5 Ways to Make Holiday Email More Productive

If your email inbox is anything like mine, the recent influx of messages is overwhelming. Not only are you hearing from your direct contacts, you’re also getting a lot more partner emails and yes, spammers. Below are five productivity improvements for your own email campaigns.

If your email inbox is anything like mine, the recent influx of messages is overwhelming. Not only are you hearing from your direct contacts, but you’re also getting a lot more partner emails and yes, spammers. Below are five productivity improvements for your own email campaigns.

Opts Outs Will Increase — Here’s How to Lessen Them

As every company increases its email output during the holidays, many of us start to cull the companies we receive emails from. We opt out. Do we really need two emails a day from XYZ company? You search for the “Unsubscribe” link hidden at the bottom of most emails and click it.

The smart companies use an email preference center. An email preference center is simply a landing page that gives the subscriber options. They can update their email address, choose which type of emails they want or opt out forever. Take advantage of this page by asking subscribers about the frequency of emails, especially if you have multiple product lines or email lists; ask what products they want emails about.

When emails are pouring into our inboxes this holiday season, you can reduce your opt-out rates by giving recipients control over what you send and how often. Fifty-four percent of subscribers leave because you sent too many emails, while 47 percent say they need to decrease the number of companies they get emails from.

If you want to dig deep and improve your email preference center, HubSpot has an info-rich blog post, “28 Quick Tips for Customizing Your Email Preference Center”, that is well worth the read.

Think Mobile First

These stats from 2015 prove this point best: 76 percent of Black Friday emails and 63 percent of Cyber Monday emails were opened on a mobile device. Additionally, 56 percent of searches during the holiday season were conducted on a mobile device, according to Movable Ink. The same stats for 2016 will be even more impressive.

Remember, your recipients are weeding through emails on their smartphones and saving interesting emails to read later on their desktop computer. Design your emails for mobile (they’ll look fine on a PC), keep them short and put the most important content toward the top. Subject lines on mobile emails become even more important — make them short enough to fit in the preview of a smartphone. It’s wise to test this on multiple devices.

Target Cart Abandoners

Studies show the average shopping cart abandonment rate is approximately 73.9 percent. The good news is that 72 percent who do make the purchase after abandoning their carts do so within 24 hours. But others can take as long as two weeks.

fultzpic1Many potential online buyers purposely abandon their shopping carts. They’re looking to collect coupons or to wait for offers that are sent to try to close the sale.

To target cart abandoners, you’ll need to consider your email schedule, images of the abandoned items, offers/discounts to bring them back and lastly, adding or emphasizing a guarantee. These prospects are low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked.

Create a Sense of Urgency

Urgency is a powerful psychological motivator — this is Direct Response 101. Deadlines work. They compel your customers to take the next step.

“One-Day Sale” or “Only Available to the First 100 Buyers” or “Sale Ends December 24 at 5:00 p.m.” all can prompt more conversions. Long-time mailers know this too well. We’ve used urgency and deadlines to great effect long before email even existed. Email marketers can learn a lot from reviewing snail mail packages from today and yesterday.

Test Your Code

Assuming your segmenting is good, your creative and offers should resonate with shoppers. Testing your code for the most popular inboxes and devices is then the last — and the most important — step. Use an email preview application like Email On Acid, Litmus and PreviewMyEmail to send your email through test accounts to see how different email applications, browsers and computer platforms present your email to recipients. If you are using an ESP (email service provider) like MailChimp, Emma or Vertical Response, you can use their pretested templates. But be aware, if you play with their code, you could easily “break” them.

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Email On Acid previewing of code in multiple browsers and platforms

The Bottom Line

With emails, the phrase “test, test, test” is particularly pertinent. Not only do you need to test your segmentation, offers, subject lines and preheaders, you need to design for mobile, test your code and be prepared for opt-outs and cart abandoners. But do not fear — there are many people and tools to help you.

Happy Holidays!

