7 Instances of Well-Intended Direct Mail Gone Bad

There are many things that can go wrong with a direct mail campaign. Before you plan your next campaign, see to it that you are not making any mistakes that can not only cost you money, but also responses. Believe it or not, bad direct mail is very common.

There are many things that can go wrong with a direct mail campaign. Before you plan your next campaign, see to it that you are not making any mistakes that can not only cost you money, but also responses. Believe it or not, bad direct mail is very common.

How Direct Mail Goes Wrong

  • List: There are many things that can go wrong with your data. You can have old, outdated information. You can select the wrong people to get the wrong offer. For example, an offer for men only, but some women are entered with the wrong gender code. These can cause problems with personalization and have you sending to people who are no longer interested, who never were interested, or are no longer at that address.
  • Call to Action: Worst case scenario is no call to action at all, followed closely by a poorly worded CTA. In order to drive response, you need a CTA that resonates with your audience.
  • Wordy: Too many words or the wrong words can get your mail piece tossed in the trash. Be concise and to-the-point. Let them know what’s in it for them and how they can get it. Details on products are a turn-off; use benefits to them to draw them in.
  • Images: The wrong images can turn people off or confuse them. Make sure you choose images that support not only your message, but also your brand.
  • Grammar: Misspellings and poor word choices are very common. You need to make sure that your copy is free of errors to get your point across correctly. Mistakes like these give you a bad reputation from which it can take a long time to recover.
  • Format: There are many USPS regulations that can cost you a lot of money if you do not follow them. When you are creating your campaign, it is best to consult with your mail service provider to find out specific details about your design idea. This can save you from paying extra postage or not being able to mail your piece at all.
  • Timing: Granted, there are differences in delivery times across the country, but there is enough information out there for you to plan on a schedule that will most likely occur. If you have a short response window, you need to make sure that the mail piece does not arrive after the window has closed. There is nothing worse than a mail piece that is trying to drive traffic to a store sale, but the mailer arrives after the sale is over. Make sure to allow yourself enough time for concept, design, print, and mail.

This is, by far, not a complete list of bad direct mail, but it does give you a comprehensive look at several key areas where things commonly go wrong. Sometimes, knowing what not to do is the best place to start planning from. Many times, the best way to stop mistakes is to allow enough time for the creative and production processes. It is also a good idea to have someone from outside your organization look over your final concept to make sure that person understands your offer and that it is appealing. Are you ready to get started on better direct mail?

Ditch the Call to Action in Your Cold Email Strategy

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

We often walk away. But think about a time you chose to continue. Because you were curious, you asked for more details … to fully grasp what sounded intriguing.

Why did you make that choice? Probably because you were offered the chance to choose.

Now think about the last time a seller piqued your interest but told you what to do next.

That’s what a call to action is. It’s a directive, a guide. It’s a tool marketers use to tell the customer what to do next.

Ask yourself, as a sales person: What does giving directive do for you — in a cold email outreach context?

It directs the prospective buyer. It tells them what you want them to do next.

This is exactly why, in many cases, avoiding a call to action is the best way to provoke a conversation with decision-makers.

Psychologists and neuro-linguistic programming geeks have long studied the power of acknowledging the other side’s right to choose. You should too.

PDFs and Web Links Don’t Work

The use of PDFs and web links are usually applied in a persuasive context. Bad idea for cold sales email messages.

“I’ve attached a brief presentation explaining our value.” Or, “Please consider enrolling in this free demo of our tool …” are calls to action. And in most cases, they’re calling for action in ways working against the sales rep.

Your PDF should not out-sell you. The goal of your cold email should be to spark a conversation, not get your PDF reviewed, nor earn a demo or trial.

That’s a marketing outcome.

Generally, introduction of marketing constructs into cold sales email messages is proving disastrous. Mostly because decision-makers are, in comparison, open to having their curiosity piqued about a problem to be solved, or issue they’re grappling with.

They’ve had enough marketing shoved at them — from marketers and, lately, sales people who push marketing messages and calls to action.

Give Them a Choice

Letting the other side choose to engage or not allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

“The problem is choice.” It’s one of my favorite movie script lines. Indeed, in The Matrix, choice is the problem for Neo, the pesky Anomaly in The Architect’s tyrannical system. Yet for sales reps the removal of choice is the problem!

