Monthly Archives: October 2013

Why segmenting your email marketing list matters

Why segmenting your email marketing list matters

You know, of course, that all those addresses on your email contact list belong to real people – but how much do you actually know about them?

Marketing solutions providers are increasingly offering tools to help you understand more about the people who read your promotional messages and market to them based on that information. HP, for example, recently announced the release of its Digital Marketing Hub. The Big Data application processes large volumes of information and provides an analysis of each customer in your email database, allowing you to craft a marketing experience personally targeted to your customers.

If analytics and personalization are new to your email strategy, you might consider segmenting your email list as a starting point.

How to start collecting data
You'll need some level of analytics to do it, but the basics of segmenting your contact list are simple: A marketer separates email recipients into groups based on certain criteria and sends each group different emails specifically targeted to them based on this shared data. The end goal of such a strategy is to maximize consumer engagement with emailed content, so that they will be more likely to follow up on promotions.

Fortunately, much of the information necessary to segment a list in this way is more readily available than you may think.

For example, ClickZ recently pointed out that data can be obtained even from contacts who do most of their shopping in physical stores. You can provide email addresses to a data on-boarding firm, who can then match them with cookies generated by in-store purchases made on loyalty cards. The information you receive will reveal the kinds of items your contacts recently bought.

The news source also pointed out that social media sites can be leveraged to gather information about your email subscribers. You probably already shorten the links you post to Facebook and Twitter with a Demand Side Platform (DMP) that redirects the viewer to the original site. In doing this, the DMP also creates a cookie for every user who clicks on your link.

How to segment your list
Once you've learned more about the people reading your emails, you can segment your list based on fundamental criteria. The data may be simple, but utilizing it can prove highly effective.

Business 2 Community laid out the basic criteria that can be used for segmenting. Gender, age and income are some of the simplest factors, but there are more complex data points. For example, you may want to segment based on employment status. A contact might be a student, self-employed, retired or a homemaker, and people who fall into these categories may be interested in very different products.

The news source also recommended that business to consumer (B2C) marketers segment their lists based on homeowner status – whether the contact is a homeowner, renter or living with relatives – and family criteria like marital status and number of children. For business to business (B2B) lists, marketers should consider taking their contacts' revenue and number of employees into account.

Beware over-segmentation
Take care that you don't become too zealous in your efforts, as some companies have testified that too much segmentation can actually lead to less optimal marketing practices.

CMO recently reported that fashion retail firm Ozsale moved away from sending identical emails to every customer and acquired analytics to fuel a more targeted approach – and as segmentation criteria became more specific, the company sent fewer emails. As a result, sales dropped.

"We've since stepped back from that a little bit and are now offering personalized, relevant content but to a very, very broad customer segment," noted Ozsale executive Carl Jackson, according to the source.

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Two tips for revitalizing your email marketing strategies

Two tips for revitalizing your email marketing strategies

If you're looking to boost your email-based promotional campaign with some added energy, these two email marketing tips can help you bring freshness and vitality to your strategy.

Get creative
Given the sheer number of promotional emails consumers receive daily, deploying strategies for setting yours apart from the crowd can be key. Luckily, marketing solutions providers are coming out with innovative strategies for achieving this end.

According to Adotas, DMI Music and Media Solutions recently announced the release of Engine 1 Music, a tool that allows you to embed music in your marketing emails. The platform includes a list of songs curated by the company specifically to meet the needs of marketers. Through a partnership with Trendline Interactive, Engine 1 Music also includes an analytics solution, so you can monitor how customers are responding to the music.

The benefit of this platform is that it offers new possibilities for reaching customers on an emotional level.

"We developed Engine 1 Music to help our clients establish a deep connection with their customers over a common love of music," remarked DMI Music's CEO Tena Clark, according to the news source. The new product will play songs on any platform customers use to read email, including smartphones.

If you've included mobile as part of your marketing strategy, you might also consider other ways email marketing can reach customers on their devices. Ongage recently announced that it had added an SMS texting feature to its email marketing platform. The tool can be used to send promotional messages to subscribers in your email database who opt in and provide you with their mobile phone numbers.

