#LBCWantsToKnow >> November 2018: Small Business Owner Mindset

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Mindset

Small Business Owner Mindset

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of November, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about small business owner mindset. Nobody understands the stress of the holiday season like a small business owner, and I was thrilled to see so many Lucky Break Clients sharing their thoughts and experiences.

 

Nov18QA

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

  • bodysystemsteri: It’s so essential. And I feel as entrepreneurs we don’t take notice till it’s too late.
  • zirafkahanka: For me these three come first: SLEEP, EAT, MOVE. Then anything else. To start to look at my life this way helped me tremendously last year.
  • printtherapy: I have to make the time. I’ve burnt out so many times emotionally and physically that I now really understand the importance of self care. For me it’s good sleep, healthy eating, and working out. It’s also time alone and Netflix binges 🙂 Either I spend time taking care of myself, or I spend the time being tired and anxious and therefore unproductive.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

Overwhelm and burnout are, unfortunately, rampant in the entrepreneurial community.  While everyone’s coo’ing over four-hour work weeks and how sexy it is to be at the helm of your own ship, what they’re not often talking about is how we often work 60-80 hour work weeks and how we sometimes sag under the weight of long to-do lists and massive responsibilities.  I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but we’re all about “real life” business here at Lucky Break and that’s the reality for many of us.  But as someone who’s hit her brick wall more than once, I’ve learned the importance of self-care.  A few tips I’ve picked up along the way…

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first. The LBC Community is made up primarily of women and we often put ourselves last, taking care of ourselves only after everyone else has been tended to. But you can’t pour from am empty cup and I’ve learned to move myself up in line so that I can be a healthy resource for those who depend on me.

 

  1. Business ebbs and flows. There are times in each of my businesses when I’ve needed to let off the gas a bit to tend to my own health o r the wellness of my family.  Keeping the gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor 24/7 is an impossible ask, so flexibility is key. Recognizing that there are seasons for big launches and concerted waves of outreach, and the development of new collaborations has been key, because there are also seasons for pulling back and conserving energy. Yin and yang and all that jazz.

 

  1. When I feel myself breathing up against a brick wall, a change of energy is needed. Think of it as an intervention: work half-time in your business next week. Go to bed an hour earlier every day this week. Find one thing from your to-do list that you can delegate to someone else. Being attuned to yourself and proactive about your own wellness is much easier than picking up the pieces after you’ve slammed into the wall and everything has shattered.

 

 

Nov18QA4

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

  • a_wildflower_gypsy: Meditate and clear my mind out in nature, phone free. Quiets the chaos and allows ideas to flow.
  • zhibathandbody: I clean… something about putting on my sneakers, cleaning house, and burning sage gets my juices flowing. I find myself away from those things that have my mind cluttered.
  • mistybluebotanicals: I like to FB and insta-stalk creative people I admire. Instagram, in particular, is hard for me because I don’t feel particularly talented in the creativity department, so I like to see what other folks are doing visually. Somewhere taking a ride somewhere news helps to unblock creativity for me.
  • pearlglow_bodybutter_and_soap: I like to look at things I love, read, or start at the beginning. I’ll go back to some of the first things I created or wrote, this always helps.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

I second all of these awesome suggestions! One thing I’ve learned in fifteen years  of being a full-time entrepreneur: pushing through roadblocks rarely helps. When I’ve reached my breaking point, the best thing that I can do is redirect my energy.  Whether that’s cooking a good meal, taking the dog for a walk, calling a good friend, or soaking in a hot bath- anything I can do to change my current paradigm and replenish energy levels before diving back in proves beneficial. Throwing good energy after bad is rarely successful. But it’s also very necessary to dive back in. So take heart, walk off the ship for a bit, but don’t abandon the ship entirely.

 

(more…)

#LBCWantsToKnow >> September 2018: Websites

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Websites

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Websites

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of September, we rolled up our sleeves to chat about websites. Your own website is one of the most critical tools in your entrepreneurial toolboxes + I’m thrilled to see so many Lucky Break clients putting theirs to good use.