Think about it. Removing choice is the ultimate marketing outcome. The way it’s executed is persuasion. A call to action fit right in with that kind of bold, brash technique.

Grab attention — then direct it. Hurry, before the customer figures out a way to wriggle off the hook.

But calls to action rarely fit the cold sales email context. You cannot tell a customer to engage or meet. You must help them want to meet — if there is justification to meet.

I’m often told, “Jeff I need a better email message — to grab attention, gain credibility and convince a prospect to talk with me.”

Wrong. That model eliminates choice. It attempts to persuade and then coerce a decision. Result: A few meetings happen but with reluctant prospects.

Also, consider your decision-maker is bombarded with meeting requests — all asking to give sellers the chance to persuade them!

Instead, let the other side choose to engage or not. This allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

Acknowledge your prospects’ right to choose. This begins the process of helping customers to convince themselves to speak … if, in fact, the decision to engage is what they need.

Quick Example

Below is an actual example of how I helped Ben, a sales rep for a retail data analysis company targeting branded manufacturers of textiles and shoes. His original cold email call to action was not working … it was typical:

Do you have 15 mins to hop on a call so we can see what your needs are and how we can help?

We quickly created a curiosity-sparking way to structure the middle and end of an effective cold email — without a call to action. It’s working!

I have an idea for you. Not sure if it’s a fit. Ralph Lauren is using an unusual tactic to ensure price alignment, drive demand and increase revenue ~31%. Are you open to hearing how they are doing it?

Best regards,
Ben

No marketing-esque call to action. Pure provocation, focusing on the amazing story Ralph Lauren (Ben’s client) is creating for itself.

This technique is resulting in far more discussions for Ben. All without a call to action.

1 More Reason to Avoid a Call to Action

Context. Cold email arrives without any context. Your prospect has no expectation of the email. Unlike a marketing email, where the reader has opted in, the reader is not expecting nor giving permission to be told what to do.

A call to action is out of context — because there is no context in a cold email.

Your cold email is fresh, new, unexpected; however, it’s also assumed to be delete-worthy (by default).

Think about your own inbox. If a sales person’s subject line “pushes a pain” you are presumed to have — delete key. If it requests a meeting — delete key. Offers a free demo — delete key.

These are the easy-to-spot, unsolicited come-ons plaguing inboxes of decision-makers. The more we all experience these patterns, the easier it is to delete without opening.

Remember: Most sales outreach is pushing self-centered marketing copy and ending with a cheesy call to action. This creates lack of distinction for sellers who use this approach.

You blend in.

Beware: “Is this of interest?” or “Would you like to learn more?” are soft calls to action that often fail too!

Bottom line: Calls to action are bossy. They either tell or suggest what the recipient should do. They eliminate choice and that’s the problem.

Eliminating customers’ choices works in marketing (sometimes) but never in sales.

Earning more conversations, faster, demands you avoid best practices. Literally. Instead, choose emerging “next practices” to create a modern, effective sales outreach strategy.

What has your experience been?

5 Key Direct Mail Design Strategies and Elements

After your list, your direct mail design strategy is critical. Your images, layout, fonts and colors all contribute to whether your mail piece will be read or thrown away. Obviously we want our mail pieces read and acted upon, so how do we best design our direct mail pieces to accomplish that?

After your list, your direct mail design strategy is critical. Your images, layout, fonts and colors all contribute to whether your mail piece will be read or thrown away. Obviously we want our mail pieces read and acted upon, so how do we best design our direct mail pieces to accomplish that?

