Author Archives: Alec Wilcox

When marketing for the hospitality sector, choose email

When marketing for the hospitality sector, choose email

Hotels and businesses in the hospitality sector often have fewer marketing resources and personnel than those in other industries. This means that the marketing efforts that firms in this field put forth need to be highly effective and well-targeted, as limited budgets mean a reduced number of channels for exposure.

Hoteliers for whom the main decision point is whether to market via email or another platform shouldn't put away their email contact lists just yet, as direct promotional messages remain highly relevant to the sector and can generate considerable return on investment.

The email vs. social media debate
Given that social media marketing is virtually free, it's easy to see why hotels with small marketing budgets might opt to devote their efforts to sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social networking platforms, however, still aren't offering the results that email is. According to a recent report by Web hosting provider Host Papa, email is still the preferred online marketing channel for 75 percent of adult consumers. Furthermore, the time users spend engaging with promotional messages is growing. In 2007, consumers spent 17 percent of their email time looking at commercial messages, while that figure stood at 30 percent in 2011.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that email marketing yielded a 4000 percent overall return on investment across all industries in 2012, according to Host Papa. 

Meanwhile, just 61 percent of Web users login to social media sites, but 94 percent check email, the report showed. Email is more popular on mobile, too: 55 percent of smartphone and tablet users read emails on their devices, while only 36 percent access social media.

Strategizing for hospitality
In a recent post for Hotel News Resource, marketing strategist Madigan Pratt insisted that while social media can't simply be ignored, email marketing remains essential for the hospitality sector. Rather than choose one or the other, marketers in the field should know the strengths of each channel so that they can reap their full benefits.

"Email can be a powerful tool for driving revenue, but only when database marketing best practices are applied. Consequently when developing next year's marketing plans a good place to start is by auditing your email program to see if you are maximizing its impact on your bottom line," wrote Pratt.

Businesses can optimize email by obtaining rich data about their contacts and creating segmented email marketing lists to offer promotions tailored to recipients' interests. A contact who travels internationally on a regular basis can receive promotions on hotel rooms overseas, for instance.

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How email marketers can weather rocky results

How email marketers can weather rocky results

Finding that your email campaigns haven't been yielding the return on investment you'd hoped for can be a disheartening experience. While the stakes of email marketing are too high for marketers to let that feeling overcome them for very long, the struggles of reaching their firms' email contact list in a way that produces results are certainly real.

The difficulties marketers face aren't bound by national borders, either. Biz Community reported that in the United Kingdom, marketing emails sent by small to medium-sized business have just a 54 percent rate of successful delivery. Meanwhile, open rates stood at 21.47 percent, but the average conversion rate was just 3 percent.

Marketers experiencing poor results like these in the UK, United States or any other country where email marketing is widespread have tools at their disposal to reintroduce some energy into their campaigns and hopefully get their numbers headed in the right direction.

Prioritize by customer value
Knowing how, when and what kinds of customers make the most valuable purchases based on your email campaigns can help you focus your marketing efforts so that they'll produce the highest possible ROI.

For instance, while it's uncommon for a customer visiting your website for the first time will make a purchase, that likelihood is much higher among visitors who are already familiar with your brand.

"When looking at conversions, the difference between a new visitor coming to your site and a returning visitor is insane. We typically see anywhere from a 500 percent to 1600 percent greater purchase value from returning visitors," noted Rob Walling, founder of email marketing startup Drip.

Drip is an analytics and campaign automation platform that can help marketers target returning customers, and there are numerous other software products on the market that provide the data you need to market more effectively.

Learn how to target mobile
The statistics on the mobile email trend continue to confirm its spread. A recent study by Movable Ink showed that 63 percent of email opens in the third quarter of 2013 happened on a smartphone or tablet, while desktop computers accounted for just 39 percent of opens.

While iOS email is much more popular than Android – 78.7 percent of smartphone opens happened on an iPhone – Movable Ink Vice President of Marketing Jordan Cohen thinks that's no reason to ignore the Google operating system.

