Your creative business needs an email list:
- it converts to sales way better than social media ever can
- you get better reach and visibility
- it’s an asset in your business that no one can take away, unlike Facebook or Instagram or Etsy where your account can get shut down for no good reason
- and best of all, it’s free to get started
In this post, I’ll show you the simple steps for how to build an email list in your handmade business.
Hi! My name is Mei and I help makers, artists and designers create a consistent income selling their handmade products online.
Craft Shows & Live Events
The first super easy way to get started building your email list is at craft shows or any live events you do.
You probably do several shows a year. You can start by putting out a simple pen and paper sign up sheet at your table for people to write down their email addresses.
After every show, you would then add those people to your email list.
One strategy I recommend to get MORE people to sign up is to offer something in exchange for their email address.
You have to keep in mind that these days, people’s emails are very valuable to them. No one likes getting spam or emails they never signed up for that aren’t related to them. It can become a problem for some people, so they can be guarded.
To get them to be more comfortable with giving you their emails, you can offer something like a free giveaway at the end of the event. People can sign up for a chance to win one of your products. This can also be a good idea because it encourages people to come back to your booth before the event is over, which can help drum up some last-minute sales.
Where to Store Your Email List
Let’s talk about how to build your email list online.
An email list usually lives in some sort of online-based software or service. I call this an ESP, an email service provider.
I’m not talking about an email service like Gmail or Yahoo Mail. Those are for sending personal one on one emails. I know you can send BCC emails to lots of people at once, but that’s usually frowned upon and it’s not the best way to manage your email list.
A proper ESP is something like Mailchimp. It has more features to help make sending emails easier. You can keep track of open and click rates for each email with a service like this. You can’t really do that with Gmail or Yahoo Mail.
Mailchimp is one option, but I don’t actually recommend it.
When I started my business, I used Mailchimp. Over the years, I’ve tried almost every ESP you can think of and even went back to Mailchimp not too long ago because they claimed they had all these new features.
Unfortunately, while Mailchimp might be the most popular ESP, it doesn’t really perform well.
They have almost nonexistent customer support and while they have integration with your Shopify site, it doesn’t work well, it isn't accurate, and it’s also not as user-friendly as some other ESPs.
If there’s one thing about technology that I’ve learned over the years, if it doesn’t work well, you can’t trust the data it gives you, and it’s not user-friendly, you’re just not going to use it.
My favorite Mailchimp alternative is actually MailerLite.
It’s free up to your first 1,000 subscribers and it has e-commerce integration with your Shopify site. That means when a customer from your shop places an order, that information is shared with your ESP. You want that to happen so you can segment your email list and send the right emails to the right people at the right time.
Mailchimp can do that integration too, but I’ve tested it and it’s just not accurate.
I've had an experience where it says a certain customer has made 2 orders, when in fact that customer has made 5 orders. The kind of email you send to someone who’s placed 2 orders can look very different than an email you’d send to someone who’s placed 5 orders.
It’s just like how you probably talk to your partner in a different way than how you’d talk to a colleague at work.
The ESP that I use for Tiny Hands is called Klaviyo. It’s the best ESP for shop owners but it can get pricey, which is why I don’t necessarily recommend it for beginners.
Sign Up Forms
With your ESP, one of the features it gives you is the ability to create sign up forms.
This is literally just a place for people online to type in their email address and click on a “Sign Up” button, to join your email list.
In MailerLite, it’s drag-and-drop and easy to create and design your sign up forms that you can then copy and paste into your website.
It's good practice to have your sign up forms appear as high up on your site as possible so your visitors don't miss it.
Also try to have your form in as many logical places as possible, such as:
- About page
- Testimonials page
- checkout confirmation page
The reason you want your sign up forms to appear in so many places is that your customer isn’t seeing ALL the places you put them in.
You don’t want to make your site look spammy and distracting. There’s a balance. But most of the time I see people not put enough sign up forms around their site.
