Email lists aren't just for marketing. They provide a direct and highly actionable connection with your audience. I now recommend that all podcasters have an email list, and here's how you can use it!
Here are 13 ways you can use an email list with podcasting.
Perhaps the biggest reason to have an email list for your podcast is for the urgent or special things—stuff that rarely comes up but is really important.
1. Communicate urgent information
If your website goes down or your podcast feed breaks, how will you communicate with your audience? Social-network posts have a very short life, and most likely won't be seen by much of your audience.
2. Announce special things
Is something big coming that you want everyone to know about? Use your email list to announce special things like a new podcast, an event, Podcast Awards, and more. Choose the kinds of things that don't happen often, but are important enough to get your alert your entire audience.
It's easy to make your emails an automated process. This takes a little time to setup (more time for more advanced automation), but can be a great way to stay connected without frequent work.
3. Automatically deliver new posts
AWeber and MailChimp provide great tools to automate the delivery of blog posts and podcast episodes through your RSS feed. This can be as simple as a three-step process: enter your RSS feed, pick your template, and set your schedule.
While this is easy, it may not provide as much value to your subscribers. When I experimented with RSS emails, I started losing subscribers. Many of them were gracious enough to leave a parting comment, essentially saying, “I'm already subscribed to the podcast, so I don't need each episode emailed to me.”
If you want this kind of automated delivery, either set that expectation on signup, or present that as an option and segment your list.
4. Preview upcoming content
Send teasers or previews before the release. This can create anticipation and inspire early discussion.
If you have your content scheduled in advanced, you can also set these emails on a schedule. Your subscribers will receive the messages on the specific days, no matter when they subscribed.
5. “Drip” a miniseries (AKA autoresponders)
An autoresponder is a message or sequence of messages that automatically send after some kind of action is performed. For example, a welcome message when someone joins a list, a download link or free information when someone opts into a subgroup, or a series of scheduled emails that deliver to someone regardless of when they join.
Autoresponders actually have nothing to do with automatic responses. (You may remember the early days of public email and the Internet; we could send a simple email to a bot address and receive a reply with information.)
I use an autoresponder sequence for “How to get more podcast reviews” from My Podcast Reviews. Brian from ProfitCast uses an autoresponder sequence for “7 habits of highly profitable podcasters.” (Hear me on ProfitCast #20!) Erik Fisher uses a single autoresponder message for readers of his productivity books to give them the download links for the free audiobook versions.
The largest value you can give to your subscribers is when they're getting exclusive content. I love doing this with my mailing list, and I look forward to sending each email. In fact, I often feel like emailing several times per week, just because I have so much on my mind!
6. Go behind the scenes
Tell a story about what it took to release a recent episode, share bloopers or unedited pieces, or give more information behind your latest content.
7. Share extra content
Share tips and tricks or any kind of bonus information. With my email list, I've gone quite in-depth with podcast SEO techniques, but you can keep things short and simple.
You could even automate this by prescheduling a bunch of emails. For example, you might not have a hard time coming up with 50 short tips for your niche. That's nearly a year of email content!
Your bonus content could be a repurposed blog post or podcast episode, it could be an exclusive video, it could be your early thoughts on an upcoming topic, or anything else the complements the content you're already creating.
8. Get personal
Podcasting is already quite personal, and email could be even more. If you setup your list to take subscribers' first names, then you can address your emails directly to the subscribers. I like to start my emails with, “Hi, John!” instead of just saying, “Hi!”
You can use these “merge tags” in other places in your email, such as, “Thank you, John, for subscribing!” or, “I don't know about you, John, but I really ….”
Your email list is also a bit more private than a podcast or blog. I was recently very transparent with my subscribers when I told them about a recent depressing day, but also pulled some encouragement from that. Even though I didn't ask for it, I received several kind and encouraging replies!
I've also shared personal things like how I'm working through struggles (such as a negative review, a technical problem, or a frustration with some podcasting tool).
Your email list can be a great way to get more interactive with your audience. Make sure you either point readers to a public place where they can easily comment, or ensure that your send-from address is one you actually check (avoid “noreply@PleaseNeverEmailMe.com”).
9. Ask for feedback
Are you trying to get more ideas for content? Struggling to figure out something? Or want more perspectives? Ask your subscribers!
I've seen some incredible responses when I have asked my subscribers questions like, “What do you want me to ask John Lee Dumas?” “What do you do when you don't feel like podcasting?” and requests for tips to share or sound samples for experimenting.
You could also make a delayed autoresponder (maybe a month or more after subscription) that simply asks, “What would you like me to cover in the podcast?” “What are you getting from the podcast?” or “Why do you listen?”
10. Answer questions
When you receive feedback, this can be a great opportunity to answer the questions with your emails. Mignon Fogarty (better known as “Grammar Girl”) does this very well with her weekly newsletter; it always starts with a quick answer to someone's grammar question (I've been in it, before!).
Oh, yeah. You can also use your email list to make money! Who knew? Seriously, though, the marketers are right when they say, “the money is in the list.”
When you have an email list that provides lots of value with any or all of the above techniques, your audience will know, like, and trust you enough to take action on things that could earn you money.
11. Launch products
I used an email list to launch My Podcast Reviews, and I'm also using my email list to launch my upcoming “podcast SEO” course, plus new products I'm producing.
If you plan to launch a product, then I highly recommend that you read Jeff Walker's book Launch: An Internet Millionaire's Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams. Yes, that's quite a marketing-focused title, but the book truly is worth reading! Read my review of Launch on my personal blog.
12. Create sales
If you already have at least one product to sell, your email list is a perfect way to create sales for that product. Maybe you give a special offer, like a promo, bonus, or a coupon code. You could also announce a timed sale, like something for the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, or for any other reason.
If you have several products, you could simply highlight one that seems timely for some reason. For example, I used to work at a nonprofit organization that had several products that tied in with current events. When something was in the news, we highlighted the product—sometimes with a sale, and sometimes just reminding people of its relevancy. These emails would always generate a sales spike on that item.
When you launch a product shouldn't be the only time you tell your email list about it. Remember that not everyone will have been subscribed when you sent the first email. Also, they may have even opened that original email! (AWeber and MailChimp provide some great tools you can use to target emails to specific segments—like only those who didn't open a particular email, or even those who clicked a link but didn't buy. These kinds of integrations are more advanced, but also very powerful.)
13. Promote affiliates or joint ventures
Even if you don't have anything of your own to sell, you could use your list to promote specific affiliates or joint ventures. Before you do this, make sure you check the terms with the company you seek to promote.
For example, when quality podcasting products or services go on sale, I try to let my list know. I've done this with StudioPress themes, SpeakPipe, premium WordPress plugins, and more stuff. My interest in promoting these affiliates was always to alert my readers to great deals for products I genuinely recommend.
Another example is our TV-show-fan podcast for Once Upon a Time, Resurrection, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, and Under the Dome. When each season becomes available on disc, we email the subscribers and include affiliate links. This is highly relevant, and it gives us the opportunity to earn some money.
Depending on how large and—more importantly—how engaged your readers are, you could make a lot of money recommending someone else's product or server to your list.
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.