 

 

Which e-commerce platform do you use? What do you loathe or love about it?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

bburford:  at Bang Candy we have used many of the platforms you’ve mentioned and moved around for various reasons. Shortly after I joined the brand last year we started working with an incredible local brand called CoHub that brought all channels of our business together. I don’t know if it would work well for you, but for me it’s great because I’m talking to a support team that is 10-15 minutes away from our shop. It makes my job slightly easier to maintain.

horsefeathersgifts: We’ve used many different platforms and Shopify is by far my favorite. It’s so user friendly!

valerieoba: Shopify is simply amazing. So user friendly and so detailed at the same time!

alliedattilio: Love Squarespace!

normalsoap: We get tickled every time we get to tell our customers our website. Shopify has made this wonderful and it’s helped with direct sales at markets, getting great sales data and tracking inventory!

ebornbeauty: We use Big Commerce and love it… many things like reporting, integration with Square and Paypal, etc are included and you do not need to pay for additional apps. Their customer service is stellar and 24/7.

woodenheartdesigns: I’ve been an Etsy seller since 2012 with my personal website forwarding to my Etsy shop. After reading something you wrote about how important it was to have your own e-commerce site, I signed up for Shopify and have been teaching myself how to tweak it and now trying to increase traffic. I love how it’s coming together and have found it pretty easy to use…and if I didn’t know or understand how to do something it’s easy to find tutorials. Thanks for the nudge to get my own shop vs just Etsy!

shopmilked: From Wix, to Shopify! I love that Wix allowed me to tweak my site, and make it incredibly beautiful without the added fee for a theme. But ultimately, I moved to Shopify for the integrated customers accounts, shipping and reporting. I do dislike the fact that Shopify still doesn’t have certain features like store pickup, or customer reviews, or more free theme options.

bubblebabez: Big commerce here, too.

sheabath: Went from Etsy to Indiemade. Best decision I ever made!

bougiequaintrelle: BigCommerce. I like the ease of use. I loathe the fact if you want to make further customization, you lose tech support.

stellachroma: Started with Etsy, moved to Big Cartel, and am currently with Shopify. I’m loving it with no complaints!

grayzenacres: I’m a Shopify convert. Love the support and apps…not fond of their payment gateway. When I installed my bank processor, Shopify added a 2% processing fee, needless to say I uninstalled bank processor otherwise it’s the best!

zhibathandbody: I’ve been with Weebly for 10 or so years now. LOVE that so many cool features come with the free and paid accounts. Love that they listen to the users on adding new features. LOATHE that those features take so long to implement. LOATHE that they now seem to nickel and dime you on advanced features and services.

makermountainfabrics: I use Shopify and love it, mostly. I do NOT love their calculated shipping as it is way overcharging and I am losing a lot of sales over it right now and need to get it in line.

sumamsworld: I love Shopify for its one-stop-shop convenience, but the shipping charges are super huge lately (like triple the actual cost if I took it to the Post Office).

pillowcandyllc: We use Shopify. I made this decision after going through your linesheet/wholesale training. So glad I did!

 

MY THOUGHTS…

The answers above are pretty consistent with what I see reflected in my client base as a whole. Shopify is the most beloved platform among my roster of product-based brands. A distant second and third are Squarespace and Big Commerce.

 

I’m a big (unpaid) advocate of Shopify and recommend it almost universally. It’s not as easy to design as something like Wix, but the design capabilities- and (more importantly) the technical capabilities- leave platforms like Wix and Weebly in the dust. Shopify is fairly cost-effective, extremely robust, and highly adaptable.  If online wholesale ordering isn’t a primary aim of your business, then Squarespace and Big Commerce might be good options.

 

I wrote a detailed, two-part review of the most popular platforms a year or two ago and my opinion hasn’t changed much since then.  Check out Which E-commerce Platform is Right For You? and Which E-commerce Platform is right For You, Part 2. I can tell you this: when you update from Wix, Weebly, or WooCommerce to Shopify, you’re going to feel like upgraded from a Ford Focus to a Ferrari. You truly don’t know what type of functionality you’re missing (or how your current technology might be hamstringing your sales and operations) until you see how the other half lives.

 

PRO TIP: Many of my clients report that Shopify will throw in the real-time shipping for free if you agree to pre-pay the Shopify site fees for the first year. If that appeals to you, then reach out to them directly and sweet-talk your way into a deal!

