We still need to talk about email

A while back, I wrote this article about how many theatre companies are using email. Unfortunately, there are still companies that are using email poorly, and as such are hurting their reputations.

I recently received an email from a company that I purchased theatre tickets from. This company did not put any notification about email subscription in their purchasing process. After purchasing tickets, I noticed that I had begun receiving regular emails from them. I asked to be removed from their mailing list. They complied at the time.

Almost two years later, however, I received an email from them, and it is a plea for financial assistance. I understand the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with your email campaigns, especially for your fundraising. But your need does not change the best practices of email marketing. Your need does not make the fact that I never subscribed to your mailing list any less annoying.

Here’s the thing: your campaign loses value if you contact people who didn’t ask to hear from you. Because the reaction from these people (like me), is not just to delete your email, but annoyance. This does not make us likely to give you money, or go to your show. In fact, I’m more likely NOT to do those things.

One of the most important lessons of marketing by email is don’t annoy your customer base. If you, as someone who is thinking of sending email, has ever thought something along the lines of “Of course they want to hear from us, they are our customer”, you must stop and not hit send on that email. Being your customer is not reason enough for you to send an email to someone. They must have given you permission to do so. And if they haven’t, do not send them your newsletter. And absolutely, do not send them an email asking for money.

You can do better. And you need to do better. If you’re going to use email as a marketing or fundraising tool. Do it smartly. Or lose customers.

Theatre companies…we need to talk about email

Theatre companies and arts organizations…we need to talk about email and how you use it as a tool.

First, I know that email is an important tool for promoting your shows. You need to use it to help get the word out about the critical acclaim of a show, to help sell tickets to this show and to promote your upcoming shows. I get that.

But you really need to improve on how you are emailing.  Because you are risking pissing off potential ticket buyers and may soon be breaking the law.

First, let me give you an example. Let’s say I buy a ticket to one of your shows. I use your online portal to do so, and in the course of the transaction I provide my email address (which is standard practice so you can send me a receipt). The following week, I receive a promotional email from you. This is troubling, because nowhere in the transaction did you tell me that by buying a ticket you were going to sign me up to your mailing list.  So, I’m annoyed, but its one email, so I let it slide.  A few days later, I receive another. I’m a little more annoyed, but I let it slide because hey, its just two emails.  When I receive a third email a few days later, I am angry.  Because not only have you sent me email without asking for permission to do so, now you are sending me emails every few days.

Here’s another scenario. I start getting email about a show that’s happening locally.  I’m not sure how I got on the mailing list, but I am interested in local theatre, so I don’t mind.  But I get another email the next week.  This new email doesn’t really say anything different than the first, but there it is anyway.  And again, I wonder how I got on this mailing list, but like I said, I support local theatre, so that’s fine, but I am getting a little annoyed.  When I get another email, similar to the first two the following week, I get angry.  So I unsubscribe. But I’m still angry, because I don’t think I ever subscribed to your mailing list.

Theatre companies: you have to look at how you are populating your promotional mailing lists.  If you are putting people who happened to buy a ticket to your show, but didn’t ask them if they wanted to receive your emails, then you are not being a responsible emailer.  If you are a theatre company that adds anyone who sends a play submission or audition submission to your mailing list, you are being a bad emailer.  And in Canada, you need to watch out for this, because soon you may be subject to CASL (read up on it now, because you don’t want to be surprised by it).

You need to ask permission to send promotional email. Assume that aside from email receipts, the only emails you should send are ones where the recipients has given you permission to do so.

This is serious business. Trust me, nothing pisses off your customer more than an email they didn’t ask for. A pissed off customer isn’t likely to be a customer any longer.  Also, make sure that every time you send an email (to a subscriber base that has opted in) that you are saying something new; do not reiterate what you said last time.  That’s a good way to just annoy your subscriber. Annoyed subscribers are ex-subscribers and are people you can no longer reach.

Please, think about this.  I don’t enjoy unsubscribing, I don’t enjoy getting angry about email of all things, but you have to play your part, and follow some email marketing best practices.  Please. You’ll be doing yourself and your subscribers a favour.