Best Practices Exist for a Reason, Part 2: Landing Pages

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

In my last post, I gave some specific and proven best practices for the creation of successful emails. In this post, I’ll talk about Landing Pages—because now that you’ve been able to lure your target into opening your email and clicking on the embedded link(s), you want to continue to drive that prospect to your desired outcome.

Whether your email offer is more information, a video, an e-book, a survey or a whitepaper, don’t send your prospect down a black hole by linking them to your website. Instead, create a specific digital destination (a landing page) for your campaign so you can not only quantify site visitors and their actions on the site, but it also reassures prospects that they’ve arrived at the right destination.

Based on lots of testing with our own clients and best practices from sites like Marketing Experiments, Marketing Sherpa, KISSmetrics, HubSpot and more, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Your LP Headline Should Match Your Email Headline: While this may not seem like rocket science, prospects can get easily confused. You have less than a second to help them take the next step, so why create confusion with a brand new headline that is seemingly unrelated to the email they opened, read and clicked?
  • Place the CTA ABOVE the Fold: Especially now that we’ve entered the world of responsive design, it’s critical that your call-to-action is near the top of your page so that those viewing on even the smallest screens can clearly take the next step. And, make sure it’s the most obvious thing on the page because—after all—it’s the action you want them to take!
  • Make Buttons Highly Obvious and Actionable: Whether it’s using a color that contrasts to the rest of your page, uses language that makes it clear what you want/what they’ll get when they click, or are sized big enough to be obvious and legible, don’t hide your action buttons where they might get missed. Instead of buttons that say “Click here” try “Get me my..”
  • Have a Single Purpose With a Single-Focused Message: Think about why the prospect clicked on the email, and what their expectations are for when they arrive on your page. Don’t clutter it up with extraneous copy points or additional “stuff.” In fact, remove other types of navigation from the page as it can unnecessarily distract the visitor from taking the desired next step.
  • Be Authentic and Transparent With Real Testimonials: While you can—and should—edit quotes, make sure they’re attributable to someone even if it’s “Carolyn G., Business owner” or “C. Goodman, California.” Make sure they’re pithy and don’t ramble. These days, “social proof” (using quotes from Facebook posts or Tweets), adds social credibility. Plus people are influenced based on reviews by others.
  • Use Bullet Points for Copy: People skim, and won’t spend any time reading long paragraphs of text. Make sure your copy is crisp—short, sharp and to the point.
  • Include a Phone Number: This helps overcome buyer insecurity that they may be dealing with a company based overseas. Plus, they may have questions before completing an order, so it’s best to provide an easy-to-find phone number to help.
  • Keep Your Forms Simple: If you don’t need to collect certain data, then don’t ask/collect it. As a rule-of-thumb, shorter forms tend to work better. Personally, I’m always annoyed that certain forms ask me for personal information that is seemingly irrelevant to my purchase. As a result, I’m often untruthful in the information I provide in that field because I consider it none of their business.
  • Radio Buttons or Drop Down Menus? The right answer is to test it yourself because different tests for different customers yield different results. Marketing Experiments provides some great case studies on this topic. In one experiment, radio buttons generated a 15% lift over a drop down menu.

In summary, if all of these marketers have already done all the testing for you, why wouldn’t you at least consider these insights and apply them to your own landing page efforts? Tell me. I’m all ears.

5 LinkedIn Best Practices That Don’t Work

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Most LinkedIn best practices for sales reps are not, in fact, best practices. They’re time-wasters. This is one of the most important insights I gleaned in 2014. That’s why I’m offering you five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015.

The 5 Worst LinkedIn Best Practices

  1. Using “Who’s viewed my profile” to drive profile views.
  2. Requesting connections from new prospects.
  3. Sending InMails that ask for appointments and referrals.
  4. Sharing valuable content with your connections.
  5. Adding value in LinkedIn Groups by giving away your best advice.

Instead, follow these five steps to avoid falling down the LinkedIn “best practices” rabbit hole that truly don’t work for sales:

1. Beware of ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’
We all like candy and LinkedIn is handing it out. The experience is becoming increasingly Facebookesque. Case-in-point: The “who’s viewed my profile” feature. Beware: for most of us it’s a trap.

I’m not suggesting this feature isn’t handy. It’s just not what we (as sellers) want it to be. It can be a time-suck.

Our instincts to find buyers can overpower rational thought—especially when we’re pressed for time. Mix in some “online candy” and it’s a productivity risk.

Is it good to know who’s viewing your profile? Yes. Can you tell why someone outside of your immediate network is viewing your profile? Not with certainty. You cannot qualify a lead based on them looking at your profile.

