How do you build a business off the back of a simple newsletter?
David Hieatt is the Founder of Hiut Denim & The Do Lectures. He’s famed for his creativity, and his storytelling. So much so, he’s appeared in a recent Apple ad campaign.
One thing David holds dear is the importance of email marketing to him. In this session, we unpack how David has built his success off the back of his email list.
In 2012, when David Hieatt opened Hiut Denim with his wife, Clare, the company experienced a flurry of orders that saw them swamped for 6 months worth of orders in a week.
It was overwhelming – so David did something he would come to regret: he turned off the Hiut Denim website, and put all his energy into producing the jeans that had already been ordered.
Once the orders had been fulfilled, it was time to start selling again. But, one problem: there was noone waiting for them to reopen and staff had to be paid in a couple of weeks.
So, David did something that would change the history of Hiut Denim and his other business, The Do Lectures. He started a newsletter as he had noticed this was the 20% of activity that was driving 80% of revenue.
The rest, as they say, is history. In this session, we ask David all about his journey on growing and using a newsletter to grow his businesses.
A question and answer session with David Hieatt
Q: Why do you like email marketing so much, David?
A: If you invest in it, give it attention time and love, and respect your customer, it’s the most useful tool it is. I like it because email isn’t cool. Instagram feeds matter more to most people. But the thing about email is it just works.
Q: Newsletters take time to build and grow. How did you build the initial subscribers?
A: People will always talk about quick growth. For me, the way to think about this is that your newsletter is a relationship. It’s like a tale of two friends.
You have one friend, who, when they call you know they want something.
When they call, how do you feel?
You have another friend who calls just to tell you about this cool thing they have just found out about. For a chat. To find out about your day.
When you’re busy, who do you want to take the call from?
My philosophy on email isn’t just about driving sales from email – it’s about being the friend that people want to hear from. This philosophy let me to write the book Do/Open.
Q: Something you speak about and do. You have 2 types of newsletters, don’t you?
A; The mistake people make is being clear. Selling is one thing, sharing is another. It’s common sense. When you’re selling – sell! When you’re sharing, share. Don’t get caught in the middle.
People often start newsletters, say they don’t work, and then stop. Thank goodness we don’t judge the acorn in the same way. These things do take time. This is a community you are serving. Have 2 emails. 1 for sharing info, 1 for selling. Keep them separate
Q: That’s such a good point. But you are famed for your storytelling. Presumably how you sell isn’t just an overt deals email? When you are selling, do you also sell based on stories?
A: Well yeah because people buy into the stories. We have to tell the stories so people understand why we charge what we do. We happen to have the best jeans, the best materials. The best jeans makers. The process is in the house. So yes we tell them all about the type of jeans, and the way its made, and all about the factory journey. If you are selling on price, you are in a terrible business.
A lot of people judge the quality of the business based on the numbers. But honestly, I don’t care. I look at the numbers in a different way, when we are doing interesting things, interesting things happen. You don’t need to worry about sales when you’re doing interesting things.
I think people look at it in the wrong way. It’s not about numbers, and increasing profits by 20%, I care more that the team grow as humans. That we do things that are interesting.
Q: You have a team meeting on Mondays, where you go through numbers. So what do you look at there?
A: Actually, it’s Wednesday morning that’s a creative breakfast. In these meetings, we each share 1 thing: the most interesting thing you’ve found that week. People share what they like, why they find it interesting and bring it in at the Wednesday meeting. This meeting is used as the inspiration behind our emails. In these sessions, we have to explain why we thought this thing was interesting, so we each put the work into finding genuinely interesting things – it’s amazing as people actually get quite competitive about it all!
Q: David Hieatt on building teams…
A: All I’m trying to do is grow people. That’s what matters. The more I can get them to learn. People leave companies when they’re bored. It’s not because of they want more money. That’s a lie.
It because they’re bored. So this keeps them interested. People won’t remember you for how much money you’ve made, but how many people you’ve helped
Q: What email software do you use and why?
A: I’ve used Mailchimp & Infusionsoft. We now use Claveo. Whatever it is, it’s important to use the best tool. Pay for the best tools to make life easier. Buy the best tools, and get out of your teams way. Then apply constant gentle pressure.
Q: How would you go about building up your mailing list in the first place?
A: I actually hate those awful things that work, like competitions, and pop-ups. So we do those things, even if we don’t want to.
However, the things that will build a list is giving it a lot of time, love, consistency and belief. Turn up and do the hard work. Even when things go well, fight complacency. Especially when things are going well. Never settle.
It’s about being totally authentic. Doing things for the benefit of the community. Putting love and time and energy into it.
Q: How do you look to best understand your email audience?
A: When you open up as a human being, things get interesting. The less general you are the more personal it becomes. When you feel it, they feel it. When you give a shit about something, other people can feel that energy. If you’re passionate about it, leaders go into things in a geeky nuanced way, it is leadership.
Q: Email works for you, but when has it bombed?
A: Your job is to go and find interesting things. The job of a discoverer is to discover. So if you’re not digging for god in the right places, or in the right way, you aren’t discovering properly. That’s why creative breakfasts are so important. People find things, When it doesn’t work, that’s why the newsletter bombs. If its something they don’t know, it’s useful.
Q: How do you write an entertaining and interesting email for those in B2B and/or ‘’boring’’ companies?
A: There aren’t boring products – there are boring people. Anything can be interesting, but you need to come to it, with the approach you are going to make it interesting. When you start to care about people, that’s when you stand out – so I would advise taking the time to understand and start genuinely caring about your audience.
Q: What frequency would you recommend for email marketing?
A: We do two emails per week. Once a week we do a giving email, and the other email we do is with an ask. Don’t hammer people cos they’re busy. Play the long game whilst everyone else is playing the short game. The best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is have ownership on your time. Find the thing that works for your audience.
Q: How do you choose which channels to use for your marketing?
A: As a small team, you have to decide where do we want to be good. Because you can’t be good at everything. Focus on where you want to be really good so you don’t burn out. Be good somewhere because you can’t be good everywhere. Be a skyscraper. Stand out in one area.
Q: Is their one nugget off something you want to share.
A: Its ideas that feel they wouldn’t work but then do. Like selling the do lectures courses. I like it when people do what goes against anything you’ve been taught. It makes you think. If you just show interest in your people, how you value them. Send them on the courses they are interested in. one member of staff went on a yoyo course in theUS. Spend time caring about people, and caring about stuff that matters. Conversation tool. Email is more important than Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn combined. It just matters more.
Business is fun. So build the community. Grow your people. Take care of your customer. Look after your team. Enjoy the weekend off. That stuff matters.