Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spotlight on Pages In Time


"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." 
Thomas Edison

The daunting task of taking over an existing scrapbooking business and making it her own did not scare Laurie Hess away from an incredible opportunity.  After all, Laurie had already accomplished much in her life.  She completed a BA in Fine Arts, worked for five years in the graphics industry and then left it for a job that was more challenging (and more rewarding) than any she had thus far encountered - that of stay-at-home mom to her four children.  While she was home with her kids, Laurie developed a love of scrapbooking, so when the occasion arose to become the owner of her own store, she jumped at it.  

In order to give the store her own touch, Laurie restocked the shelves and renamed the business.  Pages In Time was opened in April 2006, with an emphasis on customer service.  Laurie will do anything for her customers - from special orders to putting together an entire scrapbook.  Whatever her customers need is her priority.  "I love the relationships I've developed with my existing customers and enjoy seeing new faces walk through the door", says Laurie.  



Located in a renovated one-room schoolhouse in Lititz, PA, Pages In Time has a unique and charming atmosphere.  It has a large crop room that can seat up to twelve croppers.  There are monthly "Midnight Scrap" workshops and Scrap Addix classes for those who just can't get enough of scrapping!

As a testament to the popularity of Pages In Time, Laurie maintains an email subscriber list of over 1800 customers.  She appreciates the ease of Email Contact's email newsletter templates and sends three or four email blasts each month, including a monthly newsletter.

To learn more about Pages In Time, visit their website, check out their blog, or find them on Facebook.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

You've Got a Friend in Me

Oil and water.  Square pegs, round holes.  Scrambled eggs and ketchup.  Ok, that last one is a personal thing. Really though, there are some things that just don't do well together.  But if you're looking at social networking VERSUS email marketing, or social networking OR email marketing, you may just be missing the boat.  Many recent studies have shown that social networking goes hand in hand with email marketing, and that they can even enhance the other's effectiveness.  The trick is in knowing how to make them work together.

Doesn't anybody "like" me?

Depending on the social network, there are different names for the members of your online community.  Facebook has "friends", Twitter has "followers", LinkedIn has contacts.  Whatever the name, it's hard to not define your business success by the number of people who have shown their interest in your network.  That mentality needs to be put to rest almost instantaneously.  There may be companies out there who have literally thousands more followers than your business page has.  There may be organizations holding daily contests just to build their fan base.  While this can seem, at first, to be a very good thing, it may turn out to be nothing more than an ego boost instead of a business boost.  When it comes to any social network following, the quality of those friends is much more important than the quantity.  Are the people who have "liked" your business page or decided to follow your tweets likely to patronize your business in the future?  Or are they there simply to get some free stuff?  Since any new "friend" could be a potential customer, it's important to establish a good relationship with each and every one of your business followers.  This is difficult - maybe even impossible - to do with an excessively large fan base.

Building relationships

So how does one go about relationship building in cyber-space?  It's not as difficult as you might think.  Treat your networking friends the same way you'd treat a real friend.  First, figure out what brought them to your page.  What are they looking for?  A recent study posted by eMarketer, can give some great insight as to what many people are expecting when they join a social network:


There was a broad spectrum of reasons people chose to follow a specific brand or company's social network page, and they varied quite a bit depending upon the customer's income.  For example, those respondents making over $500,000 stated their love for the brand as the primary reason for clicking that "like" button, whereas those making under $200,000 primarily joined a network to get deals and discounts.  Word of mouth also played a large part in the respondents' choice to follow a brand, with a good percentage joining because one of their online "friends" did first.  So, play around.  Figure out why your followers are there and then build on that.  Since not all of your followers are probably from the same demographic, it doesn't hurt to blend some or all of the above ideas.

Also, listen.  If a friend called you on the phone with a problem, you most likely would give them a very quick answer.  Do the same with your network friends.  When they post a question or problem on your wall, answer as quickly as possible.  Be pleasant.  Make each follower feel like you're there for them, and they'll want to stick around.

Overloaded = Underwhelmed

An important thing to remember when posting or tweeting information to your followers is that once something is posted, it will take the importance away from the previous post.  Space out your posts enough as to not completely overload your followers home pages.  Let them have time to think about the previous post and to comment on it if necessary.  There is a fine line between keeping your name out there and being totally annoying.

Timing is another important thing to keep in mind.  Many companies are now aware that the majority of their employees are involved with at least one social network.  Because of this, some have enacted rules regarding the use of personal websites on company time.  With this knowledge, you may find it more effective to post after normal business hours.  In fact, a recent study showed 20% higher rates of engagement on posts that showed up later in the evening.  Experiment!

