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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sales down? Use a NEWSLETTER BLAST to craft a marketing miracle!

Newsletters can be either a boon or a bane for a retail business.  Unfortunately, far too many crafty retailers consider them a chore to be left until the absolute last minute.    The retailer finishes the July class calendar on June 30 (first mistake) and is freaked because the first class is just a few days away.  She is rushed and harried AND HAS NO TIME FOR A NEWSLETTER but knows that she simply must let her customers know about the upcoming class schedule or she will be paying a teacher to sit in an empty class room.  ARGHH!  There is too little planning until it is too late (second mistake).   It is no surprise that the end product is often text heavy, uninspired, and completely devoid of photographs.  The retailer wonders why her classes have poor attendance and  she continues to send out mediocre newsletters.  What a waste!  A well written newsletter will generate immediate sales and a definitive spike in  store traffic.  If your newsletters do not garner a response that you can SEE and MEASURE, then it is time to push up your shirt sleeves and do it right!  There are really no shortcuts to success.

Those of you who read the column regularly know that my husband, John, recently acquired an office furniture store.   John is not an enthusiastic marketer because he has never had to be, but I am making a believer out of him.  He mentioned having a slew of filing cabinets taking up valuable real estate on the showroom floor.  This was my chance!  I took  two hours to play with his customer list and sent out an email newsletter.  It was not brilliant.  It was not clever.   However, it WAS effective. He sold out of all of the advertised product within 6 hours and could have sold more if it were available.  Yup, I generated over $5000 in sales with VIRTUALLY NO EFFORT and hubby thinks I am a genius. It is kind of like getting accolades for store bought Lasagna.  Hey...whatever apologies here!    You can see the email here.  It was short, slightly silly, and got a very high open rate.   

Here is what I think was right about it:

Catchy Subject Line
My subject line was short and sweet:  

               Filing Cabinet Blow Out! 

Wow!  Not really impressive, is it?  

Nonetheless, I gotta work with what I got, and what I got is had was an overabundance of FILING CABINETS.  Filing Cabinets are a basic item that every business needs at one time or another, so I knew the product had broad appeal.    The "Blow Out" language was the hook.  

I kept the promise of the subject line.I promised a Blow Out, so I had to deliver one.   This is the first email that has ever been sent on behalf of the company; accordingly, it was critical  to establish a relationship where the reader can get to "KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST" us.  Doing what we say we are going to do is a step in the right direction.

"Slightly marked down" wasn't going to cut it and might make the reader less likely to read future emails from us. The filing cabinets were used, but I included the price of the same item "new" as a reference point.   I  also included our "regular" price and finally, the "super duper deal" price.  The psychology was that there would be a big enough swing between "new" and "current" pricing that the reader would recognize a HELLUVADEAL when she saw one.  It worked.

It had lots of pictures and graphics.
You only have a few seconds to capture the reader's attention.  Ya gotta be good, fast!  Readers will ignore an email filled with nothing but text.  Like you, your reader is busy and she has lots of other emails clamoring for her attention.  Pictures add interest and help break up the text for her. 

I subscribe to lots and lots of craft store newsletters and most of them really need to up their game.  The biggest mistake I see...and I see it ALL THE TIME is a verbose description of upcoming classes.... without any class pics!  HUH?  I mean, seriously!  Crafting is all about the images!!!!  You are a dream maker....your reader wants to see a picture that makes her drool, that make her imagine a brighter future, a better world, etc.

Would you buy new dress from a dry description in a catalog?  Of course not!  You want to see a picture of a glamorous model so that you can imagine what the dress could do for you.  It will make you look taller, smarter, sexier, etc.  YA GOTTA  SPRINKLE SOME FAIRY DUST!!!!  Pictures help----I guarantee it!

Keep store personnel in the loop...make sure that they each receive a copy of the email ahead of time.  Print up a hard copy to keep by the phone.  It would have been pretty embarrassing for us if the sales personnel learned of the promotion from a customer.  Been there, done that.  Very unprofessional.

I knew my target market.
The company's "niche customer" is a small business owned by a single individual who functions as the main sales force, accountant and chief decision maker.  The owner is not a stuffy corporate sort of person; rather, like most of us, the owner wears too many hats and never has enough time or money.    I had this in mind when I wrote the offered a solution that was sensitive to the wallet, while maintaining a bit of humor.
The email did more than get rid of filing cabinets.  The most important take away for me is the realization that we have a lot of work to do relative to our email database.  The business has 2600 customers and only 568 email addresses.  Of those 568 emails, we had 128 bounce due to a bad address.   So....out of 2600 customers, we had only  440 solid email addresses.  BAD, BAD, BAD!  Fortunately, there is now a process in place to capture email addresses and customer web pages.  Do you have a similar process in place?  If not, create one!