5 Key Design Elements

  1. Images — These are extremely important. Images that are emotionally compelling work really well. Facial images stand out and our eyes are naturally drawn to them, so use faces if possible. You can also use images that are iconic and easily recognizable; our eyes and attentions are drawn to familiar images. You need to make sure that you are using images that are consistent with your brand and your message.
  2. Fonts — These are commonly overlooked in direct mail marketing. Not all fonts are the same. When you use interesting or unique fonts, you draw people in. Be careful about using too many different fonts. Your mail piece can look cluttered with too many fonts. The same goes for font sizes, try not to use more than three sizes throughout your mail piece.
  3. Layout — The layout of your mail piece is crucial to response rates. You need to make sure you include white space so that the layout is not cluttered and overwhelming. Images and concise copy need to flow together in sync with each other. Depending on the type of mail piece you may need more than one image, so make sure they work together and do not clash. Do not place wording over the top of images, it will be ignored.
  4. Copy — Keep in mind that people find it easier to read copy that starts on the outer left edge and reads into the center. They pay less attention to copy that starts in the center and reads to the right edge. Make sure you are concise and use common language without acronyms. You want to make it easy to understand quickly.
  5. Color — Colors evoke emotional responses on a subconscious level. Choosing the right colors on your mail piece can make a difference. If you are not sure what colors are right for you, there are many color guides online you can check out.

All five of these elements must work together to create an irresistible mail piece. Your message and call to action are also important so make sure you plan those out thoroughly, too. Your design is there to stand out in the mail box and compel your prospects and customers to read your message and respond. Once you have a design in place, it is a good idea to show it to a few customers to get feedback before your roll it out. You want to make sure that it is compelling to them. If not, you will need to fix areas that they identify as issues.

Direct mail design can seem daunting, but if you take it a step at a time, you will have a well-designed piece before you know it. Keep in mind when you are choosing your mail piece format that you need to allow enough room for your images and messaging. This may mean that a small postcard is not going to work. The last thing to remember before you print is to make sure you are meeting postal requirements. You do not want to have to pay extra postage because your design did not meet regulations. If you are not sure, send a PDF file to your mail service provider to review. They can let you know of any issues before you print. Are you ready to get started?

4 Ways to Triple Your Digital Marketing Results

Digital marketing is direct marketing. If you follow these four principles, you’ll triple your digital communications results — and it doesn’t cost you a penny more.

What metrics do you use to define digital marketing success today? Clicks? Traffic? Followers? Leads? Sales? ROI? Notice what these metrics have in common. They all require some action on the part of the target, whether it’s a prospect or a customer. And how do you motivate an action? You use direct response communications. It’s as simple as that. Digital marketing is direct marketing. So why are we still seeing suboptimal digital communications in display, email, SEM, wherever. It’s a tragedy. If you follow these four principles, you’ll triple your digital communications results — and it doesn’t cost you a penny more.

Direct response communications are structured specifically to motivate an immediate response, which is why they are perfect for digital marketing communications. The structure relies on four elements.

1. Add an Offer

The offer is the key motivator that overcome inertia and stimulates response. A strong offer can improve response rates by 300 percent. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with discounts or deals. In fact, in B2B, the most powerful offer is authoritative, educational information, packaged up in a report, a case study, a chart, a video — something that answers a question or solves a business problem. Make the offer the center of your messaging. Explain why they can’t live without it.

2. Make a Strong Call to Action

The CTA is, in sales terminology, the “close,” where a rep asks for the order. “Click here.” “Download now.” Make it prominent, and make it persuasive. No more bland “More information” buttons. Here’s a handy checklist of 75 CTA options to inspire you.

3. Prepare a Dedicated Landing Page

This is where the real close takes place. Use the landing page to resell the offer, and capture the prospect’s information. Design the form to be filled out easily, asking for as little data as possible. If you already know some of the target’s data elements, as is likely with email communications, then prepopulate the webform. Whatever you do, don’t drive the respondent to your home page.

4. Test and Improve

Continuous split testing is so easy in digital channels, you have no excuse not to take advantage. Test your audience segments, your offers, headlines, calls to action, design — everything. And keep testing, for continuous improvement. As Jan Brandt, the digital marketing pioneer who launched AOL practically single handedly, used to say: “Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.”

After these four, there are plenty of other effective direct response principles you can apply. Improve your audience targeting. Use a friendly, personal tone. Add a sense of urgency. Focus on benefits, over features. I could go on. But you’ll get 90 percent of the way there with the Big Four principles above. Then sit back and watch your digital marketing response rates soar.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Boost Your Clicks With AdWords Sitelink Extensions

If your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

google adwordsIf your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

However, if you’re not in the PPC know, then you may not be aware that Google is now allowing up to eight sitelink extensions in paid search ads AND they are interactive, tappable scrolling buttons on mobile devices (vs. text links on desktop).

