If you’re anything like me, you love making improvements and watching your business grow. Sometimes, though, the day-to-day reality of running your own business doesn’t feel ideal. It doesn’t feel like you’d hoped when you first started out.
We can all get closer to that ideal:
sticking to the tasks that we’re best at
working on our businesses, not in them
seeing consistent increases in profit
AND being able to close the laptop, set the phone down and enjoy evenings and weekends
I have been watering and weeding a sprout of an idea for the last couple of years. It finally needed a name and a mission applied to it:
Welcome to The Shipshape Collective,
a growing community of creative shop owners!
I have been sending a business-building newsletter since 2011. I started the Aeolidia blog in 2012. In 2015, we added the Aeolidia Facebook group. I wanted to go beyond broadcasting and have some real discussions. And to make a space where you could learn from and help each other.
Aeolidia has two sides. We’re primarily a transformative design agency. The funny thing is that I spend most of my time on the free half of my business: the educational resources and creative shop owners community. The Shipshape Collective is the second branch, the helping hand that lifts you up.
We’re going to work on making Shipshape a little “brand within a brand.” I’d like to design a logo and polish up the look of the newsletter and Facebook group. Someday! I wanted to get the ball rolling, and I’m okay going slow with this.
The Shipshape Collective’s mission
I’d like to bring real professionalism, credibility, and business savvy to creative shops. All this while staying true to what made us want to start selling our products in the first place. If you take yourself seriously, your customers will, too.
I aim to support struggling, stressed entrepreneurs in becoming confident captains of their industry. Your small business can be as successful with your small niche of customers as large businesses are with their big group. More successful, because your customers believe in you and your story.
Do you feel like you’re getting bogged down doing everything for your shop? Embrace the idea that you aren’t an accountant or an advertising specialist or a web designer. You shouldn’t be doing data entry or packing orders forever: I’d like to see you hasten to invest in your business and yourself.
What our members discuss
We talk about all the nitty gritty that goes into running a business. Recent roundups of great business advice have included:
How to print shipping labels & ship cost-effectively
What to write in a newsletter
Where to find printers and packaging suppliers
What to do about copyright infringement
How to sell wholesale
Join us and ask your question!
What makes us special
In most business-building groups, you’ll find “hustlers” and “startups” and “disrupters.” People in it to make a buck. How about joining a community of creative businesses founded by designers? Our methods are a bit different, and we already understand you. For us, the passion and drive to create usually came first, with profit coming next.
That’s all well and good, but it’s hard to run a business without knowing how to run a business. I speak from experience, HA! No business should be an island. Talk to other shop owners to find out what works.
Not just any shop owners, though: ones who have the same concerns and a similar path to yours. The Shipshape Collective!
Thanks so much for all of the information you share in the class, in your newsletter and blog and in the Facebook group. Aeolidia consistently provides specific, helpful information and feedback. It’s appreciated!!
–Lauren Boggs Meslar
What you get and how to get it
Our members’ area is full of detailed, free bonus content. More than 10,000 subscribers have access to all this goodness.
The Facebook group is humming along without a single sales pitch or spam in sight, even with over 3,000 shop owners involved.
I recently taught an online class to 120 community members. This is a possible new direction for The Shipshape Collective. It went well and gave me ideas for how to do these in the future.
I will be putting more of my time toward helping your growing business. My ultimate goal is to be able to help you every step of the way: from grand idea to the busy business you dreamed of! I’d love you to succeed, and then Aeolidia can work directly with you as your design team. Step by step by step. We’ll get there.
Will you join our smart, supportive group? It’s all still totally free, by the way. I hope to see you soon and help you solve some problems:
Here’s a story about a jewelry designer with customizable products who increased her conversion rate by four times and her sales by seven times by making just one change to her website (then capitalizing on it with targeted social media ads)!
Usually, the design work that Aeolidia does doesn’t pay off until after we launch the site. But, by working on streamlining customizable products and options, we were able to help a jewelry designer revolutionize her business right away. I’ve been dying to be able to tell you about this!
Robyn Klauer, owner of Love, Georgie, sells customizable jewelry through her Shopify site. As we worked on the design of her product detail pages, we could see there were an overwhelming amount of options for the charms that can be added to her bracelets. Many different icons, colors, and metal choices.
We reviewed the statistics for the existing website and began talking of ways to make the customization process easier. We asked Robyn which charms are selling, as a preliminary question to recommending that Robyn pare her options WAY down.
Robyn took our cue and got exactly what we were driving at:
OMG I’ve had a revelation. I need to offer slightly LESS customization in order to make ordering easier. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Let’s take my “she believed she could so she did” bracelet. The photo shows a year charm and a graduation cap. I’d say a good 75% of the time, people choose those two charms. PEOPLE BUY WHAT I TELL THEM TO BUY. I’ve always said that! And now I’m realizing, people need less choices.
We agreed completely, and were glad to find we were on the same page. Numerous studies have been done about how too many choices can be paralyzing for customers. A famous one is about a grocery store giving out samples of jam:
In a California gourmet market, Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one Wilkin & Sons jam.
Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.
