C&T Q&A – How Do I Use Autoresponders Properly?

how do I use autoresponders

Today’s question comes from Jessica (awesome name btw), who writes (bear with us, it’s a long question!):

I really enjoy reading your newsletters, and especially your recent C&T e-course. Tons of great info, thank you so much!! (Ed: You’re welcome Jess!)

I am writing to ask a question about autoresponders, and I hope you don’t mind helping me out?

I am having the hardest time trying to keep everything straight. I’m using MailChimp, and I love it! I recently purchased a paid subscription so I can use autoresponders. Setting them up is a breeze, but the trouble I’m having is because I don’t know how to keep everything separate.

I’m sending out a ‘regular ole campaign’ to those currently subscribed, who subscribed before the date I set up the autoresponder. I’m then copying and saving that campaign as an autoresponder to add to my queue. I’m setting the triggers as 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks after signup, etc. But I only have 3 saved so far, and all the while more people are signing up!

If someone signs up now, they’ll get the first 3 autoresponders, but then what?? I don’t think I can then add new material to the queue that these people will get, since they are now current subscribers – or maybe I’m wrong about that. I asked MailChimp for help and told them what I was wanting to do, and their answer was basically, “that’s not exactly how autoresponders were intended to be used.’

So I’m having the worst time trying to keep track of who signed up when, who already got an email this week from the autoresponder, and when they will run out of scheduled emails….and the more people who sign up the more confused I get. I sure hope I’m making sense. I don’t feel like I am :/

I’m finally reaching out to beg for your help after going back and reading your awesome e-book again! You say that as you create new content in your emails, you then add it to your autoresponder queue. So, how do you do it? Could you please give me a hint?

Thanks so much for your help. I know you’re really busy and I really appreciate your time!

Okay – for those of you who don’t yet use autoresponders, I’m hoping this post might convince you differently.

They are a fantastic way to ‘set and forget’ so-to-speak – a way to ensure you are still touching base with your list on a regular basis, even if you don’t send them out manual emails for a while. And don’t get me started on you if you’re not already using email marketing. You are, aren’t you?

What is an autoresponder?

When you set up a mailing list, you can set up automatic emails – autoresponders – that will go out to a subscriber at a certain point in time after they subscribe to your list.

Jessica, I’ve got a few answers for you.

1. First – please don’t stress that some of your current subscribers are missing out on your autoresponder emails. Frankly, you just have to accept that they won’t get all the autoresponders you’ve set up – and that’s okay. You can’t retrospectively send them those emails – they’ll just have to be content with the manual emails you send from here on in. I know that’s a bit frustrating, but it’s just the way it is.

2. That said – one way to get MORE of your current subscribers getting your autoresponders is to set them up further into the future. For example – if you set up an autoresponder to go out 3 months after they signed up to your list, you know that anyone who signed up within the last 3 months will get it eventually. So, if you want to think long-term, you could go ahead and set up autoresponders spread out over months, rather than weeks. Sure, some people will miss out on the earlier ones – but as I said above, that’s okay. Look towards what you CAN do now, not what you didn’t do soon enough.

3. Content. There are a few places you can get content for these autoresponders. I’m not sure what sort of emails you’re sending out, but I’m going to use examples from both of my lists (the C&T one and my Epheriell Silver Service). I’m in the process right now of setting up a HUGE batch of autoresponders for the C&T list – so I feel where you’re at – should I have done it sooner? Probably? Did I? No – so what I’m doing now will have to do 🙂

For these autoreponder emails, I’m using archive blog content. Here’s a screen-shot of one of these emails:

email

Basically, I send out a teaser with a link to an archive post here on C&T. The purpose of this email is to keep in touch with my subscribers by sending them good, useful content. The reason I link back to the blog, rather than putting the whole content of the post in the email, is that I want to encourage them to click back over here, hang out, and read more.

These autoresponders are on top of manual emails I send out each week to the C&T list. They’re short, to-the-point, and easy for people to read quickly (and hopefully act upon).