What does that mean for you?

Quite simply, Google is giving your more opportunity to catch your target audience’s attention with strong, relevant calls to action or other enticing keywords that are clickable; whereby, you can drive traffic to a targeted page.

These extra descriptives can help increase your clickthrough rate, and possibly conversion rate.

Now, some marketers don’t take advantage of this. But I say if you don’t, you’re leaving opportunity on the table!

What You Should Know

  • Including a Sitelink in Your Ad. When you’re creating a new ad, you’ll see prompts to add a new sitelink extension. If you have an existing campaign, but you didn’t take advantage of this feature, you can go back and add it under “All Campaigns,” select the ad you’d like to add the sitelink to, then select “+Extensions” and “+New Sitelink.”
  • Types of Extensions. Here are some top extensions to help drive traffic or clicks:
    • Teasers and Call-Outs. This would be a unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from your competition. Some may include call outs like “free shipping,” “100% guaranteed,” “special offer,”’ “free report” and similar. These sitelinks would then link to a promotional page that speaks more to the teaser and has a goal of getting a conversion.

This would be your physical address if you’re driving traffic to a physical location. This can then link to a directions/map page on your website.

  • Phone Number. This would be if you have the Google “click to call” feature driving traffic to a phone number.
  • Testimonials or Reviews. Some advertisers would put a strong excerpt from a testimonial page or “5 stars” review here, then link to the full reviews page.
  • Call to Action. Another popular tactic is to include calls to action that may answer a question the prospect is looking for, or help them find a solution. Such as “call now,” “get a quote,” “request appointment,” “order now,” “customer favorites,” “top sellers,” “special trial offer,” “on sale now,” etc.
  • Sale and Promotion Extensions. Where you can actually have things like “25% off your entire order” or “last chance sale,” where you can even enter the dates the sale is running in the ad!
  • Combining Lead-gen and Sale in One Ad. Using sitelinks can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. In your one ad, you can have different sitelinks for different goals. One sitelink term may say something like “free report” and the other may say “top sellers.” One links to a squeeze page to collect an email address (lead generation). The other goes to a sales page to a product going directly for a sale.

Tracking your sitelink performance is easy. When in your AdWords dashboard, just look for clickthrough rate performance under “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” “Ad Words” and “Sitelinks.” It’s that easy.

According to Google, the mere presence of sitelink extensions may boost clickthrough rate on average by 10 to 20 percent, and for branded terms, 20 to 50 percent.

So what are you waiting for?!

As part of your online marketing mix, if you have a percentage of your time and budget allocated to pay per click (PPC), then testing sitelink extensions in your ad is a MUST.

Good luck.

7 Live Video Expert Tips for Business

Live video is all the rage. After the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last month, it’s obvious that this is one of the key trends of 2017. Instagram Live has arrived. So has Twitter Live, with Periscope. Facebook has long been live and Snapchat is predicted to follow suit. For brands and businesses, live video is the next big communication channel, a way to build engagement with urgency and exclusivity.

VideoLive video is all the rage. After the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last month, it’s obvious that this is one of the key trends of 2017.

Instagram Live has arrived. So has Twitter Live, with Periscope. Facebook has long been live and Snapchat is predicted to follow suit. For brands, live video is the next big communication channel — a way to build engagement with urgency and exclusivity.

But you need to do it right. Here are seven tips to become a live video expert for your business:

1. Don’t Just Talk, Move!

The most common live videos consist of moving selfies. Someone turns their webcam on or picks up their phone and starts talking. And that’s fine. But you can win more engagement if you combine those videos with action shots. Use a GoPro to broadcast yourself biking down a mountain trail, or talk while walking through a farmer’s market.

“Even just bringing your audience with you on a stroll turns your broadcast into an event,” says Joel Comm, a live video expert who has been using this format for more than eight years. “It gives viewers more to see and takes them away from their desks. It’s much more engaging.”

2. Make Sure People Know When You’re Broadcasting

Spontaneity is a great thing, but if you want a big audience, you need to tell people when and where you’ll be talking. Use your Facebook page, your Twitter account and any other social media channel to tell your audience where you’ll be and how to access the video.

