I Am Fascinating – Even My Hotel Thinks So

You know that age-old scenario with the man stuck in the labyrinth, who can’t find his way out? Well, there’s an online version of that—it’s the registration page that tells you there’s an error and you cannot continue, except the error is not with you, it’s with them

You know that age-old scenario with the man stuck in the labyrinth, who can’t find his way out? Well, there’s an online version of that—it’s the registration page that tells you there’s an error and you cannot continue, except the error is not with you, it’s with them.

Recently, I was shopping for a hotel in the San Diego area as I am planning to attend the DMA’s Annual Conference in October. Booking through the DMA’s site would ensure me a group rate, so I started perusing my options, sorting them by price.

One of the least expensive options was a hotel I had never heard of, but considering the property was only a 5 minute walk from the convention center, it was worth a closer look and the ad copy really intrigued me. Rather than simply extoling the hotel’s many features, I was given a peek at my life as a guest at their hotel: “When you are whisked up to your room, you’ll look out over the city, feeling like you belong here and that San Diego’s world is your oyster.” Sold! (Oh, and nice job getting me to picture myself as a happy customer.)

But then I began the booking process and a funny thing happened. After entering my guest details and confirming the rate and date, I was prompted to add my loyalty program ID number. Never one to pass up a deal, I clicked on the drop down menu to see if they would give me points with my favorite airline. Alas, my sole choice was the Kimpton InTouch loyalty program. Since I had never heard of it, I closed out of the menu. But it seems that InTouch was now selected, and I was unable to un-select it unless I put in my member number.

Abandon the transaction entirely? Another might have, but I—being the intrepid and inquisitive marketer that I am—jumped onto my second screen and researched the Kimpton InTouch program. (Did I mention I’m not one to pass up a deal?) It provided a simple registration form and the hope of instant use. But rather than getting a formulaic “welcome” email with membership number, a clever thing happened at the end of my registration process—a virtual membership card appeared on my screen, with my new InTouch loyalty number AND a downloadable V-card for Outlook. Genius!

In a split second, I downloaded and saved the V-card into my Outlook Contacts, and was delighted to know I would now have this number at my fingertips whenever booking with Kimpton again. And if the San Diego experience turned out to be as fabulous as promised, it was highly likely I would.

A simple copy from one screen and pasted to the other, and my booking process was back on track.

But what was equally interesting about the Kimpton InTouch registration form was this statement and request near the bottom of the form:

We love being fans and friends of our members. Please help us stay InTouch with you.

It then asked for my URL/Website/Blog and Twitter handle. Certainly this boutique hotel group was not planning to visit my company’s website and follow me on Twitter? Or was it?

It’s now a week later and Kimpton Hotels is not following me on Twitter, but for a brief moment I felt like the most interesting customer in the world. On the other hand, what is Kimpton planning to do with this information? Tweet me after my stay? Encourage me to tweet about my experience while a guest?

Check back with this column in October and find out. I’ll be impressed if Kimpton comes through with something that makes me feel like the most interesting customer in their world.

5 Tips for Faster, More Confident, Direct Marketing Budget Decisions

As we enter the critical make-or-break fourth quarter, and you begin your 2014 direct marketing budget plans, you will likely be faced with many marketing decisions. Those decisions are usually needed quickly. But often they’re not made quickly. Whether it’s information overload from so many options, analysis paralysis or managers who are afraid to make a decision, today we explore five ways to

As we enter the critical make-or-break fourth quarter, and you begin your 2014 direct marketing budget plans, you will likely be faced with many marketing decisions. Those decisions are usually needed quickly. But often they’re not made quickly. Whether it’s information overload from so many options, analysis paralysis or managers who are afraid to make a decision, today we explore five ways to make marketing decisions quicker and more confidently.

A mere generation ago, direct marketing decisions were limited to direct mail customer file or rented lists, space ads in magazines, package inserts, direct response broadcast, and a few other media options.

Fast forward to now, and the direct marketing decision landscape has grown exponentially with online and cross-promotional media options. Every season reveals new, unexplored online opportunities. Some are fads. Some turn out to have real value.

