October 1, 2011, was the 21st anniversary of Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass, a gallery and studio inDallas, Texas, that’s dedicated to all things art glass — from sculptures to jewelry, to perfume bottles and goblets.

During the celebration, customers enjoyed a number of festivities, from drawings throughout the month to a visiting artist demonstration. But, most strikingly, everything was 21% off of the normal price for one day, a deal that was bound to grab people’s attention.

To get the word out about the sale, co-owner Barbara Kittrell sent an email about the discount that showcased some of the unique pieces customers would find on the day of the anniversary. The newsletter proved to be a big hit, with more than 30% of her subscribers opening it. What happened next surprised Barbara even more.

“The day of our sale, we were up 35% over the same anniversary event last year,” she explains. “We had the best day we’d had in 21 years.”

The success of the email campaign earned the gallery the Social Spotlight Award from Constant Contact, which included a promotional video. Besides the substantial sales the email generated, it was notable for other reasons. First, the campaign showed the loyalty and enthusiasm of the gallery’s customers, and second, it showed how far the studio’s marketing efforts had come in 21 years.

Pages and Postage

For years, Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass had relied on postcards for advertising. Barbara says that, before turning to email marketing, she asked customers for their mailing addresses. “We have around 15,000 people in our database now,” she says, “so postage started to get pretty expensive.”

Most of the marketing happened – and still happens – in the store, where customers get to see the art glass in person. Not only that, they can learn how to make it in the studio upstairs.

“There’s a symbiotic relationship between the studio upstairs and the gallery below. People can come and take a class, or see the glass being made, and then they have a deeper appreciation for the pieces they see on display,” she explains.

The Yellow Pages were also, until very recently, a big part of the gallery’s marketing regimen. Now, Barbara has canceled the advertisements altogether.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would be canceling the ads in the Yellow Pages, I would have said you were crazy,” she laughs. But, in 2005, Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass started sending email newsletters and the Yellow Pages quickly went out of vogue. “We still send out postcards, but much less frequently, because, in comparison, email costs next to nothing.”

The Gallery Newsletter: Art, Shows, and Food

There’s never a dull moment at Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass, and just a quick look at the monthly gallery newsletter proves it. Barbara uses email to update customers about upcoming events in each email, whether it’s an artist series, an ornament extravaganza, or a cheese-and-wine goblet show. She even includes fun rewards for subscribers, like special food recipes, and of course, beautiful photographs of different art glass.

The variety of content has proven to be a great way to keep email subscribers engaged each month. Not only can people expect to find things to buy in a newsletter, they can find things to do. Consequently, the gallery’s emails consistently see open rates above 30%, which is well above the 23% average open rate seen by art galleries.

This ultimately paid off when Barbara announced the big sale for the gallery’s 21st anniversary, because she knew she would reach a couple thousand potential customers with just one email.

“Art glass is candy for the soul. It makes you happy, it makes your heart sing,” she says. And, with record sales like the one in October, it’s clear that a lot of people feel the same way.

To learn more about Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass, check out this video: