Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 23 - Do's and Don'ts for E-Mail Newsletters

If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours. 
- Ray Kroc

One statement I've seen over and over in my research about the benefits of e-mail newsletters is that it is one of the most effective forms of communication you can have with potential and current customers. Did you know that the open rate for an e-mail newsletter is 15.7% and the click-thru rate is 1.9% (as documented by MailChimp)? That really makes you wonder about the success of other avenues such as Facebook, print ads, on-line ads, etc.

As I mentioned in my last blog post (Day 22 - Publishing My First Newsletter) I sent out my first e-mail newsletter this week. While my distribution list is still fairly small (I just started subscriptions last week), my first newsletter had a 67.9% open rate and a 28.6% click-thru rate! Needless to say, I was thrilled with the results.

I read up a lot on the do's and don'ts of e-mail marketing etiquette and tried to apply what I learned. Here are the top tips that I found:

  • Don't send out newsletters too frequently and clearly state during the opt-in process how often you plan on sending e-mails.
    • I make it well known that subscribers will only receive e-mail newsletters from me once or twice a month. That's definitely on the low side, but at this point, I don't need to send it more often. It's more important to make sure the information is relevant.
  • Have a catchy subject line and don't make it over 50 characters.
    • I did go over the 50 characters in my subject line "Theresa Rose Designs - Jewelry Giveaway Contest and Special Sale This Week". Looking back at it, I could have easily taken out a few of the words.
    • Having a subject line over 50 characters puts it at risk for being sent to a spam folder - so it's a good idea to keep it short and to the point.
  • Make sure the design of your newsletter is uncluttered.
    • Stick to 2-3 easily read fonts and colors. Too many colors, highlights, bolding and fonts makes an e-mail difficult to read and actually encourages the recipient to skim over the text rather than reading the important information you want to convey. It is distracting, which is the last thing you want to do!
  • Be concise - shorter is better.
    • Most e-mails are skimmed, not read in its entirety. So, in addition to an uncluttered design, you also don't want it cluttered with too much information. Your recipient will likely skim the first few bullet points (if that!) and then delete the e-mail. I know that when I receive an long e-mail, I actually read less of it than if it was a shorter e-mail. 
  • Have a call to action.
    • You will read this ALOT when  researching e-mail newsletters. In short, a 'call to action' is when you ask the recipient to do something, such as reply or click-thru. My newsletter included information about my current giveaway with a link to enter.
  •  Make sure images have alt text.
    •  When designing your newsletter in MailChimp, you have the option to select alt text - make sure you do it! Alt text is the text that pops up when your cursor hovers over the image. Since some recipients may not download the e-mail completely, images may not be displayed. Having relevant text display when hovered over the image will encourage them to download the e-mail in its entirety.
  • Send out newsletters on Tuesday between 10am and 1pm.
    • Studies have shown that Mondays, Fridays, and weekends are the worst days to send e-mails. By sending on Tuesday in the early afternoon, you have a greater chance of having your e-mail opened and the call to action performed. 

There are many more tips I could list regarding e-mail newsletters, but this is a good list to get started.  So much of it is common sense and I always figure that if I don't like something in an e-mail, then there's a good chance that others don't either. I will always err on the side of caution.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips or 'rules' that you follow when sending out newsletters?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 22 - Publishing My First E-Mail Newsletter

Forget all the reasons why it won't work and believe the one reason it will!

Yesterday I completed and sent out my first e-mail newsletter. I can't believe it took me so long to do this! When I first contemplated starting a newsletter, the idea was daunting. I had so many questions and was worried that I would be undertaking a new task that could quickly and easily become unmanageable. My worries included:
  • How do I sign up people?
  • How do I keep a list of subscribers?
  • Can I keep up with subscribing and unsubscribing?
  • How do I format my newsletters for computers, tablets, and mobile devices?
  • What's the best way of sending an e-mail to many people?
  • What content should I provide?
And those were just the top worries!

After a bit of research, I was able to put my worries to rest. Using MailChimp was a great decision! Since it's free up to 2000 subscribers, I haven't had to pay anything yet and they took care of all my concerns.

