How to choose the right email marketing platform

Choosing Email PlatformEmail is a critical element of any B2B marketing program because it enables you to communicate with your customers and prospects on a schedule that you control. In addition, if you grow your email list over time, it can become a strategic asset that can help you grow your business. And, don’t forget that costs per-person emailed actually decreases as your list gets larger. Like any marketing technology, email marketing platforms very widely in their features and usability. Here are some tips to select the right email marketing platform for your organization.

Step 1: Define your needs

First, create a spreadsheet that summarizes your team’s wish list of features and functionality. Next, rate each feature on a scale of 1 to 5, where five is essential and one is optional. Use this list to reach consensus with your team on its must-have features. Important features to look for include these:

Personalization. Personalized emails almost always perform better than those that are not. Look for email service providers that enable you to personalize subject lines as well as the body of the message.

A/B testing. You can never be sure what your audience will respond to. That’s why you need to run experiments with your emails. The concept behind A/B testing is simple: Create two variations of a headline, call-to-action button or other page element and send them to a sub-set of your list (e.g., 500 people each). Then, see which one performs best. Once you declare the winner, send that version to the rest of your list.

Performance tracking. To what extent can you track audience interaction with your emails? You not only need to track message open rates, but also click throughs for each of the links within each message.

Templates. How easy is it to set up templates within the email platform? Does the email platform vendor need to create the templates for you, and at what cost? You’ll want a lot of flexibility here, especially as you segment your list. Be sure you can customize templates with your organization’s branding requirements.

Deliverability. Before selecting an email platform, make sure you ask about these features, which can enhance the deliverability of your messages:

  • DNS, SKF and DKIM certifications help receiving mail servers verify the authenticity of your messages, which helps improve deliverability. Your email provider should be able to help you create these settings on your server.
  • Ask if the provider “seeds” client lists with email addresses, so it can verify the deliverability of each of them and can identify any problems before they become major issues.
  • Ask if your messages will be sent out from a shared IP or via a dedicated IP address. If it’s the former, you have little control over the reputation of that IP address. If another client is spamming its lists, your deliverability could suffer. With a dedicated IP address, you will be the only domain sending email over it, which improves your reputation and therefore your deliverability.

On boarding. What resources does the email platform provide to help you move your email lists over to their platform? Do they offer training or live support to help you solve common problems?

Support options. How quickly can you reach someone to help you solve a problem when it occurs? You should have the option of working with a human being when you run into big problems that need to be solved immediately, whether by phone or live online chat.

Step 2: Evaluate email platforms

Open your wish list of rated features and add columns to the right for each of the email platforms you are considering. Once again, rate each feature on a numerical scale based on the extent to which it supports the functionality you need.

Step 3: Trial use

Once you’ve identified one or two email platforms that appear to be a good fit, request a trial use. You need to determine how well each tool fits into your workflow before you make a final decision.

Step 4: Selection and implementation

Select the email platform that is the best fit for your company. Import your lists and set up your templates. Then, you’re ready to go. Good luck with your new email platform!

Rock your list – it’s your biggest asset

Rock Your List

Do you have a strategy for growing your email list and using it to communicate with your target audience on a consistent basis? If not, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Email isn’t a sexy topic, but it represents the backbone of nearly every successful content initiative and digital marketing success story you’ve ever heard about. There is no better tool for building your online community and communicating with them on a regular basis than email.

Why is email vital to your company?

Email amps up trust. When someone signs up for your email list, it’s a sign of trust and interest in your brand. They’re intrigued by the content they’ve seen so far, and they want to learn more about how you think and the solutions you offer. Even if they aren’t ready to buy immediately, they’re thinking about it.

You own this. Your email list is an asset that you own and control. In contrast, the owners of the social media channels you use tend to change their rules on a regular basis, as they explore various models for monetizing their audiences. If you don’t own the platform, you’re at the mercy of someone else. That’s a huge plus for email. You own that. Plus, this asset can be valued if you ever sell your company.

Repeat traffic. An enewsletter, published on a regular basis, keeps prospective customers returning to your website to engage with your content. It’s essential to educating and nurturing your target audience down the path to a sale or other desirable action.

Email enables you to communicate with your audience in a creative, personalized way that blog posts or tweets can’t. Considering that research shows that people buy based on emotions and then backfill with logic, then it’s essential that you include this tactic in your marketing mix.

