email marketing

  • 10 Keys to Your Overall Email Marketing Success

    Key Principles to Email MarketingIf you learn nothing else from this article, I recommend you master the following key principles. Most of the statistics that suggest high returns on email marketinginvestment depend on how closely you adhere to these basics.

    1. Only send email to people who know you. People open email from people they know, and they delete email from people they don’t recognize or mark it as spam. It doesn’t even matter what’s legal or ethical. If your business makes a habit of emailing total strangers, then your reputation, your budget, and your growth will suffer for it.

    2. Don’t treat email addresses like email addresses; treat them like relationships. An email address is one of the most personal things someone can share with your business because it’s an invitation to send your messages to a place where he or she sends and receives personal communications as well as business ones. Email doesn’t work if it feels like a computer-generated HTML document. It has to come across as being part of a meaningful relationship.

    3. Send relevant content that has value to your recipient. You probably weren’t going to send irrelevant, valueless content on purpose, but content with good intentions isn’t the same thing as value and relevance. In order to ensure that your emails are valuable and relevant, you have to know exactly what your audience wants. You have to be a good listener to be a good communicator.

    4. Engage your audience in the content you write. This requires attention-grabbing subject lines, clear headlines, and thoughtful content.

    5. Maximize your delivery rate. Getting email delivered is harder than you might think. Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) such as Yahoo!, AOL, and Hotmail work diligently to block emails from unwanted senders. If your email isn’t up to professional standards in reputation, technology, or permission, you might as well be sending your email directly to the junk folder.

    6. Don’t share email lists with anyone. Your email list is a valuable asset. It will lose value if you loan it to someone else because the people on your list won’t recognize a foreign sender. You should never borrow an email list from someone else. That list is full of people who aren’t familiar with your business, and you are likely to attract more enemies than friends.

    7. Set expectations with your recipients. When someone signs up to receive your email communications, they do so with the expectation of receiving something of value. If you don’t communicate clearly what that value is, your audience will draw their own conclusions. Tell your audience what you’ll be sending and how often you’ll be sending it. That way, you’ll defeat any value, relevance, and frequency objections before your audience even signs up.

    8. Look professional whenever you communicate. If you’re a salesperson, you know how to dress for success. Similarly, if you’re an email, you need to look familiar, inviting, and consistent.

    9. Be ready to respond. Email communications can be highly automated, in an off-putting way that distances you from your customers. Don’t set an email auto reply in your in-box and take a mental vacation. Keep an eye on your communications and your responses so you can take action, make changes, and repeat positive results.

    10. Regularly review your campaign results. The longer you practice marketing the more you realize ho
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    w unpredictable your results will be if you don’t analyze your past and make adjustments based on your data. Use email tracking reports to help you improve, progress, and grow.

  • 10 Reasons to Use an Email Marketing Service

    inboxMany small businesses use Microsoft Outlook or a similar email program when they start doing email marketing. The problem is that these applications were designed for one-to-one communications. They can work fine for sending email to a few dozen people. But using Outlook to help you send hundreds or thousands of emails to your customers is like using a speaker phone to deliver a speech in an auditorium. Email marketing can have a powerful impact on your business, and you need tools that are designed for the task. If you are serious enough about email marketing to pick up this book, you should consider using an email service like Constant Contact. Email services help you perfect your strategy, manage your data, design your emails, and track your results.

    1. Look professional. Unless you’re an HTML programmer who knows how every email program used by your customers will render your code differently, you should consider using an email service provider to help you with elements such as colors, fonts, images, and page designs.

    2. Easily conform to CAN-SPAM regulations. All reputable email service providers build legal requirements into their platforms so you don’t have to worry about compliance.

    3. Learn best practices. Email service companies send a lot of emails. The best ones listen to their customers, study their customers’ results, and share the best practices with others so everyone can grow. Go with an email service that embraces the philosophy that when customers are successful, the company is successful.

    4. Give customers and easy way to unsubscribe. Keeping track of the people who no longer want your emails is not only professional, it’s a legal requirement. Email services include easy and safe unsubscribe links in every email that automatically remove anyone who clicks on them and keeps track of your unsubscribed customers so you can’t inadvertently add them back.

    5. List management. Sending email to a list professionally isn’t as simple as cutting and pasting email addresses into a program. Email services allow you to manage your customers’ personal information and preferences so your emails are customized and your subscribers are segmented into categories and interests.

    6. Track results. If you want to see who’s opening, forwarding, and clicking on your emails, you need an email service that gives you tracking reports. Email services can also tell you which emails bounced, why they bounced, and which subscribers opted out of your communications.