So for your direct marketing budget planning, here are five recommendations of how to evaluate opportunities and make decisions more quickly and confidently.

1. Cost per Response
An important metric for most direct marketers is the marketing cost per response (per lead, inquiry, sale—whatever your situation). This core metric may be your most significant contributor to your decisions.

2. Allocation of Unknown Response Sources
If you’re in a situation where you have a significant number of responses for which you can’t pinpoint a specific marketing source, consider a weighted-average allocation of those responses across marketing activities. With some imagination, you should be able to calculate this on your own. (Let me know if you’d like an expansion of this concept, and perhaps we’ll do so in a future blog post.)

3. Summarize Results in a Matrix
Placing your data in a spreadsheet will put the numbers in front of you so you can see all your activity in one place. You may want the data by media type on separate spreadsheet tabs so you can see more granular data.

For example, on one tab you summarize results from direct mail (by list, or summed up by customer vs. rented lists) with cost per response. If you allocated unknown orders, be sure to include those. Another tab might concern email results that summarize opens, clicks, conversions and cost per response. Other tabs could summarize pay-per-click, social media, retargeting or whatever media you are using. Then roll up and summarize all of the media on a tab of its own. If cost per response is most important to you, then sort the data from the lowest cost per response to highest. Perhaps you have “soft data” that will be a factor in your decisions. If so, add columns to enable a written evaluation of each. Maybe your evaluation is as simple as “pluses” and “minuses” for each opportunity.

4. Parameters for Decisions
It happens all the time. With so many choices and options, and potentially several staff members wanting their piece of the budget, decisions can be contentious and slow. When that happens, everyone loses. When you establish the parameters for decision making upfront, it’s easier to slice the pie into the right proportions. More importantly, if the head of the organization or department has established those parameters in writing (avoid verbal direction to avoid future misunderstanding), staff is empowered to make more confident decisions without delay.

5. Don’t Forget Test Budgets
Know, ahead of time, how much money you can gamble in a test. You should view the money spent as having zero return so that when if it works you’re pleasantly surprised. A rule of thumb you might use is to allocate 10 percent of a total marketing budget to tests. Whether it’s a direct mail list test, or new online media, the only way you can learn if those options work for you is to test it. Remember, too, that marketing fads can fizzle quickly. The hot new opportunity of 2012—not even a full year ago—may already be a distant memory.

If you have processes, or recommendations, about how you make faster, more confident marketing decisions, please share them in the comments area below.

5 Tips to Identify Prospects in a Niche Market

Sources of prospective customers have evolved dramatically in the past decade. Today we offer ideas for direct marketers who are on a tight budget and searching for prospects in niche markets where they don’t require thousands of leads. They just need a few dozen or a few hundred qualified leads. The good news is that B-to-B marketers, B-to-C and non-profits now have easily accessible options, many of them

Sources of prospective customers have evolved dramatically in the past decade. Today we offer ideas for direct marketers who are on a tight budget and searching for prospects in niche markets where they don’t require thousands of leads. They just need a few dozen or a few hundred qualified leads. The good news is that B-to-B marketers, B-to-C and non-profits now have easily accessible options, many of them online, to identify a small number of highly qualified prospects.

Last week I spoke with two organizations that have the same dilemma finding qualified leads. One of those is a digital learning advocacy organization whose vision is large, involving elected officials at state-levels and requiring support from corporate sponsors in a niche field. Among the dozens of initiatives for this organization, a vital one is raising money.

Fortunately, the organization, the Digital Learning Alliance (DLA), already has the support of CEOs from the largest of multi-million dollar corporations who are the leaders in this niche. But CEOs and senior management from the next tier of digital learning organizations need to be reached. DLA knows some of the companies who are prime candidates for sponsorship, but not always the people inside. Before cold-call phone calls are made, DLA wants to identify these prospects and introduce them to their message.

As direct marketers, we know there are lists available to rent to reach these companies. But DLA is an organization who doesn’t want the volume of names that often come with a minimum order. Nor do they want to go to the expense of mailing or emailing an unproven list. They just want a few hundred qualified leads.