And make sure you pick a time when you know your audience will be online. You’ll always miss some of your potential audience, but pick the right hour based on your user data and remind people when you’re doing your broadcast. You should find that a good portion tune in.

3. Make Your Broadcast Personal

The benefits of live video extend beyond urgency and immediacy. The format also brings a personal connection between the business and the audience. You’ll be able to see who’s joining and you’ll be able to answer their questions in real time. Dale Carnegie has described someone’s name as their sweetest sound. As you’re broadcasting, you’ll see those names as your audience builds. Mention them to make a mass broadcast feel like a personal chat.

Visually Appealing Direct Mail

With all of the election mail this year, we have been overexposed to many mailers with too much going on. Yes, images are necessary, as is text, but when you oversaturate a large mailer, it turns into only noise — and noise goes in the trash. So I would like us all to consider: How can we get our message across while using blank space to our advantage?

beach and tropical seaWhy are we afraid of blank space in our direct mail? More and more of the mail I receive is crowded with text and images. I am overwhelmed visually, and I am willing to bet that most people are. With all of the election mail this year, we have really been overexposed to many mailers with too much going on. Yes, images are necessary, as is text, but when you oversaturate a large mailer, it turns into only noise — and noise goes in the trash. So I would like us all to consider: How can we get our message across while using blank space to our advantage?

Rather than call it blank space, I prefer to think of it as the space in-between, because really that’s what it is. It’s between images, between copy and between your call-to-action. It opens up our mind as a peaceful place between thoughts. It’s calming and refreshing to have that in-between space for a breath, as preparation for what is to come next. Our brains need that little downtime to organize and digest what we see.

Here’s how to create the space in-between:

Images

Select one or two images for the mailer. When sizing them, make them large enough for comprehension while allowing for space between the image and the copy.

Copy

Do not put copy over the images. Use bullet points and bolding to draw attention to your concise copy. Mailers are not letters — do not get too wordy. Allow for space between lines and use an open font instead of a compressed one.

CalltoAction

This needs to be in its own area with plenty of space around it to stand out. Get right to the point: What do your customers/prospects need to do? Make sure to tell them.

Color

The color(s) you choose for your mail piece is very important. You need them to work together with your copy and images to convey your message. Don’t go crazy with a ton of colors — pick a theme and have that guide your choices. When trying to create blank space you can use color, but keep it mild so when it is combined with open-spaced copy you are not overwhelming the visual senses.

The whole point of your mailer is to get people to respond. When you turn people off with too many images, too much copy or over-the-top colors, your mailer is ineffective.

With digital marketing always in our faces flashing images and endless pop-ups, it is refreshing to get mail pieces that are not scattered all over the place, but focused on one clear message. These mail pieces get acted upon. Create these pieces for your next campaign.

In no way am I saying that your mail piece needs to be boring — in fact I believe the opposite. You need to grab attention in a good way. By adding space between your attention-grabbing images and focused copy, you are able to draw attention to the right areas of your mailer. No one is getting lost or confused by what they see.

Still not swayed? Sample a test piece with added space against your current piece to see what works better for you.

You want people to remember your message and act on it. Have you had really successful direct mail? What has worked really well for you?

Digital Marketing: It’s Not About You

Your prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you do. What they care about is what you can do for them.

It feels appropriate to kick off this new column with that cold, hard truth because it’s how I start just about every presentation I give these days. The ideas captured in that assertion are the foundation for just about everything we’ll cover in this column: websites, content marketing and digital marketing.

digital guyYour prospects don’t care about you. They don’t care about what you do. What they care about is what you can do for them.

It feels appropriate to kick off this new column with that cold, hard truth because it’s how I start just about every presentation I give these days. The ideas captured in that assertion are the foundation for just about everything we’ll cover in this column: websites, content marketing and digital marketing.

The key notion here is that your marketing can’t be about you. This, of course, is no revelation. It’s been a basic tenet of marketing since marketing’s existence. Think of all the times you’ve been advised to talk about “benefits, not features” or to focus on your prospects’ pain points.

