Month: November 2015

Small-Budget Marketing Ideas for the Holiday Season

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Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us in no time and every self-respecting business will be sending out letters, greeting cards, emails or logo-stamped gifts. Direct marketing is one of the most fascinating branches of marketing. From the days of yore, it has made people talk, share and take action. With so many messages thrown at people throughout the day, direct marketing provides one of the least risky – and anticipated and accepted, if a bit interruptive – ways to connect with customers. I love creative mailers that come through my door. Some are thoughtful, some are clever, and some are downright cheeky. However, one common point amongst all these mailers is they are all prohibitively expensive for small businesses.

This is where small budget ideas come in. These ideas make it possible for small businesses to connect with their customers in surprisingly affordable and effective ways.

Holiday Vines

Vine set the precedent in making hastily-shot amateur videos all the rage. With Instagram and Periscope only confirming that video-clip marketing is here to stay, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to post a series of Vines leading up to Christmas and New Year. All you have to do is grab your smartphone and look around for cute and quirky opportunities to make a video.

Check out this cute and funny Vine made with zero dollars’ investment:

1 holiday vines

Embed Vine: https://vine.co/v/OgIwBEnLKPv

Take a look at the other videos on Christmas Channel – the channel that hosts the above video for more amazing ideas.

Top Tips

  • Share your Vines on other social platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook.
  • Embed links to your Vines on product pages on your website, blog posts, and email.
  • Make a series of Vines on a particular theme. For instance, think Harvey Nichols’ famous “I Spent it On Myself” commercial, break the idea into smaller videos – and you have a series!
  • Scour the app store for video editing apps that come with tons of effects to make your videos funny, creative and cool. Use these liberally.

Holiday Emails

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Inboxes are invariably flooded with the same old “formulaically creative” emails during holiday times. So the chances of your email being read are infinitely small.

But with a little proactive and out-of-the-box (we desperately need a more out-of-the-box word for out-of-the-box) thinking, you can ensure your holiday emails are read.

Top Tips

  • First things first – stop being stingy when it comes to photos. Say goodbye to the ubiquitous boring vector backgrounds and illustrations, and invest in high quality pictures; or better yet, hire a good photographer. Yes, this still counts as “small-budget.” You can borrow creative “ideas” instead of “images” – Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration.
  • If you are short on time, try online email creators. They are intuitive and easy to use, and you are done in minutes. Plus they come with a lot of beautiful, seasonal templates and forms, so you can create highly engaging emails with designer-like finesse. Most likely, your email marketing suite has such features too.
  • Don’t leave it for too late – start emailing at least weeks in advance.
  • Include creatively modified photos of your staff for more personalized email greetings. Other than being great for employees’ morale, it also lends a face and identity to your company.

3 merry christmas

Web Banners

Turn the banners on your homepage and category pages into online billboards. The banner or slider on your homepage is the first thing your visitors notice, so it makes sense to create one specifically for holiday season. Personalized card and gift item retailer FunkyPigeon.com is known for putting out banners with timely messages relevant to upcoming events, days or seasons.

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More effective than just banners are entire landing pages with customized elements, each of which appeals to customers’ holiday moods. You can do this (without much coding) using DIY ecommerce platforms such as Spaces, which allows you to create product pages or even single-page websites with mobile-optimized, easy-to-A/B-test banners that give you more room for creativity while showcasing your merchandise.

If all your DIY or in-house efforts fail, you can always fall back on community-powered design marketplaces like 99Designs to not only get yourself a customized banner but pick and choose from dozens of entries submitted by the community.

Content

In perfecting your means, don’t forget your message. Content marketing still remains the #1 small-budget marketing medium. Done right on your email and social media, and especially on your blog, content allows you to drive traffic to your business.

However, you need to start early. Create indirect branded content (including infographics) on holiday themes, such as:

  • X Things You Can Fill in That Dog Christmas Stocking (for a pet food company)
  • X Original Setups to Capture Awesome Christmas Selfies (for a camera or smartphone company)
  • Why Santa Is Going To Pay Us an Extended Visit This Year (for anyone to share their annual success stories)

Send teasers through emails and share them on social networks from at least a month before, while there is still ample chance for them to be read.

Smart Gifts

5 success kid meme

Though content and email marketing have proven to be highly effective ways of marketing, it is always a good idea to send out physical gifts during holidays.

But you need to think beyond personalized pens to logo-engraved mugs – there never seems to be a shortfall of such boring “corporate” gifts.

And what’s more, these gifts are just that – gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take on the festivities with more smart (read eco-friendly) and creative ideas for direct marketing (without the overwhelming expenses, of course)?

So here’s a thoughtful gift idea for which clients and customers will remember you for a long time:

Costing just around $2, plantable paper can make awesome gifts to help your customers stay focused on their goals. Simply send a letter with the plantable or seed paper (with your own custom messages such as “Hope our association grows stronger by the day!”) that explains the concept of your gift and how to use it, and you are done!

Plantable papers are available in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get hold of it.

6 plantable paper

The best part about such gifts is you can follow up with timely cross-sells or reports and cement your relationship in the process.

Over to You

The new truth of marketing is that no single channel is enough these days. You cannot say with conviction that you’ll be successful just by milking a channel you’re good at, whether it’s email, social or television ads. You need to create a multi-channel marketing mix with all the ingredients perfectly mixed together to create awesome holiday season campaigns.

With mega-sale days just round the corner, don’t waste much time – start experimenting with as many guerilla-budget campaigns as you can. Like, now!

 


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

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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

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.40.01 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 10.32.25 AM

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.41.20 AM

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.

 

 


Wait – What IS Real-Time Marketing?

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brace-content-meme

Every few years, something magical comes along. Marketers get excited, the internet gets excited, and we all decide that this, this strategy is the new wave, the marketing strategy that will take us to the next level. So - who’s the lucky homecoming queen? It seems that real-time marketing stole the crown this year.

Big brands, those companies generally promoting and writing about real-time marketing define it as - interacting with their target audience based on current local, national or global events and trends and responding to immediate customer feedback. When a company interjects itself into a current trend or craze, they aim to make their product more appealing based on the association of said product or company with an exciting or trending event. Generally this happens in the form of a meme, video, or graphic shared on social media channels.

This is the antithesis to planning ahead and plotting a marketing strategy to roll out over the course of the quarter or year. Big brands, with big budgets, obviously have the leg up in being able to experiment in real - time, some having huge success, while others not as much.

The term newsjacking has also been floating around in association with real-time marketing. When you research this trend, you may find a clearer - more agreed upon definition. This might simply be due to the straight-forward nomenclature.

However, many marketers have a different definition of real-time marketing.

According to a study done by Neolane and the Direct Marketing Association recently released a study of 235 North American marketers, and to them, real time marketing was defined as, “dynamic, personalized content delivered across channels.”

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Here’s what they think real-time marketing means.

  • The majority of the participants (43%) think of real-time marketing as “dynamic, personalized content delivered across channels.”
  • 64% of participants believe real-time marketing revolves around some kind of dynamic personalization.
  • Only 23% believe real-time marketing is about making quick responses to mainstream events or injecting your business in social media conversations.

That doesn’t really align with what brands are promoting. Where’s the disconnect? It might be that the practice hasn’t been around long enough and still needs some time to settle. Or, perhaps, real-time marketing is all of the above, or none...what do you think?