Email Marketing

Top 5 Takeaways From Silverpops Annual E-mail Marketing Report: Click Through Rates


Concept of direct digital marketing e-mail advertising communication newsletter promotion campaign. Flat design style modern vector illustration concept. Isolated on stylish background.


Thanks to the annual email marketing benchmarking study by Silverpop, we got some great takeaways on open rates, click-through rates, and list churn.

Let’s keep it simple and quickly touch on the top 5 takeaways as it relates to click through rates:




  1. Just as with unique open rates - APAC outperformed the rest for click through rates.

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That’s an interesting statistic but doesn’t mean much to you, but the below tips should:

Things to remember about click through metrics:

  • It’s a more accurate metric than open rates, but it should not be substituted for output goals.
  1. Computer Hardware & Telecommunications, Consumer Products, and Lodging, Travel Agencies & Services outpaced the others in click through rates by industry.

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So - what? What might attribute this win for Computer Hardware and Transportation? It’s likely due to the robust content marketing done by this industry. They dominate with research, white papers, and often lean heavily on providing industry insights and content that people want to reference and save for later. It’s a long term relationship building tactic couched heavily in content.

  1. Transactional e-mails absolutely kill vs. non-transactional e-mails...again.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, this has direct implications for you. Be sure that transactional e-mails dominate your email strategy. In other words, craft email campaigns based on the the actions taken by your users or potential users. Whatever you chose to call them ‘triggered,” “automatic,” “personalized” or even “real-time,” e-mails should be sent based on actions and interactions people have with your product, content or advertising.

Here are a few tips to optimize your transactional emails:

  • Think about where the customer is in their journey. Tailor additional value added messages or offers inside of basic transactional emails. For example, in a confirmation e-mail, offer an opt-in for a subscription to a newsletter, recommend a complimentary product, or take the opportunity to ask for feedback. Many transactional emails are “expected” meaning, the user expects communication after they’ve taken a certain action. Capitalize on their engagement, but be sure whatever you are offering is genuinely useful to the recipient.
  • Keep transactional e-mails customer focused by always including contact info - and ensure it’s easy to locate.
  • Stay on brand. Even if you’re a small business or start up, there are easy ways to continue to represent the brand in the e-mail keeping in the tone, colors, and assets used on the website.
  • Be sure your emails are mobile optimized.
  1. APAC wins again with the most clicks/clicker


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Clicks per clicker is a measurement of the number of links clicked or how many times a particular link was clicked, inside of one e-mail.

Silverpop points out that most marketers expected to see clicks per clicker drop as mobile became increasingly the device of choice. It’s interesting to point out that in fact, the opposite has happened.

A few things I think could be happening here. One being marketers anticipated this change in user behavior and have been creating e-mails that are more tightly tailored to the minimal real estate of a mobile screen, minimizing calls to action, and other ‘noise’ both in messaging and design. Secondly, it might be that the mobile experience, the device itself, lends itself to quicker interaction, with less obstacles to click with mobile being a touch screen, users might feel less encumbered to click on links.

  1. Computer Hardware and Corporate Services dominated the clicker per clicker by industry.

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As I mentioned in a previous post, as a marketer, this signifies that people are engaging with content that has long term relevance to them. They like things they can reference later, like best practices, white papers, user tips, industry statistics etc.



Top 5 Takeaways From Silverpops Annual E-mail Marketing Report: Open Rates



E-mail Marketing Flat Illustration


Thanks to the annual e-mail marketing benchmarking study by Silverpop, we got some great takeaways on open rates, click-through rates, and list churn.

Let’s keep it simple and quickly touch on the top 5 takeaways as it relates to open rates.



  1. APAC outperformed the rest for unique open rates.Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.39.22 AM

That’s an interesting statistic but doesn’t mean much to you, but the below tips should:

Things to remember about open rate metrics:

  • They work best as an internal benchmark
  • Use open rates to track engagement over time, not necessarily per campaign
  • Long term open rate tracking can signal problems with engagement
  • It’s not a foolproof metric, it does not take into account image blocking and other hurdles to open
  • Use open rates as a way to measure against your other messages, to learn what works best for your company
  1. Lodging, Travel Agencies & Services, Insurance, Consumer Products, Nonprofits, Associations & Government, and Schools & Education had unique open rates that exceeded 50 percent.

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This doesn’t mean that you’re bound to suffer weak open rates if you’re not included in the top 5 industries. These stats are influenced by frequency and also necessity. Industries in the top 5 likely send far less frequent e-mails than say, Retail and E-commerce, and industry that is known to send e-mails daily.

