SHOCK – The spirit of Christmas found in a beautiful simple little piece of marketing

Let me tell you an true Xmas tale…

Here in Yorkshire it has been snowing… hard. After a week of literally being snowed in the house {and the associated insanity this brings on} I ventured out into my local town to try and catch up with a little Christmas shopping.

It’s a proper little Yorkshire place, the solid buildings hewn out of golden stone. It has a bank, a butchers, a florists and all the associated hustle and bustle of a thriving Market Town. Under a hefty dollop of snow, with the main street lit by fairly lights it’s about as Christmassy as it gets. However, the older I get the more Scrooge like I get so I was dashing about, not noticing any of this, intent on getting to the bank and all the other tedious bits of general life that seem to escalate into lunacy in the run up to Xmas.

In the bleak midwinter…

For as long as I have lived here, a tiny woman has stationed herself outside the bank, selling “The Big Issue”. If you don’t know, this is a magazine, sold by the homeless to provide an alternative to begging. The woman stands outside the bank in all weathers {and in Yorkshire we really DO get ALL weathers and many of them are hideous} selling the magazine. I think she’s Eastern European and she speaks very little English. She may be a refugee from one of the hideous wars in the region in the past, but I’m surmising. She generally only has a thin coat and headscarf and looks freezing most of the time. But she’s always there…always polite and smiling and although I always say hello when I go to the bank, for some reason I have never bought a magazine from her…

Well today I must have had an attack of festive spirit, as when I came out of the bank I bought one of her copies of “The Big Issue”, shoved it in my bag, whilst tussling with a restive toddler and headed for home.

Finally I got to sit down with my coffee in front of the fire to have a thumb through the magazine [which is always a good read]. Along with all the magazine detritus that fell out, there was a small handwritten envelope with something I couldn’t quite decipher on the front. Intrigued I opened it and inside was a little Chrismas card. The message inside, written in tiny spidery writing, read exactly as follows:

To my coustmer. I am Lejla and my little girl. Merry Christmas. From Lejla and Dushanka xx

Well, that was me melted!

The Xmas card proudly joined my ranks of others on the mantelpiece and Lejla in one absolutely genius fell swoop of marketing had converted me from a stranger into a customer.

No longer is she “the homeless woman outside the bank who must be FREEZING in this weather” but a person with a name, a little girl and a story. She has made herself REAL, genuine and worthwhile spending money on. I will definitely be buying her magazine next time I see her and I’m sure her regular customers will continue to buy too.

So thanks to Lejla for reminding me of the spirit of Christmas and bringing a warm glow to my sometimes slightly Scroogy heart, and for also teaching a valuable marketing lesson.

BE REAL and CONNECT with your customers! They are the lifeblood of your business.

And thanks to you too, reader and supporter of this blog. Thanks for reading and commenting and just being there over the past year. I really do appreciate it. So it’s only left for me to wish you a very merry, wonderful and peaceful Christmas wherever you are in the world…

Merry Christmas

Helen x

Photo Credit under Creative Commons licence by pareeerica

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How to start your Artists Newsletter in 6 easy-peasy steps – A practical guide

A very practical post this week!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post exhorting artists to start collecting names on their artists mailing list.
What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

I got feedback from lots of artists who wanted to do just that and send out a newsletter but really didn’t know where to start and were confused and daunted by the whole process. So following on from this I have put together a quick guide to help.

Follow these 6 simple steps and you should be well on your way to sending out a professional email artists newsletter which will give you a head start in promoting your work.

In the words of a famous footwear brand – Just do it.

Setting this up will probably take around an hour. Then you are all ready to go and start collecting emails and contacting your fans and collectors. It’s really not a daunting techie process and trust me, it’s worth it in terms of selling your art. It’s probably THE most powerful thing you can do to keep in touch with people who love your work.

Just dedicate an hour after dinner tonight to getting this sorted out. You can even have a glass of wine whilst you’re doing it. Bonus. 😉

This post is, due to constraints of space, just a quick overview of how to do it. Basically, the software we are going to use, MailChimp,  is very user friendly which is why it’s the best place to start if you have never done this before. Don’t be daunted by it. Jump in and have a poke about. You can’t break anything. Once you get your confidence up you will be away.

So, here we go…

1 – Register with MailChimp.com for free

You really don’t want to send out your Newsletter using your normal email software {Outlook etc} for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that the template will break, it will get classed as spam and you can’t track the results.

  • Head over to www.mailchimp.com and click on the big SIGN UP FREE button. Fill in your details and click the confirmation email you will be sent.
  • You will then be asked to fill in a CAPTCHA {typing in the strange words to confirm you are human} and then taken to a page where you fill in your details.
  • At this stage you are also asked for your website address so MailChimp can grab a colour palette from your website so that your templates match. How cool is that?
  • If you don’t have your own website yet, but only a Facebook page or Twitter presence don’t worry. You can still send out a newsletter. MailChimp explains how to deal with that at this stage.
  • Finally pick the FREE account and you are taken to the MailChimp dashboard and ready to start.

