Thursday, July 26, 2012

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Marketing 101: Niche Markets Part 4
Have You Done Your Newsletter?

Part 1: Niche Markets
Part 2: What is your wackiest marketing idea?
Part 3:  Getting out there
Yes, a newsletter is “one more thing to do,” but it can be one of your best marketing
tools. You have a unique product, one that many people may not understand. Your
newsletter is how you explain what you do and create interest that leads to sales.
I’ll take you through our own journey with Marble-T Design. If there are mistakes to
make, we’ve made them. We’ve read a lot about doing newsletters, looked at programs
available, and just generally put off doing this important piece of marketing.
We started with a general monthly newsletter, sent as a regular email. Nothing fancy
at all. We figured out how to keep an email list of preferred customers, and we figured
out how to send to groups, without having to do each one separately. This was 15 years
ago, and trust me, initially we sent them one at a time to every single person. Thankfully,
email programs and online assistance have come a LONG way since then!
However, we had probably $75 in sales every single month. We had about 300
subscribers (all opt-in off the website), and we had a wider variety of items available
from our website.
Then we just stopped. We kept meaning to get back to doing the newsletter, but it never
happened. We went through two computers and new email programs, and we transferred
the names each time. Now we’re with a new program on line, we’re up to just over 200
subscribers, and we have a nice, new format that is developing.
What are we doing now that seems to be working?
1. We made the commitment to do a monthly newsletter. This may seem pretty easy
to do, but we had problems. We wanted something classier than just a plain ole email.
So it meant looking at various email programs available on line. We have now done
April, May, and June for this year, and the July newsletter is now in draft form. If you
procrastinate, then this is not something easy to accomplish.
2. We looked at several of the various email/marketing programs available and
tried two of them. A lot of internet marketers recommend Aweber, but there is a cost
involved. More importantly, I didn’t feel it would work for us. There were a lot of options
we didn’t need, and probably won’t need, so we eliminated that. We initially went with
Constant Contact, monthly for $15, with a sixty-day free trial period (that’s what sold
us). Technical support was fabulous, and they designed a template for us (free of charge)
that complemented our website. We had a few concerns: the learning curve was steeper
than I would have liked (especially since I was still working full time and was limited
in marketing time). The main concern was that I couldn’t put more than 5 pictures in a
newsletter without having to go to a premium plan. Let’s face it, niche markets have to be
very visual, and the limited number of photos just didn’t work for us.
3. Decide on a program to use, even if it is just doing a monthly email from your
regular email program. We decided on Mail Chimp, completely free up to several
thousand subscribers. It subscribes people very easily, sends you notifications, and
provides some really good, easy-to-interpret stats on how your newsletter is doing.
And….I don’t seem to be limited in pictures. The learning curve may seem steep if you
haven’t used the program before, but it didn’t take me long, and now I have a set template
to use each time.
4. Make sure all the names/subscribers are “opt-in.” You can have problems with
sending spam emails if you just randomly send to people who haven’t subscribed. Don’t
bombard folks with unwanted emails. If folks have signed up for (in our case) free fabric,
I’ve included a note on the sign-up form that they will be added to our data base and
receive emails of coupons and news about marbling.
5. Put up subscription forms on your blog, website, Facebook page. Mail Chimp
gives you code to add easily. For your blog, you probably just need a widget for the side
bar. Facebook has a link to get Mail Chimp on your business page. You might have to
have your web host do the code to get your sign-up form on your website. Have your
sign-up everywhere you can.
6. Think about consistency in your newsletters. Physical appearance lets you brand
yourself through your newsletter. Let people see the same layout and features each time
they receive a mailing from you. Be consistent with the time of month you send the
newsletter. We schedule in our datebooks to be sure the newsletter gets written in the
third week of the month and then goes out on a Tuesday the last week of the month. This
is based on research showing when it is best to send a mailing, including what time of the
day has a higher opening rate.
7. Think about each part of the newsletter as you format it. I’ll show pieces of the
previous newsletter for examples. Make yours uniquely yours.
* First, have a heading that won’t automatically send your newsletter into a spam
folder. Stay away from “free” and words that could hint of spam. We finally decided
on “Out of the Marbling Tray,” so that it would be obvious the newsletter came from us.
Also, work your elevator pitch into your heading. Keep reminding people of what you’re
about. Ours is “An Ancient Art Made Modern.”

* Second, keep the obvious sales pitch for the end of the newsletter. We put our
Monthly Special at the very bottom, as we want folks to get to know us and our art; that’s
more important to us.

* Third, make the special offer something they won’t find on the website. Make it
very special for your subscribers. Consider a freebie – we do a monthly give-away of
marbled fabric.
* Fourth, use pictures of what you do! We always try to include some information
about marbling, including links to YouTube videos of exquisite Turkish marbling.

* Fifth, feel free to spotlight others. This raises your chances of getting your
newsletter passed along to others. We spotlighted our marbling supplier in our last
newsletter. Let folks know you’re willing to share information.

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