How to jump-start your email list

Even if you have an anemic email list, it’s not too late to transform it into a powerful marketing tool. Here are some “bodybuilding” tips for your email list:

  • Deliver your best content to your audience. Always. Audience attention is a fickle thing. Make a commitment to deliver real value with them on a consistent basis, sharing information that is tailored to their needs. Make them feel COMPELLED to sign up for your enewsletter, just so they won’t miss your NEXT big insight!
  • Place an e-newsletter subscription form prominently on your website. Many companies treat this as an afterthought. It should actually occupy a key position on your website. Here are some recommended locations for it:
    • Above the fold, on the home page
    • Above the fold, In the right-hand column of content
    • Centered, between your website’s masthead and its primary content area. This is a can’t-miss location.
    • In a pop-up window. Many people don’t like pop-ups, but they work. Make sure you select one that plays well with mobile devices – otherwise, Google may penalize you.
    • Make sure it’s clear and easy to understand. Limit the number of fields – the more you ask for, the less likely they are to fill it out.
  • Provide them with a compelling reason WHY. Be very clear about what you’ll provide them in return for sharing their email address with you. What will your enewsletter contain that is unique and valuable? How often will you send it out? What will they miss if they don’t subscribe?
  • Exchange something of great value for their email address. Offer them an ebook, a checklist or other exclusive content. But remember: This is a two-step process. Just because they gave you their email address to get your latest content asset doesn’t automatically give you permission to email them on an ongoing basis. After you get them to sign up for your free goodies, make a separate ask for the newsletter subscription. Get permission – always!
  • Publish consistently. Just like your blog, your enewsletter needs to be published on a consistent schedule. Your readers will become conditioned to receive your communications at a set date or time of day, increasing engagement.

What’s your subscription strategy?

email subscription strategy

In today’s online world, there’s a real danger to “building your house on rented land.”

In other words, by publishing your content on platforms and channels you don’t own, you run the risk of them unexpectedly changing the rules and compromising its visibility.

Twitter. LinkedIn. Facebook. Medium. Apple Newsstand. These and other channels where you may be publishing and promoting your content have complete control it. They decide whether it lives or dies and the extent to which it is visible to the world. This problem has been well documented, so I won’t belabor it any further.

What’s important to note from a strategic standpoint is that you need to focus your content on platforms and channels that you DO own. Your website is the first and most obvious place to do that. But another one that marketers often overlook is one of the oldest, least sexy forms of online media: email.

An email subscription strategy is critical

In today’s uncertain environment, it’s critical that you have a healthy and growing email list, because it gives you the ability to communicate with your audience whenever YOU want.

Do you have a strategy in place to grow your subscriber list? If not, now’s the time to formulate one. Here are some things to keep in mind:

High visibility form: Your website should have a subscription form in a prominent location on the home page and other important pages of your website. Some people put this box in the right-hand column of each page, which is easy to do if your website is based on WordPress or another blogging platform. Others use a popover box, which appears on top of the content of your web pages, or a “welcome mat,” which loads above your web page content and commands attention (visitors can also click a button to scroll down to the page’s content).

Offer an exchange of value: Ideally, your content should be so compelling that visitors can’t wait to sign up for your newsletter. In the real world, however, readers usually need an incentive to sign up – an offer for a free white paper, special report or other valuable resource. Once they submit their email address, they will have access to a web page with they can download their freebie.

Be consistent: Create an editorial calendar and publish your newsletter on a regular basis. Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you publish once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. Establish a publishing schedule and stick to it.

Upsell them: At the end of blog posts, offer a free download of a relevant special report, worksheet or other resource. The link should lead the reader to a landing page where they can give you their email address in exchange for it.

Ungate some resources: Even though you’ll want to grow your list quickly, don’t “gate” every resource you offer to your website visitors. A combination of free and gated is best. Remember, you want to give your visitors a strong taste of your best thinking. This is a real opportunity to turn the tables: Instead of forcing a visitor to give up their email address in exchange for your special report, why not create a free, ungated resource that is so good that the reader will say to him- or herself, “I want to sign up for the newsletter so I can get access to more of this awesome thinking!”

Related article: Marketers: Why are your sales flatlining?

Online Personalization 101: WHAT it is, WHY You Need to Use it & HOW to Get Started

 
online personalization photographingtravisYou see it all day, every day. You open your inbox and there it is: your name in the subject line. You get home from work after a busy day, kick up your feet and flip on Netflix—and there it is again: your name. You sign into Facebook and you see an ad pointing you to a website you recently visited.

Coincidence? Never.

WHAT is Online Personalization?

The aforementioned examples are all instances of online personalization (sometimes called content personalization). BusinessDictionary defines online personalization as “tailoring the presentation of a website’s content to match a specific user’s instructions or preferences.” This form of custom-tailored marketing is achieved by collecting data about prospects and customers, then using that data to tweak online experiences to perfection.

