Author Archives: Max Zaron

How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Sales Slump

Photo By: Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr)

Get your customers thinking about the next important shopping day to avoid the after-holiday sales slump.

How to Avoid the Post-Holiday Sales Slump

Pre-holiday sales numbers can be very exciting for retail businesses; post-holiday sales numbers… not so much! You might be throwing your hands up in the air every January, wondering how you and your sales staff can keep people spending money after their holiday shopping sprees. There are many ways to encourage your customers to keep spending money and avoid the annual post-holiday sales slump.

Segment Your Sales Data

Now is the perfect time to review what your current customers are purchasing from you and encourage them to continue spending money after the holidays. Take your sales data and segment it as you would your marketing data. Lump your customers into groups based upon their purchases and send them either a targeted email and/or mailer encouraging them to make additional purchases based upon their sales history. Of course your customers need the latest and greatest accessory to complement their most recent purchase. They just don’t know that if you don’t tell them about it!

Send Coupons Too

While you’re at it, make sure to send a coupon for that latest and greatest accessory, and make the coupon as good as you possibly can. Your customers are sitting at their computers as we speak, looking at their bank accounts with their heads in their hands. How on earth did they spend that much money over the holidays? You aren’t going to get the sale if you don’t tempt them beyond their wildest imagination. So send the coupon for the accessory and make them an offer they cannot refuse.

Switch Things Up a Little Bit

Are your customers still not biting no matter how tempting a deal you make? Okay, they’re over the holidays; after all, they’ve been hearing about them since before Halloween. We are never satisfied. We want summer to come because we’re sick of spring; we want fall to come because it’s too hot in the summer. Why can’t it be winter yet? It’s too cold! When is spring coming? You know exactly what I’m talking about, so if the sales segmentation and coupons aren’t working, move ahead to spring and tempt your customers with sales items sure to take them out of the winter blues and into the excitement of warmer weather and spring showers.

Switch up Your Stock Too

While you’re removing the visions of sugarplums out of your customer’s heads and putting in the visions of spring training and the Boston Red Sox winning another world series… of course I went there! Do some spring-cleaning, get rid of the holiday stock, and design new displays – brick and mortar and/or virtual – showing your customers the new items you’re offering. Send out emails and/or mailers, too, picturing your new stock to give your customers a reason to get excited about something other than all of the holiday items of which they have been over-stimulated.

Make Your Presence Known

As important as segmenting, targeting, and reaching out to your current customers is, do not just sit behind your sales numbers and hide. Get out into your community and make your business’s presence known. I cannot stress enough how important networking it. This is one marketing tool no business should ignore, no matter how big or small you are. Get out there! Meet people! Sponsor events, local sports team, have your own events… whatever it takes to get your business name involved in your community. If you build a community presence, they will come!

Have a Contest

While you’re making your presence known, throw a fun contest to entice people in your community to walk through your doors. If your business is strictly online, all the more reason to hold a contest on your Facebook page or other social networking pages. People love contests; they love to win things. Plus, they’ve just spent a ton of time and money on other people and they’re going to want to do something for themselves. Hold a contest to bring your current and potential customers into your business and get them spending money after the holidays!

7 New Years Resolutions for Businesses

PHOTO: / Photo By: Mathias Erhart (Flickr)

Ring in your business’s New Year with some fiery resolutions sure to be profitable.

7 New Year’s Resolutions for Businesses

When it comes to business, your New Year’s resolutions aren’t going to be losing weight or quitting smoking. They could be exercising more, however. Exercising your business’s market outreach and position within your community, that is. The New Year is the perfect time to re-evaluate your business and make some resolutions to ensure that you ring in a profitable New Year. Here are some resolutions for you to consider.

Resolution #1: Start an e-Newsletter

If you aren’t already sending a regular e-newsletter to your potential and existing clients, start doing so. If there is one facet of email marketing of which I am truly a fan, it is e-newsletters. These are the perfect marketing tool to establish a human connection with your customers by letting them know what’s going on with your company and your employees. E-newsletters are also the perfect way to solicit new business. You can use them in your email marketing campaigns to try to lure people away from your competitors and through your cyber or brick-and-mortar doors. How do you do this? Again, by sending a brief, but fun e-newsletter allowing people to connect your company with the faces that make it the success that it is.

Resolution #2: Increase Your Community Presence

While you’re setting up your e-newsletter outreach campaign, get out there and get involved in your community, as well. Sure, people can get to know you through an engaging newsletter, but they’ll get to know you even better if your company has a local presence that can be seen offline. Make certain your business is registered with your local Chamber of Commerce, but don’t stop there. Get involved with your local charities, sponsoring events and volunteering to spread the word that your company cares. Get involved with local sports teams, as well, including little league and middle and high school teams. Again, this shows the parents of the athletes that you are an active member of their community and take an interest in what’s going on. This is sure to get people through your business doors.

