HubSpot Email Template Not Working? Here’s How to Fix It

Are your HubSpot email templates not working? The key to starting more conversations is to find and correct your blind spots, especially the ones that may be lurking in your email templates.

“I just finished a year of Lead Forensics putting 1,000 leads through email sequences using Hubspot. Not one sale,” said my reluctant email writing student, a successful entrepreneur. We’ll call him Jason to protect his identity.

“Before that, I hired a cold calling team. It was a one year effort. Zero sales. They gave a second effort on the house. That landed one sale that covered my costs.”

“Nothing is working,” outside of occasional referrals. But Jason’s successful, 22 year-old business can no longer rely on word-of-mouth alone.

He was frustrated. But not done. After all, he launched and is successfully operating this business for over two decades. He has what it takes. But he needs to grow.

Prospecting new customers is the lifeblood of his company. Always has been, always will be. Those are his words, not mine! Sure “inbound marketing” is trendy and, for some, it generates conversations with potential buyers.

But so far his HubSpot email templates have failed to engage customers in conversations.

“I need to increase gross sales … and I need a better process for doing that,” Jason told me. But, at the time, he was terribly reluctant to invest in email writing coaching.

Jason’s Blind Spots

Every seller has blind spots; portions of an email message we cannot see creating big problems. Because we are the source of these poisonous tendencies, they are difficult to spot. Bad word choice. Weak tone. Persuasive hooks.

I have blind spots. You do. We all do. And not just with email. In life!

The key to starting more conversations, using email, is spotting and fixing blind spots. Here is one of the most common examples: Biased “hook” questions.

In Jason’s case, he dripped six emails to organizations identified as visiting his website. Companies like Lead Forensics help identify the company, but the rest is rather like guesswork … trying to understand who within the company visited.

Once targeted, Jason was sending the six messages — seeking conversations with prospects. He used HubSpot to send and analyze open and response rates.

Jason’s messages were all problematic. But his third HubSpot email template asked these “hook” questions:

“Many companies have a product development process that follows a similar schedule year after year. Is that the case in your business? When a pattern exists, it is much easier to plan for the slow time as well as when things get completely crazy. If there is no pattern what do you do when more projects land on your desk than you can handle?”

These kinds of questions are typical in my experience as an email writing coach. Hook questions. Leading questions. Questions that “push on pain points.” Questions marketing people often write, hand to sales people and say, “try this approach.”

Big mistake. Persuasive tone and hook questions equals instant death in sales prospecting emails. Aiming to persuade targets to have a meeting is mostly a non-starter. This goal is a complete non-starter for B2B sellers of complex, longer sale-cycle products and services.

If you need to start a conversation, asking for a meeting (without being invited into one … based on a value-added conversation) is a great way to get rejected and/or secure meetings that go nowhere.

The Problem With Hooks

“Is that the case in your business?” and the other (above) questions communicate “I’m asking because I want you to confirm (for me) what I’m sure is your problem — so I can sell you something.”

These are hooks. Customers aren’t fish. Hence, they don’t bite.

Answering one of these questions will make early stage customers (with latent need) feel too vulnerable. Result: They don’t answer and increasingly hit delete. (or worse, spam … an even faster way to unsubscribe!)

Hook questions are biased to an answer the seller seeks. They are rooted in Jason’s  —  or any salesperson’s  — desire to “open the door” to a sales discussion.

Instead, Jason should be asking questions with inward focus … helping the client examine his/her decision-making process with regard to possible change. He should be asking questions about, for example, how the status quo was created.

What works is simple: Focusing clients on change they might direct — on their own terms, on their own schedules, if they decided it was appropriate and, possibly, with the help of a vendor like Jason.

Success demands you gain permission to help prospects decide on a meeting themselves. Thus, your email message templates must help prospects persuade themselves. Everything else fails.

However, it is impossible to have a 100% accurate perspective on communications effectiveness — unless you have trustworthy (and qualified) people giving honest feedback.

Finding your blind spots.

