Creative Direct Mail for 2018

Direct mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017 you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options?

Bring Direct Mail to Life with Interactive ElementsDirect mail has been around for a very long time. If you continue to do the same old pieces you have been mailing in 2017, you will see a drop in your response rates. You must create new, fresh and engaging direct mail pieces to get the results you need. Why should you continue to mail with all of the other channel options? Here are two stats from the DMA 2017 Fact Book: Direct mail customer response rates increased year-over-year by 43 percent and prospect response rates increased year-over-year by 190 percent.

How can you best leverage these response rates for your 2018 mail campaigns? Know what your audience wants so you send that to them and use the tips below:

Engaging

There are so many creative ideas to get people to engage with your mail pieces. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. So we have a few ideas that have worked really well for others. They do not have to be expensive:

  1. Paper — Look at the paper you are using, consider adding texture with either different stock or adding a coating to it. Using the sense of touch is a great way to draw people in and it can’t be done with digital marketing.
  2. Folds — Have you considered using creative folds? Folding requires interaction; your audience must open the folds. You can have short panels, multiple folds within a mailer and even endless folds, where you just keep unfolding panels with different messaging on each one.
  3. Technology — There are so many different technologies available now to enhance your direct mail pieces. Mobile devices are with us all of the time now, incorporate ways for people to use them with your mail pieces, such as augmented reality or near field communication. You can also add video screens to your mail pieces so they would not need a mobile device to launch your video message.

Eye-catching

Through the use of images, color and creativity, you can grab attention.

  1. Images — Don’t use boring stock images. Find fun images that stick with your brand and messaging, but are out of the ordinary. You want to make people curious and draw them into the copy.
  2. Color — There are so many color options you can really find ones that stand out in the mail box. This is not a time to be boring; grab attention right away.
  3. Creativity — Unique designs work best. Think of mail pieces you have done in the past and spice them up with new creative changes. You can use die cuts, metallic ink and so much more.

Response

For 2018, you need to offer many ways to respond. When you make it easy for people to respond, in the way they prefer, you get more responses.

  1. Phone — Provide a phone number for people to call. If you are able, use a special number to track your responses, if not, give them a response code that they will need to provide when they call in.
  2. Web — Create a special landing page just for this campaign. You can track who has looked at it, as well as who actually filled out the form.
  3. Email — Provide an email address that they can respond to.
  4. Text — Allow people to text to respond by providing a text short code.
  5. Come In — If you have a location, give people the option to come in and see you; provide an address for them to do just that.

Your 2018 direct mail should really pop if you use these tips. Of course this does not address your list and any information you may have on your customers and prospects. You of course need to send the right offers to the right people to get the response rates you want. Taking the time to set goals, get creative and track responses will help you create the best direct mail for 2018. Are you ready to get started? Have you had good success with a fun mail piece? Tell us about it.

3 Wild Marketing Predictions for 2018

All year I’ve felt like marketing was a roller coaster clicking to the top of very high hill, about to plunge down into unknown loops and curves at freefall speed. It’s just a matter of what changes and when. Here are three marketing predictions for the channels I think will change the most in 2018.

All year, this industry has felt like a roller coaster clicking to the top of very high hill, about to plunge down into unknown loops and curves at freefall speed. I see technology cycles turning, and with them change is going to come to the channels marketers rely on the most. It’s just a matter of what changes and when. Here are three marketing predictions for the channels I think will change the most in 2018.

1. Email Starts to Slip

Email is one of the most important marketing channels. Just about all Target Marketing readers rely on it for their marketing, and most said they were increasing spending on it in 2017. It’s the cornerstone of marketing automation, lead nurturing, and pretty much all loyalty marketing.

What would marketers do if a significant number of consumers stopped checking their email?

It’s a scary thought … But look at your own email habits and tell me you’re not at least a little bit worried about it.

I get more email than ever before, and honestly read less. I bet you feel the same. Talking to marketers, I’ve heard a few times now that email, although still totally viable for marketing, is starting to get a little bit weaker. I’ve heard marketers say open rates are slipping, along with clickthroughs and conversions.

I think this is the year we’ll begin to see significant weakness in email as a marketing channel, and marketers will get serious about looking at other options that might replace it. (for example, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatApp.)

