The Value of Marketing Simplicity in a Complex World

How many times have you heard, “the average consumer is exposed to ‘X’ number of ads each day?” It’s marketing simplicity that can make your message stand out.

How many times have you heard, “the average consumer is exposed to ‘X’ number of ads each day?”

The cliché often accompanies a pitch for a creative platform or placement intended to stand out in a crowd. In competitive markets, this mindset can drive growth in marketing budgets, as people become preoccupied with share-of-voice metrics and prestige placements. That’s why it’s worth remembering the subtext of the cliché is simplicity.

It’s true that consumers are inundated with commercial messages in more forums and formats than ever. Stimulating demand in a saturated advertising environment requires reasonable frequency. More importantly, however, it requires messaging based on your audience’s motivations and interests, simplified for each stage in the awareness-to-conversion process.

Message simplification can be challenging in healthcare. Topics are often complex. Accessing services may vary, based on the type of insurance. Technical points of differentiation important to those in the subject matter domain may not be drivers of choice for other audiences. And enthusiastic stakeholders may view white space as a missed opportunity to shoehorn in additional details believing that it strengthens the value proposition, rather than making it harder to find.

To simplify your messages, adopt a nurturing approach with prospects, rather than attempting to “close the sale” with the first touchpoint. Many healthcare services are “considered purchases,” meaning prospects may delay taking action, even on services they need. For example, people with chronic hip pain may delay taking action on hip replacement surgery until discomfort, over-the-counter medications, heating pads and stretching exercises are no longer tolerable. Prospects, fearful of a procedure, may turn away from a “hard-sell” approach, but be open to learning about your orthopedics program in smaller, less frightening increments. By deploying bite-sized content over time, you create familiarity, build trust and place competitors at a disadvantage for consideration.

So how do you get others in the organization to understand and support a simplified messaging strategy? Take a traditional conversion funnel and customize it for your needs. Above the funnel, indicate the phases and questions consumers might pass through as they come to terms with their healthcare needs. Below the funnel, show how the content and timing of your messages align with each stage of the patient journey. Build in response mechanisms that allow ready prospects to advance to conversion, while other prospects continue to be nurtured at their own pace.

This funnel visual aid can help internal stakeholders understand why a paced approach with simplified messaging will be more successful than one that delivers too much information at one time.

The Smart Marketing Strategy of Direct Mail Psychology

The strategic use of psychology in direct mail can drive amazing results. Did you know that our brain is doing most of its work outside of our consciousness? If we are able to create a good direct mail psychology strategy that enables us to tap into subconscious decisions, we can generate a greater response from prospects and customers.

The strategic use of psychology in direct mail can drive amazing results. Did you know that our brain is doing most of its work outside of our consciousness? If we are able to create a good direct mail psychology strategy that enables us to tap into subconscious decisions, we can generate a greater response from prospects and customers.

How can this work?

  1. Emotional Triggers — Both men and women need emotional engagement for direct mail to work. This requires the use of both good emotional copy and imagery. Segmentation can really help you target the right people with the right emotional copy and images.
  2. Overload — When there is too much clutter of messages, either copy or images, the brain cannot process it. Make sure that you leave white space and use concise copy so that the brain can easily process your message.
  3. Interesting — The brain likes puzzles and humor. Keep them simple for easy understanding. They are effective, with increased engagement.
  4. Women and Empathy — If your audience is women, you need to tap into empathy. Women engage with images depicting faces and direct eye contact. Women also respond to group/community activity images and, of course, babies, too. Some women will pay attention to messages that make life easier, celebrate her or allow her to do multiple things.

A complicated mail message will most likely be ignored by the brain. There are ways to simplify your copy and images to capture attention.

How to Capture Attention

Novelty — This is the No. 1 way to capture attention. Our brains are trained to look for something new and cool. A novel message or layout can really help you stand out in the mail box.

Eye Contact — Humans are social beings. Images of people or animals making eye contact with your prospects or customers grab attention and draw them into the mail piece.

When you are able to integrate a multiple sensory experience into your mail piece, you create a richer and deeper engagement with your audience.

