Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The (Ice) Bucket List



Chances are, unless you’ve been stranded on a deserted island without any contact from the outside world for the past 30 days, you or someone you know has likely participated in one of the most successful marketing campaigns in the history of, well, EVER.

In the fiscal year ending July 31, 2013, the ALS Association received just over $19 million in donations.  Between July 29 and August 29 of this year, nearly 750,000 new donors gave more than $100 million. The reported average donation was $46, with some donors contributing as much as $100,000. To what can this astronomical increase be attributed? A bucket of ice water.

The actual origin of the ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge is a little fuzzy. Some say that a minor-league golfer from Florida might have been the first to dedicate his ice bucket shenanigans to the ALSA and others contend that it was actually a former Boston College baseball player who has ALS himself who really set the viral craze in motion. Whichever is true, one thing is beyond contention – it worked.

Much can be learned from the success of a marketing campaign that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Here are a few cubes of icy wisdom that can apply to nearly any business model:

SHOW PASSION

People love passion, and passion is difficult to fabricate. Customers (or potential customers) will be able to feel your love for the product or service you are offering if you put your all into it. If you really have passion for what you do, people can’t help but be drawn in. Put aside, for a moment, the drudgery of day-to-day operations and focus on what made you want to start in the first place.

CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY

One of the reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge took off so quickly is that there was a stated deadline. Participants were instructed to complete the challenge within 24 hours. This same method can be employed in every marketing campaign. Make your customers feel as though they will miss out on something special or important if they delay in responding, whether that be rushing into your storefront or responding via email to a limited time offer.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

A container. Some ice. Some water. Less than 30 seconds. Things that nearly everyone on the planet has immediate access to. The simplicity of the challenge is astounding. People are busy, and people are distracted. Overcomplicating your marketing campaign will have the opposite effect that you desire. Whatever it is that you’re doing, make it easy on the customer and consume as little of their precious time as possible.  Emails should be short and to the point. Signage must make all pertinent information visible at a glance. Simple.

GET SOCIAL

According to Search Engine Journal, 93% of marketers use social media for business. Are you one of them? If not, you may be missing out on the 72% of internet users with social media accounts. There are over one billion users on Facebook alone, not to mention Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. Tap into this wellspring of potential subscribers now!

Perhaps the biggest lesson from the ALSA Ice Bucket Challenge is that anything is possible. The sky’s the limit! An obscure disease and a little known foundation were thrust into the limelight through a simple and profoundly effective campaign. Who’s to say that the same thing can’t happen to your business?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Super Subjects

Everyone dreams about being a superhero at one point in their life. Ok, maybe not everyone, but stay with me for a minute. The ability to fly or see through walls or save the neighborhood with a single wave of a spandex-covered arm has always been appealing to me.

As a business owner, you don your superhero costume every day in the hope that you will be able to attract loyal customers and watch your business grow in leaps and bounds. If a solid business plan is your base (the spandex jumpsuit, if you will), a well thought-out email marketing campaign is your cape – enabling your Super Business to get off the ground and soar.

Nearly all superheroes, however, have a weakness; Superman had his Kryptonite, Daredevil his background noise, Green Lantern the color yellow, Batman his mortality. They were rendered powerless when these weaknesses were exposed, transforming them from extraordinary to ordinary faster than a speeding bullet.

So, what is the Kryptonite to your email marketing campaign? It’s that thing that can make any over-worked, ultra-busy, time-deprived person feel so overwhelmed they want to curl up on the couch with a decorative pillow over their face: clutter.  More specifically, inbox clutter. With literally hundreds of emails hitting the inboxes of your clientele every single day, it’s hard to know how to make your emails leap tall buildings in a single bound to stand above the rest.  Here are a few totally made up and cheesy superheroes to the rescue:

Demographics Girl

What are your customers interested in?
What are their needs?
What is a challenge facing them, and how can you help?

Knowing the answers to these questions can make the difference in your email being trashed or clicked through.

For example, “7 Time-Saving Tips for Scrapbookers” hits on two important points.  First, it’s obviously targeting a specific demographic, making it less likely to be deleted than a more generic subject line.  Second, it addresses a challenge area – saving time.