"If almost one in 10 of your emails is being opened on an Android, I would certainly want to design for that platform and cater to your audience on that platform," Cohen told Digital Marketing News.

Indeed, faced with the difficulties of raising email ROI, marketers cannot afford to leave any stone unturned.

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Essential email marketing tools for the holidays

Essential email marketing tools for the holidays

With the major shopping seasons of late November and December just around the corner, your holiday emails campaigns are probably well underway by this point. It's not too late, however, to take stock of your strategy and make sure you have in place the tools that will allow you to use your email marketing list in the most effective way possible.

There's a variety of tools available in these three cutting-edge categories that can help you provide your contacts with a better email experience than the competition and keep you informed about how recipients are reacting to your campaigns.

Analytics
You've probably heard the word analytics tossed around before, and most likely, you know that Google is one firm that provides them. The term covers a wide range of tools that help people make sense of data. As an email marketer, there are many benefits that an analytics platform can offer, and the vital holiday season is as good a time as any to acquaint yourself with them.

Marketing solutions provider Mailgen, for instance, integrates with Google Analytics to tell marketers when recipients open emails, click on embedded links and make purchases, Business News Daily reported. In the case of emails read on mobile devices, the tool also tells you what kind of smartphone or tablet each contact was using, so that you can optimize your email layouts for your recipients' preferred operating systems.

Contact management 
Large email lists need a lot of care and attention, and even the best analytics won't do the work of building segmentation lists based on pertinent data for you. As such, some marketers make use of contact management tools to help bear some of the burden.

ZDNet recently reported that Constant Contact had announced an update to its service that enables users to create a variety of email list segments based on enriched data, including how contacts are interacting with one another through email and other platforms.

Business News Daily noted that Constant Contact also has an automatic unsubscribe feature, so when users opt not to receive your emails any longer, you won't have to worry about manually removing them from your database.

A more stripped-down form of content management is offered by Canadian firm CakeMail, whose service comes preloaded with personalized campaign templates to help you speak more relevantly to your contacts, according to ZDNet.

Certain types of automation can help you manage your campaigns, too. GetResponse's Autoresponders 2.0, for example, helps marketers create an automated email send calendar so that messages will be delivered when they're most relevant, Business News Daily wrote.

Design
Great layouts can be an excellent way to ensure that your holiday emails aren't overshadowed by the numerous other messages that are appearing in your contacts' inboxes.

In fact, failing to design attractive emails can turn customers away from your brand, especially if they're reading on a mobile device. A study by Yesmail Interactive showed that 44 percent of the public found emails that require users to perform excessive scrolling on their smartphones were difficult to read. Meanwhile, 29 percent said that the emails they received were simply laid out incorrectly for mobile, and 27 percent thought there was too much content in the messages.

If you're a layman when it comes to coding and the prospect of laying out email designs seems intimidating, iContact's Message Builder may prove helpful. Business News Daily noted that the tool, which requires no coding skills, has hundreds of attractive, flexible templates you can tweak to your vision by dragging and dropping elements into the design.

Equipped with your chosen set of tools, you'll be able to market in ways the customers in your email database are sure to remember, even in the midst of the holiday promotion mania.

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What to optimize in email marketing

What to optimize in email marketing

Email optimization is a much tossed-around term in marketing circles, and although it sounds technical, its principles are simple: In order to create lasting customers from your email contact list, your messages have to be as perfectly crafted as possible. 

However, complexities quickly enter the picture, because marketers have to take into consideration the wide variety of components that exist in any email – and then optimize them for the specific interests of their email marketing list and all its segments.

Getting back to basics can help simplify the task. As you navigate the difficulties of email optimization, keep in mind these key aspects of all emails and make sure they're on your checklist.

Content
It would be hard to understate the importance of writing clean, memorable copy for your promotional messages. In a post for HubSpot, Sarah Goliger noted the importance of concise, powerful language.

"In an email send for an eBook about how to use Twitter for business, for instance, I began, 'The way we use Twitter is broken,'" she wrote.

Goliger also recommended writing short paragraphs and using bullet points to help readers take in your content quickly and easily.