How to use the senses:

  • Vision — A quarter of the human brain is used for visual processing. It is the strongest sense we have. Great images can compel high response rates for your direct mail.
  • Smell — Our sense of smell is hard-wired directly to our memory and emotions. Smells can invoke immediate reactions. This can be harder to do with direct mail, but when used correctly, it is powerful. If you do decide to use a scent, make sure it fits your branding and message.
  • Taste — Although it is possible to make edible direct mail, getting people to actually try it is another story. This is a good sense, but smell can trigger what you need without trying to get people to eat your mailer.
  • Hearing — Adding sound to your mail piece can be a bit costly, but depending on what you are selling, it may be just what you need. For instance, a casino that wants to drive more people to slot machines can send a mailer with the sound of coins dropping.
  • Touch — This one is, by far, my favorite besides vision for direct mail. With our fingertips being the most sensitive to how things feel, adding special textures and coatings can really make your mail piece pop.

As you can see, the brain is powerful and is very good at ignoring messages. Taking the time to consider all of these psychological factors can really help you drive your response rates up. As always, focusing your messaging with targeted segments to really reach the right people with the right message will increase the success of your mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started?

Selling Is Hard. 1 Easy Thing Can Make the Difference

Not going to lie. Selling is hard. Marketing your product or service to convert better than another brand is just plain difficult, as so much advertising sounds and feels and looks the same.

Not going to lie. Selling is hard. Marketing your product or service to convert better than another brand is just plain difficult, as so much advertising sounds and feels and looks the same. Add that to the harsh reality that the minor differences between brands offering similar products and services often don’t mean much to those discriminating buyers on the other side of the screen, conference table or phone.

And all of the “tricks of the trade” marketers use, like discounts, free gifts and compelling content, are the same tricks the old dogs have been using for many years. And they just don’t move buyers to action all that much anymore.

So what’s a marketer with a big sales lead quota to meet every month to do?

Stop Selling

Stop selling and start persuading. I’m not talking about persuasion in a manipulative sense that relies on one’s ability to master a carefully crafted telemarketing script that gets people to believe promises and sign up for an offer that often seems to be good to be true — because it is. I’m referring to persuasion in a natural sense, which involves influencing people to believe you, trust you and give you a chance because you are real, and really honest, reflecting the kind of person people see themselves to be vs. reflecting a polished sales rep with an arsenal up their sleeve.

If you Google “persuasion for selling,” you’ll get many lists of proven and best-practice persuasion skills from all the ”authorities” like Entrepreneur, Inc., Forbes and more. These include things like “playing hard to get, talking the talk of their industry, establishing authority and using words that make you seem trustworthy.” True, these telemarketing words may influence some to engage in a sales journey with you and your company, but there’s another big factor that persuades people to act on your offers even better: Transparency.

Everywhere we go, we are bombarded with marketing messages telling us if we do or buy something, we will be better. Be it prettier, richer, sexier, faster, smarter and so on. Yet so little of those advertising promises really come true. That form-fitting black dress just doesn’t look the same on the average Size 14 body as it does on the not-so-average Size 2 of the model in the ad. And when the dressing room mirror doesn’t lie, we end up leaving with negative feelings about ourselves and often about the store or brand associated with our missed expectations.

What does leave us with positive feelings that leave us trusting, believing and open to buying is when marketers, salespeople, brands, and stores create realistic expectations and are not shy about discussing the realities that many of us don’t want to face. A good example of this is Target. Instead of just showing models with zero body fat in swimsuits on in-store billboards, the brand shows women who look like many of their shoppers. Women who wear a Size 10, 12, 14 — because they have a few bulges that show when wearing a bikini. And at Target, these bulges show in larger-than-life photos at the point of sale, unashamed and unabashed.

In B2B, transparency rules. When we admit our flaws and imperfections, we are more approachable and most importantly, believable. Unconsciously, the mental wall or defenses break down among consumers when they listen to people who have flaws, have experienced failures just like we do and have. No one wants to surround themselves with perfect people and, thus, live with the pressure of being perfect, too; or the suspicion that perhaps that marketer or salesperson is not as good as they claim to be or is selling them promises they know will be broken. We do want to align with people who have ups and downs, successes and failures, just like we do.

