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How Salmon Sisters Delivers a Taste of the Aleutian Coast

They use Mailchimp to share the stories behind their seafood, one filet at a time.

As lifelong Alaskans, the real-life Salmon Sisters and co-founders, Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton, aim to immerse their audience in the genuine experiences of coastal Alaska through fishing, frozen seafood deliveries, cookbooks, ocean stewardship—and email marketing.

A pillar of Salmon Sisters’ success lies in their emphasis on education, particularly when it comes to seafood. Emma and Claire strive to teach their audience about the proper ways to cook fish, enjoy seafood sustainably, and, most of all, the stories behind each catch.

We had the opportunity to sit down with the Salmon Sisters and chat about how Mailchimp has been instrumental to connect their audience to Alaska and help drive their online sales.

Here's what they had to say.

Where did the idea for Salmon Sisters come from?

Emma: My sister Claire and I started our business in 2012 after we left college. We had grown up commercial fishing in Alaska, and we were trying to find something to do in the off-season during the winters that complemented our fishing season.

It was hard to find a real job that let us disappear for a few months every year, so we decided to set up an Etsy shop. We started making t-shirts and bags that spoke to our community of young fishermen in Alaska. Something that would represent what we did as an industry, specifically the women we grew up with, because there wasn't much out there for girls who fish to wear with pride.

How has Salmon Sisters expanded since then?

Emma: We still offer apparel and gear, but we’ve grown the wild seafood part of our business, which drives a lot of our sales. We offer fish caught by either the fleet that our family fishes in or other fisheries in Alaska. A lot of that fish is frozen or flash-frozen, packaged up, and sent directly to consumers. We also have 2 retail shops in Homer, Alaska, where we’re based, so that’s where we get to connect with our community and meet the people who know about the Salmon Sisters brand from afar.

How do people typically discover Salmon Sisters?

Claire: It was widely word-of-mouth at the beginning. Then we were lucky enough to have several media hits about our small business—or about Emma and me as commercial fishermen—which helped drive a lot of traffic. In the later part of the pandemic, we started relying on paid advertising through Google and Facebook to drive seafood sales.

But now we're in a bit of a morphing stage. We rely heavily on SEO of Alaska seafood and our brand partners. We're lucky to be able to provide design work for some more established manufacturing partners, so a lot of people learned about Salmon Sisters that way. Recently, we’ve been leaning more on word-of-mouth from people who visit Alaska and tell their families when they return home.

How does Mailchimp factor into your marketing strategy?

Emma: We use Mailchimp with Shopify, and that connection has been wonderful. We add a lot of product features to our newsletters, so it's nice to be able to drag a product in from Shopify, have some of the info and prices available, and not have to totally recreate everything. Plus, all the visual imagery can be duplicated.

Claire: Email is how we directly communicate with our customer base to generate sales, so we use Mailchimp to help drive Salmon Sisters' online revenue. The amount of post-purchase education and customization needed for our wild seafood is immense. Everything from sequenced reminders on how to cook your fish, how to not waste your fish, how to share your fish, and how to recycle your packaging—we've been able to provide that education with Mailchimp. It's been incredible to set up that experience for people, and we've had a lot of positive feedback.

What is Salmon Sisters’ biggest business or marketing challenge?

Emma: The educational aspect. We're sending 10-pound boxes of frozen filets to someone's house, and that's really new to some people. So the challenge is teaching people how the process works, to not be afraid of it, and to make a purchase in the first place. But once they do, they love the product, and it becomes their favorite thing.

Claire: Another constant puzzle is tracking how our core customer has changed since the start of our business. From the commercial fishing women in Alaska, to the very health-conscious millennial who wants seafood shipped to their door, to now an older audience with more expendable income looking for a sustainable seafood story. It's been incredible to track all that through the Mailchimp and Shopify integration and see how our customers have grown with us.

Is there anything you’re most proud of when it comes to your marketing campaigns?

Emma: There have been so many times when people have told us that our emails are the only ones that they actually read. I always keep that in mind when creating our campaigns. I want to include fun content that will delight people, make them want to click and go to our website, and then maybe get lost in our blog or try something new. It's just kind of a testament to the ease of Mailchimp. It's been such a great tool for us, way beyond social media, which is why we've consistently relied on the platform as the main driver of our sales. It’s allowed us to create a more personal connection with our audience.

Your marketing places emphasis on sharing your personal stories and those of the people in your community. How did you discover that telling these stories would become such a driver of revenue?

Claire: We've tested it over and over, and we find the most traction with our audience by telling our family story or intimate stories of people we know who work in the same field. We've tried to do other things and try other ways, but we've found that people just want to connect to an individual that they find inspiring or can relate to.

Emma: A big part of our brand is the Alaska factor. That is, people want to know the characters in Alaska, see what they’re doing, and be a part of that experience. So whether it's our family, a fisherman we’ve highlighted, or another small business we work with, those are all interesting stories and we feel so joyful to share them because we know these people and they're amazing.

What does the future look like for Salmon Sisters?

Claire: We have a new cookbook coming out this fall, and so we are generating all of the content in beautiful sequences of newsletters. We’ll be giving our audience sneak peeks to help them feel like they're part of it. We have so many testimonials from our community in the book, so everyone is involved. It’s also a tool to encourage people to eat more Alaska seafood and purchase our wild fish boxes.

Emma: Additionally, we want to keep connecting the idea of where wild Alaska seafood comes from and the story behind that—whether you're learning on our website, our newsletter, or coming into our shops, we want to be the source for that information. Our goal is to build a fully integrated world that people can enter at any point and learn about what interests them, whether that's by meeting the person who caught the fish, reading our cookbook, eating our fish, or even visiting Alaska and seeing what inspires our whole community. We want to continue to strengthen that story. On a personal level, working together as a family has also been really rewarding. A lot of crazy things have happened over the last few years, but we've been able to shift any way we want. Being agile and small has been really great, and it's been fun to see the opportunities that have come out of it, so I think we'll continue like that and see where we go. We're just excited to keep working together and sharing more of the story behind our seafood.

Published: August 4, 2023

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