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C&T Q&A – What makes YOU subscribe – and stay subscribed – to a mailing list?

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Normally, it’s you asking and me answering.

But this week, I thought I’d turn the tables!

You may have noticed that we’ve been talking mailing lists this week on C&T, so I wanted to continue the discussion and ask you:

What makes you subscribe – and STAY subscribed – to a business mailing list?

Food for thought:

  • What sort of incentives encourage you to subscribe?

  • How many emails are too many… and how many are not enough?

  • What sort of content do you enjoy reading in email newsletters?

  • What sort of content turns you right off, and makes you hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button?

  • Think about which newsletters you ALWAYS open – and those you almost NEVER do – what is the difference between them?

By thinking about why YOU sign up and stay subscribed, it will help you work out the sort of content you should be sharing in your own email marketing. Would you read your own newsletters??

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Ask the Makers: Email Marketing Incentives

I’m so excited today because we’re debuting our new monthly group post.  Getting advice and tips from one of us Create & Thrive writers is wonderful but what if our business doesn’t look anything like yours?  With five of us giving our personal solutions and know-how on the same topic, you’re bound to find something that fits your business.

This first month, we’re talking all about email marketing incentives.  What do we offer our visitors to get them onto our mailing list?  How did we decide what to offer?  Is it effective?

Jess’s answer:

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I’ve experimented with a number of different incentives – and it’s different depending on the mailing list. For example – my Epheriell jewellery list has a number of incentives to sign up – you go in a monthly draw to win jewellery, get access to exclusive specials, and you get 10% off your next order after sign-up, too. I think a combo of things works well in this case. For the C&T list, however, the incentive is simple – a free ebook you can’t get any other way. And the incentive of getting a round-up of the blog sent to your email once a week, too – I think for those who are busy, but don’t want to miss the C&T posts, that’s an incentive in and of itself. I know I sign up to similar emails for that very reason!

 Danielle’s Answer:

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I have an opt in on my blog.  It is for a free download of a perpetual calendar that I designed using an image of one of my hoops. I think it would be more effective if I showed a picture of the download file… I am going to experiment with that later on! I decided to offer this as my opt in because I thought it was useful and different!

Katia’s Answer:

plushka mailing

The incentive for Plushka’s customers to subscribe to our newsletter is a monthly giveaway that is exclusive to subscribers. Every month I pick one of my creations that is seasonal or just something from a new range to give away and draw a winner in the last newsletter of the month (my newsletters are weekly). When the winner is announced, the subscriber needs to reply with the postal address and this way I can see that they do open and read my newsletters. If the person doesn’t claim the prize within a month, I re-draw a winner. So far I have had a good response and once I post a prize of the month on Facebook, I get new subscribers. I went with monthly giveaways because I wanted to motivate people to stay subscribed. The subscribers also get exclusive offers and discount codes so in combination with a giveaway, I make sure it is worthwhile for people to subscribe to my updates. However, the content is important too so I make sure I include some interesting links and some unique content along with Plushka’s updates.

Megan’s Answer:

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My opt-in sends out a free, illustrated book.  It’s a very short story about ‘The Luxurious Life of Rigel the Cat’ and includes 10 pages of text and cat drawings.  This introduces people to my artwork and humor.  Plus, it gets them primed for the weekly emails that I send out about new creations and more silly stories.  I originally contemplated giving out free shipping but I know that my customer is there for my creativity, not to get deals on my products.

Got a burning question you’d love all of us to answer?  Email me at megan@epherielldesigns.com.  Also, let me know below if you enjoyed this post.  Above all, Jess and I want to make sure you’re getting the most out of us.

C&T Q&A – How do I manage multiple product lines? To combine or not to combine…

how do I manage multiple product lines?


This week’s question is from Kelly, who writes:

Hey Jess!

What’s the best way to include multiple lines (which aren’t necessarily a similar product to your dominant line) in your business? For example – mainly selling watercolour paintings, but also wanting to sell t-shirts. So the two lines are both arty (and could overlap to a point), but are still considered to be separate.

Are you better off creating a new ‘name’ for that line, which could be a business name I guess, and using a ‘made by _____’ under that logo, or is it still an option to just sell it under the same business?

Possibly not the best example ever, but hopefully enough for you to go on!

 

Thanks for this one, Kelly, I know it’s one many of us ask ourselves, as creative types are notorious for coming up with new ideas and trying new things constantly!

The answer to this one really boils down to one thing – do the multiple lines have enough in common to be branded the same?