Since many organizations share this same dilemma, today we share a solution to reinvent how you find leads. It’s in plain sight, but you may have overlooked how you can use it. With a reported 225 million users who have opted-in to connect with others, LinkedIn is a tool that can be used to reach out for prospective contacts to opt-in to messages. If you choose this course, here are five recommendations for you:

  1. Create Your Company Page: Do this first if you haven’t already!
  2. Friend-get-a-Friend: For DLA, they ask the leaders of well-known companies already supporting them to reach out on their behalf to their LinkedIn contacts. With this approach, there is built-in credibility with the initial contact.
  3. Search for Prospects: Using Advanced Search, you can filter results and invite people to connect from companies you know should be on your prospect list.
  4. Start a Group. For those who opt-in to the Group, it’s a way to make sure the news feed has updated information about what’s happening to fulfill the organization’s vision and mission. You can post discussions and questions to encourage engagement.
  5. Join Other Groups: If there is a group whose members include people in your niche, join it. Then pose questions, offer answers and demonstrate why you should be followed.

While the LinkedIn basic service gets you started, the upgrades may be worth the investment to reach deeper into possible connections and other features.

Of course the downside to this approach is that searching for people on LinkedIn can be time and labor intensive. But if you only need a few qualified prospects, don’t have money to rent a list or resources to pay for the waste of either printed direct mail or unopened email, and you want to connect with someone inside an organization where you can get a referral, what better place than LinkedIn?

Plus, if you have a PowerPoint presentation you can share, you can get it to your prospects seamlessly with Slideshare (owned by LinkedIn). Slideshare is a tool used by many executives seeking out information in PowerPoint presentations and videos.

We’ll keep you posted in a future blog about how this approach is working for DLA. In the meantime, if you have additional experience and recommendations about where to find leads for niche markets, please share them in the comments section below.

Marketing: It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. The guy poses a simple question to the kids, like “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?” The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. “I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis. Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. If you’ve been living under a rock and missed them, the guy poses a simple question to the kids like, “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?”

The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis.

Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I always laugh out loud at these spots because it reminds me of so many of the focus groups I’ve witnessed over the years, and the commercial’s message, “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” could be the lesson for many marketers these days.

There are plenty of large, complex brands out there that require lots of intricate strategies and tactics against many different audiences. But many smaller brands have yet to heed the old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) message that we learned in marketing class many moons ago.

I recently received a direct mail package that directed me to a URL to download a whitepaper. Since I was interested in the topic, I visited the URL. But when I arrived, I couldn’t find any mention of the whitepaper, even though I scoured the home page.

Yesterday I clicked on a link in an email to download another whitepaper and it took me to a dedicated registration page that asked four or five simple questions before I could download. So far, so good.

But after completing the form, I ended up on another, differently designed page, asking for most of the same information before I could complete the download. Huh?

Last week I got a phone call from a sales rep telling me he was following up on the package he sent me. When I told him I had no memory of receiving it, he mumbled something that sounded like “damn marketing people” and then said he’d have to call me back. Wha—?

As AT&T states, “It’s not complicated”—so why are so many marketing efforts such a chocolate mess?

Here are the 2 marketing rules I always try to live by:

  • Make It Easy: Think about your target and what you want them to do. Then make it easy for them to do it. That includes forms (I once challenged an insurance client on the # of questions required on an app for a quote and was able to reduce it from 26 to 6).
  • Demand Quality: Always proof (don’t get me started) and impose a rigid QC process. For example, test blast your emails and check all the links before you launch the program to your customer/prospect base. If I get one more email addressed to “Dear (Client)” or “Dear Marc,” I’m going to scream.

If you make sure you incorporate those principles into your marketing workflow, you might be surprised at the difference it can make.

And as my Dad used to say “Just use the ol’ noggin’…”

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Mobile Marketing? Start Here

When talking to small business owners,  I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix … These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

When talking to small business owners, I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix …

“I don’t have time to manage one more thing … ”

“I’m not sure where to start … ”

“I feel like my competition has already done that … ”

“I can’t keep up with how fast the technology is advancing … ”

“I can’t afford to use mobile for my small business … ”

These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

As those businesses begin to understand that mobile is just a piece of the puzzle they become less confused and you hear more of …

“OK, well. There are so many options. So how can it work for MY business?”

