For authors that are not a member of the NonFiction Author’s Association or missed the Teleseminar/Podcast, below is the transcript where I discuss Email List Building Strategies that Work.
— Marquina (@Marquina) May 24, 2017
Email List Building Strategies That Work
Stephanie Chandler, Founder and CEO of the NonFiction Authors Association: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the teleseminar series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Marquina Iliev-Piselli and we’re going to be talking about how to build your email list and why it’s important to do so. I am your host, Stephanie Chandler. Happy to have you with us today. As a reminder, we do have the phone lines muted and this session is recorded. This event will last 30 minutes and recordings are available to Authority and VIP members of the Nonfiction Authors Association. If you’re new to us, in addition to event recordings, Authority and VIP members receive additional benefits including exclusive templates, checklists, and other content released every week, access to our active member forum on LinkedIn, free admission to local chapter meetings across the US and in Canada, discounts off our Nonfiction Book Awards, Nonfiction Writers Conference, as well as our online courses and author toolkits and discounts with our partners, including Office Depot, PR Newswire, Gebbie Press, and VSP. You can learn more about us at NonfictionAuthorsAssociation.com. I also encourage you to check out NonfictionWritersConference.com, our seventh annual event returns May 3rd through 5th of this year and we’re really excited about the lineup we have for you. Now I’m happy to introduce our guest, Marquina Iliev-Piselli is the Digital Marketing Director at RiffleBooks.com and an Independent Author-Marketing Consultant at AuthorpreneurLaunch.com. Through her online courses and coaching, she helps authors feel empowered, not overwhelmed by marketing. Since 2007, Marquina has been an author-marketer who has helped indie authors as well as the big five book publishers reach new readers, increase ebook sales, and continue sustained platform growth. Marquina is well-versed in social media marketing, content marketing, organic search and pay-per-click, book landing pages, email marketing, and growth hacking. She delivers high-quality, results-driven strategic processes and programs to help authors sell more books. Marquina is writing her first nonfiction book, Grin and Air It: How I Crushed Cancer with Attitude and Air Guitar. Killer book title there. Thanks, Marquina, for joining us today. Marquina: Thanks, Stephanie, it’s wonderful to be here. Stephanie: Well, you are doing lots of very cool things and the topic of email lists is one I’ve wanted to cover for awhile. Can you talk about why it’s important for authors to build an email list? Marquina: First of all, I love email marketing. It’s my ‘bread and butter’ and the core of both of my businesses Rifflebooks.com and AuthorpreneurLaunch.com. Basically, anytime I discuss platform building strategies with an author, I talk to them about their email list. Sometimes people are hesitant. They say, “Oh, I’ve only got a couple hundred. I’m working on it, but I don’t really know how to build it.” So I’m really happy to be here today just to speak with everyone about email list building because your email list is the core of your author platform. It’s the heart of it. There are many different social media platforms to choose from, but you don’t own that content. You own your email list. An email list is indifferent to the hot new social media trend of the moment and it can get you directly in front of your potential reader, in their inbox. I can speak from experience related to the fact that you should own your audience and not build it solely on a social media platform. Before working at Riffle Books, the previous iteration of the company was a Facebook Page Tab-building company called Odyl. Odyl built an entire platform for authors to promote their books within Facebook using Facebook apps like quizzes, giveaways, polls, book cover reveals, exclusive first chapter reveals, and photo contests. I’m not sure if people remember this far back in Facebook history, even though it was only about 4 years ago but, for example, we did those Facebook applications where people had to click the ‘Like’ button to have an exclusive book cover reveal for the Penguin title The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. At first, it was a great product. It worked well and publishers and authors loved it because it increased their ‘Likes’ on their Fan pages. But, in 2012, when Facebook depreciated those application tabs, our entire business was eliminated. So we ‘pivoted’ the company and created Riffle Books, which is a social network for book lovers and also a daily ebook deal newsletter. That being said, for an individual author just starting out, it can be hard to think about, “How do I get these subscribers?” So that’s what I’m going to talk about today. No matter what happens online, social media platforms can come and go with the wind. Your email list is the core of your business. Secondly, it’s also important that email is one-to-one, it’s very intimate. Other than having a podcast and literally being in someone’s ear, being in someone’s inbox is very one-to-one and you can have your message delivered directly to them. Stephanie: Awesome. So what about the authors who don’t maybe