That study “raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory,” Professor Iyengar said last year, “but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”
— Too Many Choices: a Problem That Can Paralyze
It’s much easier to sell a product that doesn’t have lots of choices, and most customers want you to do the work for them. For the few where extreme personalization is important, you can still have that available. I felt that Robyn could have more “ready-made” type jewelry, and then a big noticeable message letting people know that they can personalize it (and taking them to a different page to do so).
Logo and business card design by Aeolidia
We were designing the Love, Georgie logo at the time of this discussion, and planning for the website. Fast forward three months later, when Robyn came to us with this exciting news:
So this is amazing. I’ve spent no less than 100 hours getting my website options up and ready so that it’s all in line when Jon starts coding. I’ve GREATLY eliminated the amount of options available for each item while making it still feel like a very personalized gift.
After I did that I started to notice an increase in sales. So then I started dumping money into Pinterest ads and Facebook ads (not really knowing what I’m doing but learning). And my sales have skyrocketed. I’ve done $67,000 this month to date on my website (this is my graduation/mother’s day season). Last month I did $7,300 just for perspective. My conversion rate was previously .89% and now it’s around 3.5-4%. I can only imagine what will happen when we launch the new site!
You guys. I had to know more about this, and I’m sure you want to, too. Here’s my interview with Robyn about how exactly this all went down.
Product styling and photography by Aeolidia
Did sales increase immediately as you narrowed the options?
Robyn: Not immediately, as it was off season and generally low traffic at the time. I also did some testing on different items to see if the amount of options offered made a difference. Finding the balance between offering enough options to make it feel personalized, but not so many that it feels overwhelming is the hard part.
I tested pricing along with options. I took one of my most popular items and and changed it from offering unlimited charm options (you could choose from birthstones, initials, words, and about 50 symbols) and did two things with different results:
Before changes: Bracelet with unlimited charm options: average cost per bracelet sold was $52, at a 0.89% conversion rate.
Options change 1: Bracelet with only two charm options (the ones shown in the example photo): average cost per bracelet sold was $52, at an approximate 4.3% conversion rate.
Options change 2: Bracelet with 8 charm options: average cost per bracelet sold was $64, with the same 4.3% conversion rate.
So I was able to increase the amount per purchase by offering just the right amount of charms.
I also made it easier to add the product to the cart. In offering unlimited charms, the customer had to let me know which charms in a typed note. When I changed it, I made everything a dropdown menu. I think that by specifically asking, “Do you want to add a birthstone charm?” and they have to pick yes or no, it made the customer stop and think about that specific idea. Prior to doing this, they were overwhelmed by the 80+ total options before so they’d just choose “none” or pick only the two shown as examples in the photo.
Logo design by Aeolidia
Were you doing any other new promotions or marketing at the same time as you adjusted options?
Robyn: I was doing additional marketing. But my marketing efforts became more successful and my cost per acquisition changed drastically. Before my changes, I was seeing just a 0.89% conversion rate on my website. After the changes, I now see a 4.3% conversation rate and we haven’t even launched the new website or branding yet!
My revenue in April and May matched half of my entire annual revenue in 2016. This was of course because of my increase in ad spend. But without the better conversion rate, it wouldn’t have been possible to do.
I slowly increased my ad spend as my conversation rates got better. I ended up being able to spend over 10 times what I was spending before.
Was there anything different about your marketing materials?
Robyn: I did not change my marketing materials at all. My same item photos that I’ve always used were what I advertised with. Since my new site and branding hasn’t launched yet, I didn’t want to use the new materials in the marketing.
I did use some new charm graphics on my website product detail pages that were created by your designer, Christine, and they helped to visually organize the options better! I’m sure this helped in converting visitors to sales.
Have you gotten any feedback on this change from your customers? What have they told you?
Robyn: I have had them say they googled my website after being in my Etsy shop (which I have no control over changing) to see if it was easier to order. And they were pleased to see it was.
We have also noticed the amount of questions coming in through our website contact form has decreased. Some of the questions that we would get over and over again on a daily basis about how to choose charms and where to write them, etc. we hardly see any more.
Are the orders keeping up at the new level?
Robyn: Yup! I have had to hire two more people! I imagine it will slow down after Father’s Day, but we are generally higher than we would normally be right now. My jewelry is popular over gift giving holidays and occasions, so it’s normal to get slower from July-October. But we use that time to prep for Christmas.
Wow! I’m sure you’re reeling right now. This is an incredible new start for a business that was relying on Etsy for sales. It seems like giving people more choice will lead to more sales, but the opposite was true in this case.
Products that customers can personalize are a big draw, but can also be hard to sell. Helping people streamline their customization offerings on Shopify is one of our areas of deep expertise, and we would love to help you make sense of your products.
Pair our strategy for your unique business with design that will draw people in, and see where that takes you! Please get in touch today about what we’d recommend for your business.
If you plan to sell products, you can’t ignore design. It’s easy to find a designer who can make your business look pretty. But if you have an online shop, “pretty” doesn’t pay the bills. You need an ecommerce web designer that understands strategy and sales.
What should you think about when hiring a Shopify designer? You may wonder what makes Aeolidia different from other design studios. We’re pretty different! Here are some things that make our work at Aeolidia game-changing for our clients.
1) A data-based strategy for each individual shop
We base our design decisions on your real data. We work to improve your conversion rate, customer retention, and average sale amount.
