Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.

When to Squeeze

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should

A marketing email should not ever be an isolated interaction between you and the recipient—it should be a player in a concert designed to delight, woo and convert. Other players in this concert include forms, links, content, assets, and, importantly, landing pages or squeeze pages. For your recipients, these pages should:

  • Provide a clear, concise path to becoming a customer.
  • Enable them to become customers.
  • Resolve any concerns they may have about becoming customers.

Let’s cover the basics:

A “landing page” is a web page, either on your site or hosted within your ESP or other site, that details the offer of your call to action (CTA). A landing page provides the visitor with several or numerous information sources or paths to engagement. For instance, you might link to white papers and videos that support your message (see Figure 1 int he media player at right), provide social media icons for connecting, or even reviewing options for feedback. In short, there is no limit to the amount of information you may include on a landing page—but more is not always better.

When more is not better, a squeeze page provides an ideal solution. A “squeeze page” is a Web page with a singular focus on the conversion (see Figure 2). Similarly designed to a landing page, it is without the myriad options one might find on a targeted landing page. On this page you’ll have no social icons, no links to your website, and only one option for engagement. As a mnemonic, think of a squeeze page as putting the squeeze on the visitor to do just one thing: complete the call to action referenced in your email.

Landing and squeeze pages provide you with ample opportunities for A/B and multivariate testing. Creating multiple versions of your pages, you can test messaging, buttons, images, color, formats (responsive or static) and much more. What’s more, combined with analytics monitoring, you can discern who’s visiting, for how long, what they did, where they go and so much more.

We have many clients who at the outset were performing some marketing (either direct mail or email), but in most cases were sending recipients to their home page—and without benefit of a tracking URL. There are two primary reasons you should never, never send your marketing traffic to your home page, 1) your home page should provide information appropriate for your general audience and, as such, does not specifically engage the marketing-message recipient; and 2) it is difficult or impossible to discern—even through analytics—which visitors came to your home page through other promotions, and which specifically visited your home page after having received your marketing campaign. These analytics are critical to understanding the behavior of your recipients, so don’t miss this opportunity to collect it, analyze it and act on it.

As you design your landing or squeeze page, use your email or direct mail piece as the guideline. Be sure you are directing clickthroughs to a page using the same art, same messaging and consistent branding. This similarity of design is comforting to the visitor and ensures they’ve come to the right place. Given they found the design of the email compelling enough to click, why spoil the moment? You already found what works, give them more.

If, however, you find that you’re simply not getting the conversions you expected, check the number of visitors first. You must have visits to gain conversions. If not, back up and take a closer look at the initial engagement and consider first things first. No matter how wonderfully written, artfully designed, and programmatically perfect a landing or squeeze page is, if your message does not drive your recipient to visit the page, your conversion rate will suffer. Ensure your message drives the visit before you give angst an audience over conversion disappointments.

If number of visits is within your acceptable range (but when is it ever enough?), work on the other players within your campaign, such as:

  • Form length
  • Form questions
  • Button design and placement
  • Text content
  • Links
  • Downloads
  • Supporting resources
  • Design
  • Programming errors

All of these elements can and should be tested and tracked through A/B and multivariate testing combined with analytics and heat-mapping. Using landing and squeeze pages makes this testing process easier and more reliable than trying to root through or make drastic changes to your site’s home page.

Taking this discussion just one step further, if a landing page simply doesn’t provide you adequate real estate, consider a “microsite,” a series of linked landing pages that spotlights your offer.

Sometimes integrated email means the integrated components within your campaign and rather than the components of the initiative. As you develop your emails, think beyond the inbox and give consideration to the end-to-end experience and what you can provide to your visitor in order to attain that elusive conversion.

List-building 2.0: 7 Tips for Using ‘Power’ Polls For Prospecting

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

Most people know Web 2.0 is simply the evolution of the Internet into an environment of interactivity, reader participation and usability. Web 2.0 opens up the dialog between user and website or blog. This connection can help generate traffic and a viral buzz.

But from a search engine marketing (SEM) standpoint, the benefits are clear and measurable: More traffic and frequent interactivity (or posts) equal better organic (free) rankings in search engine results. Getting good organic rankings is a powerful way to find qualified prospective customers.

So what online tactic encourages Web 2.0 principles as well as helps with search engine results page rank, visibility and listing-building efforts? Targeted online prospecting polls, also known as “acquisition” or “lead generation” polls.

Based on the specificity of your poll question, online acquisition polls can help you: collect relevant names and email addresses; gauge general market (or subscriber) sentiment; and generate sales (via a redirect to a synergistic promotional page). Polls also allow for interactivity, where participants can sound off about a hot topic.