7 Marketing Resolutions for Younger Marketers in 2016

Fear not, I’m back for 2016 and will be posting again on a monthly basis. Starting right now, with my very own “2016 Marketing Resolutions.” I’ll also list a few great resources I’ve found to help me on the road to resolution glory!

I’m baaaaaaack! Did you miss me? Did you feel like 2015 was just a little darker and a little colder as it drew to a close? You may have assumed it was just a result of the earth’s regularly scheduled journey farther away from the sun, but I’m here to tell you that chill in the air was merely the lack of my presence in your life and on your screen.

But fear not, I’m back for 2016 and will be posting again on a monthly basis. Starting right now, with my very own “2016 Marketing Resolutions” (because there’s never enough “My New Year’s Resolutions” posts in the world, right?) I figure I’ll fare better with these guys than I will with “go to the gym 3x a week” or “limit myself to one season of a show on Netflix per night.”

I’ll also list a few great resources I’ve found to help me on the road to resolution glory!

Business group of people standing on the hill and looking aside
According to iStock, a significant number of people have a goal of climbing a mountain and/or doing the Rocky pose in business suits

 

1. Get to Work Earlier
Here’s the problem with having flexible work hours: you can actually take advantage of them. Add that to my just-two-blocks commute and you’ve got a perfect recipe for snooze-button-dependency. I’ve never been an early bird, and generally I’m of the mindset that I work better when I come in a little later and leave a little later. But I have to admit I feel an extra sense of pep and motivation when I manage to start my day an hour or two ahead of schedule, and having that extra time to enjoy my coffee and clear out the cobwebs logically results in more productivity. So I’ve decided: 2016 is the year I start getting to work before 9:00.

I recently found this simple yet brilliant post on LifeHack for people like me, and I’m eager to try these strategies out.

2. Better Time Management
Another daily struggle for me: deciding what on my list needs to be done and when, and how much time should be spent doing it. Since it’s a point I’m always looking to improve, I’ve found a few basic tools that seem to work best for me when used together.

I’m a visual person, so I always love a good to-do list; it really helps me to be able to look at my tasks laid out in front of me, and physically move them into an order that makes sense. My favorite of the many online options available is Wunderlist. You can create separate folders within your to-do list and categorize each task, set due-dates and alarms, enable email notifications, and sync your lists to the mobile app to access anywhere. Plus, that “ding” noise it makes when you complete a task is super satisfying. Oh, and it’s free!

Another must: The StayFocusd browser extension. No more “two minute web surfing breaks” that turn into ten or twenty; this app blocks all but your allowed websites after your allotted time runs out. Pro-Tip: Put the Chrome Extensions store on your block list, so you can’t cheat and remove the app 😉

5 Things to Do Now to Prepare for the Next Stage of Email Marketing

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program. But the email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king

The email channel is well known for being a low cost high performance marketing machine. Generating revenue requires little more than the ability to acquire opt-in permission and change content in a template. It’s so easy that someone with no experience could create a successful email program.

And, they do. This is one of the reasons that spam continues to grow. Someone with access to thousands of addresses can fill his or her coffers by blanketing the list with promotional messages or scams. Those emails keep coming because they work. If people didn’t respond to them, the spammers would find a new source of income.

The minimal requirements for success also contribute to the cookie cutter emails sent by established brands. Subject lines, images and content change, but the layout and offers are strikingly similar. When asked why they do this, marketers claim that testing has proven that their subscribers respond best to this presentation and offers.

The problem is that they decided to stop testing once a solution was found. Any halfway decent direct marketer will tell you that testing shows what works best AT THAT TIME. The winner becomes the control that is used to gauge the effectiveness of future tests. Email marketing lulls marketers into complacency because it works so well at consistently generating revenue. Following the “don’t fix it if it’s not broke” theory keeps them from finding strategies that work better.

In fairness, the demands on marketing teams are continuously increasing. Participation in high maintenance, continuously changing channels requires time and effort that might have been dedicated to improving email campaigns if the world were different. Resources have to be allocated by need and email campaigns do not require much to be successful.