 

Do you offer a “loyalty” program via your website? If so, what program do you use + would you recommend it?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

dorneenaturalbodyluxuries: I need to set up an actual program.

stellachroma: Interested to hear about this!

doubleclutched: I use smile.io on my site but no one uses it.

bobodesignstudio: I just saw smile.io is an integration with Privy which is what I use! I haven’t looked into it yet, but I’m curious.

priiacosmetics: We use a VIP points program. Customers earn 1 VIP point for every dollar they spend. 10 VIP points is equal to $1 in savings off of future purchases. Our clients LOVE our program!

 

MY THOUGHTS…

I L-O-V-E loyalty programs and it’s one of the things we dissect in Brick House Branding. Why? Because they encourage repeat customers. They can blissfully easy to manage thanks to new technology. And they can allow you to reward your best customers without getting into a pricing war with your wholesale stockists.  I adore a good win-win-win.

 

Big Commerce wrote a deliciously detailed blog about customer loyalty programs that’s absolutely worth a read. Shopify recently published a robust, data-driven blog that certainly makes the case for rewarding your customers while Smile.io dissects some popular loyalty programs to get at the heart of why they work. Speaking of Smile.io, I hear good things about their loyalty technology, which is compatible with Shopify, Shopify Plus, and Big Commerce. They offer a stripped-down, completely free version, too.

 

Loyalty programs need to be continually promoted in order for them to be successful. Tuck periodic reminders in your email marketing campaigns, add verbiage at checkout to invite customers to join, and feature the account login prominently on your website. Mention that program at least once per month on your social media, too. The effort can yield massive results.

 

One new evolution I’ve been keeping an eye on? Paid VIP memberships.  Check out what wildly popular shoe company Freshly Picked is doing with their new program, The Fringe.  Customers join for $10 a month (the plan can be cancelled at any time) and they enjoy: a $10 monthly store credit that doesn’t expire, 20% off everything sitewide, free shipping, and early access to new releases. Ca-ching!

 

Do you collect product reviews on your website? If so, which software do you use + would you recommend it?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID… 

bobodesignstudio: I do, but I struggle to get people to actually leave one! The one I have is an app from Shopify called “product reviews”… innovative name, I know.

herbanrootsllc: The product reviews app with Shopify is awesome! Customizable, automated emails after every purchase, free and paid options. I also send out a pretty printed piece with every order listing ways that customers can connect, including writing reviews.

halfpintnaturals: Yotpo app on Shopify.

urbanessencesalonspa: I have a hard time getting folks to actually leave a review. I use AmeriCommerce for my website and after a customer makes a purchase it sends out a review request in about 10 days. When I see customers out at vending event I ask them to leave a review and they always end up leaving the review on my Facebook page.

treats4chickens: We have used Yotpo for several years on a paid plan. I include small pre-printed note card letting people know they’re going to get an email asking for a review. I also select one review a month and send that person product freebies. It seems to be working quite well.

 

MY THOUGHTS…

Product reviews are increasingly powerful tools that play a large role in converting eCommerce browsers into eCommerce customers. They serve as powerful social proof that either ignites interest or throw a bucket of water on it, depending on what’s said about your product. If Amazon, Yelp, and Google have taught us anything, it’s that customers look before they leap.

 

I’m a firm believer that product reviews are an absolute *must* on any eCommerce site. As brand owners, we need to provide a platform for reviews, respond to reviews which are less-than-flattering, and actively invite our customers to participate in the process. The unboxing experience should proactively promote customer reviews.. a simple reminder in that key moment can make all the difference. And it’s much less intrusive then repeated post-purchase emails reminding customers that they’ve yet to read a review.

 

Interested in getting a product review program going? Here are a few of my favorite resources…

  • Need inspiration? Lucky Break Clients Leahlani Skincare and Osmia Organics both do a fantastic job of collecting and featuring customer reviews.
  • Yotpo is the third-party review app that I hear the most consistently good things about.
  • I recommend two books that have helped me both understand the importance of critical feedback and better navigate these tricky customer service waters. Check out Hug Your Haters and Zombie Loyalists.

 

 

What’s your #1 pet peeve when shopping from product-based websites? What one thing would you change about your website?

