Here at MailPoet, we value loyalty. So, when looking for a MailPoet user to interview for a case study, we naturally thought of Jeff Brown, a long-time user of both MailPoet 2 and MailPoet 3. Jeff is the Online Director of The Station Inn, a music venue in Nashville, Tennessee and one of the largest and most-recognized live bluegrass music venues in the world. The Station Inn newsletter currently has about 5,000 subscribers, which is a solid number.
In this case study, we talk to Jeff about why he uses MailPoet in particular, what some of his statistics are, and how we can potentially help him maximize his MailPoet usage. You can view one of The Station Inn’s newsletters here: February 2018. Want to skip to the end? Check out our mock-up of a redesign. But we recommend reading the post first!
MailPoet: Can you tell us a little about your website? How did you get started?
Jeff Brown: The Station Inn is actually a world-wide recognized music venue in Music City (Nashville, TN). We’ve been playing bluegrass music for 40 years and hosted some of the biggest names in music. The website was built in the mid-90’s to engage our international audience and be more available to the existing fan base. The website now allows the fans to see the performing schedule on our stage, buy merchandise, read updates, and watch live broadcasts of shows from anywhere in the world.
I’ve used a few other newsletter creators and nothing is near as simple as MailPoet, while still being versatile enough to allow me to be creative with my brand. It’s easier than MailChimp and more versatile than GetResponse.
MP: What led you to MailPoet? Have you used other email marketing software before?
JB: I (the Online Director of the club) have used MailPoet since 2014. To be honest, I stumbled across it trying to learn about WordPress with other websites in the past. I searched WordPress plugins for a newsletter creator because I thought that’s where you found everything for a WordPress website. So I played with it and fell in love with the simplicity. I’ve used a few other newsletter creators and nothing is near as simple as MailPoet, while still being versatile enough to allow me to be creative with my brand. It’s easier than MailChimp and more versatile than GetResponse.
MP: What are your main goals with email newsletters?
The Station Inn is a big brand with a wide reach. 78% of our fan base lives more than 100 miles from the venue. So it is crucial to have a way to communicate with them on a regular basis when we have a big act coming, new merchandise, seasonal sales, or a new big feature, like our live broadcasting. Only using the website to make these announcements isn’t enough. It’s too passive. We have a list of thousands of people who have given us permission to contact them directly. The newsletter with MailPoet is one of the best marketing outlets we have.
Only using the website to make these announcements isn’t enough. It’s too passive. We have a list of thousands of people who have given us permission to contact them directly. The newsletter with MailPoet is one of the best marketing outlets we have.
The goal is to promote every show during the month (1 or 2 shows every day, Monday through Saturday, with 300 shows per year), with special interest in our selected list of “push bands” that may need some promotional help to fill seats. Outside of that, I try to fill space between each performance mention with something that is brand relevant: PR stuff, merchandise, FAQ material, etc.
MP: What are your stats like? What is your open rate? Click rate? Unsubscribe rate?
JB: Currently (early 2018) we have between 4,000 and 5,000 subscribers. For the last three months, MailPoet statistics reports a 15.2% open rate and a 4.5% click through rate. Our unsub rate is practically nonexistent. In 2 1/2 years, we have lost 149 subscribers and half the time, they will email us to let us know why they are unsubscribing. I’m really happy with these numbers. We’ve always had a mission to be real with our fans and to stay focused on the music. As a result, our fan base is very loyal. If we overstep with marketing, they let us know. They are very responsive to our requests (our recent survey had almost 500 responses) and they respond well to this newsletter.
Now, let’s take a look at some strengths and weaknesses of the Station Inn newsletter to see how we can help. As Jeff mentioned, the primary goal of the newsletter is to actively promote shows, new merchandise, or new features. Consequently, we’ll focus on making that happen. To refresh your memory, take a look at the newsletter again.
Strong Point: A Loyal Audience
One of the single best qualities of the newsletter is its loyal audience. With an extremely low unsubscription rate and a high response rate, it is clear that readers enjoy receiving the newsletter.