Well, I can tell you that if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re already two steps ahead of most business owners.

And you know what? It’s OK to be confused. The truth is, it’s overwhelming.

Mobile websites, responsive design, SMS marketing, MMS marketing, mobile optimized email, QR Codes, location-based services, augmented reality, smarpthone apps, tablets, NFC, the mobile wallet, mobile commerce …

Holy smokes!

Warning: If you try to jump into all of these areas at once, you will most definitely fail.

If you break down your mobile strategy into smaller parts, integrating one aspect at a time, it will become less overwhelming and you’ll be in a position for a successful mobile program without disrupting the rest of your business.

Remember … mobile is just one part of your marketing strategy. Take it one step at a time:

1. Start by planning how it will play a part into your existing initiatives. Mobile is the most dependent marketing channel to-date. You can’t view it as a solo initiative.

Plan accordingly and make sure it will play nice with your other channels, meaning there is one voice and one message. Chasing the “latest shiny object” thinking it will save your business will get you nowhere fast.

2. Focus on what works and what will delivers results to your business.
You’ll most likely start with your mobile site.

The most important thing to work on is making sure your mobile website is friendly. You’ve probably heard people say that having a mobile-friendly website will give you a competitive advantage.

To some degree, this is true—if your competitors are slow to execute. But, to be honest, a mobile-friendly website is now a cost of doing business.

As a small business owner you’re foolish if you don’t have a mobile friendly site. Let’s say you own a restaurant … A recent Google study stated that 88 percent of total search volume for the keyword “restaurant” comes from mobile devices. Do you own a bar? About 97 percent of search volume for the keyword “bar” is coming from mobile devices.

In fact, “restaurants near me” receives 10,000 searches a month from desktops. Guess what? It’s four times more on mobile devices.

This is the reason that you see restaurants and bars listed in the top of search results in Google from your mobile device but not from your desktop.

Small business owners seem slow to adopt mobile. Surprisingly, a restaurant study stated that 95 percent of independent restaurants do not have a mobile website, and only about half of chain restaurants have some sort of mobile site.

This means a lot of unhappy mobile searchers and no repeat visits.

3. You see, mobile searchers have a different intent than those on a desktop. They are looking for different things. When it comes to local locations like a restaurant or bar they most often look for your location, hours, directions and how to contact you.

4. What’s the cost of not offering these folks a mobile friendly version?
That’s easy … a whole lot of sales.

The same Google study found that 94 percent of U.S.-based smartphone users look for local information on their phones and 90 percent take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

90 percent take action …

Read that again.

Basically, if your site is not mobile friendly when a prospective customer is looking for you, the odds of you losing a sale are close to 100 percent.

5. Speaking of being more “findable” … If you list your business in the various directories AND location-based services, such as Google Places, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, etc., you’ll put yourself in a better position to be found. It’s like adding your listing to the Yellow Pages.

6. OK. So you built a mobile-friendly website. Now what?

Your mobile website is what many would consider a “pull” channel. This means that it doesn’t offer you the level of outreach that other channels do, but allows you to be right there when your customer needs you.

So next time, we’re going to dive into the second aspect of your mobile strategy to put in place. It’s actually the most overlooked part of mobile, in my opinion.

Seeing as how you are going to start mobilizing your website right now, you have time to prepare for the second part of your small business mobile strategy … mobile-friendly email.

Caution: I’ve Been Diagnosed With Social Media Madness

There are so many social media options now available, my head hurts. My palms get sweaty at the mere whisper of a new site. And if I get one more invitation to join some random, seemingly important group, I think I’ll weep. As a marketer, I feel a lot of pressure to keep up with it all, primarily so I can talk to clients about how they can leverage these forums as strategic marketing opportunities. But in reality, it’s not possible to do that, my day job and raise a family.

There are so many social media options now available, my head hurts. My palms get sweaty at the mere whisper of a new site. And if I get one more invitation to join some random, seemingly important group, I think I’ll weep.