Resolution #3: Touch Base with Your Employees

The New Year is the perfect time to reconnect with your employees. Your employees are your business’s bread and butter, and if you think otherwise, your fourth New Year’s business resolution should be to get therapy! Take time out of your busy schedule and touch base with each of your employees. If you can afford it, take each one to lunch individually. Find out what’s going on inside their mind, what their business goals are for the New Year, and what you can do to ensure they achieve them. You’d be surprised how this simple gesture will make your employees happier and more productive. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Resolution #4: Clean House

I don’t mean literally clean your business space, and I don’t mean fire a bunch of your staff either –unless you really need to, I guess. I mean clean your cyber house. If you haven’t already, New Year’s is the perfect time to invest in an offsite cloud storage space to back up your company’s electronic files. You need to ensure your company’s data is properly backed up at all times, especially in the winter if you do business in inclement areas where power outages and other weather-related issues are prevalent. There is nothing worse than losing everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve, and that includes losing your electronic data. Clean your data house, including your inbox, and get everything backed-up to a secure outside server. This ensures the data is safe should something happen to your in-house equipment.

Resolution #5: Take a Look at Last Year’s Mistakes… and Move On

I could’ve made this resolution to set your annual business goals, but… um… everybody knows that! Instead, while you’re setting your game plan for the year, take a look at what didn’t work the previous year and – drum roll, please – learn from it! What did your company do last year that failed miserably? More importantly, why did it fail? Until you can determine what doesn’t work, you just might keep spinning your wheels with marketing campaigns and business strategies that don’t work. Instead, learn from your mistakes and retool your campaigns and strategies to avoid making them again in the New Year. You just might find that your past mistakes are the springboard for your future business successes.

Resolution #6: Do Something Fun Each Month

Who says that work can’t be fun? Part of creating a positive working environment is engaging with your employees and allowing them to engage with each other. Company fun shouldn’t be left to just the annual holiday party. Why not have a monthly – whatever – where everyone, and their families, can get together and just chill? Perhaps a company potluck luncheon, or maybe take the afternoon off and go bowling. Have a business sports team. During the summer months, a company picnic at the park costs you nothing, especially if each employee’s family brings their own food. Downtime is equally important as uptime, and a group of people who work and play well together make for a cohesive group of people set on achieving the same business goals.

Resolution #7: Write an e-Book

You own a business because you’re an expert in what you do, so why not write an e-book to show potential and current customers how much you know your stuff. It doesn’t have to be a 300-page novel. It can be something short and sweet, strutting your business knowledge in your particular industry. You can generate additional profit on the side if you decide to sell your e-book, or you can use it as a marketing tool by providing access to the e-book at no charge. Another perfect way to market your business is combine Resolution #1 with this one. Purchase a new email list of potential clients and instead of sending them an e-newsletter send them your e-book!

Do’s and Don’ts for Using an Auto-Responder

Photo By: Danard Vincente (Flickr)

Email auto responders are an important business tool… as long as you’re using it correctly!

Dos and Don’ts for Using an Auto-Responder

You know them well; we all use them: email auto responders. They’re an incredibly handy tool for any businessperson, unless you annoy the heck out of your recipients with them! The concept of an email auto responder is a great one; you need to let your clients know why you haven’t responded to their email. Clients get annoyed when they receive an email auto response, however, because they want your reply to their email right away. It’s a double-edged sword, so here are dos and don’ts to soften the email auto responder blow.

DO: Explain Why Your Customer is Receiving an Auto Response. It bears repeating. Your customers are going to be slightly annoyed to really ticked off that they are receiving an auto response to their email. You deserve a vacation, especially around the holidays, but customers don’t always see that. They want your attention and they want it now! So, make certain that you explain to your customers why they are receiving the computer-generated reply. If you’re going on vacation, tell them; if you’re on a business trip, tell them; if you’ve given up email for lent, tell them! Most customers are reasonable, and if they know why you can’t give them your undivided attention at that particular moment, they’ll simmer down and be patient… but only if you do the next do.

DO: Include the Dates You are Out of the Office. You’ve simmered down your customers by letting them know that you’re on a much-needed vacation, but you also need to say how long you’re going to be gone. This is important for two reasons. First, your customers are simply going to want to know, whether it’s their business or not. Second, your customers need to know when you’re returning so they can assess whether they can wait for you to address their concern, or if they should contact somebody else within your company. Oh, and third, it’s polite – plain and simple. Include the dates you are going to be out of the office in your auto response email.

