When it comes down to it, we all want to feel like we're part of something bigger. And we want to be in relationship with other people. Being included is a human need we all share.
As a person with a handmade business it’s in your best interest to take this fundamental human feeling into account. And it’s therefore well worth your time and labor to create community around your work. When you do it well, your customers, admirers, and competitors even, feel that they are part of something larger that you’re building. The curtain is pulled back and they are right there, on the inside with you. They’re rooting for you, they’re buying from you, you are all on the same team. They might not love every move you make, but they certainly are following those moves closely.
Knowing this is true is what made me put starting an email newsletter on the top of my list of goals for 2013.
Nothing Beats the Intimacy and Immediacy of Email
When you are rushed for time and just have a few seconds to sit at the computer, what’s the one thing you check? It’s not Instagram. It’s your email.
Even in this day and age of constant social sharing, nothing beats the importance of email. Why? Because an email is written directly to you. And an email is private. In comparison to the other ways we have of sharing information online, an email is intimate. If someone sends you an email they have you in mind. And you can respond in a way that feels private.
Think about a customer who is tempted by my new pattern when they see it on Facebook but is worried that they might not have the sewing skills to complete it. Asking me about it on Facebook feels awfully exposed, emailing me directly feels like they’re bothering me. They favorite it on Etsy, don’t buy it.
Then I send them an email about the pattern and I invite them to respond to the email. Now I’m giving them the permission and the privacy to ask their questions. I’m granting them a level of intimacy with me. Through the ensuing email exchange we are now in relationship with one another.
When they buy the pattern now they aren’t just buying a pattern they found searching on Etsy, they are buying it from Abby. And if they have a question, they know my door is open. And when they want to develop their skills further, my blog is here for them and so are the rest of the patterns in my line.
But I’m Busy
There’s obvious pushback to the idea of starting a newsletter.
First, it’s one more thing on your plate. How will you find the time to do everything you’re doing now and create yet another piece of content? Manage yet another computer-based task? Aren’t you supposed to crafting?
Second, don’t you already do enough to build community? There’s the blog that needs fresh posts 2-3 times a week and comments to responded to, and then the Facebook page where you need to interact, plus Twitter and whatever other social media tool you’re using. Shouldn’t that be enough?
My response to these objections is to say I hear you, but you still need a newsletter. If you don’t have time, reprioritize. Don’t post to the Facebook page as often, for one. Few of your followers are seeing your posts anyway. Limit the time you’re on Twitter during the day. Put your phone on mute. Write two killer blog posts a week instead of three.
Make time for a newsletter.
When Newsletters Go Bad
Of course there are ways to do newsletters badly. Emails that are pushy, that come too frequently, that don’t contain anything useful, that we didn’t choose to receive in the first place…these are emails that get classified in our minds as spam. We hit “unsubscribe” and we’re done.
But there are businesses that do emails so well it’s amazing. In the sewing world, Colette patterns comes to mind. Colette is an indie pattern company that specializes in vintage-inspired beautifully designed clothing. I’m not much of a garment sewer, but I have huge respect for this company because I’ve subscribed to their Snippets newsletter for a year now.
I get an email once a week from Colette patterns and I always open it because it’s always interesting. In their words, it’s “little sewing epiphanies delivered every week.” A great tip and a link to an interesting article. I read it in two minutes and I’m better for it. When I’m ready to sew an item of clothing, I will buy a Colette pattern and I recommend them all the time.
It Isn’t All That Hard
I used MailChimp to create my newsletter. It’s free, it’s not hard to figure out, and it’s totally customizable. There’s an app for my phone that helps me to monitor activity. It took two hours on a Sunday afternoon to set it all up. People can opt-in or unsubscribe easily and MailChimp manages my list.
Just to clarify, a newsletter is different from the option to subscribe to a blog via email. It's important to make it easy for readers to subscribe to your blog via email because different readers access blogs differently and you want to be sure you're reaching those who may not use an RSS reader or even bookmarks. But a newsletter is new, fresh content in a fresh format. Blog readers who are also newsletter subscribers are getting something different when they open your emails.
So I’d like to invite you join the Abby Glassenberg Design newsletter. Each issue will contain a new and exclusive tip on designing and sewing stuffed animals and a link or two. It’ll be short and sweet and not too frequent and I’ll always invite you to write back.