Embrace social
While social media hasn't replaced email as a marketing tool, you can harness the power and popularity of social networking to benefit your email-based campaigns. 

Business 2 Community recommended growing your email marketing list with messages on social media. You can use posts on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to link to your blog or news page and ask users to provide email addresses in order to subscribe to your content. Those addresses can then be added to your list of email marketing subscribers as well.

Furthermore, a new platform helps break down the barrier between email and social media. SocialBro recently released a email integration tool that mines the Twitter data of contacts on a company's email list. The solution uses the social site to provide marketers richer data about their contacts so that they can make strategic decisions in the deployment of their marketing emails.

"Using SocialBro, businesses will be able to see how contacts are connected, their level of influence, and when and how to reach each individual," the company said.

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The email unsubscribe: Blessing or curse?

The email unsubscribe: Blessing or curse?

Given the considerable time, effort and cost it takes to develop and grow an email marketing list, it can be difficult to bring oneself to include the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every promotional email, as CAN SPAM compliance dictates. However, while the law that requires companies to make it easy for consumers to opt out of receiving marketing mails does pose potential problems and difficulties, there may be hidden benefits to the unsubscribe.

The tale of the silent unsubscribe
Ultimately, few among us would pose the argument that consumers should not be able to opt out of receiving unwanted emails. It's clear that the ability to unsubscribe should be protected – and few email marketers like the idea of sending messages to a host of people who view them as an annoyance.

However, the one-click unsubscribe has made matters complicated for both companies and consumers in the past. According to Biz Report, an enthusiastic subscriber of email tracking solutions firm Litmus sent the company's monthly newsletter to 85 co-workers on his email contact list. Of course, many of those recipients couldn't tell why they had been sent the message and incorrectly believed it to be spam. Accordingly, at least one of them clicked the unsubscribe button – and in doing so, opted out of Litmus' emails on behalf of the co-worker who had originally sent out the newsletter.

This phenomenon is what's known as the silent unsubscribe, according to the news source. CAN SPAM-required opt-out links – which prohibit companies from sending a second email confirming a customer's desire to stop receiving the messages – are connected with the original subscriber, so if he or she forwards a promotional email and that recipient clicks the unsubscribe button, the contact on the company's actual email list will be the one who no longer receives the messages.

Litmus offered an easy fix for the problem on its official blog. A simple piece of code can be applied to any email that makes forwarded versions of the message appear differently. When a subscriber forwards one of your emails, this code should block the unsubscribe button and instead contain a feature that allows the new recipient to subscribe as well.

How the unsubscribe works for you
Despite the loss of email contacts that can result from silent unsubscribes, including an opt-out feature in your emails can actually benefit your overall marketing strategy.

The National Law Review pointed out that the unsubscribe is a way for companies to create more targeted email lists.

"The value of unsubscribe … is that it helps you reach your goal of creating a highly motivated core list of clients and prospects more quickly," the news source wrote, suggesting that emails shouldn't hide the unsubscribe button but rather make it easily visible beside a short description of what those who choose to opt out of your newsletters and promotions will be missing.

Furthermore, companies are learning how to use recipients who unsubscribe to their advantage. A study recently released by Return Path showed that 25 percent of companies now offer unsubscribers different content or the option to receive less frequent emails, compared to 8 percent in 2008. Additionally, 22 percent now solicit feedback when a customer opts out, whereas only 7 percent did likewise five years ago.

While companies are getting smarter, they're also getting more compliant. The Return Path study revealed that 95 percent of companies now stop sending emails within 10 days of the opt-out, as CAN SPAM requires, up from 90 percent in 2008.

If you can learn how to use unsubscribes to your benefit, CAN SPAM becomes no longer just a list of things you're required to do and are prohibited from doing: It can be a marketing tool in itself.

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lookbadontwitter

7 Things That Make Your Business Look Bad on Twitter

Don’t over-tweet your followers!