One of my favorite examples of transparency in selling comes from Cam Conklin, VP of global sales and marketing at Innovatus Imaging, a leader in the medical device space. His approach is simply:

“I won’t promise to get everything right 100% of the time. But I will promise to fix any issues or problems on our part 100% of the time.”

By being real and never over-promising, Conklin opens doors other can’t.

Beyond Conklin’s example and sales philosophy, here are some tips for increasing transparency:

  • Sales Is Hard. Tell Those Stories: Every person and every brand has stories; some good and some not so good. As you tell your stories of success and how wonderful your brand is, tell stories about what it took to get there. What are some of the hurdles your company had to overcome to get to place of success you currently enjoy. A story of how your customer satisfaction rates were once in the 80s and what you did to get them in the 90s tells a customer many things about you. For one, your company doesn’t settle for “good enough,” but rather works hard to improve. Second, your company cares about customers and making them happy. And three, your company is willing to invest money in creating better experiences vs. just paying off shareholders and increasing executive bonuses.
  • Project vs. Promise: Ask any purchaser in any industry, and you’ll likely hear that their greatest frustrations include the hype and over-promises of sales executives. Over-promising doesn’t just occur in promising big returns like 90% success rates, record turn-times for repairs or services that maybe you achieved once but can’t duplicate consistently, and so on. It happens with the words you use. Do you promise or predict outcomes? Or do you project the possibilities according to real statistics from real customers? We are okay when economic analysts or politicians project certain outcomes, as we know that they may or may not happen and that they are projecting from statistically valid data that may or may not represent a trend. If marketing and salespeople share statistics and data that support projections for outcomes vs. implied promises like “All of my clients have achieved 100% increases in growth since hiring me,” chances are, they will achieve better outcomes.
  • Admit Your Failures, Because Selling Is Hard: Instead of trying to paint yourself as the poster child for a perfect account executive, and deliverer of all that your prospective client seeks, be real. Sales is hard. Admit when you have failed, discuss why, and describe what you did to fix the problem. My example: As a consultant, I have always achieved substantial increases in response and revenue generated from my psychology-based marketing campaigns tested against controls. Except for once. I broke even vs. delivering the triple-digit increase I implicitly set up as the expectation for my test. My failure was in trying to fix something that wasn’t broken. I took a marketing campaign that wasn’t failing and tried to elevate it when, in reality, the customer target didn’t need anything more to decide to purchase it or not. I learned a key lesson: If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. And learn to walk away when something or someone really doesn’t need your help.

To the above point, walking away is hard to do, as we are wired to compete and win business. Yet walking away pays off. You don’t set yourself up to fail, you can focus your resources on other opportunities, and you gain a higher level of respect from the target client who, in turn, may hire you just because they have discovered just how much they can trust you. We all hear stories of how David Ogilvy would walk out of a business pitch for a new advertising account if he discovered the competitors’ ideas were better than his. Takes a lot of guts to do that. And clearly, as Ogilvy has ruled the agency world for decades, this level of transparency did not hurt his sales or his legacy.

As you develop marketing and sales strategies, presentations and supporting marketing messages, take a step back and do an in-depth “reality” check. Dare to face your failings, not just your strengths, admit your limits and boundaries, and build your messaging around what’s real for and your clients.

In the end, we are only as good as our successes. And how we learn and help others learn from our failures.

Direct Mail: Remember Me?

How often do your direct mail results end up not meeting your expectations? Does your direct mail resonate with your prospects and customers or fall flat? Do they understand and remember what you said? If not, you have a big problem. In order to avoid this, you need to be creating direct mail that resonates. Let’s take a look at what you can do to reach your maximum potential.

direct mail memory
“When you realize #sunday is almost over & monday is around the corner,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Pink Rhino

How often do your direct mail results end up not meeting your expectations? Does your direct mail resonate with your prospects and customers or fall flat? Do they understand and remember what you said? If not, you have a big problem. In order to avoid this, you need to be creating direct mail that resonates. Let’s take a look at what you can do to reach your maximum potential.