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID… 

north.oak.apothcary: When I have to jump through too many hoops to get to the end.

bathedinglaze: I visited a website just yesterday to order a gift. The banner at the top of the page advertised free shipping. When I checked out, shipping was charged. Looking further into the page to see if I could contact someone, I came across their info page that had words spelled wrong and run-on sentences. It turned me off, and I left their site without ordering.

mistybluebotanicals: I hate having to click through too many pages to find what I am looking for.

theryssa: Zulily makes you sign up to just look around. I won’t do it on principle!

mysecretmusicbox: I really dislike having to enter my shipping address etc. more than once and having to click through more than one page to complete a purchase. If they could make the journey through those pages a little more entertaining or charming it would help a lot. Great food for thought!

 

MY THOUGHTS…

All the amen’s to these answers! Typos on websites don’t inspire confidence.  Missing contact information is the kiss of death for most shoppers. A lack of search functionality, fuzzy navigation, or illogical product categories are laborious and drain energy, slowing conversions except for the most committed of shoppers.

 

The checkout process, in particular, routinely drives potential buyers away. A few questions you can ask yourself to audit your own checkout process:

  • If the entire checkout process can’t be completed on one screen, is there a progress
    bar at the top of each checkout page so that buyers always know where they are in the process?
  • If a “free shipping over x dollars” incentive is offered, does the cart reflect how much more must be spent in order to meet the necessary minimum to score the incentive?
  • Can payments be completed on site or must they be sent off to a third party site like PayPal?
  • Are multiple payment options available?
  • Are customers able to check out without needing to create an account on the site?
  • Is there an option for hurried customers to copy their “billing address” information over to the “shipping address” field to save time?
  • Are any unnecessary main navigation links removed during the checkout process to keep the user moving forward with their purchase?

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In October, we’re chatting about all things systems.

 

#LBCWantsToKnow >> June 2018: Holiday Wholesale Outreach

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

 

Every month, I ask my Instagram community to lend their voices to a focused business conversation so we can crowd-source meaningful discussions. I call it #LBCWantsToKnow and it’s one of my very favorite things of 2018! Though the mercury is peaking and all the wee ones are out of school at the moment, I’ve got the holidays on my mind… because the wholesale march generally begins in mid-summer.

 

When do you start planning for holiday wholesale outreach?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

  • canardlabs: July 1st. Our Holiday Catalog Insert is launched and sent along to our reps and rep groups! We order the Fall/Winter ingredients in May. Make the products and photograph them in early June, then release them to our peeps by July 1.

 

  • olivemyskin: August is when I start. Keeping records from prior years helps tremendously. It make order placing easier.

 

 

MY THOUGHTS: The holidays often catch makers and product designers off guard and our holiday game plan needs to kick off much earlier than many new business owners realize. Buyers for most categories start scouting for new merchandise in late July and August.  If you’re ever perplexed by when they’re on the prowl, look towards the trade shows for your product category.  Those always occur in at the start of prime buying seasons, so it’s an way way to remember when you need to turn up the heat.

Many of us experience an annual retail slump in the summer months- retail consumers (both those that shop online and those who flock to brick + mortar stores), are otherwise distracted with summer plans. They’re out of rhythm, focusing on other endeavors, and we don’t have the benefit of any major gift-giving holidays in June, July, or August.  Though it’s painful to see revenues wither in these months, that also makes this period “prime time” for holiday prep. Finish up any new product development, tee up your fall releases, polish marketing materials, and line up a concerted push for wholesale attention. Then launch those efforts in August and keep the heat on for new buyers straight through late October.

 

In my experience, December is pretty much a ghost town in wholesale, but that’s generally a blessing as most of us are swamped with retail orders. November typically sees a steady stream of orders, but they’re generally reorders from stockists who are selling out inventory or existing accounts who are a tad late to the game on holiday ordering. But August? September, and October? Prime time to get on the radar of new shops you’re itching to get into.

 

 

Will you be releasing new products for the holiday season?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • olivemyskin: Holiday scented candles and warm, spicy soap

 

  • woodenheartdesigns: Adding new products now based on my best selling items and revamping some things so I don’t feel so overwhelmed right before the shopping season starts. My biggest challenge is always finding work/life balance during the peak season.

 

MY THOUGHTS: “New” is the lifeblood of wholesale, and seasonal launches are essential to this market segment. But that doesn’t necessitate that you launch 87 new products or jump into an entirely new product category! Seasonal fragrances for those in the apothecary or candle space, fresh colorways or prints for textiles, a thoughtful jewelry collection of several capsule pieces…. that’s really all you need. And for those in the gift space, bundling existing products into gift sets in ready-to-go packaging is always a smart idea.

