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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Create a newsletter that your customers will love to read!

E-mail newsletters should play an integral role in your retail marketing plan.  Newsletters are inexpensive to send and wide reaching in scope.  Moreover, most E-mail Service Providers offer templates and unlimited customer support for a small monthly fee.  I had  a two hour learning curve when I first started, but the rewards have far exceeded my expectations.  Surprisingly, many crafty retailers ignore this valuable weapon in the marketing arsenal.                                                              
What's up with that?

First, many retailers are squeamish about being perceived of as "pushy" and they do not want to "spam" their customers.  Second, some retailers lack confidence in their writing ability and are afraid to subject their customer base to something that might not be interesting.   Finally, the busy store owner is dealing with lots of squeaky wheels and newsletters do not squeak. 

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

It's not spam, do follow some basic Newsletter "how tos" , and do make the Newsletter a squeaky wheel.  A marketing weapon that is virtually limitless in its ability to inexpensively impact your bottom line is worthy of your attention.

1.  No need to Spam!  Make it your mission to grow your permission based email list.  
Employees are notoriously loathe to ask customers for email addresses.  I never liked to do it...I was concerned with closing the sale and did not want an overt marketing push to get in the way of my success.   Many retailers settle for the easy to ignore "guest book"  placed by the cash register.  Don't waste your time.  A better plan of action is to offer your customer a freebie in exchange for the valuable personal information.   She hands over the goods and you send her a coupon, via e-mail,  for an inexpensive but highly desirable product.  This affords you the opportunity to verify that the address is a good one, and it guarantees a return visit by the customer in order to claim the free gift.  Your website should employ the same offer to engage your online visitors.   Bath and Body Works employed this strategy, offering a free lipstick in exchange for the email address.  Their database now purportedly contains over ten million names.  Talk about a win-win!   Extrapolate the value of that customer over the next year or two----the money spent on a free fat quarter or small sampling of Swarovski crystal is well worth the investment.

2.  Follow some basic rules to enhance your customer open rate:

Be Consistent.  A newsletter that is sent whenever the retailer feels like sending one will not be as effective as an email newsletter that is routinely sent on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month.  Marketing takes time to have an impact.  You cannot judge the success of your newsletter campaign unless you dedicate the time and resources necessary to consistently follow through with your plan.

Use a font that is large enough to read easily.  Many crafters are middle aged.  Middle age comes with lots of annoying baggage....declining eyesight was one of the most recent to hit me.  I won't bore you with the litany of other indignities that have assaulted me of late.  Suffice it to say that I carry tweezers with me at all times.  Sigh.

Include pictures and subheadings to provide a visual "break" for the reader.  Use restraint when choosing a background color for your newsletter.  Splashes of color go a long way and some hues---like cherry red and mandarin orange--can be jarring to the reader.

Keep the tone light, informal,  and friendly.  Write the way you speak.  This is not a Freshman English assignment.  Your customers know you and like you.  If you are funny, be funny.  If you are sweet, be sweet.  The bottom line is to BE GENUINE.

Provide something of value to your reader.  
You are sending out the newsletter as a marketing vehicle.  After all, you want to separate your customer from her money. You know it and she knows it.   No problem....just make sure that you give something to her as well!   We are a culture that has been inundated by spam.  Many individuals complain about not having enough time to read all of their emails.  Rubbish! The cold hard truth is that  we all make time to do the things that are important to us.  If there is a value to me in opening an email, I will open it.  If I know that it is going to be a waste of my time, it gets deleted.....UNREAD.

I generally open Anthropologie emails because they are ascetically pleasing and often include links to artsy sites that I enjoy visiting.  Interestingly, I noticed that one of their recent emails had a visible "counter" identifying the number of opens.  I was number 213.  I checked back a few times and within 3 hours the email had been read by over 2000 people.  Not too shabby.  If you want your customers to pay attention to your emails, then use them as a vehicle to build community.  Include links to interesting tutorials or even seasonal recipes that you enjoy. Include funny little factoids.  For example, did you know that February is National Wild Bird Feeding month?  Here is a link for Creative Kismet's tutorial for an adorable crochet bird feeder.

Speaking of birds...I have become captivated by the little crochet birds from Lucy, who maintains a wonderful blog,  Attic 24.  Lucy's blog is a delight...beautifully photographed and lovely to read She has a great free crochet bird tutorial.    Most crafters have a plethora of orphan yarn from various projects and would probably welcome a crafty push in a creative direction.   Give 'em something to do with the leftovers so that they can buy some new stuff, guilt free.

The "Take Away"  is that your newsletter must do more than tout your latest sale or your newest inventory.  You are a VALUE ADDED retailer.    You want to be the Crafty Hub of your community!  Your customers are your friends, the life blood of your success.  Treat 'em that way!

3.  No more excuses!  Take your Newsletter SERIOUSLY and put it on the "squeaky wheel" fast track! 

You know that  newsletters are important and have promised yourself that you will get on track someday.  Someday is here!  Sign up for a newsletter service (I use Constant Contact and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE affiliation, no recompense....just a satisfied customer) and then block off a morning to learn the system.  Decide when your newsletters should go out and mark those dates...IN STONE... on your calendar.  No excuses.  Newsletters play an important role in moving your business forward in 2010.  Need a "bullet list" of items to be included in every newsletter for best results?  Here you go! 

Put your big girl panties on and take care of business!    The price?  An extra night of Take Out instead of Homemade, a little less know the drill!!  You can do it!!!!

Other News:

Tucson was a blast!  Although I never made it to a single vendor other than Swarovski, that venue alone was  enough to sate me!  The Spring/Summer 2011 launch will prove to be the most successful in recent years, based upon the reactions I saw!  I will have more on the new products next week, but wanted to share some quick pictures with you now.  The Swarovski Customer Appreciation Event is always a great time, and this year proved no exception.  Those folks sure know how to throw a party.  This is THE PLACE for to see some amazing jewelry and personal adornment.  I was delighted to spend some time with Marcia DeCoster, whose recent book Beaded Opulence is a must have for any passionate beader.  She was my hero as she sauntered in to the party wearing crystallized Birkenstocks.    She even put teeny tiny crystals on her toes.What a woman! 

While Marcia definitely wins the award for "most playful," there was plenty more to see!  The most elegant fashionista had to be Tatiana Van Iten  , whose stunning jewelry and stately beauty was a treat to behold.  

Finally, it was wonderful to connect with great customers and reconnect with old friends.  Felter Extraordinaire Monica Durazo  (pictured with Jewelry Designer Susan Allen) was my right hand at the Felting Workshop.  The event sold out and was a ton of fun!

Twenty happy, if somewhat tired, nuno felters! 


  1. Pat,thanks so much for the inspiring post! I've printed out the "checklist" to use. I usually send email 1-2 times per month but I always feel like my emails are BORING! Thanks again for the inspiration!
    Bead (or Felt) Happy!

  2. Thanks, Michelle. My nature is such that if I formalize the process then I am more likely to follow the plan! By the way...I have read your emails and don't think they are boring. You do a great job with photos. A picture truly is worth a thousand words!