Our Web Analyst will dig into your Shopify and Google Analytics stats before we begin. She will analyze your website’s effectiveness and pinpoint areas to improve. She will gather info on who’s shopping and how they find you.
We then get together behind the scenes with a full team to review and refine a strategic plan. Our strategy is always based on what we know about your business, customers, and your goals.
If you don’t already have a website, we are still able to get strategic, based on your Etsy information, what you’ve learned selling in-person or our general knowledge of your industry.
We also check back in after launch to go through your stats to analyze the effectiveness of our work. At this point, we will suggest improvements and help you increase sales even more.
Gift and housewares logo design by Aeolidia
2) A full service studio with a team-based approach
Your dedicated project manager and team of four to ten Aeolidians will be tight for the length of your project. Your designer will collaborate with your developer. Your copywriter will chat with your designer. Your photographer will learn from your marketing consultant. Aeolidia is a team from start to finish!
There’s a lot of content to gather and create for an ecommerce website. It can be messy to coordinate these things between third parties. That’s why we have a copywriter, a product photographer, an SEO strategist, a web analyst, and a marketing consultant on our team.
We remove the problem of juggling different timelines and deadlines between creatives. We identify your needs and make a plan that is our responsibility to schedule and carry out.
3) A deep understanding of ecommerce for creative business
We only work with creative product-based gift shops and lifestyle brands. We only create online shops, and we only use Shopify. This narrow focus has led to mastery.
Our work is goals-based and custom to each client. We ask a lot of questions, and get to know your positioning and your customer before any design work begins. We’ve worked with many businesses like yours and what you do makes perfect sense to us.
We excel at working for graphic designer clients. Our clients are creatives, and we can design and communicate for you in a way that feels exactly right.
Petit Collage Shopify website redesign by Aeolidia
4) An effective and distraction-proof process
We have developed a unique and effective process: we launch on time every time.
We excel at clearing a path to your success. Our system keeps things moving even when life and business get in the way of your project tasks. Our clients tell us over and over again how glad they were that we kept them on track and didn’t let deadlines slip.
Hester & Cook Custom Shopify design for a kitchen accessories shop by Aeolidia.
5) An insistence on transformative work
We don’t do incremental change. Our work is transformative. Making little tweaks or taking your web presence only as far as 90% isn’t going to move you far enough along. We find that the biggest change for a business happens between 90% and 100%—getting things exactly right is what makes your business a force to be reckoned with.
We’re not yes-men, and in fact will respectfully disagree with you when needed. If a choice or idea of yours will take you farther away from your goals, it’s off the table. We don’t base decisions on personal preferences (ours or yours), instead focusing on your customer’s needs.
Bespoke Verse responsive website design by Aeolidia
6) A high price tag
Wait, is that a good thing? It is! Your team of Aeolidians will put a vast amount of time and effort toward your success. Your project is not a casual matter for us: the bar is set high. You expect a solid return on your investment, and your team will be striving to meet that goal.
We only do completely custom work, meaning we don’t box you in by starting with an existing design theme.
A blank white page + your unique business and goals = your website will be a tool built just for you.
When you’re quoted a low price from a designer, ask yourself how the price is possible. How much time can they devote to strategy, research, and exploration? How important is it to your designer that you reach your goals?
Our projects start at $9,000, go up from there, and are a bargain when you consider how they’ll help your business grow.
Handcrafted HoneyBee product packaging design by Aeolidia
Some other things that set us apart
You can see the success of our clients. Our past clients have hit goal after goal.
Our wealth of knowledge is accelerated by working with 50+ clients a year.
We learn about the big picture that goes into running a business, even the parts we don’t deal with day to day.
Everyone on our team consistently strives to make a difference for our clients.
We track every to-do, deadline, and piece of content, so you won’t stress about the calendar.
Aeolidia is a woman-friendly business, and we’re easy to talk to, while confident in our expertise. We know you know your stuff, too.
We’re one of the few studios offering an intermediate solution between beginner and enterprise. If you’re in our “small but growing” sweet spot, we’re a smart pick.
Your success is our success. We’ll be cheering for you over here as we watch your accomplishments post-launch.
We’re not for everyone
If you’re still reading, though, I suspect we’re a match for you. I’ve been building this for you for the last 13 years, and I can’t wait to meet you! Won’t you please get in touch here and we can work together to make your business all that it can be?
Imagine creating a product that regularly sells out within hours or days of it going live on your site. Such was the case for Bamboletta, which sells one of a kind handmade dolls from Canada. With such rapid sales for her brand, founder Christina Platt felt it was time for a website redesign. Her products were widely loved and in-demand; in order to keep up with their growing popularity, she wanted the site to showcase her products more effectively and move customers through the purchasing experience more efficiently.
We recommended she remain on Shopify (it’s our top choice for nearly all ecommerce businesses), but work with us to redesign her site from scratch, creating a custom Shopify theme meant just for her business and her customers. The new, user-friendly site recently launched, and we’re pleased to share the strategy that went into building it.
Step 1: Design a website for limited edition handmade dolls
Creating a user-friendly site is essential to driving sales. In other words, it’s not only friendly to customers, but to your business. What brand wouldn’t want that?
