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The Perfect Sending Frequency for Artist Email Newsletters

by Clint Watson on 6/17/2011 8:13:45 AM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.





"Cube-grenade" creator, and back-of-business-card cartoonist Hugh MacLeod has built a career out of selling his art online. [1]  Here's what Hugh says about his success and the role of email newsletters:

I’m a cartoonist. This is my tenth year blogging. My work has been mentioned in big media including Wall St. Journal, Financial Times, New York Times, and The Guardian. It’s been mentioned in bestselling books...on thousands of blogs, including many of the big, A-Lister ones...none of that “hot PR media action” has moved my business forward nearly as quickly or effectively as this one simple thing:  My newsletter subscribers telling their friends about my newsletter, and suggesting that they sign up. [source]



Email Newsletters Work.  Period.


Art marketing coaches, gurus, and experts encourage artists to utilize email newsletters - with good reason - they work.


We know email newsletters work, that's not even a question.  In fact, I've even been known to say that I'm not surprised that your art isn't selling if your art is not being regularly featured in an email newsletter [2].   At FASO and FineArtViews, we've seen artists be quite successful with email newsletters.  They work well for us too -- you're probably reading this because you're a FineArtViews subscriber.



But How do You Avoid Sending Too Often?


Art bloggers often advise artists on the "right" frequency for sending an email newsletter.  This advice generally warns artists not to send too many emails, you don't want to "overwhelm" your subscribers, after all.  That's good advice.  Here's the rub, though:  the recommended frequency is all over the map.  I've read recommendations ranging from once a month, to once a week, to no more than 2 times a week.  Where are people getting these numbers?  They seem to be based on gut feelings and personal preferences.  If there was any data cited, I certainly missed it.  Let's be a bit more strategic than that...



The .2% Solution


You can send your newsletter as often as you long as you don't have more than 2 people unsubscribe for every 1,000 emails you send (.2%) [3].  If you lose more than 2 people out of every 1,000 emails, then you're either sending too often, or you've strayed too far off topic (such as discussing politics in a newsletter where people were expecting art).  I sure wish I could remember where I first read the 2% number cited, but I can't, so I did some quick research, and came across these statistics from a 2010 Direct Marketing Association research paper that reports - those who email to their own "house" list have an average unsubscribe rate of .77%.  So let's say, based on that research, we'll set an upper bound of 7/1,000 unusbscribers [6].


What I'm recommending is this:  for every 1,000 emails you send, you pick a number you can accept to can be as low as 2 or as high as 7 - but it can't be zero (zero is unrealistic once your list grows past a certain size).  Incidently, FineArtViews shoots for .2% (our current unsubscribe rate is .04% (4 out of 10,000)).



How to Measure Your Unsubscribe Rate


First of all, you have to know who unsubscribed. [4]  Yes, that means you cannot and should not send your newsletters with your regular email program using the BCC field for all your subscribers.  Seriously.  Don't. Do. That.    What you need to use is a tool made for sending email newsletters like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Aweber.  If you're a FASO customer, we provide an email newsletter manager automatically integrated with your website (and Facebook!) that tracks all this stuff.  Here's a screenshot of the FineArtViews newsletter stats inside a FASO account:


  FASO's email newsletter analytics page.




The Perfect Sending Frequency


So what's the perfect sending frequency to ensure that you don't lose more than .2%?  My answer is as often as possible.  That's why we send FineArtViews daily.  Send as often as you have information to share...just make sure it's personal, timely and relevant.  If your unsubscribe rate is too high, dial back the frequency a bit until it's "just right" [5]     In fact, you can even set up-front expectations for your subscribers by telling them what to expect on your newsletter signup page.  Sending your newsletter every day is fine as long as the person knows what they are signing up for.  


Don't guess - what works for one artist might not work for you.  Send on the frequency that works for you and then track the numbers.


While you're deciding whether you should send more often or less often let me share with you a few success stories:


Remember Hugh MacLeod, the sucessful "cube grenade" cartoonist?  He sends his newsletter  daily.  I look forward to them.


Here are a few other examples:


FineArtViews sends daily.  

Groupon sends daily.  

Facebook sends every single time there is an update.  

Brian Kliewer's successful "100 paintings in 100 days" project sent daily. 

Robert Genn (of The Painter's Keys) sends twice-weekly.  

Linkedin sends their new updates daily.

