marketing is a valuable and effective strategy. But in case you're listening to this because you were on the fence about it, hopefully we have done some work to convince you now. So if you're there, if you're at that point, or if you were already here and you've been waiting for like 30 minutes for us to get to the good part. Most importantly, now that you're here, what are some of the best practices and tips for email marketing? How do we actually do this effectively? Like, how are other people doing this in a way that is effective? That's really, I guess, the million dollar question.

Matt: I don't know if it's a million dollar question. If it is, that's great. 

Lauren: It could be! For the right creator, it could be. 

Matt: No, in all seriousness, while email is probably one of the most effective marketing channels and it's one of the most widely used and it's definitely gaining in popularity again. It's kind of having its moment to shine. Email is also one of the most heavily regulated marketing channels out there. Social media is pretty much the Wild West and you're sort of beholden to the platform itself. The individual platforms, they kind of make up their rules and their own algorithms and there's no real regulation by anybody, even though some governments have tried. But email is the opposite of that. There are quite a few regulations around what you can and cannot do with email. And in fact, in most cases, it's not, you know, platform specific, they're not necessarily things these platforms are putting in place. Email is very heavily regulated by domestic and international governments. And so that's why earlier when I said if you're in the US and it's US customers and subscribers you're dealing with, you can leave that box checked that defaults them to opt in to your marketing emails on your ecommerce platform. However, if you were outside of the US, because of GDPR laws and things out in the international world, you cannot have that box checked by default. They have to physically check that box to be added to your marketing email list. So there are things like that. And so in all seriousness, you do need to understand what some of the best practices are. 


[25:34]

Matt: The easiest is talking about frequency. So one of the things that could potentially get you on the, uh, the no fly list as it were for an ESP or an email provider is just spamming the hell out of people, like emailing them every day or twice a week, and it's just not great content. You don't wanna do that. And while no ESP provider will tell you that they'll ding you or kick you off for sending emails that frequently, it's an unwritten sort of thing that if you're doing that constantly and incessantly and the quality of the content is not there, you could potentially get yourself on that list, so. You really want to pay attention to the frequency of what you want to do. 

Lauren: Yeah, they'll actually if you're thinking about this and you're like, oh, you know, well, I might as well just, like, cast a wide net and send a bunch of emails. And, you know, if they don't get seen, they don't get seen. But it's better to like send a bunch than send too few. It will actually - like, the metrics associated with your emails, like if you are sending emails daily multiple times a day and they have really, really low open rates because you're spam sending them to people, they will automatically start getting filtered into spam folders and out of main inboxes so that your people on your mailing list aren't seeing them at all. So it will actually have a negative impact on your ability to communicate with the people that you've worked hard to get on these mailing lists. If you are over-emailing them and your ESPs and their inboxes are flagging your content as spam and stuff like that. So it does absolutely have a negative impact. 

Matt: Yeah. Beyond that, if you're not getting wrapped up in the spam filter, but people are starting to see your emails daily and weekly and they click to open them and there's not a lot of valuable content in there, you're gonna get inbox fatigue. So people are gonna get to the point where they're used to seeing your emails and subconsciously they're like, there's probably nothing of value in there and they just start deleting them. Again, you're gonna find yourself getting relegated to the spam box pretty quickly. So, you know, choose your frequency wisely. I would only send when you have valuable content to send. And if it's a newsletter, make sure you pick a cadence or frequency that you can keep up with, that is not daily.