Want to join the ranks of 50% or higher open rates, don’t forget these key takeaways about subject lines:

  • Good subject lines have a call to action before the reader even opens the e-mail
  • They have alluring and enticing words like, free, you, now, and instantly
  • Are under 40 characters to be mobile optimized
  1. Transactional e-mails have more than double the success of non-transactional e-mails.

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This has direct implications for you. Be sure that transactional e-mails dominate your e-mail strategy. In other words, craft e-mail campaigns based on the the actions taken by your users or potential users. Whatever you chose to call them ‘triggered,” “automatic,” “personalized” or even “real-time,” e-mails should be sent based on actions and interactions people have with your product, content or advertising.

  1. APAC wins again with the most opens per opener.

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Silverpop points out that these stats are lower when compared to previous years. They speculate this is because mobile consumers are quicker to delete emails that don’t resonate immediately. This highlights the importance of ensuring your e-mails are responsive and mobile-friendly, and that it might be a good idea to limit calls to action to one or two per email.

  1. Insurance and Corporate Services were significantly higher than the other industries for both mean and top quartile.

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What does this mean for you? Include relevant content in your e-mails that people are likely to save for reference. Some examples might be best practices, infographics and case studies.



E-mail Marketing Still a Front Runner for Marketers, and Social Media Steals the Bronze from SEO


Social media concept with speech bubbles on smartphone

As marketers, we must choose, and prioritize, our marketing efforts. So what are most marketers up to? According to a new study by Oracle Marketing Cloud, Website, E-mail, and Social Media, are top priorities for the year to come. Website remains a front runner for obvious reasons. These days, as digital marketing continues to gain more and more traction, and consume at least 25% of marketing budgets, a website is the cornerstone from which marketers plan, strategize, and execute digital marketing efforts. Similarly, as the trend toward purchase via mobile increases at a lightning pace, a poorly optimized website can be an e-commerce disaster.

In second place we have e-mail, still, contrary to what some might believe, continues to offer huge ROI, about $44 for every $1 spent. And if you need more stats to back that up, check these out: 91% of consumers check their e-mail daily, and on a daily basis consumers interact with 11 brands on e-mail (compared to 9 on Facebook and 8 on Twitter), 48% of consumers say they prefer to communicate with brands via e-mail. And more on that RIO, 44% of consumers made at least one purchase based on a promotional e-mail they received, and 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an e-mail marketing message. You can’t argue with those numbers.

Interestingly, Social Media Marketing took third place, replacing SEO. Social allows a company to gain peer recommendations at the click of a like. A positive note on a social channel is free advertising, and, if you’re an e-commerce company, a free endorsement for your product. That endorsement becomes increasingly important as the buying trends become more and more dependent on peer recommendations vs. internet search and research. Social media also allows a company to respond to criticism in real time, buy your way in front of a target audience, and - an active social media community drives high quality traffic to your website. The majority of links that are built by SEO companies do not bring traffic to your website. These links may help increase the authority and power of your site, but in terms of traffic, it doesn’t do much. Social media also allows marketers a constant audience, and, interestingly, search engines are now taking into account social signals when ranking websites. The more social shares, interaction, or activity you have, the higher your search engine rankings. Assuming this doesn’t change anytime soon, you can understand why Social has snatched Bronze from SEO.



Auto Pilot Your Email Marketing with Automated Workflows


Email marketing is one of the most effective avenues out there to reach customers. As the organic reach of B2C social channels (looking at you, Facebook) decreases, and SEO becomes ever more dependent on content marketing, the importance of leveraging every inch of email increases. Smart businesses are integrating their email efforts more and more closely with their blogging and social output already, but in many cases there’s a missing link.

email automated workflow

I think of this as the “Now what?” effect. We need short term, actionable goals, but we can get too focused, too stuck on them. You use social and blogging to drive website traffic, and collateral content to encourage signups. Now you have an email list. Now what?

All too often, businesses know they need personalized, timed emails, but don’t actually jump in and do it. Why? One major factor is time. Creating and sending emails is time-consuming, if it’s done manually. Another reason can be the “Now what?” effect: a business stays in that “Gotta build my list” mindset, instead of moving on with the prospect and working to leverage the list they already have.

Finally, handling all the details you have about your customers can be an overwhelming task. Personalizing emails to a long, varied list of customers, all at different stages of the customer life cycle, is something no one has time for. So email marketing becomes a matter of a one-size-fits-all newsletter, the occasional blast, and perhaps some promos. And a killer marketing strategy fails at the last corner.

That’s where automated workflows come in.

What Are Automated Workflows?