DO: Include Alternate Contacts. So, let’s assume for a moment that you are going to be gone for an extended period of time and your number one client needs something addressed prior to your return date. This will be a disaster if you don’t include an alternate person who your customers can contact during your away time. You’ve most likely delegated some of your responsibilities to various colleagues anyway; make certain that you also designate a person in your absence to aid your customers who cannot wait until you return. Include your alternate contact’s email address and phone number(s).

DO: Say It All Concisely. I harp on this all the time but don’t write War and Peace in your out of office auto response. Remember, your customers are mad you aren’t in to help them, don’t make them see red – unless it’s Red Sox red! – by writing a four paragraph diatribe on why you aren’t around! People rarely read past the first few lines of an email, so keep your auto response reply brief and to the point. You’re out of the office from x-date to y-date on a business trip; contact such-and-such at email/phone if the need is immediate; otherwise, you’ll respond within x-amount of hours upon your return. Boom! Done!

DON’T: Use a Vague Return Response Timeframe. I love it when I manage to write a good segue into my blog posts, and I did it here! You’ll notice the last line of my sample auto response above gave an anticipated time your customer can expect a return response. This is important, because your customers know when you’re returning to the office and they’ll automatically expect your response to be the minute you get in on your return date… not always realistic! Don’t further annoy your customers by saying you’ll get back to them within 24 hours. Give them specifics. If you’re returning on Jan. 2 and plan to reply to all of your emails that day, tell them you’ll reply by business day’s end Jan. 2… and then make sure you do it!

DON’T: Use Generic and Annoying Verbiage. Thank you for your email… I am currently out of the office… I am unable to respond to your email right now… ugh! What’s wrong with these statements? Let me tell you. Thank you for your email, or any derivative of that, wastes space and is even insulting in some cases. If a customer just went off on you in his or her email, he or she is not going to want to receive a “thank you note.” What’s wrong with the other statements and derivatives of them? Thank you, Caption Obvious. Your customer just received an auto reply. Enough said!

DON’T: Respond to Your Emails While You’re Out of the Office. It might be tempting to just handle a few emails while you’re in the airport waiting for your flight or sitting in your hotel room waiting for your significant other to get ready for dinner, but don’t. Why? It’ll save you time when you get back to work! That’s your favorite client and you really want to keep him or her happy! Because your customer might reply to your reply and, guess what, get another auto response email. Don’t forget, you’ve got your auto responder turned on, so every time you get a new email, it’s going to send out auto response.

DON’T: Forget to Turn the Auto Response Off. Another segue! Whoop! Whoop! And when you get back into the office, grumbling because you had a wonderful time and don’t want to go back to work, do not, whatever you do, forget to turn off your auto responder. It might be tempting to leave it on for a couple of days while you get caught up, or you might genuinely forget it’s on, but do whatever it takes to remind yourself to turn it off the minute you turn on your computer. Your customers know you’re back and they’re going to get really angry if they get an auto response two days after your return.

jimjoseph

An Interview with Marketing Guru Jim Joseph

One of my favorite parts about being in the marketing industry is how many great people you get to meet. Although I haven’t had the pleasure to meet Jim Joseph, I have been following his career, blog, tweets and articles on Entrepreneur.com for a while now. He is one of those people you think you have known for years. He is knowledgeable, relatable and one of the hardest workers I know. It was honor to have him answer some of my questions!

How do you balance your career as an NYU Professor, contributor for Entrepreneur, author of an award-winning book series and President of Cohn & Wolfe?

I actually get asked this all the time! For me, it all works together. Writing and teaching keeps me on the pulse of what’s going on in the marketplace which only makes me better at my day job. It’s also super helpful with recruiting and new business to have a voice in the industry so it all feeds upon each other. Plus I get up insanely early every morning and write like the devil before I go to the gym!

What brand do you think takes marketing to the next level?

I constantly highlight Starbucks as a brand that takes it to the next level both in terms of its product marketing as well as its brand marketing, which are two distinct streams for them. You can consume the brand in entirely distinct ways from the products which from an industry standpoint is inspiring. The brand has risen to an emotional space in people’s minds, becoming a beacon in communities and tackling social issues. Whether you drink coffee or not.

Your recent blog post on prank-vertising and viral videos was very interesting. Do you think some brands are pushing the envelope too far?

The only way to know if a brand has pushed too far is to read consumer reaction and measure results. Many are offended by putting consumers in precarious positions and then filming it, which I understand. It gets people talking though, which isn’t so bad as long as it results in sales; although, honestly, I’ve always tried not to offend in the process.

What made you want to enter the world of marketing?

I knew as a kid that I wanted to be in marketing, although clearly it took some time to figure out what it meant. I’ve always been more fascinated by the TV spots than the actual programming and the print ads more so than the articles. I always wanted to know how they knew to put it all together. I guess it all started when Farrah Fawcett did the “and I told two friends” commercial….

How do you think social media has changed the world of marketing for brands?

