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

The List–A Critical Key to your Marketing Success

Marketers, who is vetting your lists??!!

We have lived in our house for 13 years. This week I received an 8.1oz mailer for an event addressed—with very wrong spelling—to the previous owner. What a waste: of postage, of a fairly heavy direct mail package, of a lead name, and most importantly, of a possible attendee who might have wanted to spend $700-5000+ to attend this particular event?

The list. Whether you are using email/search/direct mail/telemarketing/tv/radio channel to market, the quality of your list is still key to getting any response.

If your message doesn’t go to the right person, it doesn’t matter how fancy, attractive, or pithy your marketing effort, copy or offer is.

Choose your lists carefully, keep your own database clean, and analyze results and bad contact info (mailing address, phone number/email) to decide which lists to use again.

An experienced marketer can work with a legitimate list broker to research and recommend lists that reach your target audience. There are so many details on a list rental “data card” that the marketer knows how to interpret, as well as questions to ask about newly available lists. And on the flip side, there are unscrupulous brokers and cobbled-together-from-garbage lists.

Here are 4 simple ideas to clean up and then analyze many of your marketing efforts:

  1. Run your final mailing list through NCOA, have emails cleaned, or have your telemarketing vendor clean up area codes and numbers.
  2. Only buy lists from reputable firms and brands.
  3. Double check bad address/phone/email counts (from before mailing) and response rates by list.
  4. Sometimes, you can spot check a few names against company websites or LinkedIn. Other times the list firm insists a rented list go directly to the mail house, so you cannot do this.

It’s back to basics for marketing smarter in today’s competitive environment. And it’s the details can help you drive success.

The journey continues.

Cindy

Training–Back to Basics

How often do you think about the basics of doing your job?

Recently I had a college student with zero experience help create a series of landing pages and emails for a client. I had to explain publishing A-to-Z and the audience development process in far more detail than I usually think about it.

We get so entrenched in our daily responsibilities that we forget how intricate familiar tasks can be, when broken down to individual steps.   Taking the time to verbally explain  (or write down) a project allows you to see your work in a new light.

Things my intern learned from me:

–why media companies market a variety of products

–what white papers are

–what a landing page is

–how companies store and use collected data

–the intricacies involved in setting up an email, the response form, the landing page, the download, and follow up messaging

She said she never thought about the entire creative and business process of how and why and who sets up such efforts, yet she is online daily.

Training a novice also made me also think about the entire client on-boarding process. When I begin working with a new customer, I look at the assignment from others’ perspective. I gauge the goals, the knowledge level of other team members, learn their lingo, their communication style, their technologies.

Every project is varied, which is what I so enjoy about consulting. As the project progresses I try to balance handling on the daily responsibilities while keeping the client’s goals in mind.

I have been consulting for 20 years so am used to my crazy, varied days. I welcome new projects where I can challenge my knowledge level, learn new platforms and skills.

It’s probably too much for my intern to grasp now, since she was learning fundamentals.   But I think that practical experience was valuable to learn about the media industry, marketing responsibilities. And it allowed me to move ahead on more strategic work while she successfully completed the assignment.

The journey continues.

Cindy

GDPR is (Still) Coming–Are you Ready? Part 2

Welcome to the Part 2 post about GDPR, the new privacy regulations that will impact marketers who reach the EU, effective 25 May 2018. Fines can be up to 4% of your gross revenue or 20 million Euros, so be prepared!

Part 1 discussed the regulations, the type of information impacted by the rules and how your organization might be affected. This post will give some ideas about how you can try to opt in the current EU names on your database, update online forms, and your website itself.

Forms

  1. Collect only data that you know you will use.
  2. Remove pre-checked boxes when people opt in/out of your brand’s secondary offers. People will have to opt in for additional offers.
  3. Consider a double opt in. There is when you send an email to the person who opts in, reconfirming that they really want to opt in.

Permission

  1. Make clear–by separating into distinct sections–the difference between accepting terms and conditions on your website and opting in/out of offers.
  2. Offer a list of specific areas of interest that recipients can choose to receive information about, allowing the recipient to check yes or no to each one. Again no pre-checked responses (See #2 in forms).
  3. Ask how people want to be reached: telemarketing, email, direct mail. This is not required, just a suggestion.
  4. Offer a way for people to change the frequency of receiving messages (which may eliminate some permanent opt outs) as well as a way to opt out of everything.

