Email strategy with Ashley Knecht
Tell us a bit about Mountaineers Books. What sets you apart?
We are a nonprofit book publishing company, which is pretty unique. We were started by our parent company, The Mountaineers, an outdoor organization/club in Washington state. We have been dedicated to creating outdoor titles for over 50 years, and have grown to include two imprints, Skipstone Books (green lifestyle) and Braided River (conservation advocacy). In a time when publishers are scrambling, we're working on mastering social media, redesigning our website, offering the most digital content of any outdoor publisher and becoming an email marketing super power. Plus, we're crazy about the outdoors, which makes us super cool.
How long have you been using Emma, and how has the size and composition of your list changed?
We began using Emma in December of 2010. Our list started with people we'd gathered over the years with our old system. Using Emma, we created a mildly complex signup form that asked for name, email, state and outdoor interests. This way when we have a book coming out about stand up padding, for example, we can send our email only to the people who identified that they enjoy water sports. This has kept our open rate around 30-40%.
With our homepage signup form, we've only gathered 130 new names since December. But, in early March, we began offering small sections of our books to people using custom signup forms and triggers containing downloadable content, and we've gathered 1,409 (over 900 coming from one single download promotion) new names since the program began. With the hiking season in full effect, I'm creating downloads of free hikes like crazy, and the signup numbers have continued to rise!
We recently partnered with the Washington Trails Association, offering people who visit their site a free hike from our Backpacking book if they sign up for the Washington Trail Association and Mountaineers Books newsletters. Using our Emma signup form and a trigger, we gathered 956 brand new email subscribers in just five days. Five days!
I want desperately to learn the interests of our original subscribers (who we don't have that info for). I even offer people a discount each quarter for updating their preferences and telling us their interests.
Using custom signup forms and triggers to offer content from your books is a fantastic idea! Tell us how you set this up and the kind of content you create.
We publish hiking guides, narratives about climbers, how-to books and more, so we have a lot of great content that is easy to piece out in small sections without losing the feel of the whole book. I ran a report of our top selling web titles of 2010 and began making small downloads for each book. Take our book, Day Hiking Snoqualmie Region, for example. From the digital book version I created three individual hikes people could download. I created three different signup forms in Emma, each with the name of the hike I would be offering. So, I made a PDF of the Twin Sisters hike, then made a signup form called Twin Sisters and then an email campaign called Twin Sisters. In the email campaign, I included the book cover, details about the hike and a link to download it for free. When someone submits their info to the Twin Sisters signup, they receive the Twin Sisters email with the download link. I place the signup forms on our book product page, as well as on our Freemium Download library for maximum exposure. I tweet about new downloads on Twitter and then repeat this process for all the books I can.
I'm gathering names like crazy. People are happy to subscribe to our newsletter if it means they can check out a free hike/route/content/how-to. Trying out the free hike usually leads them to buy the book. Plus, they already like what we offer, so the unsubscribe rate of our 2011 signups is amazingly low.
Some folks might say that this kind of customization is too time-consuming. How would you respond?
It is time consuming. Very much so. But things that work well that come easy just don't really exist. If gathering engaged signups in large numbers was easy, none of us would be reading the Emma blog! For a book publisher, getting our content online is critical. So I'm dedicated to doing the work that I need to to ensure that we get new subscribers that are interested in what we have to offer. The turnaround is worth the work.
Are there additional Emma features you use to reach your audience on a personal level?
I live for search and segment. And triggers. Those two features sold me on Emma. We try to mass email our list only about four times per year. The topic has to be broad enough to ensure we don't lose a bunch of subscribers, or I wont send it. Beyond that, I love using search and segment to find all of the people who live in WA and enjoy hiking, for example, so that when I have a new Washington hiking title coming out, I know just who to tell in our next email. That keeps my unsubscribe numbers low, my click-throughs high and my open rates skyrocketing!