Automated email is pretty self-explanatory, but a half-and-half system that doesn’t include automated workflows can still leave you directing the process in a way that’s too hands-on, time consuming and ineffective. Automated workflows allow you to set up a system, and then, once it’s in the air, hand over the controls to autopilot.

A workflow is a system that uses a series of “if this, then that” logic decisions to match each customer with the email campaign(s) that’s right for them, based on their behavior. Whenever a customer or prospect makes contact with your online presence, they’re effectively choosing how they want you to contact them. Way back in 2014 Silverpop, then just bought up by IBM, showed that automated emails had a 15% higher open rate than manual ones – and a staggering 79% higher click-through rate.

automated workflow email path

A well set-up automated workflow system will constantly stay on top of information like click-through rates, open rates, sales, engagement metrics on social media and more, so that you can adjust how each customer experiences your brand and inform future strategic decisions about how the whole workflow is set up.

An example of an automated workflow would look something like this:

A customer might visit your blog, inspired by one of your Facebook posts, and download the collateral content on offer there when they finish reading the blog post. Great – you’ve got their email address, and data on their interests too. The two together go through to the app you’re using to coordinate your workflows and your brand begins to communicate with that customer automatically. The trigger was their download of the collateral content from your website – that was the “if this.” The automated welcome series your email auto-responder sent them was the “then that.” Welcome series are a popular part of an automated workflow system because they have such high open and click-through rates, and they improve retention and conversion.

automated workflow within content channels

Setting It in Motion

Popular triggering actions include email engagements like opens and click-throughs, website or landing page visits, and social media engagements like retweets, likes, follows and shares. But you can also use segmentation criteria like industry vertical, job title, or whether your contact is with a personal or business domain name to further focus your efforts. Future “if this” events might be derived from click-throughs or opens of your emails. Each time a customer does something, that action triggers them to be moved on to a different part of the workflow, depending on the nature of the action. Recent buyers get emails aimed at upselling or cross selling, for instance.

At its simplest, workflow automations take over the task of guiding prospects through the sales funnel to a purchase decision. Because they’re always accompanied by content that keeps your brand front of mind and offers products or services that prospects have demonstrated some interest in, they’re more likely to make that purchase decision.

email marketing workflow

Integration and Implementation

But fully integrated workflow automation can do way more than that. In the early days of autopilots, they would just keep pace flying level at the same speed. Modern planes fly wigrth computer assistance at every step of the way: autopilot never off and always doing way more than just keeping things level. In the same way, getting the best from automated workflows means creating complex, highly responsive content architecture so that customers are never out of sight of your brand and always feeding you signals about how they want to interact with you.

Most brands use an app like MailChimp that offers workflows and ideally integrates with their CRM to allow seamless construction of workflows straight from contacts, using CRM data to get things off the ground. You can send emails to your customers whenever their information is updated in your CRM database. You can also create different forms related to varied aspects of your business and send them to different customers.

When constructing individual workflows, it’s important to keep your goal in mind. Ideally this will be within the context of an overarching strategy that treats your customers the way well-designed websites treat their users. You’ll be adding an extension to a design that’s focused on user experience and in which all roads lead, eventually, to a purchase decision, even if indirectly. Within this broader structure, each workflow behaves like a miniature sales funnel. It’s not necessarily designed to deliver users to a sale; it might be designed to deliver them into another workflow that itself leads to a sale, or to greater engagement or more trust or positive brand perception.

email marketing through automated workflows

Once you have a clear perception of what a workflow is meant to accomplish, decide where it should start – which trigger should put a customer into this workflow? After you have a start and a finish determined, write your emails and determine their timing. For some purposes, email timing is well understood. The best direct sales emails, for instance, have been well researched, but the details might differ in your specific space and workflows intended for non-sales purposes like engagement might have little evidence to guide you, in which case A/B testing timing should form part of your process.

Over to You

As you implement your workflows, you should manage them to ensure that they perform according to your goals and strategies. No matter how well they’re designed, you’ll always find yourself correcting them “in flight” as customers respond differently than you expected.

Want to learn more about managing your lead gen cycle with automation? Check out this class: Building a Lead Generation Management Process.



How to Segment Your Mailing List for More Effective Email Marketing


Email marketing is one of the best tools in your digital marketing arsenal, and it should be used as a tool – carefully and with precise aim. Too many businesses still use email as a sort of spray-and-pray campaign, trusting in a big mailing list to bring in at least a few sales, even if the great majority of recipients trash the email immediately. After all, once you’ve put together an email campaign, it doesn’t cost you any more whether you send it to 20 or 2,000 people, right?

email marketing

Wrong. Unfocused content and untargeted marketing can irritate your subscribers, resulting in unsubscribes, abuse reports, negative brand image, and lost sales. And it dilutes the impact your email marketing could otherwise have – so when you do finally have a great bit of content or a huge offer, subscribers won’t bother reading. Your mailing list is chock full of qualified leads, and it deserves more than general batch and blast emails.