Lauren: It's a good idea for everybody, honestly. I mean, it's good for you because it gives you the structure to kind of plan your content ahead and plan and know ahead of time like, okay, if I'm sending one newsletter a month, so I have to like have X, Y, and Z content available every month so that I can include it in the newsletter. And it gives you time to figure that out. It also sets up an expectation for your readers. If I know I'm going to get an email from a certain author once a month, or every Friday, or, you know, whatever the cadence is. Like I start to look forward to those. Even if you don't even consciously recognize it, you do actually start to expect like, oh yes, here's my Friday afternoon email from that podcast that I listened to. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: You're setting up expectations with your audience and you want to make sure that you're delivering on those. Which is why one of my go tos for a lot of content stuff - this is not exclusive to email, but definitely is included in email - is to plan ahead. This is not something that you should be sitting down - I'm sending a newsletter on Friday. Today is Thursday. What am I going to put in this email? Like, no, no, no. You should have a content calendar, you should have a plan. It doesn't have to be like, you don't have to sit down in January and say, these are the exact specific blog posts, podcast episode and pieces of content that I'm gonna include in every newsletter between now and December. But even if you just sit down and set out the general structure of like, okay, in February, we're gonna talk about marketing, in March, we're gonna talk about ecommerce, in April, we're gonna talk about being a B Corp. Whatever the case may be, like you're gonna, you know, set out a general plan for yourself, and then you can have the structure filled in a little bit more. 

Matt: Yeah, I'm feeling very attacked by that plan ahead comment, so I'm just gonna drop my little addition here and say that while yes, you should plan ahead and try to build yourself a little calendar. There are one-off emails that will happen. 

Lauren: Sure.

Matt: Somebody like me will walk into the room and be like, hey, we need to send an email for this. And those don't necessarily count towards your scheduling. You can't plan for those. Most of the time, it's, again, it's some piece of news. Or in our case, it's oftentimes a piece of news or something that just kind of came out of left field that we need to inform people about, you know, whether it's industry-related or Lulu-related. But those one-off emails will happen. So make sure that when they do that you're well prepared for those, but you can't always schedule for them. 

Lauren: Yeah, and sometimes you actually want the cadence-breaking action of a one-off email, you know, especially like, if you have a new book coming out, you do want a dedicated email for that. The day your book comes out, you know, we talked in the last episode about the importance of having a launch day announcement when your book is available. Don't include that in your regular newsletter. I mean, do include that in your regular newsletter, but also have a separate dedicated email that breaks the cadence of your regular content and makes a big deal out of the announcement that, hey, my new book is out. 
Other things that you can plan, if you're trying to streamline this process for yourself as much as possible, consider creating templates for your different kinds of emails. And again, like we're not saying - or I'm not saying, because I know Matt wouldn't say this ever - but I'm not saying to go ahead and completely cookie cutter and pre-write all of your email content for an entire year. But I'm saying, like, set yourself the content template of: every newsletter that I send is going to have one blog post in it, one podcast episode, one Instagram post, one fun fact of something that I did since the last one, and one update on whatever my current project is. Like you're setting a content structure for yourself and then all you have to do is go ahead and plug those details in when it's time to build out the email for that month. I'm always a big advocate for planning ahead and structuring your content because, as Matt always says, the one thing you can't buy more of is time. 

Matt: That's true. 

Lauren: So if you are streamlining your content creation, gives you more time to do fun stuff. 

Matt: Very true. But one of my other favorite quotes is by Mike Tyson, and that's, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. 

Lauren: Touche. 


[32:03]

Matt: Yeah, well, along the lines of what Lauren was talking about, yeah, you can't always plan every last bit of the content or things like that. So it is important that you allow yourself a little bit of freedom and flexibility when it comes to your subject lines and your preview text. Subject lines are extremely important. That's essentially basically how you're knocking on somebody's door. So if that subject line is not impeccable, then you need to redo it. If it's not something that you yourself would click on to open, then you need to redo it. There are tools out there that can help with that. But ultimately, you just need to make sure that your subject line really conveys the value and the importance of what is inside that email. 
We have seen subject lines that are pretty templated and straightforward, it'll say something like: [Insert Brand Name Here] February Newsletter. That's fine, especially if you've built up a following that looks forward to that newsletter every month and you don't have to be fancy with the subject line because they're going to open it regardless, they've been waiting for that newsletter. But in general, you really should make an effort to really refine your subject lines to not only be devoid of any of the types of words and texts that will get you flagged and spam filters, but to again, sort of convey the importance and value of what's in that email to get people to click. If they don't click through, then what's the point? And they're not going to click through if the subject line doesn't convey the reason why they should. 