A lot of experts claim you can. You cannot. Deep down, you know you cannot. Using software or other techniques to increase your views is not a smart strategy, especially when:

  • LinkedIn encourages random, casual viewing of “people you may know”
  • Many views aren’t views at all (they are momentary, fleeting arrivals at your profile)

LinkedIn wants you to know who’s looking at your profile. I’m cool with that. But when you believe people are viewing your profile for reasons you’re creating from thin air? You’re in trouble.

Spend time making sure arrivals at your profile spark curiosity in you. Invest less time in hope. And please don’t ask visitors you do not know (who view your profile) to connect with you!

2. Don’t Ask for Connections as a First Step
The most deadly—and common—mistake sales reps make on LinkedIn is asking prospects they don’t know to connect.

Be warned: It is against LinkedIn’s terms and conditions to send connection requests to prospects you don’t know. I know, I know. The “experts” all offer invitation personalization tips to earn connections from strangers. Ignore them!

Being banned by LinkedIn for inviting too many people who don’t know you is common. If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

Please don’t try to make first contact with prospects on LinkedIn—unless you use InMail or Groups messages. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but:

  1. You’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted;
  2. you’re taking a risk you don’t need to take; and
  3. the risk isn’t worth it; being connected is better for nurturing (not creating) leads.

3. Don’t Ask for Appointments in InMails, Attract Them
We all want appointments. But trying to get an appointment from “go” is a failing tactic. You will be rejected by 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects according to Sharon Drew Morgen. She would know. She invented the Buying Facilitation method, and she has 20 years of experience to back up the statement.

Here’s why: A majority of buyers don’t know what they need when you email them. Or they are aware of their need, but aren’t ready to buy yet.

Use the first InMail or email like a good cold call: Earn permission for a discussion that can lead to an eventual meeting. Don’t jump the gun. Once you have permission, execute the email conversation in a way that sparks an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Get the prospect so curious about what you have to say they cannot resist acting—asking you for a call.

Just like on a hot date, would you rather ask the other person out—or be asked? Don’t say too much too fast. Attract your prospect. This is one of my most mind-bending (yet effective) LinkedIn InMail tips. It also works on regular email messages.

4. Stop Sharing Valuable Content, Start Provoking Behavior
Sharing valuable content in groups and via LinkedIn updates rarely creates leads for most sellers; mostly because of “expert” tips that don’t work. There is way too little focus placed on how and when to share knowledge in groups.

Most “expert” tips focus on:

  1. gathering (curating) content quickly,
  2. defining what is valuable to buyers and
  3. deciding how often to post.

Instead, focus on how you post. Focus on structure. The design of words. Copywriting.

Defining what’s valuable to your target buyer is vital to know. But it’s worthless unless you know how to provoke customers to call or email you. (Not just comment on your update or share it with others.)

Likewise, knowing how to gather content quickly is important. But if what you share does not intersect with a lead capture system, you’ve squandered the engagement.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But the top 5 percent of LinkedIn sellers know an important fact. Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. It takes solid social media copywriting.

Instead, start shockingly truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors don’t dare go near. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Then connect what you say to an action your prospect can take (begin the lead nurturing journey).

5. Adding Value in Groups Is Often a Win-Lose
Giving away your best advice in Groups can be a win-lose. The prospects win, you lose. Success depends on your prospects’ curiosity in you. And that depends on how and when you give away specifics. Just like effective InMail/email message writing and sequencing.

You’ll experience more success (requests for appointments, calls, emails) by giving away “just enough” information to be credible … yet not quite complete. The idea is to create an urge and the curiosity to know more.

For example, do you give answers and advice away in ways that create more questions in the mind of your reader? Do you give away just enough to create more curiosity about you that can be connected to what you sell? If not, you’re struggling.

You’re probably giving away too much too fast—smothering the prospect.

Are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about issues, short-cuts or better ways you know about?

If not you’re probably over-focusing on what you are saying. Instead, focus on how you structure words and when you release key bits of information. Are you saying too much too fast?

Again, think of it like a great date. The most attraction occurs when you get “just enough” information about the other person that you become curious. Too much information overwhelms—leaves nothing to the imagination and is often flat out boring.

Once again, relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Remember, most LinkedIn best practices we read about online are not. They’re time-wasters. They’re edicts written by people who know about LinkedIn but who don’t know enough about sales prospecting. What do you think about my five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015? Are you having any success with these? I’m open to hearing your rebuttals!

