Email Marketing to Acquire High Quality Facebook Fans

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

How much are Facebook fans worth? The answer depends on the quality of the relationship between fan and brand. There is a low entry threshold to become a fan—all it takes is a click or two. When Facebook is the only connection, financial support is unlikely. The best and most valuable Facebook fans are the ones who actively support your business or organization across channels. They are the ones that will respond to promotions and share real experiences with their friends.

Encouraging people who subscribe to your emails to join your social networks is a best practice because it significantly improves the quality of your fan base. The process is more challenging than it used to be because Facebook eliminated the option for custom landing pages. It can still be done, but there are a few issues with the experience. The email from Belk Department Stores (the first picture in the media player at right) provides a good example.

There are several components that make this a good email for motivating people to cross channels. They are the same items that make all emails more successful at generating a response.

  • The email includes a specific call to action with a reward for connecting via Facebook.
  • There are multiple opportunities to click and connect via Facebook and other channels.
  • The primary promotion is the focus while secondary options are available.
  • The offer is time sensitive.
  • There are clickable links for shopping categories.
  • A web link is available if the email images aren’t available.
  • Unsubscribe, preferences, and privacy links offer control to the recipient.
  • Alternate text for images to encourage people to download images or visit webpage

Three days after sending this email, 16,708 new fans have joined Belk’s network and 34,465 coupons were claimed. How could this be if “liking” the brand is required to claim the coupon? Remember the issues mentioned earlier?

The ability to gate the coupon disappeared when Facebook eliminated custom landing pages. It is technically impossible to require someone to like the page before receiving the coupon. This means that the coupon is available to anyone who visits the page and explains why more coupons were claimed than fans acquired.

If an email increases fans and sales, it is successful even when the two aren’t codependent. The loss of the custom landing page requires good communication on how to access the coupon. Clicking the link in the email takes the recipient to Belk’s Facebook timeline. Scrolling down is required to see the offer. Obviously people are finding it because thousands have claimed the coupon. The unanswered question is how many more would have been claimed if the offer were more obvious?

What if the Belk Rewards tab was temporarily replaced with a 20 percent off offer so it appeared above the fold?

The functionality of the Belk coupon promotion is provided by Facebook. When someone clicks “Get Offer” an email is sent with the offer code. Whether you choose to use Facebook’s advertising products or do it yourself, here are some tips for making it successful:

  • Follow the best practices used in the example email.
  • Tell people how to claim to coupon in the email.
  • Put information about the promotion above the fold so people see it when they land on the page.
  • Include the expiration date on the Facebook post to increase the sense of urgency.
  • Test different strategies and measure everything.

Measuring the results for fan acquisition is a challenge because there is limited data available. Email metrics are much easier to acquire. If you have good benchmarks you can gather enough information to gain insight to the results from fans and Facebook activity.

There is a tendency in social media to acquire quantity over quality. When the focus is the number of fans instead of the relationship, the return is minimal. The best strategy is to encourage top customers to cross channels and join your networks. They will share your information with friends and family. This introduces your company to the people most likely to support your business.

If Email’s Broken, Why Aren’t You Fixing It?

Call me naive, but I don’t understand why any company should still be experiencing poor email open and click through rates. Let’s cut to the chase: Successful email marketing consists of four parts: The List, the “From” line, the “Subject” line and the Creative. However, the most fascinating article I’ve read recently about how to design more effective emails comes from Red C, a direct and digital marketing communications agency based in the UK.

Call me naive, but I don’t understand why any company should still be experiencing poor email open and click through rates.

Let’s cut to the chase.

Successful email marketing consists of four parts:

  1. The List (don’t get me started on the importance of this!)
  2. The “From” line
  3. The “Subject” line
  4. The Creative

Any reader of Target Marketing, or student of direct marketing or email marketing, should know how important the list is—in fact, if you’re not spending any time on list strategy, don’t even bother executing an email campaign… period.

The “From” line can be easily tested. (One of our client’s gets better open results when emails come from their parent company, probably because the parent company has a stronger brand presence among the target audience.)

I’ve written plenty about “Subject” lines. (No more than 40 characters INCLUDING spaces… please!)

And there’s also lots of information out there about best practices when it comes to email creative. However, the most fascinating article I’ve read recently about how to design more effective emails comes from Red C, a direct and digital marketing communications agency based in the UK.

