Why you ABSOLUTELY must have a mailing list : The Maker's Business Toolkit

Why you ABSOLUTELY must have a mailing list

I bang on about this all the time but, seriously, having a mailing list is the single best thing you can do for your business, right now, TODAY.

Sometimes creating a business around the things that you make can seem completely overwhelming. It can seem really fundamentally complex and confusing. But actually there are only THREE things that you need in order to have a successful business selling handmade products.

1️⃣ A Product to Sell

2️⃣ A Way to Take Money from People

and most importantly……

3️⃣ Customers to Sell to

A mailing list is basically just having customers to sell to. And it’s having them available to you all the time, not just when you pay a craft fair organiser or manage to convince a shop to stock your work.

If you take away nothing else from this article I want you to understand that a mailing list is a just a list of CUSTOMERS. It is a list of people who like your stuff, might have bought it before and might want to buy it again. Why wouldn’t you want to keep track of those people?

Do I really need a mailing list if I sell on my Facebook Page/Sell on Etsy/Sell on NOTHS?


Here’s why.

Facebook is a fantastic way of getting in front of people who love what you do, having them get to know you and, ultimately, providing them with ways to purchase your work. BUT (and it’s a big but) Facebook makes the rules about what gets seen and what doesn’t.

You can jump through all the hoops you like about posting links in the comments instead of the description, encouraging everyone to click on “get updates,” or maybe even paying for advertising, but if Facebook chooses not to show your post to very many of your fans, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Facebook’s organic reach (the amount of your fans who see an average post) is a well kept secret but some estimates put it at just 2-5%. When you send an email update promoting that great summer sale on your best loved products, you can be fairly sure that more than 5% of your mailing list will read it. More importantly, they will also be able to choose for themselves whether to read it or not, without someone else taking that decision for them.

All of this doesn’t even take into consideration that Facebook could close your account tomorrow, with no warning and there wouldn’t be a single thing you could do about it. Same goes for Etsy and Not on the High Street.

If you have no way of contacting the customers you spent a lot of time and effort cultivating, then your business effectively goes back to zero overnight.

That’s a pretty big risk to take with your source of income. You must always be in control of your access to the customers you have built up and the ONLY way to do that is to have a mailing list.

Do I really need a mailing list if I sell at Craft Fairs?


Here’s why.

When you’re assessing craft fairs (or any other marketing spend) you need to consider roughly how much it is costing you to acquire a customer and how much that customer is worth to you.

So say your craft fair stand costs £100 and you sell £250 of your products to 5 customers. Your cost to acquire each customer was £20 and each one of them was worth £50 to you.

On the surface that doesn’t look very good. After you deduct your material costs, your petrol and accommodation costs and any food you purchased on the day, you’re probably left with very little profit – certainly not enough to cover the time spent making, and the day spent selling at even minimum wage.

BUT… imagine if you got three of those customers to join your mailing list. Over the next year, one of them buys from you again, one buys from you twice and another buys from you three times.

Let’s assume the same £50 per sale (just to keep it simple) and so you’ve got two customers worth £50 each to you (the two that didn’t join your mailing list), one worth £100, one worth £150 and one worth £200.

That looks quite a bit better AND the next year you can email the three customers on your email list to tell that you will be back at the show and maybe even offer them free entry or a discount coupon.

Originally it cost you £100 to achieve £250 of sales, but because you had a mailing list, you managed to increase that to £550.

Put another way, your cost of acquiring a sale was originally 40% of that sale, but because you had a mailing list you managed to reduce it to 18%! So, your profits are going up and you are keeping more of your money. All because you had a mailing list.

Do I really need a mailing list if I don’t sell online?

YES! (are you seeing a pattern here?)

Even if you are not using a mailing list to directly sell to your customers with a link to an online shop, your mailing list is a way for you to keep yourself in front of your customers and at the top of their mind.

You can advertise your participation in fairs and exhibitions, you can show them your new work. It’s all about making a deeper connection with the people who are interested in what you do.

 Even if you sell mostly in person. In fact, no matter how you sell, you need a way to keep in front of your customers.

The biggest risk to your success is not that someone will copy you.
It’s not that someone will steal your ideas.
It’s not that people will be upset that you emailed them.
It’s not even poor customer service (although that is bad)

The single biggest risk to your business is that people don’t remember you.

So, to sum up: If you have customers then you need a mailing list!

I'm Nicola Taylor

I’m the founder of Maker’s Business Toolkit and I help artists, makers, and handmade business owners to make more money with less stress.

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