As I described in my blog post about my e-mail newsletter, Day 18 - How to Grow my E-mail Newsletter List, I had to come up with ways to ask people to join my newsletter list. However, MailChimp made it easy to embed the sign up code on my website and also provided a URL for people to directly sign up. The page is simple and easy to use:

MailChimp handles all the other technical details that I didn't want to worry about. They maintain the list of subscribers and take care of unsubscribes automatically.

One of my favorite features of Mailchimp are their predesigned templates. When you begin creating your newsletter, their website easily takes you through the entire process step-by-step. You can either select from your own templates, design a template, or select from their large collection of predesigned templates.

There are literally hundreds of predesigned templates to choose from with multiple selections for images and text. The text is completely customizable - you are not restricted to just a few fonts, sizes, colors, etc. Most important (in my opinion) is they format the templates so they display correctly on computers and mobile devices - that's a huge benefit!

The editing process was also extremely easy and I had my newsletter completed within a half hour. I selected a template that included a coupon so that I could advertise my 10% off for newsletter subscribers. I also made sure to include a URL link in each image so that anyone clicking on an image would be taken directly to my website.

After creating my newsletter, I just click 'Send' and it's on its way to all my subscribers! 

MailChimp also provides statistics, so I know how many people actually opened up my newsletter and clicked on one or more of the images. That's extremely valuable information.

Here is the completed newsletter:

In my next blog post, I'll discuss tips that I learned about and utilized myself regarding newsletter content.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 21 - Special Sales for Facebook Fans, Blog Readers, and Newsletter Followers

The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.

- Fabienne Fredrickson

Besides trying to grow my business by getting my name out there and gaining new customers, it's just as important to give past customers a reason to return to my store and purchase again. I especially want to 'reward' people who follow me on Facebook, my blog, and my e-mail newsletter by running special sales that I only advertise to my followers.

One of my plans is to offer special sales twice a month and advertise them on my Facebook page, blog, and newsletter. I started a sale yesterday and it will run through this week for my popular wire-wrapped earrings.

My gold and silver plated wire wrapped earrings are normally $8.00 apiece (already a great deal!), but this week they are on sale for $5.50 - but only if you know where to find the 'secret' listing on Etsy. :-)

Here is the secret listing:
$5.50 Wire Wrapped Earring Sale

There is no limit to how many you can purchase. You just indicate silver or gold and the stone color.

So, what do you think? Do special sales to loyal followers increase your business? How often do you have sales?

As a potential customer, what types of sales do you look for:
  1. Buy one, get one free or half off
  2. Free shipping
  3. Percentage discount on any item.
  4. Large discount on a particular item.
I'd love to get your suggestions for future sales.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February Giveaway - Sterling Silver Bangle

This month's Theresa Rose Designs giveaway is for one Sterling Silver Bangle with your choice of Swarovski Birthstone.

The contest begins today and will run through Saturday, March 1st.

Please read the following before entering:

1.  This contest is open to U.S. entries only.

2.  Only one bangle will be awarded.

3. Invalid entries will be deleted. I will check all entries before picking a random winner. Make sure you fill  in the correct information required for your points. Otherwise, your entries will be invalid for the drawing.

4. The winner will have 72 hours to respond  to my e-mail in order to claim their prize. If  winners do not respond within that time frame, then I will need to choose another winner.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 20 - New YouTube Video - Sizing for Bangles

 Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
- Carl Bard

I have to admit that I think YouTube is going to be one of my new favorite social media sites! Yesterday I uploaded another video to my channel.

This new video is titled 'How to Size for Bangles'. My sterling silver and gold filled bangles are very popular and I get a lot of questions about sizing. It's going to be so much easier to refer people to my video rather than trying to type the explanation - the visual is much better!

YouTube Video

I still haven't figured out why this blog can't link straight to the video (that's a project for another day).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day 19 - Running Giveaway Contests

Let your smile change the world.... 
But don't let the world change your smile.