I’ve been including strategic acquisition polls in my online marketing strategy for nearly a decade now and have rarely been disappointed with the results. Some websites, like surveymonkey.com, allow members to set up free or low-cost surveys and polls. However, it may not allow you to include a name-collection component or a redirect to a promotional or “thank you” webpage, which is essential for a success.

If that’s the case, either ask your Webmaster to build you a proprietary poll platform or use a poll script. You can find examples at hotscripts.com, ballot-box.net/faq.php, and micropoll.com.

Here are seven ways to help create a winning prospecting poll campaign:

1. Engage. Your poll question should engage the reader, encourage participation, pique interest and tie into a current event. And be sure to have a “comments” field where people can make additional remarks. Sample topics: politics, the economy, health, consumer breakthroughs, the stock market, foreign affairs.

2. Relevance. Your poll question should also be related to your product, free e-newsletter editorial, or free bonus report (which can be used as incentive). This will greatly improve your conversion rate. Let’s say your free offer is a sign-up to a stock market e-newsletter and the upsell is a redirect landing page promotion to a paid gold investment newsletter for $39/yr. In that case, your poll question should be tied with the editorial copy and product, something like “Where is gold headed in 2013?” Investors who favor gold (your target audience), will respond to this question … and engage. You are gaining these qualified prospects as leads and perhaps buying customers.

3. Incentive. After people take your poll, tell them that to thank them for their participation, you’re automatically signing them up for your quality, free e-newsletter or e-alerts … which they can opt out of at any time. To reduce the number of bogus email addresses you get, offer an extra incentive free “must-read” report, too. And assuming it’s your policy not to sell or rent email names to third parties (and it should be, based on email best practices), indicate your privacy/anti-spam policy next to the sign-up button on your email sign up form. This will immediately reassure people that it’s safe and worry-free to give you their email addresses.

4. Flag. Having your poll question somehow tie into your product makes the names you collect extremely qualified for future offers. Each name should be flagged by your database folks according to the answer they gave by topic category. You can create buckets for each product segment. Using our investing e-newsletter example, categories could be gold, oil, income, equities, etc. Segmenting the names into such categories will make it easier for you to send targeted offers later.

5. Results. Use the poll feedback for new initiatives. In addition to collecting names, online polls will help you gauge general market opinion—and could help you come up with new products.

6. Bonding. Strengthen your new relationships. You need to reinforce the connection between the poll people just participated in and your e-newsletter. So make sure each name that comes in gets an immediate “thank you” for taking the poll. This could be via autoresponder or redirect “thank you” page. On your “thank you” page/email, can be a link for the downloadable, free e-report you promised. Consider sending a series of informational, warm and fuzzy editorial autoresponders to help new subscribers get to know who you are, what you do and how your e-newsletter will benefit them. This will help improve their lifetime customer value.

7. Results. Gratify participants with the results. Don’t just leave poll participants hanging. Make sure you tell them the results will be published in your free e-newsletter or on your website (to encourage them to check it regularly), and then upload the results, as well as some of your best, most engaging comments. This is great editorial fodder, as well as helpful to increasing website readership and traffic.

Marketers have used polls internally (on their own company websites) for years. But now more than ever, with its cost effectiveness and efficiency, polls can be used to collect targeted leads and interact with prospects.

Polls aren’t just for finding leads, either. They are also great for measuring market sentiment, doing competitor analysis and new product development; which, in turn, can help customer retention, customer service and sales.

Boost Your Website Sales: 8 Simple E-commerce Tips That Really Work

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert? This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert?

This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

Here are a few things you could do to boost online sales and gain loyal customers. These can be applied and refined for most any business, industry or niche:

1. Make Sure Your SSL Seal And Other Consumer-Trust Logos Are Prominent. SSL or secure socket layer is a sign that the site is encrypted … that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most e-commerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe and others. It’s a good practice to display the vendor’s logo on your order page, as well as make sure in the browser window the “https” or image of a lock is present. This is a clear and comforting sign to consumers that they can order online with confidence. Other logos that are in plain view and are anchors on each page of your website can also instill confidence with potential buyers. Some may require membership or purchase, when applicable, and may include Better Business Bureau (“BBB”), PayPal Verified, Authorize.net Verified Merchant and virus protection software (i.e. “McAfee Secure”). Also, if you accept credit cards and have a money back guarantee, there’s nothing more powerful than strong, eye-catching graphic image icons, such as “100% Money Back Guarantee” or “We Accept All Major Credit Cards” (than have images of Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover).

2. Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Response Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5 percent to 10 percent if they order online versus by phone, fax or mail. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees, such as telesales or order entry personnel. These Web-only specials can be highlighted on your homepage via a banner ad, as well as on your product pages near qualified items.