 

Ideally, those products are ready to launch in July. I recommend using that month as your benchmark, then doing some quick reverse math to map out deadlines for each step of the development process.  Whether your product development takes 3 months or 6 months, the process usually starts months ahead of when we imagine it would!

 

 

Black Friday + Cyber Monday promotions: Are they a blessing or curse to your business?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • lillabarnclothing: We do a small biz Saturday online event with one of a kind pieces and other unique items that aren’t usually available. Trying not to do too many discounts, but this seems to be a fun event especially for our insider group.

 

  • stellachroma: Thanks to you, we don’t do percent discounts often at all and I think business is better because of it. We may do a free shipping and gift with purchase deal this year rather than a price discount.

 

  • horsefeathersgifts: We use Black Friday to clear out any inventory we no longer want on our site. It’s always been a big hit with our customers.

 

  • lotionbarcafe: I am closed on both those days. I am an ambassador for small biz Saturday and that has been the best!

 

  • zhibathandbody: Bundles and free gift wrap is what I do most; occasionally free shipping. Deep discounts were never effective. I set up automation for Black Friday & Cyber Monday, then work up a nerve to do a live event on Small Business Saturday.

 

MY THOUGHTS: It’s terribly easy to let discounts be the death of small business.  A steady stream of percentage-or-dollars-off promotions or occasional deeeeeep discounts serve to hamstring creative brands. They move the needle away from value and center the discussion on price (which really isn’t what you want to focus on, unless you’re a discount brand). They train you customers to only shop when your products are on sale.  They undercut your wholesale partners, which jeopardizes those relationships. All the way around, they get a hard “no” from me.

 

With that said, I’m keenly aware that these are the biggest shopping days of the year and consumers are accustomed to a buffet of offers during Thanksgiving week. I recommend a few things…

 

  • Starve your customers a bit. Not literally, but figuratively. Pull back on your sales throughout the year to make your holiday promos more special.

 

  • Consider adding value rather than deducting dollars. There are are many creative ways to structure offers and incentivize ordering. Consider offering free shipping (or a lower free-shipping threshold than your usual), adding complementary gift wrap, increasing loyalty points on purchases made during a promo period if you offer a loyalty program, etc. Bonus product (buy this, get that) or deluxe samples are always welcome offers, too.  Essentially, do anything other than give people what they often get for less dollars than they usually pay for product. Ideally, you collect the same number of dollars, but those dollars stretch further.

 

  • Transition to a 2.2x wholesale pricing structure. If you create a $22 candle, then offer it for wholesale at $10, rather than the typical keystone of $11. That means that your recommended retail price (and the price your charge on your own website) is 2.2x wholesale, rather than 2x. If you pivot to this type of pricing structure, then you’ll attract wholesale partner like bees to honey and you give yourself a 10% off cushion when you run sales. So your $22 candle can sell for $20 during a sale, and you’ve still protected your stockists by not charging your own customers less than 2x your wholesale. Everyone wins! An occasional 10% off, especially when coupled with a value-added promotion is far better for a brand than a temporary 20, 30, or 40% slash in price.

 

Want to chat more about the power of smart promotions and how you can structure them? I’m offering a free business workshop via FB Live in September to chat about this very thing! Join me on Lucky Break Consulting’s Facebook page on Thursday, September 27 at 2pm Eastern/ 11am Pacific for a live conversation and some rich Q+A.

 

Also, I invite you to join me on Instagram in July I’ll be hosting a conversation about pricing and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!

 

 

#LBCWantsToKnow >> May 2018: Productivity

Lucky Break - Productivity

Lucky Break - Productivity

 

A few months ago, I kicked off a new initiative designed to spark conversations and share resources within the Lucky Break Community.  Each month, I’m asking Lucky Break clients and social media followers to weigh in on a series of questions that revolve around a specific theme. In the month of May, we chatted about productivity.

 

Ever feel like you’re spinning 7,318 plates and there aren’t rough hours in the day? US, TOO, FRIEND! Read on to discover how to make we’re staying organized and aking the most of each day.!

 

What’s your best tip for keeping your inbox manageable?

