If you spend a bit of time bouncing around the blogosphere, you’ll know that many bloggers offer readers the option of subscribing to their blog via email. Platforms such as WordPress make this super easy for bloggers by sending email subscribers an automatic email when a new post goes live.* However, bloggers can also choose to manage their own mailing lists and create customised mailouts (like this one) using email marketing services, such as MailChimp, Vision 6, etc.
I’ve been building and maintaining my own mailing list via MailChimp since day dot and thought I’d share some of the pros and cons of using an email marketing service.
*To be clear: I’m talking about when you subscribe to a blog by email, not when you follow them in WordPress Reader.
You own the list
This is more important than you might think because if you decide to switch blogging platforms down the track, your email subscribers come with you. People who choose to receive emails about your blog are your most valuable readers (more on that in just a tick). You put a lot of time and effort into building your list of subscribers and don’t want to risk losing them if you decide to switch platforms. (Side note: WordPress can help you move your subscribers between WordPress sites and when switching from WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site, it’s just a bit fiddly.)
You control what you send to subscribers and when you send it
Rather than being limited to sending notifications about new blog posts, you can contact your subscribers about ANYTHING! And that creates the perfect opportunity for you to reward your subscribers. They’ve done you the favour of giving you permission to contact them directly, so why not make them feel like the VIPs that they are? You can run giveaways and competitions just for them, create exclusive bonus content, share behind-the-scenes news about your blog—the options are limitless!
You also control the days and times that you contact your subscribers, which means that you can hit up their inboxes when they’re most likely to be online and have a few minutes to spare.
This is SUPER IMPORTANT if you plan to monetise your blog. When a reader gives you their email, they’re saying they like what you’ve got going on and they want to see more. More than that, they’re inviting you to get in touch. It’s more personal (and valuable) than having them follow you on Instagram or Twitter. In short, they’re willing to invest in you! If you’re using your blog to sell products or services or even dabble in a little affiliate marketing, your email subscribers form your core customer base. More than that, they’re the ones who are most likely to keep coming back. The freedom to choose what you say to them and when is extremely valuable.
You get to customise until your heart’s content
You control every aspect of the emails you send: subject line, body content, layout, images, fonts, links, the works! That means you can make them look super specky. Better still, you can incorporate merge tags, which allow you to add personal touches (e.g., addressing each recipient by name). You can also segment emails to better target your content (e.g., I might include an extra segment for my fellow Perth subscribers letting them know about an upcoming local book launch, or share a giveaway that’s only open to Australian residents). Again, the sky’s the limit!
It gives you access to analytics
Yup, you can track how many subscribers are reading your emails, what times they’re reading them, what links they’re clicking on, etc. Again, super handy if you’ve set up your blog as a business. You can use analytics to figure out what content readers most enjoy, the best time to send your emails and a whole lot more. You can also see how your open and click-through rates change over time and use that data to improve how you communicate with your subscribers.
It’s one of the best ways to direct engaged readers to your blog
Click through rates from mailouts are generally much higher than from other forms of social media. This goes back to what I said before about your subscribers being your VIP readers. They want to hear from you!
You add a valuable skill to your CV
A lot of us use our blogs as a form of professional development and networking. In fact, in pretty well every interview I’ve had for a creative job, I’ve been asked about my experience with digital comms. If you have aspirations to work as a copywriter or in publicity, marketing, online retail, digital media, etc., then it’s a huge plus to be able to show prospective employers that you can manage a mailing list and tailor comms for that list. Heck, if you want to start your own business, knowing how to grow your customer base and drive sales through your mailing list is a significant advantage.
It’s a time suck
Once you’re happy with the look of your email, you can save it as a template so that you don’t have to create each now mailout from scratch. Even still, preparing each mailout takes time, especially if you choose to create exclusive content and segment that content. It makes sense if you have a substantial mailing list, and even more so if you view your subscribers as potential customers. However, if you’re just starting out and only have a handful of subscribers, it can feel like a lot of work for not much gain.
You’re responsible for sending the emails
You’ve got to make an emailing schedule and stick to it. If you post fresh content on your blog but don’t make the time to let your subscribers know about it, then your VIP readers miss out. It’s a whole level of extra responsibility, and if you’re going to manage your mailing list, you need to be super organised and follow through. It sounds like a no-brainer, but trust me, it’s harder than it seems.
It might cost you
Part of the reason I opted to go with MailChimp is that it’s FREE until you hit 2,000 subscribers. But after that, you’ve gotta pay. The Chimp’s rates are pretty reasonable, just $10 a month once you crack 2000 subscribers, and that also gives you access to a bunch of extra features. And, honestly, if your list is that large, it’s probably worth the investment. But pricing varies. For example, at my old work, we used Vision6 which charges $9 a month for to up to 500 subscribers. So if you decide to use an email marketing service, it pays to shop around and find one that meets your needs and budget.
You must learn the ways of The Chimp (or whichever service you choose to use)
MailChimp has become increasingly user-friendly in recent years (praise be to the tech gods!). Even still, if you haven’t previously worked with an email marketing service, it takes a bit of time to learn your way around. Once you know what you’re doing, it offers huge scope for creativity, and you can dream up some pretty snazzy-looking emails, but you need to decide if it’s worth the effort.
Is it worth it?
Well, that depends on your blogging goals and how you see your blog developing in the future. If you intend to monetise your blog (or you already have), then yes, it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also worthwhile if you see your blog as a professional development tool. Knowing your way around an email marketing service and having the discipline and creativity to manage a mailing list and deliver regular, high-quality comms can make you that little bit more attractive to prospective employers. Finally, if you can see yourself outgrowing or wanting to switch from your current blogging platform, then managing your mailing list ensures that you take your subscribers with you.
However, if you blog purely for fun and are happy with your current blogging platform, then it’s probably not worth the extra time and effort. You’d be better off putting that energy into creating more content for your blog.
But I will say this: if you decide to manage your mailing list, start now. It’s easy to think: ‘Oh, my blog’s not big enough. I’ll wait until I’ve got more readers.’ Nope, you want to be building your VIP list from day one. This is how you grow your readership.
Finally, if you blog with WordPress but manage your own mailing list, switch off the ‘follow by email’ button in the bottom right corner of your blog (Settings ⇒ Reading ⇒ Follower Settings). I didn’t do this when I first started out and it’s one of my biggest blogging regrets because now I have two separate lists: one managed by me and one managed by WordPress. It’s not the end of the world, but it means that the readers who subscribe to WordPress email notifications miss out on my customised emails and I don’t have the opportunity to offer them the VIP treatment they deserve.
Do you use an email marketing service?
Do you think it’s worth it?
Oh, and *shameless plug*, you can sign up to the Lectito mailing list here!
Thanks to Grammarly for picking up four critical issues and thirty-five advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
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