Monday, July 21, 2008

A Promotional Tip for Artists and Crafters: Market Your Handmade Items through an Online Mailing LIst and Monthly Email Newsletter

When I started my blog a little over a year ago now, I knew that it would take some time to establish myself in the blogosphere, but I just assumed that eventually people would find me and subscribe to my blog feed. I thought that there would be eager readers ready to get my daily blog subscription - at least, eventually I thought this would magically happen. Well, now, after quite some time, I've realized when dealing with promotions and marketing via the internet, there's a lot of inconsistency and a lot of work involved to continually make yourself known on the world wide web. It is not a "build it and they will come" mentality that wins the race, but rather a "build it, rebuild it, build it some more" mentality that is necessary to just survive, and hopefully prosper, in internet marketing - especially for the small indie business person without a large budget to back them up.

With that in mind, I've tried a lot of different promotional and marketing avenues online. I'm planning to present some free or cheap ways to market online in the next couple of weeks as a short series on internet promotional tips. And, I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert; there are many more experienced artists and crafters out there who've been around the block many times promoting and marketing their handmade items online and elsewhere. I have simply learned through much trial and error and am still learning this way, but I thought that perhaps some of you could benefit from my personal efforts in the building and rebuilding process. The first of these internet promotional tips is on developing a mailing list and sending a monthly email newsletter. This is something that I am in the midst of doing myself to help build my little indie felt business.

Like everything else that I want to apply to my business marketing or promoting, or any other area of my business really, I do a lot of research. I read forums and online articles and check out library books too. Hopefully I can pass along what I've found about mailing lists and monthly email newsletters so that you can benefit too. I freely admit that I'm a list person or a steps person when it comes to info so below you will find a listing of information about mailing lists and newsletters along with some helpful links and online resources as a follow-up. And, feel free to add your two-cents worth of info too in the comments.


So What is Involved in a Mailing List and Email Newsletter?
The Definition: As defined by Wikepedia.org, a mailing list is "a collection of names and addresses used by an individual or an organization to send material to multiple recipients." This is the original definition of a mailing list, but with the development of our digital age and the involvement of the internet in marketing, the mailing list that I am referring to is strictly an electronic mailing list or list of email addresses. Once you have even a small mailing list, you can begin using it for email marketing of your arts and crafts business.
Newsletter Frequency: One way to use your mailing list effectively is to send a monthly or bimonthly newsletter. Of course, you can send a newsletter or promotional emails as often as you like, but you don't want to annoy subscribers or take out the element of surprise by sending email updates too often.
Newsletter Content: Your email newsletter contents can be whatever you decide, but here are a few suggestions of what to include: new available items, upcoming events, some personal tidbits, how to's and tips, discounts and promotional codes, and contests. Keep in mind that your email newsletter is a means of communication between you and your customers or potential customers, and the content should reflect that relationship. It is also good to express a bit of your personal side too since you do not want to come across as someone who just wants to sell, sell, sell! You want those who subscribe to your newsletter to know that you are a warm and welcoming handmade artist or crafter who takes pride in their skills and unique items.
Newsletter Format: Your newsletter can be presented in a simple text format or a more complicated text/graphics format. If you sign up for a mailing list and email newsletter service, that service will most likely provide some email templates for you to use in constructing your newsletter along with instructions on how to use the templates. Otherwise, you can make a well organized, text only email newsletter on your own with very little effort.
Just a really great example to share.......... I subscribe to CJ Kopec Creations' newsletter and just love it! It is a monthly newsletter that is interesting and very well organized too. Since the newsletter is primarily fiber art related and nicely presented, I always look forward to reading it. If you're interested in subscribing to a really nice newsletter by a fellow artisan, check out the shop announcements at CJ Kopec Creations on Etsy.

The Technicalities of a Mailing List and Email Newsletter:
You could keep track of a mailing list yourself by storing all the email addresses and adding and removing emails addresses as subscribers opt-in and opt-out of your newsletter, but this seems like a lot of tedious work to me and a bit more technical than I personally want to deal with. Unless you want to organize the list yourself, you can go through a mailing list service that will keep track of your email subscribers and their activity. Most mailing list services will also provide statistics pertaining to the effectiveness of your email newsletters or other email promotions. And, the service will most likely have easy-to-use templates to help you set up your monthly email newsletter.

I have made a small directory of mailing list and email newsletter service providers in the resource information section below. Each one offers slightly different options and most of them charge some kind of fees. The only totally free service that I have come across is through Bravenet.com; it also came highly recommended in the Etsy forum. Two other services that came highly recommended in the Etsy forum are ConstantContact.com and MailChimp.com. Although they both have trial periods, they are not totally free services, but their prices seem very reasonable. (Please note that I am not endorsing any service, but merely passing along information for you to decide what the best solution is for you.)

