Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing a Newsletter: Answers to Your Questions

The past six weeks I've dedicated my Wednesday writings  to the journey of Writing a Newsletter, and you have been so kind as to read, comment, and improve your own products.  Through this process, you've asked many questions, which I'd like to take the time to answer here:

How do you get started with a newsletter? Technologically speaking?

I recommend you choose your medium. If you are comfortable in an online environment, find an online service such as Mailchimp to begin this important marketing tool.  Choose a template you feel you can work with and write three to four articles. This is not a lot!!!! If you write with passion about your product, three to four articles will fly off your fingertips so quickly! Etsy has recently introduced Craftmonkey, an app that interfaces your Etsy shop with Mailchimp.  Your well written listings will be pre-populated into a Mailchimp newsletter format, saving you time an effort with your first foray into online newsletters!

How do you sign up people? If you have a long list of customers, how do convert that to a newsletter mailing list? We had thought to post something on our Facebook page, but...not sure that would work. 

We discussed marketing your newsletter in last week's post, but it bears a reminder. Here are the Cliff's Notes:

1.) Create a current list of your customers and include them in your upcoming newsletter distribution.  Better yet, send them an email announcing your new newsletter and give them the opportunity to opt in.  Perhaps give them an incentive such as percentage off, free shipping, or free product if they sign up for your newsletter.  But most important, if they do not subscribe, do not contact them again! Not only will you be following current spam laws, you'll be showing your integrity as a shop owner.

2.) Continue to subscribe people to your newsletter. A few ideas:
  • Each month, send a "thank you" email to those who have made a purchase, asking them to subscribe. Here is a link to mine, which offers a discount toward a future purchase as well as verifying my respect for spam laws.
  • Add subscription links to your blog, your Facebook page, and tweet about your upcoming newsletter. I use blogspot for my blog, and instruction for adding a widget are here. For instructions on integrating Mailchimp subscriptions with your Facebook page, click here
3.) Tweet about your newsletter.  All of your social media efforts should be integrated.  Your Pinterest page should link to your Etsy site. Your newsletter should link to your online store. Feed followers on your blog or from Twitter to your newsletter.  It's ok if you use similar material on all sites. But be sure to shake it up a bit so your readers feel there is value in following you in different social media. 

4.) Collect email addresses from everyone! Offer a giveaway at your craft shows. Create a Refer a Friend program. Your list will grow, most likely overnight, but over time.

Does having too many photos in the electronic version of the newsletter tend to flag it as spam in people's email inbox? 

I don't know what your interpretation of "too many photos" is, but here are a few simple design tips I've learned over time: 

1.) Create a "Z" effect.  Good design moves the eye.  So photos that move from left to right and back are most visually appealing.  Imagine:






Your eye moves with each "image" and creates interest. The more interest you create, the more likely people will read the information and react to your call to action.

2.) Use white space.  Look at the simple visual above.  Your eye "relaxes" a bit when it sees white. Again, this creates visual interest, and increases the likelihood people will read your important information.

3.) Find a template that feels comfortable to you.  The more you are comfortable working in this venue, the more you will use the media to promote your product.  And test it with a few friends and colleagues who will give you honest and unbiased feedback.

With regards to spam, it's my understanding the text of the message is what is flagged as spam.  Spam filters look for "incriminating" information, and flag your email as spam. Mailchimp provides free services to help you identify the likelihood your email will be identified as spam.  Check it out!

How many links into your shop are you finding is the correct amount? Two? Three? And are you finding that posting the retail pricing on new products is helpful for readers?

I haven't tested how many links is the "right" amount. Mailchimp can help you track the number of links that are clicked in order to help you assess your ROI. Without any more research, my answer is....follow your instinct. Send a test email of your newsletter to yourself, and maybe a trusted source.  If it appears to offensive to you or your source, it certainly will to your base. I tend to "sprinkle" my hyperlinks throughout, but make sure to provide more real information than sales speak in my articles.

I also don't include retail pricing.  My goal is to use a "pull" marketing techinque.....intrigue your audience to your product, provide a call to action hyperlink for them to learn more, and provide more information on your landing site. Here is where your specs are.  If you've written your articles well and provided benefits in your newsletter and features in your listings, hopefully your audience will gloss over the price and make a purchase!

