Author Archives: Alec Wilcox

Begin to build more effective email communications by putting the patient first.

Healthcare marketing is all about the personal touch

Healthcare marketing is a difficult field with an exceedingly large amount of important information to be communicated, which, if done incorrectly, can have legal and even medical repercussions. For this reason, many in the sector choose to utilize business email to reach potential patients and leads, as it can offers a space in which medical instructions and full explanations can be offered and consumed at the leisure of the recipient.

Make it personal – and informative      
As healthcare providers know, their field is a deeply personal one. Their products and services can help ease pain, allow people to live fuller lives and sometimes even be the difference between life and death. But how can professionals in the sector communicate this to targeted email lists?

A recent article from Modern Healthcare urged marketers in the field to make an emotional connection, such as including links to videos and social media where patients are telling their stories and connecting with other people. This not only gets a healthcare organization's name out there, it shows potential patients how much a provider really cares about each and every person who walks through its doors. 

"Invite conversation and respond to it," Kim Fox, vice president of healthcare marketing firm Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, explained to the news source. "It's word-of-mouth marketing in a brand new way, using a different kind of tool, and a tool that you can monitor and engage in."

Investment in the channel is increasing          
For the past few years, healthcare organizations have been shifting where they invest their marketing dollars, moving away from traditional media and into new online sources. In fact, citing data from Kantar Media, the news source reports that spending on television ads in the sector fell by 7 percent from $395.3 million to $369.3 million, whereas investments in online media rose by 20 percent to $57.2 million between 2008 and 2009.

However, there is still a lot of room to grow. Recent research from MarketingProfs identified three ways healthcare marketing professionals can begin to revamp their engagement approaches, and they're quite easy: listen, participate and learn. The three steps are about breaking out of a traditional consumer-mindset to begin to build a more personal relationship with patients. Using these three very simple ideas, the source asserted that healthcare organizations can begin to tailor their messages to their patien​ts.

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Is there really a best time to send emails?

Is there really a best day or time to send business emails?

A number of recent studies have attempted to discern the best days and times for businesses to leverage their targeted email lists and send out communications. For example, Mail Chimp analyzed more than a billion emails to conclude that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 2 and 5 p.m. are the optimal times to send business email to promote opens. Similarly, a study from Get Response examined 21 million emails, and identified Thursday to again be the top day for open and click-through rates.

However, is there such a thing as a “best” time or day? A recent article in Business 2 Community contended that these studies miss the point and over generalize, outlining a number of reasons why they are just wrong.

The average isn’t good enough for any business    
The source pointed out that the term “best” is misleading, as these studies don’t necessarily pinpoint the best, they discern the average.

“If you’re lucky, and we seldom are, the research might confine the sample set to a single industry or geography, which would create a more meaningful result set,” the article noted. “So the sample set data is muddy at best because it casts too wide of a net, which the statistics can’t overcome.”

Secondly, the studies assume a level of knowledge and expertise that may not actually be in evidence among these email marketers, Business 2 Community asserted. Likely, the results are a grab bag across all levels, a quality which these studies’ analytics may not be able to take into account.

This feeds into the last reason listed  for taking these reports with a grain of salt. By only looking at send time and date, the research fails to isolate cause and effect.

“To truly understand if one variable is causing a specific outcome (increases in opens/clicks/sales) you have to isolate every other variable. Again, because these studies are simply rollups of email click/open/conversion activity pulled from a broad grouping of email campaigns, this level of rigor simply isn’t possible,” the news source explained.

So when is the best time, then?  
The answer may be for marketers to figure it out on their own. Direct Marketing News suggested with any type of campaign, business should trial messages across days and times. Different segments of consumers will respond accordingly. Whereas one group of recipients may open mail the most on Tuesday afternoons, some companies may actually find greater success with a Saturday morning email blast.

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Salespersons should remember they're writing an email - not a pitch.

Write a sales email – not a sales pitch

Email distribution lists often represent the first chance for sales teams to increase their metrics and monthly bottom lines. But how can they take targeted email lists and leverage them to even greater value?