Getting New Signups for your Mailing List:
1. First of all, be honest. Don't signup anyone without their permission! It is called spam when you send unwanted emails, and there are laws against it. With an inexpensive, or even free, mailing list service, there are clear directions for a person to opt-in or opt-out of a mailing list at any time.
2. Advertise your mailing list signup on your blog and/or website. Make sure that your blog and/or website have a link or directions on how to sign up for your mailing list. You might also state the benefits of signing up (such as tips and promo discounts) as well as the frequency of your emails (such as once monthly or bimonthly). This way subscribers will know what to expect when signing up.
3. Also advertise your mailing list signup option in your Etsy shop or other online shop venues. Put a signup message in your shop announcements and profile as well as in your message from seller when an item is purchased. Be sure to comply with site rules though, whatever shopping site that you are on. According to Etsy's Privacy Policy "without express consent from the user, you are not licensed to add any Etsy user to your email or physical mail list" so do not automatically put a buyer's email address on your mailing list, but do make the option readily available to buyers and other shoppers who may be interested in signing up willingly for your newsletter subscription.
4. Offer an incentive for signing up. Besides disclosing that your email newsletters will contain discounts or promotional specials, you might also do a contest to entice more mailing list signups. You might offer a chance to win a gift certificate or shop item for signing up. This could be a weekly or monthly contest on your blog or website with one winner being chosen from that time period's mailing list signups or all your mailing list signups up to that point.
5. Put your mailing list sign up on your business cards and other printed promotional materials and packaging. Add a simple line of text to let buyers and potential buyers know how to be added to your email newsletter list.
6. Add a note about your mailing list signup on all your social networking sites and other online promotional spots. This means sites like myspace, facebook, indiepublic, weloveetsy, talentdatabase, and more. Wherever you have a presence on the web that allow promoting your handmade items, make your mailing list known and how to sign up for it. Be sure that you don't break any site guidelines in the process though.
7. Add a mailing list link signup in the signature of your emails. If you have an easy signup page integrated into your website or a signup option on the side bar of your blog, put a little blurb about it in the signature of your emails along with a link.
8. Give buyers at craft shows and art fairs the option to sign up. Bring a notebook or journal with you to public venue shows so that interested passer-bys and customers can sign up for your mailing list. You could simply ask for their email address to add to your email newsletter list, or you could ask for a physical address as well if you plan to ever send out printed promotional materials. If you are using a email list service, be sure to let signups know that they will receive a confirmation email to opt-in once you add their information to your list.

The Purpose and Importance of Developing a Mailing List:
1. To encourage repeat customers through consistent contact.
2. To pass on important information about your art/craft, your shop, etc.
3. To offer regular discounts, specials, or contests on a weekly, bimonthly, or monthly basis.
4. To present yourself as a real human being to your buyers and potential buyers, and thus build an ongoing relationship with them.
5. To develop and expand your promotional and marketing resources through a customer base that has expressed an interest in your items already.



RESOURCE INFORMATION:

Mailing LIst and Email Newsletter Service Providers:
bravenet.com (totally free service!)
constantcontact.com (free 60 day trial)
mailchimp.com (free sign up & pay as you go option)
emailbrain.com (free one month trial)
verticalresponse.com
mynewsletterbuilder.com
campaignmonitor.com

Other Great Articles on Getting Started:
Why You Should Start an Emailing List by AlwaysAmy
Creating an Effective Newsletter on the SurvivingEtsy Blog
How to Start an Email Newsletter on HowToDoThings.com
Starting Your Own Newsletter or Ezine on TheSiteWizard.com

Articles on the Legalities, Statistical Info, and More:
6 Simple Savvy Small Business Email Tips
Why do Email Marketing? from Email-Marketing-Reports.com
The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers from the Federal Trade Commission



* If you'd like to subscribe to my new monthly email newsletter for the latest news, tips, and discounts, please click here and provide your name and email address. You will receive a confirmation email to opt-in shortly thereafter.

**I, the funky felter, am not affiliated with, nor do I endorse any of the resource information. It is provided to inform my readers so that they can make their own educated choices.

8 comments:

  1. You are so resourceful... Thank you for sharing yet another excellent tip!

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  2. Nice post. I'll be checking back to view the other articles on promotional techniques.

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  3. Im just contemplating renaming your blog in my favorites to - "How To Run Your Business"

    Lots of great ideas for something i hadnt even thought of. Thankyou so much for putting it all down in an easy to read and understand way.

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  4. Thanks for all the information! Another blogger that talks about "permission marketing" is Seth Godin (sethgodin.com), always makes me think!

    Something I've been re-evaluating in my own online presence is to make sure that everything I do online is offering value to the reader. If it's not, why would they continue to subscribe (or read, etc)?

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  5. You have an award waiting at my blog! Come & Get It! It's the post entitled - Showin’ Some Blog Love - Meet new Folks!

    http://chrysti.wordpress.com/

    Thanks for being an inspiration to me!
    -Chrysti

    ReplyDelete
  6. What an inspirational and informative post. I have subscribed to your newsletter and I look forward to reading more informative articles. Thanks a Mil...

    Kerry

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  7. Thank you so much for your mention! I appreciate the fact that you enjoy the newsletter and I can not wait to get yours. I have been contemplating felting a few items as gifts. Now I'll actually be doing it the right way. :O) Take Care! ~Coby

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  8. Thank you for all the great information!

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