Social media made marketing a multidimensional relationship. Suddenly on a mass scale we hear what our consumers are thinking and that influences other consumers. Consumers can take control of a brand and brands are embracing that. It’s made it all so much more engaging as the lines of marketing disciplines have completely blurred. And from a personal perspective, I feel like social media has connected those of us in the industry beyond what an occasional conference could do back in the day.

Thank you, Jim Joseph for answering my questions and sharing your knowledge with our blog. It has been a pleasure!
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Blogger

The Best Email Marketing Blogs You Should Start Reading Today

Bloggers and the blogs they write can be a wonderful resource of information for business owners!

The Best Email Marketing Blogs You Should Start Reading Today

The best email marketing blog that you should start reading today is mine! Oh, wait. You are reading it! Well, I’m biased and mine is the best, but I’m also professional, so let me refer you to some other knowledgeable bloggers. You might be wondering why I’m doing this, and my reasoning is simple: My goal since the beginning of my blog has been to teach you all there is to know about email marketing, and these bloggers can help you out to!

Special Databases

Of course I want you reading my blog and the other contributors’ blog posts on our Special Databases website blog first. The reason why we are the best is two-fold. One, we are all experts in what we do and what we blog about. Two, we’re experts in email marketing and we have the email address databases for your business to prove it! You see, we can tell you how to design the perfect email marketing campaign and then give you the email addresses to send it to!

Constant Contact

Constant Contact has a marketing blog that covers email and many other facets of your business marketing needs just as the Special Databases blog does. Constant Contact’s posts are informative, fun, and provide a good read for any business owner looking to extend his or her social networking marketing reach knowledge. Constant Contact has been in business since 1998, and its blog is one that is definitely worth checking out.

Duct Tape Marketing

Written by marketing expert John Jantsch, as well as several guest bloggers, Duct Tape Marketing’s blog is another must-read, especially for small business owners. Duct Tape Marketing’s posts cover a variety of small business and marketing solutions, including business start-up topics and email marketing tips. This informative blog has a wide variety of posts covering numerous topics, so readers never tire of what the Duct Tape Marketing bloggers have to say.

Email Institute

Email Institute’s mission is to teach email marketers the best practices in the business. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, email marketing is regulated by the federal government. The Email Institute blog covers all there is to learn about email marketing the right way, and the best practices your business can put into place with your email marketing campaign. If you have a question about the appropriateness of your email campaign practices, you’ll probably find your answer in this blog.

Email Marketing Rules

Another email marketing blog dedicated to conducting email marketing campaigns the right way is the Email Marketing Rules blog. Written by Chad White, Email Marketing Rules gets down to the nitty-gritty of email marketing, including informative blog posts about birthday marketing campaigns and how to grow your email audience. White’s approach provides informative and easy-to-read content, making this email blog worth your time.

Litmus

The Litmus blog takes a more technical approach to email marketing and often gives readers tips on the importance of email marketing testing and tracking marketing results. The Litmus team is dedicated to full-proof email marketing techniques confirmed by testing first. Reading this blog is a must for any small business owner, because it provides some comprehensive information about the technical part of email marketing, including HTML programming and campaign results.

Vertical Response

Dedicated to helping small businesses everywhere, the Vertical Response VR Marketing blog is another all-encompassing read. Bloggers for Vertical Response discuss everything you need to know about business, including email marketing. Other blog topics include business social networking, small business management tips, and even some interview tips for job seekers out there. Add the VR Marketing blog to your reading repertoire for an all-around business education experience.

Special Databases

Okay, I’m just messing with you! Yes, I put our blog first on the list, but I’m going to mention it again because our blog, too, covers a wide variety of business topics designed to aid in your business marketing needs. Our experts know their stuff and, hey, our blog posts are a lot of fun because we’re a lot fun. I encourage reading the blogs I’ve mentioned in this blog post, but I also encourage staying on top of our posts as well. If we don’t cover a topic you need, give us a shout! We’ll see what we can do. And, don’t forget to contact us for your emailing list needs. We’ve got the emails lists that you need to expand your business customer base!

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emaildesign

6 Email Design Rules You Should Follow

Face it. You simply cannot have a business today without establishing your brand on the World Wide Web. There are many ways to get the word out about your business in cyberspace, and they are not all created equal, contrary to popular belief. You must differentiate between your marketing mediums online, just as you differentiate your offline campaigns; your windshield flyers are different from your newspaper ads, for example. Let’s talk today about your email marketing campaign, and some important design tips exclusive to this marketing medium.