The Lucky Break Community said:

standardwax: This is one of my favorite subjects in the whole wide world. I hope you’re ready for a novel because a clean inbox has lowered my anxiety by about 700%.

1. I don’t let anything sit in my inbox for more than a couple of days.

2. I strive for inbox zero at least once a week.

3. I delete or unsubscribe from crap I don’t even read IMMEDIATELY.

4. This one is the most important: when you’re going through your inbox (I do this first thing in the AM and then try to ignore email for the rest of the day, unless something urgent comes in): Every single message should either be responded to, added to a to-do list, deleted (if it’s marketing and you’ve already read/responded) or saved.

The added to my to-do list and saved are my favorites, because these are the things that tend to sit at the bottom of the email list and stress me out. Typically something will sit in your inbox because you don’t have the time to deal with it yet, or because you’re saving it to reference later. For the first, a to-do list is your friend (I love Wunderlist).

For the second, I love saving a PDF of the email and filing it where it belongs on my computer. For example “Retailer XX fulfillment instructions” doesn’t need to sit in my inbox so that I can see it easily. It can go into a folder on my computer for Retailer XX. I could go on and on but now I just want to sit down and deal with my inbox 👌🏽

Another game changer is a CRM of some kind. For sales-related emails that are stacking up in your inbox so you can remember to follow up with them – archive them and then enter them into a CRM (we use @pipedrivecrm) that will automatically remind you to follow up 👏🏼

 

kbshimmer: This is a subject I would love to read about. I am an email hoarder. I have 50,000+ emails in my inbox, even with some auto sorted into folders. Right now my phone shows 22,000+. Getting that down to a reasonable number seems daunting.

 

stellachroma: I loathe having notifications on my phone. That little red circle bothers the hell out of me. So I’ve gotten into the habit of sorting through emails every morning as soon as I get up. I have a lot of folders that I sort everything into (because it helps keep my brain organized) and can move them around later if need be. It’s just one of those stopping blocks – not even stumbling – that interferes with my day.

 

burlystone: I set up filters. All my stockists get a tag, all my e-courses get a tag, my personal contacts get a tag, etc. it breaks my mailbox up so it’s not one giant wall of spam, and makes it easier to process them. Oh, I still suck at keeping it clean, but it helps

 

zhibathandbody: I took on a policy similar to puff-puff-pass. 😆 I check – check – delete. My patience can no longer take having thousands of emails so I check email twice a day delete the junk on the second check every day. I limit myself to checking twice so that I no longer waste time checking email several times as I used too.

 

jupiterjonespinup: FOLDERS!!!! And auto labels. Taking time to set up filters is the best investment ever.

 

osmiaorganics: I use an app called Astro for iPhone and my Mac desktop. It keeps important emails in one folder and others in a different one. You can snooze messages, Star them, archive them, etc. It asks you once a month if you’d like to archive everything older than 30 days, and I always say YES! You can still search the archived messages, but they’re out of your inbox. It’s a nice interface that works well for my scattered brain!

 

What strategies or tools do you use to plan your day + keep it on track?

The Lucky Break Community said:

naturallymeandyou: I have a planner and it’s been a life saver. I use post it notes when my calendar gets full on my planner.

 

makermountainfabrics: My @golden.coil planner is a life-and-sanity saver! I have to use pen and paper to stop my brain from spinning. Then a combo of @plannthat and Buffer for my social media. Oh, and a wall calendar for the out of the ordinary activities that always come up.

 

urbanessencesalonspa I’m a Google girl! I use the calendar,, google tasks and Google keep for note taking and evernote.

 

modernmommydoc I feel like I switch it up all the time! Currently have a Google calendar with my appointments, and a hand-written to-do list for my tasks 🙂

 

Whew! I’m feeling inspired to tackle those to-do lists and implement some systems. How about you? Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram account, where this month we’ll be chatting about wholesale holiday outreach. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!

#LBCWantsToKnow: March 2018 >> Email Marketing

lbcwantstoknow - email marketing

lbcwantstoknow - email marketing

 

I floated an idea past the Lucky Break team in January at our annual strategic retreat. I wanted to find a way to help our community brainstorm around marketing ideas and discover helpful tools and encourage each other on the often-disorienting journey of starting and running an artisan, product-based business.  And I wanted to explore ways that we could build a bridge between our community members and help facilitate those conversations.  The result? The #LBCWantsToKnow hashtag on Instagram.