have their book coming out for another year? What are some ways that you would suggest authors should leverage their email lists? Marquina: There are a couple different ways. Especially when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a huge list to market to, the easiest way for many authors is to have a blog. You can send ‘exclusive’ blog content and updates to your list. Other than that, there are a lot of different ways to get people excited about joining your list. Some of that content doesn’t have to be as long as a blog post. There are a couple of really great lists that I’m on just because the content has value for me and I want to share it with others. They’re nonfiction authors, as well. For example, some people might be familiar with Ryan Holiday. He’s a prominent growth hacker who’s written and sold several books and also been the main marketer for several book launches. He has an email list that he sends out once a month and it includes a bunch of book reviews for not only business titles but fiction titles that he’s read and loved that he just wants to share with everyone. That adds a lot of value to my life, so I read it occasionally buy a book. Even if I don’t pick up any of the books that month, I feel like I’ve gotten a good overview of the content in each book and I love that access to detailed information without having to search for it myself. Because of Ryan’s book review email, I’ve always got him top-of-mind, and if I needed to refer him … I haven’t even met him, but I would refer him as an authoritative growth hacker and book marketer. Screenshot of Ryan Holiday’s Reading List Email: Other than that type of content, there’s a great email list created by Free Code Camp. A long time ago, I took several coding courses at Free Code Camp, and there’s a gentleman who works there named Quincy Larson who still sends a weekly notification email called ‘This week’s three links that are worth your time’. It’s so simple. His email is text-only and very basic, no images. It says it’s a three-minute read, includes exciting news about technology, one, two, or three article links, and at the bottom of the email it includes ‘Bonus Content’ and he’ll plug a new feature or course at Free Code Camp or a partnering organization. The reason I bring up this example is because you shouldn’t need to spend a ton of time to get interesting content out to your list. You can add ‘3 links of interest this week’ or ‘books worth reading’ and send this type of content to your list. Screenshot of Quincy Larson’s ‘Three links that are worth your time’ email: Other than the email content I’ve already mentioned, especially for nonfiction authors, you can send out a weekly article roundup email, a short ‘how to’ guide, or some other content that’s been interesting to you that you want to share that’s related to your book. For example, as I’ve started to think about marketing my first NonFiction book, I read an article on growthlab.com called ‘Exactly how I self-published my book and sold 180,000 copies‘. I thought this article had such great advice that I sent a synopsis of the article with commentary on how I plan to use these tactics in my own marketing. The exercise was beneficial for me to hone my own marketing plan for my book, and it also helped my readership. With regard to the tone of the email, stay conversational and write in your own voice. Say something like, “Hey, this is really great. I enjoyed this, maybe you will, too.” In this way, you don’t constantly have to be talking about yourself or your books, but will stay top-of-mind for your audience. If you think an article, video, or book is interesting, your readers will think it’s interesting as well. Other ideas for content include a checklist of items to complete a task, quizzes, gift guides (particularly around Holidays), article links, etc. Those are types of content that you can send out that’s not just, “I have a book coming out,” or, “I don’t have a book coming out,” or “I haven’t sent anything to my list for awhile.” Just something interesting that’s of interest to you can be sent. It doesn’t just have to be a full blog post. Stephanie: Excellent. That’s a great way to describe the fact that it doesn’t always have to be a newsletter, right? It can be quick tips and I believe that the author’s target audience really factors into that, right? What’re your thoughts about how you kind of shape your content for your target audience? Marquina: Sure. When considering your target audience, you definitely have to know … Well, two things. Exactly who they are and how can you add value to them? You need to know their median age, where they live … Maybe the need to know where they live depends on the content of your book, whether they’re in the US or abroad. How do they like to interact with content? There’s a lot of different things you can do to send to that type of list, that type of audience. So if you have a fitness book, for example, you can send out fitness tips. Or if you have a branding book, you can write about a company that you think has a great brand. If you have a cookbook, of course, recipes could be added. If you have a cookbook, it’s not just sending the recipe, but you’re adding your flourish to it, your own photos and touches, something about your personality, these are elements that make them enjoy you and your experience as well. I would like to give an example of someone I’m working with and how