Category Archives: Marketing/Communications

Automation tools help email marketers step up their game

Automation tools help email marketers step up their game

The devices with which the contacts on your email marketing list read messages are getting more powerful and multifaceted – and so are the tools available to marketers. New automation solutions, often leveraging the power of cloud computing, are changing the way email campaigns are put together.

Marketing solutions provider Marketo recently announced the release of Dialog Edition, a cloud-based service that enables firms to adopt automated email strategies. Like all of the products in Marketo's catalog, the new offering aims to help marketers increase customer engagement with emailed content, thereby nurturing companies' relationships with consumers. Increased click-through rates will drive up revenue as firms employ the new tool to adapt content to customer behaviors.

Marketo's CMO​, Sanjay Dholakia​, spoke about the necessity for firms to market in this more dynamic way.

"Marketers know they need to break through this noise, but their efforts to do so are often limited by email service providers, which force marketers into a world of impersonal, batch communications. The Dialog Edition offers a solution, empowering email marketers to build automated campaigns that create long-term, personal relationships," Dholakia commented.

At the core of the platform is an automation service that sends tailored marketing content to new customers immediately after their email addresses are acquired, the company said. The tool also monitors contacts' behaviors so as to move them between segmentation groups based on continually changing data. The built-in intelligence of the system means that no repeat emails will be sent to contacts.

Build an intelligent email database, focus on creative thinking
According to the company's product description for Digital Edition, the service helps marketers build smarter email databases that take on much of the labor usually done manually. The tool builds segmentation lists for you based on increasingly rich data by learning about your email contacts over time.

However, an intelligent automation tool like Digital Edition doesn't mean the role of the marketer becomes a cakewalk, let alone irrelevant. Rather, the investment in the technology allows firms to devote more manpower to creative thinking.

"A proper upgrade to a marketing automation solution requires an upfront commitment: time, money, and brainpower. You will be forced to think – long, hard, and strategically – about your marketing program," said DJ Waldow in a recent post for Business 2 Community.

Automation benefits marketers by enabling them to actually put their best email campaign strategies into effect.

Other firms address the need for automation
Innovative though Marketo's new platform may be, there are others vying for market space. According to CMS Wire, marketing solutions firm SalesForce recently acquired automation provider ExactTarget mere days after the latter company announced the upcoming release of the new ExactTarget Marketing Cloud platform. As its name implies, the new tool will use cloud technology to link analytics with email, social media, mobile and other data sources.

ExactTarget's platform is more hands-on than Marketo's but arguably just as sophisticated. Users can manage customer information and transition contacts between segmentation lists through a drag-and-drop feature, as well as edit content collaboratively in the cloud, CMS Wire reported.

Meanwhile, marketers only stand to gain from employing automation tools, as the email marketing industry is set to continue growing worldwide. A recent report by Econsultancy showed that in the United Kingdom, the sector brought in £438 million in 2012 and is projected to grow to £495 million this year.

Marketers who embrace solutions like automation and analytics sooner rather than later will still find themselves ahead of the curve, as the Econsultancy study also showed that only 31 percent of firms perform basic testing on their marketing emails' performance. 

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As open rates fall, two email marketing firms announce innovative offerings

As open rates fall, two email marketing firms announce innovative offerings

Crafting a successful email marketing campaign can feel like an uphill battle, and a recent study shows that the struggle isn't getting any easier.

According to MarketingProfs, Epsilon's newly released quarterly email trends showed an average email open rate of 28.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, an 8.3 percent decrease from Q1. The average click-through rate – that is, the percentage of customers who click on the links provided in promotional emails – stood at 4.3 percent, the lowest on record in the past two years.

However, the report offered a few pieces of positive news that counterbalance these figures. Despite the quarter-over-quarter decline in the open rate, Q2 of 2013 saw 11.5 percent more email opens than the same quarter in 2012. Furthermore, the rate of emails returned as undelivered – called the average non-bounce rate – remained essentially consistent with previous quarters at 96.1 percent.