 

We took that hashtag out for a spin in March, launching a month-long dialogue around one of the more mysterious facets of running a business: email marketing. If I was a betting woman (which I can be, when sufficiently plied with a few cocktails), I’d bet that all of us have heard an expert- or a string of experts- sing the praises of email list building and the importance of frequent email communications with our audience. But I’ve heard oh-so-many groans about the art of email marketing in my private consultations, and though it seems that we all understand that we *need* to do it, but scanty few of us are actually *excited* to do it.

 

So the mystery of email marketing seemed like a great place to start this new adventure. I posted four questions over the course of March) and I was grateful to have dozens of voices chime in.  Here’s what they had to say…

 

What service do you use for your email marketing?

 

The Lucky Break Community said:

MailChimp: 76.1%

Constant Contact: 9.5%

Convert Kit: 3.6%

Active Campaign: 3.6%

Aweber: 3.6%

Mailerlight: 3.6%

 

Not sure which service is right for you? Here’s a few thoughts people shared with me:

charliemadisonoriginals: I use MailChimp and love it! No complaints at all.

ekp_creations: MailChimp. Easy to use, lots of templates, great stats and it’s free!

urbanessencesalonspa: I have been using Constant Contacts for probably over 10 years.

shopgifted: MailChimp! Love it. Favorite: Easy to use, looks professional. Least favorite: I still have to create content for my newsletters.

trystudioapp ConvertKit and I love it! Switched from Mailchimp. It is more expensive and has less design options, but I’ve found the tagging to be so much easier and neater than what MC had. Also, as a designer, I can blow way too much time on the layout… having fewer options actually helps me focus.

@sensoryflight: I was with Mail Chimp for a couple of years, then with Constant Contact for about 9, will be moving back to Mail Chimp.

 

My take: For virtually all of my Lucky Break clients, I think MailChimp is the clear winner. You can get started for free, and affordable plans scale with your business. It’s more intuitive and less buggy than Constant Contact and there are rich designs options available. I had my designer create a suite of templates and load them into MailChimp for me, so I can create beautiful, on-brand emails in a snap. I also appreciate how much MailChimp celebrates the artisan community and they’re frequent sponsors of events and conferences in our space. ConvertKit is a great option for those offering services (think: coaches, consultants, etc.) but MailChimp wins out for product-based businesses, at least in my experience.

 

What “bait” do you lay for your audience via your email opt-in bonus?

 

The Lucky Break Community said:

herbanrootsllc: I currently offer a 10% off coupon, but I can’t say that it’s been super effective so far. I’m about launch a new product line that I’ve been building some excitement around though, and I plan on offering a pre-order option for email subscribers only. I’ll debut the idea on our social media platforms first to give new subscribers a chance to sign up prior to sending the newsletter with a “Buy Now” button.

bellajoypottery: I tried a video on how to fix broken pottery, that bombed. Then I switched to free shipping on your first order, that went well, but financially it wasn’t the best decision, but that was before real time shipping on Shopify. Now I use 10% off your first order, but typing this I think I should explore the free shipping again. Thanks for the prompt!

kidessenceshop: Free hand drawn coloring sheets!

waxingkara: We offer seasonal booklets. Right now the booklet is all about farm to table recipes with honey. As we get ready for spring and planting lavender the booklet theme changes to things you can do with lavender.

 

Pssst: Need some more ideas? Check out my Email Marketing Blueprint project.

 

My take: Leading with discounts can be hugely problematic. Chances are good that you’ll grow your list, yes… but you’ll also experience lower open rates, lower click rates, higher unsubscribe rates, and you’re training your peeps to expect discounts from day one.  If you’ve been around for a hot minute, then you’ve probably heard my take on the danger of offering regular discounts. They contribute to brand erosion and cultivate the wrong kind of rapport by placing all the emphasis on *price* rather than *value.* Instead, I recommend adding value by creating some sort of opt-in bonus that is more than people expected: free shipping, a guide to how to use your products, free digital wallpaper or printables featuring your work, etc. If you’re stumped about what you could create that your customers will crave, then that’s a sign that further brand development is needed.

 

How do you feel when people unsubscribe from your mailing list?

