Email marketing systems enable companies and organisations to send email updates, newsletters and invitations to a list of subscribers.
These systems help you with the safe collection of subscriber email addresses, the building and sending of your emails, tracking engagement (showing you which subscribers open and click your messages), and subscriber clean-up – removing email addresses when someone unsubscribes or when their email address is no longer reachable.
In a world where so much attention is focused on social media channels, there is evidence to suggest that email marketing is still effective, and continues to be one of the best ways to build relationships with your audience online, reminding them about what you offer and encouraging them to visit your venue or engage with your services more frequently. Email newsletters can potentially reach bigger online audiences in meaningful ways, and some services are free to use up to a certain number of subscribers. Most services also enable you to design responsive email campaigns, which will automatically resize for ease of reading depending on whether your subscribers are looking at their email on a mobile, tablet or desktop.
Email newsletters can inform your subscribers about new exhibitions, upcoming events, new products in your shop, or any deals and discounts. This helps you keep in touch with your visitors and others who may be interested in your institution, and gives them a reason to make a visit soon.
You can also use newsletters to share more detailed content, news and ideas with your subscribers, to help them better engage with your collections and exhibitions. This helps you to engage farther-flung subscribers, for whom a visit may not be possible, or subscribers who have problems traveling, such as those with mobility issues.
Mailchimp – a very popular service with free accounts that let you have up to 2,000 subscribers, and send up to 12,000 emails a month. Beyond this number of subscribers, there is a monthly charge. A wealth of knowledge and free online support is available on their website.
Constant Contact – one of the largest email marketing services, with an easy to use interface aimed towards beginners. Monthly costs are based on your number of subscribers, but full features are only available at the highest price point.
GetResponse – another leading email marketing service, GetResponse has a comprehensive set of features, which are unlocked the more you spend and the higher your number of subscribers – for instance the ability to run webinars. Prices start from £10 a month.
Campaign Monitor– an easy to use service with a drag-and-drop interface. Again, prices start from £9 a month, and the more you pay, the more features are unlocked.
Aweber – offers similar functionality and pricing structures, and is known for offering customer support via telephone as well as email and livechat.
Permission and data protection
You need explicit permission to add people to your email newsletter list. You should use double opt-in on your newsletter signup forms – this sends an email to your new subscribers when they sign up, asking them to confirm that they definitely want to be added to your list. For any data you collect you must ensure you comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These are strict data protection rules that carry very heavy fines if breached, and are something that you need to be aware of. For more on the key issues of managing data for small museums see this guide from AIM.
It is important that your emails have engaging, useful content so that your subscribers want to continue opening them and clicking the links. A vital part of your emails is the subject line and preview text – these short bits of text will make your subscribers decide whether or not to open your email, so make sure they are concise, interesting, and contain a call to action if possible.
Email design is very important as it makes your messages look attractive and professional. You can create your own simple design template so that each email newsletter you send out looks uniformly branded and unique to you. Most email services have standard templates you can customise with your own logo and colour scheme, and also support you to design your own templates. If you’d like to stand out more and use your own custom template, you may want to pay a designer to do this for you.
Unless you have a very small subscriber list and your email newsletter service is still free, the price you pay per month is based on your number of subscribers, so the bigger your list gets the more you are charged. It is good practice to run ‘reengagement campaigns’ – identifying the people on your list who do not open your emails, and inviting them to either engage or unsubscribe. Subscribers who remain inactive can be removed from your list, saving you money from the number of subscribers that you pay for each month, and helping to keep your list healthy.
Any service you choose should give you an in-depth range of analytics, so you can assess how well your emails are performing by noting how many newsletters are opened and clicked, for instance, and whether certain subject matter, days of the week or times that you send out your messages are more popular with your subscribers. It is well worth paying close attention to this feedback so that you can test different types of content, and see what your subscribers respond well to.
Pallant House Gallery – Sunday Read
A supplementary fortnightly email from this art gallery, sharing the stories and connections behind their current exhibition programme to give subscribers a rich, detailed background to the artworks on display, encouraging them to visit each exhibition.
Royal Museums Greenwich – What’s on this month
An email newsletter informing subscribers about what they can see at RMG this month. In this example they’ve themed their content around initiatives taking place in February, e.g. Valentine’s Day and LGBT History Month. Their copywriting appeals to the emotions, inviting visitors to “fall head over heels with amazing art” and suggesting date nights and family outings.
A lot of help is available online in the form of articles, forums and help desks.
EmailOnAcid.com –A Beginner’s Guide: Email Campaigns from Start to Finish
Optinmonster.com – How to Run a Successful Email Marketing Campaign (Step by Step)
MailChimp.com – Email Marketing Field Guide
Optinmonster.com – Email Marketing vs Social Media Performance (2016-2019 Statistics)
Style Factory Productions – Comparative reviews of different email marketing services