Divide and Conquer Your List

In a recent post, CEO Susan Baroncini-Moe discussed the importance of honing your digital marketing efforts to your target markets, no matter the medium. The good news is that email marketing is one of the easiest to segment and target, and at a low cost as well. As long as you’ve kept good records and know how to sort through them, you can segment your mailing list and target all your messages.

Related Class: How to Use Email for Demand Generation

Email marketing service provider MailChimp used results from 11,000 segmented campaigns, sent to over 9 million recipients, to research the benefits of segmenting your mailing list. Their results confirm what you’d generally expect – segmented campaigns had 19% higher open rates, and 22% higher click through rates, performing better across the board.

Experiment with Your Targets

If you’ve never segmented your mailing list before, start small and think carefully about divisions in your customer base. If, for example, your product sells well with grandparents and young parents, there are similarities there. But there are also differences that you can use to tailor your content and marketing pitch. Come up with a few strategies to test, and run a campaign based on these, keeping a careful eye on your analytics. Use data like CTRs, open rates, and sales to determine which approaches were successful and which performed poorly. Three ideas to get you started:

Time Triggered Emails

Run a list of every customer who purchased in the last month, 6 months, or year. They’re obviously interested in what you’re selling, or they wouldn’t be in this group – so hit them with helpful content to remind them what great services or products you offer, and, if you’re feeling generous, a discount voucher code to tempt them back to your sales funnel.

New Subscribers and Buyers

You wouldn’t want your sales team using the same pitch on first time perspective buyers that they use on loyal returning customers, would you? Hitting brand new subscribers to your mailing list with the same content you send everyone else isn’t the best way to nurture them into the fold.

Related Class: Email Campaign Fundamentals

Introduce yourself with thoughtful, quality content that really reflects your brand and voice, so that these new readers will get a sense of your business. Let them know how excited you are to have them on board, and ease them into the relevant sales messaging based on demographic data like age, gender, and location. These recipients haven’t seen your previous campaigns, so if you have older content or messaging that you’re particularly proud of, send it their way!

Subscribers Who Have Never Purchased

Ah, the possibilities! Recipients on your mailing list who have never actually completed a purchase represent a lot of opportunity. Whether they once downloaded your eBook or abandoned a shopping cart, these folks are interested but not yet eager. Do they really know what you have to offer, or how you can solve a problem they have? Are they aware of your free shipping and easy return policy? Let them know why customers choose you, and be specific. I’m a big believer in freebies and samples to coax in customers that could be loyal for life – read my blog on the subject here.

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There are a million ways to segment your list, and you should try as many as are relevant to your marketing strategy and customer base – zip code, gender, age, interests, purchase history, cart history, etc. Track the data and determine which lists were most effective, and incorporate them into a strategic long-term plan. As long as your content is tailored to each list, and germane to their needs, you’ll find more success than with general eBlasts. Who on Earth wants to receive something called a blast?

Want to learn more about strategic email marketing? Watch this class, Demand Generation: Email Marketing Messaging Best Practices, to find out about segmentation, strategic testing, and other best practices from Kim Albee, one of OMI's Top 20 Digital Marketing Strategists for 2015.


Making the Most of a First Time Buyer


It’s great news – a new customer slid all the way down your sales funnel, and finally made a purchase! Don’t leave it there. The fact that you have a new customer means that you’re doing some things right, like lead generation and nurturing. Now you have a chance to convince your new buyer that there’s more to this than a one night stand! Help them see the growing relationship, and you’ll have the makings of a loyal, repeat customer.

first time buyer

My last blog was about missed opportunities for lead nurturing in eCommerce; this one is about an opportunity that many businesses miss, once that lead has become a paying customer.

Cost Effective Conversions

We all know that new leads are pricey, and require a lot of encouragement. This often means you have to spend big on ad buys and social media boosting, or offer discounts and special offers that cut into your profit margins majorly.

With first time buyers, you have a group of targets that are already as qualified as leads can be, clearly interested in your products or services, and obviously a part of your market. Considering this, it’s no surprise that reaching them is much cheaper than reaching new leads, since you’re not casting a wide net that includes hundreds or thousands of uninterested people. You also have that one key thing – contact details!

The Follow-Up Email

Ecommerce businesses have certainly perfected the art of the confirmation email, but far too many are just leaving it at that. Do you follow up with your first time customers to see what their experience was like? It may seem like a lot of work, but you can automate a big portion of this process once you’ve got it down to a science that works for you and your customers.

I’ve received follow-up emails recommending similar products to me, based on what I purchased. That’s certainly better than no follow-up email at all, but it can feel a little mercenary. Remember, this new customer is still learning about your brand, figuring out what you do and how it feels to do business with you. A wise marketer once told me that customers aren’t just buying a product, they’re buying into an experience – and they want it to be a good one. What kind of experience are you giving them? Will they want to come back?

Related Class: Email Copywriting and Content Essentials

Plan to check in with your first time buyers, either by email or phone call, a few days after their order would likely have arrived (if it’s a physical product) or a week after they’ve used your services, whether you’re a provider of online services (like us here at OMI!) or face-to-face services in the real world. Think carefully about setting the right tone in your email, because you want this to generate some majorly positive vibes.

Ask the Right Questions

The content of your email should be designed to do two things: gather more information, and cultivate a real relationship between the new customer and your business. This means you have to sound like you actually care about their answers to your questions! I often get emails from, asking me to review a product I bought. This does NOT make me think that Target cares about whether I’m actually happy with my purchase – it makes me think that Target wants some reviews so they can sell more boots like the ones I bought! I see through you, Target.

When you follow up with customers, make sure they know that you care. Ask if they’re happy with their purchase, the buying process, shipping times, etc., and tailor your content to sound personal to their purchase and their experience (e.g. asking about the quality of the boots they bought, vs. asking about the quality of the “product” they bought). Make sure it’s clear that you’re happy to help if anything isn’t up to snuff, but that you want to hear if it is, too!

Small and medium-sized businesses win major points if the email comes from a specific person (whether it’s Angie the Owner or Alex the Customer Service Agent) and a specific email address, instead of a general or ‘info’ email address. This helps the customer feel like they have a real contact at the company, if they have any questions or problems at this point or further on down the line.

Request a Review – the Right Way

As noted above, I’m not a fan of the generic review-request email. However, I do think there are ways to go about encouraging reviews of your products or services that can really make it a win-win-win situation: the customer feels like they’ve been heard, you get valuable feedback, and hesitant shoppers will have reviews to help make their decision.

An email requesting a review should make it clear that you’re genuinely interested in their opinion on the purchase – was it what they expected? Would they buy it again? Again, a personal email directly from a representative, tailored to the purchase, will go a long ways toward making this email feel more genuine. If your site is a bit bare when it comes to reviews, whether it’s because you have a new webshop, a new product, or few review-ready customers, that’s definitely something you want to fix, fast. Incentivize the review process for first time buyers by offering a discount voucher or free shipping on their next order.

email to first time buyer

Loyal customers are obviously a valuable commodity since they return and purchase again and again, but their value in terms of brand advocacy can be just as important. Don’t gloss over the first purchase – take this chance to create a relationship that can work well for both of you!

Looking to learn more about marketing through the entire buying process? Check out this class, Content is Opportunity: Developing Content for Every Stage in the Buying Cycle, to find out about tailoring your message for maximum impact.


7 Steps to Effective Lead Nurturing: Reactivate Your Email Lists in 2015


Do you struggle with email marketing? You’re not alone. B2B marketers often underestimate the efforts needed to remain in front of their hot leads. Their typically long sales cycles make it all too easy to deviate from the strategic and systematic follow-ups needed to push leads into the customer realm.

email marketing

According to Forrester, 50% of nurtured leads eventually turn into customers. So before you give up on what could represent some significant revenue, here’s how to start unclogging your sales funnel, and make 2015 a banner revenue year.

1.  Change your mindset

Lead nurturing is about relationship building. After all, you’re engaging with people, not their business. So rather than stress out about making a sale, shift your objective to providing meaningful interactions and useful and relevant content to your audience. Redirecting your focus on education and entertainment then makes lead nurturing fun, rather than a chore.

Related Class: Email Marketing Tactics

2.  Search and clean up

Ask recipients who haven’t opened an email in 12 to 18 months if they’re still interested in receiving them. Dormant recipients who aren’t ready to buy can remain silent for months, while some who have become uninterested over time may not be as forward as those who unsubscribed, especially if they only check their dedicated subscription address sporadically. You won’t know how big your list really is or if you’re even talking to the right people unless you ask.

3.  Ask them what they want

This step is crucial if you haven’t sent an email or company update in a long time. Why guess and waste time creating content or developing tools your audience doesn’t need? Free tools like Survey Monkey can help you poll subscribers and ask what they’re curious about and struggle with in their business.  The insight you gather will be invaluable in planning your marketing programs, content and offers.