2. Non-text Search Becomes a Force

The only marketing channel that challenges the ubiquity of email is search. SEO and paid search ads are both absolutely essential to online marketing today … and they are both completely based in the current world of text search as we know it.

Amazon’s three best sellers in electronics this holiday season are the Echo smart speaker based on the Alexa voice assistant, the Echo Dot based on that same Alexa voice assistant, and the Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote. And there are a bunch of other smart speakers and voice assistants waiting to be unwrapped Christmas morning.

These devices are used extensively for search, interpreting the user’s speech with AI to go find the right answer. Those answers are far more limited than a page full of search results, though. Generally you just hear AI’s pick for your top result.

As this kind of voice-based interaction becomes more mainstream, it is going to have a huge impact on the search ecosystem.Image-based search is also coming online, and could have an even bigger impact.

I don’t know exactly what those changes will look like, but it’s certainly going to constrict search results, and perhaps dramatically alter how paid search ads are delivered. And the AI behind those results could be even more important than we’re expecting.

3. We’ll Begin Writing to Convince AI Gatekeepers

We keep thinking of artificial intelligence as something marketers are going to use to optimize marketing. But, when you look at applications like voice assistants, it becomes clear that AI is going to play a huge role in “optimizing” the information audiences consume.

This role may not be too different to the role Google plays today, but there’s an entire SEO industry dedicated to convincing Google that your content belongs fairly high up the search engine results page. The fight to “convince” this kind of gate keeper is only going to get more intense when the algorithm is a natural-language learning machine that’s only going to output the one result it thinks works best.

Right now, many writers feel challenged to write for their readers and optimize for search at the same time. We may soon find ourselves optimizing language to make that text AI friendly as well.

 

In My Mailbox & Yours | An Artful Invite to a Special Evening

It’s my favorite mail piece this year — and it didn’t even include a check.

direct mail
Credit: Chet Dalzell

It’s my favorite mail piece this year — and it didn’t even include a check.

But it did include an invitation for payment. You may have received it, too.

Late next week (Nov. 16), 300-plus marketers will gather in New York for the 2017 Annual Gala Evening, the presentation of the 33rd Annual Silver Apples Awards. There, we pay homage to marketing leaders who have given 25 years (at least) of distinguished service to our field.

[This year’s Silver Apple honorees are Fran Green, ALC; John Princiotta, PCH; Eva Reda, American Express; Randall Rothenberg, IAB; Jay Schwedelson, Worldata; Rita Shankewitz, Bottom Line, Inc.; Corporate Honoree BMI Global OMS; and special Golden Apple Honoree Stu Boysen, Direct Marketing Club of New York (DMCNY).]

It is a fete. It is New York’s data, digital and direct marketing’s annual night out. You even see a national audience there.

But what I want to talk about is the marketing effort for the event this year. Each honoree is remarkable in his or her own way, which is why I really appreciated this year’s marketing campaign executed by DMCNY volunteers and partners.

Since on or about Labor Day, I — and a few thousand others like me — received a customary “Save the Date” email and the news announcement of the winners, first announced collectively. [Disclosure: I prepped the news release.]

But this year, we were introduced individually to each of the honorees, in a short email every 10 or so days, which gave a little bit of biographical color — personal and professional — on each honoree. The single honoree-focused digital effort culminated in a colorful direct mail invitation with a reply card and envelope, and a protected film envelope, which had each photo of the honorees in a frame. The backside of each framed photo included their career highlights.

The art is outstanding — somewhat reminiscent of Pollock or Calder — which I can appreciate as we celebrate somewhere between MOMA and the Whitney (Edison Ballroom, to be exact).

I often think about when is the right moment for print, a moment for mail, amid our increasingly social-digital-mobile lives. Physically receiving, opening and touching an invite still feels special to me, and I do think it elevates the “weight” of the honor we will be celebrating, and the important contributions these professionals make. While the gala itself will serve as the climax, I did find the mail moment here to be an exciting precursor — and well-timed, following the wave of individual honoree-focused emails, and just ahead of the last-minute digital reminders and follow-ups. Not every creative element was new in concept, but they were certainly fresh in concert.

Well done, DMCNY. As a past honoree, I am blessed to be able to say “thank you.” As I think about the upcoming week, I can say we’ve raised the curtain to this year’s honorees with elán and spirit — one I’m hopeful carries through the experience of the event.

See you next Thursday in New York.

