ed. note: Many thanks to team member Nancy Cavillones for submitting this post, which originally appeared on her blog at http://va4indieauthors.com
The Basics of an Email CRM
One thing you'll almost always see in a book marketing plan, or a book marketing course, is an emphasis on “building your list, ” using an email CRM, sometimes called an ESP or Email Service Provider. This means building a list of email subscribers. Of all the ways to reach your readers, the email list remains the most effective way to sell your books.
If a reader is on your email list, that means that they WANT to hear from you. (More on opting-in in just a moment!)
You have more time and space to say what you want to say to readers.
You have the opportunity to provide extra value to your readers.
In this post, I'll cover the very basics of using an email CRM, or Customer Relationship Manager. If you subscribe to an email newsletter or online mailing list, chances are very good that they are being delivered to your inbox via an email CRM like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.
First, let's talk about WHY you, an author, needs an email CRM. Whether this is your first book or your 100th book, when you write a book and sell it, you are in the author business. When you collect email addresses, you must provide a way for readers to automatically unsubscribe from your email list. You cannot do this with a personal email address.
Another difference between an email CRM and your personal email is that your personal email server will almost certainly flag you as a spammer if you start sending mass emails, and you'll end up in some hot water.
Okay, let's break down the parts of an email CRM.
Campaigns: Sometimes called a broadcast, campaigns are one-time emails that are sent to your whole list, or a segment of your list. These are usually newsletters, product offers, announcements and updates.
Segment: A portion of your subscriber list that has something in common. For example, you might identify a segment of your list as people who downloaded an ARC (Advance Review Copy) of your book. This will be important when we talk about opt-ins below.
Landing Page: A type of form. Landing pages are a full-page design, usually containing sales or promotional copy and calls to action, along with a form to sign up for whatever it is you're selling.
Subscribers: These are the people who have agreed to get emails from you!
Automation: An automation is a workflow based on triggers. For example, someone may fill out a form to get an ARC of your book. When they fill out the form, it might automatically trigger a welcome email that contains the link to their copy of the ARC. You can do all kinds of neat things with automations, depending on which email CRM you are using.
Forms: This is what readers fill out to let you know that they agree to get email from you. Forms can be as simple as a first name and email address. (Always get the first name, so you can personalize those emails!). Some forms may collect more information, like what kind of content they are interested in or demographic information. I have a client whose form asks whether the reader is a parent, student or educator. The emails she sends out are tailored to each of these groups.
Opt-In: To get someone on your list, you must ask permission! Don't be a spammer. Get permission from readers to email them. Many opt-ins have a freebie attached to them. You send them the freebie in exchange for their agreeing to be added to your email list. Many authors give away a free chapter of their book as the freebie or an ARC. If you receive a list of email addresses from an event or promotional coordinator, keep these emails separate from your main mailing list. Only add them to your main list if they've expressly given permission. For example, if you participate in a BookFunnel group promo, you will collect a whole lotta emails from people who opted into the promo, but not necessarily your email list. Create a segment of those BookFunnel people, send them a welcome email and invite them to join your regular mailing list. It's just good business practice.
Email CRMs range from super basic to powerfully featured. If you're just starting out, I recommend using an email CRM with a free plan like MailerLite or MailChimp. As your audience and your business grows, you can graduate to something like Aweber, ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign. Here, at Women in Publishing Summit, we recently switched to ActiveCampaign because the automation features are very robust.
Nancy Cavillones is an indie author’s best friend and is on a mission to keep authors sane by handling the minutiae of their online presence and communications. She’s been online in some form or other since 1993, and still has the AOL dial-up tone stuck in her head. She enjoys taking the scenic route, forcing her kids to appreciate nature, and spending time in New York City by herself in a desperate attempt to recapture her college days. Originally from Upstate NY by way of Long Island, Nancy recently relocated to Northern California with her family from Redding, Connecticut. Nancy is the co-editor of Lose the Cape Mom’s Guide to Becoming Socially and Politically Engaged (And Rising Tiny Activists, Too!). She has been a member of Team Alexa since 2016. Find her at http://va4indieauthors.com, on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.
For those of you who are facing a new situation with businesses being encouraged to have everyone work from home, our host, Alexa Bigwarfe, has some tips and resources for you!
I've been working as a digital entrepreneur for almost 8 years now, so sometimes I forget that not everyone is familiar with the “digital” world of business operations and all of the tools that are available. I know that it might be a little overwhelming trying to figure out how to manage your business operations, your team, and still keep work going as close to usual as possible.