 

The Lucky Break Community said:

oldsoulartisan: Initially, it really bothered me. Now I realize that it can be a good thing because most likely this person wasn’t my target market and probably wasn’t going to purchase from my shop because we weren’t able to establish a connection. As long as I gain more followers than I lose I don’t worry about the periodic unsubscriber.

bobodesignstudio: As long as it isn’t a friend. I’m okay with it!

wickedhitches: At first I was hurt but then I realized those who stay subscribed or stay as a follower are the ones I want and as long as those numbers are growing steadily and not losing traction I’m good.

loreasample: Just fine!!! Matter of fact, I just sent out a campaign for spring cleaning inviting people to unsubscribe of they didn’t want to be there and included a parting gift… no one has unsubscribed so far, lol.

stellachroma: I’m not fussed about it. I’d rather have a small list that is full of just my people than a huge one with folks who aren’t.

heymavensxo: Good riddance! If you didn’t want to buy from me, GTF and stop ruining my open and click through rates

olivemyskin: If someone unsubscribed from any of my social media or newsletter, I don’t get bothered, they aren’t my people.

makermountainfabrics: It doesn’t bother me! I always feel like if they unsubscribe because ______ then they aren’t my people and aren’t going to buy from me anyway, so I don’t care about them being there. My list is still pretty small, but I am proud of all the newsletters I send out and consistently get sales from them, so I know it’s them not me when they aren’t into what I am sharing.

shopjanery: I get a little pang of feeling rejected, but then I throw my CEO cape over my shoulders and remind myself that they’re just helping me narrow down to my to my target audience.

 

My take: Amen to Shop Janery (above!).  Unfriendings, unsubscribes, and unfollows are all part of business. They sting, but they’re truly no big deal in the long run. If people aren’t interested in your work, then it’s actually a blessing for them to exit stage left. Seeing that process happen can be a bit twitchy, but just remind yourself that they’re helping to boost our open rates while keeping your service fees for email marketing low. So “sayonara” and best wishes. Don’t fixate on it and keep the train moving. You only have so many energy molecules to work with each day and a few unsubs here and there doesn’t warrant an investment of energy.

 

I recommend NOT asking your email service provider to send you daily updates of both subscribers and non-subscribers. Those become an energy suck and feed obsessiveness. However, I do a quick audit each month of my recent email marketing efforts (See the “reports” tab in MailChimp). If there was a higher-than-normal unsub rate, I’ll reopen that newsletter and examine why that might be. A subject line that wasn’t particularly compelling? An errant typo? Was I talking about something controversial? On the flipside, I also examine which newsletters enjoyed the highest open + click rates in an effort to unearth what types of content my readers enjoy most.

 

 

How often are you sending email newsletters to your audience?

 

The Lucky Break Community said:

Monthly: 57%

Every other week: 29%

Weekly: 14%

 

ettaandbillie: At least once a month for both. Occasionally twice if I’ve got something particularly juicy to share.

hangupsjewelry: We have one newsletter that we send out every second Tuesday. We also took your advice and relaunched our blog yesterday!

stellachroma: I have one newsletter that I send out at least monthly. Sometimes twice a month if there’s extra goings on.

little_truths_studio: Sending my first newsletter this morning! My goal is to send them out monthly and then twice a month if the response is good.

wholecirclestudio: Every other Thursday consistently. I’d love to do every week, but find that consistency Is better than just trying to get out every week. Started almost a year and a half ago and haven’t missed one yet!

ambikaherbals: I try to send a wholesale newsletter to my stockists once per quarter.

kidessenceshop: Twice a month for retail buyers, once a month for wholesale buyers.

hborganics: Weekly.

 

My take: Consistency is key when it comes to newsletters. Sliding off radar for 3 months while you move your workshop or attend to a big launch is no bueno it will unleash a stamped of unsubscribes and have people asking- “Wait… who is this again?” Email marketing is a groove and I realize that it takes time to get into a good groove, so here are my recommendations:

  • Start with once retail newsletter per month, plus a wholesale-exclusive newsletter to a separate list once per quarter.

 

  • Got your groove? Good! Kick things up a notch. Aim for a retail newsletter once every other week and a wholesale-exclusive newsletter every other month.

 

Many thanks to those who played along with us in March. We’re shifting focus to one of my favorite topics in April: brand development. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!