[Credits for the DMCNY Silver Apples marketing effort go to several folks, including: Invitation & Program Cover Design: Robert Snow of Robert Snow Marketing Communications; Invitation Printing and Mailing & Program Book Printing: McVicker & Higginbotham; Program Booklet Design: Cheryl Biswurm, Turner Direct LLC; Email Design and Execution: Briana Kovar and Carolyn Lagermasini, Association & Conference Group; as well as an entire Silver Apples Planning Committeeso you’ll need to be there presently to give them all kudos.]

How to Future-Proof Your Marketing

I went to quite a few conferences this year and listened to a lot of speakers talk about the future. But one of the most interesting sessions I caught was how HubSpot was actually working to “future-proof” its marketing.

I went to quite a few conferences this year and listened to a lot of speakers talk about the future. But one of the most interesting sessions I caught was how HubSpot is actually working to “future-proof” its marketing.

So what does “future-proofing” your marketing even mean?

In the session “Adventures in Emerging Channels: What we learned from a year with Medium, Podcasting, and Live Streaming” at Inbound 2017, Meghan Keaney Anderson, HubSpot’s VP of marketing, explained that HubSpot dedicated resources to looking a what changes in the environment could derail its very successful marketing engine. (These notes and slides come from that presentation.)

HubSpot started with a hypothetical article headline “What happened to HubSpot: The decline of a marketing giant.” They looked at what would likely be the key reasons for that fall, and when they came up with those “highlights,” they began working on plans to proof against them.

What if Search and Email Went Away?

Turns out there are some pretty obvious vulnerabilities in HubSpot’s marketing stemming from the company’s highly optimized, and non-diverse, lead nurturing cycle.

According to Anderson, HubSpot gets 90 percent of its web traffic from search. They convince a large portion of those visitors to sign up for some kind of email communication, and then they “send them things” via email.

That search-to-email relationship is primarily how Hubspot nurtures leads into customers, and that whole cycle has become key to HubSpot’s success. So what happens if search were to change dramatically? Or people were to move away from email as a communications channel?

The thing is, neither of those futures was very far-fetched. Google and other companies are sending all kinds of signals that they see search moving away from text and toward voice and image interfaces. In that future, search will still be important, but who knows how much traffic you could count on from it?

Similarly, email has been showing signs of weakness for some time. Anderson said HubSpot has been seeing email rates decline, and usage messaging apps rising. In that future, people would still probably receive email, but they wouldn’t pay as much attention to the channel. So how would HubSpot communicate with them and nurture those relationships without that channel?

These scenarios are not remote possibilities. It’s actually fairly likely one or both of those scenarios will be the reality within a few years.

The Horizons of Innovation

HubSpot has a philosophy — and the resources — to dedicate personnel to these problems. And they do that by focusing on the “Three Horizons of Innovation.”

HubSpot's 3 Horizons of Innovation

The idea is to pinpoint and prepare for the inflection points where the current state of your industry is going to be replaced by the next state, and when that will be replaced by yet another state:

  • 1st horizon: What’s happening now/next. Gets the biggest team.
  • 2nd horizon: What’s coming after that: Gets a smaller team.
  • 3rd horizon: What’s coming after the second horizon sunsets: Gets to smallest team.
  • The second horizon should be rising as the first is falling. Be ready for those inversion points.

A Better Meeting Follow-Up Email

You just had a good meeting with a client or potential new client. Now you’re challenged to move the conversation forward. It’s time to send the meeting follow-up email.

You just had a good meeting with a client or potential new client. Now you’re challenged to move the conversation forward. It’s time to send the meeting follow-up email.

The three biggest mistakes I see sellers making are:

  1. Failing to secure key details & commitments before the meeting ends
  2. Recounting what happened in the meeting
  3. Sending follow up emails that don’t hold customers accountable to the next step

Remember, business email is transactional. Not conversational.

Beware: Trying to converse within the message may be sabotaging you. Clients don’t have time for “thank you so much” type conversation, especially follow-up email messages. Your follow-up is, by nature, highly deletable because most are simply a recount of what happened during the meeting.

Clients have been trained to delete follow ups because they’re just not important!

Here’s a better way to keep clients committed to moving forward with you.

Get These 5 Details Before the Meeting Ends

As the meeting unfolds, in your head (or on a piece of paper) summarize these points:

Current situation: In simple terms, describe the client’s decision-making environment.