The email marketing world is changing. Evolution has already begun. Companies have to adapt or lose the effectiveness of a channel that has served well as a cash flow king. That adaptation has to start now because it takes time to establish the relationships required for continued success. Waiting until campaigns start losing their effectiveness will be too late.

There are two shifts creating the need for change. The first is increased competition. According to the Radicati Group’s email statistics report for 2012 – 2016, 144.8 billion emails were sent in 2012. By 2016, that number is expected to increase to 192.2 billion. Business emails account for 61 percent of the emails today, increasing to 75 percent in 2016. Consumer emails are decreasing. In 2012, 55.8 billion emails were sent. By 2016, consumer emails will drop to 48.4 billion. More marketing messages mean that company emails have to fight harder for recipients’ attention.

The second shift is the ongoing effort to provide a personalized universal search experience. Google is the first search engine to test adding emails to results. It’s only a matter of time before the field trial rolls out and other search providers follow the lead. This changes the rules of engagement for the email marketing game.

Email campaigns will need to work overtime to deliver the best results. In addition to generating immediate cash flow, they need to have a “save for later” appeal that keeps recipients from deleting them. The saved emails will appear when people search the web for similar products or services.

Fortunately, preparing for increased competition and universal search has immediate benefits. The same tactics that position your emails for success in the future also make them work better today. To get started:

  1. Improve your customer relationships: Loyal customers are more likely to ignore increased competition and save your emails. Including emails that make it easier for people to use your products and services solidifies relationships and adds life to your messages.
  2. Optimize emails for search: Adding alternative text to images provides information that can be accessed by search bots. Balancing text and images makes your messages more readable by recipients and bots. It also improves deliverability.
  3. Use personalized trigger emails to improve the shopping and service experience: Trigger emails are a low cost way to keep customers informed about order status and new products or services.
  4. Customize emails by customer behavior: Sending everyone in your database the same marketing message works. Sending customized message to individuals based on their shopping and communication preferences works better.
  5. Keep everything simple and easy: The easier you make it for your customers, the more loyal they tend to be. Work to eliminate as many steps as possible between the marketing message and sale. People keep coming back when the process is simple.

Email Marketing Redefined: Driving Sales

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better. The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs.

Increasing sales is the primary objective for most email campaigns. Email marketing works so well for driving revenue that people forget it is a multifaceted tool. There is a tendency to create a template and then delegate its population to a lower level team member. Doing this provides consistent revenue generation without requiring allocating additional resources. Since it works so well, why invest in making it better

The argument against the status quo in email marketing is simple. Redefining your strategy increases sales, improves loyalty and reduces costs. It is an investment that delivers a strong return. The best thing about changing your strategy is that it can be done without having a negative effect on revenue. There is no down time or culture shock if you implement the execution gradually. To do this, plan your new approach complete with expected responses from your customers and then start adding your new messages to the mix.

If you are uncomfortable about making changes because your email campaigns are working so well, select a segment of customers to test your new strategy. Comparing the results with your control will help you determine the best way to go forward. In addition to guiding you down the right path, the results provide analytical proof that making the changes benefits your company.

There are four types of emails that contribute to short-term sales and long-term growth—Promotional, Highlight, Trigger and Informational. There may be some crossover between the types, but each email should have one primary objective. Limiting the focus improves response and makes it easier to measure results. A singular message is less confusing to recipients. People respond better when they know exactly what you want them to do.

  • Promotional emails include special offers, discounts and events. They are time sensitive and predictable. With a little history, marketers can project the number of orders and amount of revenue generated from each planned email with a high level of accuracy. People respond well to promotional emails because of the time sensitivity and the opportunity to save money or participate in an event. This is the staple of your email strategy because of the effectiveness in delivering short-term revenue.
  • Highlight emails showcase products and services. They may be used to introduce new items or share additional information on established ones. These emails are most effective when sent to segmented lists of people who have shown an interest in the items by inquiry or purchase. They deliver a higher return on investment than promotional emails because the items are offered at full price.
  • Trigger emails put your marketing on autopilot. They are designed to automatically transmit when people perform specific actions. They can be used to welcome new subscribers, provide transactional information and convert abandoned carts. Best practices begin with the creation of the emails and follow with consistent review of the results to provide continuous improvement.
  • Informational emails educate your customers and prospects. They may include promotional information in the form of links, but their primary objective is to teach people how to use your products and services. It’s very easy to presume that the people that shop with your company know what they need and what you provide. This presumption costs you money because it is rarely true. Educated customers and prospects are more loyal and buy more often. Teaching people what they need to know provides long-term value.