Truly Greening Digital: The DMA ‘Green 15’ Gain a Digital Edge

With little fanfare, the Direct Marketing Association just published a “refresh” of its “Green 15” sustainable marketing practices first announced in 2007, via the good work of the sustainability team from the DMA Ethics Policy Committee.

With little fanfare, the Direct Marketing Association just published a “refresh” of its “Green 15” sustainable marketing practices first announced in 2007. Via the good work of the sustainability team from the DMA Ethics Policy Committee: Green 15 Best Practices.

The original publication took on such areas as paper procurement and list management, among others, in a bid for the marketing field to reduce GHG emissions by 1 million metric tons through last year. Whether or not that goal was achieved has not been reported by DMA, but then again, there is likelihood of huge reductions in carbon emissions if only for the fact that that there is less mail in circulation today then in 2006 (source reduction).

Yet in the growth of digital, there are also greenhouse gas impacts, among other environmental concerns, says DMA:

The use of certified paper, renewable energy, and consumer messaging to encourage recycling are all well-established best practices that address tangible environmental issues associated with print communications. Today, the rise of data-driven and digital communication requires marketers to address less visible environmental impacts. Toxic ‘e-waste’ impacts people and the environment as a result of improper disposal of electronics. Air pollution, including elevated greenhouse gas emissions, is an environmental and economic consequence of the growing demand for fossil energy to power digital devices and data centers.

The new Green 15 gives some guidance on just what digital and data-driven marketers might look to do:

  • Conduct energy audits at offices and production facilities to identify cost-saving opportunities (energy reduction).
  • Determine the source of power facilities in your facilities, and look to purchase more renewables in the mix gradually. Leverage suppliers of digital and data services to do the same.
  • Use links instead of attachments when sending internal and external communications – minimizing bandwidth and storage space for such documents.
  • Immediately implement best practices for responsible disposal of all electronic equipment at end of life, using such resources as Earth911.com, the EPA’s Web site, and seeking recyclers who adhere to E-Stewards Certificate standards

As anyone on a corporate “Green Team” knows, this list is really just a beginning. The savings and gains in efficiency that can happen as a result, are real—and ripe—for business bottom lines. There’s no reason not to consider these steps. All it takes is an internal champion, and a belief that being digital alone is not being green. Data and interactive communication have to be managed from a sustainability point of view—just as print communicators have done. I am glad the DMA, for one, has taken the lead and given us constructive steps all integrated marketers should consider.

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.

Stephanie Miller’s Engagement Matters: Why Good Email Gets Blocked as Bad

Our first step in email marketing return on investment is to reach the inbox. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, I’m always amazed at how many email marketers either don’t appreciate the negative impact of blocked messages or don’t know what they don’t know.

Our first step in email marketing return on investment is to reach the inbox. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, I’m always amazed at how many email marketers either don’t appreciate the negative impact of blocked messages or don’t know what they don’t know.

There’s no shame here. Every email marketer gets blocked occasionally, even if you have permission or generally follow best practices. The best defense is good offense: Be knowledgeable on the root causes of blocking, respect subscribers and measure inbox deliverability.

This is no tree in the proverbial forest. If your messages don’t reach the inbox, they won’t earn a response. It’s not something that happens to “that other guy.” In fact, about 20 percent of legitimate, permission-based email marketing messages and newsletters never make it to the inbox, according to a study by Return Path earlier this year. (Full disclosure, I work for Return Path).

Any lift in inbox placement goes right to the bottom line. All your metrics (e.g., opens, clicks, page views, conversions, ad revenues, etc.) will rise concurrently. The good news is that marketers can absolutely impact how messages are treated by ISPs like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, and corporate system administrators.

Do not delegate inbox deliverability — a very important step to ROI — even if you delegate delivery. Your email broadcast vendor or ESP can’t do this for you. It’s a shared responsibility. A good broadcast vendor will operate an efficient delivery system, give you full reporting that includes actual inbox placement (Note: this is NOT your bounce rate) and help you follow best practices. However, no vendor can control your message content, frequency and acquisition practices. The buck stops with the marketer or sender.

You need the following four things to reach the inbox consistently and earn a response:

1. A solid infrastructure. For either an in-house system or a vendor, check frequently to be sure you know that your infrastructure is sound (e.g., proper reverse DNS, MX records, authentication and volume throttling) and your bounces are managed properly. Make sure you fully understand the metrics used in reporting as well.

2. Low complaints. There’s a penalty for irrelevancy in email marketing that doesn’t exist in other channels. It’s called “complaints.” A complaint is registered every time a subscriber clicks the “Report Spam” button. It only takes a few complaints to get all your messages blocked at Yahoo, Gmail or corporations (which use many of the same data sources). Subscribers complain when they’re not happy or interested in your messages, even if they’re customers and gave you permission. They complain even when they claim to love your brand.