When writing a sales email, sometimes it's easier and more illustrative to pinpoint what not to do. In a recent article for Inc. magazine, Geoffrey James outlined a few key pitfalls all marketers  should avoid if they hope to be successful.

For one, many companies believe their subject lines are getting them caught by the spam filter. However, James explained that it can just as often be the paragraphs of "densely worded gobbledygook" that ensure firms' emails are never seen.

Emails often end up looking this way when they attempt to accomplish and communicate too much. Rather than educating a prospect about a product or service, heading off any objections and then requesting to set up a meeting to learn more, James suggested businesses keep it simple and undemanding.

"Your initial email doesn't have to convince the prospect to take any action other than just hit REPLY and thereby indicate an interest in learning a bit more," James advised. "You can (and should) wait until subsequent emails to explain details or request a meeting."

The beauty of email, James added, is that it can be a conversation. If individuals have questions, they can very easily contact a company. They do not need to be sold something – consumers want to open up a conversation.

Especially as email continues to prove itself to be a successful marketing tool, businesses will need to ensure their content is as fresh and captivating as possible. One strategy marketers are turning to in order to reach consumers is personalized content.

Tailor email communications with real-time personalization.

Personalize email distribution list communications to boost success

While business emails are no longer considered a "pioneer" in the marketing and communications field, they are still one of the most effective ways for businesses to reach new and old customers, especially when partnered with targeted email lists.

However, one technique more marketers have deployed or are in the process of implementing is real-time content personalization.

A singular communication    
In fact, a recent survey from the Direct Marketing Association found that 77 percent of marketers in the U.S. believe enabling real-time personalization in email messages is a high priority, Business 2 Community reported. But what exactly does this do?

The news source explained that this technique partners demographic information and constructed audience types with custom content. Furthermore, it is precisely timed to reach consumers at moments when they are most likely to open and click. 

"Capitalize on niche emails – less general and more overtly sales-oriented – in order to increase open rates, click-throughs and revenue," Business 2 Community explained. "This includes the development and testing of email headlines, content, design and call-to-actions."

Not an easy accomplishment                 
While this is a high priority for many marketers, it also extremely difficult. Research from MarketingProfs found that 60 percent of marketers said personalizing messages is their top challenge. Marketing effectiveness and responsiveness followed closely behind (57 percent), with improving customer retention (43 percent), harnessing big data (41 percent) and driving revenue through cross- and up-selling (38 percent).

However, the effort may pay off. Of all the real-time marketing channels, email was ranked the highest, with 80 percent of respondents saying the channel is "very important." With such sentiments in mind, it should be no surprise then that 55 percent of marketers already use this strategy, and another 32 percent plan to do so in the near future, according to the study.

BtoB Online highlighted that one of the key benefits of a real-time marketing campaign is that it can strengthen customer relationship management (CRM) and email analytics, thereby making the job of the salesperson that much easier.

"You want to integrate analytics with CRM so the salesperson can see the whole picture – what kind of content they have been looking at – so you can build a better digital profile about your prospects and customers," Tawheed Kader, CEO of ToutApp, told the news source.

By integrating personalization into their marketing efforts, companies can ensure their email distribution lists are that much more tailored.

Brand email marketing messages to gain more clicks.

Boost email marketing list open rates by crafting a story

Email continues to be the digital channel of choice through which businesses of all sizes communicate with their customers. While savvy marketers know the first step to success is acquiring a targeted email distribution list, there are a number of factors in play that influence whether companies make the most of their business emails.

Sharing is caring    
Online messages are a critical channel for allowing consumers to stay informed and up-to-date with what is happening at a company. Be it special events, new developments or even surprise sales, businesses want to subtly persuade readers to learn more about or even purchase a specific item.

One of the key ways to accomplish this is through “clicks,” which occur when a recipient follows a link provided in an email that takes them to the company’s website or another targeted external location. Business​ 2 Community wrote, “Email marketers love clicks,” citing a survey by iContact that found clicks are the top metric used to determine a campaign’s overall success, as it can increase website traffic, produce leads from each visit and result in sales.