    7. Maximize delivery to the inbox. Your customers’ Internet Service Providers want to deliver wanted email while blocking unwanted email, so they pay close attention to the reputation of the sender when they decide whether to deliver or block emails to their customers. If you use an email service that is friendly to ISPs and blocks uninvited spammers from using their services, you’ll have a higher delivery rate. If you use your own email server to deliver your mail, you’ll start with no reputation at all, and you’ll probably experience average delivery rates.

    8. Automate where appropriate. Email services are constantly developing new tools that help you to automate your strategy so you can spend more time with your customers. Automated features include signup forms that feed customer information into your database, auto responders that send selected emails after a specified event, and email templates that automatically lay out your content and brand elements into eye catching arrangements.

    9. Cost a fraction of a penny per communication. Perhaps the best email marketing benefit involves the low cost of sending lots of emails to lots of people. Good email services pass these low costs on to their customers in the form of fixed monthly fees for unlimited emails or price breaks for large list holders.

    10. Provide tools that impact your profits. Where do you turn when you need a library of stock photography, a way to archive your emails to your web site, or online surveys to help you understand your customers better? Any good email service provider will offer these tools and will be constantly finding ways to make your emails come to life and give you the greatest return on your investment in their products and services.

    At this point your mind is either spinning with ideas on how to put these rules into practice for your business or you are wondering how to get started. The great news is that in both cases the answers lie in reading on! You may think that sending an email marketing campaign is fairly simple and you would be right. However, email marketing is not about sending email, it’s about getting people to read it!

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  • 10 Tips on Getting and Keeping Permission

    email-marketing-4The increased focus on spam in email marketing also means an increased focus on permission. Sure, we’re all waiting and hoping for a solution to the spam problem but a foolproof solution has not yet been created. So, in the meantime, as permission-based email marketers, we need to stay diligent in our efforts to earn and keep the permission of our subscribers to the best of our ability.

    What are the best ways to earn and keep permission? These 10 tips are guaranteed to help:

    1. Be Straightforward- Remind recipients why they are receiving an email from you. Whether they are a valued customer, a prospect who expressed interest, or a client you want to keep in touch with, the reminder will add credibility to your email and put it into context, thus differentiating your communications from unwanted email.
    2. Be Specific - When people sign up to be on your email list, allow them to select—precisely—their areas of interest (e.g. newsletters, sale notifications, new product or service announcements, event invitations etc.). You can make subscribers feel more comfortable by specifying what they will receive and when they will receive it (e.g. “Sign up for Our Weekly Concert Announcement”).
      Also, you need to identify yourself to your subscribers in the “From:” line, and use the name they recognize most easily–yours, or your company.
    3. Be Respectful - Permission can be given, and it can be taken away. It is very important that every email you send has the option for the recipient to unsubscribe or “opt-out.” Interests may change over time and communications may no longer be valuable to a given subscriber. Those subscribers are entitled to withdraw their permission at will.
    4. Be Trustworthy - Your privacy policy should be clearly posted. It adds credibility to your company and your email even if recipients do not click on the link.
    5. Be Interested - Are your email communications of value? Is the frequency right?
      A survey is an inexpensive, easy and immediate way to find out how your customers really feel about your company and your email communications. So, when you do a survey, don’t forget to ask how your customers feel about your emails.
      Note: As a rule of thumb, if you are sending consumers promotional emails about products and services, you should be emailing no more frequently than three, maybe four times per month. A rule of thumb always has an exception, and every audience is different, so make your decisions based on your own unique business.
    6. Be Current - People change ISPs, jobs and email addresses at random. Often, you’ll be the last to know. Ask for updated information and give subscribers an easy way to change their email address. This will ensure that your communications continue to be received if, and when, they make a change.
      In addition, provide a way for your subscribers to change their interests and preferences. This will help you continue to provide the information most valuable to them, and target the right audience for each campaign.
    7. Be Considerate - Respect the privilege of communicating with your customers and prospects by taking care not to communicate too often. Gratuitous emails are not met with gratitude. Think carefully and plan how many, and what kind of communications you send to your subscribers.
    8. Be Diligent - Some subscribers will reply to an email to unsubscribe instead of using the automatic unsubscribe link. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes, and complaints, then make sure you remove unsubscribe addresses right away and take action on any grievances.
    9. Be Observant- Look at your reports! There’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Always pay attention to your unsubscribe rate to ensure that your churn rate remains positive. If you are losing more than .5% of your subscribers per month, take a look at all of the elements of your campaigns, make sure you’re following the other 10 tips in this issue, and make adjustments where you’re falling short. Opens and click-throughs can also indicate where you might be missing the mark.
    10. Beware - Beware of strangers bearing lists! Permission is not transferable. Today, subscribers want to receive email from those companies they have subscribed to, not an unknown third party.

