7 More Email Testing Ideas

Testing should be an integral part of your marketing campaigns, especially email efforts. Many of today’s platforms make it easy to set up and monitor your results.

To create a test, you set up an A/B split of your list before your email goes out.  Most email platforms make it simple to do this, if you are a novice.  An A/B split means that 2 lists will get the same effort with a single difference in the marketing effort.

Why do this? One change can get a 1%, 5%, 10% improvement over the control effort. The more you learn about your audience, the more you can improve your response rates and customer engagement.

Regular followers and my clients know this is a fundamental tenet of mine. I have written about basic testing ideas before and spoke about this topic at the AAMP conference last month.

Here are 7 new ideas for you to test:

  1. The day of the week emails go out. Weekend emails can work for some industries, including IT.
  2. Separate out the personal email addresses from business email addresses. Send to the assumed personal domains (ie. Google, Comcast, AOL, etc) in the evening or on weekends.
  3. Different offer or premium
  4. Responsive design vs. static design
  5. Copy heavy vs. light copy with same design
  6. Same copy with a lot of white space vs. design-centric piece (vs. text only, if you have large enough list for A/BC split)
  7. If you have multiple email platforms available to you, test sending the same message at the same time on both platforms. Do you see a difference in emails delivered and opened?

You can even send out an A/B test email to a portion of your list, then roll out the winning email to the rest of your file. Key is to test just ONE element to be able to accurately gauge your response rates.

The journey continues.

Cindy

AAMP Meeting & Presentation

Last week I gave a presentation at the annual AAMP  annual conference (Association for Audience Marketing Professionals) in LA.  My husband Bob Kennedy, who works for Omeda, and I did a joint presentation on Deep Dive into Email Marketing.  We discussed database quality, ways to build your database, and best practices for email today.  The latter might change by 2018, since technology and recipients’ expectations seem so fickle.   This was a first for us–and I think it was a success!

Here is a copy of our final presentation, if you want to learn more about email marketing today: Cardinal-Kennedy AAMP presentation 9-17 V7

I attended and presented at AAMP several years ago, and this year surpassed my expectations. It was great to interact with so many audience marketing professionals and long-time friends, who are facing similar work struggles.  Knowledgeable speakers with fun networking events make for a worthwhile show.

Contact me if you have any questions about our presentation or topics.

The journey continues.

C

P.S. Bob and I  put a lot of time into this presentation. Please don’t “steal” our slides to use as your own, unless you ask expressly for permission to do so.

Email Best Practices–Ideas You can Use Now

Email best practices change as technology, habits, and consumer preferences change. Here are some of today’s best practices for business emails looking for action from the reader (ie. subscribe, renew, download).

  1. Easy to scan and read. Busy people don’t want to read long, bloated messages and fluff. Be concise, clever, with a clear message and offer. Include response buttons in your HTML formats, since people can then jump right to the action.
  2. Responsive design templates.   Recipients are reading your messages on phones, tablets, computers. Does yours look good on all devices? If not, they may be quickly deleted.
  3. Incorporate video, if it makes sense in offer. Might be useful in new product introductions. Video can improve open rates 5x and response rates 8x, according to HubSpot.
  4. Stop sending emails to your entire file thinking it will increase response rates. It won’t. Find the BEST group to target, then send them a specific message. Speaking to the individual has been shown again and again to improve response rates and avoid list fatigue and hurt sender scores.
  5. Test, test, test! Another mantra of mine, most automated email platforms make it simple to test—copy, format, layout, response vehicles, color, message, etc.  A small change can have a big impact on your final effort results.
  6. Track your results and adapt future efforts based on open rates/responses/quality of responses.

By incorporating some or all of these items, hopefully your programs will become more effective, your database more vibrant, your organization more profitable. Many of these ideas can also apply to e-newsletters, shared blog posts, sponsored messages, and other emails geared more for “reading only”.

This is just a snippet of the presentation Robert Kennedy of Omeda and I are giving at the AAMP Conference, in LA on 9/14. There is still time to sign up for the one day event “Own your Audience. Build your Revenue” here.

The journey continues.