To get started redefining your sales strategy:

  1. Review your existing campaigns. Make a list of what works, what doesn’t and what’s missing. Do you have an abandoned cart strategy? Are informational emails sent on a regular basis? When was the last time you changed your welcome email? Are products being introduced and highlighted?
  2. Outline your new strategy. Define and prioritize your corporate objectives for your email marketing. Using the review, identify opportunities to increase sales, reduce costs, improve loyalty and accomplish any other objectives. Rank the opportunities by how well they match corporate priorities. Document the results so you will have a path to follow.
  3. Test everything. Create an email or series of emails designed to fulfill a high priority objective. Select a segment of customers or prospects most likely to respond to your campaign. Define specific goals to be achieved before sending the first email. Send the emails, review the results and revise as needed. Repeat.

Expanding your email arsenal to include trigger, highlight and informational emails changes your strategy from one-off offers to integrated campaigns. It engages customers and prospects and makes them more responsive to all of your emails. Isn’t it time to do this for your business?

Get Ready for 2013: Email Marketing Redefined

How much time do you spend thinking about your email marketing strategy? Would you make the time if you knew that changing your email marketing strategy could make your job easier, increase revenue, and improve customer acquisition and retention? Email campaigns can do it all, but they have to be carefully planned and orchestrated to make the good things happen.

How much time do you spend thinking about your email marketing strategy? If you are like most marketers, juggling multiple channels in an ever changing marketplace doesn’t leave much time for contemplating the whys and wherefores in any area.

Would you make the time if you knew that changing your email marketing strategy could make your job easier, increase revenue, and improve customer acquisition and retention? Email campaigns can do it all, but they have to be carefully planned and orchestrated to make the good things happen. The way people access information and connect with each other is changing rapidly. Your email marketing has to adapt or die.

The best strategy is multifaceted with specific processes that move people for one stage to another. It provides access to the content via the technology that fits your customers and prospects. The people who subscribe to your messages aren’t always at their computers. Your content and how it is delivered has to adapt to their needs.

The first step in creating a comprehensive strategy is defining the purpose of your email marketing. Do you want to acquire more customers? Sell more products and services? Keep customers happy? Reduce operating costs? Or, is it all of the above?

The four primary objectives for email campaigns are:

  • Customer Acquisition
  • Sales
  • Customer Retention
  • Service

Each objective requires a customized strategy designed to move people from original contact to completion. Everything varies from the point of origin forward. The messages that sell the latest products to seasoned customers are rarely as effective with prospects. Creating a specific process for each objective moves email marketing from generic blasts to targeted marketing that connects with people. There can be some crossover, but in general, every email sent needs a specific objective and clearly defined success metrics.

Start the planning for 2013 by reviewing 2012. How many customers were acquired via emails? What percentage of sales is directly attributed to email campaigns? What percentage of sales was influenced by email marketing? How does customer retention for people who subscribe to your emails compare with those who don’t? How do service metrics compare for subscribers versus non-subscribers? You have to know where you are before you plan the journey to your destination.

Next, look at the content of the emails sent in 2012. Does it match the information in your analysis? Are there exceptions? For example, if the majority of the emails were sales promotions, then a low customer acquisition rate and strong sales generation would be expected. If there are any exceptions, try to identify the elements that made people act.

The last part of the 2012 review is looking at segmentation and consistency. Was your list segmented so people received emails targeted by behavior, or did everyone on your list receive the same emails? How often did each group receive messages? Is there a pattern of response in relation to timing? Are all of the emails branded so your company is easily recognized?