Privacy

  1. Update your privacy policy to include information about GDPR and how you will use collected information.
  2. Note that website cookies are also impacted by the regulations. Consider having a message about cookies pop up when someone comes your website. On a recent trip to Italy and France, cookies message popping up on virtually every website I visited.

If you want more detailed samples of some of these items, feel free to contact me.

The journey continues.

Cindy

DISCLAIMER THAT I am not an attorney so this should not be construed as legal advice. This post is MY interpretation of what I have learned about GDPR so far, as a marketer who tries to stay on top of audience development and marketing issues. Any legal instructions should come from an attorney with knowledge of GDPR regulations.

GDPR is Coming–Are you Prepared? Part 1

Apologies in advance that this post is so long. There is a lot of information to cover…

GDPR is THE hot topic for many businesses right now—what is it? How will it impact US based marketers? And how can we prepare?

GDPR is the acronym for General Data Protection Regulation, the sweeping new privacy laws impacting companies that collect and use personal data from people residing in the EU. Customer privacy is the main reason these new regulations were created. They will impact the way that companies collect, use, and update data on current and new customers.

These new laws go into effect 25 May 2018 –Less than three months away!

The penalties for not complying are stiff– the greater of €20 million or 4% gross revenues.   That’s why it’s so critical to have an organizational plan for dealing with customers from the 27 states of the EU.

I have attended two webinars, talked to people, and done a lot of online research about GDPR in recent weeks to learn more about these new regulations. The legislation is long, wordy, complicated, and a little unclear with direction for exact requirements to avoid problems. Very convenient. The key to success will be to have an organizational plan for how to deal with these changes.

There are a plethora of checklists online that your organization can use to better understand GDPR and implement a compliance plan. I’ve synthesized a couple of them here into six key steps:

  1. Understand the law—the new regulations were basically created to ensure user privacy. There’s no differentiation between business and personal use. Both the companies collect the data and send out messages hold some responsibility for the data usage.
  2. Know which data is regulated—
  • Basic contact information (ie. Name, mailing address, etc)
  • Web data such as location and IP address
  • Health and genetic data
  • Biometric data
  • Racial or ethnic data
  • Sexual orientation

We are accountable for the data we hold

  • Why are we collecting certain data points?
  • How did we get the data?
  • How long will we retain the data?
  • How secure is the data?
  • Do we ever share this with a third party? How are their procedures?

Other privacy issues that the consumer have include the

  • Right to be forgotten
  • Right to opt out at ANY time
  • Right to review why/how data was collected
  • Right to access data
  • Right to data portability, meaning take it with them if they move/change jobs/etc
  1. Review current data collection, storage procedures, privacy policies.    
  2. Update current EU customers on your database, forms, and privacy policies.
  3. Run a gap analysis on website/data collection flow and implement additional changes as needed. In addition, educate other departments about the new rules.
  4. Reevaluate and revise as needed.

Other terms and changes we need to be aware of:

  • The GDPR considers three types of roles within organizations:
    • Controller—who determines the purpose and means of data collections (the “how” and “why”)
    • Processor—who processes the data on behalf of the controller.
    • There will be cases where publishers can be both a controller and a processor, in the case where we send out an email for a client.
  • Appoint a data protection officer (DPO), to oversee and manage GDPR program. Technically only certain organizations need a DPO, but pretty much everything I’ve heard says that for good business practices most organizations will appoint a DPO.
  • Prepare for data breach. Any data breach should be reported within 72 hours. The webinars I listened to say that’s almost impossible– but that’s the guideline. An interesting fact that that I heard is that 75% of data breaches are caused by internal personnel. So any staff that sends out emails needs to be educated on the new laws.

Part 2 of this post will offer some steps to  properly vet current names on your database and update your websites.  It is now posted and can now be found here.

One of my favorite more detailed checklists online can be found here.

DISCLAIMER THAT I am not an attorney so this should for sure not to be construed as legal advice. This post is MY interpretation of what I have learned about GDPR so far, as a marketer who tries to stay on top of audience development and marketing issues. Any legal instructions should come from an attorney with knowledge of GDPR regulations.

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

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

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