2 – Create your mailing list

So before you send out any newsletters you need to get some people to send them to. You need to start a list and start collecting names and email addresses.

  • On the dashboard, click the LISTS tab at the top, or “Create a List” on the main panel and you are taken to a page where you set up a mailing list.
  • You are guided through the process of naming the list, adding in your email address and subject name. You can leave settings on default for now if unsure. The main thing is getting this set up. You can come back later and change and refine it.
  • When you click DONE the list is saved.
  • If you already have some names {legally gathered on your website} you can import them into the new list by clicking IMPORT
  • Your list is now ready to go. Yay!

3 – Put a signup form on your site

People visiting your site need to be able to signup for your list so you need to add a signup form on your website.

  • Click DESIGN SIGNUP FORM in the left column and lets get started.
  • Auto Design is a great feature which goes to your website and grabs colours and images to match the form to your site. It made a reasonable job on my site although it added a fairly bonkers header image which I had to delete. Still its a good way to start and you can then click the DESIGN IT tab at the top to poke about and refine the form. Don’t worry, you can’t break anything. Just experiment.
  • Keep your form simple. Name and email address is really all you need. The more information you ask for the less likely people will be to sign up.
  • When you are all done you then need to get this form onto your site. Look just above the form [tucked away and not very obvious} and you will see the following links. Link to subscribe form {and the link here} or create embed code for small form. Either copy and past the link {simple} and add to your site or create the embed code and copy this into the HTML of your site {slightly more techy but better}.
  • Once you have got the form onto your site make sure you check it works OK by subscribing yourself.

4 – Create a Newsletter {campaign}

Now for the exciting bit. Actually putting your newsletter together. Mailchimp uses the adspeak word “campaign” but we know we mean newsletter right?

  • Hit the campaigns tab at the top and “Create Campaign” in the left column.
  • Then select “regular ol campaign” from the pull down menu you are provided. You are then asked which list you want to send to. Select your list and continue.
  • Next give your campaign a name and message title. You can leave the other settings on default for now.
  • When you click through to the next page you are given a great choice of template designs to use. Choose a pre designed one, start from scratch if you are feeling brave or click the “Design Genius” button to customise your own.
  • When you have chosen a template, just click edit at top right of the relevant section box and add your own content.
  • When you have finished creating your newsletter, click next and mailchimp will check your newsletter is ready for delivery.
  • VERY IMPORTANT. Send a test message to yourself to make sure everything looks right. Just keep sending tests until you are sure its all good to go.
  • That’s it!!. Your artists newsletter is ready to go! Wasn’t too painful was it?

5 – Great. But what on earth do I put in my artists newsletter?

This is the ten billion dollar question I get asked A LOT. It’s all very well setting up a newsletter but you have to have good content. We all get bombarded by massive amounts of email rubbish so your newsletter needs to stand out from the crowd. A few pointers:

Your title needs the WOW factor.
This is the only thing that will get your email opened. Make it intriguing and different.

People love stories.
Share the stories behind your work. Is there an intriguing history behind a building you painted? An anecdote surrounding the evolution of a technique you use? Share it.

Share the story of your work in progress.
Has a piece of work evolved in a strange and unexpected way? Tell people about it.

Give previews.
Show your collectors your new work before it goes on your site, giving them a VIP boost.

6 – Send it out. Talk to your people

You’ve done it. Your artists newsletter is ready to go. Sending out once a month is plenty and will mean people won’t get sick of hearing from you. Quality over quantity every time.

Have fun with your artists newsletter. Cherish your fans and customers, respect them and send them great stuff. An artists newsletter is a wonderful and direct way of connecting with the precious people who love your work.

You have done the hard part. Now go out and make the most of it.

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Best of the web | November 2010 | Don’t miss these

Disconnect to connect

As an artist I have found it’s crucially important to try and disconnect from the web sometimes in order to recharge my creative batteries and enjoy reality more. Sunday has become my “disconnect to connect” day. This lovely little ad from Thailand reminds us why this is a good idea.

Online scams targetting artists. Advice on how to avoid getting caught out.

Unfortunately artists who sell their work online seem to be targets for fraudsters operating on the web. If you familiarise yourself with their methods you should be able to avoid falling for their scams. I thought it was a good idea to talk about this for any artists who weren’t aware so this month I have found some great resources to help protect and advise against this problem.

Sure Signs of an Internet Scam and How to Stop It Cold

Alyson B Stanfield gives a great outline of what an internet art scam can look like and ways to deal with it.

Art Scammer Database

If you get a suspicious message you can check the name against known art scammers in this database from Fine Art Studio Online. {Remember though, if the name isn’t in the database it could still be a scam}.

And in other news…

14 art business tips from the top art pros on Twitter

This is a gem. Lori McNee asked the art pros on Twitter to share an artbiz tip in 140 characters. Their response contains some GREAT advice.

The creative process – illustrated!

This is totally genius. If you ever think that it’s just you who goes around in ever decreasing creative circles in your head then look at this illustration. We all do this 😉

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