How Jason Fixed His HubSpot Email Templates

Within a few weeks, Jason got his drip sequence sorted and nabbed a lead. The response read:

Hi Jason-
Thanks for tracking me down. I am interested in your thoughts and am certainly open to discussing opportunities.

Philip W.

The target subsequently went on vacation … then “went dark” on Jason. But he’s still in hot pursuit as I write this.

Here’s how Jason earned the conversation: He asked an un-biased, inward-focused question … helping the prospect consider his own situation for a moment. This provoked thought, stood out from other email come-ons and encouraged Philip to read the next sentence.

Jason opened by asking, “How would you know if (and when) it’s time to consider a different or additional product development path?”

He asked a neutral question. Questions are dangerous (in general). But this question is neutral to Jason’s natural bias.

His second sentence (of three) was, “I’m asking after noticing the innovative baby bed on your site … Are you open to considering a conversation about change — if it is the right time?”

Notice how short this approach is. Notice how customer-centric the questions are — and how the seller does not discuss himself whatsoever. Most importantly, the question posed is not a self-serving marketing hook. Instead, it’s provocative.

Want to stand out from the pack? Write messages in ways others aren’t. This way. Write messages that do not serve you — as much as they serve (and provoke) the reader.

Who Is Helping You Find Blind Spots?

Sadly, people who support us rarely give brutally honest feedback. They usually have a horse in the race and tell us what we want to hear — rather than what we need to know. Increasingly, we take free advice from experts who aren’t experts at all.

Are your co-workers, marketing team, software vendors, friends, spouse and Uncle Google really the best sources to get sales outreach advice from?

Beware: Do writers of articles you’ve Google’ed have your best interest in mind? Or are they just offering simple answers to complex problems — as part of their lead generation ploy?

In most cases, no. Think about it this way: Jason has been driving sales outreach without checking blind spots. You wouldn’t drive a car that way. It’s too dangerous.

So why drive your outreach this way? It could be costing you a lot of money.

How will you find a better way to start client conversations?


Customer Delight Is Better Than Marketing

We often think of disruption coming from a new product, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier ways to do things that create customer delight … and disruption.

We often think of disruption coming from new products, the way computers seemed to. “Here’s this thing we never had before, and it changes everything.” But in reality, disruption comes from changes in service. It’s the new, easier way to do things that creates customer delight … and disruption.

New Service Systems = Disruption

The computer didn’t create a new kind of ledger, writing or art (at least initially), but it made them easier to do. It improved the service to users.

In the keynote at Inbound17, Brian Halligan, CEO and founder of HubSpot, showed how, today, it’s not the new product that disrupts an industry, it’s the new service. Disruption comes not from a new thing, but a new way of delivering a thing people love and need that eliminates the hassles they hated in the old delivery system.

He specifically pointed to Uber, iTunes and NetFlix, three companies credited with single-handedly destroying industries.

But Uber didn’t create a new kind of car ride. It delivered the car ride in a way that eliminated the things  people hate about using taxis and other ride services: Unreliability, waits, the inability to get a taxi, and in some cases exorbitant prices.

And customers were delighted.

Disruption = Customer Delight

iTunes didn’t create a new kind of music and NetFlix didn’t create a new kind of TV show. Instead, they both changed the way these things were delivered.

iTunes meant music lovers no longer had to buy a whole album to get just the songs they wanted, or limit playing those songs to CDs or other physical media they were packaged in.

NetFlix originally eliminated late fees, allowing customers to keep the DVDs they took out as long as they wanted. Later, it introduced streaming, so you could watch whatever you wanted (in its library) at any time from anywhere. No longer were you limited to a couple DVDs (again, the limits of physical media), or TV channel schedules. Whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted it — that was the promise of NetFlix.

And people love it. NetFlix is now a synonym for watching long periods of TV at home, and “NetFlix and chill” has come to mean a date night you definitely are not going out for.

Customer Delight > Marketing

These services all delighted customers. That’s how they won.

