Email was the first “killer app” of the Internet, dating back to 1971 just a few years after the first computer networks came into being and two decades before the Web arrived. Despite its age, the venerable messaging system remains one of the most popular online applications. It may seem a bit old-fashioned and dowdy, but email continues to be an excellent way to communicate with your most engaged podcast listeners. If you’re not making use of its abilities, you could be missing out on a valuable route to keeping your audience interested.
The brilliance of email lies in its ubiquity and simplicity. Everyone who accesses online apps and services will have it and know how to use it. Statista estimates there will be nearly 4.6 billion email users by 2025, more than half the population of the world. Email doesn’t have the “in your face” smartphone push notifications of a more modern messaging system such as WhatsApp, unless your recipient has “favourited” your address - but it’s a system they can access on even the most antiquated and rudimentary smartphone, which also happens to work offline once the device has downloaded the latest messages.
These features make email a great way to keep an audience informed about your latest news and developments. Because your recipients can consume email at their own pace, it remains the most popular conduit across all age groups for receiving communications from brands. Research from Marketing Charts placed email as the preferred brand communication channel for over 67% of respondents across all age groups, and over 72% across all age groups except 14-18-year-olds. This is in comparison to SMS messages, app push messages, or any other form of communication, which all ranked much lower.
Amongst marketing professionals, email has a great reputation for return on investment, too. A report published in 2019 by the Data & Marketing Association estimated that for every £1 spent on email marketing, £42 will be returned in value. One of the benefits of emails over promoting your podcast on social media is that you own the channel. You can move the list elsewhere even if your emailing platform is discontinued, whereas a platform like Twitter or Facebook can cut you off on a whim, or downrank you so your followers never see your posts. This happened with Facebook in January 2018, causing many publishers to rethink their social media strategies.
With email, you also control your message entirely. You don’t know if a social media post is even seen by your followers, with some estimates placing the figure at as little as 10%. But you know your email subscribers will at least have received your message, even if they didn’t bother to read it. You can improve your chances with sophisticated email newsletter software that enables you to personalise your messages and enable your subscribers to choose the content they receive.
Emails are also cheap to produce. Adding rich content adds a little bit of time, but the basic text within an email is about the simplest form of content you can generate. By using a template, you can make this process even easier or even fully automated based on completing information that you can reuse elsewhere.
Tips for great email engagement
So exactly how should you use email in marketing your podcast?
First, you will need to grow your email subscriber base.
- Before you start building your list, you’ll need to create it in the first place. If you don’t already have one, CRM or email marketing platforms like Intuit Mailchimp will allow you to create a newsletter database, including a signup form that you can point people towards in order to register for it.
- Build a list of your subscribers. This is a “war of attrition” where you will need to ask your listeners to subscribe to your newsletter across as many channels as possible – on social media channels, on hosting services and streaming sites like Spotify, on your own website, and of course within the podcast itself.
- Provide plenty of information about your podcast host and themes alongside the call to subscribe. Make sure this underlines what your listeners will get out of listening to your podcast, and the added value they will receive from subscribing via email – such as never missing an episode packed with content, or added extras.
- During the obligatory call to subscribe to your podcast feed within the podcast itself, don’t forget to include details of subscribing via email and what subscribers will gain from doing so.
- Use the full features of your CRM system to manage your email subscribers. There will likely be a few handy automation features you can use to speed up your podcast marketing workflows, and some social media platforms even provide direct CRM platform integration. Keep the list backed up in case you need to use it elsewhere, in compliance with data protection rules.
The perfect subscriber email
Once you have collected some subscribers, what exactly should you send them?
- The most obvious thing to include in an email subscriber message is details of the latest podcast. Their preferred podcasting platform should notify them of a new episode dropping, but your email has the space to include a lot more information to convince them to listen, such as background information about guests or details of a topical theme within the episode.
- You can tease a new podcast episode in advance, not just let your subscribers know when it has arrived. This could include a sneak peek, and if you have a particularly noteworthy guest, you can build mystery and anticipation this way.
- Because emails can include links, images, and rich media, use these to add value. Make your email subscribers feel special by giving them exclusive content that is not available in the podcast itself, or provide complementary material to enhance their enjoyment. This can work in tandem with content you provide via your website and / or social media.
- You can also use your email list to market additional services to your most engaged audience, such as an exclusive members-only podcast, private podcast, or limited-edition fan merchandise.
Although your email subscriber list will be connected to your podcast and you must ensure you adhere strictly to data privacy rules such as GDPR, it’s also a resource you can use for other purposes, with your subscribers’ permission. If you’re planning a special live recording event, or additional events that complement the podcast, you can promote these to your email list. Your biggest fans will also be a great place to start building the listener base for a new podcast spun off from the original one.
It's also worth underlining that if your podcast is delivered in discrete seasons rather than continuously published every week, in between these seasons, your audience will be elsewhere listening to something else. Your email subscriber list can help you keep your most engaged listeners interested during these fallow periods. You can compose an email every week or so outlining what you are working on for the next season, perhaps with some teaser snippets - or you can keep them in touch with other activities of the hosts.
Whatever you do with your podcast subscriber email list, ensure that you have one and make good use of it. This 50-year-old online communications platform has persisted because it works, and failing to take advantage of email for your podcast would be missing a valuable and cost-effective opportunity for audience engagement.