Over the years, I've run quite a few giveaway contests. These contests either involve me giving away a free piece of jewelry or gift certificate to my shop. There are many reasons why I hold contests from time to time, here are my main reasons:
  1. Since people get more chances to win with each entry option they select, it's a great opportunity to gain followers for:
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
    • Newsletter
  2. Sends people to my blog. I'm always looking to increase viewership of my blog and it's a perfect site to host my giveaway.
  3. Gets my name out there. Let's face it, there are a lot of jewelry designers selling on Etsy. This is just one more way to get people to see my products and learn about me.
  4. Brand loyalty. I like giving my customers a way to win jewelry. I advertise my giveaways on my Facebook page, newsletter, and Twitter. This way people who already follow me are aware of the contests and have a chance to enter.
  5. Additional advertising. There are many giveaway blog sites out there and they like to link to current giveaways. This is a great way to get free advertising.
I've been using Rafflecopter for my entry form tool. I'm currently using the free version, but may upgrade to the 'blogger' version for $7.99 at a later date if I continue hosting giveaways. With the free version, you can:
  • Embed the entry form in your blog or Facebook using a code snippet that Rafflecopter provides.
  • Determine the start and end date for your contest. When you reach the ending date, Rafflecopter will halt the contest and allow you to randomly select a winner.
  • Specify different ways to enter your contest with assigned point values. Rafflecopter will automatically include the point values when it randomly selects the winner from all the available entries. Here are the entry options I'm creating for my current giveaway: 

As you can see, there are many options for entering this contest, none are mandatory. Rafflecopter handles all the entries automatically, so I don't have to.

The $7.99 version has the additional features:
  • Add prize photos
  • Change start/end times on the fly
  • Email reminders
  • More entry options- Pinterest and Surveys (I had to add the Pinterest option myself above - I'm not sure how it will work since there's no way for Rafflecopter to verify)
  • Mobile-friendly Facebook app

One point about Rafflecopter, however. With the free version, there is no way to tell if someone has 'faked' the system and hasn't followed through on some of these entry options. Once the contest is over, I will need to manually validate the entry myself. If it's not valid, I'll just ask Rafflecopter to select another random entry (you can do this as often as needed). Since I'm still a small company, this won't be a big burden. But, as I grow my business I will need to find a way to bypass this manual checking. I'm not sure if Rafflecopter even has a way to handle this situation with their upgraded versions. 

I will be  publicizing my contest within the next day or so. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works to gain more followers, especially for Facebook, Pinterest, and my new e-mail newsletter!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 18 - How to Grow My Email Newsletter Customer List

The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
- Anonymous

Now that I've made the leap into e-mail newsletters and have set up the opt-in process, how do I find people to sign up and receive my monthly newsletter? I realize this will be a steady progression and my customer list will slowly grow over time. I have found some good ways to grow my list and look forward to seeing how they work.

You must always get permission to add someone to your list. Just taking a list of past customers and adding them (and then making them opt-out if they don't wish to remain on your list) is a big no-no.

Here is my list of 7 ways I will grow my e-mail list:

Add the link to each of my jewelry listings
By adding the link to each of my listings offering a 10% discount code for joining my newsletter list, potential buyers have an incentive to sign up. I have been offering the discount code for facebook fans and it has worked very well.

When you open a jewelry listing to get further information, this is the first part of the description:

Host a jewelry giveaway contest
I've often hosted giveaway contests in the past for various reasons. I offer a piece of jewelry in a random giveaway contest and contestants are required to comment in my blog, join my Facebook page, follow me on Pinterest, etc. in order to enter. They gain one entry for each method they select to enter. So, if they only wish to follow me on Facebook, then they receive one chance to win. However, if they opt to follow me on Facebook and leave a comment in my blog, then they receive 2 chances, and so forth. I am going to be hosting monthly giveaway contests and add subscribing to my newsletter as another method.

Since I already have a following of over 700 fans on Facebook, this is a great way to jumpstart my newsletter sign ups. These are people who are already following me so I will be giving an additional incentive to also join my newsletter.

Add a subscribe option to my blog and website
MailChimp will generate HTML code to embed in your site or blog to collect signups. It's really just a one-step process and only took me a few minutes to complete for my blog. My website will take a little longer since I want to embed it on each page of my website and I need to write code to place it.