Subject line and sender name
For Goliger, the key to a great subject line is that it speaks to your audience. In her own campaigns, she strives to speak in terms that reflect what her recipients value.

With this in mind, it's advisable to send an email with a different subject line to each segment of your email list. 

Most marketers probably think less about the sender name in their emails than they do about their subject lines. However, Goliger insisted that the "from" column in your contacts' inboxes should be a person's name – your head of marketing, for example – rather than the name of the organization. In her view, successful email campaigns are ones that mirror interactions between two people as closely as they can, rather than being sent en masse to consumers by a giant corporation.

Layout
While the graphics-savvy members of your marketing team may be able to churn out attractive email layouts by the dozens, creating designs that will look great for all users is more complex in the mobile age.

Failing to adapt messages for mobile operating systems is simply no longer an option, and for many marketers, optimizing email layout means choosing responsive design.

Marketing Land pointed out that responsively designed emails are efficient and easy to build, as they rely on a larger body of HTML coding and a single template to adapt layouts for all screen sizes.

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This holiday season, mobile marketing is key

This holiday season, mobile marketing is key

The holidays are a particularly tough but vital time for marketers to set their promotional messages apart from the crowd. This year more than ever, mobile-friendly email marketing campaigns are poised to offer exceptional returns on investment by adapting to the habits of the contacts in your email database.

Email marketing firm Campaigner recently announced the results of a survey that revealed millennials, in particular, are going to their mobile devices to make purchases. According to the study, 85.7 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 34 who own smartphones or tablets are using them to read marketing emails and follow up on promotions.

What firms stand to gain from emails that cater to mobile is considerable, but marketers' efforts will have to be strenuous, as the attention of millennials appears to be uniquely difficult to earn. The Campaigner survey showed that 70 percent of the demographic is unengaged with holiday marketing emails, and 21 percent say they are inundated by promotions and therefore ignore them. Just under 50 percent said they weren't sure how the emails they receive this holiday season will impact where and how they spend their money.

However, the email malaise of millennials is no reason to leave the potential rewards of marketing to them unreaped, according to Campaigner's General Manger E.J. McGowan.

"This generation is a game-changer for retailers, and they will need to approach targeting this valuable demographic from all angles – mobile design, personalization, social and content that engages. It will be an exercise utilizing the best mobile email marketing practices, and Campaigner is here to help lead them to success," McGowan said.

How will your emails look on mobile?
In order to truly craft an effective, mobile-friendly email campaign, you'll need to consider how your messages will appear on a smartphone or tablet screen.

The virtues of designing for mobile are different than they are for the Web. Entrepreneur noted that writing a catchy preheader – the first content after the email topic, just above the header image, also known as the snippet text – is just as important as a solid subject line. In fact, the preheader is the first piece of content your recipients see on a smartphone. Rather than something commonplace – instructions on how to view the email in a Web browser, for example – intriguing, memorable text should appear in that space, the news source suggested.

Entrepreneur also pointed out the benefits of responsive design for emails. A Web design concept that has recently begun to be applied to email layout, responsive design helps ensure pages are coded so as to appear differently on respective users' browsers and optimizing systems, taking into account the parameters of each platform to optimize attractiveness.

Don't get left behind
Putting these mobile optimization tips into practice sooner rather than later may be essential for marketers who want to stay ahead of the trend, as mobile commerce is growing at an impressive rate.

Emarketer recently released a study that predicted mobile commerce in the United States would total $41.68 billion – 16 percent of total ecommerce revenue – in 2013 and grow to $113.57 billion in 2017, accounting for 26 percent of retail digital sales.

Large firms aren't the only ones who can embrace mobile, either. A recent survey by Manta showed that small businesses are catching on, too. According to the report, 13 percent of independent retailers expected mobile offers to boost in-store sales, while 20 percent said their total mobile purchases would increase this year. 

"With the changing demographics and mobile habits of millennials coming to the forefront, these trends will continue to accelerate and gain importance," said Manta's Director of Marketing Kristy Campbell.