Yikes! Imagine what would happen if Yahoo or another major ISP blocked all your messages for the next 30 days (the length of time many deliverability failures take to correct). Revenue would drop like a brick and you’d be under the spotlight to explain why your mailing practices earned such a wallop.

Relevant messages have low complaint scores. It’s the single most powerful factor in a good sender reputation, which dictates if your messages reach the inbox and earn a high response. It’s up to marketers and publishers to engage subscribers with every message rather than assume an opt-in gives you license to send whatever you want whenever you want.

Increase relevancy by developing a subscriber-focused content strategy. Address the editorial needs, buying cycles and life stages of your subscribers. New subscribers may welcome more email than long-time subscribers — or the opposite may be true. Tailor messages for subscribers who are up for product or service renewal, have recently purchased, visited a particular section of your website, abandoned their shopping cart, clicked but didn’t convert, downloaded a whitepaper, or haven’t opened or clicked in the last quarter.

3. A clean file. Keep a clean list by doing the following:

  • Be sure everyone on your email marketing file really wants to be there. Offer choices and make it easy to unsubscribe and change preferences.
  • Try to win back fatigued subscribers who are ignoring you early in the relationship. If you see a customer hasn’t opened or clicked in the past 90 days, you may have an opportunity to re-engage.
  • If someone hasn’t opened or clicked in 12 months, take them off your file.
  • Only accept subscribers from legitimate sources — e.g., your own website, partners you vet carefully and publishers with high sender reputations. It may be nice to have a large file, but it’s always better to have a file that’s more responsive and engaged.

4. Good reporting. You can’t manage or optimize what you don’t know. Track complaint data by signing up for all ISP feedback loops, and quickly remove those subscribers who complain. (Detailed instructions can be found here.) Be sure you actually know your inbox deliverability rate, by campaign and message type. This is not your bounce rate (typically 1 percent to 5 percent), but the actual number of messages that reach the inbox. You must seed your campaigns to get this data. If your email broadcast system or vendor isn’t reporting this to you, ask them for it.

What are you doing to better manage inbox placement as part of your response metrics? Let me know what you think by sharing any ideas or comments below.

Authentication Alliance Marks Data Privacy Day With Consumer Trust Best Practices

To mark World Data Privacy Day, Jan. 28, the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance published its top 10 list of privacy principles and business practices. These practices, many of which have been widely adopted by AOTA members, are calls to action for companies to help maximize consumer confidence and ultimately spur economic growth.

To mark World Data Privacy Day, Jan. 28, the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance published its top 10 list of privacy principles and business practices. These practices, many of which have been widely adopted by AOTA members, are calls to action for companies to help maximize consumer confidence and ultimately spur economic growth.

To me, it’s pretty simple: Adopt these principles or suffer the consequences of a consumer trust meltdown. And that could invite regulation, according to AOTA Founder/Chairman Criag Spiezel. Here’s what the group recommends you do, edited a bit:

1. Ensure all privacy policies are discoverable, transparent and written to ensure consumer comprehension, accessible from every page of a Web site and/or e-mail.

2. Periodically contact users and provide them with your company privacy policy upon any changes for their review; allow for provisions for consumer choice or their data usage.

3. Establish and publish procedures for data collection, transfer and retention; perform third-party or self-audits for compliance.

4. Support collaborative, global, public-privacy efforts to increase consumer awareness and education, as well as the adoption of fair information practices and privacy/security regimes (e.g., the appointment of a national chief privacy officer).

5. Support self-regulatory efforts to adopt standard data retention/use policies.

6. Set and publish standards of privacy, security and data retention policies with clear accountability between first-party sites and third-party content providers and advertisers.

7. Create response plans for accidental disclosure of personal information and data breaches, including notification to consumers and governmental agencies. Provide relevant remedies to consumers (e.g., no-charge credit record monitoring services to those affected, or other remedies as appropriate).

8. Commit to authenticating all outbound e-mail with Domain Keys Identified Mail and/or Sender ID Framework to combat forged e-mail and potential privacy exploits within six months.

9. Transactional sites should adopt Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer Certificates within six months or upon existing certificate expiration.

10. All consumer-facing sites should obtain privacy certification and seals from third-party providers or other third-party consumer dispute resolution mechanisms.

More details can be found here.

Are you following these best practices? If not, why? Let’s start a dialogue on the subject. Post a comment now.