They recently completed an eye-tracking study. it doesn’t tell you what people say they look at, or plan to read, or what they like. Instead it tracks what people actually look at, in what order, and for how long.

The Red C report “10 Inbox Secrets devotes a single spread to each “A-ha!” finding, and provides examples and analytical insight into that key finding. My only recommendation (before you print the article) is to choose “landscape” as the type is pretty darn small when printed in “portrait” mode.

My biggest take-away?

The importance of the opening screen—readers typically focus their attention at the center of the page while it loads, and then orient their attention from there.

Red C recommends combining irregular shapes, graphics and text elements to sustain attention, and also offer recipients ‘pathways’ down the email via text or graphic devices. They suggest you AVOID the temptation to use a press ad structure and design in ‘screenfuls’ which are viewed too quickly and don’t provide enough visual encouragement to scroll down further.

I encourage anyone responsible for email marketing to study this report in detail. Eye-tracking studies don’t lie—they provide helpful insights to understand how readers actually consume emails.

Then don’t be afraid to challenge your creative team to re-think your current email design so you can increase message engagement and, ultimately, click through rates.

Is Blogging the Online Dinosaur?

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead. I beg to differ. 

A friend and fellow marketer said something to me recently that caused my eyeballs to nearly pop out of my head. Her comment was short and to the point: Blogging is dead.

When I asked what made her make such a profound blanket statement, she responded that with the increasing popularity of social marketing, as well as the inundation of free ezines (or free e-magazines), blogs have become the online dinosaur.

I beg to differ.

You see, each platform has its own communication style; thereby, attracting different types of readers:

  • Blogging is a more raw experience for the reader. Informal undertones which are unedited and uncut. Giving the inside scoop.
  • E-newsletters or similar still contain valuable information, but the content is more polished and editorial in nature.
  • Social marketing is typically a combination of short, pithy posts that are fun, friendly, or business-related. Sound bites that grab attention and allow followers see the writer as both guru and virtual friend.

When it comes to marketing, I never like to put all my eggs into one basket. I don’t totally use social marketing as my platform of choice. Nor do I totally rely on email marketing or blogging as a prime driver for sales or leads.

What I like to do is diversify my online marketing mix—similar to when you diversify your retirement portfolio—and deploy several means of organic and paid Web marketing strategies based on target audience, budget and business objective.

In addition, I like to use tactics that complement one another.

Know The Flow: Understanding “Push” vs. “Pull” Marketing
Blogging, social marketing posts, and free ezines/e-magazines (email marketing) are all conduits; that is, ways to communicate with readers albeit subscribers, friends, followers, or fans.

The initial goals of each are virtually the same: To provide information in exchange for a readers’ interest (bonding) and interaction. The information can be editorial, marketing or random thoughts. And the interaction can be in the form of a free subscription (email address), website visit, retweet, ‘Like’ or sale (cross-selling, affiliate or third-party ads).

With blogging and social marketing, you’re deploying “pull” marketing—you’re pulling people to your “home-base hub” whether it’s your blog, profile page or wall with “content nuggets.”

Once live, that content has become part of the Web and is now subject to search engine spiders and similar tactics that will help your nuggets get increased exposure in organic search results pages; thereby, pulling like-minded visitors from your “nugget” to your “hub” with more of that great useful, valuable, and actionable information such as SEO, SEM, article marketing, or what I call SONAR marketing.

Now, since these readers are seeking you out and visiting your “hub,” you don’t have a direct line of contact with them. In other words, you don’t have their direct email address and have permission to correspond with the user personally.

… Which leads to ‘push’ marketing.
E-newsletters and e-magazines are correspondence being “pushed” out to your audience. Since the direct message itself is going through an email service provider and then to a specific individual, it is not widely available on the Web for all to see (including search engine spiders) and will not show up on organic search engines results pages.

You already have the recipients’ email address, so the main purpose of your effort is typically bonding or cross-selling (via newsletter ads and solo emails in your sales funnel).

So you see, as long as there’s different ways to reach people and different ways people prefer to be reached, blogging isn’t dead. For some marketers, it may be on pause; but for smart marketers, it’s still part of the big plan.

I think, nowadays, marketers need to test all online platforms to see which one is right for their business, audience, and objectives.