To build a site for Bamboletta that would play nicely with her customers, our first step was to assess the brand experience and what functionality it required. Because the dolls are made in small quantities by Bamboletta’s “sewing mamas” who work from home, the site gets updated weekly with the newest dolls. There are also many different kinds of Bamboletta dolls made to suit kids of different ages and for different styles of play.
In designing the new site, Christine on our team focused on making customers feel immediately drawn in, welcomed, and informed. The header highlights two key points visitors ought to know: that the products are handmade in Canada and the site offers worldwide shipping. A dropdown menu featuring illustrations and a short description gives a quick glance at what makes each type of doll unique. And below the navigation, a quick introduction with a countdown clock builds anticipation for the next doll release!
Step 2: Function, meet beauty
Of course, function requires aesthetic. To create a soft and happy home for Bamboletta dolls, Christine paired woodland-inspired illustrations with storybook typography on a clean, responsive layout. This new mobile-friendly design balances simplicity and warmth, inspiring customers (new and old alike) to make a purchase.
Step 3: Put your web design to work for you
Phew! That’s a lot of weight for one website to pull, but with careful, strategic planning, it came together seamlessly. And that was only the beginning. A hand-illustrated “Meet Our Dolls” section provides a quick overview of the different types of dolls. An Instagram feed offers visitors a peek at the world of Bamboletta behind the scenes. And a section titled “The Magic of Bamboletta” goes that one extra step to show new customers what makes the brand, company, and dolls so special.
Should you buy a shipping label printer? Which one? What shipping software should you use with it?
The Facebook group I started for shop owners is a real gem. The advice in there is top notch stuff that you can’t always find on Google. This example was so helpful, I thought I’d share it with you. One of our members asked,
“Morning! I’m looking into getting a label printer for my shipping labels. I currently just print them on regular paper, cut them, and use shipping tape to adhere them to the envelopes. Anyone know if using a label printer will be more/ less expensive than doing it like this? I’m sure it will save me time, but wondering if it is worth the purchase. Thanks!”
Dozens of experienced shop owners chimed in, and here are the pros and cons of buying a shipping label printer.
DIY label printing
Quite a few people had a manageable amount of orders, and were able to print labels simply, just using their own home printers. They buy self-adhesive half sheets of labels off Amazon, Uline, or the like and run them through their printers. Please note that an inkjet printer can get very expensive. If you use a printer with a toner cartridge it will last quite a bit longer and you won’t have to keep buying ink.
low initial investment
no extra equipment to have around
can start doing this right away if you have a printer and paper
purchasing ink cartridges can get expensive
taking time to cut labels to size
taking time to cover with tape to prevent smearing from rain
cost of tape
may not look professional
The DYMO 4XL thermal label printer
The DYMO 4XL label printer was called a game changer by many shop owners, and described as, “one of the first and one of the best business investments I ever made.”
“I use the Dymo 4×6 label printer and it is one of the best, if not the best, investments I have ever made for my business. The time it saves and frustration it saves is incredible. Every time I use it it’s like Christmas morning quite honestly hahaha”
It uses thermal technology to print, using heat to create a smear-proof, weather-proof print. You can use it to print labels with your logo, bar codes, and postage.
People who ship many orders a day told us they were spending $400+ a year on toner alone, and the DYMO was a big time and money saver for them. We were told that the price on Amazon fluctuates, and it’s easy to get it for well under $200 if you watch for a deal. The more labels you print, the more likely this machine will save you money over using your inkjet.
special thermal paper means you don’t need to spend money on ink or tape
saves time by preventing the extra work of cutting and taping
prints quickly (up to 129 labels per minute!), and labels are on a roll, so you don’t have to feed them in manually
initial investment in printer and paper
ongoing investment in paper refills (depending on your shipment volume)
need to find room on your desk for it
There are a variety of DYMO label printers, but the 4XL was mentioned specifically in our group. A DYMO alternative that was mentioned with praise was the Brother QL-570 professional label printer.
Label paper refills
DYMO recommends you use their label paper only, but some of the shop owners in our group save money by using other brands. Know that using off brand labels voids the warranty on the printer. One of our members had a printer break and DYMO sent her a brand new one, but required photos and to ship the old one back to see what had happened to it.
Another shop owners told us, “It’s definitely something for which you have to assess the risk. The amount of money I saved by buying off-brand labels for the duration of the two-year warranty was actually more than the cost of just purchasing a new label maker if mine had broken, so it was worth it to me. But for someone shipping fewer items, it might not be.”
Another big time saver is using software to speed up the shipping process. The most recommended tools were:
Shipstation, a service that combines your orders from different sales platforms and creates and prints postage with great rates (it’s affiliated with, and includes a subscription to, stamps.com). That’s an affiliate link, and a lot of our clients use Shipstation.
Shippo, which integrates with Etsy and Shopify, and lets you create your own labels and use carriers such as UPS. It can cost less per label for low volume shipping (and has the cutest logo!).
ShippingEasy is feature rich, and if you send less than 50 packages a month, you can use their starter plan with no monthly fee. My husband uses it, and that’s our affiliate link.
Each of these services work well with with the DYMO label printer, and are a great step toward growing a business.
