Email Marketing

The One Thing Marketers Must Do Before Diving Into Email Marketing

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Want to know what the Obama pic is all about? You'll have to read to the bottom to find out...

Contrary to what some say, the data over the past few years has continued to demonstrate that email marketing still holds water to many other marketing tactics. Earlier this year I discussed why email marketing is still a front runner for marketers. Below is a quick recap.

According to the most recent Oracle Marketing Cloud Study, email continues to remain in the top three initiatives (2nd) for marketers  - namely because of the huge ROI it continues to offer.

  • Email marketing ROI is about $44 for every $1 spent

Need some more email stats to back up that claim, here you go:

  • 91% of consumers check their email daily
  • On a daily basis consumers interact with 11 brands on email (compared to 9 on Facebook and 8 on Twitter)
  • 48% of consumers say they prefer to communicate with brands via email
  • 44% of consumers made at least one purchase based on a promotional email they received
  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message

So let’s get to the point of this post. The above stats help us understand why we need to continue to pay attention to our email marketing. Before you recommit to revamping or revisiting your email marketing do this one thing - check your senders score.

Why it’s important:

Your sender score is an indicator of the trustworthiness of your IP address. So - why is that important? Your IP address is used by email providers to determine how to filter your message (read: whether or not YOU go to spam).

How do you check it? Do the following:

  1. Find an email, newsletter, announcement etc., sent from the email address your want to check
  2. View the full header of that email by
  • In Gmail - click the down arrow on the top right hand corner of the email and scroll down to ‘show original,’ then find the IP address. Go to https://senderscore.org/ , create and account, and plug it in

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How to read the score:

Anything over 95 is good, anything less than 95, and you need to take a deeper look into your deliverability. After all, why spend hours on emails campaigns and strategies if no one is getting them in the first place?

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This is an image of the top preforming subject lines as researched by Barack Obama’s re-election campaign team. They did a ton of email marketing research and testing. Tailor them to your message and presto! Even better, do an A/B test with these vs. your old subject lines.

 

 

 


Someone please tell me the difference between retargeting and remarketing already!?

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Do you know? If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not sure. While the jury seems to still be out, here is the latest consensus.

Retargeting and remarketing focus on totally different prospects.

Remarketing focuses on people who are incredibly motivated. These people have either added something to their cart, or done something else to express clearly they are interested in buying your product. They’ve made it way down a buying funnel, and fell off somewhere near the end of the buying process. Remarketing efforts take the form of e-mails, and focus on finding out why the person fell off, what else the provider can do or what other information they can offer, to help nudge the individual in the direction of completing their purchase.

According to a survey done by AgilOne on, dedicated to finding out which kinds of marketing initiatives people appreciated most, e-mail came out on top. And, of the e-mail messages, the most well received were 1) an alert to when a product was on sale 2) VIP customer appreciation emails and 3) cart abandonment email reminders. So, if you are considering adding, or testing, to your email strategy, consider framing some new messages to align with one of the above three categories.

Retargeting (read: ad stalking) on the other hand focuses on people who are slightly or moderately interested. We call them slightly or moderately interested because they’ve visited your site, but have not taken any other actions to express their interest in actually purchasing anything. Retargeting efforts focus on keeping your brand top of mind, to help remind people that they visited your site, and that you’re still there. This happens, mainly, in the form of ads served to the visitor. The hope is that, once they’re ready to buy, you’ll be top of mind.

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So  - pro’s of retargeting? Since this is done via a third party like AdBrite, AdRoll and Google google display network, you can set it and forget it. You can reach people anywhere they happen to go on the world wide web. According to an InkSkin Media recent survey of 1600 adults, 53% find online ads useful. That number goes up to 60% when you look at a slightly younger population (ages 20-29) .

Cons? Data shows that consumers will get annoyed by you, especially if the ads are on a site completely unrelated to their search. Rule of thumb, after about the 3rd or 4th, you’ll have more people feeling annoyed, than helped, by your ad.

 

 


Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends For 2016

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Tis’ the season for lists! Christmas lists, lengthy grocery lists for holiday gatherings, itineraries for holiday travel. If you’re a marketer, surely you’re poised for the onslaught of ‘2016 trends to watch,’ lists, popping up all over our favorite blogs, periodicals, and websites; Top digital marketing trends to watch in 2016, 5 Marketing tactics that will make or break your company in 2016, 7 Digital marketing tactics you need to master in 2016. So, to ease your burden, we’ve read most of them for you - and prepared a snap-shot of the most popular from the list of lists. Here are the Top 10 digital trends and tactics to plan for in 2016.

 

1) Social Media - From Ugly Duckling to Swan

With a number of alliances between Google and big social media players (read: Facebook and Twitter) it’s no wonder marketers are starting to head the social call. The product of these marriages will increase the importance of a company's social media presence. Bloomberg was quoted saying, “[tweets] will start to be visible in Google’s search results as soon as they are posted.” It doesn’t seem likely that Google will slow down forging more partnerships with leading social platforms. The result? Allowing social results to influence search engine results!

Next, if you haven’t experienced the upgraded targeting ad features on Facebook, take the time to get acquainted now. The retargeting and integrations within Facebook Ad’s manager are powerful data driven features that have marketers excited. Serve ads based on retargeting, custom lists, actions, behaviors, page visits ... the list goes on.

Lastly, social media has become one of the number one place customers go to thank (or complain). The highly transparent and public nature of social media makes users feel like they’ve ‘cut to the front of the line’. If you’re not hearing their complaints (or accolades) and acting accordingly, you can be certain other people are.

