November 4, 2013

Important: Keep Your Mailing List “Clean”

Filed under: email marketing — Meredith @ 12:40 pm


If you’ve got a mailing list chances are you think “bigger is better”. I’m here to tell you, it’s not. More opens and clicks are better, not more subscribers. There are two reasons this is the case:

1. Cost
Most mailing list providers (Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, etc.) charge you based on how many emails you send. So if you are sending 10,000 emails per month you are paying more than if you are sending 500 emails per month. So why would you want to pay to send email to people who aren’t opening your emails? Save yourself some cash by keeping your list clean. That means regularly removing inactive subscribers.

2. Deliverability
Email service providers (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) keep track of whether people are opening your emails. If a tiny percentage of your subscribers are opening, those services are more likely to assume your emails are unwanted to send them right to the junk folder, which means you won’t be getting much benefit from your mailing list.

So how do you make sure your list is lean and clean so you can get the best bang for your buck and increase your chances of getting your emails into your customers inboxes?

1. Do not add people who didn’t give your permission
Don’t add people to your mailing list unless they gave you permission to do so. Simply adding people without permission is rude and spammy and is going to make your customers angry, so don’t do it, no matter how tempting. There are lots of legitimate ways to get people to join your mailing list, here are a few ideas:- offer a coupon code for signing up
– accept mailing list sign ups at live events like craft shows or festivals
– run a contest people can enter by joining your mailing list
– offer the option to join your mailing list during the check out process on your website

2. Clean up your existing list
Your mailing list program probably gives you data on which subscribers are opening your emails and clicking links in them. You can use this information to get rid of inactive subscribers. Gather a list of subscribers who haven’t opened your mailing list emails or clicked on your links in the last few months and send those subscribers a message letting them know you’ve noticed they haven’t been opening your emails. Ask them to confirm that they still want to be on your list. If they don’t respond or confirm, remove those subscribers.

I do this with my own mailing list about twice a year and shed thousands of subscribers every time. I know that sounds like a lot of subscribers to lose, but it means my open rates are much better and I’m not paying to send email to people that don’t want it. That check-in email also gives the inactive subscribers a chance to stay on the list if they still want emails from us.

With the holiday season around the corner, now is a great time to get your list clean before you start sending all those holiday season promotions.


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March 13, 2012

Making the Most of Email List Sign Ups at Live Events

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 12:16 pm

As the weather warms up craft show season begins. Whether you’re doing outdoor markets, comic cons, trunk shows or other live events a mailing list sign up is a valuable tool for your exhibit space. Here’s how we make the most of email gathering when we do live events for Ex-Boyfriend:

At the show:

1. Have an attention grabbing sign up
Not everyone will buy at a live event, but if you capture their email address they might buy online in the future. To make sure you get email addresses from people who like your products, be sure your email sign up is hard to miss. You can decorate it with cute doodles, print it out on hot pink paper, display the sign up on a decorative stand. Be creative, but make sure the sign up sheet is visible to everyone who stops by your booth and checks out your products.

2. Offer an incentive to sign up
You can give people a nudge to join your list by offering an incentive. You can try something like giving out a free 1″ button or vinyl sticker in exchange for their email address. You can entice visitors with the promise of an exclusive coupon code or entry to win a prize. Pick an incentive that makes sense for your fans and make sure visitors see the offer when they see your sign up sheet.

3. Set expectations
A lot of people are wary of giving out their email address and for good reason. No one wants to be spammed or emailed constantly with useless ads. You can address these concerns by setting expectations about your newsletter. Be sure to let visitors know how often you email (weekly, monthly, etc.) and what they can expect in these emails (new product news, coupons, etc.).

After the show:

1. Keep them on a regional or interest-based list
When we get sign ups at live events, we always keep those customers on a mailing list for their event type or region. For example, if we do a craft show in Chicago, we keep those subscribers on a Chicago craft show list. If we do a comic con in New York, we keep those subscribers on a comic con list.

We do this so that we can send those customers alerts about other events where they can find us. We can tell Chicago customers next time we’ll be in their city. We can tell comic con goers about which comic con we’ll be attending next.