We're thinking about having - among other things - a Tasty Food Facts trivia box with each of our newsletters. How would you recommend setting that up?

I usually try to offer information about how to use my type of product, whether or not you use my actual product.  Sometimes it's trivia about candles, sometimes it's decorating tips. Your goal is to position yourself and your company as the resource for your industry. If you're a resource for recipes, entertainment tips, and gift giving ideas, you're more than just a vendor for custom food items; you're a resource for their cooking, entertaining and shopping needs!

How much churn-rate should we expect for a standard newsletter subscription list?

My response is that your churn rate will be particular to your industry.  What I like about Mailchimp is that it gives me churn (retention) rates not only for my industry, but for my lists over time over all.  Very useful information when aggregated over time.

How often do you upload your Etsy customer emails to that follow-up note?

A week or two after you item is sent is probably optimal because your well crafted purchase will be top of mind to your customer.  But I just don't have time to micro-manage to this level, and I send a follow up once a month.  If you click on the hyperlink to your customer name on the "Sold Order" page, you will find a pop up box with his/her personal email address.  Not very time efficient, as Etsy has used its wisdom to make this information difficult for us to find. But it is there. If your customer pays via Paypal and if create the appropriate notification settings, you can also receive this information in the email account affiliated with your Etsy site. 

Whew!  That's a lot of information.  I hope the journey into newsletter marketing has been an inspiration for you and provided a few nuggets of marketing to move your product forward.  Please let me know your thoughts below.  I love your feedback!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Featured artist - Pitsispopis

Today I'm pleased to introduce to you Georgia with Pitsisposis. Read more about her wonderful work here:

I am Georgia otherwise known as pitsispopis.

Pink bird demask decor
Pitsispopis is my small home business, based in Athens ,Greece. I create colorful collages on plywood and paper garlands . My business was “born” in 2010 when I was expecting my son. I started making collages for the nursery, then extended to wholesale to nursery stores and recently I opened my etsy store.

Patchwork tree & bird decor
I love paper and wood. I use scrap & recycled colorful carefully selected papers and wallpapers (I have many of them). Mostly I am inspired by nature.I create trees,flowers,birds and animal themes, but I may be inspired by a special paper or something I see on the street or a book.

Paper garland
My favorite collage is my colorful tree. Every time I make a new one,I use different  combinations of paper, so it is a new tree!! 

Children art tree

I studied interior design and decoration and I have a B.A from Middlesex University. I’ve been working in this field since 1997 in various companies and last 6 years as a freelancer. I have been involved in designing and renovating of residences, hotels, yachts , shops, exhibition corners and more. However, this field has been affected by the huge crisis that Greece passes the last years, sopitsispopis” was my way out to express my creativity.

Red vespa kids art
Handmade art for kids...made with love... 

You can also find me here:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Writing a Newsletter: Marketing It!

Wait....I write a newsletter to market my product, and now you're telling me I need to market my newsletter?

That's correct.

It's been a couple of weeks since my last writing a newsletter post, so let's recap:

As we learned in part one, a newsletter is important because it: 1.) grabs the attention of the reader, 2.) provides a way for you to "talk" to your customer, 3.) can easily become printed promotional material.

In part two, we discussed: 1.) you can take your newsletters wherever you go, especially for craft shows and potential partners, 2.) newsletters are important collateral material to include in customer orders, 3.) basic newsletter design.

And in part three, we discussed setting up your online newsletter, primarily by using the free Monkey Chimp services.

So today, I'd like to offer a few suggestions on how to grow your newsletter subscription list.  Please know, most of my suggestions are based upon my use of Mail Chimp.  I'm certain there are similar applications for other vendors.

1.) Create a distribution list.  As we discussed in part three, add the email addresses you've been collecting over time to a new list.  I creatively call mine "Newsletter list." Now, before you panic and go looking for email spam laws, please know the laws do allow you to email to a list provided to allow those you've sent to the opportunity to "unsubscribe." And Mail Chimp has the capability to quarantine any unsubscribers so you do not inadvertently send to the same email account again. Just to be safe, in the first newsletter I sent from Mail Chimp, I announced the change from my basic email newsletter, why I made it, and fully acknowledged that any unsubscribers would not receive additional correspondence from me.  The key to this is to live up to your promise.

