Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spotlight on Apron Strings Designs

Life is busy.  Time is short, and it seems to just keep getting shorter.  There are a thousand reasons why we don't take time to sit and enjoy a hobby, but Apron Strings has turned these excuses into a successful online business.

Just over six years ago, out of desperation and necessity, Lori Scholz founded Apron Strings.  She found that life was indeed getting busier and the choices in her local shops were getting more and more overwhelming.  There had to be a better way!  Lori decided that it would be easier for her and her scrapping friends if some sort of pre-assembled kits were available, and so she got to work.  Her goal is to eliminate all those excuses that inevitably keep people away from doing the things that they really love.

No time to head to the store?  No creative energy left after that long day at work?  No problem!  Apron Strings sells prepackaged scrapbooking kits in two different sizes, "Smaller than a Breadbox" and "Bigger than a Breadbox", and the "All Year Cheer" Card kits, each containing coordinated papers and embellishments.  With just a quick click of the mouse, these kits can be delivered right to your doorstep.  The online newsletter contains everything an aspiring or experienced scrapper needs to turn these kits into one or more masterpieces.  With new kits each month, there is more than enough material to keep even the most avid scrapbooker busy.

This month's "Bigger than a Breadbox" Kit
 Too busy to even get online to order once a month?  Lori took care of that excuse, too.  With Apron Strings' autoship option, you just need to get online once to sign up and then new kits will appear in your mailbox each month.  All that time saved is time that can be spent on fabulous scrapbooking projects!

Lori is very proud of the company that her little idea has become over these past six years.  "Apron Strings is built on a foundation of great customer service, fun kits filled with great new products that are, best of all, budget friendly", she says.

Lori utilizes email marketing as a means to reach her customers on a regular basis.  She notifies them of upcoming promotions, news about each kit, and a monthly newsletter. Along with the newsletter, the Apron Strings blog is a continued source of inspiration and ideas.  Guest designers showcasing their finished "breadbox" creations, along with Lori's commentary and photos, give limitless possibilities for the products in each kit.

If you'd like to learn more about Apron Strings, visit their webpage or "like" them on Facebook!

Shop Apron Strings and save 15% on your entire purchase:  Enter EC15 at checkout.  Offer Expires May 31st, 2011 (Not good towards autoship memberships.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spotlight on Ninabrook Designs

Author and motivational speaker Harvey MacKay once said, "Find something you love to do, and you'll never have to work a day in your life."  Heather Brooks and Sharon Ninaber have quite literally taken this statement to heart.  What began more than a decade ago as two friends scrapbooking their lives and their loves turned, a few years later, into Ninabrook Designs.

Seven years ago, Heather and Sharon noticed that the owners of their favorite scrapbooking stores just didn't have the time to supply their customers with pre-assembled class kits.  Instead of taking their business elsewhere, the two friends decided to take matters into their own hands, and Ninabrook Designs was born.  Not only would Sharon and Heather design and assemble kits to be used in scrapbooking classes, they also taught some of the classes.

About a year and a half ago, the girls decided to switch gears and eliminate the middle-man, so to speak.  They decided that selling directly to the customer would enable them to lower their prices and better serve their fellow scrapbookers.

Ninabrook still sells kits like this one, including instructions so that even the most amateur scrapper will be able to complete each project, but they have also expanded to sell basic scrapping supplies and new "bundle" kits - deeply discounted bundles of product.

Breaking Free Paper Bundle #1
Heather and Sharon's passion for creating memories and serving their customers really shines through in everything they do, including their webpage and blog.  Because of this, their customer base continues to grow exponentially.

Ninabrook Designs sends multiple emails to their subscribers each month, including a newsletter.  "It's amazing to have the tools to communicate effectively with our customers...the templates are attractive and fun with new ones continually being added", says Sharon.

We're so glad that we can help!  Thank YOU, Sharon and Heather, for being such fantastic customers!

If you'd like to be among the first to hear about Ninabrook Designs offers and specials, visit their webpage or "like" them on Facebook.  It's just that simple!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Subject Matters

How many times have you opened your mail next to the garbage can, tossing in newspaper ads and junk mail?  And out of those things that you chose to discard, how many did you throw away without even opening?  There are many reasons that we throw an unopened envelope into the garbage can - we recognize it immediately as junk, we know the sender and can guess what's inside, we know what's inside and we're just not interested.  Incredibly, these reasons don't apply only to envelopes that we can physically hold in our hand.  They also apply to email.  Think of all the times that you've deleted an email without even bothering to open it.  What were the reasons?  Did you immediately recognize it as junk mail?  Did you know the sender and guessed what was probably contained in the body of the email?  Or, were you just not interested?  Whether you use email marketing as the primary means of connecting with your customers, or whether it plays just a small role, it's important to make sure that each of your emails is being opened and read.

Fifty characters is generally all you have to catch your reader's eye, to make him or her want to open the email.  Fifty characters.  That doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room, so you've got to make sure that you get it right.  But how?

As an email reader, I absolutely love my spam filter.  I view it as sort of a "cyber bodyguard", not allowing anything near me that may be annoying or even harmful.  As an email marketer, however, the spam filter has earned its place as my marketing nemesis.  Knowing what key words are going to trigger the filter can be a tricky thing.  For a long time, it was widely reported that using the word "free" would earn your email a free trip to spam land.  This isn't necessarily the case.  Research shows that customers are more likely to open an email if they believe that there's some sort of offer inside, so the word "free" can be an important trigger to opening the email.  However, any subject line that uses all capital letters or multiple exclamation points is sure to be caught by the spam filter.  So, if you want to use "free", go ahead!  Just don't put it at the beginning of the subject line or in all caps.