Don’t rule anything out. Learn how to be strategically creative to satisfy YOUR specific goals and communication flow.

Email Marketing is the Sticky Stuff of Digital Conversations

Email marketing is no longer one size fits all. It’s part broadcast, part transaction-driver, and part loyalty and engagement aid. In fact, because of this diversity of roles, email has become the glue by which marketers start and nurture conversations with subscribers and customers.

Email marketing is no longer one size fits all. It’s part broadcast, part transaction-driver, and part loyalty and engagement aid. In fact, because of this diversity of roles, email has become the glue by which marketers start and nurture conversations with subscribers and customers.

Glue? Is that good? I think so. Because email marketing communicates with your eCRM database and connects marketing campaigns with data at the individual subscriber level, it’s become a powerful way for marketers to connect across customer touchpoints, even other channels. It’s become “conversational glue.”

Consider this glue to be a series of messages that nurture and engage consumers over time. Marketers already aim to do this. They create content and messaging that reaches customers and prospects over time, with a purpose that’s meaningful to customers. Most likely, the conversation component (i.e., each individual message) drives an action or interaction with the customer. While not every email needs to drive a click to be effective, if you’re engaging in conversation it must be a two-way dialog. This means the timing of the messaging and the content encourage higher response.

There are many ways that marketers collect data in order to customize experiences. Consider what you have at your disposal: past response data, online forms, surveys, sales teams, competitive analysis, social communities (including comments on your blog) and web analytics. Understanding the key drivers of response will help you focus on the things that matter most. For example:

1. Post-purchase triggered messages, like those from Amazon and Williams-Sonoma, encourage suggested follow-up items. That alone isn’t a conversation, so turn that post-purchase request into a conversation by offering testimonials from others who have purchased the follow-up product. Provide helpful tips from your product experts or merchandisers, or even invite the customer to join a product-owner community.

You can still suggest related products, it’s just not the sole purpose of the communication. A colleague received a “personal” follow-up from a sales associate she met during her purchase at Neiman Marcus. Now that’s a conversation starter!

2. Sign up for a B-to-B event and what do you get? An invitation the following week for the same event — sometimes at a better deal. An order confirmation or download receipt isn’t a conversation. This period of anticipation — post sign-up and pre-event — are actually great times for conversations. Engage participants with experts by sending provocative insights to be shared at the event, and collect feedback in advance that you can use during the event to tailor the experience. While you do that, offer help for hotels, travel, networking, etc. Wrap the conversation around those helpful informational messages.

How do you do this? It starts with data. If you don’t have a campaign management tool integrated with your database, you need to prioritize the data elements that will power the most relevant conversations and import that data to your email marketing tool. That data isn’t as timely or rich, but it will get you on your way. Perhaps it could even help you make a business case for better segmentation and campaign management tools. Create the content up front so that you know the whole conversation. But if subscribers aren’t engaging, don’t keep talking. Allow those who aren’t interested to drop out of the series.

Test everything — content, images, offers, presence of navigation and secondary offers, cadence, timing, and message length. Even subject line testing will help you improve results and guide your segmentation going forward as you learn more about your audience.

Successful conversations require a deep commitment to subscriber interest. Let’s be honest: Self-interest and business pressure often result in low relevancy for subscribers, the very people you’re trying to engage in conversation. Often there’s a disconnect between a marketer’s desire to have conversation and a subscriber’s willingness to converse. Select your opportunities carefully. Marketer must become advocates for their subscribers, and not just for altruistic reasons. Relevancy improves response and revenue.

Don’t forget to include your landing pages in the conversation. Continue to offer ways to respond, interact and provide feedback. Social elements can help here as well. Think of landing pages as a continuation of the conversation.

What are you doing to start and nurture conversations? Let me know how you’ve successfully improved engagement and response by posting a comment below.

Stephanie Miller’s Engagement Matters: Email Storytelling Sells

Combat the fatigue from crowded inboxes by embracing the role of storyteller. Telling a story, rather than just announcing a fact or blasting out an announcement, is a more engaging way to share information. The storytelling approach weaves a relationship through a cadence of touchpoints. Any nurturing or loyalty program is built on the same concept, and many B-to-B marketers are very good at telling stories to move prospects through a buying process.