    When searching for a list, don’t be fooled by off ers of targeted, clean lists for sale on a CD or otherwise. If anyone claims you can “Blast your ad to over 1000 safe addresses for only $5.00!” or “Buy a CD with 10,000,000 email addresses for only $99!”, this is too good to be true. These lists are not permission-based—they are spam lists.

    List buyer beware!
    Many email marketers become accidental spammers by making the mistake of buying a list. Permission is not for sale and is not transferable.

    Follow these 10 permission tips, and “Be” a part of the spam solution!

  • 10 Tips to Maintain Email Relationships

    Yes permission grantedIn the world of email marketing: permission-based email marketers are the good guys.

    They value the trust and privacy of each and every customer that walks through their door and thus, the trust and privacy of every subscriber that joins their email list. As a result, they have better open rates, less spam reports, and more opportunities to grow their business with email marketing.

    Permission-based email marketing is the best route to developing long-lasting customer relationships that can drive repeat sales and valuable word-of-mouth for your business. And these practices also keep you in compliance with legislation such the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-Spam) and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).

    1. Collect email addresses the right way
    If you’re adding a new contact to your email list, it’s important that you have consent, either implied or express.

    Implied consent is inferred based on actions, such as having an existing business relationship (making a purchase or donation, for example). In order to maintain implied consent to comply with CASL a contact must take a business action with you at least once every two years. Under CAN-Spam there is no need to maintain implied consent, it is assumed until the receiver indicates they no longer wish to receive messages.

    Express consent is obtained when you explicitly ask your potential contacts for permission to send them email, and they agree. Once you obtain express consent, it is good forever or until someone opts out.

    When possible we recommend obtaining express consent.

    2. Be straightforward at the point of sign up
    When asking people to join your list, be straightforward about what type of content you plan to send. Special offers, promotions, and exclusive content are great incentive for people to join your list but if you don’t follow-through, you could lose them as a reader and possibly as a customer.

    • Does your sign-up form have clear and obvious language asking for permission to send the contact future electronic messaging?
    • Does your sign-up form clearly identify the person, business, or organization asking for the consent?
    • Does your sign-up form contain a valid mailing address and either a telephone number, email address, or web address?
    • Does your sign-up form indicate that there will be a mechanism for people to easily unsubscribe at any time?
    • Do you have a process in place to document this express consent?

    3. Give people the option to opt-out
    Permission can be given, and it can be taken away. It is very important that every email you send has the option for the recipient to unsubscribe or “opt-out.” Interests may change over time and communications may no longer be valuable to a given subscriber.

    4. Add a permission reminder to your emails
    Whether they are a valued customer, a prospect who expressed interest or a client you want to keep in touch with — adding a permission reminder will add credibility and help provide context for your email.

    5. Respect your audience’s privacy
    Trust will play a big part in whether or not someone decides to join your list. Your privacy policy should be clearly posted. It adds credibility to your company and your email even if recipients do not click on the link.

    6. Keep your contacts up-to-date
    People change email service providers, jobs and email addresses at random. Often, you’ll be the last to know.

    Ask for updated information and give subscribers an easy way to change their email address. This will ensure that your communications continue to be received if, and when, they make a change.

    7. Don’t overwhelm your audience
    Respect the privilege of communicating with your customers and prospects by taking care not to communicate too often. Think carefully and plan how many, and what kind of communications you send to your subscribers.

    8. Be diligent
    Some subscribers will reply to an email to unsubscribe instead of using the automatic unsubscribe link. Monitor your inbox for unsubscribes, and complaints, then make sure you remove unsubscribe addresses right away and take action on any grievances.

    9. Watch your reports
    Look at your reports! There’s a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered. Always pay attention to your unsubscribe rate — if you are losing more than 0.5% of your subscribers per month, you need to make adjustments. Opens and click-throughs can also indicate where you might be missing the mark.

    10. Never buy or rent a list
    Beware of strangers bearing lists! Permission is not transferable. Today, subscribers want to receive email from those companies they have subscribed to, not an unknown third party. Don’t be fooled by the false promise of ready-to-buy lists.

    Be part of the solution!
    Remember, permission-based email marketing is the best route to developing long-lasting customer relationships. Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be on your way to better results from your marketing and your business.