Delighting customers — making sure they get what they want the way they want it — creates a kind of goodwill marketing money can’t buy.

“In 2018, delighted customers are better at marketing for you than your own marketing department,” said Halligan. And he’s right.

Perhaps the best example is Amazon. Jeff Bezos believes in the flywheel strategy: Offer what customers want at the lowest prices possible and optimize for the customer experience — which for Amazon means making sure the the site interface, delivery and customer service aspects are all top-notch.

Do those things, and your customers will be delighted. then they’ll talk about how delighted they are, and that attracts other customers — and the flywheel just keeps expanding and expanding.

They say one of Bezos’s favorite expressions is, “Your margin in my opportunity.” But make no mistake, the opportunity he sees is a chance to delight your customers in a way you aren’t.

If that feels personal … well, a little bit, it is. Marketing in 2018 is not monolithic. It’s not broadcast. It’s not talking at customers who will have to work with you in the end. Every aspects of the customer experience is personal to the customer, and they will judge you based on that experience and very publicly discuss how it made them feel.

If you can make them feel delighted, that market is yours.

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.

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!

New Ways of Thinking About Marketing in 2016

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? For many brands today, there’s a chance to be so much more. The key is in how you think of what you are to them.

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? There’s a school of thought that says that’s all you should be; that customers will say “I don’t want a relationship with my cough drops, I just want them to fix my cough.”

GrumpyCatParadigmFor many brands, new ways of thinking about marketing offer the chance to be much more. With today’s tools (social media, websites, apps, etc.), your brand has the chance not just to sell products and services, but to entertain your target market, help them make friends, or even reach their goals. The key is in how you think of what you are to your customers.

Here are four new ways of thinking about your marketing that could open a whole new world of customer connection. I’ll go into one in depth, and hit the others briefly. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and we’ll explore them in more detail.

The Undiscovered Country
The biggest difference between online media and offline is space. Your marketing content is not constrained by air time, page counts or the budgets to get them. When a new prospect finds your company, your entire online presence is a vast new space to explore. Give them something to discover!

The Undiscovered Country is really about content, and it works best when your products or services have interesting nuances and details to talk about and stories to tell, because your goal is to get the audience to spend a lot of time exploring it. Content marketing does a lot of great things, but usually we focus on it as a way to improve SEO, or to generate leads. Here you’re using content as a way to earn prospect and customer mindshare and become an online destination.

By creating a deep content destination with articles, videos and other content that defines your space, you give fans a place to come and hang out. A place to spend time thinking about the hobby, job or task your products are used in. You become like Disney: The first brand that comes to mind and one that’s associated with entertainment and good times.

In the B-to-B space, you can see this done well by the marketing automation companies like HubSpot and Marketo. They educated marketers about lead generation, nurturing and the other marketing tactics their tools enabled through extensive blogs, downloads, webinars, studies and other content. Those things gave their audience new ideas, and exploring those ideas paid off by making that audience better at their jobs. And all of it promised there’d be more to discover if they bought into the products.

In the consumer space, think of what Red Bull does with its content marketing, completely owning certain areas of extreme sports and providing hours of discoverable, bingeable content on Red Bull TV. Or what Maybeline does with makeup tips. Or what Home Depot does with home improvement project ideas.

People spend an unbelievable amount of time looking at content online, they might as well be looking at that content with you.

What Are Some Other Ways of Thinking?
I’ve seen marketers using other strategies that I think qualify as “new ways of thinking.” And I’d be very interested to hear of ones you’ve spotted, too.

One I’ll call The Tribe is when companies use social media and the reach of online marketing to create branded communities (on their own websites, as well as on the relevant social networks) where their prospects and customers can meet like-minded individuals and discuss things related to that market. Like The Undiscovered Country, the goal is to become a destination for your target audience and earn mindshare. But it’s access to like minded individuals that brings them and keep them coming back. This works well when your product is in a niche with strong enthusiasts, especially if they’re geographically dispersed. The social sharing enabled by companies like Nike, which uses online tracking to allow runners to connect and compare their achievements, is a good example.