she is using unique content to build her email list. My client and friend Jessica is a dancer, yogi, and meditation practitioner. She’s writing a book about these topics and, in the process, even before the book is even finished, she sends daily meditation ‘cards’ via an email automation called Daily Body Magic. These cards bring daily moments of ‘zen’ into subscribers inboxes. She sends a text-based email but also includes an image card that one could download to their desktop if desired. The email is sent every day for 180 days. Creating this automation has been great for building her email list because the people to sign up for this free content will most likely be the same type of people interested in her upcoming book. It took a bit of time to set up the automation in the beginning, but when people sign up for her list, they are receiving several months worth of positive content that reminds them about Jessica and adds value to their lives. An example of Jessica’s Daily Body Magic tips: The examples I’ve given today are very specific and targeted based on the audience. First, find out exactly who your audience is and then create content to serve that audience. Stephanie: You just said two really important things. It’s about reminding subscribers who you are and giving them value. So I think those are two really big takeaways to remember about why email really matters. Let’s talk about some of the list-building. How can authors go about getting more subscribers from their websites? Marquina: Of course. List building can be a little daunting. You have your website, and you’ve already spent some time and probably a bit of money to set it up probably. Now you need to figure out how to get an email intake form on the site and then, the difficult part, you must actually get people to fill out that form. There are a lot of different tools to help you with getting people to fill out your subscription form and I’m going to talk through some of the ones that I found that work and some that don’t work. I’m going to give you some different price ranges for them, too. I have found that some authors may be just starting out and say, “I can only afford anything free,” and other authors are a little further along and they want to know, “I could probably use something that includes a little more of my personal brand.” So I’m going to talk about both. First, let’s discuss website pop-up forms. I believe everyone has seen these mildly annoying pop-up forms offering a free download of some type. I’m going to talk about them even though they’re not my favorite and I’ll tell you why. The pop-ups, when someone lands on a website, the trigger pops-up that says something awesome is going to happen if you sign up; so you give up your email. In my opinion, the tools I’ve found easiest to use and the least annoying in this category are SumoMe or Hello Bar. SumoMe includes other features that I like other than the pop-up, so it is definitely something to at least try. Well, actually both SumoMe and HelloBar have several options, but SumoMe has more. For example, you can choose where the pop-up appears on the page or time it to pop up ‘upon exit intent’ when a visitor is about to click off your webpage. So if you do try to use any of these pop-up tools, I would suggest making sure you email their customer support team to ensure that you find and properly execute adding a pop up upon “exit intent” of the visitor. Exit intent refers to when the user is scrolling up to click the ‘x’ at the upper right or left of the webpage and presumably have the intent to leave the page. Your pop-up should appear as their cursor moves toward the ‘x’ to close the webpage. The reason you choose to show the page upon exit intent is because people aren’t going to sign up for your newsletter or other content if they have not had the chance to read the content first. For someone to arrive at your website in the first place, they probably clicked on a link to find out more about you or your books. The idea is to not throw the pop up in their face right away. This is the tactic that has worked best for me on authorpreneurlaunch.com. If you want to test the pop-up timing for your content, it is easy to do. Both SumoMe and Hello Bar have responsive customer support and they can help you switch the timing. A main difference between the two companies is that Hello Bar has a free option, SumoMe does not. I used SumoMe for two years but decided that I wasn’t seeing enough conversion for using a paid tool. Now, I use the free Hello Bar option at the bottom of only one of my webpages: authorpreneurlaunch.com/start-here. This converts at about the same rate, so there was no reason for me to use the paid option anymore. Other than the two services I mentioned, there’s a popular site called OptinMonster, but I didn’t like that one. The pop-ups from OptinMonster spin and kind of do a little bit crazier stuff, so they are not my style. There are other places you could place the signup. You could always add something in the sidebar. That’s probably the most typical. So many people will work with a web designer, get a WordPress website and put the sign up in the sidebar. If you do do that, make sure it’s very eye-catching and not just an afterthought. Design the sidebar. I say that because otherwise people won’t notice it or everyone has a sign up in that spot, so that’s the sidebar, that’s where it goes, and people aren’t using it. So