Why This Artist Writes Human Emails

Question: What’s black and white and feels just as unwelcome as a sales rep’s cold call?

Answer: An email marketer‘s cold email. Jumping on prospects before they’ve oriented themselves, coaxing them to buy right off the bat.

Sure, they subscribe because their interest is high – their interest in finding out what you’re all about. Before they fork over any cash.

That’s why the current name of the sales game is relationship marketing. You build trust with subscribers, showing your brand’s value before making any pitches.

This concept gets discussed ad nauseum. But what does it look like in action? We asked Steven Vrancken, artist and musician, how he humanizes his own email campaign.

What Steven Sends

Steven sells mandala coloring meditation kits. He has over 7,000 subscribers and has been making sales steadily since he launched his kits a few months ago.

His strategy?

Broadcast messages that consider what his readers are dealing with at the moment, reveal his own personal quirks and offer value – whether in the form of inspiration or actual, printable art.

Steven’s Strategy

“I believe that costumers feel it intuitively when you are pushing them to make a sale,” Steven says.

So, instead of pitching his kits, he writes his broadcast like a note to a close friend. He includes his picture and autograph, so readers can get to know him as much as possible. And he sends free gifts.

But Steven’s friendly largesse doesn’t mean he doesn’t make sales. His meditation kits are always available for sale. And the social media buttons through which readers share his work attract new subscribers and kit purchasers.

As he explains,”Relationship marketing is about a constant evaluation of yourself, your marketing intentions and your sincerity.”

So with every email, Steven asks himself,

  • “Am I sincere with myself?”
  • “Is my heart involved in these marketing tactics or are these soulless imitations of the so called ‘marketing gurus’ tactics?”
  • “Am I making real, genuine efforts to really help my costumers, even without expecting a purchase in return?”

And the most challenging of all:

  • “Is the product or service I’m offering something that really helps people, instead of inventing a new desire or need to let people believe their life is not complete until they purchase my product?”

With these questions, Steven infuses his marketing with sincerity and kindness. And that sincerity and kindness gets his product sold.

Want to Learn More?

For more information on email marketing for artists, view our complete Email Marketing for Artists Guide.

You’re Up, Ladies and Gentlemen

Steven’s not alone in his approach. At January’s Marketing Sherpa conference, Real-Time Marketing and PR author David Meerman Scott said, “I know I sound really California-crunchy-granola-airy-fairy right now, but I believe the more you give away, the more comes back to you.”

And we’ve heard similar things from Chris Guillebeau and Ramit Sethi. Do you subscribe to this idea of building a relationship before making a sale?

Or do you still think more sales can be made while your leads are “hot”?


  1. Will

    3/22/2011 9:55 am

    I notice this message starts “Hi Amanda,”

    What would happen if the subscriber had not given their name. Would it be this…

    “Hi ,”

    That wouldn’t look too good.

  2. Johnn

    3/22/2011 10:29 am

    I enjoyed this article. A great reminder about how to treat people.

  3. Aaron Schulman

    3/22/2011 11:13 am

    This is good-

    Connection is the game.. .

    Gary Halbert said “you send your whole self” in your direct marketing piece. . .

    Leave nothing out- especially your heart.

    Thanks for this post

  4. Melanie Green

    3/22/2011 1:06 pm

    I have three divisions in my company, and each one was created over time, one after the other. I look back at my old autoresponders from my first tries and they are so awful.

    I now have a very casual air about my email, like it states in this article, a personal note from me to the individual. It’s easier actually writing this way, rather then trying to sound corporate and cold.

    I’m sold on it.

  5. Codrut Turcanu

    3/22/2011 3:14 pm

    I’m not sure why but most marketers are like youths trying to kiss their girl-friend on the first date instead of rapport building and hand holding…

    What do you guys say?

  6. Jeff

    3/22/2011 4:09 pm

    @ Codrut Turcanu
    You create an interesting analogy. Sales and marketing in the ’50s was hard, direct, and unrefined, yet effective at that time. And, ten years ago people would line-up, figuratively speaking, for a free download of an inferior product that they didn’t need.

    Today’s content marketing engages a more savvy shopper and gives them a reason to choose you, among the countless choices they have available at the click of a button. Free (cookie) content is works well as an enticer but you really have to provide a quality cookie and follow it up with email content that makes them look forward to your next email.

    Remember, the, “hand-holding” of the 50’s gave way to the “free-spirit” of the 60’s

  7. Stephanie

    3/22/2011 4:30 pm

    Great article! Recently had a class for spiritual teachers that emphasized authentic engagement with clients. This is a great real-world example of it. Thanks!

  8. Louisa

    3/22/2011 5:46 pm

    I say authenticity and integrity is important for any relationship. Mean what is said or written and deliver on what is promised – if you decide not to over deliver. Otherwise, get ready for refunds 🙂

  9. Aurelius Tjin

    3/24/2011 4:46 am

    I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

  10. Tim Pond

    3/24/2011 6:40 am

    This gave me a lot to think about.
    You have to share, be willing to help people,
    and maybe make some sales, but in this order.

  11. Amanda Gagnon

    3/24/2011 10:24 am

    Will ~ That’s the gamble with personalization. Even if you make “name” a required field, you never know what someone will type. That said, most people probably do put their real name.

    Aaron ~ “Leave nothing out- especially your heart.” – I like that!

    Codrut ~ Right. They’re going to have to be smoother than that. 🙂

    Jeff ~ That’s a great description of the rise of choosy consumers.

    Louisa ~ You got it.

  12. Amos

    1/2/2012 2:32 pm

    We all seem to get mixed up most of the time.
    Now just to get this straight….Marketing is about communication.There is no such thing as Marketing “Relationship”.Sales is something totally different.
    Please take a min & check the meaning in a dictionary of the word “Client” its not someone who pays our bills,someone we hand twist to sell a service etc
    It is all about taking care of, Guiding and protecting just as a Hen would do for its chicks & vice Verse we for our Children.

    Marketing is communicating the value of a product/ service to a client with the aim of solving that pain the client wants to be relievedof. It is our duty to protect& guide the Client to make the right choices-no arm twisting.

    So as you can see if we stick & follow just the definations…we keep clear of all this misconceptions and end up doing the right things.