A few posts back, I discussed 15 Things That Make Your Business Look Bad on LinkedIn . Twitter is another social media tool you should take advantage of to market your business, but beware! You can make yourself look bad on it, too. Social media has the capability to shoot your business into the stratosphere if you use it correctly. Because it began as a “social” tool for personal networking, however, it might be tempting to shed the professionalism when using Twitter, or any other social networking site for that matter. Don’t! Make certain your business looks good on Twitter.

Don’t Tweet Junk

For the love of all humankind, don’t sit at your laptop or mobile phone and tweet everybody that you’re sitting on your couch watching the latest episode of… who cares?! One mistake everyone in my opinion, not just businesses, makes is tweeting random junk that doesn’t really matter. I don’t care if you’re sitting on your couch watching TV, and neither will your potential customers. Make it count when you tweet. Provide important information about your business that your followers can sink their teeth into and retweet to others .

Don’t Overdo it Either

Although you should avoid tweeting junk and stick to informative, useful, and helpful tweets, don’t be a know-it-all or tweet too much , either. You know your business, and that is where you should focus your tweets. Sure, you probably have some intelligent things to say about stuff outside of your business, and that is fine in the appropriate context. But if you begin to tweet about everything as if you’re an expert in everything, your followers are going to drop you like a hot potato. After all, none of us knows it all.

Don’t Tweet Your Problems

I did what I’m about to tell you not to do when I talked about tweeting junk, but man do I hate useless tweets… I did it again! Don’t use Twitter as your therapist and vent. That’s not what it’s there for. Sure, many people tweet about current events and have some pretty fiery things to say about them, but that’s only appropriate in certain circumstances. Twitter is not a good place to complain about anything, especially your business. Even if you’re upset because you own a transportation company and gas prices are killing you, you’re going to turn off a lot of people if you tweet complaining about it. Tweet solutions instead, and engage your followers to get them involved.

DON’T YELL

See how annoying that subhead was? This really should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people still, after all this time, type with their CAPS LOCK on. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years – and if you have, you’re about to learn something new–CAPS LOCK means yelling or screaming in online etiquette , and you should never use all caps, especially when you’re tweeting. Keep in mind that while you are trying to draw attention to your business via your tweets, you don’t want to draw the wrong attention. Don’t “yell,” even if it’s to express excitement or add emphasis to certain words in your tweet. Somebody will take it wrong.

Don’t Market Incessantly

Aside from yelling, your followers will also get annoyed if all of your tweets are marketing ones. Yes, Twitter is a great avenue to get the word out about specials and promotions your business is offering, but you need to think about “spamming” when you’re tweeting, too. Your followers want more than just marketing mumbo-jumbo; they’re following you to hear what you have to say. Yes, use Twitter as a marketing tool , but use it wisely. If you have a bunch of product to offload, use the marketing demographics to target your proper audience, and tweet about it to the right people at the right time. You shouldn’t tweet about the 100 Boston Red Sox Jerseys you have on sale to a bunch of New York Yankee fans… or should you?! [Wink, wink!]

Don’t Just Follow

Be a leader in tweeting and not a follower. Don’t randomly follow a bazillion people to try to get them to follow you. Again, think marketing demographics, which are the same online as they are offline. You are better suited to get involved and network with the peeps who are in your business, interested in your business, interested in hearing what you have to say, and have interesting things to say to you, rather than just follow, follow, follow. It’s useless to attempt to get a bazillion followers by following a bazillion tweeters if you have nothing in common. Numbers are not the name of the game here; networking strategically is.

Don’t Twitter Stalk

Part of what happens if you follow a ton of people just to try to get more people to follow you is you lose interest and you stop following them. Then, you realize that you don’t have a lot of followers, so you start following them again. Then you lost interest, and you stop following them… yeah. You’re a Twitter STALKER! Oops, sorry, yelling there. Constantly following and unfollowing someone is, one, annoying, and, two, might get you reported as an abuser. You need to connect with people who really have an interest in your business and stick with them. Again, it’s not about how many followers you have; it’s about the importance of those followers to your business.