Get your questions answered in our group
Hey there! Do you run a creative business that sells stuff online? I think you’d really like our Facebook Group. We have everyone from brand new to established businesses in there, sharing the real stuff that goes into making sales online. It’s a super helpful group of almost 3000 now, and I make sure that no one in there is trying to sell anything to you. It’s a cozy place to give and get advice between peers. Subscribe here (and then search “shipping” in the group, or whatever else you have a question on. Odds are, we’ve sorted it out).
The National Stationery Show (the NSS) is a big yearly trade show in New York City that showcases both established and new stationery businesses. It’s “to the trade,” which means that retail sales aren’t being made; it’s for forging and maintaining wholesale relationships only.
We have been honored and delighted the last couple of years to be able to attend as press (see our previous trade show tips and advice here). We love seeing what’s new in the stationery world, getting to meet face to face with business owners we support and admire, and meeting readers and members of our Facebook group. One of the biggest delights, though, is seeing our designers’ logo and branding design come to life in the form of a trade show booth.
Here are three Aeolidia-made logos and brand designs (two we recently launched), in booth form:
Casey, in the Casey BarberSHOP booth. Logo by Aeolidia.
Category: All Things Paper 417 Press — Infertility Sucks greeting card
Also an awesome brand we admire!
What about you?
Could your business use a professional brand identity to start off on the right foot and impress prospective wholesale customers? Let’s talk! We work with many brand new businesses, can answer all the questions about what makes sense to invest in at first, and we want to see you succeed! We currently have three, count ’em, three spots available in our design block that begins on June 19th. And Sam is talking to a few people who are interested, so please email today so we can save you a spot!
Former rock star turned rock hound, Dani Barbe sculpts and sets gemstones into modern, glamorous statement pieces. She started her business with her own logo design, fabulous photography, and a shop on Etsy. With a strong presence on social media, she was able to drive a ton of customers to her shop. Products sold like wildfire, and Anthropologie came knocking on her door.
It wasn’t long before Dani’s upscale jewelry brand required a custom website design to inspire customer confidence.
Solving website usability problems by replatforming to Shopify
Dani had a WooCommerce site built about a year and a half before coming to us, but it wasn’t performing up to her standards. Frustrated with its functionality, Dani continued to send customers to her Etsy shop.
I am currently using WooCommerce, and it’s such a pain to update things, that I just don’t do it! I find that it impacts the amount of new items I post, and also the amount that I actively promote my website. I currently have an amazing Etsy following, but would love to have a website that looks higher-end to send to my clients and more upscale boutiques.
Our team worked both internally and with Dani to come up with a straightforward list of project goals:
Improve functionality for processing payments and communicating order information with customers.
Make a connection with customers, giving them a more secure and professional shopping experience.
Attract high-end wholesale customers by having a protected wholesale portion of the website.
With this list of goals in mind, we set out to create a website that balances simplicity and style, showcases Dani’s gorgeous jewelry and accessories, and inspires confidence in customers to make a purchase.
A custom design for Dani Barbe
Dani’s existing logo was fantastic! It spoke to her customers and had longevity. It was edgy and modern, but still approachable and sophisticated — it just needed to add a little refinement on spacing and proportion. What Dani was lacking was a complete brand identity, full of complimentary elements that could be carried over to her site.
Christine on our team created a new brand mark. Inspired by Dani’s jewelry, the intersection of the D and B create fun shapes that would be used as additional graphic elements mixed and matched throughout her new site.
The colors are simple—black, gold and white, with a bit of blush to take the edge off (but not too much).
We were really drawn in by the chic sophistication and artfulness of Dani’s photos, so we gave them prime space in the site design. By keeping the overall design clean, the photos are able to shine, telling the story of her brand and products.
The layout is clean but not stark, and the typography is strong but not loud. The branding elements we created together are carried over in some spots, giving the site dimension and interest. Together, these design elements support the true star: Dani’s jewelry.
What our client thought
I am over-the-moon in love with the design. Really, I couldn’t be happier. I feel like everything will be so easy to navigate. The main page looks so fashion-forward and clean. You truly brought to life what I envisioned for my brand.
Do you hate email marketing? Want to know how to write a newsletter that works? If I could convince you to do one thing to grow and strengthen your business it would be to start building a mailing list and sending email to them regularly.
I thought I was going to write one article about newsletters last week and move on, but we had such a rousing discussion about that post, and cleared up so much of the “ugh” feeling around sending newsletters that I had to share and save that great info here on the blog.
Here’s a little Q&A from business owners just like you about how to deal with their newsletters. Q’s are all from members of our Facebook group, and A’s are all from me. Below, some great biz owners share what works well for them. Here we go!
Q: I do worry about annoying my subscribers, so I only send one newsletter a month.
A: I have heard over and over that once a month is not often enough, and people will forget who you are and why they subscribed. Would you try twice a month and see how it goes? You can’t really annoy your true fans if you focus on bringing value to each message you send.
This business owner responded, “I know what you mean, I think I will try more than once a month. The amount of shops and other creative outlets whose email lists I’ve signed up to definitely suggests that I’m not sending enough. I shall work on the “adding value” part though, until now my newsletters have been mostly “what’s new in store” and “have this coupon” type affairs. I’d like to deepen the relationship with my customers, ideally!”
Q: I have 170 subscribers and haven’t sent out a single thing. I’m worried about content that is interesting and “me.”