You can see the subscription request in the upper right portion of this blog.

Add to e-mail signature
This was a no-brainer and took all of 30 seconds to complete.

Add to Etsy thank you notification
All customers receive an automated e-mail once they purchase from my shop, so I edited it to mention my facebook page and e-mail newsletter signup.

Add to Etsy shipping notification
As soon as the jewelry ships, Etsy also sends an automated e-mail. Here is just another opportunity to provide the links to my facebook page and e-mail newsletter signup.

Ask past customers for permission
This is a one-time shot. I will be going back in my records and sending past customers a short e-mail letting them know of my e-mail newsletter and the link to sign up. I will make sure to mention that this is the only time they will receive an e-mail from me and no further e-mails will be sent if they do not opt-in.

So, I think this is a good start for customer sign ups.
Do you have any other ideas? I always welcome suggestions and feedback.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 17 - Starting an E-Mail Newsletter

 The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
- Steve Jobs

If there is one thing I've read over and over, it's that having an e-mail newsletter is important to a thriving business. In fact, some people believe it's their number one sales avenue. After reading a lot about the benefits of e-mail newsletters, I decided that this was a definite step I needed to take if I'm going to grow my business.

A couple of main reasons I want to start a newsletter are:
  1. Keep a database of customers that are interested in my products. This is especially important if anything were to happen to my Etsy store. I need to be able to communicate with people on my own and not rely on Etsy.
  2. I want to offer loyal customers discounts and specials. Not everyone has a Facebook account, and currently, that is the only platform I use for offering my coupon codes and contest announcements.

Setting up a newsletter service
I chose MailChimp for my newsletter service. One main reason is that it's free for the first 2000 subscribers. I figure if I get to 2000 subscribers, I'm doing something right and I'll be happy to pay for the service! I really only need a basic service at this time and they get good reviews.

Just some of the reasons for using a newsletter service include:
  1. Pre-approved to send bulk e-mail. Not all e-mail delivery systems are the same and can cause a huge headache when you try to send out a bulk e-mail. Having a service takes care of this potential issue.
  2. Analytics and statistics. They provide special tools to separately track how many emails are received and how many are actually opened. You can even see who opened and who clicked through and what was clicked. Plus, you’ll receive reports on unsubscribes, bounces, etc.
  3. Formatting. They will verify that your email complies with standards and will display correctly across all modern computers, web browsers, and email systems.
  4. They will host and manage your list. They will manage unsubscribe requests and “bounce-backs” from recipients whose email addresses are no longer active. You can even separate lists into multiple groups.

Signing up with MailChimp was quick and painless. I was able to create my first list and signup form within a half hour.

Here is my first sign up form:
Theresa Rose Designs Newsletter Sign up

The next step is to get the sign up form up on my website, Facebook, and blog. I will cover that subject in the next blog post.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Day 16 - Pinstatic - Pinterest Tool Worth Exploring

The things you take for granted someone else is praying for.

Since I've learned that Pinterest is turning out to be one of my best social media platforms, it makes sense to increase my time on this site and explore pinterest tools that help me use it more effectively and grow my follower base.

I found a cool site, Pinstamatic that I really like and I've already started using it to make some of my own pins. They have a variety of fun simple tools that help you make visually interesting images and pins. And it's free!

Here are some of their features:

- Photo Filter: Apply filters to your favorite photos. Upload images from your computer, webcam, Flickr and many more. Choose the the effect you want and press 'Pin'.

- Photo Caption: Add captions to your favorite photos. Upload images from your computer, webcam, Flickr and many more. Press 'Pin' when you've got just the right message.

- Quotations : Using a selection of already designed stylish quotation layouts  - you just add your own text and then pin to your Pinterest boards.

 - StickiesLeave a note on your board, maybe to summarize the board itself or just as a message to your followers.

- Places: Add a map to your Pinterest board, and when someone clicks it they will be taken to the location in Google Maps. What a great way to show people where you are or where an event is taking place.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Pinterest adds more features and makes them more customizable. Overall, it's a great, fun site and super easy to use.