Sending out an occasional email newsletter is a great way for photographers to show off their latest projects and remind clients that they’re working regularly and are available for hire. When your email list is small, it might be viable to send emails individually, but once your marketing list grows beyond a few dozen names, it will be better to use an Email Marketing Service (EMS) to manage and monitor your email promotions. Whether you use your email newsletter simply to send updates to your existing clients or to pursue new ones, it’s worth understanding campaign analytics to ensure that your email campaigns are as effective as possible.
One of the biggest advantages of using an EMS is having access to analytics tools that can show you how successful your campaigns were and provide you with insights that will allow you to improve your campaigns in the future. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes can help you better understand your audience and how they engage with each campaign. An EMS allows you to easily segment your marketing list into separate target audiences so that you can tailor your campaign’s messaging to each audience. For example, if you have several different specialties that apply to different types of clients, you can maintain separate campaigns. It also allows you to do A/B testing, where you might send out different versions of an email campaign to similar audiences and see which one is more effective.
First of all, make sure you are legally compliant. Most countries regulate email marketing. The CAN-SPAM Act sets out rules for the US and GDPR governs email marketing in Europe. Using an EMS can help with this. The main points are the following:
For many photographers, sending a newsletter to previous contacts works perfectly well. However, if you want to up your game, it’s worth understanding what a more targeted email marketing strategy has to offer.
One of the advantages of using Email Marketing Services is that they provide analytics tools to optimize your campaign. It’s worth noting that most EMS have a free base offering but charge different amounts for additional metrics. At HubSpot, one of the biggest names in EMS, open, click-through, bounce, and unsubscribe rates are free, along with spam reports. However, conversion tracking, analytics on engagement time, and A/B testing require a paid plan.
Below, we’ve laid out the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of email campaigns with a brief definition of each.
The percentage of recipients who opened an email. It’s always worth tweaking the subject line and the first few lines the recipient sees to improve this metric.
The percentage of readers who clicked on a link in an email. This information reveals which images and CTAs worked best.
The percentage of emails that could not be delivered. It’s worth “scrubbing” your email list to remove all the emails that don’t work. Some reasons for bounces could be:
NeverBounce is a helpful resource, where you can upload a bulk email list and it will “clean” it for you. This cuts down on bounces and keeps your sender reputation in good standing.
The percentage of recipients who unsubscribed from an email list following a campaign. If you have an unusually high unsubscribe rate for one particular email, you should steer away from that type of content. On the other hand, if you are, for example, trying to move into a different type of photography, it may mean that old clients find it less interesting.
This is a complaint by a recipient who has marked an email as unsolicited or unwanted “spammy” content. It’s essential to minimize these reports, as more of your emails could eventually be diverted to the spam folder – not just for this recipient, but also for other contacts.
Monitoring and measuring specific actions within an email campaign, including signups, purchases, form submissions, and more. This is useful for photography websites that offer different ways of interacting.
The amount of time a recipient actively spends engaging with an email. It can be interesting to see what kind of content is more interesting to viewers so that you can offer more of it. This metric is more often found on websites than EMS platforms, but the Marketing Hub of Hubspot offers this KPI for their paid subscription plans.
A breakdown of a campaign’s engagement over a specific period. It allows you to see if people become more or less engaged over time.
A form of experimentation that involves testing different subject lines, calls to action, or content to see which works best with specific clients.
While it’s easy to focus on the number of followers, analytics tools give you valuable insights into the quality of your mailing list and how engaged recipients are, which is far more critical. They can also show you if you hit your benchmarks.
The main Key Performance Indicators are open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes, which indicate how engaged your audience is with your email newsletters. Open rates vary greatly, but according to MailChimp, the average open rate for the photo industry is 23.2% (compared to the 21.3% open rate average across all industries). Marianne Lee, one of Wonderful Machine’s Marketing Consultants, dug further into the numbers.
We use Apollo for sending individual emails to potential clients, and Mailchimp, Squarespace, Hubspot, Emma, etc., for email marketing campaigns. Our Apollo campaigns get between 30-40% open rates on average. Often, we see higher rates at 50-60%, too. Click-throughs probably average about 4-8%. Mailchimp campaigns tend to have about a 30% open rate and 2-8% click-throughs. In general, the Mailchimp campaigns have lower open rates.