With the persistent encouragement to apply these techniques, it’s shocking how many corporate websites take exactly the opposite approach — it’s all about them and their products and why they are better than the rest. Remarkable, isn’t it, how every company is above average?

If you’re feeling brave, take a look at your own website right now. Does the me/we/our count outnumber the use of you/your? Is the first item on your main menu “About Us?” Does your home page copy talk about your decades of experience? If you said yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem.

You’re in luck, though. Solving these kinds of problems is exactly what we’ll devote this column to, along with:

  • Big picture strategy discussions
  • Tool recommendations
  • Implementation ideas for the Web, email marketing and social media
  • Integration recommendations for specific departments, including sales, customer service and product teams

Let’s get back to that home page of yours. In addition to checking whether the focus is on you or your customers, check if you’re committing any of the following deadly sins — we’ll lay them out here and dive into addressing them over the next few months.

Saying Too Much

One of the most common situations we find ourselves in when developing a new site is mediating between stakeholders in different parts of the company. They all believe their work is too important not to be featured on the home page. Of course, emphasizing everything means nothing stands out. You’ll be better served by editing ruthlessly and testing content to see what really performs best and deserves to be on your home page.

Saying Too Little

Currently there is a website trend of heavy imagery use paired with sparse copy. I’m sure the argument in favor of this practice centers on the emotional value of a powerful image packing the punch of a thousand words. But aside from looking like every other website out there, don’t you want to convey at least some basic sense of what you do and whom you can help? Don’t get me wrong — emotions matter in buying decisions. But it’s not all that matters.

Speaking to Everyone

Considering the topic of whom you can help, “everyone” is not a good answer. Even if your offerings really can help everyone, it would be foolish to believe you can stake out that territory successfully on a website home page. You need to pick your most important audience segments and speak to them. Yes, someone is likely to feel left out. The increased effectiveness you’ll have in your best segments, however, will more than compensate for losing out on a small number of less-than-ideal clients.

Making no Requests

Your website visitors will be more likely to take action if you suggest they do so. Having well-crafted offers and prominently featured calls to action are key to your website’s success. Now, that doesn’t mean asking for a credit card number after offering a prospect a small blurb of basic information. It might simply mean suggesting that they click through to another page that helps them get to know you better.

I look forward to getting to know you better over the coming months. Please reach out to let me know what digital marketing questions you’d like to see answered and I’ll include them in an upcoming column.

Creative Cage Match: King Arthur Flour vs. Cook’s Illustrated

It’s another hot summer month, and another Creative Cage Match is heating up. Now, just because I have no desire to cook or bake in this heat doesn’t mean someone else in a more temperate climate isn’t looking for a new recipe to try or kitchen gadget to pick up. I say go ahead, enjoy … I’ll be over here eating a caprese salad and fanning myself.

There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond.

So, once a month I’m going to select two marketers and toss them into a Creative Cage Match. I’ll be looking at everything ranging from email to direct mail, website to mobile site. It’ll be a mix of objective and subjective, and each time a marketer will walk out of the ring triumphantly.

The mercury keeps rising in our thermometers here in Philly, but just because I have no desire to cook or bake in this heat doesn’t mean someone else in a more temperate climate isn’t looking for a new recipe to try or kitchen gadget to pick up. I say go ahead, enjoy … I’ll be over here eating a caprese salad and fanning myself.Too Hot to Cook

On this side of the ring we have King Arthur Flour (KAF), a Norwich, Vt.-based supplier of flour, baking mixes, ingredients, cookbooks and baked goods. Founded in 1790 in Boston, Mass. under the name Sand, Taylor & Wood Company, KAF is an employee-owned company and is considered one of the best places to work for in the state of Vermont. Aside from their online presence — including a fully e-commerce site and blog — this baker’s paradise also has a print catalog.

And in the opposite corner we have Cook’s Illustrated, an American cooking magazine published by Brookline, Mass.-based America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). ATK produces several other publications, along with a cooking show, radio program, cookbooks … you name it, they’re involved. Cook’s Illustrated itself is bi-monthly, accepts no advertising and provides extensively tested recipes, as well as super thorough product reviews.