Some No-No Design Rules

Email is a tricky beast, and there is a lot that can go wrong with an email marketing campaign once it’s sent. You might be looking at a perfectly designed email on your end, but who knows what your recipient is going to see when he or she opens the email on the other side. Many things can turn a perfect email into a perfect nightmare. Here are three things to avoid when designing your email:

  1. It’s tempting to create a graphically enhanced email using JavaScript or some other interactive programming, but chances are the nifty email you’re looking at won’t translate over your recipient’s email client. Your recipient might open up your email and see zilch, because his or her email client removed the JavaScript coding for safety’s sake. Avoid using coding other than HTML; otherwise, your email might be blank or misaligned upon opening.
  2. If you’re overloading your recipients with critical information – perhaps you’ve just revised your five-page privacy policy and you’re sending the new one out – don’t make them fish for the information they want to read. Many senders think including a linked table of contents in an email is a step that should be avoided, and nothing could be further from the truth. Linked TOCs should be included in emails packed with information, so your recipients can click immediately to what they want to read.
  3. Never be shy. If you think adding a call to action to your email makes it too “sales-pitchy” or pushy, you’re making a huge mistake. No, you don’t want to assault your recipient’s eyes with a giant, flashing red banner screaming at them to “CLICK HERE!!!” when they open your correspondence. You recipient, however, doesn’t want to have to go onto the Internet, navigate to your Web page, and then navigate again to your sales page. Help them avoid these steps by giving them easy access calls to action at the top of your email to take them directly where you want them to go.

Some Yes Design Rules

We’ve gone over some things that you shouldn’t do, now let’s go over some things that you should do when designing your perfect marketing email. Keep in mind the number one no-no above while reading these three tips: Use HTML coding when designing your e-correspondence. There are a few other tricks to use that ensure your email makes it into your customer’s inbox and looks how you sent it – for the most part. Three things to keep in mind are:

  1. If you have too many pictures or too much text, your email is going to be tagged as spam and dumped into cyber no-man’s-land. To avoid this from happening, create a balance between your email’s text and images. Make certain your text-to-image ratios are as equal as possible to avoid your email being tossed into the spam black hole.
  2. Speaking of images, you know when you open an email and all you see are boxes with a red “X” in them? That is so annoying. The problem is you can never guarantee that this isn’t going to happen. Chances are your recipient’s email client is going to replace your images with empty, red “X” boxes and prompt the reader to download the images separately. Therefore, always keep the important stuff in your marketing email within the text – don’t embed it in the image. Your recipient can’t read it if it’s an empty, red “X” box.
  3. You have to properly code your images, too, even if they don’t show up on the other side. If you’ve built your email’s text around the images, everything is going to be thrown off if the images don’t automatically download and display. When coding your HTML for your images, make sure you include each image’s height, width, and alt attributes. This will make certain your empty, red “X” box is the same size as your image and keep your text in place.

So, what is the reward for all of your efforts in designing the perfect email? Keeping your email subscriber list engaged in what you are saying and what your business is doing. Your emails will receive two reactions once they hit your customer’s inbox: One, a grunt of disgust and immediate “Trash” click, two, a bounce of excitement and immediate “Read’ click. I don’t have to spell this out for you, but you want reaction number two, so take the time to design emails sure to keep your subscribers happy and in the loop.

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pinterest

How To Grow Your Business with Pinterest

Of all the social networking tools on the Web businesses can use , I think Pinterest is the most fascinating. Pinterest is a sharing website where you can build an interest in your business by “pinning” things to a virtual board. Pinterest boards allow for all sorts of media, including video and photos. Pinterest also allows those following your boards to “repin” your stuff elsewhere, increasing your business’s following with zero effort. Many businesses are wary of using Pinterest, as it is sometimes construed as too informal of a social media resource for professionals. Kick that thought out of your head, and let’s talk about how you can use Pinterest to grow your business.

Use Pinterest to Educate Your Followers

Because of its formatting and media capabilities, Pinterest is a great tool to educate your audience. People are taking an interest in your business if they’ve landed on your Pinterest board, so pin educational videos, posts, or other Pinterest boards to your board to give the viewer important information about who you are and what you do. For example, if you own a landscaping business, pinning gardening tips and the plant-life best suited for your area’s hardiness zone is a great way to show your followers that you have the best green thumb in the county. Build some “how to” boards, and tell your readers things about your business they would not know. Share other helpful pins from people in your industry. Show off a little without being arrogant; it’ll get you positive attention, rave reviews, and shared pins.

Sharing and Caring

Speaking of sharing pins, another important tool Pinterest allows for is sharing website content amongst followers. Much like re-tweeting in Twitter, people can link other people to your Web page and Pinterest boards by joining group boards and pinning your information there. This is beneficial to both parties, as you get more followers by default and so does the person pinning your information – kind of like a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” arrangement. The only downside to group boards is you do want to make certain the person pinning your company information is legitimate and qualified. If he or she is a teenager who has a Pinterest board on “how to throw the ultimate party without your parents finding out,” you’ve just lost a ton of credibility with your potential customers.