C

4 Ideas for Re-Engaging Inactive Customers

How fresh is your customer list? Business email data decay rates vary depending on industries reached, but the research I found shows an average of 25-30% annually. Several reasons for the data degradation are that people switch jobs, they stop using old email addresses, and companies change names or get bought out by other firms.

Many B2B firms have to renew their magazines subscriber lists for USPS and audit bureaus. But, they don’t regularly update other list segments, including e-newsletter lists. This can hurt email send scores, delivery, email reputation. Response rates for other offers also plummet.

You don’t necessarily need to replace all the inactive email recipients. Universes are limited. Previously engaged people already know your brands. I have found that it is usually less expensive to try and re-engage some of your older or inactive customers than to get all new users.

Here are 4 simple, cheap offers you can test now to re-activate unengaged customers on your database:

  1. A freebie offer of another brand component can be a quick effort, to see if someone is still using that email address. It can be something inexpensive, but with perceived value to your customer—a white paper download, a sister magazine, a free e-newsletter, an Infographic.
  2. A short request or survey to update demographics or continued interest in your brand. This can be a separate email, or a simple click option embedded into an existing e-newsletter delivery.
  3. People love badges! They include in their email signature lines, LinkedIn profiles, etc. Ask customers to get involved on a research/hot topics/editorial panel. If they express interest and respond to follow up offers, then create and send them a digital badge. Bonus, those badges also spread the reach of your brand.
  4. Email offer to win cash or prize for updating demographics. You may have to include some legalese in your effort, but people love cash or cash gift cards.

If none of your re-engagement efforts work, then it’s time to think hard culling your current lists. Meanwhile, you should have some ongoing efforts to recruit new customers, so your data does stay fresh.

The journey continues.

Cindy

LinkedIn is not Facebook. Or am I confused?

LinkedIn is a valuable tool for me to stay on top of job changes colleagues are making, learning what media and business and industry leaders are focused on, staying in touch with people I meet at events, researching client backgrounds, and sharing my expertise and opinions.

Lately, however, LinkedIn seems to be morphing from a business-related social media site to more of a social social media site. And it’s weird. I do not like all the changes LinkedIn has made in the past couple month. Heck, it even looks more like Facebook, with the new lay out.

When I visit LinkedIn to learn about your job changes, it seems odd to notify me on a business site that it is someone’s birthday. If you are really my friend, you already know it is my birthday! I wonder how many people wished a happy birthday to a former colleague when that alert came up recently, and she died last year.

The articles that people posted used to be useful, creative, sometimes thought-provoking. Now there are many more articles—and even comments– that are blatant advertisements. Looking at the group feeds of those I belong to, it seems like many of the posts there are not invitations to connect/learn/ask. They are self-congratulatory promotions for their companies and advertisements.

I have written before about remembering that your photo should not necessarily be one you would freely share on a personal profile. People are now sharing random comments and personal posts. With many ##### references.

On the home page, the connection comments/changes seem to be repetitive, with the same ones appearing at the top for a week or more (even when the view is recency). Finally, more people are reaching out to “connect” that I have never met, or had any interaction with who clearly sales people with a canned message, if any.

For me, the recent evolution of both the physical site and the member usage has diluted LinkedIn’s value. My usage of the site has declined, though there are still benefits for adding connections, regular visits and posts to my profile.

Yes, share when you get a promotion, a job change, win an award, have a speaking engagement, update your website, have a new offering, have insights to share with your connections, or questions to pose to your connections. LinkedIn is a useful platform to share about your work highlights, but maybe not your new puppy.   Think about who your connections are.

Am I alone with this viewpoint? What are your thoughts on the recent LinkedIn changes and posts in your feed lately?

The journey continues.

Cindy

Customer Service Web Pages–Make them Usable, Findable

Your customers ARE your business. They can refer you to others, brag about your service, or they can try to destroy you on social media with one bad experience.

How can your customers contact you on to renew their subscriptions, change their address, cancel, or ask a question? Phone call, online chat, or website customer center? Whatever tools you have, how do you promote them to your customers? A recent look at many controlled brand websites showed me 1–how difficult I can be for readers to even find customer service sections and 2– how outdated these web pages can be.