Make your recipients fans   
Another tactic often suggested to email marketers is to make sure their communications tell a story. According to ClickZ, this can even be done over time – just consider the example of clothing ecommerce site Bluefly, which used a multi-story arc to improve clicks.

To increase engagement, Bluefly produced a series called “The Traveling Handbag,” which asked for recipients to look through photos of fashion bloggers showing off the same bag and vote for their favorite one, thereby getting a chance to win the product for themselves, the news source explained.

“Because the galleries were rolled out over time, users had added incentive for making repeat visits to Bluefly.com,” ClickZ wrote. “This approach also provided the brand with enough content and creative to justify multiple mailings.”

Consistency is key
Companies will also want to make sure their messaging is in the same tone across marketing platforms. They shouldn’t present a casual, fun tone on social media and then switch to a very dry, professional style for their email communications. This might not only confuse recipients, but it will also disrupt a business’ attempts at creating a unique identity that is easily recognizable for patrons and also helps the brand to stand out from their competitors.

By applying these strategies, firms can help make sure their email contact lists make the right impression.

Even hotels depend on email marketing to fill rooms.

Business emails help hotels reach new guests

The hospitality industry is particularly dependent on the fluctuations of the economy, as tighter pocketbooks can restrict individuals' spending on treats such as trips or nice dinners. While the global marketplace is experiencing noted growth, hotels and restaurants are still relying on timed-tested marketing strategies such business emails to offer new and existing customers deals and information.

Email marketing messages are here to stay     
Targeted email lists have proven to be viable methods for acquiring new customers, as well as turning them into repeat visitors. EyeforTravel's recent report, "Social Media and Mobile in Travel Distribution 2013," found that email is not only still an effective channel for reaching travelers, but is actually growing in popularity.

However, this growth hasn't been spurred solely by a belief in the efficacy of the medium - rather​, the growth in mobile device use for every task from shopping to opening and responding to emails is boosting open and click rates, the research asserts. In fact, it revealed that 38 percent of emails are accessed via mobile devices, while 33 percent are opened using a desktop computer.

"Unless you are booking.com or Expedia … email consistently remains the best way to drive traffic to your site," Tom Valentine, managing director of flash sales site Secret Escapes, told Hospitality Net. "We are very excited by the notifications you can get for mobile apps and the majority of emails are opened on mobile."

Transforming an email list into a targeted system      
Once an initial communication has been sent out to an email distribution list and recipients have signed up to get future messages, hotels and others in the hospitality sector can start tracking their clicks to create even more tailored advertisements and offers, Hospitality Net wrote.

For example, Valentine explained to the source that when Secret Escapes notices a customer is largely looking at weekend travel, it will send emails advertising nearby getaways that are both interesting to the consumer as well as consistent with the company's overall business goals, the news source reported. And as recipients interact more with marketing emails, the easier this will become for firms.

To get to this point, though, marketers need to send an initial email that hooks first-time recipients, rather than annoying them. One strategy some companies employ is delivering a first communication asking individuals to sign up to continue getting special offers, discounts and information.

Segment consumers to better connect with them.

How can customer life cycle drive email messages?

Regardless of the industry, monitoring email marketing lists is critical to spurring product engagement and maintaining – if not improving – revenues. Yet as technologies continue to change and consumers’ expectations and desires develop alongside them, organizations may start to feel as if they’re continually trying to keep pace with the Joneses.

Fortunately, email as a marketing channel has remained one of the most effective ways of interacting with customers and strengthening relationships. While Facebook and Twitter may be comparatively new and popular, they have yet to demonstrate the same effectiveness as the inbox. That being said, some emails are inherently more successful than others, and to get the most out of their email distribution lists, companies may want to take note of these best practices.

Engage current customers with dynamic content and offers   
One mistake companies often make is taking their shoppers for granted, especially if consumers have a long purchasing history with the business. Writing off customers or just assuming they will continue patronizing a particular firm regardless of receiving updates, information or savings is a foolish and costly mistake, especially when there are so many options for email communications.