Lauren: Take a look at your own email inbox. Do it both on like a desktop, laptop, whatever, and on your phone. Also, just in general, when I was doing research for this episode, I saw the statistics that in 2023, 55% of emails were opened on a mobile device. And that number actually goes higher if you focus specifically on millennials and Gen Z. For Millennials, it was 59% and 67% of Gen Z. So you definitely want to make sure that you're always looking at your emails on mobile and desktop. But specifically, to go back to what Matt was saying about the subject lines and the importance of that real estate, look at that space on your phone and on your desktop and see how that real estate looks. I'm looking at my inbox right now on my phone, I'm looking at my Gmail inbox, and the most recent email that I have in here is actually from Joe Pulizzi, or it's from LinkedIn, and it says Joe Pulizzi via LinkedIn. His subject is “my eight best decisions ever,” which is pretty catchy. And the preview text says, “But first on May 13th, I'll be golfing 100 holes in…” and then it trails off. I have no interest in golf at all whatsoever, but I clicked on that email so fast cause I was like, what do you, what a hundred holes, there's only 18 holes in golf. What do you - That caught my interest.

Matt: But also, 100 holes in what? In a clown suit?

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: In November? In a swamp?

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: Like.

Lauren: But all of that, like that's exactly like, I don't, I don't know what magic Joe worked on that email -

Matt: None.

Lauren: But I - I clicked that open so fast, because I immediately wanted to know like, what are you talking about? What more? Like what, what's going on here? The one that I have right below that it's for a brewery, a local brewery. The subject line is 50% off apparel this week only. And the preview is fill out our survey inside for a chance at a $50 gift card. Guess what? I opened that one too. So like. 

Matt: It's important to note though, that that preview text that Lauren's referring to, you don't always control how much of that is going to be seen or what's going to be appended by the platform. 

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: And more specifically, the device that you're on. So, you know, laptops, people have the ability to adjust the window frame for what they're viewing. And so like the first example of Joe Pulizzi's email, he probably did not structure his preview text to end on that word of in. I think that might have been an issue where the device and the platform appended it in such a way that just worked out to his advantage because you were left hanging.

Lauren: Sure.

Matt: Thinking 100 holes in what? Now, if Joe did that on purpose, which there's a possibility. Because Joe is, after all, they call him the Godfather of Content Marketing, then that was just genius, because I too don't care about golf, but would have clicked on that, because I wanna know, what is he playing 100 holes in? 

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: And I hope it's a clown suit, but don't give any spoiler alerts. We want people to go sign up for Joe's newsletter.

Lauren: I hope it's not a clown suit because that sounds like one of my worst nightmares. 

Matt: But if you know Joe, you definitely want to see him play golf in a clown suit. 

Lauren: Okay fair. 

Matt: But the point is is what Lauren's saying by looking at how your email will look in each of these devices. And these ESPs will let you do that, they'll let you toggle between what your email’s gonna look like on a mobile phone versus a laptop versus a desktop, and some of them will get as specific as to let you see what it would look like on an iPhone versus an Android phone and things like that. You just want to be very careful of what it looks like because there are things you won't be able to control once you click the send button on that email. So making sure that your preview text looks pretty much how you want it to look, that your subject line is not going to get cut off in really awkward areas so that it reads something totally different than what you meant, which could also land you in a spam filter. 

Lauren: Absolutely. It does happen. It definitely happens.

Matt: Sure. 

Lauren: Even if you can't control like exactly where it gets cut off with the things like, how on your desktop like your window you can change the size on that, so you're you don't know where people's emails are gonna get cut off and the subject line is gonna get cut off. You will know then, like if you take a look at these things ahead of time, if you preview them on your phone or wherever -

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Ahead of time, you can say, okay it seems like pretty consistently the first 20 characters are visible no matter what, after that it gets a little dicey, but those first 20 characters are visible.

Matt: Right.

Lauren: So I have to put the most important information or the biggest hook in those first 20 characters.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And these are all just little things, like. I mean think about how many emails we get, I know I'm not alone, in this hundreds of emails a day. Between work and my personal email account, like absolutely for sure. I'm also, I'm the worst. I never unsubscribe to emails. I still get emails from like, I went to a brewery one time at - in a city that we went to a conference for that we've never been back to ever again. And it was pre-pandemic and I'm still getting emails from them because I never unsubscribe. But like, I'm still getting those emails. They're still there. Like I'm still getting them. 

