Using Email to Build a Viable (Fiction) Podcast Business, Part Two.

Using Automation to Delight Your Fans

The difference between having a podcast and having a viable podcast business can be boiled down to how consistently we delight and amaze our listeners across channels.

This is because we need more than listeners to build a business; we require supporters and fans who feel good about their relationship with us. We have to build a brand.

Most of us don’t have the resources of a company behind us and are scrambling for resources (time and money) while also holding down full-time jobs. It is easy to become overwhelmed with show creation, let alone the near-endless list of tasks around marketing, sales, promotion, etc.

But a fan having a bad experience in a channel we’ve forgotten about can undermine the gains we worked so hard to achieve with our podcast in the first place.

This is where automation comes in.

Just delivering what we promise is one way we can create a moment of delight and build a deeper relationship with our fans.

Here are some ways I use email automation to create moments of delight:

  1. Notify patrons quickly on how to access their perks. I no longer rely on Patreon or any crowdfunding platform to do this for me, because that wasn’t working.
  2. Deliver exclusive content to our fans to thank them for joining our newsletter.
  3. Create interactive experiences for our fans, such as allowing them to explore the backstory of one of our shows with audio, text and more.

Setting up automation takes a bit of time, but year after year it is the single best investment I have made. My future self gets time back (which is always in short supply) and I now have a growing number of engines designed to create moments of delight for our fans.

I’m going to show how I build some of these automations in AWeber as that’s my email partner of choice, but you can do similar things with many of the other tools out there.

Creating Powerful Tag-Based Automations

Tags are a great tool to understand and even segment my subscribers in AWeber, but tags also have a super power and it lies in their ability to trigger automations. Campaigns are how that is done.

Below is a screenshot of one of the campaigns I use for new patrons for our show, Civilized.

A screenshot showing the configuration of the AWeber campaign we use to welcome new patrons of Civilized

I’ll break down what’s happening in each of the numbered steps shown above.

1

Every campaign or automation starts with a trigger. This is the condition that must occur for AWeber to start this automation campaign. In this case, I’ve chosen to trigger this campaign when the tag “civpatron” is applied to a subscriber.

I’m also specifying that the automation should not initiate if they’ve already been welcomed before.

2

In this type, I am telling AWeber to apply a tag to the subscriber to show that we’ve welcomed them. If I put them into the system twice by mistake, they will only get the welcome once.

I find it helpful to think about this automation being applied to each individual subscriber, almost one at a time. If I tag five subscribers with “civpatron”, it will follow my instructions for each of those subscribers.

3

This is the fun step!

Send them the email titled “Thank you for supporting Civilized on Patreon.”

This email welcomes them and thanks them for their support. It also outlines how they can access the special content just for patrons.

I’ll show the emails that get generated by this automation a little later in this article.

4

This is just like step 2. We are applying a new tag. But this is a tag that is tied to another campaign in AWeber as a trigger.

Any subscriber who has the “e1” tag applied will be enrolled in the interactive backstory. This is a super powerful feature. I can trigger another automation within an automation. By adding this one tag in this step, I’m kicking off a 30+ step automation with 23 episodes of special audio fiction content.

5

When I first created this campaign, step 4 was the end.

Then we launched a referral program for Civilized, but adoption was a little slow. One day I questioned why I wasn’t promoting this to our biggest supporters.

And so I came in and added step 5 to this campaign. And boy has it been successful. It makes sense; these are some of our biggest supporters and our referral program is a chance to win merchandise by sharing our show with their friends.

And here’s a cool thing. All the people that have already gone through this campaign when it was just four steps are now going to also get step 5 and 6.

But why is step 5 saying to wait 2 days?

When this campaign is triggered, it’s already sending a few emails to new patrons and I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with yet another ask. So step 5 is just a delay. The system will wait two days before proceeding to the next step.

6

This is just like step 3 only we’re sending a new email that invites patrons to participate in our referral program. And then the campaign ends.

But who knows, one day I could see having another delay and then another email to inform them of any new things we create in the days to come.

I want to re-iterate a key thing from the automation I walked through above. All of this happens when I add a SINGLE TAG to a new subscriber. I never have to think about this again.

I promised to show what these emails look like.

Here’s the first email from the above automation that welcomes a new supporter. I’ve gone and sent it to myself so I can share it here.

Below I will show the referal email from step 6.

Want to experience the second email that starts them off on the interactive journey?

Just go to civilizedpod.com and subscribe to our newsletter. You will be tagged with e1 and get to experience it yourself. Hey, a man’s gotta build his email list somehow! :)

Here’s the referral program email from step 6 that gets sent to patrons two days later.

Not only does this campaign create a moment of delight for our fans, it saves me time while creating engagement with our supporters.

I used to use messages inside our crowdfunding site, but it was a cold day in the earth’s core when someone would actually respond. Now I get replies all the time.

And anything that creates better engagement and communication with our fans and supporters is a BIG WIN.

Creative Delight with Automation

I expect many of you might be a little skeptical about the “delight” part of the equation. Sure, automation can make things easier, but am I stretching things a little for the purposes of an article when I say it can create “delight”?

Nope.

One of the easiest ways to create a moment of delight for your patrons is to deliver quickly on your promises.

If you say that supporting you on Patreon (or wherever) gives them access to certain perks, it’s not enough to leave them to fumble around on the platform trying to find what they now have access to.

Creators who respond quickly to new supporters with gratitude and easy to follow instructions on how to access their benefits can actually create a magical moment.

Creating Something Special with Automation

But speed and follow-through isn’t the only way to create a moment of delight.

For Civilized we created a fun, interactive adventure driven entirely through tag-based email automation. There are over 23 episodes to explore that unveil the back story to our fully improvised dark-comedy show.

You can try it yourself by signing up here.

It utilizes the same tag-based automation I explained above. Only it uses a new feature: the ability to apply tags to subscribers based on the links they click on in emails.

In a nutshell, a subscriber tagged with “e1” gets sent an email with the first audio episode to listen to; and then the email presents the subscriber with two choices as two clickable links.

AWeber waits to see which choice you will select by clicking on it. The act of clicking on a link sets a new tag. This tag fires the next campaign where the first instruction is to wait 24 hours before sending you the next part of the interactive story.

Why 24 hours? It turns out that interstellar communication with the alien entity of our story takes 12 hours each way. Hey, it’s our story and our crutch. Go make your own! :)

Creating over 10 hours of fully improvised audio almost killed us.

Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski and Eli McIlveen exhausted after a VERY long day.

Only serious fans of the show are going to want to play an interactive backstory. But if we say that in reverse, our biggest fans are going to want to play the backstory and thus are very likely to sign up to our newsletter.

So this provides hours of delight and fun while also connecting us via email to our most engaged fans. A win/win so to speak.

In Closing

I’ll say it again. If you take nothing else away form this series, I hope it is this:

One of the easiest says to create a moment of delight is to deliver on your promises, with speed and follow-through.

Once that is covered, I recommend measuring the conversation and engagement that all of your communications generate. If you are sending lots of messages and not getting replies, it’s time to rethink things.

That is what led to the systems and automation I use today.

I am showcasing examples from my my email provider of choice, AWeber, but many of these lessons can be implemented in other platforms. If you want to follow along or even try out AWeber for yourself, I recommend giving their free plan a try.

Disclaimer: AWeber is a partner and sponsor of the Fable and Folly Network, but they did not have any input into this article series.

Part three of the series is now available where I lay out what really matters and how to get started on some key questions.

Sean is a brand marketer, podcaster and co-founder of Fable and Folly. https://fableandfolly.com/