marketing by email.

email list By this point I had switched away from AOL as my internet service provider and hooked into the real internet, signing up with a small, Hoboken-based ISP called Mordor.  My email address was dromdary@ritz.mordor.com.  At that time, most ISPs wouldn’t let you have an email address that was more than eight characters, hence my reason for dropping the “e” in the middle of Dromedary.

Similarly, my AOL email address was “DromDary@aol.com.”

Eventually I got fed up with the newbie nature of AOL, the hokey little “you’ve got mail,” and the inability to use all the functions of the internet.  I signed up with Mordor and maintained both accounts for a while, but then realized that I was paying ridiculous long-distance fees for dialing into Hoboken to access the internet, and equally ridiculous fees for being an AOL member.

To top it all off, we used our phone line to connect to the internet via dialup.  If I wanted to get online, Sandy couldn’t use the phone.  If one of us was on the phone, the other couldn’t get online.  I can’t count how many times I’d be upstairs in the office, and Sandy would be downstairs.  I wouldn’t realize she was talking on the phone, and I’d log into the net – Sandy would hear the beeps and buzzes of the modem and have to yell “I’m on the phone!” upstairs, so I would disconnect the modem.  Other times, I’d be online, and suddenly the connection would drop as Sandy picked up the phone to make a call.

Mark from Footstone, who still lived fairly locally, had found a Morris County-based ISP called GTI.  They had local dialup numbers, which meant that I could have a dedicated phone number just for my modem, and dial into GTI whenever I wanted.  Because it was a local call, I could stay logged in without worrying about whether or not someone was trying to call, or Sandy wanted to use the phone.

I could even get online and talk to Rich at the same time.  He had a similar setup at his new apartment in Rutherford (yes, I returned his favor by helping him move in), and he and I would poke around on the internet, talking to one another on the phone about the things we saw.

March Records used to send out a promotional email, once a month.  The email would cover news about their bands, upcoming releases, tour dates and such.  I thought it was a fantastic idea – of all the companies out there in the world in any industry, March Records was the first one I ever saw that had a broadcast email.

I decided to follow suit.

First, I went through my inbox and made lists of everyone I ever sent emails to.  That became my email list.  And yes, it was on paper – the image you see at the top of this post was one of my first email lists.

Some of the people who I know read this blog today will see their names on the list.  Do you remember your old email addresses?

After I had my email list together, I would open up Eudora (the email program I used) and type out the email.  What was Footstone up to?  Where were The Mommyheads?  What records did we have on deck for release?  What Dromedary bands had shows coming up?  

I also used the list to point out records from other labels that we knew.  If Ratfish or Silver Girl had a cool new record out, I’d mention it in my email list.  Same with Pop Narcotic, Harriet, Sonic Bubblegum, Carrot Top, or any of the other labels I was acquainted with.  I tried to avoid discussing the larger indies like Simple Machines or Matador; they didn’t need my help.  And as my email list grew, I started to think that it actually was helping; I started selling more Mommyheads and cuppa joe records through the mail, and people started emailing me, asking for information on our seven-inches.

I was beginning to see that online marketing was a viable way to quickly reach a large group of people who were predisposed to buying our records in the first place.  

We advertised in a lot of print publications at this point.  And as I started seeing the hundreds of dollars I was spending on publications like Magnet and Popwatch, I started wondering how effective this really was.  Realizing I was really only spending the money so that those publications would review my records, I started to realize something so simple, but very important:

Everything I did with Dromedary was done to get exposure.  Nothing I was doing, however, was helping to sell records.

My distributors simply weren’t getting the job done.  I was lucky to find a copy or two of our records in stores, and only a few distributors – Surefire, Revolver, Get Hip and one or two others – would actually pay me.  

The whole goal of the thing was to sell records, and I was failing miserably.  Once again, I was a dope who had it all wrong.

The email marketing thing showed me – in 1995 – how important it was to build a relationship with my customers.  Invariably, I would send out an email, and get an order through the mail, or a question from someone about a record, or something like that.  When I’d run an ad – or get a review, for that matter – I rarely received any sort of contact from customers.

I needed someone who could help me establish that sales relationship.  I needed someone who had contacts at retail, and who had a vested interest in Dromedary so that they would actually work to get our records in stores, and work to help get our records past the stores into the hands of consumers.  It felt like I could reach the indie kids with my ads, with reviews, with songs on the radio – but I couldn’t actually reach them with my records.

~ by Al on August 22, 2009.

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