Matt: But. Are you opening them? 

Lauren: Sometimes. Sometimes I'm curious. 

Matt: Oh see, that's the problem. Like, so, one of the other things that we would tell you is that you need to perform periodic maintenance on your email list. And what that means is - and again, all ESPs will give you a way to do this - you'll be able to see just how many of your subscriber list are not opening the last 3, 6, 12 emails or you can filter by this group of people have not opened one of my emails in three months or things like that. You'll get to the point where you become an email expert and you'll go through and you'll start wanting to weed those contacts out. Because if you're like Lauren, and you subscribed to somebody's email list four years ago, and you've not opened the last 27 emails, that brand or that person should not want you on their list anymore. All you're doing is dragging down their statistics. And just like that brand, you should also wanna make sure that your lists are the most active lists that you can get your hands on. And so if somebody's not opening your emails for months on end, you pretty much want to scrub them off your list. You can send them one last email and just say, hey, I don't know if it's me or it's you, but sounds like we're breaking up here. You know, you can always come back and resubscribe if you change your mind, but we're going to let you go. 

Lauren: You know, it was actually a couple of weeks ago, I was texting my sister about this, because if you are familiar with Swiftie lore in any in any capacity. You know that we're all constantly looking for Easter eggs and hints and clues. If there's a new anything coming out, whether it's a new record or a new album or whatever. And we're always looking for reasons to believe that something is coming. My sister is always the one who's like, Lauren, this theory is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Stop listening to TikToks and go do work instead. I texted her a couple of weeks ago and I said, hey, something's coming. I don't know what it is. I mean, we all, we all thought it was Reputation Taylor's Version, but  we were wrong, but I'm not upset about it. But I was like, something is coming. And I'm confident that something is coming. And she said, why? Like, what is this new thing? What Easter egg did you see in a music video from seven years ago? And I said, no. I said, I just got an email from Taylor Nation, which is like her official like street team. I got an email from them that is nothing. It is an email that is a reminder that the Eras Tour movie is available to stream on streaming services. It's not new, it's been out for over a month. Nothing has changed about it. Nothing in this email is new information. It's just an email. And I guarantee you it's them doing email list maintenance. It's them doing who opens this email, who engages with the email, who deletes it, who gets it sent to their spam folder. So that sometime in the next few weeks when we start a new campaign, we are sending it to the best possible version of our email list. And look, I'm just saying, we're recording this the day after the Grammys, something important got announced last night. I don't know, someone was right about something new coming out based purely on the evidence that I thought they were doing email list maintenance. So you heard it here first, a day late and a dollar short. I had a theory and I was right. 

Matt: For everybody else, let's just keep those lists clean. You want to keep them as active as possible. And if you've got zombies on there, people who are not clicking through and they're not opening your emails, don't take it personal, just clean that list up, get rid of them, cut ‘em loose. You don't need them. And you know, they're not going to unsubscribe. They're going to pull a Lauren and just keep letting those emails come in and not taking action or taking false action. They might click on it just to open it and then delete it immediately. You don't want that either. So, uh, you want to keep those things active. 


[42:05]

Matt: That brings us to understanding those types of metrics and how and why you should keep your lists clean. That comes to our next point of tracking your email performance. You want to obviously keep tabs and monitor your email performance. You want to be able to, you know, if you had an email that did particularly well and your open rate was much higher than most of your others, you need to know that. And then you need to know how and why that happened so that you can recreate that. And you can't do that, if you're not paying attention to your metrics, you're not paying attention to your performance, your click through rates and some of the other metrics that you need to be looking at when you are turning yourself into an email marketing expert.

Lauren: Yeah, this is something that we're gonna circle back on over and over and over again, as we're talking about marketing efforts: you should always be keeping track of your performance. In this particular case your ESP of choice should be able to provide all these metrics for you. They should have a very clear tool built into their system to like help you track all this stuff. So this should be pretty easy and pretty straightforward for you to do. But it is still important to definitely check in on those things and make sure that you understand the long term results of your emails. Like you should not…in any marketing efforts, you should never just be shouting into the void and then running away. Like you at least want to know if anyone heard you. At the very least. 