3. Offer Free Shipping. Many e-tailers already factor all or a portion of shipping into the retail price of an item as part of their COGS (cost of goods sold). If you are truly offering free shipping, already factored shipping into the product’s cost, or are simply having a limited time free shipping special—if you’re offering it, mention it—big and bold on your home page. Free shipping offers have a huge psychological affect on consumers when they’re comparing competitor’s products and websites. In addition to product quality and value, offering free shipping can make all the difference regarding the final purchase decision.

4. Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or indicate next to select items “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item.” Also, have some glowing customer testimonials or reviews next to the product itself for potential prospects to see. Sites like Amazon, Babies”R”Us and others are pros at this strategy as well as using ratings and ‘Likes’ to convey a product’s popularity. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. as well as see that it’s popular with the masses. Seeing a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product provides validation and a feeling of comfort to a consumer. In addition to helping the conversion rate, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.

5. Advertise Products in Google Shopping (formerly Google Product Search, and before that, Froogle). http://www.google.com/shopping is a free product information platform from Google where you can post a single item or submit a data feed. Your products will appear in Google Product search and may also appear in Google.com search results, depending on keywords used. This is simple and easy way to increase your product’s visibility and market share.

6. Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. Sounds obvious, but many folks overlook their catalog and product pages. After doing some keyword research on actual search behavior for your product, refine your meta description, meta keywords and title tag of your product pages. This will help consumers find your product in the organic listing of search engine results.

7. Have a Special Coupon Code “Call Out” On Your Home Page. This is a best practice with online fashion retailers who typically have a banner ad or interstitial ad on their homepage stating something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234.” But this concept can be applied to virtually any industry. This is another great way to offer a special discount for your online customers that makes them feel good about the purchase. You can also encourage viral activity by having “forward to friend” or “share” create viral marketing. Make sure to have some great intro copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family and colleagues.”

8. Consider Payment Plans. For higher-ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. HSN.com and QVC.com have mastered this. If an item is, let’s say, $200, you might want to offer a flex pay option of “6 easy payments of $33.33” that is conveniently auto-billed to their credit card. Just be diligent when calculating your payment prices, as well as creating your return/refund policy for these items. The general rule is that your actual production costs/hard costs should be covered in the first one to three payments.

It’s all about being strategically creative and taking the consumer’s point of view into account regarding e-comm strategies. Remember to keep testing methods that help improve sales and drive prospects to your storefront.

Make note of when you implement new tactics and then after a month of being live. Compare sales results year-over-year to see if your efforts had made an improvement. I’m confident that you will see a positive difference in your online conversion rates.

How to Get Engaged Prospects to Buy

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?” It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

“How do we get customers engaged on our blog and other social media to buy or transact with us? How do we make that leap?”

It’s a common question and you’re not alone in asking it. Here’s my answer: Getting engaged sales prospects to consider a purchase or actually transact is easy if you return to trusty, time-tested, proven basic direct response practices.

  1. Solving customers’ problems
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response and conversion rate)

How to Sell by Solving Problems
Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts—to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services.

Solving customers problems has always worked! It’s a simple, effective way to produce awareness, interest, desire and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish.

The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter retweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Get Customers to Ask Questions That Connect to Products
Making social media sell for you is a matter of facilitating, and then connecting, question-and-answer oriented, digital conversations to helpful products and services whenever they’re relevant. It’s an old idea that you can leverage to drive sales with “new,” social media.

Think about it in your own life. Have you ever found yourself suddenly more equipped to make a purchase based on knowledge you suddenly became aware of? Think about it in your business, outside the Internet. Do you publish whitepapers, magazine articles, or other self-diagnosis tools to help customers become more clear on problems, avoid risk, or exploit unseen opportunities? Are you doing it in ways that occasionally connect with your products or services?

Beware: Just like cranking out whitepapers or information-dense brochures, earning sales takes more. Success requires relevancy and earning response from customers. That means making a habit of inducing customer behavior with every tweet, post, or update you make on social platforms. And that takes a plan, a designed system of question-and-answer driven interactions.

Beware of the Digital Charlatans
As I discuss in the June edition of Target Marketing, beware. Paradigm shifts and “total game-changers” are a goldmine for gurus and self-appointed experts pushing flash-in-the-pan software, books (Full disclosure: I wrote a social media book) and consulting services. There’s nothing wrong with making a living, but beware of misguided advice designed to scare otherwise rational business people into making irrational, hasty investments and spending money on ideas that don’t work.

Successful social sellers understand that the difference between fooling around on social media and selling with it relies on a return to the basics.