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  • 10 Very Important Tips for Email Marketers

    email marketing

    1. Be sure to link articles back to your site. This is a BASIC but very important rule. Start your article and include a “read on” link that accurately describes what the article is linking back to. For instance if the article is announcing a sale, introduce the sale in the enewsletter, then say “Find more items on sale here.” This in itself serves several purposes:
      1. It cuts down on the "mile long" scrolling, never-ending email that no one will read. Giving them bite-sized lead-ins to articles will allow them to pick and choose what they want to read. Remember online readers tend to skim for information.
      2. When you review your stats of your email marketing campaigns, you can see precisely which links had the most click throughs and find out what your clients are most interested in.
      3. You are getting them back to your site to make a purchase, browse and see what they are missing!
      4. It significantly helps your SEO by bringing more traffic back to your site.
    2. Send during peak reading times. Send B2B (business to business) emails Tuesday through Thursday just after the start of the work day around 9:30am or just after lunch around 1:30pm. It’s best to avoid sending B2B emails after 4pm or on weekends. B2C (business to consumer) emails are best sent between 5-8pm Tuesday to Thursday or between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.
    3. DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. It’s proven that in the English language we recognize shapes of words and can scan quicker when there is differentiation in the word shapes. With all caps, you don’t have that. Besides your readers will think you are yelling at them.
    4. Be consistent with your frequency in sending. Pick a schedule that works for you, whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly. Your readers will look for your emails. Just remember not to bombard your readers with too many in a short time. It will lead to many unsubscribes, reports of spam or banning you from the email service or ISP usage.
    5. Make the From Name either your company name or the name of the person at your company and keep it consistent. It may make the difference in whether your reader recognizes the name and opens it or thinks it spam and deletes it.
    6. Don’t use all caps or multiple exclamation marks within your subject line or body. Doing so may trigger spam filters.
    7. Build your list at every possible opportunity. At conferences or events, ask those you speak with if you can add them to your list. Add a “Subscribe” form to every page on your website. If you are in retail, add a point-of-sale sign up form at the checkout.
    8. Include links to other noteworthy pages in a side column “Table of Contents” or “Quick Links” area, to offer more opportunities for viewers to visit your site.
    9. Include a “Forward to a Friend” option in the email. Odds are that if they are interested in your product, they will know others that share the same interests. This is an excellent opportunity for growing your client base.
    10. Send only to those persons who have requested to receive them.

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  • Build More Loyal Customers with Email Marketing

    Grow your email list and sales"A 5% increase in retention yields profit increases of 25 to 100 percent. Repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers."
    Source: Bain and Company

    Experts agree and evidence shows that profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving repeat business.And since it is roughly six to twelve times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.

    It’s All About Communication
    How do you get repeat business and earn customer loyalty? Take a lesson from small businesses that long ago grasped the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication. They nurture their customers over time by learning and remembering individual preferences and interests. They acquire this customer information directly from customers through personal interaction. And they keep in touch with customers on a regular basis ensuring their business remains “top of mind.”

    What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

    Email Turns Prospects and Visitors into Loyal Customers
    Email marketing enables you to proactively communicate with your existing customers, prospects or members instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website, visit your store or office, or call you on the phone. With email marketing you can solidify existing relationships, initiate new ones and convert your one-time visitors, buyers and members into repeat business and long-term customers or contributors. Perhaps you paid for search engine placement, sponsored a newsletter, rented an opt-in list, placed a banner ad or two, distributed a flyer or sent a postcard. Th rough email marketing you can pay-off your investment in those expensive and time consuming marketing efforts and improve the return on investment (ROI) of every dollar you spend to obtain new business and develop profitable customer relationships.

    Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective.

    What’s more, statistics show that it takes six to seven contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer. All that contact can be expensive, and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

    Why is Email Marketing the Answer?
    Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective. When you add email to your marketing mix, you spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles (e.g. direct mail or print advertising). And, with email marketing, you can communicate more quickly which means your time sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks - and you can see the results of your efforts instantly.

    Email marketing is at it’s most effective when it’s used to build communications aimed at your existing customer list or permission-based “house list” as a means of customer retention.

    Communicate More Information, More Often
    Email marketing is an affordable way to stretch a tight marketing budget. It can cost as little as fractions of a penny per email! With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads, email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

    Unlike direct mail, there is virtually no production, materials or postage expense. So, with email marketing, you can easily and affordably create more communications that are valued by your customer, and you can make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, greetings and more.

    Educate Your Customers
    Information and education make your customers and prospects much more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Why force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information they need? Your email communications can help lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details and/or a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides a short-term benefit.

    For most businesses, a well-educated customer uses products and services to their greatest advantage. And, guess who will be the first in line to buy when something new becomes available?

    Foster Long-lasting Relationships
    Email is an easy and inexpensive way of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers. And the benefits of these relationships are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs.

