Awarded to the art gallery/custom frameshop with the most welldesigned and effective enewsletter for keeping customers informed
Winner • The Framer’s Workshop
Owner • Kirstie Bennett
Location • Berkeley, Calif.
Web site • www.framersworkshop.com
For the past seven years, Kirstie Bennett’s ongoing efforts to connect with her customers electronically have yielded impressive results.
Through her continual drive for improvement, Bennett, owner of The Framer’s Workshop in Berkeley, Calif., has grown her enewsletter from a couponbased mailing sent to 75 subscribers to a fullfledged, monthly, newsfilled mailing that reaches more than 3,500 of her customers and informs them of all the happenings not only at the shop but in the artandframing industry.
“In late 2002, I began the plan with a signup form placed in the shop,” Bennett says. “We invited customers to sign up for a periodic enewsletter that would contain a framing discount coupon. My first mailings were based upon Constant Contact templates and contained a simple coupon within the enewsletter. This brought excellent results, but it did not bring customers to our Web site.”
In an attempt to drive traffic to her store’s Web site, www.framersworkshop.com, Bennett began to include a link to a coupon on the site within her enewsletters. It quickly became apparent to her, however, that having a publicly available coupon on the site had two disadvantages. First, anyone who clicked on the discount page was given a permanent coupon, which removed the urgency of a discount. Second, the coupon page on the Web site let customers circumvent the enewsletter completely.
Bennett wanted to reward the customers who took the time to read her enewsletters. So, she changed the subscriber coupon page to a private one, only making the link accessible through the enewsletter. She also chose to periodically change the URL and not optimize the page for search engines, making the page more difficult for nonsubscribers to find.
Another challenge facing Bennett was the design and content of her enewsletters. She wanted to design them well enough that they would maintain consistent branding that subscribers would recognize. But she also wanted each enewsletter to look and feel fresh and unique. With the help of Michael Wells, The Framer’s Workshop’s Web developer and one of the store’s shop managers, Bennett learned basic graphic design techniques using Adobe Photoshop software. This allowed her to start with more advanced design templates from Constant Contacta popular provider of email marketing servicesand create enewsletters full of attentiongetting photographs, including images of the shop’s various artandframing projects. She also included links to various pages on the shop’s Web site in nearly every topic and photo in the enewsletters.
“I have worked to develop an enewsletter style while still providing the reader with a unique look at each month’s piece,” Bennett says. “Although some experts advise using a standard template with similar colors and styles for each enewsletter, our customers compliment us on the enewsletters and tell us they enjoy their colorful new looks and rich content.”
For all the variety, however, Bennett is striving to maintain a consistent style when it comes to some of the prominent elements of The Framer’s Workshop enewsletters. In the near future, the header or top banner of each enewsletter will feature The Framer’s Workshop’s logo. Bennett and Wells will scrap the standard banner provided with a template, create their own banner featuring the shop’s logo over some of the art being promoted in the enewsletter and place the banner at the top of the enewsletter. Bennett says these custom banners will give the enewsletters consistent branding while updating them with a fresh look each month.
Attractive design is one thing, but Bennett knew the enewsletters also would need valuable, interesting content that would draw her subscribers in. So, she made a habit of always keeping the enewsletters in mind. Whenever she read a story about art or framing, stocked a new product or saw interesting design ideas, she’d think about how she might be able to incorporate them into future enewsletters. She still does, and she’s never short on story topics.
“Other framers often ask me how I find new ideas to write about every month,” Bennett says. “At the beginning of each month, I put an empty folder on my computer’s desktop. During the next two weeks, I fill it with anything that comes to mind that might be of interest to my customers or that I want to promote.”
“All of us should have something new in our shops each month, whether it’s new art, new moulding samples, a new ‘green’ framing line, a charity event you donated framing to, staff accomplishments, a photo restoration example, holiday ideas or anything else that’s new and unique,” Bennett says. “When you start thinking about your enewsletter, ideas will constantly pop into your mind. And, before you know it, you’ll be thinking a month or two ahead.”
Bennett also monitors media coverage of the artandframing industry for information she can pass on to subscribers in The Framer’s Workshop’s enewsletters. If she sees something that might interest her subscribers in industry publications, she gets permission to use the content or photo in an enewsletter. She also references the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA)’s Web site for enewsletter content.
By the middle of each month, Bennett’s folder is full of Web links and photos she can include in her next enewsletter. She first selects which items to include based on color and theme and then creates a header image and starts writing.
“I can relax when all I have left to do is write the copy,” Bennett says. “I’m always thinking about new items for the enewsletter, so having something new to write about comes naturally. Plus, when I have beautiful images laid out on the template, I’m excited enough to give the text some pizzazz. But I take two weeks to edit and perfect the enewsletter, and I might make additions at the last minute. I make sure to give myself enough time.”
The Framer’s Workshop’s email list is also completely optin, which means a customer must ask to be put on it. Bennett says the company never has and never will pay for contact lists or send spam. Bennett says she only sends one enewsletter per month and always at the same time10:30 a.m. Pacific Time on the first day of the month. Her customers trust the message because they know exactly when to expect it.
All of these practices have made The Framer’s Workshop’s enewsletter enormously successful. The coupons offered to subscribers generate between $5,000 and $10,000 in sales per month. Nearly a third of the enewsletter’s 3,500plus subscribers open each email and click through to the shop’s Web site, and customers tell staff they look forward to receiving the enewsletters because of the coupons and because they like to see what’s new at the shop.
“The enewsletter and its coupon are essential to our marketing strategy,” Bennett says. “It dovetails with our Web site and blog updates to form a comprehensive online presence. Plus, the enewsletters’ clickthrough statistics tell us which topics are popular. When we produce print ads for various publications, we know which art to feature based on what has been clicked most in the enewsletters.”
Bennett has learned much about enewsletters through trial and error, but she advises other artandframing retailers to keep a few things in mind. She says retailers should use an email marketing company because it provides services and tools they can’t get on their own.
She also stresses the importance of proofreading and sending enewsletters to one’s own email addresses to test them first. Finally, she advises shops to vary their coupon offers because offering huge discounts month after month can diminish the perceived value of their work.
Bennett is looking into an enewsletter archive for The Framer’s Workshop’s Web site and the possibility of including reader surveys in future enewsletters. As for her next installment, she’s already got at least one newsworthy item to include: winning DECOR’s Art & Framing Retailers Award for the Best ENewsletter cateogry. “I’ve spent seven years perfecting our enewsletter, and I’m delighted to be recognized for that effort,” Bennett says. By Daniel Mullen
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