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Mastering the art of the email landing page

Mastering the art of the email landing page

A compelling, attractive landing page is a key asset for email marketing. It can help convince potential customers to add their addresses to your email contact list, and it's also a vital tool for generating sales through promotional messages. If you're crafting a landing page for either purpose – to gain followers or convert contacts into revenue – these guiding principles can help you ensure you achieve the results you're looking for.

Go for clarity
Most marketers are well aware that concise, easy-to-understand content is key in email messages. Similarly, the design of your landing page should make it crystal clear how viewers can take advantage of what you're offering them.

This means that if your landing page is designed to attract subscribers, they should know exactly how to sign up.  This might seem an obvious principle, but Chris Hexton recently pointed out in a post for Marketing Land that there are many ways to ensure customers know how to get what you're offering. Hexton noted the example of Unbounce – a landing page conversion tool, as it turns out – who added to its own landing page a strategically placed arrow pointing toward the box where viewers can enter their email addresses, as well as a large, red button that users were sure not to miss when submitting their info.

Perfect your copy
The principle of clarity extends to your page's written content, too. In a post for Business 2 Community, Juan Pablo Castro noted the damaging effects of a landing page with inexpertly written copy.

"If your content (the actual words you use, the way they are arranged, the way they interact with your design elements) is confusing to your reader, chances are he will give up," Castro wrote.

A key aspect of clarity is specificity. Castro suggested marketers never offer consumers more than one promotion on a single landing page or in one email. He also noted the right length for content depends on what it's offering: A purchase constitutes more commitment than an email marketing list sign-up and thus requires more content.

Consider mobile
If you're already designing your emails to look good on smartphones and tablets, consider doing the same for your landing page.

A recent survey by Marketing Sherpa found that while 75 percent of firms integrate links to their websites into their emails, 58 percent aren't optimizing their email layouts for mobile screens. That means not enough marketers are responding to the mobile trend, and thus, designing mobile-ready emails and landing pages can be a great way to set your brand apart.

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Measure, then market: Marrying statistics to content in your email strategy

Measure, then market: Marrying statistics to content in your email strategy

Email marketing requires a combination of hard and soft skills. Depending on the size and scope of your email marketing list, you have to know how to process large amounts of data about who your recipients are and how they're interacting with your messages. At the same time, it's essential to have the sales and writing savvy to craft email content that will appeal to your customers based on what your statistics tell you.

Email list segmentation based on contacts' basic information – geographic location, age, gender and other factors – and their purchasing behaviors is a well-known strategy. Other data points have more to do with your emails themselves, tracking their performance and how customers respond to them. 

Software firm ConnectWise recently announced that it would be extending its platform, which was previously geared toward IT and other service providers, to email marketers by integrating it with a new cloud-powered analytics tool, Nex.to. The solution generates real-time analytics with every email send, telling marketers which of their contacts are opening the message, as well as which external links are creating the highest click-through rates, the firm said.

Data can also be analyzed from another point of view: how emails benefit the company. In a post for ClickZ, online marketing strategist Jeanne Jennings noted that she had used revenue per email (RPE) as a key indicator of success for many of her clients' email marketing campaigns. In the case of one client, Jennings was able to use increases in this figure to prove the effectiveness of sending fewer, higher quality emails.

"The key to success here isn't sending more email; it's being smarter about the email you send," Jennings wrote.

Content is key
Knowing how to deliver content that communicates your brand and draws new business is a kind of intelligence equally as essential to email success as data analysis. 

In a column for Econsultancy, Tink Taylor recently pointed out that many email marketers aren't branding enough. She suggested that confirmation emails sent after a customer makes a purchase are just as opportune a time to reinforce and articulate your brand as the email that may have initially led to the sale, and that failing to do so can leave a negative impression.

"To a customer, this can feel a bit like you're saying, 'Right, we've got your money, now we don't care.' It's important to remember that this is your customer, and the purchase confirmation is a fantastic opportunity to drive loyalty while they're feeling good about your brand," Taylor wrote.