Business priorities: How this discussion fits into the strategic (not functional) picture.

Priorities when making this decision: Jot down what the client says they are.

Timeline and process: How much time the client needs to make decisions, what are they and who is involved.

Next steps: Any suggested next steps you or your client discuss during the meeting.

This is an excellent way to conclude your meeting. Ask your client to confirm your current understanding before the meeting ends. This takes all the work out of writing your pithy follow up email.

Get commitments before the meeting ends

It sound obvious. But are you doing it? Are you earning a commitment for the next meeting before the first one ends?

My hero and sales trainer, John Barrows, likes to point out how we tend to give … and give … and give … and give … until the very end when we finally get (the sale).

But here’s the problem: By giving clients everything they ask for we’re conditioning them to treat us poorly.

Barrows says, “Because we’ve given so much, clients feel like they can do whatever they want. So what we need to do is make sure we get something all the time in return for what we’re giving away.”

In the case of your first meeting or demo that something is the next scheduled meeting date.

Barrows says this has to do with human instinct, reciprocity. And he’s right.

When your prospect asks for something there’s a fleeting moment where they feel obligated to give you something in return.

“And if you ask for it right then-and-there it’s actually easy for them to give you,” says Barrows.

So when they ask you for something, toward the end of the meeting, there’s that moment right after you gave them something … where they’re open to giving something back.

For example, it might go like this:

Your client says, “Great. Love it. Thanks for that. Send me some information and we’ll get back to you soon.”

You reply, “Sure, I can do that. But first what information would you like … and second when can we schedule fifteen minutes to go over that information … and see if it makes sense to take the next steps?”

A Proven, Effective Template Example

Remember, email templates don’t work unless you customize them. Without personalization of your messages you’ll end up deleted. Bank on it.

Remember to avoid “thank you for taking the time to meet with me” type of chit-chat. They should be thanking you, right? Right. Keep it transactional, not conversational. Help them do their job — hit reply and confirm you are on track.

Get them to re-commit to moving forward!

The below meeting follow up template gives you specific advantages. It:

  1. holds clients accountable for what they are telling you without being rude
  2. gauges their interest
  3. maintains a sense of urgency
  4. helps you re-engage strongly if/when the prospect goes dark

Subject line: Please confirm?

John,

Please review the below — confirm I’m accurate on these?

Business Priorities:

  • Priority one
  • Priority two
  • Priority three

Statement of Work requirements: (your customer’s priorities when making this decision)

  • Requirement one
  • Requirement two
  • Requirement three

Time line: (things that must happen in order for the final decision to transact)

  • Milestone / project one
  • Milestone / project two
  • Milestone / project three

Next steps: (be sure to include commitments made, if any)

  • Step you mentioned during meeting
  • Step they mentioned during meeting

Please confirm the above is accurate—and guide me if not?

Thanks, John

[your signature]

The idea here is to earn a response that is, in effect, a confirmation and further commitment. If you ran a proper meeting the prospect gave you time on their calendar. Put this commitment in writing. You may need it later — if and when they “go dark” on you (don’t respond).

My students do better with this kind of technique. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot improve on it. What can you add or subtract from the above template — to make it stronger in your specific selling context?

Are there other key meeting takeaways that are not included here — or can be added to strengthen it?

Let me know in comments!

The Inbox Doesn’t Know the World Is Falling Apart

Marketing is hard enough without the uncertainty of macro disruptions. But lately, the threat of a macro disruption seems to lurk behind every corner. Natural disasters, terrorism, the possibility of nuclear war, a tweeter-in-chief who can send the stock market in one direction and the media echo chamber in another with 140 characters or less.

Marketing is hard enough without the uncertainty of macro disruptions. But lately, the threat of a macro disruption seems to lurk behind every corner. Natural disasters, terrorism, the possibility of nuclear war, a tweeter-in-chief who can send the stock market in one direction and the media echo chamber in another with 140 characters or less. Each day, we wake up, check the internet, and wonder what new tidal wave of chaos will wash over us. But for retailers, what we really want to know is how to prepare for a holiday season where chaos threatens commerce?