2. Send a welcome email
After we do a live event, we always send a welcome email to our new subscribers. This does a few things:

  • Gives them a chance to opt out if they decide they do not want our newsletter
  • Reminds them that they met us and signed up for our list
  • Suggests other ways for new fans to follow us (we include links to our social media accounts and invite our new subscribers to follow us on sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Gives the customer a push to buy something if they didn’t purchase at the event. We usually include a coupon in the welcome emails, offering something like free shipping or a discount. That way a customer who didn’t buy at the show or found something they like online that we ran out of at the show has an incentive to buy that item from our website.

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November 16, 2010

Email Remarketing: How-tos and Pitfalls

Yesterday I explained a little about what remarketing is and today we’re going to talk about how one might conduct a remarketing campaign via email. Email remarketing campaigns are most commonly used to get customers who abandon their shopping carts to return and complete their purchases.

In order for this to work you’re going to need the customer’s email address. Here are a few ways you might get it:

1. Your checkout
This is probably the safest, easiest and most common way to get customer contact information. The scenario is simple. The customer fills out the shipping page on your cart and supplies their email address. They get to the payment page but don’t complete the order. Your cart still stores their email address and you can now use that to remarket via email.

2. Your cookies
If you have the sort of website that uses customer accounts and sets cookies for all visitors, you may be able to identify a customer even if they don’t begin checkout. For example, if you have an account, they’ve set a cookie on your computer (unless you delete it) that allows them to identify you every time you visit, even if you don’t actually check out every time. This means they know you added an item to your cart and were considering buying it, even if you didn’t provide contact info on your most recent visit. In theory, Amazon could send you a remarketing email prompting you to complete the purchase of the items in your cart.

3. Affiliate cookies
There are some affiliate programs out there, like Second Bite, which cookie most people who use the internet. Their network is vast and they mine a lot of data. If you work with a program like this, it’s possible that they could have your customers’ email addresses even if you do not. They can then use this information to send remarketing campaigns on your behalf.

This sounds obnoxious/creepy!
I don’t entirely disagree with this sentiment. I personally do not use this form of remarketing, but a lot of companies do. This post is meant to teach you how it works. It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether you want to try a campaign like this. Some customers probably will complete their order based on this kind of campaign. Some might find it annoying, which brings me to pitfalls…

Pitfalls of Email Remarketing

1. You might seem like a stalker
This is the most obvious problem. If you’re tracking customers who haven’t even given you their email address, it’s more likely to creep them out. You’re in a better position if they’ve actually supplied their email address at check out. You’re even better off if they ticked the “add me to your mailing list” checkbox during checkout. That means they’ve agreed to accept promotional emails from you.

Assuming you’ve got one, if not both of things in your favor, you’re probably okay to send a remarketing email. It’s important to watch your wording and frequency, but more on that in a minute.

2. You might be training customers to abandon
A common practice with email remarketing campaigns, is offering the customer a coupon to complete their purchase. This makes some sense. If you think they abandoned because shipping was pricey or your products are expensive, offering a coupon can sweeten the deal and give an undecided customer a push to complete their purchase.

You do have to be careful here, because if you do this every time your customers abandon, your best customers might start seeing the pattern and start abandoning as a matter of course, waiting to get their discount.

You can get around this issue in a few ways:
* Don’t use discounts
* Don’t use discounts for existing customers
* Don’t use discounts for the same customer twice
* Don’t use discounts consistently
* Make discount codes available on your site (This is a practice I actually like a lot. It keeps people from going off-site to look for coupons and can even be used to increase average order value. You can try offering 10% off for orders over a certain dollar value and sharing this coupon on your checkout and/or product pages. If you still get cart abandonment and want to do some email remarketing, you can offer those customers 15% off or remove the minimum spend on the coupon code you send to them. You have to do what’s going to work for you business though.)

Timing and Language
Fine tuning the timing of your remarketing email campaign and the copy for those emails is a big portion of the work involved with these campaigns. You don’t want to email so soon that you’re annoying the customer. You don’t want to email so late that they’ve forgotten about the purchase they were considering. Experiment with emails a few hours after abandonment or a day after abandonment. You’ll want to do testing to see what time-frame yields the best response.

