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

What’s in Your Mix?

How do you mix up your marketing efforts? Are you using all the tools available to you to maximize response rates and improve your cost per return? For all the elements that are components of controlled  (free) brands today, we need to market smarter to keep our customer engaged: magazines, webinars, research downloads, pay-per-lead collateral, newsletters.

People are still bombarding their email lists with non-targeted efforts. Doing that on a continual basis is going to tire those customers out.

Here are a number of things you can try to incorporate into upcoming marketing plans: (you do HAVE a marketing plan, don’t you? If not, read the basics now).

  1. Change up your email efforts! New creative, new copy, etc.
  2. How are you using your social media lists and platforms?
  3. For magazines, have you tried a tip cover? (cardboard stock covers to get people to renew/subscribe/engage). After dropping them, I have been finding success with them the past couple years. A future post will discuss some options for these covers.
  4. House ads, both in print and online format.
  5. Direct mail—too expensive for many b2b brands today, maybe you can partner an offer with an advertiser. Or send to their prospect list for some new names.

With so many self-built members on various social media portals, we should target them with focused messages. And test the timing/frequency/wording of our efforts.

How can you shake up your next efforts? Your customers might just respond to a new format, new time, new place for your offer.

The journey continues.

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

5 Low-Cost Ideas to Improve Email Response Rates. Now.

How do we increase email response rates? Today it seems every client wants to email faster, bigger, more impatiently to improve dropping response rates. The same or overlapping segments on a database repeatedly receive messages, while other segments are ignored.

We have all worked with marketers who believe the theory that if you continually market to absolutely everyone over and over you will eventually hit your goals. The opposite will happen. You will frustrate your key customers, resulting in increased opt outs, lower click throughs and responses, and ignored offers.

Here are 5 practical, low cost ideas I have had success with in the last year in the never-ending quest to improve marketing results:

  1. What are you testing? list, message, offer? The more you test, the better you know how your customers respond. A list of testing ideas can be found in this previous post.
  2. Tweak the list(s) you are using. If you often market to the same list, when was the last time you reviewed your selection criteria? Review and hone it now.
  3. How can you cross promote? If someone responds to an email, what is included in your “thank you” message, assuming you have one?   Can you offer a similar product on that message?
  4. Do you have older or inactive customers on your database? Implement an email series to try to re-engage them with a complimentary or low-cost offer.
  5. Append missing demographics. If you regularly segment based on a specific demographic like employee size, append that data to a portion of your database missing that demographic. You will increase the size of your list selection, giving you a larger pool include in you marketing efforts. If you regularly Nth your file, having that larger pool can mean names are selected less frequently, resulting in lower list fatigue.

If you can incorporate ONE of these ideas into a marketing email in the next month, I am confident you will see an improvement in your results–assuming you are already offering the correct product to the right audience. And you may look at your efforts with a different view in the future.

The journey continues.

C

5 Direct Marketing Predictions for 2015

It’s the time of year for predictions and wrap ups, promises and plans, hopes and new beginnings. Here are 5 business areas that I think direct marketers need to remain focused on in 2015, to help improve their marketing results and their organization’s bottom line.

  1. 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.
  2. Aging files. The opposite of what is needed above, many firms have older, outdated names on their systems. Trying to re-engage these people can be less expensive than continually acquiring new names. Do you have a re-engagement strategy designed?
  3. Data Integration. Many organizations still have data housed in multiple silos. Combining this information can help improve response rates, increase knowledge about your customers, and allow you to really see the aging on your database.
  4. Overloaded email inboxes. To improve response rates, market smarter! Test, measure, test again. Try smaller, more focused efforts to targeted segments.
  5. Responsive design. The move to mobile platforms will continue to increase in 2015. Are your websites and response forms easily viewed on tablets, iPhones, Android products, as well as laptops?

I think that focusing on each item will impact the others on this list in a positive way.

Have any other suggestions to add to my list? Feel free to comment below.

Happy New Year! I wish you success, positive growth, and movement in your career—forward, sideways, or stepping into a new role, whichever you choose.

The journey continues.

C

Holiday Sharing

It is a gifting time of year.  We share sentiments, cards, gifts, money, time.  As a business owner, I think it’s important to show my customers special appreciation each holiday season.  Frankly, I am surprised each year that fewer of my suppliers say “thank you” at all, even via a card.  It is a simple way to strengthen relationships, market our companies, and stay front of mind for our current customers and prospects.

A small gift, for my readers, is a copy of my recent presentation given at both AAMP in LA and MCA in Chicago.  This presentation was on Better Using Customer Touch Points to Build Audience Relationships.  Several people have asked for a copy of the slides, so here they are.

MCA presentation 12-14

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Tune in next time for some of my predictions of what I think the Hot Topics will be for audience development in 2015.

The journey continues.

C