One-stop shopping

Email newsletters are a perfect venue in which to announce your business foray into social networking.  Each networking site - be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or MySpace - have "buttons" that can easily be added to any email blast.  Notifying your customers via email and providing a clickable route to your social home makes it easy for them to join your network.  On the flip side, social networking sites are also a great way to give your customers access to your newsletters.  Call it "one-stop shopping".  They can read the newsletter without taking the extra step of opening their email account.  Just post a link right to the networking site.  

There has never been such an efficient way to reach out to customers as there is with email marketing and social networking.  A business can effectively reach out to potential customers wherever that customer may be - at home, at work, and now with the growing popularity of smart phones and mobile devices, you can literally be in your customers' pockets twenty-four hours a day.  Take advantage!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spotlight on Memories Forever Scrapbooking


We've all heard the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade", but most of us probably haven't had the opportunity to make lemonade as sweet and refreshing as has Ethel Moore of Memories Forever Scrapbooking.  When her husband was critically injured on the job, Ethel became his primary caregiver, taking care of any need both day and night.  These were exhausting times, and Ethel had little or no time for herself.  It was during this trial that her daughter introduced her to the world of scrapbooking.  This is something that could be done at her husband's bedside, within reach of anything that he might need, but it also gave Ethel a much-needed creative outlet.   It wasn't long, however, with mounting medical bills, that Ethel soon discovered that the little extras in her life needed to be sacrificed.  The cost of scrapbooking supplies soon became too much of a burden, and the hobby had to be put on hold.

About four years later, Ethel decided to start again.  Only this time, she thought she could support her newfound hobby by selling supplies on eBay.  Though she discovered this to be a fun and rewarding endeavor, she still found that the cost of buying scrapbooking supplies was prohibitive.  She simply could not afford to purchase them and then mark them up enough to make a profit online.  Instead of putting all the supplies back into the closet, this time Ethel decided to change the very thing that was making scrapbooking so difficult for her - the price.  She got a business license and was able to purchase things at wholesale prices.  She found it unbelievable how much the supplies she bought in the previous years had been marked up.

As a testimony to Ethel's love for scrapbooking and her desire to share this love with those around her, she started selling discounted scrapbooking supplies out of her garage.  She would hold yard sales, selling brand new supplies at deeply discounted prices.  This became such a hit that soon Ethel was holding cropping classes in her home.  With door prizes and friendships, it's no wonder that Ethel's place was so popular.

In July of 2010, a storefront became available.  With her husband's blessing, Ethel opened Memories Forever Scrapbooking the next month.  Ethel knows what it's like to pay sky-high prices for scrapbooking supplies, and so she vowed from the moment that her doors opened she would keep the prices low enough that any aspiring scrapper would feel comfortable looking around her shelves.  Ethel says, "I did not want to become rich.  I just wanted to help people out that were like me and could not afford high-priced items."

True to this idea, Memories Forever opens its 2200 square foot cropping room to any organization who would like to do a scrapbooking fundraiser, at no cost.  When this scrapbooker's dream room isn't being used for fundraising, one can find it full of scrappers participating in one of the many low-cost classes offered by Memories Forever.  There are nine instructors, teaching everything from Stampscapes to card making to paper crafting.


One of the most popular classes is the Card Marathon.  For $15, anyone can come and make as many cards as humanly possible in the two hour window.

Ethel uses Email Contact to send a bi-weekly newsletter to her customers, letting them know what's happening in the store.  By keeping in touch, the customers are always aware of any specials or upcoming class dates.

Ethel and her husband have truly learned to make lemonade out life's lemons, and they are willing to share that lemonade with everyone!  Memories Forever is offering a 10% discount above their already discounted prices for anyone who mentions Email Contact.  This is a one time offer, so be sure to take advantage!

To learn more about Memories Forever Scrapbooking, visit their website or like them on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spotlight on Fair Trade Consignment


An old Chinese Proverb says that "to open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art".  While the latter is most definitely true, most shop owners would probably agree that there is nothing at all easy about opening a shop.

Kim Kovach was a commissioned salesperson for nearly a decade before she decided to venture into business ownership.  She was a big fan of consignment shops, but found that there were no shops on her side of town that could cater to her discerning taste.  All of the shops with the atmosphere and quality that she desired were a prohibitive distance away from the West Phoenix metro area.  After researching the ingredients necessary to create a great consignment shop, Kim quit her sales job and joined the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops.  By attending one of their conferences, she gained the know-how, and more importantly the courage, to begin her journey from salesperson to shop owner, and Fair Trade Consignment was created.