Rather than despair at the mixed bag of industry news provided in the Epsilon report, it might be best for marketers to remember that reaching their email marketing lists has never been easy – and this is precisely why companies have continued to offer software and other services to help them ensure customers are reading and acting upon their promotional messages.

This week, two such firms announced they were bolstering their product lines, helping email marketers achieve their goals and taking some of the sting out of the recent statistics.

Embarke adds depth to email analytics
​According to PandoDaily, San Diego, Calif.-based startup Embarke recently secured $1.25 million in funding from an investment team led by Social Leverage. The company plans to use the money to expand its offerings – which include sophisticated email list segmentation executed according to analytics-based behavior profiles – to more clients, with the goal of improving open and click-through rates.

The increased cash flow comes at an critical time of growth for the young company: Embarke's commercial product only went on the market two months ago and already it has created more than 5 million behavior profiles for its clients' email contacts, the news source noted.

Furthermore, the startup recently announced its partnership with email provider SendGrid, PandoDaily reported. Embarke has been able to optimize the delivery of 500,000 emails each day by working with only the top 2 percent of SendGrid's clients. The email analytics firm claims the partnership has produced improvements of between 5 and 20 percent in both click-through and open rates.

In a recent post on its official blog, Embarke asked marketers to reevaluate the effectiveness of their analytics.

"It's one thing to be able to track opens and clicks, but are those opens and clicks converting? Are they signing up? Are they turning into dollars, or actual customers?" the company asked.

The goal of Embarke, one might say, is to enable clients to answer "Yes" to those questions.

StreamSend brings email content to the social sphere
Sacramento, Calif.-based firm StreamSend provides solutions for email marketers, including StreamSend Share 2.0, a platform of social marketing tools. The company recently announced the release of Smart RSS, an automation tool that allows companies that frequently update their rich site summary (RSS) feeds to reach and impact more potential customers, the firm said.

"Automatic email automation and market automation drive a much greater ability to connect with customers through these syndicated live web feeds, sharing more effectively and delivering the attention that great content really deserves," commented StreamSend President Dan Forootan. 

According to StreamSend, Smart RSS allows marketers to use widgets that enable them to set up automatic publishing schedules. The solution also places sharing features on emailed RSS, so that customers on your email contact list can create engagement and potential new business for you by bringing your content to the attention of their social networks.

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New study affirms the continued importance of email marketing

New study affirms continued importance of email marketing

The list of reasons why marketers shouldn't listen too closely to detractors who prophesy the death of email as a platform for promotional messages grew recently, as Marketo released results of a survey that showed email marketing lists are as relevant a tool as ever.

Granted, the sheer number of claims about email's decline makes this idea hard to ignore. The Marketo study showed that a Google search of the phrase "email is dead" yielded 1,500,000 results, compared to 280,000 for "blogging is dead" and 180,000 for "social media is dead." 

However, responses from consumers don't support the hypothesis that email is dead, as 94 percent of Americans check their messages regularly, the study revealed, and more than half log into their email accounts upon waking up in the morning. 

Furthermore, 64 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to increase spending on email marketing campaigns in 2013. They have good reason to do so: the study also showed that every dollar spent on email promotions in 2011 yielded a $40.56 return.

While email remains strong, the rules of marketing on the platform are changing. More than ever, customers need to feel that an email is relevant. In light of the Marketo study, Business 2 Community suggested that companies should lean toward a conversational tone rather than come off as out-and-out promotional, and they might consider dividing their marketing lists based on demographics and other factors in order to tailor messages to specific customer groups.

Honesty and CAN Spam compliance
Trustworthiness was one of the key qualities of effective marketing emails cited by the Marketo study. Business 2 Community expressed a similar viewpoint, pointing out that emails should be transparent and comply with CAN Spam.

"What is CAN Spam?" you might ask, if you're not already well acquainted with the term.