The Personalizer

Everybody wants to feel wanted.  It’s human nature!  Make your contacts feel as though you are speaking directly to them for best click-through results.

Email Contact gives you the power to personalize your subject line in a variety of ways.  By adding one of three variables, you can make the email as personal as you wish:

%fullname%
%firstname%
%lastname%

For example: Hi %firstname%, this is Heather from Email Contact.

Using the variable above will fill in the name of the person related to the email address. If the person's name is not available, it will fill in a default name of your choice (i.e. Friend, Customer). Just add the default name in the settings of your Email Contact account.

Perhaps your style (or the style of your demographic) is a little less formal.  Using the pronoun “you” in the subject line will also get great results:

“Our sale starts in just a few hours. Will we be seeing you?”
Or how about “What can YOU do with Email Contact?”

Captain Obvious

Be clear and concise in your subject line.  Make sure the intent of the email is obvious, and try not to embellish or stretch the truth.  Earning the trust of your customers is imperative.  If there’s an offer or contest or invitation in the body of the message, be sure to state it in the subject.

The Count

Use numbers to draw attention and make your email stand out.  The goal is to shake up the text a little bit so that when your customer is doing an initial scan of their inbox, their eyes pause on yours.

“48 Hour Sale”
“10 Ways to Increase Your ‘Likes’”

Urgency

It’s an old marketing trick, but it works.  Create a sense of urgency to get that email clicked through!

“Last day to save big!”
“Scrapbooking Class TONIGHT”

Make the reader feel as if they will be missing out if they don’t open the email right away.

Up, Up, and AWAY! 

Start using these tips in your next email blast.  You might need to experiment with a combination of Super Subjects to see what works for your customers.  Check your click-through rates often and see if you discover a pattern.  Suit up, Superfriend!  You’re on your way!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are You Over-Thinking It?

What if someone told you there was a no cost, low-maintenance, pressure-free way to gather customer information to be used in your marketing campaigns? What if the only tool you needed is most likely collecting dust on an office shelf? Sound too good to be true? It’s not. 

Oftentimes, as business owners, we look toward the latest in technological applications to build our customer base. We scour the internet for tips on increasing our social media presence. Sometimes, though, simplicity can be a refreshing and welcome change to both the business owner and the customer.

You might be surprised to hear that this simple and free marketing tool is a clipboard. A clipboard! That small, flat piece of wood or plastic with a metal clip just might be the missing link between you and your customers. While the clipboard itself may be unassuming and even boring, the way it is used can mean the difference in whether your business adds to its customer base or not.

The Content

What you decide to put on your clipboard should be dictated by your customer demographic. Think about the people who enter your store, and ask yourself the following questions:

• What brings my customers into the store? (Discounts? Quality of product regardless of price? Promotions?)
• How do my customers like to be contacted?
• How will they be benefited by giving me their contact information?

After you’ve answered these questions, decide how you will entice your customers to leave their info. If your customer base is mostly drawn to the store by discounts, offer an email coupon to those who leave their email address. If discounts aren’t important to your customers, offer something that does matter to them – perhaps early notice of new product arrival. Some customers love a good party! Offer after-hours shopping invites to those who are willing to add their names to your clipboard.

Whatever you decide, be upfront about what lists you will add them to. If they’re going to receive a newsletter, let them know how often. Their ability to trust you as the owner of a business they frequent is of the utmost importance.

The Placement

After format, placement is the most important step in introducing the clipboard to your business. It needs to be in a conspicuous area, but not so obtrusive that it’s annoying. For example, a clipboard next to the register may be convenient – unless it takes up so much counter space that it just gets in the way. In this case, placing the clipboard next to the exit may make more sense. If your business has a dressing room area, a thoughtfully placed clipboard can be very productive.

Experiment with placement, moving the clipboard around the store until you find an area that seems natural and convenient for your customers. You will find that this simple tool can be a very effective way to gather new customers for your email newsletter.