2.) You have your basic subscription list.  Now you need to grow it.  The next step I take is to contact those who have purchased from me in the past month.  How do you do that? I'm sure you're asking.  Etsy doesn't condone sending a convo to past customers.  Well, I don't convo them within the Etsy network. If you click on the hyperlink of the buyer, you'll find at the bottom of the popup the email address of the buyer.  I then create a Mail Chimp listed creatively named "Etsy Customers." All previous month's customers are added to this list.  The campaign they are sent contains the following basic language:

"Hopefully, you've enjoyed your recent purchase from D'Lites by Dorene.  First, as a thank you for your support, I would like to offer you a xx% discount on your next purchase.  Second, I'd like to invite you to join my email newsletter list to learn more about new products and promotions throughout the year. To subscribe, please click here. This email is not intended to be spam. Please know if you are not interested in signing up for my newsletter, you will not be contacted again. Either way, please keep the coupon code as my gift to you."

In the spirit of candor, my open rate is over 75%, and my subscription rate from this list is 10%. My coupon code has not been used. But the statistics here are not what's important (says the person who deals with statistics in her day job). The point is you've extended two offers for a continued relationship with your customer. And the continued relationship is what's most important in any marketing initiative.

I send this campaign about a week prior to the development of my newsletter, giving past customers time to sign up for the current newsletter. They are added to a new list "New Customers" because I so love seeing who's been recently added.  Those who don't respond?  I keep my promise and I do not contact them again.   Mail Chimp has the additional functionality of matching emails and not allowing duplicate entries, so there is a rare and random chance that I would email someone who previously requested to be unsubscribed.

Now that you've added those you already have a relationship with, let's discuss other opportunities to add subscribers:

3.) Link your newsletter subscription link to your Facebook page. For complete instructions, please see the instruction page offered by Mail Chimp here.  In a nutsell, you'll copy the API key, open the tab designer, add the newsletter signup widget, and select your settings.  When complete, you should ensure your signup link appears in the top row of your Facebook banner.

4.) Encourage subscribers from your Twitter followers. The simplest way I've found to do this is by creating a tweet: "October newsletter coming soon.  Be the first to learn about what's new here: xxxxx." Using my Mail Chimp, I go to my "New Subscribers" list, select "For Your Website" from the menu bar, then copy the "Signup Form Link Code" into my tweet.  I use Hootsuite to schedule most of my tweets and am able to save my tweet as a draft, thereby giving me the opportunity to reuse the tweet as needed.

5.) Add a subscription link to your blog. I use Blogger and have found it remarkably simple to add to my toolbars with knowing little to no html coding.  Convert to your design mode, select "add a gadget", and select HTML/Java Script. After adding the title of your choice (something simple such as "Sign up for my newsletter here"), copy the same html code you used for your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And last but not least,

6.) Collect email addresses everywhere you go. I'll give away a home fragrance basket at a craft show and request email addresses as part of the sign up form. Please be sure to include on your signage that you're collecting email addresses for a newsletter sign up. On your Mail Chimp account, create a list "Craft Show." Send a customized campaign such as

"Thank you for visiting my booth at Saturday's show. We didn't have much time to talk, but my products include yada, yada, yada. All of my products are available at www.DLitesbyDorene.etsy.com. To thank you for stopping by my booth, I'd like to offer you a discount of xx% from your next purchase. I'd also like to invite you to subscribe to my newsletter here."

Again, you're using the pull marketing technique you used for your former customers.

Building your newsletter subscription base takes time. Additionally, you should be promoting your published newsletter to your Etsy teams, and any other social media outlets available to you. Ultimately, these will be your best customers.  Some of my best referrals have come from those who read my newsletters but have never made a purchase themselves.

A lot of questions have been asked in the comments over the past few weeks, and I encourage you to ask any additional questions now.  Next week, I'll address any questions asked but not answered over the past few weeks of our newsletter journey.

If you've learned a nugget over this past discord, please let me know. I'd love to feature your success in an upcoming post and feature as well.

Until next week,


P.S. Please sign up for my newsletter here, if you haven't already!

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