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Mailing List 101: Where to Start

Mailing List 101: Where to Start

Mailing lists are a key element to art marketing. It takes years and persistence to collect contact information, emails, and potential collectors but the work is worth it.

1. Pick the type of list you want

There are two types of mailing lists you can manage: a digital email list and an address-based list.

You can choose to manage one or both. Most people more openly share their email address before their home address (or other personal information) so if you only decide to manage one list, prioritize the email list.

2. Determine your marketing message

Figure out what content you want to share with your audience members. Are they periodic invitations to open studios? Monthly updates of your work? Announcements of upcoming exhibitions? Knowing how frequently you want to email your contacts can help you determine which system will work best for you.

Email List: marketing messages can be sent more frequently because they are free to send.

Address List: While addressed mail would be sent one, maybe two times a year due to postage costs.

3. Choose your system

Email List: You can use your current email program as a place to store emails if your list is small and easy to manage (Under 100 or so). This also means that your emails are not automatic and you remember most of the contact names and relationships in your head.

You can use an email marketing system like Mail Chimp, Convert Kit, or Constant Contact when you grow out of your current email program. Email marketing systems will have an inventory or list of emails that you enter, much like a database. You can design brand-friendly emails that are designed with your logo and images. These newsletters can be automated and tracked so you know how many people open and click your content. Many of these programs are free up to a certain number of list members.

Mail List: You can always keep a trusty old address book around with addresses of contacts. You can also make this digital and use Excel or Word to mail merge contacts when you want address labels typed and printed during mailings.

4. Find ways to collect emails

Now that you have a system, it’s time to collect emails to add to your mailing list.

Email List: Digital newsletter forms are available with certain email marketing programs. This allows you to insert code into your blog or website that lets people submit their email and join your list. If this sounds tricky, get someone who is familiar with code to help with this process.

Start with a sheet of paper (typed preferably) that says mailing list and ask for people to fill out their email. Then use this list to manually enter these into your email marketing system.

Address List: Follow a similar format for the email list. Forms can be adapted to include addresses but many people hesitate to share personal information online. It’s better to stick to a paper mailing list sheet and have people write out their addresses.

Regardless of how you plan to collect contact info, Only as for the information you need. Usually, a name and their preferred contact info are enough.

5. Additional Considerations

Expect joke emails from kids, addresses that don’t work, and emails that bounce back. If this happens very frequently, it’s time to find a better way to capture emails. If it only happens to a few emails a month and a handful of addresses each mailing, then take them off your list and let them go. It will cost you more time and energy trying to correct the email or address than it’s worth.

Never sell your mailing list to anyone for money, and don’t share your list with others. Your audiences, collectors, and fans signed up because they are interested in what you have to share and offer. Swapping mailing lists with another artist won’t bring in more sales or fans, it will just piss people off.

Take notes on how you met or received your contacts:  Write on a business card where you met the person. Note on paper mailing sheets where you found these new contacts: was it an art fair, open studio event, exhibition, etc. Most email marketing systems will note if someone used a form and voluntarily signed up. It’s good to have some basic tracking and notes on how you received the contacts. Therefore, if someone becomes upset you have reached out or emailed them, you can look back in your notes and refer to how you got this contact.

Don’t re-sign up someone if they unsubscribed. There are anti-spam laws that you must follow when email marketing. This means you need to allow people and opt-in and opt-out options. If someone unsubscribes, don’t take it personally and don’t reach out to them with additional emails.


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