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Tailoring your email marketing campaigns to the current environment

Tailoring your email marketing campaigns to the current environment

With improvements in technology coming at a rapid pace, it can be difficult to keep up with developments and understand where your email marketing strategy fits into such a fluid landscape. These two tips can allow you to speak more effectively to the customers on your email contact list.

Create relationships
In an environment where social media platforms have become omnipresent, your customers may increasingly want to understand why the content they encounter in your emails is being shared with them.

In a recent post for ClickZ, Kara Trivunovic discussed the importance of emotion in email marketing messages.

"Email is a relationship channel and part of any good relationship is emotion," she wrote. "Every message you send should absolutely stay true to your brand, while remaining focused on your customer."

Trivunovic went on to point out the role of storytelling in email marketing. Messages that highlight your company's brand story can lend freshness to your content and increase customer engagement.

Part of the continued relevance of email as a marketing platform is due to how suited it is for exactly this purpose. Marketing Land recently suggested that money spent on improving email campaigns may have more payoff than investments in social media or search optimization, because email is by nature interpersonal.

"You're investing in the likelihood that someone who started a relationship with you (agreed to a first date) will continue (agree to a second date, and a third)," the news source wrote.

Embrace mobile
Smartphones and tablets are increasingly the primary method by which your customers are reading messages, with 52 percent of Americans reading at least some of their emails on a mobile device, according to Forbes.

Furthermore, a recent study by Yesmail Interactive revealed that 49 percent of all emails are opened on a smartphone or tablet, and 30 percent of consumers exclusively use mobile devices to read emails.

As such, it's key that you design your emails for mobile platforms. Practical Ecommerce suggested avoiding features like table layouts that are difficult to read on a smartphone. To the extent possible, you might also divide your email marketing list according to users of the primary mobile platforms, like Android and iOS, and design versions of each email that will look best on the different operating systems.

That said, consider prioritizing iOS, as the Yesmail survey showed that 82 percent of all emails read on mobile devices were opened using Apple's platform for its iPhones and iPads, while only 17 percent of mobile email opens occurred on the Android operating system.

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Why email marketing can't be replaced by social media

Why email marketing can’t be replaced by social media

Given the popularity of social media platforms, it may be tempting to put aside your email contact list in the hopes of reaching your customers through tweets and status updates. Having a presence on Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram may now be essential for successful businesses, but companies should think twice before they consider using those platforms to replace their email marketing campaigns.

Even in the changing landscape, email continues to win business for companies. Predictive analytics firm Custora recently released survey results that show the average percentage of new customers acquired through email has quadrupled since 2009, while the growth of customer acquisition via social media channels has been negligible.

Furthermore, customers gained through social platforms tend to be of a lower value to companies than those acquired through email and organic search. The Custora study indicated that the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – the expected profit a new customer will bring to a business – of those who discover a company on Twitter is 23 percent below average. The CLV of customers gained through email marketing, however, is 12 percent higher than average.

As valuable as social media may be, many thinkers within marketing are now suggesting that it is not enough on its own. In a post for Business 2 Community, Jill Jones suggested that a successful marketing strategy will employ many channels to deliver content to customers, and email is the ideal way to connect those channels so that customers can easily access them.

"Email remains firmly at the core of a cross-channel strategy and recognizing email's role as the center of this strategy is critical to your success," wrote Jones.

Others suggest the effectiveness of email over social media for generating customers has to do with the differing natures of the two platforms. A recent Forbes column by Tim Dewaney and Tom Stein pointed out that checking email is the most popular mobile activity for smartphone users, who use their social apps more to get breaking news and updates from companies.

"Email is effective because it's permission-based," Dewaney and Stein noted, and customers look to emails to provide them with promotions that they can act on.

They went on to point out, however, that mobile device users read email quickly, so a company's promotional message should be succinct, attention-grabbing and clear about the customer's next step toward purchase. Also, with 70 percent of users opting to unsubscribe from unattractive messages, emails have to look good on a mobile screen.