You’ll also want to experiment with language. Some common strategies include:
* Simply reminding customers they left items in their cart
* Offering a discount to complete the order
* Emailing as a customer service courtesy to see if they ran into any issues using your site

You could even do all three. Here’s an example:

Hi John
We just wanted to drop you a line to make sure you didn’t encounter any problems while shopping on our site yesterday. We noticed that you still have a few items in your cart and we’d like to offer you a 15% off coupon to complete your order. Simply enter coupon code 15OFF at checkout in the next 72 hours and you’ll save $9.20 on your current pending order. If you have any questions or require special assistance, we’d be happy to help you. You can reach our customer service department at 800-123-4567.
Jane Doe

You could even include pictures of the items that are in the customer’s cart, as a visual reminder of the items they wanted.

The technology behind email remarketing campaigns
Obviously, you’re going to need some technology to manage your email remarketing efforts. If you’re looking for a low budget and low-fi quick fix, you could just go into your website’s shopping cart data and pull the email addresses manually and email customers from your email client. If you’re running a really small business and don’t get tons of cart abandoners, this might work for you. If you want something automated, you’ll want to investigate programs like RevenueExpect. They’ve designed a simple-to-integrate solution that connects an automated email remarketing program to your shopping cart and emails sevice provider (such as Constant Contact or MailChimp). Other services that have this type of technology include Bronto, ExactTarget and probably several others.

Going analog
Some small business owners have told me they call people who abandon carts. They present that call as a courtesy call or ask the customer if they’d like to provide feedback on their site’s user experience. This is obviously going to be a little time consuming and again won’t work if you get hundreds of cart abandons every day. Still, it may be something to try for customers here and there. You can end up getting some valuable information by talking to customers in real time and you may even be able to save the sale.

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August 10, 2010

What Should I Put in My Company Newsletter?

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: — Meredith @ 8:34 am

I often talk about email marketing, but I realized I never actually discuss what makes for the best newsletter content for an ecommerce brand. So today’s post is about ideas for your newsletter content. Although all of the ideas below can be useful for a newsletter, you may not want to use them all at once. Your customers don’t want to read an essay, so make sure no matter what you do, you keep things relatively short and sweet. Here are some content ideas to try:

Promotional Content
This is where you tell customers about things like sales, contests,  or share coupon codes. You can also share other promotional content like information about special fund raising efforts or customer loyalty programs, for example.

The goal with this type of content is to encourage immediate sales.

New Products
Your biggest fans are interested in your latest offerings, so if you’ve launched a new product, a newsletter is a great way to spread the word. I recommend including an image of the new product or products right in the newsletter, but make sure you also include descriptive copy, since many email clients block images.

The goal with this content is to keep your customers in the loop, and also encourage some immediate sales.

Behind the Scenes
Maybe you want to give fans a little peak into the lives of the people that run the company. Tread carefully with this type of content because you want to share content that’s both interesting and not too deeply personal.  Don’t tell fans about your miscarriage or new AA chip. Keep things light.

You might talk about:
– a recent trip you took that inspired your creativity
– a new production technique you’ve been experimenting with
– a funny story that inspired a new product

At Ex-Boyfriend, we sometimes talk about the animals we foster for our local animal rescue. Many of our customers are animal lovers, and enjoy seeing the latest pictures of our foster puppies and kittens.

Be careful not to let this type of content get too wordy, your best bet is to write the details in a blog post and then send your customers there for the details. That way you’re not invading their inbox with a novel, but you’re giving them a chance to read more if they’d like.

The goal with this content is to increase brand affinity. It makes your brand seem more personal and relatable. Fans like to buy from people, not faceless companies.

Brand News
This is where you talk about events you might be attending like a craft show or convention. You can also talk about new stores that might be carrying your products, a gallery show you have coming up, a new return policy you’ve instituted. Anything like that.

The goal here is just to keep customers up to date on what’s going on with your company.

A newsletter with something fun or useful is always more appealing than a newsletter that’s just trying to sell you stuff. If you sell baby clothing, maybe your customers would appreciate a link to a funny baby video. If you sell tea, maybe you’d want to share a recipe customers can make using your tea.

The goal here is to keep your newsletter fun to read and discourage unsubscribes.

Customer Feedback
A newsletter is a perfect place to solicit feedback from fans. You can send them to a survey, ask them for fan photos, or encourage them to drop by your online suggestion box.

The goal with this type of content is to get a first hand report on what your customers are thinking.