Room for Improvement: Audience Interaction
While the newsletter does include a few personal touches, like an introductory message, the occasional survey, and user reviews, it could include some more direct calls for feedback. We suggest adding a brief line to the introductory paragraph (or footer) that asks readers to reply with their thoughts or comments. Sometimes, a formal survey is too time-consuming for a reader.
Additionally, we’d recommend setting up an in-person, post-concert email list, if feasible. Tying a specific list to a specific performer is great for gathering direct feedback from users.
Strong Point: Cool Merchandise
The Station Inn is not just a concert venue – it also has an online shop with coffee mugs, tote bags, and dozens of other products. Intelligently, Jeff has included the occasional product mention in the newsletter. Many MailPoet users don’t include their products in newsletters, thinking that the newsletter should be strictly for information. Wrong move – you should also incorporate your products into the emails themselves.
Room for Improvement: Better Buying Options
One of the main objectives of the newsletter is to highlight new and cool merchandise on the Station Inn store. At the moment, each newsletter only features one large image of a single product. While this extra focus can sometimes work, it’s generally better to feature a variety of products, especially if you have a big “treasure chest” to pick from. One reader may prefer buying a coffee mug, while another might not drink coffee at all and instead would prefer a tote bag.
So, we’d recommend including at least 3 products in each newsletter, each with a smaller image and shorter text blurb. This is easy to do in MailPoet – simply choose a 3-column layout. Don’t go overboard with the product mentions, but be sure to give them the respect they deserve.
Strong Point: Lots of Good Content
Needless to say, The Station Inn newsletter has a ton of content. It’s one of the longer newsletters that we’ve seen, actually. Many MailPoet users struggle to come up with enough content to fill up a single monthly newsletter.
Room for Improvement: Too Much Content
That said, the newsletter has the opposite problem: too much content. There are too many full-width images, some redundant sections, and overall, it is far too long. These days, attention spans are short and it’s important to be concise. Try to limit your newsletter to 7-8 content blocks, maximum.
If you have a ton of content (or events) that is time-relevant (as concerts are), consider sending more, shorter newsletters. At the moment, The Station Inn newsletter is only about once per month. We suggest creating an additional, simplified weekly (or bi-weekly) newsletter that simply lists the upcoming concerts this week. The larger monthly newsletter should also be trimmed down to size.
It’s important not to send too many newsletters, however. The balance between not enough and too many can be tough to figure out. Luckily, we’ve got a post on determining the best frequency.
Strong Point: A Variety of Content
As we mentioned in the previous section, there is a lot of stuff in this newsletter. Thankfully, it is not monolithic – there are images, announcements, events, quotes, and many other types of content. While the newsletter is too long, it’s not boring to read.
Room for Improvement: Better Navigational Structure
However, these various types of content are dispersed somewhat randomly throughout the newsletter. While it does break up the monotony of a long newsletter, it also makes it slightly difficult to navigate.
We suggest categorizing the content in to 4 or 5 specific categories. The quote reviews, which are now spread throughout the newsletter, might be better if cut down to just one strong quote placed at the beginning of the newsletter.
Likewise, the month’s featured artists should be presented in one section, preferably ordered by date. Pictures of each artist can still be displayed, but we recommend using a smaller image for each performer. In MailPoet, you can resize images directly in the editor – experiment with finding the ideal size!
Strong Point: A Consistent Brand
The newsletter has a very consistent, recognizable image to it. It doesn’t look generic, predictable, or like every other newsletter out there. It has a particular look which is unlikely to be confused with competitors.
Room for Improvement: Too Noisy
That said, the newsletter is a little too busy, design-wise. There are over 5 separate colors present, some of which are not primary colors of the Station Inn website brand. We’d suggest narrowing the design down to three colors, at maximum, and making the background color a less-distracting shade of brown.
If the budget allows for it, we’d also recommend featuring more illustrations like the ones above. They are unique and add a great local flavor to the design.
And that’s it! We went ahead and did a quick mockup of what Jeff’s new redesign could potentially look like.