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Retailers create new email marketing strategies with cloud computing, SaaS

Retailers create new email marketing strategies with cloud computing, SaaS

Retailers are adapting to a changing landscape by implementing creative new email marketing solutions and strategies to ensure that their messages are reaching customers.

Google's introduction of the new tab system to Gmail recently dealt a blow to retailers. The new system files promotional emails in a separate tab from the primary inbox – a strategy that has proven problematic for some in the industry, The New York Times reported.

"My guess would be that you might log on to your Gmail 20 times a day, and look at promotions once a week," complained Chief Executive Ada Polla of skin products brand Alchimie Forever, according to the news source.

If assumptions like Polla's prove true as the effects of the Gmail tab system become clearer, marketers may begin to reconsider how best to ensure potential customers respond positively to promotional emails.

Some firms have already begun that effort by drawing on cutting-edge cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies. Ascena Retail Group recently partnered with cloud-based marketing solutions provider Responsys, according to Biz Report. The retailer used the tech firm's Interact Marketing Cloud to create profiles for customers in its email database that included richer data and allowed them to create personalized messages and promotions. As a result of the initiative, open rates increased by 70 percent, click-through rates by 55 percent, and overall conversion rates by a stunning 225 percent, the news source wrote.

Software startups with retail marketing specifically in mind are also beginning to make waves. According to Tech Crunch, the young SaaS company Swirl Networks, Inc., has developed a software that notifies consumers of promotions based on where they are located in the store by sending push notifications to their smartphones.

Solutions like Swirl's can be used alongside email marketing to create the kind of memorable experience that can make the customer more receptive when he or she receives a digital promotion.

Other companies are focusing on ways to help marketers interpret and use data. Venture Beat reported that analytics provider TellApart recently acquired AdStack, an email marketing solutions company. The partnership will combine the precision analytics of the AdStack software with TellApart's customer-targeting technology that has already helped retailers like Brookstone, Warby Parker and Neiman Marcus. 

As technology and data analytics improve, companies can be confident that they have tools at their disposal to make sure they're creating real customers from their email marketing lists.

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Attract millennials with a few key email marketing tactics.

Millennials pose challenges for holiday emails

A growing number of companies are using their business email lists to target millennials. This group of young consumers and professionals has grabbed media attention, and many businesses are trying to attract what's in their pocketbooks.

Because of millennials' level of tech-savvy – they did grow up with computers and the Internet at their fingertips – firms are constantly needing to evolve how they speak to young professionals through targeted email content and a range of devices to see the biggest benefits from this shopping group come the holiday months.

Recent research from Campaigner outlined the three hurdles email marketers will face with this demographic come November and December, ClickZ reported. These include getting them to open email, ensuring they engage with communications and sharing information via social media networks. So, what can organizations do?

Especially as millennials are unlikely to share discounts, coupons or other email deals on their Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, the study urged businesses to get creative. For example, many members of this age group will be directed to a website and fill up a proverbial shopping cart with items they would like to purchase, but then leave it at the last minute.

"An easy win from first timers is shopping cart abandonment emails," Seamas Egan, corporate sales manager for Campaigner, told Click Z. "They are simple to set up and have an excellent [return on investment]. Also, if you have yet to invest in developing responsive design emails for your marketing campaigns, you should [do it] ASAP."

And don't put this off until the beginning of November. According to Marketing Pilgrim, despite still being weeks out from Halloween, retailers and other organizations are already ramping up their holiday deals, discounts and marketing strategies.

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Three tips for taking email marketing success into your own hands

Three tips for taking email marketing success into your own hands

After you have your targeted email lists in hand, it's up to you to create effective, exciting marketing campaigns that will attract customers. These three email marketing tips can help you take control of your success and ensure that you're reaching your audience.

Measure your success
You can gauge how well your marketing efforts are going by staying on top of the data. According to Business 2 Community, there are four important numbers to keep track of, pertaining to how many recipients: 1) receive your message, 2) open the email, 3) use the link to visit your website, and 4) fill out the form or information request you provide them on your site. Monitoring these numbers over time will help you understand if you might need to change your tactics.