The good news is that people are more resilient to macro events than we think. You may have heard that gun sales, for example, went up after the 2008 election. That’s true, gun sales really did surge after Obama won the presidency, but a deeper dive into the data reveals that guns and ammunition sales always go up after Democrats win national elections, just as alcohol sales spike whenever Republicans win. In other words, no matter how dire an election looks to one side or the other, we tend to revert to predictable shopping patterns in the immediate aftermath of even the most contentious elections. Retailers can leverage that resiliency by turning to their most resilient channel — email. Not only does email have unparalleled economies of scale, it offers retailers value beyond mere promotion, particularly if they’ve built messaging portfolios that are flexible enough to adapt to changing macro conditions.

Consider a 2012 JetBlue campaign that promised to send more than 1,000 customers to the international destination of their choice, if their candidate lost the election. Obviously, JetBlue found a clever, bipartisan way to tap into a common sentiment — if the other candidate wins, I’m leaving this country! But the real genius of the campaign is the flexibility; it would’ve worked regardless of the outcome. Even in a Bush vs. Gore scenario, JetBlue could have spent the ensuing 37 days of legal wrangling emailing participants cheeky messages about their uncertain travel plans. So how might retailers use JetBlue as a template for making sure that their holiday plans are resistant to macro disruptions?

Start by making a list of the disruptions. Don’t leave anything off because you think it’s unlikely; in fact, if you can think it up, assume it can happen. Then work up responses to add to your messaging portfolio. For U.S. retailers, Mexico is a gold mine. However, given the public cracks in America’s relationship with its neighbor, a retail messaging portfolio is incomplete without something to say in response to a possible change in cross-border commerce. Likewise, every retailer knows that the fight over an online sales tax has been reopened. Retailers have machine learning tools that can generate new offers under a new tax regime, but that’s all the more reason retailers need to be prepared to deploy messaging on the fly should such a scenario present itself. Along the same lines, retailers must also prepare for an even bigger shift if net neutrality goes away. One possible scenario is that retailers might want to drive consumers to visit the store again because the physical experience will look a lot better compared to a potentially slower, less efficient and costlier online shopping experience.

Recently, some brands demonstrated their communication resilience. Ahead of Hurricane Irma, Verizon and AT&T notified customers that they would add more data to existing plans or simply not charge for text or data overuse for the next week. Airbnb tackled an even greater challenge by reaching out to hosts who might be willing to donate housing to evacuees, and then connecting those strangers in the chaos of a hurricane. Like everyone else, AT&T, Verizon and Airbnb certainly were planning something else the week that Hurricane Irma struck, but they were nevertheless prepared to meet the chaos of a macro disruption because they had built resilience into their communications portfolios.

There’s an old bit of wisdom about resilience that says, “humans make plans and God laughs.” The lesson isn’t to forsake planning, but rather to be humble enough to stay flexible so that you can change your plans as the facts on the ground change. This is good life advice, but it’s also good advice for retailers, especially as we approach the holiday season. Something big may very well disrupt your plans, but if you’ve built resilience into your email messaging portfolio, you’ll be ready to respond no matter what.

A Fundamental Misconception About Cold Email

There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated. Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational. Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

When Do Email Autoresponder Subject Lines Cross the Line?There are so many ebooks and websites all pushing cold email templates that “work.” Problem is, they don’t because the theoretical basis of most cold email techniques is outdated.

Most advice is based on a flawed belief in how B2B decision-makers use email: Email is conversational.

Fact is, it’s not. Those days are gone. Today, business email is transactional. Especially cold emails.

Email Is Transactional, Not Conversational

B2B decision-makers are on a mission. Just like you are: delete the inbox noise. Day in, day out. Multiple times a day, decision-makers delete spammy come-ons from reps. But they also make quick replies. Transactions.

The way decision-makers are using email today is transactional. Choices are:

  1. Delete
  2. Reply immediately
  3. Reply later (as good as deleting)

Which cold emails are earning response? The shortest ones. Those that waste no time getting to the point. The emails that best allow prospects to get back to work earn more response!

Everything else is deleted immediately or put off (just as good as deleting).

So why are you trying to start conversations with decision-makers who are excellent at spotting and deleting people wanting to converse?

Why are you still trying to persuade clients to talk in the first, cold email message?

Don’t Qualify and Persuade, Provoke

Most sellers are trying to persuade rather than transact. For example, are you trying to be relevant in your cold email? Are you referencing yourself or your business? (at all) Are you working to build credibility … and building a case for prospects to meet with you?

