Collateral for the DC VA brides mailing project 2013

Here’s an honest write up what it sometimes means to run your own business.

As a small business owner you have to take risks and clearly I always take a chance to grow my business and reach a larger audience. Sometimes there’s an immediate payoff for all your hard work and other times it’s a complete failure. This large mailing project was unfortunately the latter.

At the beginning, I decided we (my assistant and I) should reach out to brides that had attended a bridal showcase in Northern Virginia I had done in 2011 (as part of the almost $800 booth fee you get a database of volunteered information from the brides), and then quickly decided to double the efforts and also reach out to the brides from the Richmond bridal showcase from the same year. See earlier posts here and hereIn total, we reached out to 1500 brides. 

The collateral included:

  • My bridal bouquet brochure with a new hot pink sticker calling out my recent mention in the Martha Stewart Weddings.
  • A branded note with a short introduction why they received the brochure and who I was, and a discount code offering them 20% off a painting if ordered before a certain date.
  • An orange envelop (because who doesn’t like to open orange mail? And it matched my new logo), a clear label with their address printed in wedding inspired script, and a return label to Studio Eriksdotter. Oh, and a stamp.
  • A follow-up email once all the envelopes had been mailed.
  • A follow-up postcard sent out a week before end of discount.

Total cost spent: $1,700 (clearly not counting the $1,600 in booth fees that gave me access to the contact information back in 2011).

Katie-Beth cutting notes

We started this project in early February and put the first batch in the mail mid-April. This was only doable because of my amazing assistant, Katie-Beth. She worked really hard at helping me create and assemble this never-ending direct-marketing project.

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I once got the question if I missed using my brain when I was a full-time artist. I was flabbergasted at the time and pulling my chin off the floor gave me no time to respond. I honestly think I’ve never used my brain in so many different ways or in such large capacity in my 10 years of PR combined as much as I do for my own business. But if you’ve never experienced that – how would you know? I have always been a hard worker no matter what tasks I take on.  I so wish I could say that this project was all worth it…

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Since I only have weeknights and weekends to paint and get commissions out the door (PR day job), it was challenging to find time to also work on this mailing project – but I had my assistant for almost 10 hours each week and the bridal season was here so it was just going to happen. In hindsight, i totally should’ve hosted a “mailing party” where people helped assembled the collateral to some good music and drinks. Yeah that would have helped. Alot.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget everything else I did this spring – launching and hosting six Cocktails & Canvases, new website with ecommerce, and the Spring Art Auction… I really think I’m crazy sometimes.

Once all the envelopes were out the door, and my friendly email reminder had been sent, I started working on the 3rd component (isn’t 3 the magic number in marketing?): a follow-up postcard that was going to remind all the 1500 brides of the fast approaching “discount ending” date. The postcard also highlighted my other types of work in case they didn’t like the idea of a bridal bouquet painting.

postcard follow-up on mailing

The results? Out of the 1500 newlyweds that received the promotion (and $1700 later) I heard back from 2 people and neither resulted in an order.

Yikes! That really stung. Clearly, the cost I had to spend would have been nothing if I had received several commissions out of this, but since I didn’t… Both my wallet and ego are slightly bruised.  But let’s remember, maybe the lists were bad from the beginning, maybe people have moved since 2011, maybe they are poor after their weddings (averaging $30,000 around here) or maybe they didn’t like the idea. Who knows!?

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many hours you put in, how great (or not great) your material is or how much you spend on everything – sometimes it just seems like it’s not meant to be. And since no one else will give you a gold star or a clap on the back, I’m totally giving myself one. WELL DONE ERICA! WELL DONE KATIE-BETH! This was HARD WORK with absolutely no return (commission wise) but we sure are an experience richer and we had fun (well sometimes) doing it!