Saturday, August 4, 2007

Why Should You Build a Mailing List?

My first venture into entrepreneurship was making custom window treatments. I started this business after my oldest daughter was born. I had never been self-employed before this. I had worked for thirteen years for various corporations, and a small tech start-up. I had done lots of sewing for myself, from about the age of ten, and had done a few projects for friends. I wanted to work, but have the flexibility to work according to my schedule. This seemed to fill the bill.

I put on my marketing hat, and thought about how do I get started? How do I find customers? Looking back at my own experiences, I decided that one of the best times to contact someone, was after they bought a house, when they are thinking about how to transform that house into their home. Each week, our local newspaper posted property transactions. They would list the addresses of houses sold by town, who bought the property, and the sales price. With this information, I could build a list of potential customers.

I put together a letter, a brochure, and a coupon. I built a mailing list using the information from the newspaper, by town, and sales price. Two days after I did my first mailing, I got a call, and she ended up being my first customer. Over time, I was able to get referrals, and do presentations to a newcomer's club. But what consistently brought me business was those mailings.

Now, as a craftsperson, I can describe my typical customer....but she is also the needle in a haystack. There is nothing comparable to that listing in the newspaper of property transactions to identify her. The approach is very different.

This is why I harp on the value of a mailing list. It is as simple as setting out a notebook and pen in your booth for people to add their name. Some artists will only do mailings to people who have bought their work. But what about the other people who loved your work, but did not buy? Don't you want them on your mailing list so that when the opportunity is ripe, they will know where you are? Do you have business cards or postcards out where they can be easily seen and picked up? Some people have a false sense of economy about business cards or postcards. Don't hoard them. Will they be worshiped and framed? Nope. Even if only one in ten or twenty or fifty of those cards is saved, that is okay. What about the ones that get picked up and passed on to the friend who owns a retail outlet, or the friend who would love your work.....Don't you want to make it easy for other people to spread the word about your work? I do. I need all the help I can get!

Of course, it goes without saying, once you build that mailing list, you do need to use it! No excuses here. This is basic care and feeding of your business. Even if your business is strictly online...collect e-mail address, and have a newsletter. You only sell wholesale. That's fine. Keep track of any and all businesses that have sent you inquiries about your work. If you identify a store or gallery that would be a good fit for your work, add them to your list. When you have new work, or you are going to do a wholesale show, do a mailing. At a show, if you give someone a catalog....get a card in exchange.

Off my soapbox...for now anyway. I am sure I will give my mailing list speech again. This is just so essential, and so basic to your success. The only way to avoid it is to pay someone else to update and maintain your list, and do your mailings. But you still need to put that notebook out.

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