Far from being something you could buy in a supermarket, the CAN Spam Act is a law that outlines penalties for businesses who impede a consumer's right to unsubscribe from their emails, HubSpot noted. The source went on to point out that under the act, not only are emails not allowed to overcomplicate the process for users who want to unsubscribe, they also cannot include subject lines that mislead the reader about the message's contents and must include a valid physical address for the company.

Compliance with these guidelines can help ensure that when customers in your email database read your messages, they trust your brand as a source of honest content and want to follow up on what they read.

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Creating email press releases are an art.

Don’t commit these faux pas when emailing press releases

A comprehensive email distribution list can help businesses and organizations reach new and existing customers to distribute different types of information. One of the most important types of communications firms send out may just be the press release.

The basics of a press release                            
Not all information is noteworthy and requiring – or even deserving – of being featured in a press release. However, if you're looking to notify consumers of a new product, service or company change, this could be the perfect venue as it gives customers a snapshot that can pique their interest to learn more.

The relative shortness of the communications medium can create added pressure for organizations to catch readers' attention and hold it. 

"In a job interview you have just a few seconds to make a first impression and it needs to be a great one," said Tyler Ragghianti of PR NewsChannel in a statement. "You get even less time with a press release. You have to hook a consumer, reporter or editor quickly otherwise the release gets tossed in the trash, deleted or ignored. It's as simple as that."

Common mistakes to avoid                                   
There are a million little ways organizations can commit a faux pas and render their press release less effective. Yet recent research from PR NewsChannel identified a number of the most commonly made mistakes in the business.

For one, oftentimes companies try to be everything to everyone, but this just isn't possible. You can't target anyone by attempting to appeal to everyone. Instead, organizations should find their audience niche and speak to them, according to PR NewsChannel.

Secondly, don't get fancy. Trying to get into the nitty gritty details of a complex product may be interesting to some, but for the majority of recipients it could end up looking like a bunch of jargon. Find your message and articulate it in a clear, straightfoward tone.

Business 2 Community adds that organizations will want to be wary of over advertising. While press releases are promotional by nature, they don't need to beg for business. Organizations should focus on providing information on their products or services and let that do the talking for them. This is much more likely to impress recipients and make them feel like business partners rather than walking, talking wallets.

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Responsive email could boost click and open rates.

Responsive design – essential to email marketers?

As smartphones grow nearly ubiquitous, the ability to use them for virtually every task is increasing. No longer are these devices merely conduits through which to call your mom or boyfriend. Instead, they now enable owners to check their social networks, shop for gifts and check the weather.

It should come as no surprise, then, that mobile devices are treading on desktop computers' stronghold over email. In fact, recent research from YesMail found that nearly half of all emails are opened on mobile gadgets. With their smaller screens and lack of mouse, smartphones present a challenge for companies, requiring them to adopt new content strategies, - such as responsive email - for their email marketing lists.

What, precisely, is responsive email?                                                     
According to a recent article from The Next Web, responsive email is designed to boost engagement between businesses and customers through the use of questions, fluid layouts and images, and personalized copy, depending on the types of device being used by recipients. For example, the news source pointed out, while a firm may include numerous paragraphs of information and photos in an email meant to be opened on a computer, responsive design enables a much shorter message and call to action to be presented on a mobile device.

"While traditional emails generally feature fixed-width frameworks, multiple images and paragraphs of text, responsive emails adapt to the device viewport size and display content accordingly, often skipping elements like blocks of text to allow touchscreen users to read and respond calls to action quickly," The Next Web wrote. "Responsive techniques allow designers to hide, stack, expand/collapse or modify content to optimize content display in emails on smaller screens."

Additionally, responsive design incorporates more functional aspects, such as larger buttons to allow for easier clicks with the touch of a finger and content that works without image displays. 

Surpass other marketing channels                               
Email being already one of the top marketing mediums for companies and organizations as well as one of the most effective could surpass anything currently available if techniques such as responsive email were employed, Dan Smith, vice president of product at Outsell, told 1to1 Media.

While the strategy will require marketers to educate themselves on the ins and outs of a more complex marketing tool, it could spur higher opens, more clicks and greater revenue.

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