Early to Rise sends daily.

The Daily Reckoning sends daily.

Thrillist sends daily.


You'll have to find the frequency that works best for you, anectodal evidence, at least, seems to suggest....err on the side of more frequent newsletters.   But now you're armed with the .2% forumula, so you can find the perfect sending frequency for you.




Clint Watson

Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic


PS - If you are afraid to send your newsletters more often because you think you'll be "bothering" people, consider this:  "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" - Oscar Wild






[1] If you haven't read Hugh's, How To Be Creative, go do it now.  He calls his cartoons cube grenades because they're designed to "start real conversations between people" - I believe it's a reference to breaking out of the groupthink that can take over in corporate cubicals.


[2]  It doesn't have to be you sending the newsletter, it could be your gallery, spouse or agent.  Just as long is somebody is doing it.


[3]  If your list is small, say 50 subscribers, you apply the ".2% solution" to the total number of messages sent.  So after you've sent 20 newsletters, you would have sent 1,000 emails (20 newsletters X 50 subscribers) - make sure you didn't lose more than 2 of the original subscribers, if you did, make adjustments to the frequency and the content.


[4] The word "unsubscribe" necesarily indicates that someone "subscribed."  If you have a big list of your friends' email addresses in outlook, you don't have a "house" email list - don't spam them.  You should (and legally can) send newsletters only to people who voluntarily sign up for them.  That means you need a newsletter opt-in form on your website.  If you have that big list of friends, I recommend you send each one an individual, personal email asking each person, one at a time, if they would like to receive your regular email newsletters.  Each person who says yes - you can add them to your subscription list.  Do the same thing with every single person who purchases your artwork as well.


[5]  If you have a list but haven't used it in a long time, don't judge the unsubscribe (and bounce) numbers until you're a bit into your campaign.  Lists get stale over time, so your unsubscribe rates will be higher at first...that's actually another reason it's better to send more often...people come to expect your newsletter.  I once hit a very busy patch in life and stopped sending FineArtViews for a couple of months, people started writing me asking if I was OK, saying the newsletters had stopped and that they were worried that something terrible had happened...fortunately, we have since added several great contributors, so the show goes on even when I'm unproductive.  


[6]  More Direct Marketing Association Numbers:


Marketing emails using a house list are experiencing, on average:

  • Open rates of almost 20%
  • Click-through rates of 6.64%
  • Conversion rates of 1.73%
  • Bounce rates of 3.72%
  • Unsubscribe rates of 0.77%.

Direct Marketing Association (2010) [source]

FASO: Want Your Art Career to Grow?  Set up an Artist Website with FASO.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

InformedCollector: Free daily briefs about today's finest artists in your inbox.

BoldBrush Contest: Monthly Online Painting Contest with over $17,068 in awards. 

Daily Art Show: Daily Show of Art that reaches thousands of potential collectors.

Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

I'm Not Surprised Your Art Isn't Selling . . .

Personal, Timely, and Relevant

Artist Brian Kliewer - A Case Study in Email Marketing

Have You Signed My Guest Register? and Other Ideas to Build Your Mailing List

Regular, Compelling Newsletters are King

Newsletters: Avoid the Premature Click-off

The Open Rate

The Advantages to E-Newsletters

Blog vs. Email Newsletter

Who Can You Send Email Newsletters?

Newsletters...Trust Me, You Can Do This

Adding Value to Your Newsletters

Topics: art marketing | email newsletters | FineArtViews | sell art | Clint Watson 

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George De Chiara
Interesting Clint. I too have heard numbers all over the place on how often to send your newsletter. Lately I've been shooting for every other week and it seems to working well for me.

By the way, those screen shots of your stat's, are those available on our FASO web site for our newsletters?


Clint Watson
George - every other week is often enough to stay in people's mind, I would think.

Yes - those stats are in your FASO control panel, from the main page, on the left hand side under "Marketing results" - click "Email Newsletter Stats beta"

George De Chiara
Thanks again Clint. I didn't even notice that link.

Sharon Weaver
I have been thinking of increasing my newsletter to twice a month so good information to consider. I like to see what other people are saying so I always check the box for email updates but sometimes the number of emails from a few of the social networks can get overwhelming with 60 new messages at a time. It is always a balancing act between too much verses not enough.