As a marketer, I feel a lot of pressure to keep up with it all, primarily so I can talk to clients about how they can leverage these forums as strategic marketing opportunities. But in reality, it’s not possible to do that, my day job and raise a family.

While there are certainly more social media options in the B-to-C world, we B-to-B marketers are under intense scrutiny to understand and learn how to have, at the very least, a point of view on what these options are and how to use them appropriately for business. It is a Herculean task, and one that cannot be accomplished under normal circumstances.

So I’m officially raising my hand and shouting to the world, “STOP THIS MADNESS.” I’m going to spit out the social media Kool-Aid, stand tall, and promise, on my honor, to be only as social as I need to be, while spending my time on more important marketing initiatives. To that end, I’m going to embrace these four directives:

  1. I vow to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile—and respond to inquiries to connect when they make sense.
  2. I promise I won’t tweet every day just to be able to claim that I tweet regularly.
  3. I won’t use my Facebook stamp to let my friends know every time I’m in a new location… unless it’s someplace impressive like one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
  4. I’ll stop posting videos of my kitten playing with string on YouTube. Despite the fact that I get millions of hits worldwide. It’s not fair to my kitten, and surely viewers have better things to do.

Won’t you join with me to find a cure to social media madness? Fling open your windows and shout it with me: “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it any more…” Then go back to learning and creating marketing solutions that drive your business forward.

Testing for B-to-B Marketers: How Hard is It?

B-to-B marketers are often guilty of laziness when it comes to testing their communications, whether it’s testing the copy approach, the layout, the offer or the target audience. Well, to call it laziness may not be entirely fair. It’s a fact that the typical B-to-B campaign targets universes that are too small to support a split test. If you’re selling specialized machine tools, you’re lucky if you have 10,000 potential customers worldwide.

B-to-B marketers are often guilty of laziness when it comes to testing their communications, whether it’s testing the copy approach, the layout, the offer or the target audience. Well, to call it laziness may not be entirely fair. It’s a fact that the typical B-to-B campaign targets universes that are too small to support a split test. If you’re selling specialized machine tools, you’re lucky if you have 10,000 potential customers worldwide.

I work with a company that offers employee benefits programs, and markets to HR professionals. We are planning a campaign to take the service into the Boston area, targeting firms with more than 100 employees, which number about 6,000 sites. At two HR contacts per site, using direct mail, we would have a mail plan of 12,000. With an estimated response rate of 1 percent, we’re looking at only 120 inquiries-clearly not enough to conduct a test of the two good offer ideas we are kicking around. Which is a shame, because we really have no idea which motivational offer is going to work better with this audience.

But in the digital world, B-to-B marketers have a lot more options for testing. Split tests are easy to set up, and applicable to any communications vehicle that drives a response-whether it be an email, a landing page, a banner ad, Adwords copy, anything, using free tools like Google Website Optimizer or scores of other SaaS or enterprise software tools.

Plus, there are abundant resources out there now to guide and inspire business marketers. Have a look at Which Test Won, a weekly comparison of two B-to-B live test versions-usually landing pages-where visitors are invited to go with their guts, and pick a winner. Then, you can view the actual winner and participate in a lively discussion of possible reasons why. This brilliant site was the brain child of Anne Holland, the founder of Marketing Sherpa.

So my client would like to conduct an offer test through digital channels, and we are exploring various options. It’s still not easy with a small prospect universe in a limited geography. There are not enough targeted banner media available to reach HR professionals in the Boston-only area. Email to entirely cold prospects is too spammy to generate leads at a reasonable cost-and still doesn’t solve the universe size problem that we face with direct mail. We considered Google AdWords with location targeting, but it’s going to be hard to sell the offer properly within the AdWords copy limits. Not to mention questions about how long it would take to get enough clicks to call the results. So our search continues, and we’d welcome ideas from Target Marketing readers on this one.

A version of this article appeared at Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Stephanie Miller’s Engagement Matters: Email Storytelling Sells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For content, consider the following four options:

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

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

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

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

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

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