If a blogger’s motivation includes selling anything – art or services for example, an effective way of building a mailing list is important. It becomes a list of contacts that can be nurtured and owned by the blogger, independent of any other channels they might use. It is a more intimate form of communication than social media. The list can be moved by the owner – they are not platform dependent.
I’ve done some practical research into this by looking at free mailing list services, registering with one and putting it into action. I chose MailChimp as its free option is generous and would probably suffice for many artists, without any need to add admin overhead costs apart from time! The main limitation of the free offering seems to be the requirement to use a MailChimp url and no access to some of the more sophisticated marketing tools the platform offers.
Some of what I discovered through implementing MailChimp at a basic level (MC):
- It is not immediately obvious how to work with it and there’s a range of terminology that needs to be learned. However, there is useful help on the site. It does require a significant investment of time to implement.
- Integrating with WordPress (.org only) to allow a mailing list pop-up requires an edit of the site code to insert MC code, unless one pays for a premium plugin. However, the edit is not difficult with the right safety measures. Pop-up functionality does not appear to be available on some of the more plug&play type hosting platforms (eg Adobe Portfolio).
- However, you don’t need to use a pop-up – html blogs and hyperlinks are also available to route viewers to a mailing list sign in. It is also possible to design and set up ‘landing pages’ for different mail campaigns from within MC. You upload your own images to a ‘creative studio’ and design online.
- The application has a workflow logic that allows automation of emails – for example a ‘welcome email’ once someone has signed up. Or using the concept of segments (or tags for finer detail) within your ‘audience’ for specific campaigns.
Example of landing page in MailChimp (created by Andrew Fitzgibbon): https://mailchi.mp/9f42381d4911/sign-up-to-news-from-fitzgibbon-photography
It is clear that setting up an running a successful mailing list would take considerable time and perseverance. And there is much more to it than just mechanics – understanding and building a marketing strategy, being aware of the law and spam email / email permissions, advertising standards requirements and so on. Susan Gunelius’s book Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business (2018, Irvine: Entrepreneur Press.) covers in detail the various aspect of email marketing.
My conclusion from practical research and reading around email marketing is that significant effort is involved to do it well. This is time above and beyond creating work – one might begin to wonder how long is left for creating work for the photographer who is also an active blogger!