Now, for my Silver Service list, I use autoresponders much less. I have a couple set up spread out over the first 6 months of a person’s subscription to the list. One, for example, is a special discount code that sends out at a certain time milestone to thank them for staying subscribed. Another is a link to a blog post about my studio, so they can see ‘behind the scenes’. Setting up a few more autoresponders to those subscribers is on my to-do list – I’ll get there!

You can also use (as you mentioned) content from previous emails – so long as it’s evergreen content (it doesn’t age).

Other ideas for autoresponder content:

  • link roundup of useful posts by other people
  • link to a specific useful post or video by someone else
  • email about one of your products or services (make SURE to spread these out – here’s a good blog post about this)
  • a personal email – like the ‘here’s my studio’ email I mentioned earlier – that helps your readers get to know you in the context of whatever it is your list is for

There are lots of ideas, but those should be enough to get you going.

If you’ve got a mailing list, and you’re not already sending out some autoresponders, it’s a good thing to think about.

Goodness knows we’re all busy, so a bit of time spent to automate a little sliver of your marketing will pay off in the long run.

If you use autoresponders already, I’d love to know what and how often you send them out – share with us in the comments below!

 

Ask the Makers – What’s Your Favourite Online Venue?

etsy capture

Last month we had a great comment on our Ask the Makers post.  Someone wanted to know where we each sell our items online and which platform we like best.  This is such a great question!

Danielle’s Answer:

Etsy has always worked best for me. It is SO easy to use and they have a mobile app so that is a huge bonus. I also have a shopify shop. I like having it but I don’t put a ton of effort into it. I am still trying to figure out how to make another shop work in addition to Etsy without losing my mind. I use my domain on my business cards though – I think I get most of my sales on Etsy from traffic through search. I think it is more professional to have my domain on my cards – I have a link to Etsy there because I know it is sometimes easier for people to use Etsy. I also think some people find comfort in the security of a big site like Etsy. I respect that.

Etsy shop: Merriweather Council

Danielle’s shop: Merriweather Council

Jess’s Answer:

I started out on Etsy, and still see a big chunk of my sales come in from there – usually from new customers. I’ve been selling from my own website for a few years, and I’ve found the number of sales coming through there has picked up steadily. I sell on a few other venues, too, but Etsy and my own dot com bring in the bulk of my income.
I love selling on Etsy because it brings in a LOT of new customers. I usually find that repeat customers will then shop from my own website. Etsy is a ‘safe’ place for people to shop from a new designer, because they have a safety net. Once they know you and trust you, they’re more willing to shop with you directly.

Etsy shop: Epheriell

Jess’s shop: Epheriell

Megan’s Answer:

I started out on Etsy nearly 4 years ago but last year I built my own site.  Nowadays, I see the majority of my sales through my own shop.  Personally, this makes me really happy because I don’t have to pay listing fees and I’m supporting my own brand.  People don’t get distracted by the myriad of amazing things on Etsy and instead stay in my shop.

I still enjoy selling on Etsy and I see a trickle of sales there still.  The thing that irks me though is that every 3 months or so, Etsy changes its listing technique or its SEO preference.  If I had all the time in the world, I’d be able to keep up on that sort of thing and tweak my entire shop but I’d much rather just re-list things as they sell/expire and market my own shop.

Etsy shop: Studio MME

Megan’s shop: Studio MME

Do you sell on more than one platform?  Feel free to share below which online space works best for you!

Success Stories ~ Yas of Quill and Fox

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Yas of Quill & Fox

As an illustrator myself, I knew I had found something special when I stumbled onto Quill & Fox on Etsy.  Yas’s work is so whimsical and humorous that you can’t help but smile when you see it.  I also couldn’t believe that someone was making a full-time living from note cards.  Yep, you read that right.  The stationery market demands a constant outpouring of new work and that’s why I knew I needed to interview Yas.  I think you’ll really like what she has to say about doing what you love.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I think my interest in clever and unique concepts started when I was working for an ad agency, thinking up “cool” ideas for ads to break through the usual clutter. It was an arduous effort but I always relished what creativity I can have in it. I have never enrolled into a design school then but decided to eventually. I’ve done graphic design ever since I was a teenager, so I was honestly very excited to finally formally go to a design school. Ironically, my advertising classes proved to be so underwhelming, but I really enjoyed the very tactile projects I had a chance to do in graphic design. Meeting my husband in school towards my senior year, and getting married soon after almost just made everything fall into place. Andrew came from very a traditional background of illustration and it renewed my love for it. That coupled with my natural affinity for design, and this new found experience with paper felt like a creative love child waiting to happen.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

