8 Ideas for Effective Holiday Marketing Emails….After Being Inundated with Black Friday Messages

I got 150+ emails in less than 3 days about Black Friday shopping! And then another stack came in over the weekend about Cyber Monday. The messaging is that every single business has the absolute best deals right now; my life will be incomplete if I don’t take advantage of each one of them.

woman hands computer rawpixel

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

There were so many that they blurred into each other, intent lost. After scanning many of them, I put together a list of 8 tactics that can make your emails stand out from the pack:

  1. Subject line: A deadline can help improve open rates: “Today Only.” “Ends tonight.”   Followed by “Sale extended” and “Almost Over.”
  2. Offer: If you have the capability, send each individual a targeted message based on previous activity or purchases. If you cannot do this, craft an offer by a group with similar characteristics (ie. demographics, age on file, previous activity).
  3. Keep it simple. State a clear offer in the subject line, make the response button stand out, and the email layout easy to navigate.
  4. Sending 4 of the same emails with the same subject line is a cheap tactic. Change it up!
  5. Emojis in the subject line must be the “in” tactic this year to get people to notice the emails. Many, many emojis. I would test whether this improves click-thru rates.
  6. Early specific promotions can also work. For example, Cyber Monday offers started on Sunday to boost sales.
  7. Double check your load times on several browsers. If your content take too long to load, it is likely they will be deleted or ignored.
  8. Free, it still works. Free shipping, free bonus gift, free download, freebies. All those can bump responses, in your email.

While it may be too late to incorporate these ideas into this holiday season promotions, we should all continue testing in 2019. I am such a huge proponent of testing; here is another post  I wrote with testing ideas.

The journey continues.

Cindy

My Top 10 Takeaways from Digital Summit, Chicago

Last week I participated in the lively, educational and nerd-worthy fun Digital Summit in Chicago.   This was such a worthwhile, information-overloaded event for digital marketers.

I got many practical, cost-effective ideas from speakers who worked for familiar organizations including LinkedIn, Twitter, Spotify, Hubspot, Instagram, the Moth and other marketing firms, creative agencies, and marketing users.

Here are the Top 10 Takeaways I got from the event:

  1. “We can never get control of our marketing until we get control of our data”. My favorite line, from Matt Hertig of Alight Analytics
  2. On your email efforts, your FROM line should be from a trustworthy or recognizable person or brand. And make that SUBJECT line compelling, since 47% of people open their emails based on the subject line.
  3. Things that artists do well on social media that brands can learn from. 1—authenticity 2-frequency 3—engage 4—use video.
  4. Build your own known and owned audience for success in content marketing. Then amplify your content.
  5. Translate your company’s purpose into marketing messages with provocative content (like REI).
  6. You have about 8 seconds to engage with a subscriber on your email effort.
  7. Executive buy-in is key to implementing marketing strategy and implementaion.
  8. Brand activism is increasing with frequency and intensity.
  9. To build community, engage with other accounts in a meaningful way. Are you doing or just saying?
  10. On Twitter, most stories trend within the first 48 hours.

Bonus of #11. –Video, video, video! The use of video increases engagement, partially because visuals can be absorbed 60,000 times faster than text. Expect to see more growth in video in 2019 since many of the speakers talked about using it.

I hope that most of you will find at least 1 thing on this list that you can incorporate into your marketing efforts. Feel free to contact me if you want to have a deeper discussion about any of these.

The journey continues.  Cindy

P.S. . If you want to read more of the ideas I got from the conference, scroll through my Twitter feed (@CindyCardinal1) from the week of 9/27/18

 

The Case for Audience Development Professionals as Content Marketers

Experienced magazine audience development professionals should be perfectly poised to be online content deliverers. Every day we communicate with customers and gather or update their demographics; we build, maintain and update databases; we deliver a brand to a targeted audience; we analyze our customer profiles and find new audiences; we test new technologies and channels; and we deal with customer service issues.

However, I deal with media/information companies who still keep the magazine audience development experts in distinct silos from online content.–often with a very firm wall between these groups. I don’t understand this.

With the skills we have and our knowledge of the audience database, we should be able to help you push electronic content/offers in many forms: e-newsletters, white papers, research, event attendees, video, etc. The final form of the offering is what has changed, not necessarily the methods of reaching your targeted audience.

There are certainly areas of the online marketers expertise that might be different, including technical knowledge of the online platforms that are used to promote your brands.  Combining the competence of these two areas can create a powerhouse marketing area that helps deliver your content to reach advertiser goals and get more awareness for your brands and visitors to your sites.

The journey continues.

Cindy

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your New Year Marketing Efforts Now

It’s tempting to glide though the occasional slow work days of this holiday season, doing the bare minimum to be (look?) productive. Then, January 4th hits and wham! we rocket into gear. We get demands from all sides and feel behind before the first work week of the new year is complete.

I think now is a great time to mindfully review the current year’s work and make some plans for the upcoming year. We often move so quickly through our daily tasks we don’t have time to actually think.

Here are 5 ideas you can do now to get ahead before the new year even starts:

  1. Update results from your recent email/telemarketing/social media/mail campaigns in a single marketing plan. Any surprises? What can you test for next year? Efforts you can shift in your campaign? List them in an Excel or Google doc now, when fresh in your mind.
  2. Spend some time browsing your competitors’ websites. How are they capturing new visitors, renewing people? What demographic information are they collecting?
  3. Spend more time online looking at websites of brands that you admire. What ideas or techniques can you borrow for your own brands?
  4. Research one marketing channel that you don’t know well but are interested in trying next year. A few examples might be paid social media, re targeting ads, applying data analytics, and implementing more automated (drip) marketing techniques.
  5. Learn more about your current vendors’ capabilities that you might not be using now. It’s possible you can get more out of your current providers…at no or low cost.

If you do even one these things it will spur ideas, invigorate your workday, and hopefully end up expanding your capabilities, knowledge and experiences.

Plus, it can be invigorating to change up our everyday routine.

The journey continues.

C

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

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

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