WHY You Should Care About Online Personalization

Online personalization has become a key part of digital marketing strategies. As humans, we crave customized experiences. A study from the University of Texas at Austin attributes this to our desire for control. Google searches 30 trillion pages, 100 billion times a month. 60 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month on Facebook.

Get the point? There’s A LOT of content out there! Online personalization helps you break through the noise and improve your marketing ROI.

HubSpot reported:

  • Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
  • In-house marketers who personalize web experiences (who are also able to quantify that improvement) see a 19% uplift in sales, on average.
  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels.
  • Leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

And the list goes on. Hey, online personalization works!

HOW to Get Started with Online Personalization

Not every business can be a giganto expert at online personalization like Amazon.com (constantly pulling data and signals to personalize their users’ shopping experiences). However, there are a few basic things you can do to hop aboard the online personalization train, today.
 

1. Segment Your Email Marketing

Online personalization in email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient methods. Don’t always send the same email to everyone on your list. Break your lists down into various segments and tweak your messages accordingly.

Examples:

You’re in the staffing business and you work with companies looking to fill positions in marketing and IT.

  • Segment out the companies that have a need to fill marketing positions into one list. Then, send a monthly email featuring your top marketing candidates.
  • Likewise, create a separate segment for companies looking to fill IT positions. Send a separate monthly email featuring your top IT candidates to this list.

Sending a monthly e-newsletter? Most email marketing software (like MailChimp and Constant Contact) offer the option to insert a ‘receiver name’ field. Use it!
 

2. Segment Your Social Media

Facebook uses data in ad targeting that’s fairly easy to implement. Let’s say you offer computer repair services to small- and medium-sized businesses and you’re only able to offer those services within 50 miles of Brookfield, Wisconsin. You’re not going to want to run a Facebook ad that will be seen by everyone and anyone in the entire United States. Determine what your target audience looks like and set up your ad accordingly.

Here’s what your targeting might look like…

online personalization

Online personalization is not only a great way to break through the marketing noise and improve your marketing ROI—it’s also a really fun way to get creative with how you market to your audience! Give it a shot and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Need some help getting started with online personalization? Contact Cultivate Communications.

 


Image “Hello My Name Is” courtesy of Flickr user Travis Wise licensed under CC by 2.0.

6 Reasons Your Email Marketing Could Be Better….and what to do about it

Email marketing is still one of the most popular and effective marketing methods, but the success of your campaigns depends on how well you execute. Forrester estimated that over 838 billion marketing messages are sent in one year. That’s a LOT of emails…and a lot of noise to cut through. However, successful email marketers see an average return of $44.25 for every dollar spent [Source]. Worth it!

If your emails aren’t inspiring your prospects and customers to engage with your business, here’s what you might be doing wrong.

6 Reasons Your Email Marketing Could Be Better….and what to do about it

1. Your email list is cluttered.
Poor list hygiene is at the top of our list because it’s both common and destructive. If your emails aren’t targeted, you might as well be emailing in a foreign language—you’re certainly not sending what your recipients want to see. A bad list turns destructive when people who no longer want to receive your emails mark you as spam. That’s why it’s vital to use email marketing best practices and always include an opt-out option. It’s much better to have a short but interested list than a long list of people who are regularly annoyed by your emails.

2. Your pipeline is clogged.
To keep the sales flowing freely, you need to nurture your old customers while also courting the new. If you’re not paying attention at every stage of the customer life cycle, you risk clogging up your pipeline with prospects and customers who’ve lost interest because your emails no longer speak to them. Instead of sending general emails to all customers, segment your lists and send highly targeted emails to small groups.

3. You’re sending the wrong message.
If you promised a newsletter and you’re delivering only advertisements, that’s a no-no…and a surprisingly common one. If you want to direct recipients to a specific landing page, try a teaser with a “read more” link.

4. Your subject line is weak.
If this were a romance novel, your subject line would be the come-hither look. It’s your invitation to open; your promise of juicy content within. Be flirtatious (not literally), but also straightforward and professional, and be sure your customer knows that email is coming from you.

5. Your design is not responsive.
People using PCs are far more likely to click links than people using mobile devices and tablets, but you can increase your mobile click-through rate by 15% by redesigning your emails to fit properly on any kind of device. Contemplating how your emails perform on mobile devices is critical, especially considering there are more mobile devices in use than there are people on the planet as of last year. (Really! It was predicted that by 2014, 7.7 billion mobile devices would be in use, serving a global population of 7.1 billion.)