Bonus content suggestion: Always include links to your social media profiles in your newsletter.  Fans who get the newsletter are plenty likely to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter. Having them do so is a perfect opportunity to allow them to keep up with your brand between newsletters.

Bonus tip: Subscribe to your competitors’ newsletters. You may get some good ideas while seeing what they’re up to.

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March 10, 2010

3 Ways to Make Your Newsletter More Effective

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: , , , , — Meredith @ 10:41 am

Last week I wrote a little series about email marketing. So today’s post is a little follow up on that same subject. Below are 3 ways to get a better response rate from customers that subscribe to your newsletter. While reading this post, keep in mind that a lot of the advice here can be applied to anything you design for customers to see including blogs, websites, product pages, etc.

1. Make it Skimmable
People are busy and no one wants to read a novel in the inbox. Make your newsletter easy to skim by using bold and bullet points. You’ll notice I do a lot on this right here on my blog. Here’s a visual of what I mean:

I can glance at the newsletter on the right and immediately know what’s going on. I have to actually read the one on the left. Which one would you rather get in your inbox?

2. Make your Calls to Action Attention Grabbing
If you want customers to actually do something you have to be very clear about it. That’s why I suggest you make your calls to action such as shop, vote, enter our contest, etc. very attention grabbing. See my visual example below.

You need not make your design look exactly like my examples. I am just trying to illustrate how use of color and font size and bullets can change the way your customers react to your emails. You can see the email on the right makes the action the user should take very visible. The email on the left does a good job of making the content digestable but doesn’t call as much attention to the thing you want the customer to actually do.

3. Do NOT rely on images
Many email clients block images by default, including gmail which is a very popular email client. This means that if your newsletter’s copy is inside of images those customers may not ever see it. Make sure your newsletter design looks great both with and without your images.

Bonus Points: Don’t rely on style sheets. Some email clients (like gmail) only display inline styles. This means an email message that relies on a stylesheet will not look as you intended for customers that use gmail or clients like it. Make sure when you design new email templates that you test your design in a variety of email clients.

Don't forget to enter out contest

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March 3, 2010

Email Marketing Part 3: Keeping Subscribers Happy

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: , — Meredith @ 6:17 am

Once you’ve built a list of subscribers and organized them into a proper list management tool, you’ll want to make sure they actually read your newsletter and stay subscribed. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

Have a Good Newsletter
Duh, right? The best way to keep subscribers from checking out is by having a compelling newsletter. Make sure you’re delivering content customers want to see. If you’re only sending marketing messages you may have a lower rate of retention for your list, particularly if you email very frequently.

Here are a few ways to keep customers from clicking unsubscribe:

  • Ongoing drawing for a free gift for newsletter subscribers
  • Exclusive discounts/product previews/sales (most effective if you don’t email super frequently, otherwise it’s just non-stop sales pitches which gets old quickly)
  • Entertaining content (share a funny link, picture or video in your newsletter, make sure it’s relevant to your brand)
  • Informative content (share a useful piece of information with customers. For example a cosmetics company could share make up application tips.)

Have A Variety of Subscription Options
Smart retailers today are customizing the newsletter experience. When you unsubscribe from a department store newsletter for example, they may invite you to keep receiving offers that are only relevant to you (e.g. only receive offers for ladies apparel).

As a smaller business, you may not need to segment your newsletter based on content, but you may want to consider offering frequency options. If you send a weekly newsletter, allow customers the option to switch to a monthly format. This may keep some people reading your newsletter if they’re considering unsubscribing.

Another way to retain customers that unsubscribe is by inviting them to engage on another platform like Twitter or Facebook. Provide links to your social media accounts on the unsubscribe page so customers see there’s another way to keep in touch.

Homework Assignment: Subscribe to other e-tailers newsletters. Sign up to receive newsletters from the businesses you hope to emulate and take note of their offers, email frequency, subject lines, etc. If you have a competitor who you know is much bigger and more powerful than you are, learn from their strategies and apply those lessons to your own email marketing efforts.

Read Part 1 of this series: How to Get Subscribers
Read Part 2 of this series: How to Manage Your Mailing List

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March 2, 2010

Email Marketing Part 2: Managing Your Mailing List

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 7:53 am

Once you’ve got some subscribers, you’re going to want to start sending messages out to your mailing list. Before you hit send here are a few things you’ll want to do.