Marian Fortunati
Interesting post and quite timely for me. I've been hovering on the edge of sending out a monthly newsletter but haven't done it.

I wonder if anyone gets tired of getting it. It's so hard to be sensitive and not cross over into annoying but to still get the word out.

This post will help me with that as I know you have a LOT more experience. - THANKS

Patricia Pilipuf
Your article on Newsletters was very timely as I have been writing my very first one this weekend, wondering how often I should commit to sending one out. Yes, I'll probably fall into the 50 or less subscribers, but I have to start somewhere. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your website. I very much enjoy your little grenades. Now, could you write an article on the best information to include in your newsletter? Thanks again, Regards, Patricia

Bonnie Samuel
Good advice and I particularly like the recommendation of using some percentages or stats to measure frequency effectiveness of one's email. I know you have mentioned before as well, taking note of newsletter topics that seem to generate more interest than others over time. Thanks, Clint!

jack white
Cline I LOVE the 2 percent factor. I had not read this number before. You branded 2 percent in my mind.

We use Mikki's blog like a newsletter. The blog goes up about six times a week. If she has blogged something our entire collector lists needs to see we use Constant Contact and link that blog.

For instance Mikki's collector event in Santa Fe over Labor Day will need a RSVP for them to get in the gallery Saturday night. She did a blog recently letting people know they have to RSVP if they want to attend. We emailed Constant Contact with the link to our 1,500 member list.

We can't do a newsletter and a blog. Time doesn't permit. So in our case we fell the blog helps us more.

Recently we had 4,800 people read one of Mikki's blogs. I wish we could keep that number. (smile)

I think Hugh is an exception. None of us will be picked up by the AP or the big new media. None of us will ever be a mega star like Andy Warhol. What works for Hugh will not work for we slugs who pull ourselves along one sale at a time. I think this is where the 2 percent factor comes into play. You nailed the key factor on how to find when our emails turn into Spam.

FASO is also very different than a single artists sending out newsletters. You have several writers to perk folks interest. You provide vital information no one artist can. If I were sending out daily news letters, my bailout would be 10 percent to 20 percent a day. Jack

Donald Fox
Good, solid advice. Not only do you write from a prefessional perspective, you also model that within the Fine Art Views.

Esther J. Williams
If an artist is supposed to be painting to sell, to grow and needs their precious time, who has the time to write up newsletters more than once a month? I do not. I have family obligations, pets, a garden and a pond of fish to take care of also. Besides painting commissions, exhibition pieces and inspirational pieces. It takes time to shoot images, adjust them, write a story, organize it into a newsletter and make it really interesting. Meanwhile, there are five paintings waiting to be finished, they are glaring at me now.

Cathy de Lorimier
I'm wondering if writing about a work in progress is enough information to put in a newsletter, or is this simply better suited to a blog? I do not have that much "news" to share yet. I am interested in how you would advise me on this. I have started a blog, and contribute to it without regard to regular timing...just when there's honestly something to share.

Jack White believes a blog is a suitable substitution for a newsletter. Which one, in your opinion, is the best place to invest my time? I will be the only one writing, and the only one doing artwork. I want to make the most of my time without struggling for lots of content in what I write. In other words, I believe QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY.

Clint Watson
Jack - Just to be clear it's .2 percent not 2 percent. I think you're just being humble - you're "bail out" rate would not be 10-20 percent - no way. When we send your articles on FineArtViews nobody is bailing. Hugh is sort of different in that he's followed widely in the tech community, however, I think his story illustrates the power of newletters - he tried everything else first - blogging, hi-power PR etc and he came back to what works for the rest of us - newsletters. All newsletters are is direct marketing for the 21st century and direct marketing works.

Cathy - yes, writing about a work in progress is more than enough - your followers will find it interesting. Brian Kliewer's story - he was only writing about his work and sold 87 paintings in 100 days from newsletters.

Jack and I agree on a great many things - however, my opinion is that a blog is not a substitute for a newsletter. THe response rate is MUCH MUCH higher for newsletters. If you can only do one - do a newsletter. Have you ever wondered why FineArtViews (a blog) sends every blog post a a newsletter? Because the engagement is orders of magnitude higher for newsletters.

Everyone compulsively checks their email several times a day - your newsletter goes right into that inbox. Very few people check blogs daily. Which place would you rather be?