A: Email permission will “expire” on you – the longer you wait, the less people remember who you are or why they signed up. I’d break the ice soon! I’d show some lovely photos, introduce yourself, talk about upcoming events or recent news and don’t worry too much about it. Ask your subscribers in the email what they’d like to hear more about! They asked you to email them; do them a favor and go for it!
Q: I am soooooo bad about doing mine. I have almost 800 subscribers who hear from me a few times a year. 😫 I never know what to say. I think I get myself convinced it has to be so clever and so full and that’s intimidating. Looking through newsletters I get from others, they’re often super short. A single pic, link and sentence even! I need to work on not making this such a big thing.
A: When they hear from you, do they buy? If you can see the newsletter being a tool for your business you’ll be more enthusiastic about doing it! People really seem to build these simple tasks up into gargantuan expectations. Keep it easy! No one has time to read emails anyway.
Follow up! She sent a newsletter that same day, then told us, “just wanted to let you know that my FB group membership almost doubled in size since I sent the newsletter yesterday. It’s tiny and only slightly less tiny now, but that was so effective for me! Thanks for the push!”
Q: I’m even worse, have over 2,500 subscribers so pay MailChimp monthly and STILL don’t send them regularly. Words are not my friends. Newsletter writing is probably the thing I beat myself up about the most.
A: If you don’t like writing, do the newsletter your way! Make it full of photos. Do you like posting on Instagram, for instance? Send out your most-liked Instagram photos and captions, throw in a little update about what you’re up to, and bam! You’re the boss, lady! Your newsletter can work however you want it to. There are no rules!
I’d say you need to send at least monthly, or people are going to be surprised every time they receive an email from you.
This business owner replied with, “Ayyy ay ay, I am fast running out of excuses! I love instagram!”
Q: I hate mine! I never know what to talk about and I hate the term newsletter. I have some automatic hey welcome emails set up… but aside from a sale or a new product, I don’t know what else to say! So should it be like a little mini blog post? or just, hey here’s some things from other people I dig (without selling my own stuff? is that crazy to pay to send an email that’s not selling anything?
A: That is SUCH a good point. I think we just say “newsletter” because there’s no other good name for it. I personally hate “email blast” the most. You should rename yours (like give it a name like it’s a magazine or something — that’s what I’m working on for Aeolidia!) and then just think about what you would talk to a customer about if they walked up to you while you were selling products. What are you most interested in right now?
It should be anything that you can repeatedly get up enthusiasm to do! Sharing links is a great way to do a newsletter. And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: you can show other people’s stuff AND mention what you’re doing, too.
I often send emails that aren’t selling anything. You’re investing in building an engaged audience that enjoys hearing from you, which is priceless. Promote your stuff gently some of the time and just bring people something useful or delightful or funny or interesting the rest of the time, that’s all fine. You’ll find a balance that works for you.
Then when you DO really want to promote or sell something, you’ll have a big audience of loyal “money-waving” fans at the ready!
Q: This is something I need to do. But I always have the excuse that I have an order that needs to get done. So I continue to put it off! Ugh
A: Ugh indeed! It’s very easy to put off something that we don’t know how to do. Anything that’s new and not in my usual business flow tends to get shoved to the end of my list until I finally desperately start doing it… and then find out it wasn’t a big deal at all, and in fact it’s kind of fun!
The best thing you can do for something like a newsletter is set yourself an inviolable schedule (Tuesdays, for example) and allow yourself to keep it very simple at the start until you get used to the idea.
Q: I just cleaned up my newsletter subscriber list and am at about 215 subscribers. I usually send 2-3x a month. Before I started thinking about things “strategically” and trying to sell, my writing flowed much more naturally and I really enjoyed writing to my peeps. Ever since I’ve been trying to plan out blog posts… I feel unauthentic. Would love to get to a place of balance.
A: Just write your newsletter like you used to do and how you feel comfortable. Then come back to what you wrote and see if you can add in a link to your shop anywhere for any reason. Don’t let the sales interfere with the writing.
If you’re on-topic for your business, though, probably most anything you write about has something to do with what you sell (I hope!) and you can promote your products in a natural and valuable way.
And remember that EVERY newsletter doesn’t need to be about getting people to buy your stuff. Some can be just for fun, to develop a rapport with your readers.
Q: I loathe doing mine too —except that every time we do it, we get sales from it. I recently set up my email funnel through mailchimp, and I am pleasantly surprised at that, too.
A: I find that I get much more engagement from my social media posts and my newsletters when I am excited about them. I have definitely had periods when I was just doing what I had to do to get by, and it showed in my stats/likes/comments. Readers can sense when your heart is in your communication and when it isn’t. It shows through in your writing, unless you’re super skilled! So I’d urge everyone who hates the way they’re communicating with their customers to find a way to make it interesting and appealing to you. You will see the difference in the response (and sales) you get!
Some advice and encouragement from business owners:
I love doing mine! While my list is still pretty small, they are definitely engaged and I get regular feedback that they love receiving my weekly email! At first it was tough, but usually I have an event, or a new stockist, a giveaway, blog post, or new product to show! I also include links around the web on parenting and geekery, and the longer I’ve done it, the easier it gets to drum up content each week. I thought about monthly, or even every other week, but I know myself well enough to know that I’ll forget to send it on the “on” weeks and monthly ones might be too long.