You’re probably failing. Instead, start provoking. Provoke. Irritate. Cause an immediate response based on a sense of curiosity or a nagging fear. Transact with the customer.

For example, one of my students uses this kind of approach:

John,

Noticing you added chat to your contact center mix 3 months ago. This triggers me to ask: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding screen sharing?

Brief, blunt. Provocative. This message proves the seller researched the client’s organization and ties the observation about John’s current situation to his decision-making process … in a way that helps John think about his situation.

Notice: This provocation is not asking for a meeting, nor positioning the seller as credible. The message is not trying to create a sense of urgency or pushing a call-to-action. This message asks a question that doesn’t lead John to a conclusion the seller wants. Instead, it asks a question that John needs to be asking himself in the future.

See the difference? This is a “grabber.”

The message isn’t conversational. It’s transactional. John doesn’t need to scroll on his mobile device to read it and quickly respond.

This is what works in cold email. Transactions that provoke conversations. Short, pithy messages that stand out by not talking about anything other than the prospect.

The above message isn’t accidentally signaling “mass email social selling approach.” It avoids recognizing the prospect’s:

  • recent accomplishment or promotion
  • blog article or post
  • social media trigger
  • decision-making authority

These tactics are working less in cold email. Because everyone is using them. They’re cheap and lazy … and commonplace. Clients are being deluged by long, conversational emails that just plain take too long to read and signal “this person wants a premature meeting.”

Instead, provoke the conversation and progress it to a meeting.

Why Conversations Won’t Serve You

A sales training company uses the below as a good example of a second paragraph in a cold email. The below paragraph provides relevancy to the target’s work life and puts forward an issue the seller believes is of interest to the buyer.

But is this effective lately? Have a look:

“I understand you are overseeing the demand generation strategy, Phil. We’ve been speaking with a lot of marketers who tell us they are not satisfied with the conversion rate of MQL to opportunity. If you ask them why they point to the skills of the sales team. The ones who conduct training internally say they do a great job training on products and internal systems and processes — they just don’t have enough time to cover sales training.”

How long did that take you to read? Multiply that by four and you’ve got the size of the complete email I borrowed this from.

You have less than 15 seconds to transact. After 15 seconds you’re deleted. The above is too conversational  where the seller is trying to demonstrate:

  • Research: Stating his/her authority
  • Relevancy: Stating an issue known to be of concern
  • Clarity: The answer is sales training

Here’s the problem: The client doesn’t have time to cozy up to 30 or 40 of these types of messages per week. That quantity of messages equates to a full hour or two of lost time per week … even if the emails take 90 seconds on average to read!

Besides, on a cold approach, don’t state customers’ decision authority as research. They see “I see you’re in charge of what I sell” as a prelude to a spammy pitch. They’ve been trained to based on all the spam they receive each day.

Clients are not open to your introduction of issues you think are challenges for them. Simply because every sales person on the planet is making the exact same approach. Bet on it.

Again, they see it as spam. And frankly it is.

Never Persuade or Posture

Email is here to serve us as a means to get into a discussion about a sale … not to conduct the sale. As you read your cold email draft aloud to yourself (and you should), make sure you aren’t trying to persuade, posture or qualify yourself.

The moment you begin an attempt to persuade STOP. You’ve crossed the line.

Don’t walk your customer down a road that leads to your sales pitch. They’ll cut you off. Believe me.

For example, read this paragraph and tell me how long it takes you to figure out what I’m up to …

“When speaking with our high-growth clients, we’re hearing that hitting revenue targets is dependent on the sales team’s ability to consistently develop new business. The sales leaders say the problem with most training programs is they presume sellers already have an opportunity in the funnel – rather than teaching them how to qualify an opportunity.”

Maybe it was the first sentence — where I spoke all about myself and told you something so obvious it insulted your intelligence. I tossed in words like “high-growth.” Why? To communicate I have them … and imply that my sales training is helping create growth. Something I know you want.

Cheese.

Or maybe it was the last sentence where I position to know the secret to success: Sales training qualifies prospects. We write these words hoping clients will think, “Hmm. That’s something to consider. I wonder how Jeff can help?” and hit reply.

Truth is, we’re wrong. We are insulting clients’ intelligence, blending in with the carpet, and training customers to not respond and engage in conversations.

What is your experience?