In your example listed above – if you’re selling watercolour prints, and it’s those same pieces of artwork on the t-shirts, then absolutely they can be in the same shop. In this case, the product is actually the artwork – the prints/tees/cards/stickers etc etc are simply the medium on which people can purchase the product.

So long as your branding/photography is consistent and complimentary across all the different product types, this can work really well.

However, there are times when the product lines are so disparate that it is better to completely separate them.

I’ll give you an example from my own life.

I’ve been running Epheriell since 2008, and by around 2010 I had developed a defined brand and product type. I make and sell eco-conscious, simple, contemporary sterling silver jewellery. Within that overarching brand, I can play around with a number of different product lines… but in the end, they all reflect this overall brand message.

So, when I decided I’d like to play around with vintage-style jewellery because I’d been wearing a lot of vintage clothes, I deliberately decided to create a completely separate brand and shop – Vintette.

This was a pretty easy decision to make. I knew the jewellery style would be completely different. It would have a different price-point. It would be more assembly jewellery rather than handmade from raw materials.

In brief – I did not want to dilute my Epheriell brand by mixing Vintette-style jewellery in with it.

By doing things separately, I was able to develop 2 completely different and distinct brands… despite the fact that both were jewellery.

Of course, I still talked about both brands on my blog and on my single twitter account. In other words, as you mention above, Kelly – they were both brands ‘made by Jess Van Den’.

If you have an existing brand/product line, and you have an idea for a new line, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my new idea have anything in common with my existing brand? {For example: yes, both of them are jewellery}
  • Will incorporating my new idea into my existing brand compliment and improve my brand/shop overall, or dilute it? {Vintette is a vastly different style, a different price point, and incorporating it with Epheriell will dilute the Epheriell brand}
  • Do I have the time/energy to manage two separate brands/shops? {At the time, yes, because my business was still growing. As you can see if you visit the Vintette shop now, I’ve closed it to focus on my more successful brands. You can only do so much!}

Don’t make the mistake of turning your shop into a ‘little bit of everything’ brand.

Be the person who makes ‘_____________’. You’ll have more success building a business (at least in the beginning) if you have a very strong brand focus.

Have you ever come up against this question? How did you handle it?

What do I blog about? 15 ideas to get you started

15 blog post ideas

Have you decided to start a blog and committed to updating it regularly but not sure what to write about? You are not alone!

I’ve been blogging for a few years now but there are still days when I feel that I wish a had a list of ideas to refer to, just get me writing.

Thus, I decided to put one together and share it with you!

Firstly, let me mention that the most important things about blogging is not only the content but also the consistency of the updates.

Establish the schedule that you have time for – 2-3 times a week is a great start. The time when to post is important too.

Posting them constantly in the morning or in the evening  is great as the readers know when they will find a new post to read.

Once you’ve established the amount of days and time you post, start brainstorming the ideas:

Idea #1 Post a little tour around your studio/creative corner

I LOVE posting and looking at the behind the scenes shots of other creatives. Nothing like a little nosey around the creative space! This topic is awesome as you can post updates when you re-decorate or tidy up the space and send new readers to see your space every now and then on Facebook. Please don’t get shy that it’s just a kitchen table or a part of the living room. It doesn’t really matter as that’s where your creations are born. It doesn’t have to be super tidy either, all creative spaces are messy so you can also post before and after shots, show what it’s really like during busy times!

Idea #2 Post behind the scenes shots

It might be because I am a curious creature but that’s what excites me even more then seeing the finished item – seeing it coming to life! There is nothing like building the excitement, showing what you are making as it happens.

If you prefer to keep item a secret before the release, post “How it was made” post after, no problem. Just remember to take the pictures.

Idea #3 Participate in Linkin parties

So, you are blogging about your space and what you make. This topics are endless really as you make things regularly and have new creations to blog about. However, the blog comes to life when you inject a bit of you in it. What you like, your interests and your life. The Linkin parties are great as they give you a topic to write about so all you need is to go with it.

Another great thing about those parties is that you leave your link on the blog that hosts the party so other readers will come in to check your post out. You also need to stop by and comment on other post as it’s primarily sharing and discovering new blogs which is always fun!

Here are some of the parties I attend or going to join:

Wordless Wednesday, held at The Jenny Evolution – share a picture of your garden, new creation, a dog/cat or a flower something that is cute/inspiring/celebrating everyday moments.