4.  Revisit your buyer personas

What new observations can you add to your existing personas? Are you launching a new product line or service that will attract a new market segment? Unless you know whom you’re talking to and what they care about, you’ll have trouble addressing their needs, interests and challenges and pushing those hot buttons that keep them up at night.

Related Class: Using Social Data to Improve Email Marketing

5.  Segment your list

Although this will in part depend on the email platform you’re using, segmenting your list can help you zero in on specific users and create highly targeted campaigns for specific groups. Depending on your business and objectives,  your leads’ preferred languages, geolocations, signup source, title, gender, survey results, previous campaign activity – to name a few – can be sliced and diced to get better open and click through rates. Narrowing your focus with highly relevant messages can help generate better results. However, use with caution to avoid sending irrelevant or pesky duplicate emails to some recipients.

6.  Create a short-term calendar

This is where most B2B marketers fail. They quickly become overwhelmed as they attempt to plan far in advance to keep up with yearly business objectives. But the fact is that despite your best intentions, unforeseen changes, whether internal or external, will inevitably affect the best laid plans. By aligning your interactions and marketing content with quarterly goals, you become hyper focused and can remove the stress of unrealistic long-term planning.

7.  Deploy and mix it up

With a clean, segmented email list, laser focused buyer personas and short-term goals, it’s time to reconnect with your leads and deliver educational and entertaining content in digestible bites:

  • Short demonstrative videos or webinars that demonstrate your competitive advantage
  • A downloadable case study featuring a happy customer’s experience
  • An eBook repurposed into a series of blog posts that focus on a specific concept, product or service that you offer.
  • Webinars co-hosted by your affiliates and partners
  • Numbered white papers that demonstrate opinions, present controversial views or challenge the status quo
  • Infographics that capture industry data in visually captivating formats.
B2B email marketing


If you’ve struggled with consistent lead nurturing, Q4 is the perfect time to revisit your program and transform a stagnant sales funnel into a revenue generator. As you refocus on educating and entertaining your audience, you’ll gradually break through the barriers, overcome objections and turn your hard-earned leads into loyal customers.

Want to learn more? Dive into email marketing in-depth with this class, B2B Email Marketing Best Practices. Using case studies and examples of real campaigns, the class teaches strategies and quick fixes that can boost your email efficacy.


Email Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing: Weighing Your Business Priorities


If you’re here, you probably spend a good chunk of your time reading up on marketing and digital to stay current. Social media marketing certainly feels like the wave of the future; every day there are 10 more reasons to focus your time (and budget) on connecting socially to grow your business. It’s a common topic here on the OMI blog, where there are often tips for getting the most out of your social media marketing efforts.

Related Class: Introduction to Social Media Marketing

But is social really earning its keep at your business? Is it your biggest traffic-pusher, your best lead-converter, your most effective sales-generator? If it is, that’s great. Yet for many businesses, this is just not the case, and without running the numbers, you’ll never know where you fall. Today, a robust social media presence is definitely a requirement for any business – we’re not arguing against that. But you should keep your marketing priorities in line with the ROI they bring you, regardless of what is newest or most on-trend in the marketing world.

Crunching the Numbers

A huge range of studies have examined the value of email vs. social media when it comes to marketing, and while you can split hairs, the overall results show that email still far outpaces social platforms when it comes to getting customers and profits. This summary highlights recent studies with some impressive stats: specifically, that email is roughly 40 times more effective for acquiring new customers, and 3 times more likely to lead to a sale. And when you get that sale – email sales have an average order value 17% higher than those acquired through social media.

email newsletter

What do these numbers mean for you? That depends. Obviously these studies examine a wide range of businesses, and you’re most likely only interested in one business – your own. You’ll need to crunch your own numbers to see how your social media marketing efforts add up when it comes to new leads, website traffic, and sales. Careful work with your website’s analytics, and tools like Facebook’s Insights, can help you determine how your time and efforts are paying off. This is particularly important if you’re paying to ‘promote’ or ‘boost’ your social media posts, since you don’t want to throw money at a strategy that isn’t going to pay off in sales.

Where Social Wins Out

There are also, however, many intangible things that are a lot harder to quantify with numbers, but that you should still consider within your social media strategy. Even if your Facebook page or Twitter account aren’t bringing you new sales, many marketers (including this one) would still argue that your social media presence has major value.

