BookPage distributes a book review publication to more than 450,000 readers monthly through bookstores and libraries. The Nashville-based company also sends more than 270,000 emails per month. Keeping track of all of those emails — and the varying interests of their subscribers — is a challenging task, one that Associate Editor, Eliza Borné, has fine-tuned. Here, we'll take a look at one of BookPage's email campaigns and share how Eliza and her team have developed an email strategy that works for them and their growing list of subscribers.
The send-off, at-a-glance
+ Sent on Feb 1 at 6:00 am to 25,598 people
+ Open rate: 53.1%
+ Click-through rate: 53.3%
+ 26 social shares
+ Created using a custom layout
BookPage sends their bi-monthly BookPageXTRA, like the one to the left, to more than 25,000 recipients. In the two years that Eliza has been managing XTRA, its open rate has been a steady 40-50% (or more), and it's now benefiting from an increasing number of social shares on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe even more impressive than that, its list of subscribers has increased by 65%.
These striking results don't happen over night, and Eliza says they've learned a few tricks along the way. Let's take a closer look at their email strategy…
About their email strategy
In addition to BookPageXTRA, BookPage sends out a bi-monthly newsletter about books for kids and teens, a monthly newsletter to librarians and even a book review a day. They keep track of their subscribers and their preferences by posting a comprehensive signup form on their website. Subscribers select the types of newsletters they'd like to receive, and because the signup form is tied to the appropriate audience groups in Emma, the groups are automatically sorted in BookPage's account. Just after subscribing, they receive an automatic welcome email. It's an easy way for BookPage to thank new subscribers and to connect them to additional resources, including links to their YouTube page, blog and more.
At BookPage, email marketing is collaborative. Employees from both the editorial and advertising side of their company come up with ideas — they spend a lot of time brainstorming and plan content in advance — and everyone helps to proof the emails.
Email is the quickest way for them to communicate with their readers, and they want to make sure their content is fresh. Eliza shares some of the ways they keep their readers engaged:
We keep readers excited with "best" lists — we've found that our audience responds most to any kind of "most-anticipated" or "top 10″ list. We hook them in the email by giving them the beginning of the list, then ask them to click through for the whole shebang. Click-throughs are important to us because we want our newsletters to introduce readers to BookPage.com and our blog, The Book Case. In the email above, we asked readers to click through to our blog and comment with book titles they're anticipating but that didn't make our list. In another XTRA, we crowd-sourced by asking readers for "best list" suggestions (the best of the best lists, if you will). We also include a book giveaway in every email. Our readers know there's an incentive (free stuff!) in each newsletter.
This kind of content encourages participation and keeps readers coming back for more. Plus, it drives visitors to their website. For example, on June 7 when they sent a BookPageXTRA mailing, 75% of traffic to their site came from their enewsletter.
And they've got even more up their sleeves. They recently ran a promotion to get their Book of the Day audience up to 10,000 members. Talk about attractive incentives: they gave away a box of 10 books and a gift card to their 10,000th subscriber, and they encouraged current subscribers to share the promotion via email and social media. Random "sharers" were awarded with books, too. It was wildly popular, earning more than 400 new signups in ten days. And it was a great way to forge connections between their emails, social networks and blog. (Read more about the promotion here.)
Why we like it
An easy-to-spot signup form and segmented audience groups? Check. An auto-responder to welcome new subscribers? Check. Different content for different groups? A varied sending strategy (daily, bimonthly, monthly)? Check and check. A content strategy that takes into account reader participation and re-engagement? Ch– Well, you get the idea. BookPage is doing email marketing right, and it pays off in fantastic response rates, reader loyalty and new subscribers.
In short: Follow BookPage's lead, and think strategically about your emails. Use brainstorming sessions to mine your team for ideas, think about sending frequency and differentiate your mailings by audience group. Find ways to connect your email strategy to other channels. Must you do it all? Certainly not. But do the things that make sense for your business, and realize that a smart strategy doesn't just spring forth — it must be sustained.