The 2012 review provides a benchmarking foundation so you have a reference point for comparison. The review process often triggers ideas and awareness that can be used to maximize the return in 2013. Document your thoughts and any metrics readily available for future reference.

It is time to look forward to the New Year. What do you want to accomplish with your email marketing in 2013? The best strategies have a balanced approach to accomplishing the four primary objectives. They attract new customers, keep existing ones happy and generate revenue while reducing operating costs.

Identifying specific targets provides goals and accountability. How many customers do you want to acquire? What are your direct and indirect sales goals? How much should your retention rate increase? What effect do you expect on service levels and operating costs?

There are many questions to be answered in the process of creating a comprehensive email marketing strategy. The better the answers, the more likely your email program will succeed. Investing the time and resources required to do this right is guaranteed to generate a solid return on investment.

This post is the first in a series on developing a comprehensive email marketing strategy.

Introducing ‘The Integrated Email’ Blog by Debra Ellis

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

Why is email marketing so effective? Is it the one-to-one communication, ability to connect with customers and prospects on the go, or the provision of instant gratification with one-click shopping? The answer depends on the company and the customer relationship, but there is one universal truth: The combination of interactive communication with self-service solutions makes email the most versatile tool in a marketing workshop.

My experience with email marketing began shortly after Hotmail launched the first Web-based email service in 1996. A client had compiled approximately 11,000 customer email addresses and wondered what we could do with them. Our first test was a 25 percent discount on any order placed that day. A text-only message was sent using the mail merge functionality in Excel and Outlook. It took over two hours to send all the emails.

Those two hours were quite exciting. We had two computers in close proximity so we could watch the progress of the outgoing emails and monitor sales on the website. Within minutes of starting the email transmissions, orders started flowing in. By the end of the day, more than 1900 orders were received. A handful of people asked to be excluded from future mailings. Over 200 people responded with personal notes. Some were grateful for the discount. Others apologized for not placing an order and asked to receive more emails.

Things are much different today. The novelty of receiving a personalized message from a company is long gone. Spam filters make getting emails delivered a near impossible mission. And the competition for recipients’ attention is at an all-time high. Even so, email marketing remains one of most effective marketing and service vehicles available.

The emails that deliver the best return on investment are the ones that are integrated with the other marketing channels to provide information and service to the recipients. They create a connection between company and customer that motivates people to respond. A successful email marketing strategy builds loyalty while increasing sales.

Many email campaigns today are little more than a systematic generation of one promotional email after another. Discount emails are relatively easy to create and deliver sales with each send, making them a quick way to inject some life into lagging sales. The simplicity of sale marketing combined with solid response rates creates an environment where marketers are reluctant to move beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit.

In addition to generating sales, discount marketing also trains people to always look for the best price before buying the company’s products and services. It is not a sustainable strategy because there will always be another company that can offer lower prices and lure customers away. A better plan is to develop an integrated email marketing strategy that educates and encourages people to develop a relationship with the company. This requires more effort, but it delivers loyalty and long-term results.

Every email that a customer or prospect receives is an opportunity for the company to establish itself as the best service provider and solidify the relationship. Best practices include:

  • Using a valid return email address so the recipient can respond with one click.
  • Sending branded emails that identify your company at first glance.
  • Mixing educational emails that provide “how to” information for products and services with new product launches and promotional messages.
  • Transactional emails that communicate shipping information and challenges so customers aren’t left wondering, “Where is my order?”
  • Highly targeted and personalized emails designed to engage customers and prospects at every point in their lifespan.

Finding the right combination of educational, event and promotional emails requires testing and measuring results for incremental improvements. The resources invested improve relationships, increase sales and create a sustainable marketing strategy.

Note: Over the next few months, we’ll feature winning and losing email marketing strategies and campaigns on this blog. If you would like to share your company’s killer emails, send them to Debra at dellis@wilsonellisconsulting.com.