Another tip for you, ask for first names in your sign up forms. This helps you be able to address your subscribers by their first name in all of your emails as if you were emailing them personally.
There is a cost to that, however, because now there’s one more extra field for people to enter. The more information you ask of them in your sign up form, the lower your conversion rates are going to be.
For me, I personally don’t ask for first names even though I do love being able to personalize my emails with people’s first names. I would rather grow my email list and make that my priority because I can create a deeper connection with my subscriber in other ways than using their first name in my emails.
Now, there are lots of different types of sign up forms you can make.
There are landing pages, which should only have the sign up form as well as one to two sentences max talking about why someone should join your email list.
Landing pages convert really well because there’s only one thing to do, which is to sign up. If people don’t sign up, they leave the page altogether.
Don’t put your regular site navigation or social media links anywhere on this landing page. You want to keep it as simple as possible and without distractions and that’s why it converts so well.
Landing pages usually convert at 30% or more.
Landing pages work well for a place to send your social media traffic, or if you’re doing a paid ad or a giveaway.
Other sign up forms like pop ups and sticky headers or slide in animated forms convert lower, usually at around 5%-15%, if you do it right.
Let’s talk about pop ups, because I know people can be hesitant to use them.
Consider that most pop ups are annoying because they’re not shown to you at a time that’s not annoying.
Usually, pop ups appear right away after you load a website. You probably haven’t even taken 5 seconds to browse around yet.
You may not even know what this website sells and already you’ve got a pop up in your face.
What I recommend you do is to configure your pop up, and your ESP should be able to do this, so that your pop up appears either X number of seconds after your website is loaded, or after your website visitor has clicked on 3 or more pages on your site.
For how many seconds, it kind of depends on how long it takes your site to load. I would do something like 20 seconds after your site loads.
If it takes your site 5 seconds to load fully, then I would make the pop up show at 25 seconds.
Pop ups convert really well.
I have mine convert at between 9%-15% depending on if it’s desktop or mobile. I highly recommend you use them.
Offer an Incentive
Once you’ve got your sign up forms all over your site, something that can add a huge boost of conversions and grow your email list by 10x more is by offering an incentive.
Like how you might offer to do a giveaway at a craft show, you can do something similar for your online sign ups.
My biggest tip for you is too keep it simple.
There’s so many people out there telling you you have to create a PDF, guide , free training like a style guide, or a quiz and I’M telling you that those don’t work as well for you unless you’re an information-based business.
If you’re watching this, you’re probably a physical product-based business.
The best kinds of incentives are the ones you’ve seen over and over again everywhere else.
I know that there can be this creative or artistic ego that wants to do something different than what everyone else is doing, but don’t overthink this.
I stressed myself up over this at one point and I know many handmade shop owners do the same.
These incentives that work are a discount code, free shipping offer, or gift card which is basically just a fixed dollar amount coupon code. You can even do a monthly product giveaway.
I know these sound basic and uncreative, but trust me, they work very well.
I did this experiment a while ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was still true today.
If you don’t offer any incentive, you can just expect your list to grow a lot more slowly.
Free shipping was just as attractive as a 15% discount code, so if I were you, I’d choose whichever was cheaper for you to do.
Of course, doing an ongoing monthly giveaway was the best at bringing in new subscribers.
Even if you didn’t do a monthly giveaway that was tied to your sign up forms, because as we all know, doing giveaways too often trains your customers to expect them and you can attract a percentage of people who are freebie hunters.
Having said that, doing giveaways a few times every year is healthy and fun for your audience and if you do this in conjunction with my giveaway funnel, you could potentially build up your list quickly while simultaneously making a few sales.
Once you’ve got all of that set up, you’ll need to send traffic to your email list sign up forms.
Your email list will not grow without traffic.
I recommend pitching your products, and I have a great guide on how to do that.
Just remember, it takes time. Be patient.
Growing your email list has a direct correlation to growing your handmade business, and I’ve seen people take an average of 1 to 3 years to go to a full time income with their business, assuming they put in a full time effort into it.