First we will start with the four types of memory, because they are the key to understanding how to improve your direct mail:

  1. Early Bias — These are people who best remember the beginning messaging in a direct mail piece. It is important to get right to the point for these people.
  2. Recency Bias — These are people who best remember messaging that they most recently read at the end of your mail piece. It is important to restate your message at the end without calling it a summary. People skip over summaries.
  3. Repetitive Bias — These are people who best remember direct mail messages that are repeated. It is important to restate what you want them to remember at least three times.
  4. Outstanding Bias — These are people who best remember the part of your direct mail message that is different or stands out in some way. It is important to make the effort to reach these people by using out-of-the-box language.

Where do you think you fall with these four memory types? I will reveal a secret; you should fall in more than one. So how can we use these memory biases to increase direct mail response?

  • Main Point: State your main point right away and end with your main point. Repeat it throughout your message copy. Then find a quirky way to state it that really stands out. This is what you want people to remember.
  • Bullets: If you make a list of bullets, make the most important first, second, second to last and last. You should repeat them in your copy, as well.
  • Stories: Use real stories to show how great life will be when they buy your product or service. People read and remember stories. Just make sure you use the story to highlight your main point and get them to take action.
  • Call to Action: This is another one that should be repeated across the direct mail piece. This is how you get people to respond. Give them more than one way to respond.
  • Images: They should be intriguing and relevant to your messaging. You want to draw attention and help state your message.

When you can bring all of these together cohesively, you have a great direct mail piece. Then it is just up to you to send to the right list of people. By considering your prospect and customer’s memory types, you create a way to really reach each of them in a truly memorable way. If you do not create a mail piece that is compelling it will end up in the trash. Don’t waste your marketing budget on bad direct mail. Your mail service provider can help you spice up your next campaign and increase your response rates with these tips. Are you ready to get started?

Mentoring: Give a Little, Get a Lot

Last summer, I heard that my alma mater was launching a mentoring program between graduates and enrolled Seniors. Even though I no longer reside in my college town, I quickly volunteered to be a guinea pig for remote mentoring

Last summer, I heard that my alma mater was launching a mentoring program between graduates and enrolled Seniors. Even though I no longer reside in my college town, I quickly volunteered to be a guinea pig for remote mentoring.

The woman running the program was hesitant at first—her vision was to put grads and students together face-to-face and create events that would bring the mentor/mentees together outside of 1:1 meetings.

Even though I reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and my college is in chilly Ottawa, Canada, I convinced her to team me with a student who was studying abroad for a semester so neither of us would be on campus.

Luckily I was paired with a wonderful senior named Mitch who was spending a semester in The Netherlands and studying marketing. We hit it off immediately, swapping stories about our pasts, our work experiences and talking about his goals when he graduates (to work in sports marketing). Mitch proved to be intelligent, inquisitive and eager to learn about the real world of marketing and advertising.

In our weekly calls, I answered a lot of questions (about marketing strategies and tactics and concerning specific job functions in the industry), but we also talked about some very practical things like how to put together a solid resume and a LinkedIn profile. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that in this social media crazed world, this very bright student was not that familiar with LinkedIn and how to use it to his advantage. Upon having further conversations with my college graduate son and his friends, it seems none of them were particularly savvy about LinkedIn and how leverage it to their advantage.

Helping Mitch with his resume was a fascinating exercise in marketing. His first draft provided a laundry list of all his summer jobs, but didn’t successfully position his experience and his growing expertise. As I quizzed him on what he actually did at each job, I helped him extract the salient messages he needed to convey about his skills and accomplishments—it was similar to working with a client to help them clarify and synthesize a product’s attributes and benefits, and how they stacked up to the competition.

For example, during his Junior year, Mitch worked for a marketing agency that was helping Microsoft increase its mindshare among college students. He described that job as “Independently reach and educate University students regarding the benefits of Microsoft products while entrusted with expensive technology.”