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2 recent trends in email marketing for retail

2 recent trends in email marketing for retail

With the holiday season just around the corner, retailers may already be thinking about what kinds of promotions, offers and new products they'll be marketing to their email contact lists. Here are two of the most recent trends in retail email marketing for you to consider before you launch your next campaign.

Starting early
That said, don't spend too long considering them: The first trend is the early start date on which retailers are choosing to send holiday promotions. A recent study by Experian showed that 49 percent of marketers planned to get their campaigns in motion before the end of October. The survey revealed that marketers felt the best time to send their strategic emails was during the first two weeks of November. The planning stages started even earlier. June was the month of choice to start thinking about end-of-year marketing for 18 percent of respondents, while 69 percent said strategizing had gotten underway by August.

Perhaps careful, long-term planning shouldn't come as a surprise: Experian emphasized that marketers stand to gain more this holiday season than in many recent years.

"Our consumer confidence data shows it as the highest it's been since the recession, so we expect the early promotion trend to carry over into the holiday season with Black Friday deals being offered even earlier than last year," said Experian Marketing Services' General Manager of Global Research Bill Tancer.

Holiday campaigns should also prove to be sophisticated, as 83 percent of respondents said they planned to coordinate their efforts across a range of marketing channels.

Marketing to men
While much of retailers' efforts have traditionally been focused on marketing to women, that imbalance may soon be evening out. According to Forbes, men are becoming more conscientious about their appearance, and they're doing a good deal of their shopping online. It's hard to draw any other conclusion when Google searches of the term "pocket squares" have tripled since 2010, according to the source. The news source suggested that men like shopping on the Web in part because of the privacy, lack of time constraints and freedom from pressure it affords them.

Furthermore, a study by iProspect revealed that 70 percent of affluent men shop and research what they buy online, while 67 percent make purchases on a mobile device.

In light of these statistics, marketers might consider devoting a segment of their targeted email list specifically to male contacts, offering them promotions they can take advantage of from the convenience of the web or mobile browser.

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Six don'ts for email marketers

6 don’ts for email marketers

Some tactics just won't fly with the customers on your targeted email list, and since you went to great lengths to acquire those addresses, it's key that you don't let a rookie mistake make recipients click the unsubscribe button.

If you're looking to make sure you don't fall into bad habits in your email campaigns, keeping these six "don'ts" in mind can help you stay on the straight and narrow.

Don't send red-eye emails
Although debate continues as to what time of day is optimal to send promotional emails, the simple answer may be that no one best time exists. Rather, certain segments of your email list should be sent messages at different times of day based on data revealed through analytics.

However, there is one hard fact about the matter: Late night emails don't work. A recent study by Retention Science showed that promotions sent while recipients are asleep account for just 6.5 percent of email conversions. Don't bank on winning customers when they wake up in the morning, either, as only 28.5 percent of conversions happen before noon, while 65 percent occur during the long stretch of hours between afternoon and evening.

Don't email too often
Overly frequent email blasts can make your campaign an annoyance for some customers. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, AWeber Communications' chief marketing officer Erik Harbinson recommended giving recipients an option as to how frequently they'll receive your messages as soon as you acquire their email address. He also noted that when contacts unsubscribe, you can ask them if they'd rather receive your emails less often.

Don't send everyone the same message
Insufficiently personalized messages can foster disinterest in consumers. Entrepreneur Magazine suggested that marketers segment their contacts in their email database at least by geographical location, so that recipients don't get a bad impression of your brand when they receive an email from you offering them a promotion in a city they don't live in.

Campaigner noted that it's essential to personalize the content your emails link to as well.

"Segmentation also applies to your web content as well; you don't want to send a CEO to a landing page that is meant for marketing managers," the source wrote.

Don't copy others' strategies
Your emails can be a highly effective tool for articulating your brand. As such, it's important not to mimic competitors' campaigns, even if they've been successful, as it may prevent you from communicating your company's identity to customers.

Econsultancy suggested marketers observe the competition and learn from their successes and mistakes, rather than simply adopting a strategy because a large firm in the industry has used it.