The biggest challenge for me is getting it started and staying motivated enough to keep going. A lot of times, especially in the beginning–the time and creative investment I put into this business felt so feeble, it’s like a glorified hobby. But I soon realize that, that’s actually the amazing thing about it. That I get the chance to do “my hobby” for a living and I only need to just brave through putting my head together and getting it off the ground.

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Big Foot Postcard

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

Getting a wholesale inquiry from Anthropologie–which was amazingly enough, our very first whole inquiry! It was a surprise of sorts, and I felt so motivated. I was also so excited–I couldn’t eat any thing that day!

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

I do a lot of times. I’ve always maintained to keep my business a certain way that it fits our lifestyle, and not the other way around. But I’ve started to let myself give in on the pressure of people’s expectations, and the fear of letting people down that I’m starting to make compromises on what I had initially set out to do for my own shop. I love pressure, and I don’t mind it as something that spurs me on, but I’m still striving to achieve that balance where I don’t become too hard on myself either.

I want to eventually expand comfortably (I’m horrible at delegating but I’m slowly learning to do so for certain aspects of my business) so I can free up time to draw more.

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Terrarium Postcard

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

I just rest it off or indulge in something completely off tangent. Sometimes, doing something creative other than Quill & Fox helps renew my creative energy as well. So, sometimes you pull away on a completely different tangent, sometimes you just drive your nose deeper into creative activities. Whichever works at a given time!

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I’m kind of a late riser, many thanks to my late hours. Although it has become a chicken vs the egg thing now, where I honestly don’t know how to unravel this body clock. I wake up at a vaguely decent hour to catch up on emails. Usually I do a round of production if there are any orders that need shipping out. I have an intern that comes over sometimes to help me with production work as well. We live within walking distance of the P.O. so I usually drop off mail en route to our coffee breaks. After having a proper lunch, I head back to our studio, to touch base with more emails if there are any left for the day. Work trickles into the night with illustration work. But most of the time, if I’m beat, I call it a day and hang out with my husband at home for the remainder of it.

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Typewriter Hello Card Set

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I’m not the savviest, I’m afraid when it comes to marketing. If social media counts, which is probably the extent of promotions we do–I think my best move was opening up a pinterest account and putting our products right on the radar of blogs and social media influencers. It was such a turning point.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Have a plan, make a goal. It doesn’t have to be a strictly financial one, but it always helps to have your eyes set on a “prize” somehow. Invest in people and community. Something I’m still really learning.  I’m always amazed at how genuine people are about small businesses and their own sincere drive to help you succeed, grassroots style. So naturally, always be kind to people you meet through the industry and your networks. Be kind period.

SONY DSC

Where the magic happens.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I’m hopeful that I can expand into a separate studio for the shop, not quite  a store front but just shy of–where there is enough space for inventory, and showroom for people who want to “stop by” and see Quill & Fox for themselves, as well as a growing team by then. Right now the biggest on my wishlist is having help, and the ability to entrust it.

You can find more of Yas at:

On Etsy: Quill & Fox

On her own site: Quill & Fox

On Twitter: @quillandfox

{Monday MotiBright} “Define Your Own Success…”

Anne Sweeney - Define Success on your Own Terms Low Res for Internet

“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.” ~ Anne Sweeney.

I think one of the most important things you can do when you start out in business is take the time to define what success means to you.

If you search ‘success’ here on the blog, you’ll find that we talk about it a LOT.

