Yesterday’s post on business cards generated some questions in the comments about mailing lists, and whether you should add contacts who give you their business cards to your mailing list. I don’t have a one size fits all mailing list, and I don’t think you should either. Here are the four types of mailing lists I recommend all designers and makers have (and what to do with those lists once you’ve built them):
- Your opt-in email list. This is the list for people who actually sign-up, whether through a form on your website or on a list at a craft show. This is also the list that I don’t recommend managing yourself. Because federal regulations require recipients confirm their membership on the list, and have the ability to unsubscribe, and because sending mass emails is difficult through your mail server (many end up in spam folders) I recommend you use an email list service. I like AWeber – they have lots of options and great customer service. (And customers can reply directly to you through the email – none of that impersonal, no-reply stuff.) Constant Contact is another service that a lot of artists use. You should chose a service that fits your needs and budget.
Once you’ve established your list, determine a regular schedule for sending updates. Some designers may send a monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly newsletter, while others may send an email when they’ve got a show or big event planned (or when they’re having a sale). In addition to including updates about your company and products, you should try to include something of value to your readers (that still relates to your products). You may want to include tips on decorating if you make home goods, or wedding planning tips if you make custom stationary.
- Your press list. This list will include both print media and online press, such as bloggers, and will probably be a mix of email and regular mailing addresses. It will include both press you’ve met who’ve asked you to contact them, and press for publications you dream of being featured in. You should make sure that the press on your list are a good fit for your work – for blogs, make sure it is a topic that they actually cover. (If a blogger doesn’t cover jewelry, don’t send them constant updates about your jewelry.) For print press, make sure any correspondence is directed to the appropriate editor. Never send a mass email to the press. Anything you send should be personalized to the writer or editor. Include their name, and make it clear that you understand their publication and how your work relates. Its best to contact press when you’re launching a new product or product line, or when you’ve got a big event coming up (like an exhibition, trunk show, craft fair, or wholesale show.)
- Buyers and stores. This list could actually be broken down into two categories – your current accounts and prospects. Even if you aren’t wholesaling yet, its never too early to start compiling a list of stores you’d love to sell your work to. For your current accounts, you want to make sure you update them when you’ve got new products, and if you’ll be participating in any upcoming shows*. For prospects, I would avoid any type of mass email. Instead, work on personalized, targeted contact. Before a trade show, I recommend sending a postcard to all your current accounts and potential stores to let them know about any new products and where you’ll be located at the show.
- Your cheerleaders. These are your family, friends, college professors, mentors, yoga teachers, and anyone else who wants to see you succeed, but might not be on your opt-in email list. While you might do the occasional email blast*, remember that a more personalized email goes a long way. While these people may not be your customers, they might be your biggest fans. Keep them informed of what’s going on with you and your company, because you never know who they might share that with.
*Anytime you send an email to multiple recipients who don’t know each other, you should always enter the addresses in the BCC field, to protect everyone’s privacy.
Do you keep any other types of mailing lists? Have an email service that you love? Share your thoughts in the comments!