You know those friends who just ooze goodness and sweetness, and everything they touch turns to gold? They just make you feel better about yourself by being their friend. I’m so incredibly grateful to call Lauren Lanker of The Thinking Closet one of my dearest friends, and y’all, she writes truly EPIC newsletters.
Last month, I introduced you to a monthly feature called #HowSheEmails, and we kicked it off with the ever-wonderful Kayse Pratt. This month, my girl Lauren agreed to share some insight into her email marketing strategy, and I promise you friends, you will not be disappointed!
Lauren shares how vital her email list has been to the success of her book launch, and how you can incorporate some of her ideas into your own product launch. You’ll no doubt be inspired by her creative content ideas, something I know a lot of bloggers struggle with when creating a newsletter, and learn about why she made the switch from MailChimp to ConvertKit a few months ago (and what she misses about MailChimp).
If you’ve never met Lauren or visited her gorgeous blog, The Thinking Closet, I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll adore her by the end of this interview. She pours her heart into everything she does, so grab your sweet tea, sit back and enjoy this incredibly thoughtful interview from Lauren Lanker:
1. Tell us about your blog, and how long you have used email to communicate with your readers.
First of all, thanks so much for having me, Kirsten! It is a true honor to get to enjoy some “Sweet Tea time” with you and your awesome-sauce readers.
The Thinking Closet was established in September 2012 as a space for letting your creativity splish, splash, and spill. I named my blog after the original “Thinking Closet” of my early childhood where I would escape for hours to cut up wallpaper books and craft to my heart’s content!
In my project gallery, you’ll find everything from home decor to upcycled furniture to handmade gifts to Silhouette tutorials to organization projects and blogging tips. But at the heart of it all, I have one mission: to help you break down the walls that stand between you and your creativity. So, you’ll find that my writing places an emphasis on embracing imperfections, making messes, and laughing along the way. Even if it means sharing an incriminating childhood photo or my latest DIY fail, I’m committed to keeping it real with my readers. (Which explains why Kirsten and I were so quick to bond when we first connected during my first year of blogging. She is the queen of keeping it real!)
I am proud to say that I have used email to communicate with my readers since day one. As someone who subscribed to blogs via email for years before I started my own blogging journey, I knew firsthand how powerful it was to reach a reader’s inbox. Also, my father is in Direct Marketing, so I suppose it’s in my D.N.A!
2. What email platform do you use, and what are the pros and cons? If you’ve recently switched, what made you decide to do so?
Since fall of 2015, I’ve been using ConvertKit for my email; however, MailChimp served me well for nearly 2.5 years, and I think it’s an incredibly user-friendly platform to use for creating beautiful newsletters. It also was an affordable option for me when I was just starting off and before I was generating much income from my blog.
However, I recently made the switch to ConvertKit since it boasted features that would help me better customize my email communication for the launch of my paperback book this past November. Since ConvertKit integrates seamlessly with Gumroad (the platform I use for selling my book), it allowed me to easily target really specific audiences with each of my emails. On launch day, I think I had about eight different custom emails sent out to eight different groups of subscribers. ConvertKit made that all smooth-sailing!
So, although I’m paying more per month with ConvertKit, and I’ve had to sacrifice some of the pretty design elements that I grew to love in MailChimp, I’m really digging the ConvertKit platform and all the power in packs when launching a product or targeting specific subscribers. My list has also catapulted in growth because of all the custom forms I can easily create with unique content upgrades such as a free printable or Silhouette cut file.
3. You published your amazing book, Thinking Outside the Gift Box, first in PDF format then in print. Your email list played a huge part in your marketing. Tell us about your strategy (if you had one!) and how heavily you rely on your subscribers to help you spread the word about your product.
Aw, shucks. Kirsten, your unceasing support of me and my humble book never fail to knock my socks off. Thank you, friend.
In terms of email strategy for launching my eBook back in 2014, I have to give credit where credit is due. Andy Traub from Take Permission shared a free webinar called “How to Sell Your First 100 Copies on Day One” that really helped me get my email-game on point. It was through that video that I learned about the concept of growing an email list specifically to generate excitement about a product launch. Andy also strongly recommended being generous and giving away your content FOR FREE before launch to anyone who wants to join your list.
And so with his tips and tricks in mind, I created the eBook Insiders Club! Anyone was welcome to join who wanted to stay in the loop on updates about the book, help vote on a cover, and get sneak peeks of early drafts. And what blew me away is that people not only wanted to join my nifty club, but that they wanted to invest so much time and energy into helping me with my eBook. My Insiders Club grew to several hundred loyal subscribers, many of whom offered to read drafts, share constructive feedback, write reviews that I could quote on my sales page, and help promote the book after its launch. That group became such a valued community. (Especially one member in particular whose name starts with “Kir” and ends with “sten.” Wink wink.)
To anyone launching a product, I highly recommend creating a special “list” just for insiders. Be generous with your subscribers and prepare to have your heart explode from all the generosity of spirit they send back your way.
Curious to read more on this subject? Here ya go: The Most Surprising Thing About Writing an eBook That No One Told Me About
4. You send newsletters to your blog subscribers, but also have an Insider’s Club for your book, which you just mentioned. Each of your newsletters is epic, personal, and valuable. How do you come up with content ideas for your newsletters?
