So your adoring fan base has swarmed to your website and signed up to your mailing list. You also got a bunch of email addresses at your last gig. Before you start firing off tantalizing epistles documenting your drunken studio antics and news of your drummer’s breakup with his girlfriend (gotta keep the groupies happy, right?) let me urge you to exercise a little restraint, and think about how you intend to use your entrusting fans’ details.
When you hear big companies talking about ‘marketing campaigns’ they’re not merely referring to the latest stupid advert aimed at coercing you to buy their shit washing powder. A campaign is usually a targeted schedule of communication and grouping of themed marketing that is being enacted for a specific reason. Marketing campaigns are rarely begun with the sole directive of ‘selling more stuff’ although that is usually the ultimate goal. More likely, a high up exec noticed that they were selling well to the under 30’s, so they designed a campaign specifically aimed at selling to that demographic. Other reasons may be a new product launch, basic product awareness (perhaps of the back of poor sales versus a competitor), acquiring new customers, or selling more to existing customers. All these goals require very different campaigns and modes of communication.
You should think of your communications to your fans in a similar context. So before sending out a single email, ask yourself, ‘what is it that I’m trying to achieve?’ Perhaps you’re just about to go on tour, and you want to get people to gigs. Maybe you’re just about to release a new EP or album. You may just be interested in striking a rapport with your fans. Maybe what you want is a bigger email list. Perhaps you want to all of the above.
The next question to ask yourself is “what does success look like?” There’s little point in a campaign that achieves nothing, and understanding the specific goals you want to achieve is vital when constructing your campaign. Some possible outcomes are:
- Gig ticket sales, or higher attendance
- Hits to your Myspace or website
- Downloads of your new track(s)
- Signups to your mailing list
- Album sales CD or iTunes
- Merchandise sales
- Beers bought for you by fans post-gig
- Mentions on other sites (blogs, review sites, news sites etc.)
- Ego boost, attention from ladies/guys/both etc.
It’s likely that several of the above are important to you. So state your objectives, and write them down somewhere, you’ll need to refer back to this when making decision about how to conduct your campaign – if something you’re doing doesn’t contribute to these goals, should you really be doing it?
The next dimension to consider is time. There are key dates in your band’s diary that are important in this endeavour: album release date, tour dates, band t-shirts get delivered, interview/review appears in some magazine. Communications to your fans should mean something to the fans and should be delivered at the right time to be relevant to the corresponding event. If the only email you send advertising your new album release is sent 6 weeks before it’s available, then that message will be lost or forgotten. Conversely, you need to give people plenty of advance warning for gigs, but you don’t want to tell them until the tickets are actually available.
So perhaps you’ve got a new album coming out, a short tour to support this, and t-shirts with the album cover on the front being sold online and at the gigs. This calls for a well structured email campaign, as there’s quite a lot going on. Before you set down a single word of an email, write down a schedule for those events and corresponding communications to the fan base. Your campaign summary may look something like this (except with realistic dates!):
Oct 1st – Recording/mixing finishes
Oct 7th – Initial teaser email send to tell the fanbase about the album
Oct 10th – t-shirts available
Oct 14th – Pressing finishes, hard copies delivered
Oct 15th – 2nd email drop with album releases date and artwork, track listing and links to buy t-shirts and pre-order album
Oct 20th – Tour dates confirmed, tickets available
Oct 22nd – 3rd email drop, tour dates, ticket sources, album, release date, t-shirt link
Nov 1st – Album released
Nov 1st – 4th email drop with links to buy album, t-shirts, tour dates etc.
Nov 15th – 5th Email drop to remind folks who didn’t buy your. Remind about the tour
Nov 17th – tour begins
This is the campaign you will execute to. Don’t send ANY other emails. Be wary of communicating release dates early on, or until they’re absolutely committed to, otherwise you’ll have to send out an embarrassing retraction. Early teaser emails should say something like “touring before the end of the year” or “in the shops this spring”.
The emails’ design, colour scheme and construction should be consistent throughout the campaign. Also, make sure it’s obvious what to click on or where to go to get the stuff you’re advertising (these are called ‘calls to action’ in business speak).
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could accompany this with a purely online campaign, using your website, Twitter, Myspace or whatever, to try and coerce new punters to your Fanbridge/Reverb Nation site and thus widen your audience for the big release.
Campaigns can get infinitely more complicated than this, however it’s always important not to overstate your message or saturate your audience. Always revisit your objectives and why you are communicating with your fans, and ask yourself before sending any emails “do they really care?”
That’s quite a lot to take in. I’ll leave you to digest for a while!