6. Your call-to-action is lost.
The purpose of your email is to spur your clients to action, right? So why would you bury your call to action (CTA) in a mountain of text? Keep it short and put your CTA near the top of the email. Front and center. Not over on the side, buried in a text link, or linked to a gigantic graphic that might not show up. Make your message clear and isolate your CTA in the body of the message so it’s easy to see and click.

These email marketing tips should help you improve your email response rates, but before you send that first email, make sure you have a rock-solid content strategy to back it up. If you send enticing emails and don’t deliver the content you promised, you’ll just alienate your recipients…and they will never become your customers.

related-resources_01

We’re Not In Kansas Anymore

kansas-smMore repeat customers? Yes, please. Better brand reach and recognition? Oh yeah! Through–the–roof marketing ROI? You bet your boots. Email marketing is incredibly effective, but you have to do it right and follow the rules.

 

You’ll learn:
  • Why email marketing works
  • The best tools of the trade
  • New trends in email marketing
  • 4 killer components to an irresistible email
  • How to avoid paying $1000s in fines
  • How 3 companies reached more customers with rockin’ email marketing
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How to choose the right email marketing platform

Email is a critical element of any B2B marketing program because it enables you to communicate with your customers and prospects on a schedule that you control. In addition, if you grow your email list over time, it can become a strategic asset that can help you grow...

Rock your list – it’s your biggest asset

Do you have a strategy for growing your email list and using it to communicate with your target audience on a consistent basis? If not, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Email isn’t a sexy topic, but it represents the backbone of nearly every successful content...

What’s your subscription strategy?

In today’s online world, there’s a real danger to “building your house on rented land.” In other words, by publishing your content on platforms and channels you don’t own, you run the risk of them unexpectedly changing the rules and compromising its visibility....

5 Tips for Better Results with Mobile Email Marketing

Mobile use is dominating online use, with more than 145 million Americans using their smartphones to work, shop, browse, and communicate. The number one smartphone activity? Yep.

According to a study by IDC, checking email (78%) is the number one smartphone activity.

These are big numbers, people. If you haven’t adapted your marketing emails to fit the small screen, NOW is the time.

 5 Tips for Better Results with Mobile Email Marketing

Mobile Email Marketing

Here are some quick tips to send the right message to your mobile customers.

1. Start with the subject line. As a basic rule of thumb, you’ve got 5 words to get your customer’s attention (ok, 7 if they’re short words). Longer than that, and the subject is truncated. All that work to craft the perfect “read me” line and your customer won’t even see it. Keep it short and punchy and you’ll have a better open rate.

2.Make your links user-friendly—big, easy to spot, and easy to click. One fairly common mistake is to place links close together. By making links separate and positioning them where they make the most sense, at the beginning or end of the email, or under a product photo (or as part of a product photo), you improve your chances of conversion. And speaking of links, be sure to include an unsubscribe button (nowhere near your CTA), to avoid accidental fat-finger unsubscribes.

3. Responsive design. We’ve talked about responsive web design and the same principles can be applied to well-crafted emails. Most email providers and mail marketing services will provide tips or templates for creating mobile friendly emails. If your email text and images resize automatically to fit any size screen, your customers will see your message just as you intended, without having to scroll endlessly.

Since some users choose not to display images, you might want to consider a plain text version of your email. And while we’re discussing photos and text alternatives, be sure and include a text link with your CTA if you’re using a clickable image. That way, customers who prefer text only still have the option to follow your links.

Free eBook: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore – Email Marketing’s New Set of Rules4. Email preview or preheader. Many phones display the first line of the email. Lots of businesses use this valuable real estate for generic text like “Having trouble reading this email?” Instead, use the first line in the body of your email to tease and add extra enticement to open and read.

5. Test your design. You probably won’t have access to many different types of phones and devices, and there’s no guarantee that what looks good on an iPhone will also look good on a compact Android tablet or a BlackBerry. Check your design before you send it out at a mobile device emulator site like MobileTest.me or MobilePhoneEmulator.com so you can see what your customers see…no matter what device they use.

Learn more: Download our hands-on guide to successfully navigating email marketing’s new set of rules.

What is Marketing’s Impact on Innovation for Growth? Download this Free White Paper on Growth Cycle Marketing

 By providing your customers with emails they can open and read, you keep your relationship active and retain their trust…not such an easy thing to achieve today. It’s your job to provide them with emails that are interesting, colorful, and entertaining. Now get out there and knock your email marketing campaign out of the ballpark!