It might also help if you test how well your emails perform when you change factors that are under your control, such as the time of day you send the messages. Folio Magazine suggested splitting your email list into two groups, then sending the message to group A in the morning and group B in the afternoon. Monitor how those four numbers mentioned above compare between the two groups and repeat the test to see if a pattern emerges.

If you establish habits like these, you can see consistently how your marketing efforts are performing and think of new ways to improve them.

Write clean, compelling copy
It's key that your potential customers feel engaged by what they read in your emails, rather than turned off or bored. Business 2 Community recommended that your emails include a compelling offer described in simple, specific language that clearly indicates what the customer's next step is.

However, Dan Stewart, co-founder of email marketing company the Happy Grasshopper, recently told the Inman News that he believes a more personalized approach to email marketing works best. Stewart prefers emails to include calls to conversation rather than calls to action, and thinks these should avoid sounding too obviously like marketing.

"Make the message personal," Stewart recommended, "… and don't use templates. Write short messages and ask leading questions. This will greatly increase the number of replies you get."

Whatever your opinion on the effectiveness of calls to action, you can make your marketing campaigns more worthwhile by ensuring that they're well-written.

Consider analytics
If you want to increase the likelihood that your potential customers will be responsive to the emails you send, analytics – the discovery of meaningful patterns in data – can be a valuable tool. Pitch recently reported that analytics and permission-based marketing are being used more and more by businesses to help them better target the cost-effective marketing that can be done through email.

India-based travel site MakeMyTrip, for example, targets its marketing emails by sending promotions based on information gathered by looking at each recipient's most recent vacation destination and popular travel trends among the demographic. Naveen Bachwani, Head of Marketing Services at Experian, spoke about the benefits of this kind of targeted marketing, as quoted by the news source.

"The effectiveness of email marketing can only be altered for better once you have the right customer at the right time reading the right mail," Bachwani said. "Such precision based email marketing involves a lot of analytics."

If you've devoted a great amount of time and energy to your marketing campaigns without the success you hoped for, a richer data set might be the best next step toward better-targeted emails with improved performance.

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Boost email open and clickthrough rates with dynamic calls to action.

Improve business email efficacy with clear calls to action

What's the good of a targeted email list if no one clicks on your links or follows through? Many organizations may be tempted to blame low response rates on their email distribution lists, but more likely than not, it's their content strategy to blame. So, how do they right these wrongs to get recipients and clicking engaged?

State your purpose loudly and clearly                                          
When sending out an email, organizations will need to communicate exactly what they want recipients to do with the information provided in the communication. This requires crafting a single, clear call to action (CTA). FIrms may be tempted to overload their business emails with multiple messages, such as encouraging readers to look into creating an account, taking an advantage of a discount or purchasing a specific product. However, this may only serve to hide the most important message firms are trying to get across, Marketing Profs wrote.

"Avoid CTAs that state the obvious," explained Marketing Profs. "The internet has been around long enough even for the biggest technophobes to understand that they have to click on a hyperlink to make it work. In other words, don't use 'click here.'"

However, just because businesses need to avoid the obvious, this does not mean they can fail to address certain critical items. According to the news source, there are a number of key components that all CTAs should include, as well as a few questions they must answer, including what's expected of recipients, where a linked CTA will take them and why they should want to click in the first place. The key phrases Marketing Profs identified as needing to be part of CTAs are short and to the point, such as "contact us," "apply now," "sign up now" and "create an account."

Subject lines are an art                                                  
Before recipients can even get to the CTA, though, they must actually open the email, and a compelling subject line plays a major role in accomplishing this task.

According to research from Eloqua, top-performing emails include custom personalization, Business 2 Community reported. The study found that including the recipient's name and additional information, such as location, are winning strategies for boosting open rates. Additionally, crafting subject lines that target customers' interests, similar to how Amazon creates its daily deals, can help organizations forge connections with customers as well as boost open and click-through rates.

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