Research shows that most people look at the "From" line in the email first, so make sure that your company's name is clearly identified.  For example, in my inbox right now I have 35 unread emails.  There are a few from well-know coupon sites (I'm a deal junkie), some from family members, and one from "John".  The subject line of "John's" email is just as ambiguous:  "Try something new today".  Well, "John" isn't going to get a second look.  The simple fact that I don't know what company "John" works for, coupled with the broad range of "somethings new" that could be awaiting me in the body of the email, and my curiosity may take me on a one-way trip into virus-land for all I know.  Deleted.  Make sure that your company is clearly identified.

Since your company will be identified in the "From" field, it's unnecessary to repeat it in the subject line.  Doing so will only take away from your precious character count.  Use the subject line to draw the reader in, but also be clear about what they'll find inside.  Don't mislead or exaggerate, or you run the risk of losing your readers' trust.  A great place to get ideas about how to write a subject line might just be sitting on your front porch.  The newspaper is a prime example of what it takes to draw a reader into an article.  The writers, just like you, have very limited space.  Because of this, each headline must be eye-catching and accurately describe the content of the article.  Taking lessons from these headlines will help you learn to write your own fantastic email subject lines.

When it comes to keeping your email in the inbox, and not the deleted folder, the subject really does matter.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spotlight on AngelAID

When Doc and Arlene Shipley's 11-year old foster daughter, Tashia, died of AIDS as a result of being sexually abused, they did something that many people find themselves emotionally unable to do - they turned their overwhelming grief into something that has been blessing the lives of others for almost twenty years.  Doc and Arlene, because of Tashia, became aware of the struggles and even nightmarish circumstances that many children face on a daily basis.  From this knowledge and their personal experience, AngelAID was born.

AngelAID is a foundation for children with life-threatening diseases or situations.  It is 100% volunteer-based, with no paid employees and no government funding.  All of the foundation's expenses are paid for through donations and the sales from their thrift store, the AngelAID Thrift Super Center. This larger thrift store was opened a little over a year ago and is flourishing, thanks to the warm hearts and open minds of the people of Jacksonville, FL.   Thousands of AngelKIDS have been the recipients of Christmas gifts, holiday dinners, free medical care and even housing, thanks to AngelAID.   Arlene says, "I am touched and amazed every single day by our AngelKIDS.  I could tell you a thousand stories and make a room full of grown men cry."

Tashia and Doc

When the Shipleys decided to open the Super Thrift Store, Doc also decided that the time was right to create a weekly newsletter and a 10-20 page update to the website each and every week.  What an overwhelming task!  They chose an email marketing company that they thought would fit their needs, but soon found that the expense and hidden add-ons were too much for the foundation to cover.  After seeing that her local scrapbooking company, Pictures in Time, was using Email Contact, Arlene decided to make the switch.  She says that she immediately saved half the cost of her previous company and loved the flexibility of being able to add more articles at no extra charge.  It was also much easier for her to use and to understand, giving her more time to spend at the store and working on the website.

At Email Contact, our hearts and lives have been touched in getting to know more about AngelAID.  What a blessing the Shipleys and their volunteers are.  They truly are angels here on earth.

To get to know more about AngelAID, check out their website and look for opportunities to donate or volunteer at the Thrift Store.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spotlight on Express The Moment

There's no question that the Theory of Evolution can be a polarizing subject, with strong opinions emerging both for and against.  When it comes to Business Evolution, however, there really is no doubting that the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Express the Moment, an online scrapbooking store, offers irrefutable evidence to that fact.

What started as a job for Kim Rose quickly evolved into class organization, which in turn grew into one of the largest Scrapbooking Expos in the state of Idaho.  From that expo, Kim's retail store experience was launched.  Gradually, as she saw the need, Express the Moment changed from a storefront to an online-only experience, serving the needs of scrapbookers far beyond the jagged borders of Idaho.

Because ETM is solely an online store, the overall cost of running the business is lower, allowing the products to be priced at 50% - 75% below most retail scrapbooking outlets.  Without the upkeep of a storefront, Kim can focus more of her time and energies on making each customer's shopping experience truly delightful.

Although the products are the main focus at ETM, there is also much emphasis on scrapbooking projects themselves.  Customers can choose to belong to one or all four of the kit clubs that are offered each month at ETM.  There are Moments Scrapbooking Kits, Recipe Club Kits, Expressions Card Kits and Page of the Month kits, with instructions and ideas on how to use the fabulous items that come in each one.

Moments Scrapbooking Club Kits
Expressions Card Club Kits
Recipe Club Kits
Page of the Month Club Kits
As amazing as these kits are, Kim is quick to note that she is not alone in their creation, assembly, or shipment.  Kim is assisted by two part-time designers, Amanda Gibson and Nancy Keller, who share her passion for scrapbooking.  She also credits her husband and three children with giving her the support and hands-on help that she has needed to keep this business running for eleven years.

Kim, Darren ("the rock"), and their three children
Kim is so grateful for the help that each of her family members give, from cutting paper to assembling kits, to setting up at Expo.  "It is impossible to express in words the love and gratitude I feel towards each of them."

She also praises Email Contact for helping ETM grow through the years.  "The smaller stores have now all closed, but ETM is going strong with a loyal following.  I know Email Contact has helped accomplish that!"  Kim has used Email Contact to send newsletters and Expo announcements since 2006.  We couldn't be happier to play a small part in the evolution of Express the Moment.  Thank YOU Kim, for bringing us along for the ride!

To learn more about Express the Moment, be sure to visit their webpage or "like" them on Facebook.  ETM will give a freebie to anyone who likes them on Facebook and mentions that Email Contact sent them, so head on over there right now!!