Though Kim set out to only operate a quality women's consignment shop, she soon found that she gained much more than just the pride and satisfaction of owning and running her own business.  "I soon found out that that the best part of this business is the women.  I have met so many wonderful women since opening Fair Trade Consignment.  The kindness, warmth, charm, humor and friendships that come in every day is wonderful."

Fair Trade Consignment strives daily to help nurture these new relationships by offering customer rewards programs and birthday drawings.  They also keep their customers informed using a monthly newsletter and postcards three to four times a month.  Kim knows that her customers are busy women, so she makes sure that every email she sends will be of use to her customers and not just junk that fills up their inboxes.

Some information that Fair Trade supplies to most new customers is to help them differentiate between thrift shops, resale shops and consignment shops.  Thrift shops are generally run by non-profit organizations. The items they offer are donated and are sold to help a specific cause.  These types of shops will accept most any type of donation, regardless of condition or age.  Kim says, "There are treasures to be found, but you might have to look for that diamond in the rough."  Resale shops get their inventory by outright purchasing.  The quality found at resale shops will generally be better than thrift stores, but not always as good as consignment shops.  Consignment shops sell a customer's items and then pay that customer commission on the sales price.  Fair Trade Consignment, like most consignment shops, is very discriminate of what is accepted because they are catering to a very specific clientele - in this case, women.  The fashions must be current.  Juniors sizes, men's clothing, housewares and furniture are not accepted, which makes for a more personalized shopping experience for the women who frequent Fair Trade Consignment.

Unlike regular department stores, the inventory at Fair Trade Consignment changes rapidly from day to day.  Bargains abound!  For example, if a customer walked in today, she would find a $400 Coach handbag that's new (without tags) for only $178.  An Evan-Picone summer dress retails for $99, but can be picked up at Fair Trade for only $33 - a savings of 67%!  Some women spend a fortune on clothing, but women who shop at Fair Trade Consignment just look like they do.

To find out more about Fair Trade Consignment, please visit their website or "like" them on Facebook.

For those who are in the Phoenix area, or any who will be visiting soon, stop by Fair Trade and receive a free pair of designer sunglasses with any purchase (excluding clearance/charity items).  Just tell them that you're an Email Contact Customer!  Offer expires June 15, 2011.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spotlight on Peddlers Den

Tonya Weakley began selling rubber art stamps and providing classes nearly 20 years ago. In 1998 she purchased the old, historic building at 115 W Market St in Somonauk, IL and Peddlers Den was born. Over the years the business has grown to be a mixture of approx. 50% stamping, 50% scrapping.
 
"I have found it very interesting -- when stamping sales decline, scrapping increases, and right now scrapping is on a sharp decline, but stamping is growing again. The two segments share a large amount of cross-over items, and make the perfect marriage!" says Tonya.
 

Peddlers Den and the grocery store are the only retail stores in the small town of 1900 people. "Nobody "finds" us, or just wanders in. We are a destination store," Tonya says. "The economy got so bad about 3 years ago, we were forced to find ways of reducing costs, and this resulted in changing our hours. We are in an old, historic building with 11 foot ceilings, and utility costs are very high. Formerly we were open 6 days a week, and now only 3 (Thur-Sat), allowing us a noteable savings in utilities and staffing costs. I was afraid that it would be the kiss of death!" she said.
 
However, most of her customers "make a trip" to Peddlers Den, and many of them have to come on the Saturdays anyway. Customer feedback has been very positive. In an online survey, only one customer said that it was going to prohibit her from her regular shopping at Peddlers Den. A followup survey several months later resulted in 100% positive feedback. 
 
Another cost-cutting choice by Tonya was to migrate to eblasts as Peddlers Den's source of primary communication, and primary advertising link to its customer base. She had previously mailed out a 12 page newsletter to over 1000 people every quarter. The expense in publishing and mailing finally made it prohibitive, so she transitioned to electronic, and it was the right decision.  According to Tonya, "it allows us to send small bits of information to our customers frequently, instead of a large amount only once every 3 months". Again, customer feedback has been very positive, and customer response to coupons, promotions, etc. has been strong.
 


Peddlers Den is a full service shop, offering classes, workshops, clubs, special ordering options, etc. However, they also service many customers long distance. Orders are frequently taken by email and phone, with accepted payment for these being PayPal or credit card.  Another advantage of dealing with Peddlers Den is that you can order a large number of items, from a wide variety of companies, and pay only one small shipping fee. Visit them online at www.peddlersden.com, or "like" Peddlers Den on Facebook! Tell them that you heard about them from Email Contact!