Use Pinterest to Get People on Your Web Page

According to social media expert Beth Hayden, more people end up on a company’s website from Pinterest, than from Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. This does not mean you shouldn’t utilize those social networking tools as well, you should, but you shouldn’t ignore the power of Pinterest in your overall marketing strategy either. If you create some swanky, informative boards, complete with photos and educational information to boot, people are going to repin them to their Pinterest boards and, voila! Instant marketing! Just add something worth repining and wait! Potential customers will click through to your website from the Pinterest board.

Build Interesting Boards

And this, my friends, is the key to growing your business by using Pinterest . You need to build boards that grab people’s attention, tell them something they didn’t know, and include photos and videos sure to go viral. The nice thing about Pinterest is you can get a little more personal with this social media tool without telling everyone your life story – something you never want to do in business. Using the landscaping example, hire a photographer to take amazing photos of your favorite projects; hire a videographer to tape you working. Get personal, without getting too personal. Give your followers imagery along with words to create an interesting board worth repining. Every time somebody repins your board, it is one more person putting your company name, website, and information out there. And, if that person has millions of followers, you just got millions of potential customers!

As you can see, Pinterest is a powerful social networking tool . Don’t make the mistake many other businesses are making by ignoring this unique website. Build boards that tell potential customers you know your stuff, and make them exciting enough that people will repin them to their boards. An old Faberge shampoo commercial comes to mind as I wrap up this blog post: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on…”
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email marketing campaign

How to Create A Successful E-Mail Marketing Campaign

If you’re following my blog – and I hope you are – you’re seeing a pretty obvious pattern. I’m an expert in marketing and I’ve been writing a lot about email marketing and social networking. You already know the reason why. Marketing for any-sized business has changed drastically over the last decade, and if you don’t have an online presence, you aren’t competitive. What might surprise you, however, is having a Facebook page still isn’t as effective as a successful email marketing campaign, despite all the fuss over Zuckerberg and his multi-billion dollar empire. So, how do you harness the magic of this marketing dynamo ? Don’t worry, I’m about to tell you!

Perform Your Demographic Research

Many businesses make the mistake of simply sending generic emails out to everyone on their address list. It doesn’t matter who the people are or what their interest in the business might be; this is a major boo-boo that you must avoid. Email is not a marketing “easy way out.” You can’t avoid performing your demographic research just because you’re emailing people and not using some other marketing strategy. You need to determine who your customer is – even when emailing – and then email them. If you simply bombard 1,000 generic inboxes, you’ll probably get tagged as a spammer and, worse, you’ll probably email a ton of people who could care less about your business. They aren’t even going to read your subject line. They’re going to hit the “Spam” button or “Unsubscribe” link immediately. Do your demographic research and determine who is best suited and who wants to hear from you.

Understand Your Email Audience

Once you’ve done your homework and you know you are emailing to people best suited to receive your solicitation, take a moment to “get to know” them personally. Who are you emailing to and how did you get their email address in the first place? These are important questions that you want to ask before you even think about writing your email. Customers who have opted in to receiving your emails as they checked out of your online store are going to be interested in sales solicitations. Customers who signed up on the paper list you have at your brick-and-mortar checkout counter also want to know what you have on sale. Customers who signed up to receive emails from your trade show booth, or who subscribe to your blog or social media pages, want to know about your business. Make the distinction before crafting your solicitation. Oh, and one more thing, don’t send a sassy email filled with instant messaging slang to an email list of 55-plussers… SO NOT going to make a good impression! Understand who your audience is and be playful where appropriate and professional where appropriate .

Write the Email Toward the Audience

Let’s talk about that last point a little bit further. Sometimes it’s okay to be fun, playful, a bit unprofessional – a LITTLE BIT – other times it’s definitely not. You should never be completely unprofessional – ever – but as you’ve seen in some my blog posts, it’s okay to have a little fun. But, overall, you do need to remain professional while still writing your email toward the audience you just familiarized yourself with. Aside from just knowing what they want to hear about, think about the best way to present it. Speak your audience’s language when writing the email. If you are a skateboard retailer, there is a specific slang you must know; if you are a fine china distributor, you’re going to be very formal. Make certain the tone and verbiage of your email speaks directly to your intended audience .

Don’t Forget the Email Marketing Basics

I’ve written about this stuff in the past, so check out my previous blogs for more detail, but keep in mind the following after you’ve come to a complete understanding of who you are marketing to. Remember to:

  • Write a subject line that will get your recipient’s attention.
  • Keep your email concise and to the point – don’t waste people’s time with a long-winded correspondence.
  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly and grammatically correct – don’t give a bad impression.
  • Use graphics and photos to enhance your email’s impact.
  • Include links and buttons that call your recipients to take action, especially links to any sales pages, your website, and social networking pages.
  • Include coupons or other incentives to spur customer action, as well.
  • Make your customer feel as if you are speaking directly to him or her and as if they are a king or queen.