After some probing into what he was REALLY doing and the knowledge and skill set it required, we rewrote it to read “Manned an on-campus booth and answered questions about various Microsoft software products while retaining proficiency in Microsoft Windows 8.1 and the Microsoft Office Suite of products. Using Microsoft-provided software / hardware, performed a Pre- and Post- Attitudinal Behavior Study.”

Now he sounded impressive!

What was most exciting, however, is that this week Mitch advised me that a Netherlands-based sports organization that he follows on Twitter had tweeted about an opening for a marketing assistant. We quickly got to work refining his resume to match all the skills the job description required and crafted an introduction letter that further highlighted his skills.

We also did a LinkedIn search to determine who the position would report to and poured over the hiring managers resume. I encouraged Mitch to spend time on the company’s website, social media sites to become immersed in the brand, its mission, brand positioning, communications messages and key issues the company is facing.

Yesterday Mitch was contacted by the hiring manager and asked for work samples and to set up an interview. We then went to work prepping him with questions he might ask during the interview process. Honestly, I was as excited as Mitch was!

As I finish this column, I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that first important job interview, but either way, I’m confident that this young man will be a marketing rock star and any firm would be lucky to employ him. And, I relish the opportunity to help another grad enter the world of marketing fully knowledgeable with the skill set to market themselves successfully.

LinkedIn InMail Changes: What B-to-B Sellers Should Do Next

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

The new LinkedIn InMail changes are in effect—leaving sales reps and managers upset and confused. InMail just got much more expensive for average B-to-B sellers. However, you can now access a nearly unlimited supply of InMail credits under the new policy—by making one small change to how you craft InMail messages.

Yes, I said nearly unlimited. No, I’m not kidding, nor risking my integrity.

There is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

Briefly, What Changed and Why?
When InMail was introduced, LinkedIn’s “guaranteed response” policy rewarded spammy messages. Oops. So, as of January, LinkedIn gives InMail credits (that you buy) back—BUT only for InMails that earn a response in 90 days.

This is radically new.

Under the old system if you did not receive a response within a week, the InMail credit you purchased was given back. LinkedIn guaranteed a response. However, this rewards you for failing.

For example, let’s say you purchased 50 InMails and sent them. A (poor) 10 percent response rate allowed you to earn credits and send over 400 InMails per month. Thus, the policy increased the amount of spammy InMail messages being sent. The system rewarded it.

What the New Policy Means to You
Going forward, you will receive a credit (get your money back) for each InMail receiving a response within 90 days. You can re-use the money to invest again … and again and again. But if you earn no reply (or a poor response rate) your money is wasted.

LinkedIn’s old InMail policy rewarded sellers who weren’t successful with InMail.

LinkedIn’s new InMail policy rewards you (only) for writing messages that get good response. How good?

If you send 100 InMails per month, with a steady 20 percent response rate, you will end up with about 125 total InMails to send-based on InMails credited back to your account.

How to Send 100 InMails and Get 193 Credits Back
If you’re an average InMail user, you’re seeing credits vanish lately. But there is a way to send 100 InMail messages and get 98 returned to you. Or even 193 credits back (for you to re-use again).

How? Write effective InMail messages.

For example, let’s say you earn a 50 percent response rate on your first batch of 100 InMails sent. Over time (as you use the InMail credits returned to you) you earn a total of 98 credits. Not bad. You get nearly all of your investment back for re-use.

But what if you were really good? Let’s say you earned a 70 percent response rate to your InMail messages? Hey, it’s possible. I have students who earn 73 percent response rates.

With a 70 percent response rate, you would earn 193 InMail credits (of your original 100) to re-use for prospecting.

In actual practice the math is a bit messy, due to the delays between prospects responding and LinkedIn’s re-issuing credits. But you get the picture.

Should You Stop Using InMail?
As much as it may hurt, your never-ending stream of InMail credits were part of LinkedIn’s lack of foresight. If you are considering investing in InMail you’re in luck. Learn from this experience. Most B-to-B sellers who invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator (and InMail) are complaining loudly. Many are resigning accounts.