10 Elements of a Squeeze Page

For those of you who haven’t heard this term, a squeeze page is basically a short landing page with one main purpose — to “squeeze” the email address out of the visitor to that page.

10 Elements of a Squeeze Page
“10,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Paul Downey

For those of you who haven’t heard this term, a squeeze page is basically a short landing page with one main purpose — to “squeeze” the email address out of the visitor to that page.

In other words, it’s a promotional page with the goal of lead generation (or “list-building”).

Smart marketers like to balance their online mixes and do both direct-to-sale efforts (i.e. selling a product) along with list-building (i.e. lead gen) efforts.

But not all squeeze pages are created equal.

Some are very short and pithy, with a headline and call to action … more ideal for mobile phone viewing. While others have longer copy to convey the value proposition of why the prospects need to give their email addresses.

Your target audience, delivery platform, message, offer and other variables will determine which format you may want to test.

But generally speaking, over the many years I have been creating successful squeeze pages for both consulting clients and top publishers alike, I would have to say that I’ve noticed 10 key elements that help make a winning squeeze page and get conversions.

Here they are:

  1. Gets Your Attention. It’s very important for a good squeeze page to have a strong headline, coupled with an eye-catching masthead image. This is when good persuasive copywriting skills comes into play with creative design.
  2. The Offer. You need to show the reader why they need to sign up and give you their email address … WHAT are they getting out of it? Typically it’s some kind of bonus, such as a free .pdf report, free white paper, free e-newsletter … free something. And that freebie needs to answer a question the prospect may have, solve a problem and teach them something they don’t know. All of the bonus benefits and the value proposition need to be outlined in the body copy in a clear, easy-to-read format (usually bullets).
  3. Why Listen to You? It’s also important to briefly outline WHY the prospect should listen to you. What makes you the expert? Why you are uniquely qualified? In a paragraph or less, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself and your credentials to the reader. Again, strong copywriting comes into play here to persuade the reader that it’s imperative to hear what you have to say and give you their email address.
  4. Visually Appealing. Call-to-action buttons that are bright and catch your attention (i.e. orange, yellow, red), a thumbnail of a free bonus report, a starburst showing the $ value of the free report, a headshot of the expert, and other relevant graphic enhancements are great ways to keep the reader engaged and move the eye down the page.
  5. If you have testimonials that speak to your expertise, use quote boxes and add short, strong testimonials. One or two that have a “wow” factor are best.
  6. No Distractions. As mentioned earlier, squeeze pages have one simple goal: to collect an email address. So it’s important not to have other clickable links on the page or navigation. You want to keep the readers focused on only giving you their emails and clicking “submit.” Don’t have background noise.
  7. Contact Information. At the bottom of the squeeze page, I like to add a brick-and-mortar physical address of the business, as well as the business Web address — that’s un-clickable. If you have a BBB logo or other logo that represents an award, accolade or accomplishment, it helps adds prestige, authenticity and promotes consumer confidence.
  8. Legal Mumbo-Jumbo. It’s important to remember, especially if you’re in the health or financial publishing space, to add the necessary disclaimers specific for that industry. In general, you may want to add something along the lines of: “The information and material provided on this site are for educational purposes only.”
  9. Anti-Spam Pledge. Under the email collection fields and above the call-to-action button, it’s a best practice to add some anti-spam verbiage to alleviate any concerns to the reader that the email may be sold or rented. Some even have a text hyperlink to their privacy policy.
  10. The More You Ask, The Less You Get. It’s a general rule of thumb that for each information field you ask the prospect to give, i.e. first name, email address, etc., you will get fewer responders. Some people ask for mailing address, age and other demographic information. That will deter some prospects and dampen response. However, the ones who do answer have demonstrated a real interest and are more qualified than just visitors who gave their email. So think about your ultimate goal for the squeeze page when determining how much information you’re going to ask for.

The squeeze page is only the beginning.

A good, strategic list-building campaign will have many elements that all work together to get a prospect’s attention (the ad); get them to sign up (the squeeze page); help them bond with the guru or editor; become educated in the publication’s mission; and, ultimately, get the subscriber to convert to a buyer of a paid product.

This is called the onboarding process. And an effective onboarding process is the beginning of the sales funnel that should end with more voluminous conversions in a shorter time-frame than if you don’t have an onboarding process in place.