Sunday snippets, held over at  The Beetle Shack – It’s a new one that I am joining this month. You need to post a couple of pictures from your week, little moments that made it memorable. Very easy theme and I love looking at all the pictures, very inspiring.

Photo a day challenge at Fat Mum Slim – if you like Instagram, this one is for you. I am yet to join this one… next month!

My creative space at Villagevoices – show what you are working on and see other creatives in action! Great theme that I’ve been joining in for years.

Idea #4 Review an event/book

Did you go to a craft show, sew together, crochet class recently, then tell readers all about it! You can always spot a blogger as we take pictures of everything so don’t forget your camera.

Write about a book you are reading, why you bought it and how you are liking it so far. Great way to share you interests and ask readers to recommend you a next book to read.

Idea #5 Write a recipe

Do you baking or cooking? Why not share your best recipes every month?

Idea #6 This is how I store my paper/fabric/beads/stamps…

Storage is always a problem so show how you store your craft supplies, it might be very helpful to your readers or ask for tips if you are struggling to find ways to store certain things.

Idea #7 What I’ve Pinned this week 

Round-up the most popular pins or your favourites ones, maybe some seasonal items or colour coordinated inspirations. This will tell your readers what your like, your taste, and send them to your Pinterest page.

Idea #8 A month on Intagram roundup

I fell in love with Instagram as soon as I started using it! Great way to connect and see what others are creating. It’s a wonderful collection of pictures ready to be arranged into a post.

Idea #9 Lovely day out

What did you do? Where did you go? What did you see?

Idea #10 Blog about your kids.

If you are comfortable with sharing pictures of your kids in the blog, do so once a week. Funny or sweet moments of your everyday routine is a great way to capture their growing personalities!

Idea #11 Gift ideas

Every holiday season needs one of these posts!  I love putting together gift ideas at Christmas/Easter. It can be something from your store matched together in bundles or items made by your fellow sellers on Madeit/Etsy. Don’t forget to let them know that you featured their item.

Idea #12 Interview a crafter that you admire

Who doesn’t like getting to know new handmade designers and their stories? Great way to network and get to know them better. You can even exchange interviews, why not?!

Idea #13 Write a DIY

I find these type of post to be the hardest to write but the most rewarding! They get the most clicks on my blog and I love seeing items created by following my tutorials. DIY doesn’t have to be complicated, I find the easier the project the more popular it is as it can be made quickly.

Idea #14 A week on Facebook, round-up

Have a look at your Facebook updates and see if you can make a summary of your week in one post, it’s a great way to record a week of happenings and refer your newsletter readers there. Even if they follow you on Facebook, they will appreciate a quick sum up so they don’t miss out on what’s coming up or a special offer.

Idea #15 Contribute to other blogs

When you feel comfortable with blogging and writing, consider contributing to other blogs as being a guest blogger is fun and it opens a new audience to you. Blog owners always on the lookout for contributors, including me *wink*  but make sure you send a ready to cut and paste blog post with relative content for a better chance to get featured.

Finally,  Allocate topics to the days of the week so you have a routine to follow. 

I’ve changed my routine recently after moving to a new website but I am slowly getting back to it. I used to love allocating approximate topics to each day of the week as a guideline (can be as many topics as you like per day, this way you can pick the one you feel like blogging about with plenty of a variety for your readers too), for example:

Monday – what inspired me recently (magazines, colours, new fabric collections…)

Tuesday – giveaway or a post about what I am making for my home

Wednesday – wordless post, sharing a beautiful picture that made you smile.

Thursday creative space or a new collection release

Friday – guest posts, DIYs or a shop update

Saturday – Crafternoon in the studio, what I made that day (I used to have Saturday in the studio full-time)

Sunday – fabric stash (new arrival, colour coordinated bundles of my favourite prints – great chance to re-organise the stash and see what’s hiding in there)

When you look at the days and topics allocated, blogging is not as scary, is it?

If you still think that there is nothing you can blog about in your day, take a moment and write down what you did today. Everything from laundry to quick coffee with a friend and you’ll see that there are plenty of moments that are worth capturing and sharing.

Even just a picture of your messy and wildly creative space is interesting to the reader as that’s what they want to know.

It’s all about sharing who you are, what you do, and why… and that you are a human being behind a handmade business.

Last but not least, every now and then, after your routine is set up, experiment, find new things to blog about to keep it interesting for yourself and readers. You don’t have to set everything in stone, we are creatives after all – spontaneous people!

Do you have a pool of topics that you use to help you keep your blog rolling? Share them with us in the comments.