And they should.

As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Change for the better.

What to Do Next
LinkedIn’s InMail policy change is another signal. Another warning. A reason to abandon fairy-tale beliefs like:

  • Email prospecting doesn’t cost anything when it fails-or under-performs
  • It’s mostly a numbers game
  • Getting response and appointments means sending more emails

Yes, it is a numbers game. Just like cold-calling. But what is the basis of an effective cold-call routine?

An effective communications process. More specifically: A systematic, repeatable, scalable way to turn calls in to leads. I recently described this technique—gave next steps and templates to help make it easy.

If you aren’t serious about learning an effective process, you won’t experience predictable success.

“Lazy individuals will still be able to send indifferent InMails, but they won’t be rewarded for it.” says Bruce Johnston of The Practical Social Media blog.

“The new InMail system will reward people with imagination that experiment to get optimal response rates,” says Johnston.

Whether you pay cash for LinkedIn InMail credits or send standard emails to prospects … if it doesn’t work, it costs you. Cash or wasted time-time you should have spent doing something productive!

How do you feel about LinkedIn’s new InMail policy? What do you intend to do about it, looking forward?

Converting Your Social Media Triple-Fs: Friends, Followers and Fans

I’ve heard many gurus, marketers and publishers brag about their social media followers. They’ll say things like, “Isn’t it great … I’ve got 10,000 fans on Facebook” or “I have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter.” Then I’ll ask them how many free e-newsletter subscribers they have. And they’ll reply, “I haven’t had time to build a list yet. I don’t have an e-newsletter.”

I’ve heard many gurus, marketers and publishers brag about their social media followers. They’ll say things like, “Isn’t it great … I’ve got 10,000 fans on Facebook” or “I have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter.” Then I’ll ask them how many free e-newsletter subscribers they have. And they’ll reply, “I haven’t had time to build a list yet. I don’t have an e-newsletter.”

Well, in my opinion, they’ve won only half the battle …

It’s fantastic that they have a following on social media—people who seem to be interested in their messages (posts) and their overall philosophy. They can certainly cultivate these relationships to assist in their marketing efforts. However, I remind these gurus that the “fans” are following them. It’s a passive relationship. And there’s an awful lot of background noise in a news feed that can distract their fans.

If you don’t have fans’ email addresses, then you cannot have one-on-one communications with them. Building and cultivating a list is a fundamental business strategy for sales growth.

In the publishing world, a list (email addresses of free or paid subscribers) is sacred. It’s one of the most valuable things you own. You protect it and treat it with care, because your list is your financial bread and butter. It’s made up of people—customers and subscribers—who can make or break your business through their purchasing power or lack thereof.

Your list is also your leverage—what you use when reaching out to other synergistic publishers and friendly competitors to do reciprocal JV (joint venture) swaps and revenue share deals.

So, if you’re an online publisher, guru or business owner who has social media followers but no list, you’re at a disadvantage. Initiate a plan to capture your fans’ email addresses immediately and get permission to open up the personal lines of communication.

I recommend that you make a special conversion effort to encourage social media followers to give you their email addresses, or, as we say, “opt in” to receive your marketing messages.

This typically involves creating strong promotional copy and a lead-generation landing page (also know as squeeze page), where the goal is to capture the email address of the friend, follower or fan.

The offer should be something that will resonate with your fan, such as a useful and relevant free bonus. Some popular examples are a whitepaper, e-newsletter or e-alert subscription, audio download, bonus video, webinar or teleseminar..

Some marketers also offer coupon codes or gift certificates in exchange for an email address or the option to be in a “VIP club,” where you’re the first to hear about special offers.

Freebies will vary based on what you have to offer in exchange. Ideally, this is something that has a perceived value and is immediate and relevant. You run the campaign for a two-week period at a time, mixing your conversion messages with your regular, organic daily posts. It’s ideal to drive traffic to specially coded pages so you can track traffic and conversions. You can also make sure your sign up box on your website’s home page is up and ready for stray organic traffic. Then you monitor email sign-ups and website traffic (via Google Analytics), to ensure list growth and traffic source referrals.