I do agree with you about Quality over Quantity - but the newsletters don't have to be long and don't have to take much time. Spend the time and quality on the art, and, on a regular basis, send a quick update to your newsletter subscribers on what you've been working on.

jack white
Clint, you win..I'm crying, "Calf Rope." I know when I'm beaten. I have to concur you are the Internet expert. I see your point on the Newsletter over a blog.

I have a feeling if I had used a Newsletter for my alter-ego artist I might have really blown the sales off the charts. However the key to my blogs was their highly political bend. My collector base were very right wing. I wrote for my base. I wonder if a Newsletter would have generated as many death threats and as much hate mail??? Jack

Bonnie Samuel
Clint, while I agree with you about newsletters going to subscribers' emails, one can also use RSS feeds for blogs they want to read whenever published. I use both actually.

Like Jack, my old blog and even my FASO is a soapbox-most definitely the opposite of Jack's view I assume. I also am a contributing writer to some other sites, forums, etc. Some warned me to curb my views in writing my FASO blog, themed "art as social commentary" or in my postings on my Facebook biz page. Glad I didn't though as my following increased, although did have one drop---was that you, Jack?!

Since there are so many ways to make yourself known on the net with blogging, it can be a great branding tool. But...have a newsletter too for mailing list building.

Jeanne Guerin-Daley
Clint, thanks for the article. I had committed to once a month some time ago, and, like Esther, I too have many demands on my time. I worry that when I get too busy, I will miss sending one out. Since I made the commitment though, it does help me to find the time. Even if it means doing a real fast one on the last day of the month!
I think having shorter, more timely letters, more often may be a good change for me. While I do worry about being a "bother" to people if I send too often, I also do get nice comments from friends who are subscribers. When I see them in person, they will comment on how much they enjoy reading my newsletter. So I guess I'm doing something right!
And FASO makes it so easy! (Although I haven't yet figured out how to use the "templates" feature.)

Jo Allebach
I sent out a monthly newsletter before i started my blog. I do my blog every day so it takes time but I guess I better get back to the newsletters. Thanks for all the cool info!

jack white
Bonnie, The drop was not me. (smile) There is a lot of reasons for people to drop our newsletters and blogs. People divorce. They move and get new email address, then fail to notify us. They cancel but never re-hook up. Sometime the wife is online and the husband feels she is spending too much time on the PC/Mac or the other way around.

Trust me it's not you, but something happening on the other end. jack

Bonnie Samuel
You are probably right, Jack....and I was kidding about it being you!

Clint Watson
Bonnie - you are absolutely right, people can subscribe with RSS - the hope was that RSS would kind-of "replace" email for stuff like this and for some tech-savvy people, it has. I have hundreds of RSS feeds in my reader. However, the reality is, it never caught on with "normal" people - they get email - they don't get RSS. So, while RSS has found a niche (and is used ALOT behind the scenes in server-to-server communications), it is essentially dead as far as mass adoption is concerned. While I prefer RSS - email works better for marketing.

Jack, not sure on the political slant - if you were after a bit of controversy a blog may have been a better choice since it's more public in a lot of ways. If you emailed a lot of right-wing stuff you may have just had a lot of left-wingers unsubscribe and not ever contact you, I know for sure your unsubscribe rate would have been higher than .2 percent :-) We definitely lose more people (and get complaints) on the occasions where I'm more open about my faith, which I don't do much, but don't hide either.

George De Chiara
I agree with Jack, you never know why someone drops. Last Christmas I sent a simple newsletter wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year. I had it set up so it sort of looked like a card with a single large image. Almost as soon as it was sent I had someone drop off my list. I guess they didn't like Christmas.

Clint Watson
George - sometimes people drop because they just want less email - doesn't mean it was even you specifically, the person probably likes Christmas.

In fact, I regularly purge my email subscriptions if I'm going to be out of town so I have less email when I check-in while travelling, the ones I really love I re-subscribe to after I get back.

Thanks for the advice Clint. The quote by Oscar Wilde was perfect to underline the point. And by the way, George, love your newsletters!

George De Chiara
I'm sure your right Clint. The timing of if just seemed odd to me. I never thought about people purging subscriptions before vacations. I need to remember that before our next vacation.

Thanks Anita! That's so good to hear. My wife and I put a lot of time and energy into them.

Carol Schmauder
Thanks for this information, Clint. I'm still working on making the most of a newsletter.


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