This is not as hard as it may seem, so don’t avoid using this extremely important and effective marketing tool. And, hey, if after all of this you still feel like a duck out of water, do the one thing that will be sure to get you results: Ask your customers what they want. Ask them what they want you to email them about and how often they want to receive emails from you. If you do that, you’re sure to create email marketing campaigns that return profits instead of “Unsubscribe” hits.
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email marketing secrets

The 10 Best Kept Email Marketing Secrets

One of the biggest mistakes most business owners make is not placing enough emphasis on email marketing. I would venture to guess that the primary reason people are reticent to dive into an email marketing campaign is the “spam” stigma attached to it. I’m not going to talk about spam in this post; we’ve gone over it extensively in posts past. I am going to give you some best-kept email marketing secrets, however, because you really do need to include emailing in your marketing repertoire. Customers prefer email to any other channel when it comes to giving you permission to market to them.

Sign-up Logistics

Ah! But that is the key. You need to have your customers’ permission to send them email-marketing material, so make sure you get it – easily. It doesn’t matter if you have an online business, a brick-and-mortar store, or both, you need to ensure your email mailing list sign-up process is a piece of cake; otherwise your customers aren’t going to bother. Have a mailing list sign-up sheet with plenty of pens at your store checkouts, and train your staff to ask customers if they’d like to receive “special deals” via email – see how I just enticed your customer to sign up? Special deals! Make sure your website also offers easy access to sign up for your emailing list; a non-intrusive pop-up sign-up form is a good idea.

Your Sign-up Form

So, let’s talk about this non-intrusive sign-up form for just a second. One thing I’ve been preaching from blog post number one is to keep things basic – a little goes a long way, and this is true with your electronic email sign-up form, too. Save your sales pitch for your emails; don’t clutter your sign-up form with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo your customer doesn’t need to read to simply sign up for your emailing list. Keep it simple by asking for your customer’s name – only insist upon the first name, many people don’t like to include their last name – email address, and include links to your social networking pages so your customer can sign up for those at the same time.

Get Excited About Them Signing Up

I’ve written a blog post on this but it bears repeating. If your customers sign up for your emailing list and you don’t send them a new subscriber thank you email within 24 hours, you’ve just lost their interest… and it’s just plain rude. The power of common courtesy has not fallen by the wayside, contrary to popular belief, and you need to thank your customers for their interest in your business. While you’re at it, give them a bonus in your thank you email to get them shopping right away.

Once They’ve Signed Up… Think Mobile!

I’ve given a few secret tips to get your customer’s to sign up for your email marketing campaigns and now that they’ve signed up you need to think mobile. Recent studies confirm that most people read their emails on their mobile devices; I know I have my nose in front of mine 24/7, much to my wife’s dismay. So, when you begin formatting your marketing emails, you need to keep mobile devices in mind. A couple of things to help you out are to keep your email margins left aligned and use links instead of buttons. Both show up better on smartphones and tablets.

Get Personal

While you’re personalizing your emails to your customer’s devices, personalize the actual emails too. Take a moment to learn more about your customers and what they purchase from you, and then make certain your marketing campaign addresses that… directly… to them. For example, if you’re running a pet supply business, you definitely do not want to send dog supply coupons to cat owners and vice versa. Customize your marketing emails to each customer and you’ll get better results.

Make Certain Your Emails Get Opened

Picture this, in today’s world of cyber-insecurity you get an email in your inbox that doesn’t identify who it’s from. It just says “do-not-reply@CompanyName.com.” What would you do with that email if it hit your inbox (changes are it’ll be spammed)? You’d delete it without opening it. I would too. This is why you need to get personal in the sender’s address also. If your customers know you by name, have your name as the sender’s name, i.e., JohnDoe@CompanyName.com. If they are assigned to specific sales reps, have their name. Whatever you do, have a name! Otherwise, your marketing email won’t be opened at all.

Time Your Solicitations

Don’t overlook the importance of timing in your email marketing campaigns. Sit down with your employees and hash out some ideas as to the best time to send out your emails; talk to your customers, too, and ask them how often they really want to hear from you. Keep in mind your business. If you own a restaurant, for example, sometimes the best time to send a marketing email is in the afternoon, because your customer just might be at work listening to his or her growling stomach and thinking about dinner. You send them a coupon and, voila! Dinner plans are set!

Keep Track!