design it. If you have the time and resources for it, I would also recommend creating a dedicated landing page. You have your website, but a landing page would be a page that just has the sole purpose of signing people up to your website. The reason we use a landing page is because … And we’re going to talk a little bit later about how to get people to the website and what tools to use. The landing page is easier to track conversions and to track how many people came there, signed up, and where they came from, and some inexpensive tools. Well, the free tool is Wix.com, so I know authors have built entire websites on Wix because the price is right. The sites are free because they include Wix branding at the bottom of the webpage. But once you are a little more established, there are tools like Leadpages, Instapage, and Unbounce. You could also use WordPress. You can make more landing pages for each type of campaign. It’s a little more work. Another way to get more subscribers is to use a survey. I personally enjoy using Typeform to create my surveys because they are easy to create and look great. At the bottom of my email, I ask people to take one minute to answer three questions. The first question is, “Are you with a publisher or not?” The second one is, “If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for in your online marketing?” And the last question is, “Which of these online courses would you like?” Because I sell online courses, there is a checkbox with 12 different items. At the end, if they check something, they can be signed up for my email list for that course. Have I built twelve courses yet? No. I’ve only had time to complete four. But I knew which ones to build first because of the interests that authors checked in that survey. To check out the survey yourself, please click HERE. To reiterate: depending on the type of book content and your audience, a survey can be a good way to grow your subscriber list and find out exactly the type of content your audience enjoys. Stephanie: Well, and don’t we need to have some incentive also for people signing up? We use Leadpages here for the Association. Every month or so we create a downloadable report so we put that out via social media with a Leadpages opt-in form and that helps us add lots of new email subscribers every month. So would you recommend that authors also have some incentive for people to sign up? Marquina: Yes, let’s discuss these incentives. In marketing terms, when discussing downloadable gifts, reports, or incentives that are given to a person in exchange for their email, these downloadable items are referred to as ‘Lead Magnets’. To help you create lead magnet content, there is a newer tool called Designrr that helps you transform your past blog posts into lead magnets. If an author already has a blog, they can go to Designrr, input the link to your blog, and it creates a lead magnet for you. You edit it a bit by choosing a new cover image and a few other minor changes. There are already some stock images pre-loaded in the tool so it is not terribly difficult to create something beautiful in a short amount of time. Using this tool gives you an attractive way of reimagining your previously-created content for another purpose. So, yes, authors should definitely create lead magnets and gifts for the subscribers that are coming in. Stephanie: And that could be a report or a sample of chapters from your book, that kind of thing. Marquina: Absolutely. Stephanie: What are some of your other ways to get new subscribers online? Do you use social media and things like that? Marquina: Yes. So I’m going to talk about … I’d like to talk about two different aspects of it. Marketers talk about a lot of different options for getting subscribers online. I’ve run many varied campaigns and I can tell you pretty much what would or would not work and how to suit the platform for your needs. So I’m actually going to describe how to do an effective Facebook ad if that’s all right- Stephanie: Yeah. Marquina: -and then talk about joint giveaways. So I’ve also done Twitter advertising, co-registration ads, display ads, and cost-per-click ads, but in terms of the return on investment, I have found Facebook ads to be the best. I’ll go through how. So with Facebook ads, if you can have a landing page or send someone to your website, that’s great. But it would be better if … There’s a new type of ad, a newer type of ad as of last year called the lead card ad and it’s a little bit more work in the sense that you have to go and download the subscribers from Facebook every day, but the conversion rate is correct. Let me back up a little bit. So if you’re doing a regular Facebook ad. Let’s just back it up. Many people have seen the Facebook ad interface. I’ll explain how I would set up a campaign. Initially, you should create a battery of about 10 ads, five of them have different text, five of them have different images that you’re going to test. All the images are always horizontal, they have bright colors, they have people’s faces. You target your audience based on geography, age, gender, and so on. Again, you have to know your target audience. You may want do import a current subscriber list into Facebook to help you with your target audience. With a current subscriber list, you can create a ‘lookalike’ audience in Facebook. This means that Facebook will find people who have similar demographics and click habits as those you imported, but they are separate individuals. In the end, no matter how you define your audience, you should ideally target about five million Facebook users. You need to have a broad enough set of people in your target to send your ad. Then you set them to run, but – here is the key – as soon as you get about 3,000 views or 500 clicks, if an ad is not converting, you shut off the ad. In this way, your 3000 views is your cutoff to know whether the ad content is compelling enough to convert a new subscriber. 