Aside from captivating copy, many variables come into play to make sure the effort is successful. These include making sure email collection fields are at the top, middle and bottom of the lead-generation landing page being used, as well as in a static (fixed) location on your website. There should also be links to your privacy policy and an assurance statement alleviating any concern about email addresses being rented or sold to third parties.

It’s also critical to clearly disclose before users submit their email addresses that opting in to receive your freebie also gives them a complimentary subscription to your e-newsletter (if applicable), along with special offers from time to time.

Finally, you should follow up with a series of autoresponder (targeted messages) emails welcoming your new subscribers, reminding them how they signed up, offering strong editorial content and special new subscriber offers.

These emails facilitate bonding; validate that the correct email was sent; ensures that the user is aware of the sign up; helps reduce false “do not mail” reports, email bounces and general attrition; and most importantly, improved life time value.

So before you get enamored with your Facebook following, realize that to monetize these names takes a conversion strategy. Once you start building your list, you’ll add a whole new value to your businesses valuation.

Creating an Integrated Email Marketing Strategy

Keeping email in the sales tool box limits the benefits and keeps it from helping your company grow. Electronic mail is well known as a marketing tool that generates immediate cash flow. It works so well that many companies send daily updates that contribute a significant amount to their annual revenue. Some might say that this is the primary purpose for email marketing. Maybe they’re right but I think it is a shame to waste opportunities

Keeping email in the sales tool box limits the benefits and keeps it from helping your company grow. Electronic mail is well known as a marketing tool that generates immediate cash flow. It works so well that many companies send daily updates that contribute a significant amount to their annual revenue. Some might say that this is the primary purpose for email marketing. Maybe they’re right but I think it is a shame to waste opportunities.

Email is the only tool available today that can economically provide a one-to-one communication between company and customer or prospect. Perhaps it’s the fear that people will overwhelm already stretched customer service departments that keeps companies from capitalizing on the opportunities available. Maybe they’re spending too much time working on creating content in the hopes that it will go viral. Or it could be that email works so well as a sales tool little thought has been put into other uses. After all, when resources are limited, management tends to take an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach to projects.

This is a dangerous position because email as a sales tool is breaking. The days where emails sent to unengaged subscribers generated significant revenue with little effort are disappearing. The changes in Gmail’s interface are the beginning of a new email marketing reality. Begging people to move messages to the primary inbox is not a sustainable solution. Building relationships that makes them want to find your emails is the only way to continued sales success. Fortunately, email is a multifaceted tool that works well in relationship building.

The companies that change their strategy to include retention and education will gain market share, improve customer loyalty and make sales messages more profitable. There isn’t a downside to doing this because it delivers results at minimal cost. This strategy is part of an integrated marketing and service initiative that has far reaching effects.

The content created for educational messages establishes expertise, builds trust and can be repurposed on other channels. Google’s shift to conversational search requires marketers seeking better ranks to provide quality content. The best information speaks directly to the people who buy your products or services. Incorporating educational messages in your email strategy allows you to discover what drives sales and keeps customers coming back. The same messages will attract prospects.

Much of the information about relationship marketing implies that people want personal relationships with companies. They don’t. People want personal relationships with friends and family. They want companies to make it easy for them to solve problems. It’s a bonus if the company solves the problem without participation from the individual. Trust is established when company’s consistently deliver on their promises. Trying to create personal relationships with people who don’t want them is foolish and a waste of resources.

A better strategy is to find people’s pain points and make them disappear. This creates a trust relationship. Email is an excellent tool for sharing information and learning about your customers’ needs. An optimized email marketing strategy includes promotional, educational, and informational messages. Personalization is a key component that can be added by connecting historical data with targeted content.

We are entering a new era for email marketing. The timing is perfect for retailers and any business that peaks in first and fourth quarters. Optimizing your email strategy when the volume is at its peak allows you to learn quickly what works best. You can do this while still sending the promotional messages known to generate cash flow. Waiting to see if the changes to email delivery have an effect will put you behind the competition. Start immediately, plan well, test everything and use the actionable information to improve the customer experience and your company’s success.