Monday, March 17, 2014

4 Ways to Increase Click-Throughs

Your emails are only valuable if your subscribers eventually click through, either to engage with you or buy from you. That means the links in your emails have a very big job to do. Here are 4 things you can do to make your links more click-worthy.
1. Use the optimal number of links.
Too many links in an email feels pushy, while too few can reduce clicks by not reminding the subscriber what they should do next. The optimal number of links will vary depending on the content and length of the email and your unique subscriber base, but a good rule of thumb is 2 or 3 links per email.
2. Make the links look good.
How you format the links in an email can have a big effect on click-throughs. Raw URLs, especially if they’re long and full of numbers and symbols, are hard to read and don’t inspire confidence. They may be necessary in some instances so your subscribers can copy and paste the URL into their browser, but more often than not, a cleaned-up link will outperform a raw URL.
A couple ways to make your links attractive include:

  • shorten the URL with a service like Tinyurl or Bit.ly (i.e., goo.gl/3Dhnl8nD)
  • create a short redirect URL on your own or with a plugin like Pretty Link (i.e., yourbiz.com/webinar could redirect to the GoToWebinar sign-up form)
  • make the links underlined and colored so they catch the eye
  • put links on their own lines between paragraphs so they stand out
3. Put links in the best places to attract clicks.
Generally, you want one link near the beginning of the email, so really interested subscribers hooked by your subject line can go straight to the next step. Another link in the middle of the email makes it easy for subscribers who want a little more information before they click. And a link at the end of the email catches more clicks from readers who prefer to read everything before deciding.
Of course, where you put links depends on knowing where the best places are. If you use link services like Bit.ly or Pretty Link, you can track which links get the most clicks, so you’ll know exactly where to put them in your next email.
4. Give subscribers a reason to click.
Finally, make sure your subscribers have a reason to click through. Sometimes the reason is obvious, like a coupon or special offer. Other times might require a little creativity, such as when you want them to fill out a survey or read your latest blog post. Make sure they know exactly what they’ll get when they click.
For the survey example, you might say that it’s simply a short questionnaire that will only take 2 minutes and lead to a better product or experience in the future. These reasons to click build your relationship with the subscriber, make them feel good for helping you, and increase their confidence and trust in you since you value their opinions and want to improve your offering.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Boost Open Rates

If your open rates aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, the “from” information of your emails might be part of the problem. If subscribers don’t recognize you, why should they open that email.

Fortunately, the trick to solving this dilemma is pretty easy. Here are 3 ways to help your subscribers recognize your emails and increase open rates.

1. Choose an easily recognizable “from name.”
This is the first thing subscribers look at when they’re not sure if they should open that email or not, so choosing the right “from name” is critical. Ask yourself:

How do people most quickly and easily recognize my business or organization?

If you serve individual clients, they probably know you best by your name. If you have a lot of customers, they might know you better by the name of your brand or store. You can even combine the two names (i.e. Jason at Email Contact) to take advantage of how they know you and build more personal relationships at the same time.

2. Use a confidence-building “from email address.”
Branded email addresses build confidence and should be easy to recongize, both of which increase open rates. Using a branded email address is especially important if you opt to use your own name as the from name, because if subscribers don’t recognize just your name, they’ll look at the from email address to figure out who you are.

The from email address should also give them a clue as to the email’s contents, like these examples:
  • jobs-listings@linkedin.com
  • renewalsdepartment@bluehost.com
  • support@dressingyourtruth.com
  • service@paypal.com

Generic from email addresses like info@yourbiz.com or no-reply@yourbiz.com do not build confidence or give people a reason to open your emails. In fact, a “no-reply” email address can look spammy.

3. Consider a branded subject line.
It can be helpful to include your brand name in the subject line to make sure subscribers recognize you. Many times branded subject lines outperform unbranded ones, so it’s worth testing. Small changes like this can make a big difference.

You can include your brand in the subject line either by writing it out or tacking it on at the beginning or end, like this:
  • Spring Sale at Mary’s Crafts!
  • Spring Sale: Coupons Inside! [Mary’s Crafts]

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's All About The Image

Here's the recording of the live presentation given earlier today. This presentation covers all the different ways you can display images within your email newsletter.