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:
Constant Contact: 9.5%
Convert Kit: 3.6%
Active Campaign: 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:
Every other week: 29%
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.
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!