I know I’ve said this a million times but email marketing campaigns are no different from any other marketing campaign, and you need to track their success. Make sure you set up your marketing campaigns to track click-through, printed coupons, and resulting sales progress. That way, you can find out which email campaigns are working the best and run your future campaigns based on their logistics. If you see the afternoon emailed dinner special coupon is bringing tons of customers through your door, keep it up! That’s the point of email marketing.

Be Unique in Getting New Email Signees

The Internet is an amazing tool, and we are all learning the numerous ways to use it to build businesses, so here’s a suggestion: Use this Internet to build your emailing list by hosting free webinars about your business. It really doesn’t matter what you do. You can still host a webinar to teach people about you, why you went into your own business, and why they should become your customers. Send an email to your current list encouraging them to attend and to forward the email to their family and friends to attend. Advertise your webinar on your website and using local advertising resources. Get people to sign up for your email list by teaching them about your business.

Keep an Open Mind

Whatever you do to increase the success of your email marketing campaigns, keep your mind open. Yes, there are some hard-fast rules to email marketing, and if you break them, you might have to answer to the federal government! But, this doesn’t mean that everything about email marketing is cut and dry. Things that don’t work for other businesses might just work for you. And your customers might not mind if you break some commonly understood email-marketing dos and don’ts. Maybe your customers want their email font in hot pink, who knows? Okay… maybe not hot pink. But, my point is to use different approaches, test them, ask your customers for feedback, and then stick with what works. That’s the best kept email marketing secret of all!

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welcome email

That’s It? What’s Missing From Your Welcome Email

“Welcome” says so much to your customers.

That’s It? What’s Missing From Your Welcome Email?

One of the biggest marketing mistakes businesses make is failing to send a welcome email to the people who subscribe to their electronic mailing list. One of the second biggest marketing mistakes is sending a crappy one. Forgive the language, but if your new email subscribers open your welcome email and think or say out loud “That’s it?”, you’ve just lost them to the unsubscribe button. Considering welcome emails increase customer loyalty by 33 percent, you can’t afford to miss anything when it comes to welcoming your customers to your email subscription list.

Common Courtesy Beyond the Opt-In

You are probably already sending one email to any new customer who subscribes to your email list, so it’s ridiculous to skip the courtesy of letting your customers know that you are thrilled that they want to hear from you regularly. If your email system is set up to send an opt-in subscription confirmation – you know, the ones with the links that the customers click to confirm they want to be added to your email list – including a welcome message is a no-brainer. Bada bing, bada boom, done! If you don’t send an opt-in confirmation email, send the welcome email anyway.

The reason why this extra step is necessary to your business is simple: Your customer opens a welcome email more than any other email, except order and shipping confirmation notifications. You know your customers are going to open those emails, but did you also know that 50 to 60 percent of customers open welcome emails? That’s pretty impressive, considering most marketing emails hit the cyber trash quickly without being opened at all.

Nope. The facts remind us of something that has been tried and true for centuries: Your customer wants to feel important and wanted, as if they are your ONLY customer, and you need to use good old-fashioned customer service and courtesy to ensure that they are feeling the love. Make it worth their while to opt-in to your email list and remain your customer, and do that by:

  1. Genuinely welcoming your customers to your business. Thank them, and make sure they know that you appreciate their interest in your business, and that you are excited that they have opted-in to receive news and information about your company.
  2. Review the benefits your customers will receive by being an email subscriber. If you aren’t offering additional perks, do so! Include coupons and click-throughs to your website so they can use them. Entice them to shop right way. Customers make purchases from welcome emails nine times more than other types of correspondence. Take advantage of that.
  3. Include links to a preferences page and your privacy policy. This gives your customers the opportunity to tell you more about themselves right away, so you know exactly how to approach them with your business services. It also assures them that you will keep their information confidential.
  4. Link to your social networking pages so your customers can “Like” you immediately and subscribe to your Tweets and Pinterest page. No matter what it is, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, make sure you’ve got the social networking links for your customers to click.
  5. Encourage your customers to add you to their address book so your emails don’t end up in the trash. Also, tell them how often you’ll be sending them an email, and give them the option to choose how often they want to hear from you, if possible.
  6. Include an unsubscribe link – it’s the law – and here’s the real tricky part, wrap all of this into a concise, graphically pleasant email and send it to your new subscribers as soon as humanly (or electronically) possible. I’m talking within 10 to 15 minutes of their subscription, no longer than an hour, and definitely no longer than 24 hours.

This is a lot to cram into one little email, and that may be why so many companies don’t actually send welcome emails. They’re missing out big time, and so will you if you avoid this crucial marketing step. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone who can. If you can do it yourself, do it, do it, do it! Why lose 33 percent more customer loyalty and nine times more sales just because you don’t want to let your customers know how important they really are. Come on! Your customers are the MOST important thing to you, so tell them that by welcoming them into your email subscription group appropriately. Spread the love! It’ll pay off.
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