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

Importance of Gearing Marketing Content to the Buying Process

Who are your marketing messages created for?  Do you have materials for people in every stage of the buying process? Especially on your website, you should provide content to potential and current customers involved in each stage of the buying process.

A very simple flow of the buying process is:

  1. Awareness—where the buyer identifies the need or problem
  2. Consideration—research options
  3. Conversion—make purchase
  4. Post-purchase behavior—is the buyer happy? Will they purchase again?

Think about how you make purchases, both professionally and personally. If you find value in a company and are HAPPY with your experiences, you will hopefully think of them first as a resource the next time you buy a product or service that they offer.

Become the trusted vendor/partner who customers want to learn from, engage with, purchase from, brag about. Create evangelists who will share their stories in person, on social media, and even in comments on your website.

According to the Harvard Business Review, it costs 5 to 25 times to acquire new customers than maintain new ones. It also takes TIME to find new customers. So, once someone becomes a customer, with your content and outreach you should encourage them to stay engaged and make future purchases from you.

Future posts will walk through each step of the buying purchase.

C

5 Ideas to Help you Provide Better Advertiser Leads Now

Niche Marketing. Target marketing.  Today, these long-used marketing terms are mingling with the word narrowcasting, which traditionally was known as the way that TV and radio media disseminate information to a select audience.  Narrowcasting correlates well with how advertisers are increasingly asking media companies to provide extremely focused lists to target with their marketing efforts or for specific leads sent directly to them.

My last post shared my prediction that narrowcasting will continue to become more important in 2016.  Since that post, it seems the demand for these services is growing even quicker than I thought. Last week I saw yet another press release about a larger b2b publisher offering targeted information services to their clients.

Even if you don’t have a budget to create and maintain this type of personalized marketing services today, there are some things you can do now to better serve the increased advertiser requests for detailed customer information. If they haven’t asked for it yet, they will soon.

  1. Keep your current customer and prospect database clean.  The more up-to-date it is, the more likely that your marketing efforts and leads you can provide will have accurate information. Capture demographic data from your website visitors in a non-invasive way. If you don’t have a breadth of customer knowledge, now is the time to start asking for information about them.  What you collect will vary by industry, and what advertisers are requesting.
  2. Provide ongoing, quality web content. Be the go-to website that keeps your customers coming back. The increased site visits give you additional opportunities to learn more about your repeat visitors. 
  3. Mine your data! What emerging areas of interest are on your website? Is there is a specific topic where people are increasingly accessing information? And is this an opportunity for a new focused product or a new segment of advertisers you can target?
  4. Give salespeople the tools they need to prep before they meet with an advertiser. Effective sales people today need to know who your most active customers are, what they respond to, and various ways you can slice up your customer list for more targeted offers. 
  5. Educate the advertiser on the buying process for your industry.  In my last post I mentioned how advertisers seem to all ask for leads of a very small, high level demographic group.  If you can demonstrate to your advertisers that a different or wider group is involved in the selection/buying process, that gives you a deeper pool of names to target. This broader audience will also help to avoid list fatigue.

Focusing on any or all of these item will teach you more about your customer, which will give yo opportunities to provide them with valuable information they can use in their business or personal life, which will help you to give advertisers those sought-after leads–at a premium–which will hopefully improve your bottom line.

The journey continues. C

A Marketer’s 2016 Top Prediction

As an audience marketer, my #1 marketing prediction for what is HOT in 2016 remains what was my #1 2015 prediction, with a few twists. In January 2015 that was:

Lead generation. Advertisers continue to request more detailed demographics about their leads. These leads are lucrative, IF marketing companies have the information being demanded—employee size, sales volume, titles, business types, etc.

The demand from advertisers to reach a very specific audience will continue to increase in 2016. They want us to pre-qualify leads before we send pass them along. Sample: we want 1000 leads of people in the C-suite (CEO, CIO, President) in $100 million+ companies. This is a typical request—but it seems like EVERYONE wants to each this group. Note– this group does NOT make all the purchase decisions! They may sign off on a contact, but it is the upper management who often vets and recommends vendors. Another topic for another day, since I could write reams about this subject.

The ongoing question is –how do we continue to capture and then fulfill these types of requests? Advertisers today often ask for targeted leads with email addresses and phone numbers. To continue to provide clean, active prospects, we need to first provide valuable web content that encourages prospects to give us their contact information. This can be an article on our website, a white paper, a free sample, a video, a webinar, a live event, a research summary, the list goes on.

We need to harness the power of our customers and our database.  At the front end we need targeted marketing efforts that promote these “carrots” to the correct audience. We then need to ensure we capture and turn around the contact information on a timely basis.

A lot to ask for, with today’s budgets and tight timelines, as well as customers becoming more reluctant to share personal information.  My next post will be some practical, inexpensive ways you can improve your target marketing efforts TODAY.

The journey continues.

C

2016 Marketing Plan Flip

For magazine publishers, media companies, information services companies—whichever moniker you go by–2015 has been a challenging year for magazine audience development. Response rates have dropped, and there is more demand for data about subscribers that they do not want to share.

It’s time for 2016 budgeting and planning for many companies. I think we should consider flipping many of the marketing plans upside down, act differently to improve results in 2016.

Here are some ideas I have that you can incorporate in your 2016 marketing efforts:

  • Keep testing on larger email efforts.The incremental response differences add up—and you will learn more about your customers. There are many posts with testing ideas on my blog including this one.
  • Review where telemarketing falls on your plan. Test it earlier, especially for subscribers without email addresses on file. Can you do some dual-pub efforts in one call?
  • Use all available internal lists for your marketing efforts. Recently, I had positive results calling an internal list that had previously only been used for email efforts.
  • Do list exchanges with partner companies or consider list trades with competitors.
  • When setting up trade show exchanges, include sending out emails to the attendee list or the host company’s house list. This can net some brand new names for your database.
  • Does your web site include ads and pop ups offering free subscriptions?
  • If someone signs up for a quote or membership on your site, the welcome link/email can include an offer to subscribe.
  • Can you test any direct mail, even an inexpensive tip-cover?

Today’s brands are multi faceted, including other components such as magazines, enewsletters, events, website membership and downloads, and research. Oftentimes, the audience development budget is still subscriber-focused (especially if the magazine is BPA or AAM audited and/or has periodicals mailing privileges).

If that holds true for your brand,  it’s imperative that 1—magazine subscribers help support the entire brand and 2—“owners” of all the brand elements work together to help find invested, active users.   Make sure your audience development guru know all the segments you are trying to reach.

The journey continues.

C