I have a small email list who I’ve been emailing to once a month. I am just now starting to email once a week (starting tomorrow)! I watched Megan Auman’s Creative Live class last week and realized I don’t have to throw all my news into one long email (I was worried about more than once a month being too much) and to only focus on one idea per email. I also wasn’t really advertising my products in my emails, so I am going to start doing that too.
I only have 180 subscribers, and have been sending regularly for less than a year. Almost every newsletter sent results in a sale, and it gets easier to write every time. I created a template in MailChimp, so it’s the same format, but I type in different info. And lots of photos.
List building is important! (Still working on mine even as I am just over 6000.) And you do it through sending emails of value. Like Claire said – it’s people who WANT to hear from you! I’ve been sending a monthly email/newsletter to my list for years. Basically my meaty blog post for the month plus a quick personal note on what I’m up to. I will generally send another one in the month to highlight an online class I’m hosting or special sale.
I used to send every 1st Thursday of the month. The last few years I’ve played with that considerably by changing the day and even hour of the day I schedule it to see how my list reacts. I’d like to get to where every time I blog it goes into an email to my list.
If you can post to Instagram you have newsletter content! Most people say they don’t know what to say in an email. Most people also post to Instagram once a day at least and email maximum 1 a week. So in the course of 7 days you’ve had at least 7 things you thought were moderately interesting (interesting enough to share to Instagram) — somewhere in there there is absolutely enough to create an email with once per week!! People love to make stuff complicated; not all emails have to be sales pitches or coupons. People love just being in the loop!
We do a weekly newsletter and while it takes a ton of time (I always want to write something meaningful), it’s been HUGE for our sales. We love our MailChimp template that Aeolidia designed for us, and I also love that MailChimp gives you insight into the conversions from each campaign. It’s been so important for us!
Still working on building our list (I think we’re over 2300 now), and every day that there is an algorithm change with a social media platform I get extra insight into how valuable it is.
The beginning of our newsletter (and the main chunk of it) is always a story — some sort of personal reflection that is applicable to our brand mission and personality (promoting education, leadership, and empowering young girls to be proud of being smart). The second section usually highlights a product, blog post, or upcoming event. We then have a quote, and at the very bottom we have two products that make sense with the message of that newsletter and a “buy” button for each.
Because we put a lot of thought into writing the main portion of the newsletter (to make it of value to the reader), I get a lot of engagement with people writing back to me about it. Plus it helps people feel connected to the owner!
Thank you, Arianne, for taking the time to encourage and educate me on the importance of the newsletters! I have only sent out 3, but each one brought in customers and sales. They also have been relationship-building which is so KEY!!! I’m sending out my 4th this Friday, with an invite for 3 Morning Class/Gatherings this summer (a few customers have been asking for this) and I’m excited about it.) I would encourage ALL of you to take the baby “one-step-at-a-time” and do this.
Spurred on by this post, I sent out a quick email newsletter this morning and already got a bunch of sales! Arianne, could you stop being right all the time?
It needs to be at least once a month, and probably not every day
Subscribe to a bunch of newsletters as a customer, so you can see what you like and what you don’t like
Don’t overthink it! Keep it simple to start, and who knows it may grow on you?
I love my newsletter! It’s my number one most valuable marketing asset. Want to subscribe to my newsletter? A subscriber recently told me, “I couldn’t believe that all this relevant, practical, and beautifully written content was available to me for free! Sign up by entering your email address below:
Frankie & Claude is a stationery and lifestyle brand that exudes charm with a unique blend of prettiness, wittiness, and occasional snark. Owner and designer Sam Bearbower dove into the business full-time in 2015 after juggling her work in the legal field with her hobby-turned-passion. Not too soon after launching, her store’s name ran into some trademark issues, and Sam opted to rebrand. What many would’ve considered an obstacle or a step back turned into a huge step forward: an opportunity to take stock of the elements of her brand that made it truly stand out, and build a beautiful, cohesive visual identity.
Newly named Frankie & Claude, the brand was in need of a new tagline, logo and visual identity. Reflecting on her creative process and what makes her brand unique, Sam noted that all Frankie & Claude products are not only pretty, but functional.
“My initial thought with every product I add is, is it useful? Then, is it pretty and aesthetically pleasing? And of course, is it unique? For instance, our art prints help make a house a home. Our matchstick jars are super functional and make an amazing gift item to hostesses, or to celebrate new homeowners. Our notepads help to keep people organized in a stylish way. Etc., etc.”
We came up with a tagline that demonstrated her aesthetic and philosophy in a concise, fun, and catchy way:
Give Pretty. Live Practically.
From there, Christine conceptualized a new Frankie & Claude logo that paired a delicate, feminine hand-lettered script with similarly thin lined roman letters. The ampersand nestled between the words unifies the letters in a way that makes pretty meet witty. Floral details in the shape of a crest give the mark a more classic feel, while the oval arrangement of the tagline in the secondary logo steps outside of the traditional circle just enough to feel timeless but charming.