3000 views is a good benchmark number, as each ad reaches this threshold you begin finding out which ads are ‘winning’, and you stop the rest. Then, after about a week or so, you have your one or two winning ads. These winning ads are where you place the rest of your ad budget. In this way, you have a general overview of how to set up any kind of Facebook campaign. Where it gets a little tricky is if your landing page is set up … If the Facebook ad is set up so that every time somebody clicks, that’s considered a conversion, your ad numbers in the Facebook dashboard will show inflated conversion results. It may be true that people are clicking on your ad, but those people who click are not actually converting into new newsletter subscribers or sales. Facebook will show you pageviews, clicks, and conversion numbers but you will *not* be seeing the results you actually need – subscribers and sales. The best solution I’ve found to getting accurate Facebook conversion reporting is by using their Lead Ads. With a Facebook Lead Ad, you are setting up the entire click-to-conversion experience in Facebook. When a potential subscriber or customer arrives on the Lead Ad Form, Facebook pre-populates the form with the subscribers’ information. This pre-population makes it easy for them to subscribe with only one click. Finally, you can have accurate conversion statistics. Your numbers may be lower, but they will be accurate and you’ll have a better idea if your form is ‘working’. The drawback to using a Facebook Lead Ad is that you will need to login to Facebook every other day to download any new subscribers. If you don’t have time to login and download new subscribers, you can setup an integration between Facebook and your email Contact Management System (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Sendloop, MailerLite, etc.) using their Zapier integration. Personally, I prefer to login every few days and check my leads. I enjoy seeing the results of my campaigns regularly and making sure they are still converting at an acceptable rate. But, after you have a few ads that are working for you, it can be nice to use the Zapier integration so they arrive in your email Contact Management System seamlessly. Zapier is not free so you would need to include this additional cost into the conversion rate return on investment for your Facebook ads. If you have a Facebook ad account, I would recommend authors ask Facebook support to show them how to make their first lead ad. It’s something they do just because you’re a paying customer already. They’ll help you set it up the first time. Stephanie: Great. Well, I was just going to say I’m a big fan of Facebook ads, too, so I have a similar system here at the NonFiction Authors Association. They’re really worthwhile compared to your typical advertising spend. They’re really good right now. That’s probably going to change in the coming years, but right now I think they’re a good value. Marquina: Exactly. Now, I’d like to talk about another way that I’ve gotten a lot of value when finding new subscribers: joint giveaways. I know it is a common practice for authors will partner up to do a joint book giveaway, and an extension of this is exactly what I’m talking about. It can be tons of work to set up and coordinate these giveaways; finding partners, setting up landing pages, writing the terms and conditions, etc. To solve some of this headache, there is a newer platform out called DojoMojo. When you visit the site DojoMojo.ninja, you can start with a free account to see who else is on the platform. Their support is very helpful and will hold your hand as you try to find new partners. You can either pitch your own giveaway idea or partner with others who have already started giveaways. The platform works great, but I’m going to talk about what some of the issues might have for an individual author. Here’s how it could work: Let’s say the author has written a book about pets. You could set up with other brands a giveaway that’s like a ‘Healthy Dog, Healthy You’ giveaway, for example. The prizes could include dog treats, a spa day for you and separate spa the dog and things of that nature. You could also include a cash portion of the prize to sweeten the deal. You partner with about 4-5 other brands and launch the giveaway. Let’s say it is a success and you have, on average, about 10,000 new subscribers. The issue then becomes that you have access to 10,000 unique email addresses, but they’re not specifically interested in your book. This is both an opportunity and a potential issue. I’ll explain – So the process then becomes … I call it an onboarding process, but there’s a process for taking that list of people that could potentially be interested in your topic or book and turning them into people who will purchase your book. First, remember that you don’t really want 10,000 emails in your Content Management System (CMS) if they aren’t going to