Believe it or not but email marketing is one of our absolutely favourite marketing topics!


Because it really works to get sales!

In June 2020 we set our Business Club members an Email Marketing Challenge to see a) who could get the most subscribers to join their email list in a two week period and b) who could get the most sales from an email. And wow, did they rise to the challenge! The winner of both parts of the challenge was fashion illustrator Niki Groom. She grew her email list by 211 subscribers in only two weeks!

We asked her to share how she did it and how she now uses email marketing in her creative business.

(c) Niki Groom Illustration

Niki, tell us about you and your business?

“I’m an illustrator and as well as creating artwork live at events I’m also commissioned by brands to create artwork for packaging, invitations, point of sale, window displays. I specialise in fashion / beauty / travel and clients include Clinique, Molton Brown, Cartier, Kate Spade and Kimpton Hotels.

Selling giclee prints of my artwork on my website was, until the Lockdown, a very small part of my business, but out of necessity I’ve focused all of my attention on it. So far my turnover for the shop this year (by June 2020) is nearly 3 x as much as it was in 2019.

I live alone, trade as a ltd company (so no government support) and have no financial fall back, so I’m on a fast and necessary learning curve. This would usually be the busiest time of year for me but I’ve only invoiced £350 in 4 months so thank goodness for my shop.

Before becoming a full time illustrator at the age of 39, I was a fashion designer so have a good understanding of margins, PR and trends so this all helps.”

Why did you enter The Design Trust Business Club Email Marketing challenge?

“I’ve been promising to start a newsletter for years and not doing it.

I knew I needed a deadline otherwise it would always be pushed to the bottom of my to do list.

So the challenge was perfect, and I had the time to commit to it too!”

How did you get more email subscribers?

“My growth goal was to get 100 new email subscribers. As the newsletter is something my clients, followers haven’t been offered before I hoped there would be a good uptake.

I switched from Mailchimp to Squarespace email as I knew that the key for me to make this work was for it to be as easy as possible. It now doesn’t feel like yet another platform to manage, it just feels like an added extra link to my website. It means it’s something I’ll pay for rather than being free, but I’ll make that cost up in sales.

Niki Groom’s newsletter sign up form

I’d been collecting emails previously at checkout but had reached 110 and never contacted them.

I added a newsletter sign up to the footer of my website, and added a pop up to a couple of pages that I felt were suitable. 

I used social media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to direct people to the sign up. My bespoke commissions sell out quickly and I usually launch them on social media. But I announced that anyone signing up to my newsletter would be told about the listing going live 24 hours before anyone else so that helped my growth too.

I have 13k Instagram followers and through stories got around 100 or so to sign up for my database.

I also downloaded the CSV of everyone who had bought from me since launching (approx 700 people) and emailed only those who had ordered in the past 2 years (400) to ask if they would like to opt in. This had a 66% open rate and a 29% click rate.”

What worked well and what didn’t work well?

“Explaining what the newsletter would include on Instagram stories helped. I get really good engagement there and as I have over 10k followers I can add a swipe up link.

I posted quite a boring “please sign up to my newsletter” post on Instagram (since archived). I can’t see that it led to many sign ups.”

Stay Home by Niki Groom

How will you keep growing your email list?

“I’m working on a plan for that now but I already know I won’t offer discounts or sales.

I’ve been making some lovely hand-painted ‘Thank You’ notes to go with orders through lockdown. Right now everyone is getting them but it’s not sustainable (though I’ve loved doing them). I’m working out how to make that more of an incentive to early buyers and how to link that well with my newsletter.

Thankfully I have an engaged social media following, so I will focus on getting more of them signed up. I have some surprises up my sleeve 🙂

Over the years I’ve learnt that I get the best results by giving something a go and then adapting. I’m flexible and resourceful, not so much of a planner.

So when I say I’m working on a plan I mean there’s a list and some dates rather beautifully written on the back of a cereal packet 🙂  But that’s fine for me, I’m pretty confident that it will work.”

How did you write your successful sales email?

“I knew a lot of people had signed up to the newsletter as they knew they would hear about the bespoke orders first (24 hours before I announced on social media), so I wanted to show them something new just in case they needed persuading at all.

So I got permission from previous buyers to use comments they had sent to me as quotes, and to use their illustrations as promo. One testimonial mentioned Christmas and I put this in on purpose, to sow the seed for Christmas gifting. The email was mostly focused on commissioning me, but I added some lovely photographs of my paints and my hand-painted ‘thank you’ notes. I also included a photo of me with a link to my ‘about’ page.

So it wasn’t just ‘the listing is now live, buy buy buy”, the recipients were still seeing photos I hadn’t shared elsewhere.

I also explained that I take a lot of care with the work. I hope the newsletter came across as quite personal. I’m so grateful for the sales I’m receiving at the moment so I wanted people to know that.”

Were you surprised by the number of sales you achieved?

“Not really, although I usually only offer bespoke commissions in September for Christmas and so I did wonder if people would want them in the summer, especially as I’d also opened some spots at the start of lockdown. But people know they sell out so some of those who bought were people who missed out in the past.

I capped the sales at 20 so I knew it wouldn’t go past this.

I was surprised that nearly all of the sales came from the newsletter though, I expected to sell maybe 2-3 via the newsletter and the rest via social media but in the end it was 14 from the newsletter and the rest via social media.

So I’m really happy and have so many ideas now for the newsletter and for email marketing in my creative business!”

If you are inspired by Niki’s actions, then you can still join the Business Club and get practical ideas on how to get more email subscribers and write sales emails that don’t make you go ughhh (even though the Email Marketing Challenge is now closed!). Or read our blog post with 14 expert tips on how to grow your email list and our blog post on why email marketing is so effective.

We would love to hear in the comments below how you grow your email list and how email marketing works for you in your creative business.

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