Today, those searching online (your potential customers) assume that you’ll have a page on Facebook, a location on Google+, and a social presence that they can look over. You won’t be able to quantify it, but it might very well be that your winning Facebook page and genuine tweets helped them feel a sense of trust and reliability, which somewhere down the line (a day, a week, 6 months later) brought them to your webshop or your brick-and-mortar business.

social marketing

Because social media humanizes your business and connects you personally with potential leads and customers, it will never truly be a waste of your time and effort. But all the same, you may never be able to track these social media victories, and might not even have a comment or like to let you know you’re doing well online.

What Does This Mean for Your Priorities?

Once you’ve run the numbers, you should have a better idea of where your best ROI is coming from – and whether your time and efforts reflect that ranking, or not. If your social media presence is sucking up a lot of your valuable time, or requires too much attention from your in-house team, then you should reconsider whether the time is paying off in sales and new customers. Of course, dropping it altogether isn’t really an option, but scaling back the frequency with which you update, post or tweet could help you manage time and improve quality.

Related Class: Tracking and Measuring Email Marketing Results

On the other side of the equation, you should make sure that you’re giving email marketing the attention it deserves. Every email you send is reaching a targeted, interested person (more than you can say for a Facebook post), and you can deliver great content straight to them. If you’re doing a monthly email newsletter, that’s great – but do the numbers show that a biweekly newsletter would drive more sales? Or, try rolling out triggered emails when customers visit your site, or if they haven’t purchased anything in 6 months. A little A/B testing will go a long way, so you can tell how your email efforts are paying off.

Stay tuned for my next post exploring the topic of content channels, and how different channels like email, Facebook and Twitter should be used in ways that play to their strengths, instead of a one size fits all approach.

In the meantime, explore the practical aspects with this class, Measuring the Value of Social Media Using Simple Analytics. You’ll learn how to accurately measure social media traffic to your website, calculate engagement metrics, and much more.


Why You Should Use A/B Testing to Refine Your Online Marketing


For those of us who work in marketing, we know the value of a hunch. That gut-feeling. We use it a lot to brainstorm new campaigns, solve problems, and direct our social media posts. There’s merit to the gut-feeling technique, it’s true. But there’s a downside too – your hunch might not always be right. In reality, it may always be wrong. That’s where A/B testing comes in.

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a way to compare two versions of something (an email, a landing page, an ad, etc.), so that you can use analytics to determine which version is most successful. A/B testing isn’t unique to online marketing, but it is particularly helpful in this field, and in eCommerce especially. Here’s why.

When you’re putting together a website or ad campaign, there are many subtle changes and tweaks to make along the way. You choose what color to make the “Add to Cart” button. You opt for one image over another for your PPC ads. You change the copy on your landing page slightly. These choices might seem minor, but studies have shown again and again that customer behavior is majorly affected by them.

How Can A/B Testing Help?

A/B testing is actually ideal for trying out these kinds of changes. It’s a test for refining your online marketing, not completely overhauling it. Any eCommerce whiz can tell you that even small changes to the sales funnel can make big waves on the other end. Do you want to make those changes based on your hunch of what color looks best? Or your personal opinion on which text flows better? Or would you rather test out both options so you know for a fact that you’ve optimized in every way you can?

The real problem with relying on your gut is that it’s yours. Other people react differently to colors, words, images, even fonts. Your feeling about a certain choice might not be the majority’s reaction to it, and that’s who you should be trying to please! Even minute changes can be the difference between a considerable sale and an abandoned shopping cart, and I know which you’d prefer.

Email Marketing: A/B Testing in Action

Let’s look at an example of how A/B testing can help your email marketing strategy.

For many of us, our email marketing follows a standard schedule: weekly mailers with sales/offers, monthly newsletters, follow-up emails to encourage returning customers, etc. This probably means you’re pretty set in your ways – do your emails always go out at 11 a.m. on a Monday? Do they always have roughly the same subject line? Is the format the same?

You could be missing out on a chance to maximize the sales benefit for each email you send – but you’ll never know unless you use A/B testing to try out some changes and analyze the results.

Landing page test

First, you’ll need to decide which metrics matter the most to you for determining ‘success.’ You might want to track whatever constitutes a conversion for your business, whether it’s a sale or just downloading a free white paper. Click through rates are another good measure of your recipients’ interest, or you could track how many use a discount code included in the email. If you’re trying out different subject lines or timing, your open rate might be all you need to see results. Related Class: Metrics-Driven Demand Gen in a Multichannel World

The next step is splitting your mailing list into two groups – let’s call them A and B, for obvious reasons. If you’d like to compare two new ideas, you could send new, different versions to both groups. Or if you’re just looking to see how your current newsletters stack up against a slightly updated version, you could keep group A as your control group, and send group B the new email.