Get a List Management Tool
Do not simply import your newsletter subscribers into your Gmail or Outlook and expect to email them from there. You need proper list management software for a few reasons. Proper list management software will have the following features:

  • Automatically handle unsubscribers and bounces
  • Allow you to see how your newsletter is performing (how many people opened it, how many people clicked links in your newsletter and which links did they click)
  • All you to compare historic newsletter performance (did your March newsletter get more opens/clicks than May?)

All of these features are indispensible. You need to elegantly manage your subcribers and have access to solid analytical data in order to improve your email marketing program.

There are tons of options out there when it comes to chosing a list managing program. PHPlist is free but requires some technical savvy. Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and Vertical Response are  very popular and used by tons of internet businesses. I use Your Mailing List Provider, they’re affordable and provide the data I mentioned above. You can use any program you like, as long as it provides the features I mentioned above.

Have an Unsubscribe LINK
Do NOT send any marketing emails out unless they have an unsubscribe link. It’s the law and it’s just plain rude to go without it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been forced to report small businesses as spam because they put me on their list with no way to unsubscribe. If enough users mark your email as spam your email will stop being delivered altogether. Avoid this problem and make sure customers can unsubscribe.

Bonus Points: Have an email address dedicated to your list like Only use this email address to send out newsletters. Use a different email address for answering customer emails, wholesale and press inquiries, etc.

In case you were wondering, it’s actually not sufficient to tell customers to email you to ask to be taken off your list. You’re making them go through too many steps and that “report spam” button is far fewer clicks. This is why you need a single click that lets people unsubscribe immediately.

(While we’re on the subject of unsubscribes, do not ever put someone on your mailing list unless they signed up for it. Never assume it is okay to send newsletters to customers without their permission.)

Read Part 1 of this series: How to Get Subscribers
Read Part 3 of this series: Keeping Subscribers Happy

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March 1, 2010

Email Marketing Part 1: How to Get Subscribers

Filed under: email marketing — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 10:54 am

Having a newsletter for your business is really a no-brainer. It’s an easy way to lure back past customers. It’s also a good way to nudge prospects on the fence about making a purchase. Before you can start leveraging this powerful marketing tool, you’re going to need subscribers. Here’s how to get some:

Make Signing Up Easy
If you go to events/shows have a way for passersby to get on your list. Let them put their email address on paper on a clip board or give them a laptop in your booth that they can use to sign up.

On your website, have a sign up form for your newsletter on EVERY page of your website, ideally above the fold. Do not bother with a link to sign up, put the actual sign up form on each page. (You’ll see I’ve done this on the top right side of this website.)

You should also include a checkbox on your check out system that lets users get on your mailing list. It’s even okay to have the box pre-checked, just make sure the customer can uncheck it if they don’t want to receive email from you.  (And, of course make sure you respect their wishes.)

It’s also important to not make your sign up form too elaborate. Let them just fill in their email address and click submit. If you ask for too much information (name, location, birthday, etc.) you may wind up with far fewer subscribers.

Let ’em Know What to Expect
How often do you send your newsletter? No one wants to be bombarded with daily sales emails so make sure you tell customers how often they can expect to hear from you. A simple “Sign up for our Weekly Specials” headline or “Receive our Monthly Newsletter” line gives that information.

Give ’em Incentive
We all get tons of email so make sure you give people a reason to sign up for your newsletter. What will they get if they sign up? Will they gain access to exclusive discounts? Will they be registered to win a free gift? Will they get useful information?

Make the benefits of your newsletter clear and concise for customers so they understand why they should sign up. On my retail website our newsletter sign up box says “Deals Discounts Giveaways & News”.

Note: To really get the most out of email marketing, it is easier if you have your own website. Sites like Etsy and Artfire don’t allow you to add customers to your list at check out or put a newsletter sign up box on your pages. You can read more about why I recommend you get your own website here. In the meantime, one thing you can do is provide a link to sign up for your list in your order confirmation emails that get sent to customers when they make a purchase.

No list of your own yet? No problem. Smaller Box has email marketing opportunities for indie designers. Visit this page for details.

Read Part 2 of this series: Managing Your Mailing List
Read Part 3 of this series: Keeping Subscribers Happy

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