eventually be book-buying customers. To overcome this hurdle, spend some time sending them an email saying, “Are you interested in this content?” Something like, “Thank you for signing up for the ‘Healthy Dog, Healthy You’ giveaway. As part of this, you are going to be signed up for my newsletter. If you’re not interested, unsubscribe now.” You want them off your list as soon as possible if they’re not interested because you don’t want to pay for dead weight on your email list. It’s not a very effective way to grow a list, but you have to be very careful how you get those people on to your designated email list because you don’t want to have bloat that you’re paying for. DojoMojo has a CMS integration with some of the services such as Mailchimp, and I highly suggest you let their support assist you when adding new subscribers to your email list. But always, send that initial ‘onboarding’ email to be sure you’re not spamming them by sending them content they don’t want to receive. Stephanie: Yeah. Marquina: That’s been a great experience so far. Go ahead. Stephanie: That’s great. Great suggestions. I love the joint giveaway ideas. What about offline? Like speaking engagements, book events. Do you have any tips for how to get new subscribers at events? Marquina: Yes. I know that a lot of people bring their business cards around, but I would suggest keeping your business cards at home. Be okay with forgetting them because your job is going to be, when you go to an event, if you meet someone, instead of giving them your card, you say, “I have this …” Whatever the value is. So my friend who has her book coming out, she’s like, “Well, I do daily meditations via email. Would you like to see what they’re about? If you don’t like it, you can unsubscribe.” Then they give her their email. You are not giving out your email and ‘hoping’ that someone will contact you or remember to subscribe. You should be asking others for permission to have their email address… and then, of course, be diligent about subscribing them once you return home from the event. At events, that’s always a good way to have a one-on-one connection. Just remember to follow up! Those in-person contacts are gold. Another thing to do is never go to an event without at least some way for someone to sign up for your email list. For example, the last time I did a speaking engagement, I didn’t have a branded way of getting people on my email list. I just took a notebook, wrote at the top, “If you’re interested …” I was speaking about my book. “If you’re interested in being one of my first readers, put your email here.” Almost everyone that was in the room ended up signing up for it. It was great to make personal connections when people would come up and speak with me, but if they didn’t have time to speak with me but still wanted to hear about my future projects or advice, they could sign up for my email list that was available on a table near the door. It is important to note that I wasn’t standing next to the email list, either. The list was a little bit further away so they didn’t have to come up to me and have me look at them as they signed up. They could go and the email list was over by the door. That’s a good place for an email list. Make sure there’s always a way to ask for their email. As a side note, before I was a digital marketer I was a grass-roots campus marketer for college products. I was a ‘tabler’ but wouldn’t stand behind the table. Me and my colleagues would walk around to the front of the table and speak to people, or we would walk into classrooms to discuss our services. With permission, of course. From that experience, I learned to be good and going into a room and leaving with everybody’s email. It’s kind of … It’s fun for me, but I know a lot of people have anxiety about that. Stephanie: That’s great. And one thing that I do when I speak at writer’s conferences, I usually carry like a folding gift bag and halfway through the presentation, I will get that out and say, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to raffle off a book at the end of my presentation.” Marquina: That’s amazing, that’s great. Stephanie: Yeah, it works really, really well so you always leave with lots of signups. Marquina: That’s perfect. Oh, my gosh. I used to do … For a totally different job, I used to do something like that. I used to give away a free Kaplan Test Prep course. It worked great. Such a good idea. Stephanie: Yeah, anytime you can give something away, people love that. Oh, my gosh, the time’s just flying. Marquina, what tools do you recommend for email services? Marquina: Sure. Let’s start at the beginning. For email services, there’s MailChimp, Constant Contact, Sendloop, or MailerLite. For the pop-up tools to put on your website if you choose, I recommend SumoMe or Hello Bar. For landing pages, LeadPages, Unbounce or Wix.com. The survey tools, I like Typeform. Typeform looks really cool and it’s free, but most people are familiar with Survey Monkey, so I’m still pro Survey Monkey as well. The last one and the one I think people wouldn’t have heard of that would be really valuable is Designrr, the ebook and lead magnet or download generator. Those are my favorite tools and I hope everyone listening has found at least one new suggestion to help them grow their email list. For a comprehensive article on how to Generate Leads from Your Website Click HERE: https://www.siteoscope.
Also published on Medium.