When I look at companies like Salesforce, or Apple when Steve Jobs was alive, I really see them leveraging what i would call The Movement. They’re not just selling a product, they’re selling a new way of approaching the world and getting adopters to evangelize it to other users. They hold huge events to build devoted fanbases that really believe (perhaps correctly, I don’t mean to be cynical about any brand using these tactics) that they’re using better tools in better ways than everyone else. Unlike The Tribe, The Movement uses live events and spaces (conventions, Apple Stores) to bring followers together to celebrate The Movement, its new products, and to have a good time with like-minded individuals. It’s a powerful tactic, and you can probably think of someone in your life who’s been swept up in one.

Finally, it’s not hard to look at what a company like Tom’s Shoes is doing and see The Mission. The Mission is about taking the focus off of the transnational aspect of your relationship with customers, and proving to them that by doing business with you they’re making the world a better place. Tom’s famously donates a pair of shoes to children for each one you buy. Jessica Alba’s Honest Company isn’t giving anything away, but they are spearheading a movement to have open, honest, simple ingredients in cleaning and beauty products people use. You could look at what Ben & Jerry’s has done for years as an example of exactly this kind of strategy (not all of these ways of thinking grew on the Internet). All of them put the focus on selling their mission, and sell products almost as an afterthought.

Take a look around at the companies that grab your attention and the potential they may or may not be cashing in on. What are some other ways of thinking to add to this list?

How to Generate Leads With Education Marketing

If you’re into content marketing these days, then you probably know a bit about using education to generate leads. But what makes an educational marketing approach actually work?  How can you be sure educating clients will ultimately generate leads worth following up? Today, I’m profiling Hubspot, B-to-B company that’s making social media sell and following the principles I preach in each of my columns.

If you’re into content marketing these days, then you probably know a bit about using education to generate leads. But what makes an educational marketing approach actually work? How can you be sure educating clients will ultimately generate leads worth following up? Today, I’m profiling HubSpot, a B-to-B company that’s making social media sell and following the principles I preach in each of my columns.

What Is Education Marketing?
The main idea here is to show, not tell, customers that investing in your product or service is worth every penny. But to be successful you’ve got to be willing to prove it for free, up front, by giving your customer a small but meaningful “win” right out of the gate, free. Why is this important?

When customers experience a success, no matter how small, they gain confidence in themselves (that they can reach the ultimate goal—one that relates to the itch your product scratches!) and at the same time trust of the educator (you). This confidence-plus-trust formula builds trust and persuades prospects that your paid product might just be worth it by giving them results in advance. Yet there’s more.

Education removes the “sales barrier” by transforming your product from a transactional consideration to an obvious “next step” in a problem solving sequence (the path to purchase). It all but removes the need to prove or persuade customers of your product’s effectiveness. You’ve already given an actual result in advance so why wouldn’t the product do the same?

Case in Point: HubSpot
HubSpot serves customers that are sales-focused online marketers of B-to-B and B-to-C goods and services. They’re probably a lot like you: everyday business people who need a better way to manage sales leads. No surprise, HubSpot sells a suite of software tools that helps them do that.

As a way to create sales leads for itself, HubSpot offers various “toolboxes” that solve common problems. Think of them as easy-to-use, educational utilities that can be quite addictive. How so? Well, it’s how HubSpot designs these tools empower customers with knowledge—practical information they can use to grow their business.

HubSpot’s free Web Site Grader tool allows a business owner to instantly understand how well their Web site stacks up against others. The Grader passes critical judgment on criteria like how many inbound links are coming into the site or how many of the site’s pages Google has included in its index.Yet HubSpot’s tool wisely scores qualitative Web site aspects too. It gives valuable, actionable feedback to site owners on things like readability level. It scores the Web site’s content … in terms of its ability to effectively communicate messages to target markets.

The best part of all is that the Grader’s scores are designed to induce more questions and expressions of need from the user. It is designed to help customers self-select themselves as business leads for HubSpot’s software product.