So what should you do? Tweet. Be active, transparent, human and timely across social channels. Allow people to know what you’re up to - build brand trust and intrigue. Invest in your Facebook content and strategies, and get social listening tools so your customer service team can be a part of (and control of) the ‘social goings on’ of your company.

Recommended class: Using Social Media to Create Engagement by Kevin Popovic - Founder of Ideahaus

 

2) Now You See It, Now You Don’t - The Rise of Ephemeral Marketing

Sometimes termed ‘temporary social media’ - Snapchat is leading the way in ephemeral marketing. Snapchat is useful for generating excitement around a new product or feature, or driving specific marketing actions, such as promos or discounts. Many companies (Food Network, Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Cosmo, ESPN, to name a few) are capitalizing on the younger generation, aka millennials, who flock to Snapchat where they can consume content that feels ‘straight to the point’ and, where they can access ‘limited access content’, that is content with an expiration date - read as: exclusive.

 

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Recommended class: Trending Social Apps: Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat  by Kelsey Jones owner of MoxieDot

 

3) Content Remains King

Think content is only used to strengthen SERs? While that is absolutely one of the key reasons you should be creating regular, original, relevant, brand enhancing and engaging quality content, check out these statistics that tell a compelling story about the other important roles content plays.

  • 90% of customers find custom content useful while 78% believe that companies with custom content are interested in building positive relationships
  • Content marketing costs less than traditional marketing, 62% less per lead, to be exact

Content builds brand trust and loyalty, and helps define you as an expert in your field. If you don’t yet have brand advocates upping your credibility, you’ll have to be the one to do that - and one of the best ways you can accomplish this is with content. In 2016, if you don’t have the budget or resources to create a robust brand advocacy strategy, think about getting influencers on board to help tell your story. It comes down to this, if you’re not doing it, your competitors are, and as content and consumption becomes a larger part of the buyer's journey, if you’re not making noise with your content, you’re getting drowned out by the noise of others.

Recommended class: Content Marketing for Social Media by Neal Schaffer, Founder of Maximize Social Business

 

4) Location Based Marketing Technology

Location based marketing is particularly important if your company regularly hosts events. Through the use of fancy tech (Radio Frequency Identification - RFID) marketers can utilize wearables, applications, or even cards with a unique RFID identifier, to amplify social sharing by creating a seamless and integrated consumption and sharing experience.

Although a lot of the freshest and coolest location based marketing is geared towards events, location based marketing isn’t just for event marketers. Other location based services and technologies have been created to locate nearby devices that can detect prospects at the time of engagement with a particular product or retail establishment.

 

Minority Report? Anyone?

 

5) Relationship Marketing

This boils down to creating loyalists (brand advocates) instead of focusing on quick, short-term sales and aquisition. The focus is on long lasting customer relationships. Those companies that do this well are the envy of many, having created an ecosystem where customers are creating brand awareness that feels organic, authentic and credible.

Coca-Cola kills it when it comes to relationship marketing. This is one of my favorites (of hundreds) of relationship campaigns they’ve run all over the world.

Coca-Cola caps as currency - genius. Not to mention, this one’s a real tear jerker.

Recommended class: Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media by Brian Basilico, owner of B2B Interactive Marketing, Inc.  

 

6) Marketing Automation

Marketing automation has become increasingly necessary as more and more companies are understanding the importance of content and leveraging content as a leading tactic for led gen. Automation tools make it easier to manage everything from blogging to the customer/prospect lifecycle. Curious about what tools are out there? Check out this list of The Top 50 Marketing Automation Tools and Apps.

Recommended Class: Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success by Carlos Hidalgo


7) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will emerge, and has the potential to change the way we tell stories. Obviously we expect 3D to take off first in the game industry, however, the benefits this tech add to the customer journey are intriguing. Imagine taking your next car out for a test drive or taking a tour of a potential vacation home, without leaving the comfort of your own living room? As personalization continues to be top priority, savvy marketers will find ways to bring their products and stories to life. Whether this will be a massive game changer remains to be seen, but with billions of dollars of funding around, it surely will be entertaining to watch it all unfold.

 

8) Wearables and the Internet of Things

What has felt like a slow and steady burn for wearable tech popularity in 2015, will likely continue into 2016. What this means for marketers is even more opportunity for targeted marketing, data and behavior driven marketing. It also means you may be making marketing choices based on the day-to-day behaviors of your potential consumers. Wearables will also change the way people share content, so the whole social landscape will shift accordingly, plus more wearable tech means less dependence on RFID’s or ibeacons for geo-location marketing efforts.

 

9) Video or Bust

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google? The number of searches on YouTube tops Bing, Y!, Ask.com, and AOL combined. YouTube also boasts an audience reach of more US adults ages 18-34 than any other cable network. Makes you squirm a little thinking about all the search you’re missing out on - doesn’t it? Live streaming takes video to a new level entirely. With ephemeral marketing gaining popularity, anyone with a smartphone can capture ‘exclusive’ content. In 2016 make sure you’re exploring snapchat, periscope, and Facebook and seeing where you can incorporate live streaming into your marketing strategies as well as planning for a YouTube presence if you don’t already have one. Check out this article for examples of these 8 brands live stream video for innovative marketing.

 

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10) Optimized for Mobile

At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does this mean for you? In 2016, a mobile-optimized site will be an acceptable placeholder for an app, but not for long. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do, just in a more accessible, intuitive and convenient way. Not to mention, an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is a advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go. Talk about location based marketing 😉 2016 is the year to create a plan and market strategy for your app, get familiar with the latest app indexing best practices, and get an app to market, that for all intents and purposes, could replace your website.

 

Which trends and strategies do you think will dominate 2016? We’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share!

 

Happy Holidays!

 

 


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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

email marketing

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

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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 Target.com, 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.