On the caring and feeding of your email list (The “How”)

by Smartie on August 4, 2010

Email engagement is important, and right now, not a lot of theaters are doing it well. Why not stand out?

Last week, I guest blogged with Vancouver-based PR pro Rebecca Coleman at 2AM Theatre, where we discussed marketing with email lists and blogs. In that post, we gave you the “why” but this week, let’s look at the “how.” (And since I was firmly in the email camp, let’s focus on that!)

The how, of course, isn’t as simple. It’s probably best suited to go with examples.

Let’s pretend you champion new plays. If you produce once a year, for four weeks, what could you possibly email about those other 11 months of the year? And emails about a reading series or other ancillary events you promote don’t count. Let’s see if we can add value for those on your email list. This is strictly promo free (well, at least, not obviously promotional).

It’s time to get creative!

Using the example above, if you produce new plays, you probably have a network of young playwrights that you often work with. Could you gather up these playwrights and ask them to write short plays that could be sent out regularly to your email list? Maybe an episodic play, to keep your readers wanting more of the story.  So weekly, or monthly, your readers get a morsel of a story that keeps them opening that regular email every single time. They begin to look forward to catching up with their favorite characters.

Now, how do you tie this in with promotion? Maybe the playwright whose next work you are producing would be up for the challenge, which introduces your audience to this writer in a very novel way.

I would love to see a company do this, and track the response. So please, someone, steal this idea!

Now, for a different example. I have a client who produces one show a year. So their email list often doesn’t hear from them until the production is ramping up. This year, we are trying a new approach.

The head of the organization sees a LOT of theater–everything from Broadway to the smallest, oddest venues. And she loves to check out new neighborhood restaurants, the ones often ignored by the New York Times dining section.And she goes to loads of museums and galleries. In short, the woman has culture up the whazoo.

Every once in a while she sends an email out to her friends recommending a charming restaurant she just discovered or a spectacular theater piece she just caught. When I proposed she turn this into a regular thing, promoting theater or food or whatever struck her fancy to her list, it may be a great way to keep the conversation going with her patrons beyond once-a-year.

Of course, it helps that as a figurehead of this particular organization, she has already branded herself to her list as someone with a cultural sensibility that they trust. And each recommendation that resonates with them will only make them trust her more.

She’s kicking this idea off later this month, and I am anxious to see the response.

Over at my other blog, BeautyOlogy, I just started an email list. Called Product Junkie, it’s a service that offers more free content than what readers get from my blog. It’s  kicked off with a weekly series 7 Skin Care Myths. Every Tuesday over the course of seven weeks, I bust a beauty myth for my readers. Once the myths are over, they begin to get regular weekly content that is exclusive to them. So far, the response has been fantastic. And it’s a great way for me to build trust and engagement with my  readers, who one day will turn into clients, if they aren’t already. And if they are clients, it’s something extra that I share with them (thus promoting good will), and it keeps me in their minds.

These are just three examples of ways to keep your audience engaged. It may take some time to figure out what your audience would respond to and appreciate. In fact, you may want to ask your list what they would find of value. Often, no one asks them and they just get pummeled with marketing hype. I bet they would appreciate being asked.

So, any thoughts on how to step up your email engagement? I’d love to hear from you!

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