How do you keep in touch with your fans? Most of you probably keep some kind of e-mail list of people who've either come to one of your events, or found out about your work online. Managing this list can be time consuming, as people move to new e-mail addresses or request to be taken off the list... and something as simple as trying to only e-mail your fans in a particular state or region quickly becomes a herculean feat as you sift through the increasingly legion list of names and e-mail addresses.
Despair not, intrepid artists entrepreneurs! Behold, Mailchimp: a free and easy way for your to manage your e-mail contacts, send slick and professional-looking e-mails/e-newsletters/evites/etc., AND even build a dynamic database of your patrons and fans (with a nifty integration with Artful.ly)!
MailChimp is a web-based e-mail marketing tool that allows you to manage numerous e-mail lists, design slick HTML e-mail templates, track metrics about your e-mail campaigns, and even do things like A/B Testing and merge dynamic fields into your e-mails. The service is free for everyone with less than 2,000 subscribers on your list, allowing you to send up to 12,000 e-mails absolutely free. If you go over, you can either pay-as-you-go or sign up for a monthly plan for more high volume e-mail marketing.
One of the greatest and most useful feature of Mailchimp that I have found is the A/B testing feature which lets you test out different versions of your e-mail campaign and send out the most successful one. For example, if I was looking to send out an e-mail about a new webcomic that I'm releasing, I could test out different formats for the announcement to see which version creates more click-throughs to my website. I can designate what portion of my total list will be part of the test sample (I usually go with $10), and depending on the criteria you're most interested in (click-through rates in this example)... the winning version is sent out to the rest of your list. It's a great and easy way to make sure that your e-mails are as effective as possible.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that MailChimp becomes even more powerful if you integrate your Mailchimp account with your Artful.ly account. You can find out all about Artful.ly here, but the short version: Artful.ly is a web-based application that lets you sell tickets, take donations, and track your fans. If you integrate your Mailchimp and Artful.ly accounts, all of the people who are subscribed to your newsletter will automatically be populated in the fan database in Artful.ly. This allows you to keep track of who you're talking to, who is coming to your events, and who you should be reaching out to to build your base of support. You can find more information about how to integrate your accounts here.