A Goodbye
This is my last column for “The Integrated Email.” It is been my honor and privilege to share my knowledge with you. Thank you for the opportunity. Godspeed.

Editor’s Note: It has been a pleasure working with Debra. We are sorry to see her go, and hope she will be able to contribute in other ways in the future when her time permits. The Integrated Email will return in November with a new blogger.

11 Best Practices for Email Acquisition and Engagement

The income generated by your email marketing is directly related to the quality of your email address list. A list filled with highly targeted prospects and customers delivers solid response rates, clickthrough and revenue. Acquiring addresses for the people most likely to respond to your email marketing and sending relevant content should be top priorities for every company.

The income generated by your email marketing is directly related to the quality of your email address list. A list filled with highly targeted prospects and customers delivers solid response rates, clickthrough and revenue. Acquiring addresses for the people most likely to respond to your email marketing and sending relevant content should be top priorities for every company.

The best strategies capture email addresses at a variety of locations and use customized messaging to motivate participation in the marketing program. Moving people past the resistance to share their email address is only the first step in a multi-faceted strategy. Every email from the initial “Welcome to our program” to routine promotional messages must speak directly to the recipients or risk triggering opt-out activity.

Overcoming the inertia created by using a tool that consistently generates responses is one of the biggest challenges faced by email marketers. The “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” thought process prevents email programs from generating even more revenue and building better relationships. The only way to move past this is to implement a continuous improvement policy and test everything.

Continuous improvement begins with best practices. Using the results from tests by others is a good way to insure that you will not reinvent their mistakes. Once the best practices are in place, testing different ways to engage customers and prospects is easier and more effective. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Measure Everything: Capturing every piece of data is important because it creates benchmarks for improvement. If the data isn’t immediately convertible to usable information, save it. Hard drives are cheap and trying to regenerate lost data is hard.
  2. Customize Welcome Emails: Subscribers from different sources have different expectations. Create customized emails that recognize the difference and speak directly to the recipients. If your email marketing service provider doesn’t have this capability and changing isn’t an option right now, speak to the persona most likely to become a long-term profitable customer.
  3. Capture Email Addresses at Point of Sale: Offering to email receipts reduces customer resistance to sharing information and provides a second opportunity to encourage program participation when people don’t automatically opt in.
  4. Give People a Tangible Reason for Signing Up to Receive Your Emails: Offering a discount on the next purchase encourages the sign-up and future purchases. If people don’t respond to the discount, test sending a reminder just before the coupon expires. (Note: if you don’t have the ability to identify the people who responded, don’t send the reminder. Doing so tells them that they weren’t recognized when they returned and undermines the relationship.)
  5. Offer People a Sign-up Choice Between Email and Text Messages: When given a choice, people are more likely to choose one than none. It simultaneously grows your email and mobile marketing programs.
  6. Use Pop-ups to Encourage Sign-ups: Pop-ups are the acquisition method that people love to hate. Forget the hate talk and go with the test results because it is also the method that delivers high response rates.
  7. Personalize Everything: Relationships are personal. Sending generic emails will not create loyal customers. Create an email marketing program that is personal and customized for individuals and you’ll get lifelong, highly profitable customers.
  8. Keep Your Data Clean: Email hygiene services verify your addresses and reduce spam risk. A good send reputation keeps the spaminators at bay, improves deliverability, and connects you to people interested in your products and services.
  9. Create Second Chance Offers for People Who Don’t Opt In: Automatically opting people in when they provide their email address for other reasons can reduce deliverability and your send reputation. Use a second chance offer to encourage people who didn’t opt in to change their mind.
  10. Segment Well: Sending the same email to everyone generates results. Creating specialized emails based on people’s behavior and preferences generates much better results. In addition to the immediate response, customized emails make people more likely to open and respond to future messages.
  11. Test Everything: General best practices are simply rules of thumb that provide a starting point for successful email marketing programs. The best way to optimize your program is to test different tactics and use the information to fine-tune future mailings.