But I've got some good news – it's actually quite easy to keep operations going like normal right from your home, as long as you've got internet! Some tools are free to use as a starting base. Others have a small fee, some fees are bigger – and many offer free trials that may be long enough to get you through this critical point. You can also pay by the month, so don't rush into a year-long plan if you're not sure how long you'll need it.
I have a team of 5 that lives all over the country. We do webinars, we schedule client calls and meetings, we have team meetings virtually, and we communicate all day.
Please note, some, NOT ALL of these links are affiliate links. What that means is that your price is the same whether you go through my link or not. However, should you decide to purchase something based on an affiliate link of mine, I might be treated to a free month of service or a small financial reward for sending them business. Using affiliate links has helped me throughout the years to earn discounted rates on the many tools I use every day, so I appreciate that they offer these programs!
Here's how we run our online business and keep everyone on the same page and working together.
Get your team on SLACK. It is a free tool and super easy to use. You can have “channels” related to certain topics. So, we're a publishing team, we have a channel related to each author and their launch / project / promo. Everyone involved in our next upcoming book launch is in the channel about it. You can also direct message individuals or groups, integrate dropbox, trello, googledrive, etc. Set up your free team and get started here: https://slack.com/ .
Project management tools:Asana and Trello! There are more, like basecamp, etc, but I've got experience in these two and use them daily. ASANA – allows you to create checklists, assign tasks, create full project flows, and track who is on those projects, set due dates, etc. So does Trello, but it's more visual and Trello is better on storing assets like files, images, etc.Check out Asana here: https://asana.com/ .
TRELLO! Trello is an amazing project management tool as well, that allows you to manage projects in a more visual way. You can create checklists and plans and communicate, and store information. It's also a free tool. Start using Trello now.You can create lists, cards, and then checklists, assign and track tasks, store files, and more. Each of these “cards” opens up to a world of wonder. 🙂 ..
Webinars! Yes, you're probably going to need to run some webinars if you're normally doing training or events or need to move an in person event online. There are SO many solutions for webinars – based on your budget and tech needs. I use Zoom every day to connect with clients, run small group trainings, staff meetings, etc. It has a webinar upgrade function, but check out the FREE version. If you can keep it under 40 mins and don't mind having everyone in the conferencing room with you, it might work. But there are MANY webinar platforms.They all have pros and cons. I want to suggest that if you're just going to be running a couple of smaller, short webinars, and don't want to invest in tools, you consider just setting up a Facebook group limited to the people that need to be there, and go LIVE in the group with your presentation and training. You can create slides on GoogleDrive, share them to the internet and send the link to participants to look at the slides as you give a presentation. Or you can use a fancier webinar tool that allows you to do a more formal presentation. I just hate to see you spend a lot of money for something for which there are free workarounds if you only need it once or twice for a small group. But many do have free trial periods, so… check for those!Now, if you're trying to run a conference online, that's a different situation entirely!.Here is a list: Zoom: https://zoom.us WebinarNinja: https://webinarninja.com/ GoTo Webinar: https://www.gotomeeting.com/webinar WebinarJam: https://home.webinarjam.com/ And a new one I haven't tried but am considering: Demio: https://demio.com/ Just learned about Matchbox Group as well: https://matchboxdesigngroup.com/ here's a post that compares different platforms: https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/best-webinar-software/ .
Scheduling calls and appointments has never been easier to track with the amazing scheduling / calendar management tools. You can send your clients to a direct link where they can choose to set up a call based on YOUR availability. If there needs to be payment made, you can easily integrate those functions as well. There are lots of great tools out there for this. I personally use and love Acuity. Check out Acuity here. I have also used Calendly as a client and it seems pretty great as well. .
There are so many tools out there that can help you still stay in touch, manage projects, conduct meetings, schedule calls, run webinars, and even conduct an entire conference online. I run the entire Women in Publishing Summit, a 100% online conference, using Zoom, YouTube, WordPress, hosting with SiteGround, Thinkific (an online course development program), Facebook, Acuity, and my email CRMs, Active Campaign and sometimes ConvertKit. .
Almost all of these tools have extensive training and support. I'm not super techy and I learned it all… granted, over time and not in a mad rush.
If you need help, I do offer consulting calls on this topic. In 30 minutes, I can help you figure out exactly what you need to do. But, I feel pretty confident that if you just check out some of these options, don't let analysis paralysis set in, start with the free tools, and just get moving forward, you'll figure out how to do this.
Happy to answer questions in the comments to the best of my ability as well!