Many companies use business email as a way to keep active customers in the loop of industry trends and news, Marketing Profs explained in a recent article. While these messages allow recipients to feel engaged with firms, they can also serve the double purpose of positioning companies at the head of their fields in terms of innovation, price or quality.

Additionally, businesses can target specific emails to their VIPs. “Segment out VIPs that fit the 80/20 rule (the 20 percent that drive 80 percent of revenue) and provide them with personalized email offers,” the news source explained. This allows those customers who are most loyal to know that their business is noticed and valued.

Attract prospects to transform them into clients   
However, as important as existing customers are, companies are continually focused on growing their consumer base to fuel business expansion and protect against possible losses.

The news source characterizes prospects as “pre-customers.” These are individuals who need to be persuaded to learn more about an enterprise and its offerings by opting in to an email list. But once they begin receiving business emails, how can companies transition them from readers to shoppers?

Many firms begin not by sending information on their products, but instead offering newsletters about relevant items or activities. Marketing Profs offered the example of an individual who may be interested in golfing – while he or she may not be prepared to buy a full set golf clubs, he or she may like to learn about courses or events in their community. Sign-ups for such communications can be offered on a company’s website or other media, such as Facebook or Twitter.

“Provide information that is useful and engaging while unobtrusively offering your product’s value proposition,” Marketing Profs explained. “You need to stand in the customer’s shoes and truthfully judge whether you would read your own newsletter content.”

Adopting these tips can help businesses approach their email marketing databases in a more holistic and customer-centric fashion, which is especially critical when considering that the effectiveness of the marketing medium is only continuing to grow.

According to the Q1 2013 Email Trends and Benchmarks Report from Epsilon and the Email Institute, the average email open rate across sectors is 31.1 percent, which is a significant increase from Q4 2012, when messages were read 27.4 percent of the time. The Q1 2013 open rate was the highest since Q3 2006, ClickZ reported.

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Tailored-email-subject-lines-can-take-an-email-list-to-the-next-level-of-success_1294_489465_0_14086928_600

Boost email marketing list efficacy with targeted subject lines

The channels through which companies and marketers can reach consumers are rapidly expanding. However, despite the current focus on social media tools, business email remains one of the more effective mediums through which companies can speak to customers and advocate for their products and services.

First impressions matter
As many email marketing tips will acknowledge, there are specific components of any online mailing strategy that will boost the chances of a company’s message being opened and acted upon.

In fact, a recent report from MailerMailer highlighted the importance of engaging subject lines and personalization. Personalization of email subject lines spurred an 8.8 percent increase in open rates over last year, while short subject lines also garnered high open and click rates, with those communicating special offers or time sensitivity found to be the most successful. These included words like “free,” “sale” and “coupon,” alongside “tonight,” “weekend” and “today.”

“Subject lines are not the means by which you will sell your product. Instead, a subject line’s purpose is to engage your customer,” Peter Geisheker explained in a piece for Business2Community. “You want them to become interested in what the rest of your email will say on the subject you present. Your subject line should not be too obvious in its goal or too obscure that it generates little to no interest.”

As the study’s figures demonstrate, it’s important to also create a sense of urgency in subject lines. This psychological trigger will help firms get more clicks by making consumers feel they have no choice but to read the message immediately or miss out.

However, if marketers are running into problems developing quick and catchy subject lines that appeal to their customers, they may want to revisit the messages and identify how they can be better tailored for consumers. This may involve taking a step back and conducting market research to answer who a firm’s main customers are, how to please them, how to attract new consumers and how they use their email inboxes.

“People go to their email’s inbox to get rid of things they do not need, and sort through their email leaving only what is either interesting or important,” Geisheker asserted. “If you give your subject line a monetary or emotional value … your email has a far greater chance of being kept as being important and read.”

By applying these tips, companies can help make their targeted email lists even more effective in spurring business.

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