Email vs. Email

Most emails I received from cooking- or baking-based services/publications get my attention right away, due to my personal interest. But with these two contenders, I’m curious to see who gets the hot, summer food vibe right. Let’s start with King Arthur Flour:

King Arthur Flour email part 1 King Arthur Flour email part 2 King Arthur Flour email part 3The subject line reads: “The Complete Guide to Scone Baking,” and while I do love scones, I don’t think I’ll be firing my oven up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit anytime soon.

That said, if it’s not 93 and humid where you live, KAF does provide the full shebang when it comes to scones. Clicking through on the call-to-action button for the guide takes you to a highly visual web page that walks you through the basics of scone making, offers some tips to up your scone game, provides some recipes, as well as contact info for the Baker’s Hotline.

If you stick with the email, you’re rewarded with a legit scones baking tip, more recipes as well as some essential gadgets and a blog post on prepping scones ahead.

So, while I think an email about baking scones is a bit off for July, I think King Arthur Flour did an excellent job providing its subscribers with valuable content.

8 Considerations for Planning a Google AdWords Campaign

Ready to make a splash in Google AdWords? If you’re marketing your small business, then you may have first-hand knowledge about the ease of using Google’s ad platform. But don’t be fooled — it takes more than hastily written ad copy and keywords to be successful in AdWords.

TM0810_searchglobe copyReady to make a splash in Google AdWords? If you’re marketing your small business, then you may have first-hand knowledge about the ease of using Google’s ad platform. Anyone with a Google account and a credit card can get ads up and running within minutes. Online marketing can be an intimidating concept, but AdWords distills the creation of ad campaigns into a simple, step-by-step process.

But don’t be fooled — it takes more than hastily written ad copy and keywords to be successful in AdWords. Much like cooking isn’t as simple as throwing food into the oven, creating profitable campaigns in AdWords requires knowing your target audience, analyzing competitors and defining goals for your advertising efforts. Do these things, and your campaigns are far more likely to hit their desired targets. Neglect this pre-launch research, though, and your ads may never flourish.

Here we’ll review eight important steps when planning your Google AdWords campaigns. Whether you’re new to AdWords or have some experience, these easy steps can strengthen your advertisements right out of the gate.

1. Define Who You’re Targeting

Think of your AdWords campaigns as radio stations. If you wanted to attract the most listeners, you wouldn’t play the same music on all of your stations. Some stations would play the current pop hits, while others may play rap, classical or country. Each unique station would resonate better with specific groups of people.

So when creating your campaigns, think carefully about who you’re trying to reach with each one. If you’re marketing a shoe store, do you want your newest campaign to target male or female shoppers? Are you marketing formal shoes or sneakers? Are you trying to appeal locally or attract nationwide online orders? Or perhaps you’re selling to a niche market, like people with unusually large feet? Any information you can gather on your target audience will help you build your campaigns.

2. Find Relevant, High-demand Keywords

Building quality keyword lists is essential for all your campaigns. However, good keywords need to be more than relevant — they also need to be in high demand. In search marketing, demand is measured by how many people are searching for various keywords. Keywords that garner little attention from Web users aren’t going to help your advertising campaigns.

Fortunately, Google makes it easy to find relevant, high-demand keywords. Simply enter your keyword ideas into the AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool, and Google returns lists of similar keyword terms along with their estimated monthly search volumes and various other metrics. Estimated costs per click are shown, but these figures are often incorrect. Definitely pay attention to the level of competition for each keyword term; keywords with higher levels of competition are being bid on by more AdWords users, which pushes up the required bids for premium ad placements. You’ll maximize your reach and make your budget go further by finding relevant, high-volume keywords with less competition from other advertisers.

3. Make a Focused Sales Pitch

Knowing how to blast your ad to the masses is important, but reach doesn’t matter if your ad isn’t interesting. What exactly are you selling, and why should your campaign’s target audience care? What makes your business or your product special? Are you offering a deal or discount that your customers shouldn’t be without?

Your sales pitch must be short and sweet. Pay-per-click ads don’t leave much room for making your point, which is why it’s so crucial to zero in on one or two selling points for each of your campaigns. Choosing the sales pitches for your various campaigns goes hand-in-hand with knowing your target audiences.