Can your customers find your subscription center?  Many home pages do not have a clearly marked link to a subscriber center. Can your reader click on a “subscribe” link? Or the “Contact us” or “subscription center” link in tiny print in the home site footer”? Your links—do they work?

site selection

Here is one home page I liked, where the subscription center is clearly identified

Once your customer reaches your customer service center, how easy is it for them to update their record?

 Most of the brands I work with offer print and/or digital editions. But, many of the web pages I saw only give the opportunity to look up subscriber information if someone has a print label with their subscriber account number.

BAM sub page

Here are a few samples of forms I like that include look up options by either account number OR email address.Facilities exec cs

Space News

 What happens after a subscriber requests a change?  Your customer should receive a notification of the change. This can be a pop-up message or email that confirms the contact information change was made, even if it is a deletion.

 Why is updating your subscription center important? I work in the audience development sector and spend a lot of time looking at websites. If I can’t find your link, a reader who may be looking for the page get frustrated and leave your site. And this person might possibly be a valuable, engaged customer who then decides not to come back. Ever.

It makes financial and business sense to keep your customers who move, change jobs, names, titles or even just change their email address. As it gets harder to acquire new customers and click through rates continue to drop, keeping current customers engaged definitely can help control your budgets. And keep your current customers engaged with your brand.

The journey continues.

Cindy Cardinal

8 Questions To Ask About a Database Before Advertising

Recently a prospective vendor asked how big a client’s database was, to decide whether to advertise with us. “What other metrics do they want?” I asked.  None, I was told.

None?  Really?

Anyone can build a big database–really big–filled with garbage names, inactive records, known bad addresses, lists culled from questionable sources. However, I highly doubt that a database filled with those lists is going to get any client worthwhile introductions or engagement.  Or any follow up advertising from that vendor.

I have shared many posts on building a successful database, such as What is YOUR Database STRATEGY?Spring Cleaning Your …. Data, and 5 Low-Cost Ideas to Improve Email Response Rates. Now.

For advertisers evaluating a database, I think there are better questions a prospect can ask to gauge whether a database is healthy and a viable fit for them.  Some of them include (in no particular order):

  • How many active users (prospects/customers) have you added to your database in the last year?
  • How many people in my specific target area do you have on your database? Can you show me any demographic profiles?
  • What percentage of your database has demographics?
  • How are you building brand engagement?
  • What is the average open rate on your emails/enewsletters/etc?
  • If you own multiple, similar brands I want to advertise with, what is the overlap on their distribution?
  • If considering hosting a webinar, what is the average attendee vs. sign up ratio?  How long does the average attendee participate in the webinar?
  • How do you actively try to re-engage older customers on your database?

Every database will have strengths and shortfalls. I tell my clients that we should promote our positive points upfront.  By providing snippets of data, it may eliminate questions that emphasize weaknesses. Obviously, the success an advertiser sees in their marketing programs will truly show them the effectiveness of our database and their investment.

The journey continues. Cindy

10 Simple Ways to be More Successful in Marketing Technology

woman-in-tech-pp-coverI recently had the privilege of moderating a webinar on How to be Successful in Tech/ Marketing Tech. Geared to women, the event was hosted by BrightTALK. The 3 panelists were Liz Bullock Director Digital & Paid Media at Rackspace, Isabelle Dumont Head of Marketing at BlueTalon, and Aya Fawzy, now Director of Marketing at Skedulo.

The creation of the presentation still fascinates me–that 4 women who never met could collaborate from across the country to create the flow of the presentation, slide decks, and drive the conversation with insightful questions asked by the attendees.

The speakers think it’s an opportunistic time to work in tech. 1.1 million NEW tech jobs are expected by 2024, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. However, women comprise only 27% of the Tech workforce.