Matt: I just have this image of you like running into a room and just shouting something and running out. 

Lauren: Every day of my life. 

Matt: Can confirm. 


[43:35]

Lauren: Yep. It’s fine. Another thing that people recommend doing, and I'm going to be honest, I don't have a whole lot of information about how to do this because I, this is not my job. They talk about the importance of personalizing emails. And that can be as simple as using a plugin tool in the body of your email that addresses the recipient by name. Although I personally am always very hesitant of those, because I always think it’s really funny when they’re wrong. There's one email that gets sent to the marketing team all the time that says “Hi Mark” as the - and every time I just think of The Room. Like every time, it's always addressed to Mark. I don't know who Mark is. There's no one on the marketing team whose name is Mark and there hasn't been.

Matt: It's the first four letters of marketing. 

Lauren: Maybe that's, maybe that's it. I mean, maybe that is as simple as that's it, but you know, I mean, I'd be really weirded out if I got an email that said, Hey Laur because they just took the first four letters. But still, you know, maybe be careful with using that, but you can also personalize your emails by, um, segmenting your email lists. Which is getting a little bit more granular within your email capture setup and stuff like that. But you might be, it might be worth your time and effort to do something like saying, you know, I only want to target people that bought this specific product in my store.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Or I only want to target people that haven't opened an email in the last six months. So I want to send one to people that haven't opened an email recently and just kind of like check in with them and see how they're doing. Whatever the case may be, like if that's your best method of personalization, you might have a lot more success with that than just sending out a broad, vague email to your entire email list and not getting more granular than that. 

Matt: Yeah, personalization really does refer more to the segmentation activities and tailoring those emails and that content to that particular segment, versus like, Dear Lauren. That's old hat, it's built into most platforms anyways, a lot of times it just does it automatically. Although I don't know that you know most people have that aversion that you do to having their name spelled out in an email, but. Personalization, when we talk about that with email, it really refers more to the segmentation that Lauren was talking about, and understanding your audience and your customer base. So when you're pairing selling direct with, again, something like your email subscriber list that customer database on your end, whether you're using Shopify or whatever married to your ESP, you'll have a pretty good idea of just what books and products each person has bought from you, where they're located, where they had it shipped, you know, all those things and you can start to do really cool things with segmentation. Whether that's creating a birthday email where they get something special from you, or again, if this group of people in particular purchased all three books of a trilogy from you, instead of Amazon or somebody else, you can send them a special something or they get an early announcement of when the next series is coming out, things like that. That's personalization, and that's something you can only do, not only, but primarily do through email. 

Lauren: I'm just really glad that it's not, we're not focusing on addressing everyone by name. That's really, that's. When I first started seeing, like, the recommendations to personalize your emails, I was like, oh, no. 

Matt: We should just have them all say, dear person. 

Lauren: I prefer to be perceived as a ghost. 

Matt: Well, yeah, but. This conversation that's going sideways real quick. 

Lauren: I know. 


[47:03]

Matt: Why don't we touch on one of the last best practices that we should tell people about.

Lauren: Okay. 

Matt: And then we can get back to how you'd like to be addressed in your emails. Which might say something about your personality and well, let's just move on. The last thing you should really think about is your email footer. Your footer, that is the bottom portion of your email, and if you look at all the emails that you get coming into your inbox there's always a section at the bottom, the footer that has links to other things. The unsubscribe link is always in there, which Lauren can't seem to find. And there'll be other important things in there as well. Most email providers these days will require you to have a physical address listed in that footer. Uh, you can use a PO box as well. That's fine. That is one of those things where it's kind of built into some of the, the, the data protection, uh, laws and things like that. So when you talk about GDPR and some of those other things, having a physical address in your footer. 
But it's also a good chunk of real estate to experiment with putting other calls to action and other things related to your brand, your business, or your series. You want to make sure that you keep that footer consistent, and you want to make sure that all the most valuable links that you have are always included in that footer, links to buy your book, to your website. And you always, always, always have to have a link to unsubscribe in that footer. As long as you have those things, you're in pretty good shape and you won't have much to worry about.