We have fortnightly ‘Success Stories‘ interviews, I’ve shared my thoughts on how to create your own personal Success List, and we’ve also discussed that other people’s success is something we can’t define from the outside. Heck, I even have a Top 10 list of things you need to do to have a successful online craft business.

That’s a lot of success talk.

One thing you’ll notice, though, is while different people might use similar strategies and walk similar paths to reach that elusive thing we dub ‘success’, we all have VERY different ideas about what success actually is.

For me, success is doing something I enjoy every day. Making something beautiful that people love. Helping others to achieve their dreams. Earning enough money to feed, shelter, clothe, and entertain me, Nick and the cats. And also enough so we can travel regularly. One day, when we’ve built our little house, I want to buy a home by the beach.

Being respected. Doing good things with my life. Being healthy. Feeling joy every day.

To me – that’s success.

For you, it might be something different.

Care to share with us? What is ‘success’ to you?

P.S. I’ve been making MotiBrights for a while, but I thought it was time to start sending them to you each Monday to give you an inspirational/motivational thought to kick off the week. I hope you enjoy the new shot of Monday goodness.

P.P.S. No, you’re not going crazy – they used to be called InspirationBombs, but I decided to change the name as the lovely Clare Bowditch calls her awesome Big Hearted Business videos ‘Inspiration Bombs’. I don’t know who used the term first, but I decided to change mine in order to avoid any confusion! 🙂 Plus, I came up with the name ‘MotiBright’ and it made me so happy, I had to use it!

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Buy this week’s MotiBright as a digital download | as a print or cushion

View all MotiBrights here.

Grow Your Profits Week – Lesson 5 – Buy Wholesale/In Bulk

Lesson 5 - buy wholesale/in bulk

{This post is part of a FREE 5-part e-course on growing the profits in your online handmade business, running on Create & Thrive this week. You can see Lesson 1 here, Lesson 2 here, Lesson 3 here, and Lesson 4 here.}

Welcome to Day 5 of our 5-day course!

It’s the last day of our mini-e-course – I hope you’ve found it useful, and have been able to apply the lessons to your business.

Today, we’re taking the final simple step – let’s talk buying your supplies in bulk.

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Are you guilty of buying a little here, and a little there – whatever strikes your fancy? I know this is how I started! (And yes, of course I still do from time to time, who can resist the lure of the shiny thing completely?)

But to increase your profits, you need to reduce your expenses.

One of the best ways to do this is buy in bulk, and/or buy wholesale.

I mentioned this in Tuesday’s post when I spoke about packaging here.

I don’t know what your local rules and laws are about buying wholesale – here in Australia we just have to have an ABN (Australian Business Number) to be eligible for a lot of wholesale goods. But investigate what your local requirements are (if any).

Do your research – try and find a way to buy your core materials and tools at wholesale or bulk discounts. This may involve a little more planning ahead – and it also might involve taking the plunge and paying a lot more now to buy a bigger amount than you’re used to.

But as your business grows, this practice will become second nature.

ACTION STEPS

Have a look at your product line. If you did the last lesson, I’m hoping that you’re starting to create reproducible items! If so, that’s the place to start.

Think about the components, and go forth and research! Where can you find some of those components at wholesale?

Or, for example – do you buy super-awesome fabric straight from the designer? Contact them and see if they’re willing to do bulk discount prices for you. You’ll never know if you don’t ask! (And they’ll probably be even happier to do so if you can commit to buying a certain amount over time).

Are there expensive bits and bobs that you can cut out of your designs if you simply can’t find them? Or perhaps find alternatives? If not, hey, that’s cool – just keep those designs as part of your collection!

Because, sometimes – other values trump profit.

I know that I could buy my silver cheaper (even though I currently buy it at wholesale prices from my supplier). But I don’t. Why? Because my supplier sells recycled sterling – and being as eco-friendly as possible is a big part of my brand.

We always have to place our creative and business integrity above our profit margins.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our mini e-course this week! I’d love to hear which lesson resonated with you the most…

Questions? Thoughts? Share with us on the Create & Thrive FB Page, or in the comments below.

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