However, high open and click-through rates would be irrelevant if your target audience isn’t responding. It’s more important that the right contacts click on your link. For example, a loyal audience of fellow and amateur photographers is nice but is unlikely to get you a coveted job. The clicks that matter are those that come from potential clients.
Marianne shared some more advice.
If open rates are low, try changing up the subject lines. If click-through rates are low, try adding more links or changing up the language in the email text.
She also finds that photographers can benefit from using email campaign traffic to optimize their websites.
The email usually directs people to the photographer’s website, so it’s a good time to use analytics and find out what people do when they get there. If they bounce off quickly, maybe you need to make your website easier to navigate, or make it more enticing to stick around and click.
If you aren’t getting any responses after a lengthy period of time sending emailers, look at your web presence as a whole to find out why you aren’t connecting with prospective clients. You might need to get an outside perspective through a web assessment.
However, it’s worth remembering that photography depends on creativity, which makes it different from email marketing in other professions. Its success can’t be easily quantified and reduced to statistics. So, while analyzing data can be helpful, ultimately, a photographer must also trust their instincts, which have been honed over many years of practice and experience.
I worked closely with Elo to do A/B email campaign testing and analytics tracking. From there, we’d keep testing different styles of promos, both with verbiage and style of imagery, all pertaining to the outreach.
They used their findings of which words and styles yielded the best results and carefully targeted beauty clients, achieving extremely high open rates. They reached 100% over two consecutive months, and it wasn’t long before new clients inquired about working together.
Before I worked with Marianne, I had sent out only a couple of newsletters and then forgot about it for a year. Now I post every month, and I’m seeing results. On Gmail, you can set your email account so that it automatically saves every email address you communicate with to your contacts. I used that list as my initial email list – about 3000, including everybody I had interacted with. I got a huge amount of unsubscribes and a slap on the wrist from the EMS. I was left with about half that number, but these are the contacts who care.
But they didn’t just leave it at a regular newsletter. Marianne said,
After working together for about a year, Steve and I considered what to do with all these new contacts. So Steve asked if I could work on Email Marketing Blasts for him. For this, I compiled his contacts into his Squarespace account, adding 25 new contacts each month to his existing email list.
The email marketing blasts regularly remind potential clients that you’re still around. They may not always open the emails, but they see your name in their inboxes and keep you in mind for potential projects. As Marianne mentioned, some of Steve’s campaigns accomplished just that.
The first email blast we sent out got a lot of activity. In fact, one client from Steve’s past reached out and said: “Hey, it’s been too long; let’s get something on the calendar for this year!”
With Steve’s busy photography schedule, working in tandem with someone always helps.
We have a shared folder where I put any projects or blog posts that are suitable for my email marketing campaign. Marianne creates the blog posts, writes up the text, and tells me when they’re ready for me to look at. It’s great to get help doing some of the legwork – like having a personal trainer who says, “10 more reps, you can do this!”
After sending the emails, Steve dives into the analytics to tailor his follow-up actions.
I then check for the open rates and click-throughs to my website to see who is interested. Sometimes, I follow it up with a personal email.
A photographer’s success is not only down to talent and motivation. It also depends on their marketing. While social media is a dominant component of it, email marketing remains an effective way to sell services.
Emails are a direct line to a contact’s inbox, and if you target enough of the right contacts, you’ll uncover plenty of insights to aid your photography business. While most photographers give a customary glance to open and click-through rates, paying a bit more attention to KPIs can reveal a more nuanced story.
You can discover the styles and areas of your portfolio that resonated the most with various audiences, hopefully guiding the actions and decisions that inform your career. In a competitive profession, photographers need to use all the tools available to them, including the analytics tools stemming from email marketing.
Expert Advice: Email Marketing for Photographers
Expert Advice: Email Marketing Services For Photographers
Adobe: 9 Email Marketing Metrics to Measure Campaign Success