One thing that I did not do with this first email, but will certainly do in the future.....

My email was a sales tool, period.  A better email would offer something of value to the reader.  That is, in addition to the "I want your money" plea, it is always a good idea to offer something of value so that your customer doesn't feel that you are only in it to deplete her bank account.  A free tutorial here, a link to an inspirational website there.  You know the drill.

Etsy just emailed me the link to a great You Tube interview with a master rug weaver pictured below.  It was a delightful view into a world that is unfamiliar to me.  It was of enough interest that I watched the whole thing.  Consider including something similar in your next email blast.

A funny personal story will also do the trick.  I recently experienced some knitting hilarity at my local hair salon.  My stylist is an adorable young woman named Cynthia...a  Latin beauty who is a devout Christian .  Her best buddy Carrie is a stylist at the same salon.  Carrie is the human version of Jessica Rabbit...she isn't bad, she was just drawn that way.  She is a blond bombshell with  curvy, voluptuous body and a sailor's salty speech.  

They are quite a pair and they have recently taken up knitting.  On a recent visit Cynthia told me about her knitting ear plugs....she found them so very helpful and was able to concentrate so much better with them.


Before I could even begin to get my brain wrapped around the concept of knitting earplugs, she went on to tell me that she wore them every time she knit, even though she felt stupid wearing them because they made her look like Shrek.....

I suddenly got the picture!  My novice knitting friend was  using point protectors as ear plugs!   Before I could even begin to figure out a way to tell her the true use of her ear plugs, Carrie piped in.  She was frustrated and upset.  If Cynthia had special knitting ear plugs, then by God, she wanted the special ear plugs, too.  She scoffed at her husband's suggestion to just buy regular earplugs and had been all over town looking for them.  She castigated a 110 year old sales lady at Michael's for not knowing about such an integral item, telling me "clearly that woman is not a knitter!"  

Too, too funny!  I asked the gals if they ever had trouble with their knitting slipping off the needles and both said "ALL THE TIME!" was my chance....I simply looked at them and know, I bet those ear plugs would keep the yarn on the needles.

It got very quiet and then everyone in the salon burst out laughing.  It was really a delightful exchange.  So, dear Crafty Retailers, the work you do is very, very important.  You are an educator, a facilitator, and a dream maker.  You would never have let a new knitter wear point protector ear plugs, would you?  Keep the faith, keep the smile, and send out your email blast!

We are delighted to announce the winners from our recent Etsy/Retailer Design Challenge!  Each of the participants received the kit pictured at right.  The submissions were spectacular...truly inspiring.  You can see them all by scrolling the bottom of this page.
1.  OH MY GOD!  I can't believe she made that!    HANNAH ROSNER
2.  YUM....This is the one I would wear every single day.  MELISSA MERCER
3. PERFECT!   This one would make for a spectacular class!  MARGE GIRALTE

Each of the winners will receive a goody bag valued at $150
We also drew names from those who voted.  Congrats to Chew Chew Lew Bakery who will also get a good bag!
I seem to be in a sewing mood of late.  I had a blast putting together a festive holiday bunting for the 4th of July.  The relentless downpour rained on our parade, but at least the home front was standing proud! 

 I used the miserable weather as an opportunity to park myself in the was awesome!  I finally finished a sunflower pillow that I had felted a few weeks ago when teaching a young friend to felt.  It is needle felted and then wet felted.  I used some hand dyed satin to create a ruffled edge. The flower is embellished with some Swarovski yarn crochet as well as a Hot Fix Crystal Rock.  What fun!

A friend of a friend saw a man dump a dog in the middle of a busy street during a thunderstorm.  The Good Samaritan saved the dog but all of the shelters were closed for the holiday and she was unable to take it home.  She made some phone calls and the poor little thing is TEMPORARILY residing  with us.  She is a teeny tiny fully grown snippet of a dog...a funny mix of Chihuahua and Pug.  She is shy and worried, so I cannot bear to drop her off at a shelter.  I also cannot bear to have yet another dog.  My daughter and I are on a campaign to find her a new home before Bella the Mastiff has her for lunch.
 HAVE A GREAT WEEK...and send me a copy of your next email blast!