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Monday, August 31, 2009

E-Newsletters are a low cost and effective marketing tool!

The online newsletter should be an integral part of your marketing plan. E-Newsletters are extremely cost effective and easy to disseminate. Ironically, the newsletter is also one of the most poorly utilized and misunderstood marketing tools. Most retailers look forward to writing their store newsletter with the same degree of anxiety and trepidation usually reserved for a root canal! As with that pesky trip to the dentist, the newsletter often gets "put off" to some future date when you have more time, more money, more staff, etc. You know that you should do it, but you do not get it done. The wheel just does not squeak loudly enough.

The economy stinks. SQUEAK, SQUEAK.
The holidays are coming. SQUEAK, SQUEAK!
Your classes are empty. SQUEAK! SQUEAK!

Yikes! That squeaking is loud..surely you hear it now!

What is the crafty retailer to do?

Get out the WD-40 and take care of business! Contrary to popular opinion, marketing newsletters are easy to write...just follow a few simple steps and you will be on your way!


1. MAKE THE NEWSLETTER A VALUE ADDED RESOURCE FOR YOUR CLIENTS. Consumers are overwhelmed by computer spam and have been forced to become serial "deleters." Be respectful of your customer's time and ensure that your newsletter is more than a transparent sales tool. You want to get customers in your store but you have to operate with a bit of finesse. Think back to your dating days....the guy who went right for the goodies got a slap in the face. The fellow who was charming, witty and made an attempt to appear interested in things that were important to you had a better chance of a getting a little sugar. The same is true in business.

A newsletter that factually lists the dates of upcoming classes or clinically reports on a new trunk show event will not only bore the recipient, she will recognize it for what it is: a patent sales push for your shop. Focus on your customer instead! Offer valuable tips and insights based upon your position as the expert on all things crafty. You want to become a "value added resource" for your customer base. For example, you could provide suggestions on how to organize an out of control craft stash. I just Googled "how to organize craft supplies" and got 103,000 hits! Offer links to free patterns or You Tube craft tutorials to spark creativity. Use the newsletter to tell a story and reinforce your brand.

LYS owner Mel Martin of Millicent's Yarns has a friendly "down home" feel to her newsletter. It is chatty and informal, with a feature called "Knitter's Thoughts" where she showcases a particular customer and why that customer is hooked on her craft. Jennifer Curran, of Simply Bead'N Around recently sent out an email blast touting her "Beads for the Brave" charity. She is collecting beading craft supplies to send to the troops in Iraq so that our gals (and guys!) in uniform can engage in "bead therapy" during down time. Newsletters can be an effective means to reinforce your values and build upon your shop "community."

2. Newsletters should be concise, professionally written, and include pictures. Think about the popularity of magazines such as People and In Style, where much of the attraction can be attributed to short snippets of information complemented by lots of full color photographs. Use action verbs to add interest and excitement. "Celebrate a Homemade Holiday this year!" has more impact than "You should make holiday gifts this year." Compare the following paragraph:

Don't forget our upcoming trunk show. We will be featuring some beautiful copper and enamel beads which are different from anything that you have ever seen before. The show will be here from August 23 through Sept 1. You will not want to miss this event.

....to this:


TRUNK SHOW REMINDER!

It's here! It's here!

We are hosting yet another spectacular Trunk Show Extravaganza to tempt and delight you!

WHEW!
We just unpacked a dazzling assortment of enameled copper goodies from one of our favorite vendors. This is a hard show to book and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase this designer!

The event will only be here from August 23 through Sept 1, 2009, so mark your calendar, set the alarm, and
shop early for the best selection!


The same information is imparted by both versions, but the second is more likely to generate excitement. If writing is not your forte, consider hiring a professional to do the job for you. The $50 or so you will spend per newsletter
will pay for itself many times over in increased attendance at store events, higher sales numbers, and establishing a loyal store following!

3. Use an E-Mail Marketing Solutions Provider for greater success. While it is possible to genera
te emails through your regular email provider, those newsletters tend to look amateurish and unprofessional. I utilize Constant Contact but there are a number of similar services available. These programs are inexpensive, provide easy to use Templates, offer the opportunity to create graphics heavy newsletters, and enable you to send thousands of emails at once. One attractive feature of Constant Contact is the ability to "archive" your newsletters so that anyone who is visiting your website will have access to your newsletter. Best of all, every newsletter that you send generates a valuable report. You will be able to see who is opening your email, what links they are clicking, whether they forwarded the email to anyone, etc. These reports will give you an idea as to which customers are interested enough to read your email, but not interested enough to drive to the store. What a great opportunity for you to pick up the phone and reconnect! Your customer thinks you are psychic....you know you are just a heck of a business person! There is a learning curve associated with using an E-Mail Marketing Service, but it will save you time and money almost immediately.

4. Build your E-Mail Database. Newsletters only work if folks read them. You do not want to be a spammer and would be well advised to create a "permission based" data base. Your email list will not grow quickly by putting a guest book by the register....it will become like the treadmill in my bedroom...there, but invisible. You must be PROACTIVE in order to achieve SUCCESS. E-mail addresses are the life blood of your business....do what it takes to get 'em! Consider offering a $5 off coupon in exchange for the address. Send the coupon to the address to confirm that it is viable. Your customer will then have to come back to the store (and do some more shopping!) in order to redeem the coupon. Of course, it is also important to maintain a "subscribe" feature on your website. This feature will allow online visitors to sign up for your newsletter.

5. Frequency and Consistency of Contact matters. There is a bit of a balancing act involved in determining how often to send out your newsletter. Most stores find that weekly contact is too much, with monthly contact the minimum. Provided that you have valuable information to impart with every missive, then once every three weeks is reasonable.

Newsletters can be a valuable part of your marketing plan. Make every newsletter relevant to the lives of your customers by impart information that is helpful and inspiring. You will be sure to reap the benefits!


OTHER NEWS:
Congratulations to Joanne Yalch of Crystal Bead Bazaar, who is the recipient of a Swarovski Crystal embellishment package. Thanks for participating in last week's challenge question!

"What would yo
u do?" Challenge Question for the week:
Life is truly stranger than fiction! A client is experiencing some competition terrorism, the likes of which I haven't seen before. Specifically, the Kooky Competitor is telling mutual customers that the owner of the competing store has a wheelchair bound child who is the source of humiliation to her.
The owner is said to be so embarrassed by the handicapped child that she keeps her hidden at home and denies having any children when asked. The gossipy customers shake their heads in disgust and disbelief . Frankly, the tale strikes a chord with the typical craft store shopper---a married woman with children she adores. The idea that someone could reject a child...a handicapped child no less... is understandably repugnant to them. It happens that the owner of the store does not have any children, but when she is asked the question and answers honestly, folks assume that she is hiding the truth. She has actually lost a few customers over this rumor. One previously loyal customer recently 'fessed up to the reason she had been avoiding the store. OUCH! How would you handle it? Share your wisdom and you have a chance to win a $25 gift certificate from Aussie Threads and Fibers.

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