The key when making changes is to keep it minimal. Choose ONE aspect to change. This is important because at the end of the day, you’re looking for actionable results that can guide you going forward. If you change half the email, you won’t be able to put your finger on the one thing that really matters for increasing sales, conversions, CTR, etc.

A few easy things to test: if you usually email at 4 p.m., try 10 a.m. instead. If you usually use a standard greeting in the subject line, try something more discount/offer oriented. If you usually include a voucher code for a percentage off, try a buy-on-get-one voucher code instead. If you usually offer 15% off for returning customers, try 20% off instead.

Google Analytics Measurement for AdWords

The last step is sitting down with a big cup of coffee and all your analytics. Did the changes improve your key metrics? Or make them worse? Did offering a deeper discount pay off overall, or did you shrink your profit for nothing? Read over your results, compare outcomes, and then form steps or recommendations based on your data. It shouldn’t be surprising that continuing your A/B testing over a longer period will help you get more accurate data, less likely to be affected by random highs or lows on a certain day.

Goodbye to the Marketing Hunch

Overall, the clear lesson here is that if you’re not A/B testing changes to your website, sales funnel, or marketing techniques, you’re just relying on your own feedback to make decisions. Gather more feedback through testing, and it’s like a free focus group for your online marketing efforts! If you don’t have the time or personnel to manage A/B testing yourself in-house, there are many tools and services that will do the dirty work for you, for a fee.

Want to learn more about A/B testing for website design changes? See it in action and play along in this class, “10 A/B Test Studies.



Why Your Small Business Needs Inbound and Outbound Marketing


Every small business is constantly marketing itself – whether that means reaching out to new customers, asking existing customers for repeat business, or attracting new customers via word of mouth and online marketing. Unfortunately, some small business owners fall into a trap of relying too heavily on only one type of marketing and ignoring the rest.

Direct Mail

If you are spending too much time on outbound marketing (such as sending direct mail postcards, making cold calls, or sending e-mails), you might be missing big opportunities from online marketing and other “inbound marketing” tactics like SEO and social media. If you’re spending all of your time with Facebook marketing, you’re missing lots of customers who might prefer to hear from you via phone and other “old fashioned” techniques.

Here are a few reasons why your small business needs a diversified portfolio of inbound and outbound marketing tactics:

  • Different customers respond to different methods. Even with as much hype as social media marketing has gotten in the past few years, the majority of Americans still do not use Twitter. Depending on your business, social media might not be right for you.   If you are a product brand, Facebook certainly is where you can reach your decision makers, but if you are targeting CFO’s in large institutions, chances are, you aren’t going to reach them on social media. According to CMO, LinkedIn is the only platform the majority (62 percent) of B2B marketers consider to be effective. Depending on the demographics of your customer base, you might be better off exhibiting at a trade show or buying a mailing list or calling customers directly on the phone. Social media marketing is amazing if your customers are on social media – but if not, don’t be afraid to keep using “old-fashioned” marketing methods for as long as they still work for your business.
  • Inbound and outbound marketing can support each other. It is not a zero-sum game of deciding to “only” invest in inbound marketing (SEO, social media marketing, etc.) or outbound marketing (direct mail, phone calls, etc.) You can do both. And your various marketing campaigns can feed into each other. For example, you could make an offer via a direct mailing that can be redeemed on Facebook – “Like us on Facebook and get a 10% discount on your next purchase.”

Related Class: Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing

  • Different marketing methods can fit better into your budget. With traditional “outbound marketing” like direct mail or advertising, there is usually a fixed upfront cost to placing an ad or buying a mailing list or printing a mailing. With inbound marketing, the cost can often vary depending on the amount of time that the business owner spends implementing the marketing tactic and doing the work. There is a value to your time, so if you’re spending time on Facebook marketing you’ll want to know that you’re getting some return on the investment. The advantage of inbound marketing, ideally, is that once you invest some upfront time and money to set up a website, create a social media presence, and establish an online audience, you will have a long-term foundation of “owned media” that will keep bringing customers to you.

Finding the right balance of inbound and outbound marketing is a constant challenge, but there are more exciting, innovative and measurable ways to reach your customers than ever before. Just remember that just like with your investments, you should take a “diversified” approach to your marketing methods. That’s the best strategy for long-term success.

To create marketing messages to connect with your customers, you have to take the time to understand what they need and give it to them when they need it. The Online Marketing Institute class, Four Way Customers Can Be Consumer Centric, will teach you how to create consistent marketing messages across a variety of channel that connect with your audience.