Gone are the days of the passive email subscriber. Consumers and business professionals tire easily when publishers and marketers broadcast to them. It’s the online equivalent of shouting. Your customers and readers want meaningful conversations — and they know they have other options if you don’t deliver.

Combat the fatigue from crowded inboxes by embracing the role of storyteller. Telling a story, rather than just announcing a fact or blasting out an announcement, is a more engaging way to share information. The storytelling approach weaves a relationship through a cadence of touchpoints. This isn’t complex. Any nurturing or loyalty program is built on the same concept, and many B-to-B marketers are very good at telling stories to move prospects through a buying process.

It’s simply a series of stories about use cases, cool new features and real-life implementation of your editorial, products and services. So invite your subscribers to the proverbial campfire and build their anticipation with a question, “How can I help you today?” Email marketing is great for providing the answer.

Invite subscribers on a story journey
Instead of sending a generic newsletter or “special offers,” invite website visitors to accept a two to five message email series on a particular topic. Make it about how your products, services or content will help them: “Five ways to be beautiful this summer,” “Three strategies for impressing your boss,” “Doctor’s advice on buying contact lenses online,” “Ten things your CEO wants you to know,” “Five great summer games for kids under 10.”

Make it easy to sign up by putting invitations in prominent locations on pages that have related content. And be sure permission is clear. If the offer is just for two to five email messages over the same number of weeks or days, then say so. You’ll likely find a higher sign-up rate and higher response and engagement because the content is so targeted. If you’re also signing them up for your ongoing e-newsletter, be clear about that. There’s no reason you can’t encourage a further subscription after you’ve delivered the series, too. Earn their trust first, then sell. Consider the following strategies:

  • Make your story interactive.
  • Tap the socially connected nature of today’s digital experience.
  • Integrate opportunities for subscribers to share with their social networks or forward to others.
  • Invite subscribers to take a poll or survey or give you feedback.
  • Offer a page where subscribers can upload their own stories or photos, and then share that user-generated content back to the group in your series.
  • Ensure your customer service team monitors these pages so that you can quickly respond to any questions or direct prospects to your sales team or e-commerce site.

Why does it work? An email series strategy is based on a fundamental truth of marketing: Provide something of value and customers will continue to engage. A series makes it easy for you to customize messages to the interests of subscribers at that moment. The topic is top of mind for them, and that creates selling and relationship opportunities for you.

Another benefit is that when your email messages are more relevant, you won’t have as many people clicking the “Report Spam” button, which registers as a complaint at internet service providers like Yahoo or Gmail. Even a small number of complaints can result in a poor sender reputation and a block on all your messages. Make even some of your messages more relevant, and the response rates for all your messages will go up and complaints will go down.

For content, consider the following four options:

1. Make it easy to learn more. Offer website visitors a two- to three-part email series rather than a whitepaper. Most downloaded content never actually gets opened or read. Once a whitepaper is downloaded and saved, it’s out of mind. An email series forces marketers to package up content in bite-sized pieces (you can always link to more detail on your website), and gives them several opportunities over a few weeks to engage. Advertising CPMs for these targeted messages can be at a premium, as well.

2. Comparison shopping. Advertisers know that readers are researching and want publishers to help them shorten sales cycles. Use a series of email messages to help subscribers compare competitive sets — the more honest/nonadvertorial you are, the longer they stay on your site! — find testimonials and bloggers, and make a strong business case.

3. Move free-trial subscribers to paid circulation. A series can give prospects confidence in your content or technology. Help them actually use your service during the trial — help them find the best reviews or product feature comparisons, or let them download tools that help them forecast productivity, revenue or cost savings as a result of making a decision to buy. Test if increasing incentives as prospects move through the cycle helps or hurts your conversion (and margin).

4. Educate. Send one great idea each week, and include ways to practice or implement. The next week, ask for input or a story about how that idea worked or didn’t work. Then, the next day, send the next idea. This interactive cadence will build value for subscribers and let them engage repeatedly over time.

Storytelling lets you retain control over the content while giving subscribers the freedom, choice and interactivity they crave. Successful email marketing is built on a very simple concept: Give subscribers what they want, and they’ll give you what you want. Subscribers want you to help them. When you do, they’ll reward you with higher response and sales, positive buzz and sharing, and stronger brand loyalty.

Let me know what you think by sharing any ideas or comments below.