I hope that some of our experiences and ideas can help increase your influence in this lucrative field, or as you pivot to a tech career:

  1. The digital arena is the great equalizer in the tech arena, since women are almost as fluent on digital platforms as men, according to an Accenture 2016 study.   Be active on the digital platforms that are used in your industry, from Snapchat to Pinterest to Twitter.
  2. Increase your social outreach by keeping your own profiles active on LinkedIn, Twitter if you use it. We all found that most of our opportunities come from others in our digital work circles, so this electronic networking can be invaluable.
  3. Be active in associations and online groups. Continue to gain knowledge from attending webinars, local events, taking extra classes and/or getting certifications from reputable organizations.
  4. Having both formal and informal mentors can help broaden your knowledge. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you admire to ask them to work with you in various work areas. Change out your mentors on a regular basis, to learn from a variety of people.
  5. When work is very busy, make sure to focus on the projects that bring the most return.
  6. Stretch yourself when new job opportunities appear. Lean In says that women often don’t apply for a job unless they have 100% of the skills asked for. Men will apply when they only have 60% of suggested experience.
  7. If you work for yourself–or are negotiating for a new job– pricing yourself can be difficult. Value your time and knowledge fairly. Remember that companies will never tell you that you are pricing too low!
  8. Know your non-negotiables during the interview process.
  9. When in meetings, women are often the minority. You should be engaged in meetings; this includes offering valuable insights, not offering to get coffee or take notes.
  10. Block time on your calendar to read, learn, or grow in technology and your field.

You can listen to the presentation in its entirety here.

We all think that the attitude to jump in and try, to push ourselves, to change courses if needed is the way to be successful in the Tech world now and in the future.

So, reach for that new job, and learn along the way.

The journey continues. C

Why I got a HubSpot Certification-and Why Many of my Colleagues are Back-To-School

I recently got my HubSpot Inbound Certification! To earn it, I took 12.5 hours of online classes, took quizzes, and then passed a test of 60 questions in 70 minutes.

cc-hs-cert

Some of the lessons were very basic for an experienced marketer. Others gave me a different perspective at the buying process.

Some people asked why I was getting this certification.  The most important reason is that all of my clients—and my company—have websites and are attracting and engaging with their customers online.  I hope that the lessons I learned from other experts will give me a new perspective when creating  marketing plans, online content, and setting and measuring response rates.

I know several professionals in other industries who are also back at school, some getting on-line certificates, others working towards really time-consuming certificates, one an MBA.   Here are some reasons why they said they were getting extra education:

  • Update needed credentials
  • New technologies allow them to learn a new skill to help clients
  • To learn new skill sets
  • Tie together different parts of their education and experience
  • Build credibility & respect
  • Differentiate their knowledge level

Varied but valid reasons, I think. Stepping away from our daily routines helps us to look at our world from a different lens. It gives us new ways to challenge ourselves. And may introduce us to new people and opportunities.

Plan for it next year—take a class, earn a new certification or degree, attend an event, join an industry association. Maybe it will lead somewhere unexpected.

The journey continues.

C

How Not to Say Thank you

thank-you

I think it’s important to say thank you to your customers. When they buy something or respond an online offer (magazine, webinar, research, etc), it is an opportunity for you to reaffirm your commitment to them. Each email, direct mail piece, or box shipped with item that a customer has ordered is an opportunity to re-affirm your relationship and promote your brand.

Be sure when saying THANK YOU that you look at your effort from the customer’s point of view. Does it REALLY say thank you?

Here are 2 examples of “thank yous” gone awry. I received both within the last month:

  • We recently refinanced our house. We work with a major bank and have known our mortgage broker for years. The bank sent a thank you note, supposedly from the broker, with his business cards. Yet, the envelope and note were addressed only to my husband. How exclusionary and sexist! If your system has personalization limitations, then don’t do it at all. It looks thoughtless.
  • Unbeknownst to me, a client of mine bought a list of names a year ago from a vendor I had never heard of. It was a mess—multiple worksheets, incorrect column headers, duplicate names. Needless to say, the list was used 1x then tossed. Recently, my client and I were sent an email with a quick note of thanks and promoting a new service. Great idea for follow up, but it was a year after the purchase. Worse, instead of sending a new email, he attached his marketing message to one I sent a year ago with all the issues about the poor quality of the data files. If I had not remembered that poor experience, this email certainly brought it to the top of mind again.

(Aside that this is an example of why you should use an experienced person to vet and test list vendors before you buy a list from one of the many, many unscrupulous list sellers).

If you want to really say thank you, here is a post I wrote with some “thank you” examples that might give you real inspiration as you create YOUR thank you messages.

And as we head into this holiday weekend, I thank you Reader, for taking time to read my posts, share them, and send me email comments and questions about them.

The journey continues. C