Wow, that’s high praise coming from you, Kirsten. Thanks, girlfriend! So, yes, the Insiders Club lives on now as one of the bonuses that comes with purchasing the Ultimate Package of my book. And those monthly updates are seriously my favorite emails to write.
Why? Well, they’re extremely focused since each month I tackle a different theme related to gift-giving. Also, the words really just flow for me because I embrace a casual and friendly tone just like I do in my book. I work in my goofy sense of humor by including animated GIFs in my introduction, which makes for a fun time for all!
My creativity always thrives most with a wee bit of a structure, so I tend to follow a similar format in all of my Insider emails:
- Subject Line: address that month’s theme
- Personal Note from Lauren: includes GIFs galore
- Insider Spotlight: pulled from social media shares
- Blogger Spotlight: I get to show off my blog buddies
- From the Book: highlight an idea from the book relevant to the theme
- From the Blog: highlight a blog post relevant to the theme
- Pinspiration: 4 pins from Pinterest worth exploring
- Closing: final words and reminders
I find these newsletters really write themselves, and not having to reinvent the wheel each month with a new structure really takes off a lot of the pressure!
5. How much time would you say you spend, on average, putting each newsletter together? Can you walk us through your process?
For my Insider Updates, if I’m honest, I probably spend 3 – 4 hours creating each one. And while that may seem like a lot, they go out once a month, and they are info-packed! Epic content does take an epic investment. But like I shared before, time flies when I work on these because I’m having a blast, and I’ve really fine-tuned my system.
I can usually craft a weekly newsletter in 1 hour or less. And I’ve been experimenting with various formats for my weekly newsletter, but here’s an example of the structure I’m using right now:
- Personal Note from Lauren: share something that has inspired me, provoked thought, or just a snapshot of life
- Fresh on the Blog: a photo and snippet of my latest blog post(s)
- From the Vault: evergreen content from my archives worth exploring
- Social Media Links
In the past, I’ve experimented with other segments, such as:
- The Latest & Greatest on Periscope
- Coming Up Next on Periscope
- YouTube Find of the Week
- This Week’s Pinspiration
- Instagram with Me!
When it comes to content, I try to follow my college professor, Dr. Davis’s advice: “Start with passion and your work will always succeed.” So if I’m excited about a subject, I find a way to share that excitement with my readers in my newsletter. Changing it up also helps keep things fresh for both me and and my readers!
And on that note, I’ll share that the newsletter that received the most engagement was one I never intended to write. It was the week before Christmas, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of urgency to send a note of encouragement to my subscribers to help them embrace peace over panic in those final days before Christmas. And I’m so glad I followed that gut instinct because I received dozens of email replies from subscribers thanking me, sharing that my message was exactly what they needed to hear in that moment. There’s no greater satisfaction than that, my friends. I even decided to publish that newsletter in a blog post after the fact because of how well it was received!
So, while structure and consistency are great in your emails, I also think that it’s okay to break the rules you set for yourself. Especially if it means embracing an opportunity to encourage and uplift your subscribers!
6. What advice would you give to someone on the fence about starting a newsletter for their blog?
Take the leap, friend! It’s so worth your while. You see, there’s an incredible connection that can take place in the inbox that you’ll just never achieve on the blog. Especially if you write your newsletters to your reader as an individual and not just a massive crowd of strangers. Oh, the bond that will quickly form!
Just remember that you have a voice that matters, so embrace the opportunity to shine your light and carry out your mission “behind the scenes.” It’s an investment that will lead to a loyal following of subscribers who will give back to you tenfold what you’ve given to them. That I know from personal experience! (See my wordy response to #3 again if you need a reminder.)
So, don’t delay in getting your list started and sending out regular updates–even if “regular” means once a month.
You’ve got this. (Fist bump.)
I told you she was epic! I’m so inspired and excited to write my next newsletter, and I sincerely hope you are, too! (How can you NOT be, right?) Now let’s do a quick recap:
- There is no perfect email platform, so do your own research, determine your email marketing needs, and make the right choice for your blog or business.
- Treat your subscribers like VIPs, especially when launching a product. Don’t be afraid to give away free content, and create something special to establish a sense of community.
- Create a basic outline for your recurring newsletters to help you with your workflow.
- “Epic content does take an epic investment.” Spend time on your newsletter content if you really want to connect with your readers.
- Don’t be afraid to break your own rules & follow your gut instincts from time to time.
- “Your voice matters, ” so just dive into email marketing, and always be authentically & beautifully YOU!
CONNECT WITH LAUREN:
Lauren is the incredibly creative and sweet voice behind The Thinking Closet. She and her hubby Mark are doing life together in Florida where they are currently working on their most epic DIY project to date – a baby girl due in June 2016! Lauren’s passion for her family & friends, along with her vivid imagination, came together to create “Thinking Outside the Gift Box“, her book now available in both PDF and hard copy. Lauren’s Instagram profile is full of inspiration & encouragement, too, as she shares her Bible journaling, pregnancy journal, and other goodness. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Sign up for Lauren’s awesome newsletter HERE.
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