Lauren: Yeah, we're going to talk about this again in multiple episodes  because I think it's really important and I think it's one of those like nitpicky things that is like a little pet peeve in mind that drives me crazy. It's really important to cross promote on your platforms. In your email signature, you should have links to your website and your social accounts. On your social accounts, on all of your social accounts, you should have links to your email subscription opt in and your website. On your website, you should have links to your email subscription opt in and all of your social accounts. So you should be cross-promoting and connecting everything as much as possible. This is really valuable real estate. Don't waste it. 

Matt: Yeah, definitely.

Lauren: For sure. 


[49:11]

Matt: It dawned on me earlier. I forgot to mention we were talking about subject lines and the importance of those, and I bet some people were probably a little bit tense when I was talking about that. It can be really hard to be clever in 40 characters or 80 characters, whatever you decide. Something we've been using a lot here at Lulu and, and I know a lot of other people are as well. Use something like ChatGPT to experiment with subject lines. We get some pretty cool subject lines out of ChatGPT and it's also a good way for people to start playing around with AI, generative AI tools. So if you've been hesitant or trepidatious about using one of these tools or starting to mess around with it, subject lines are a great way to start sort of playing around with that tool and understanding how it works and getting comfortable with using AI for some of the things that are more production oriented in your life. You don't want to use it for, you know, overly creative things, but it's a great subject line generator. 

Lauren: Yeah, for sure. And it's never a bad idea to have a repository of future subject line ideas. And ChatGPT is a great way to provide that for you. Even if it just gives you like a starting point and you can use the starting point list that it gives you jumpstart your own ideas and generate your own ideas for it.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: It's, it's a great thing to have in your back pocket. So definitely make sure you at least test it out, try it out, see how it goes. They've also just recently launched the, like, custom GPT tools. I know we actually just put out a blog post about that and I was learning about that at Podfest a little bit. There are all kinds of tools that are getting built on the ChatGPT store. I think, I'm not entirely sure about the terminology, but there's all kind of new stuff for that. I'm sure if there isn't already, there will be soon something that is very specifically an email subject line tool, for sure.

Matt: There's already some out there. 

Lauren: I'm sure there is. So test it out, see how it goes. Could be fun, could be fun to use, could be really helpful, could be nothing, but you won't know it until you try it.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Yeah. And on that note, I think we've talked for an hour about email marketing. 

Matt: Yeah. What would your subject line for this episode be?

Lauren: I wish to be perceived as a ghost. 

Matt: There's a wasp in the room. 

Lauren: Co-hosts Lauren, Matt, and the unnamed wasp talk about email marketing. Oh, the wasp is the ghost. We've come full circle. 

Matt: Maybe. 

Lauren: I will no longer be perceived as a ghost and instead the wasp can be the ghost. 

Matt: I'm gonna go play 100 rounds of golf in... 

Lauren: What would you play 100 rounds of golf in? If you were trying to raise money for charity, which I do think is actually the point of the rest of the - I think that might be the fill in the blank on that. I mean, first of all, I know you, we probably have to pay you to play a hundred rounds of golf, but if you were going to play a hundred rounds of golf for charity in something ridiculous, what would it be? 

Matt: An inflatable sumo wrestler suit. 

Lauren: I would actually contribute a lot of money to see that. 

Matt: With a 20 gallon cowboy hat. 

Lauren: Would the 20 gallon hat be inflatable or would it be a real one on the inflatable suit?

Matt: Probably have to be inflatable as well. I don't know. 

Lauren: Yeah. It might be too heavy if it was just a standard. 

Matt: Yeah. I don't want to affect my game. 

Lauren: Alright. Well, if you also would pay a lot of money to see that happen, please let us know on Lulu social so we can start a GoFundMe to make that happen. Sounds great. I'll start the, I'll start the campaigning within the marketing team now. I think a lot of us would contribute to that cause.

Matt: I quit.

Lauren: See, this is why I keep welcoming you back to these podcast episodes. Because every day I'm convinced you're not going to come back. But if you've come back and listened again, thank you so much for sticking it out with us on this one. Thank you for listening and please come back.