Following the initial round of logo concepts, Christine and Sam discussed integrating Sam’s own handwriting into the design, given that so many of her new products would incorporate her hand lettering. Then, inspired by Sam’s hand-lettered version of “Frankie,” Christine drew completely custom type by hand for the “Claude.” This resulted in a totally unique mark that embraces the smallest of imperfections—like the slight variations in line-thickness in the F, and the gentle angling of the last few letters in “Frankie”—in order to visually embody the pretty aesthetic of the brand as well as its willingness to be playful and not take itself too seriously.
Lastly, Christine incorporated the leafy illustrations from the logo and two new fern-inspired drawings into the brand’s pattern work. She also created a very simple geometric diamond pattern, handy for the more humorous/less feminine products. Though sometimes overlooked, patterns are like the cherry-on-top of details. Potential uses include the backs of business cards or postcards, packaging tissue paper, custom tape or ribbon—so many lovely possibilities!
We talk to each of our clients about their mailing lists, and while most are totally on board and use theirs as a valuable marketing tool, some people are understandably less enthusiastic. Bonnie told us,
“I have spent a couple hours reading about MailChimp [that’s an affiliate link to the software we recommend to send newsletters], and I have to admit I hit a mental roadblock every time I visit this topic. My plan for staying connected to my followers is to blog (and repost this on my business Facebook page). I keep thinking that adding MailChimp, and creating newsletters would be an extra busy detail that my heart isn’t into. I know from receiving letters that I rarely, if ever, read them (the only exceptions are Aeolidia and Michael Hyatt).
Am I missing something if I do not send out newsletters? Is there a way to send the blog posts in newsletter format or as the newsletter?”
I told Bonnie that I would be remiss to not push her to reconsider a newsletter! And if you, too, are on the fence, let’s talk: your mailing list subscribers are going to be your most valuable asset, once you’ve built up a list.
What is a newsletter for?
Imagine if you were launching a new product line next week. Would you rather have a mailing list of 10,000 interested fans to tell about the new products? Or would you rather post to the blog, mention it on Facebook, and hope people will find it? Facebook only shows your posts to a small amount of people who have liked your page, even when you pay to promote each post.
With a newsletter, everyone who wants to hear from you can hear from you, without Facebook getting in the way and blocking them, and without making your customers have to remember to check your blog out regularly.
Remember that Facebook can totally change the rules at any time, or even shut your account down. You don’t own your space on Facebook. Your mailing list is yours.
Why would people want to hear from you regularly?
I imagine you probably have a core group of big fans or loyal customers (if not, you want one!). They want to hear from you, and it’s a shame that you aren’t communicating regularly with them. Maybe, like Bonnie, the only newsletters you read are mine (thank you!) and other business mentors. If so, it’s because your business is what you’re so strongly interested in growing right now.
Your customers aren’t interested in a growing a business, and would be totally bored by the newsletters you like. Bonnie sells skincare products, and her customers, for example, want to hear about living their best, most healthy and glowing lives. They are as interested in it as she is, and I recommended that she get in touch with them a couple of times a month to tell them what’s interesting her, and how they can improve their wellbeing.
Your best customers also share an interest with you, and you should spend some time figuring out what that is and how to use the commonality.
How can you make a newsletter fit your interests and your customers’ needs?
For Bonnie in particular, a newsletter seems really natural for her. She told us she has a personal touch, loves educating, and that she sees all her customers via personal, one-on-one appointments. Believe it or not, that’s what a newsletter is! It’s a chance to have those personal appointments, little check-ins over email. The things Bonnie offers during her appointments are what her customers are seeking from her, and if she can find a way to translate it to email, she’ll be golden.
What do your best customers want from you? What do they appreciate hearing about? How can that be turned into an email?
What about a blog?
The advantage of a newsletter is that people will receive it automatically, without having to remember about it and search you out again. The disadvantage is that it’s private and Google will never know about it, and if readers share, they’ll likely just forward it to one person, rather than many. Your blog is the opposite of this. People need to seek it out, and you need to promote it to get people to check it out. But Google loves blogs, and it’s easy to share blog posts all over social media.
Do both! I know it sounds like a lot, but once you’ve written one or the other, you’re 85% of the way to having both done.
I’d absolutely use the blog posts as a springboard for the newsletters. Rather than posting the whole article, post a teaser, get people interested, link them to the website, and while they’re there, they can go shopping. That’s the beauty of it! It doesn’t have to be a lot of extra work. You’ll just write a friendly letter about how enthusiastic you are about your latest updates to the blog and site.
How do I get started?
I strongly recommend a newsletter for every business selling anything online. I know it feels like a hassle, but it’s one of the best hassles to keep up with.
We offer Abby Glassenberg’s wonderful ebook about planning a newsletter here on our site, and include it in our clients’ product packages. Reading just the first couple of pages will explain the WHY behind the mailing list, and then if you read on, you get the HOW. Also, Abby has a great class you can take to improve your mailing list strategy, too.
Remember that if you’d like to get your existing and past customers on the list, you need to get their permission. So, rather than just adding them to a list and emailing, send a one-shot email where you invite them to join your list, with a link to subscribe. Here are MailChimp’s guidelines about this: The Importance of Permission and I like their article, Examples of Compliant and Non-Compliant Lists.
Even if your list starts out as just 10 people, set up a regular schedule to send an update, and go ahead and do it. I wouldn’t space emails out more than a month or so apart, otherwise people will forget they subscribed.
I know it’s a lot to do, but it will pay off! Happy emailing!