So evaluate your business. See how many leads (#) you’re bringing in on a monthly basis, at how much ($) per lead, and how quickly these leads are converting to buyers.

Then decide if squeeze pages and setting up an onboarding process are right for you.

Good luck and happy prospecting!

Are Email Autoresponders Becoming Too Aggressive?

When is the line crossed between email subject lines — usually in a series of autoresponders — that provoke curiosity and prompt engagement, versus those that become aggressive and look like the sender has descended into desperation?

We all get a lot of email. Often, it’s a mystery how one gets on a list. But I suspect that over time, we all get accustomed to the daily barrage of email that we didn’t sign up for. Or if we did sign on, it may have been months (or longer) ago and have no recollection of having done so.

But, I’ve noticed a trend in recent months about email subject lines: they seem to be getting more desperate and aggressive.

Perhaps these aggressive subject line approaches have been tested and are proven to work, but they were enough to prompt me unsubscribe (without even reading the email).

A few months ago, I shared my “5 Copywriting Tips to Reduce Email Unsubscribes.” Looking at the popularity of this blog post, it’s clear that reducing unsubscribes is a hot topic. So I have to wonder if these aggressive subject lines have been tested, and unsubscribe rates monitored.

In another post, “Are Autoresponders Killing Email Marketing?,” recounted my experience of making an inquiry for a direct mail list from an automated website. I didn’t order that day, but suggested to a client that they place an order. Thankfully, they didn’t.

The next day, less than a full 24 hours after I didn’t purchase, they presented me an offer of 15 percent off my order. That seemed smart until I realized that had I ordered the day before, I would have paid full price. I would never have known because no doubt the marketing automation software would have placed me in a totally different sequence of autoresponder follow-up messages. I lost trust in that direct mail list company because while well intended, the aggressiveness of making the sale overshadowed what would have been right for the customer.

There were two comments from readers of that blog about autoresponders worth sharing:

“The balance between follow up, pestering, and offer management … strikes at the heart of the matter. The fact is that marketing automation is pulling marketers into sales roles for the first time and without deep personal engagement to guide the level of aggressiveness. The point at which sales and marketing intersect has always created friction. Marketing automation can amplify good or bad decisions for content at what is really at the top of the sales funnel, bottom of the marketing funnel.”

This reader made a great point: perhaps people who are not trained as email copywriters, and who don’t know what they’re doing, are writing these aggressive subject lines. Do they test these subject lines to know what works? Or monitor unsubscribes? Maybe aggressiveness is a business decision no matter the outcome. Or aggressive subject lines are a new normal.

Then, there was this comment:

“If your email strategy and creative is cr*p, marketing automation simply empowers you to send more cr*p, more quickly. Technology is not the problem. Bad strategy and creative is the problem.”

I’d say that comment pretty much sums it up.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Top 10 Technologies Marketers Are Buying

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Click through to see the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Here are the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

This data comes from our Marketing Technology Buying Process research report. Click here to download the full report, including the complete list of technologies being bought.

In a survey about how marketers are buying technology, it’s helpful to know what they’re buying. Here are the technologies our respondents have used these techniques to purchase.

  1. Email 53%
  2. CRM 47%
  3. Social Media Marketing 39%
  4. Marketing Automation 38%
  5. Web Analytics/Web Design/Web Optimization 33%
  6. Content Marketing 32%
  7. Database Marketing/Personalization 30%
  8. Direct Mail 29%
  9. SEM/SEO 29%
  10. E-commerce Platforms 25%

As I mentioned, this question was part of the Marketing Technology Buying Process survey, and we did ask specifically what technologies marketers bought using those techniques. So this is not “tech we’re buying this year.” It’s “tech we have bought using the processes discussed in this survey.”

The most-bought technologies, perhaps not surprisingly, are email and CRM. But I did not expect to see social media marketing tech at No. 3. We know that marketers have been dramatically increasing spending on the social ad channels, and it appears that investment is going to tech as well.

At 4 we have marketing automation, which lines up with 1 and 2. Then the various web site accessories at 5 with content marketing at 6 (although, e-commerce platforms, wound up all the way down at 10).

One technology not on the list surprised me as well: Account-based marketing, despite being a top buzz word this year, has not seen heavy investment. It came in at 12 (off the bottom of this list).

How does that match up to the technologies in your tech stack? Let me know in the comments below.