Don't use spam words
CAN Spam compliance is more than just a set of rules marketers have to follow. If you understand spam filters, the guidelines of the law can help you increase your email campaign's effectiveness.

Email service providers assign senders a spam score, and if the score is too high, your messages will go straight into your contacts' spam folders, Campaigner pointed out. Phrases like "once in a lifetime opportunity" will affect that score, as will using all caps and promising anything for free. The source also reminded marketers that emails with unattractive HTML layouts can be interpreted as spam.

Don't ignore your data
While it's easy to get bogged down in all the information analytics provides you, it remains an essential tool. Econsultancy insisted that personalization based on customer behavior is a reliable strategy in email marketing.

Chris Gore, a data scientist at Retention Science, highlighted how analytics solutions providers like his company can help marketers.

"By leveraging big data we are able to help them deliver the right offers at the right times, thus enabling our customers to not only acquire new customers, but more importantly, retain existing ones," Gore said.

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Software helps email marketers defeat the odds

Software helps email marketers defeat the odds

It's no easy task turning your email marketing list into real customers, although it remains essential to make the effort.

According to a study by Kentico Software, 77 percent of consumers are resistant to unsolicited emails. Furthermore, 36 percent of respondents said they only read about a quarter of the message when they receive an email they signed up for, while only 10 percent read all of it. In fact, a sizeable chunk – 12 percent – said they don't read it at all.

However, when email marketing is effective, the payoff is greater than it is with many other promotional channels. A recent report by Custora showed that nearly 8 percent of all new ecommerce customers acquired in 2013 were gained through email campaigns, while Twitter and Facebook claimed barely 1 percent each. Furthermore, the projected profit companies expected to generate from customers gained through email promotions was 12 percent above the industry average, the study revealed.

Email can't simply be put aside as a promotional channel, and despite the difficulties, most successful marketers find they need to make use of it.

PromotionWorld recently pointed out a few easy methods by which firms can tell if their email marketing efforts aren't taking off. Companies should begin by setting clear goals, the source suggested: Everyone involved in launching an email marketing campaign should be able to clearly articulate the project's end goals, and if they can't, then the team should consider starting over.

Several other points PromotionWorld enunciated make it necessary for marketing teams to employ more sophisticated tools. Marketers need to know if their statistics – click-through rates, open rates and other factors – are worsening or not improving, and they'll also need to segment their targeted email lists and send different messages to customers with different interests, the news source noted. 

Software can help your emails generate results
Luckily for marketers, many software providers offer solutions that make it simpler and easier to monitor these data points. 

Ongage, for example, recently announced a new edition of its email marketing optimization software. Once available only to companies who had adopted cloud computing, the firm has now extended the service to clients who choose to store their data in on-premise servers. The central feature of the software is a front-end dashboard that shows multiple email campaigns' performance data and analyzes that information for the marketer's use, Ongage said.

Meanwhile, Nuraxis has revamped its own email marketing software platform, SendBlaster. The new edition of the service features hundreds of new email templates, some of which have been designed specifically to promote responsiveness by the recipient. It also includes new editing tools for messages and email layout and an easier email unsubscribe feature, easing some marketers' worries about CAN Spam compliance.

Nuraxis' CEO Antonio Demelas emphasized what the new platform has to offer marketers looking to add some sophistication to their approach.

"We made existing features simpler and more intuitive, like improving the message editor and introducing the global unsubscribe and bounce feature, and we have also introduced some new features like Programmable tags that more advanced marketers will definitely enjoy," said Demelas.

St. Louis, Mo.-based firm 1AutomationWiz also announced it would be bolstering its info-publishing software by integrating its email autoresponder platform with the newest edition of Google Analytics. With the company's email automation system now linked to Google's data tools, marketers can track their emails' performance across any information points they choose. Thereby, users can better understand which aspects of their campaigns are most successful and which are simply not working. The new tools also make it easier to conform to anti-spam regulations, the company said, and marketers can hope that better compliance will reinforce the trustworthiness of their emails for recipients.

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