    Good email marketing wins over consumers:

    • Well-executed permission email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes toward companies.
    • 67% of US consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission email marketing.
    • 58% of consumers said they opened those companies’ emails, while 53% said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.
      Source: Emarketer

    Even better, they may look to you as an expert. Th is develops trust, opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their pain points with you. Using the information you gain from your prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not currently be addressing.

    With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads,
    email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, drive traffic and develop loyalty.

    Easily Measure and Improve Your Results
    The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent, emails opened, bounce backs, unsubscribes and click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks and, even more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your off er, thus improving results going forward.

    What About Spam and Privacy Concerns?
    Studies show that both senders and recipients increasingly prefer email marketing.

    • Email is the increasingly preferred method of communication for businesses. In a recent report, Gartner predicts that 80% of companies engaged in direct marketing will send at least one email campaign by the end of 2004.
    • According to DoubleClick, permission-based email is far and away the preferred method of online communication for consumers. 75% rated it as their preference, with only 25% preferring postal mail and 0% choosing telemarketing.

    The hottest topic in email marketing today is spam. As corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) work to control the amount of unsolicited email entering their systems, they may inadvertently filter out legitimate emails.

    In industry language, this type of error is known as a “false positive,” and the result is that some emails sent to people who have requested them don’t ever reach their destination.

    But, let’s put that into perspective. Even with spam’s impact, a good email communication sent to your house list will still be opened by over 40% of the people it’s sent to. Given typical response rates to traditional marketing tactics, that’s as much as 40 times better than the percentage of people who read your newspaper ads; respond to your direct mail; or return your unsolicited phone calls.

    Email marketing represents the first time in history that we’ve ever been able to cost effectively communicate with our entire customer and prospect base on a regular basis. Not only that, but thanks to the inherently democratic nature of email (i.e. the big businesses don’t get any more space in the email inbox than the rest of us), email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

    Email marketing gives us the opportunity not just to compete with, but to outperform our much larger competitors for the attention of readers.

    An Email Marketing Service Makes it Easy and Affordable
    There are Web-based email marketing services, like Constant Contact Email Marketing, that are inexpensive and designed to make email marketing easy for the non-technical user. These types of services take care of the heavy lift ing to allow you to do what you do best – promote your own product, service or cause. An email marketing service delivers your emails with proper protocols, maintains relationships with ISPs and has a full-time staff to gain the highest deliverability rates for your email. Finally, a good email marketing service is Can-Spam compliant and offers a complete solution including list management and real-time reporting.

    In Conclusion
    Email marketing offers business owners an opportunity to reach out to customers and prospects, and increase customer retention in ways that were simply not possible just a few short years ago. Whether you use a service like Constant Contact, or hire an agency to handle the entire process, email marketing should be an important part of your customer relationship efforts.

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  • Creating a Test Plan to Improve your Email Marketing Program's Effectiveness

    email marketingEmail marketing can be tricky and if not executed properly, chances are that your marketing campaign will be completely overlooked by prospective customers. In order to determine the effectiveness of your campaign, there are certain routine tests, which any smart marketer will be  sure to execute. Considering that 90% of emails are opened within three days of receiving them, it will take only 72 hours to receive feedback on your test.

    Take the following steps to create a successful campaign test:

    Start by asking a question:The first step in your marketing strategy should be a question directed at the consumer. The question should be such that it ultimately helps in achieving your goals. Determine your objective before starting the test plan and then address multiple issues in a single approach. Certain matters which are compulsory are;

    1. Having more people open the mails
    2. Directing more traffic towards your website
    3. Reengaging with those consumers who are historically inactive
    4. Directing consumers towards a specific area

    Form theories: Use your experience in marketing to figure out which areas of your business will benefit most once your goals have been realized. Speculating on theories regarding whether or not people are getting bored with the same subject line, understanding the placement of content which will increase site traffic, consumer understanding of the company’s association with the mail and whether the campaign needs to be stronger are topics which need to be theorized upon.

    Work on creating the test: Prepare the test format or list without trying to prove obvious issues. Figure out a sender’s name, pick the best day to send as some days of the week see an increased response than others, work on a subject line, prepare the layout and see how the test mail works out.

    Split the list into segments: Depending on whether or not the list can be split into A/B segments, small test sections, or split up by percentage, you need to divide up the format so that consumers find it easier to address them.

    Analyze and measure the results of the tests: The results of your tests let you know the degree of effectiveness of your e-mail marketing campaign. Divide the results into separate segments such as number of clicks generated, increase in web site traffic, change in conversions etc and figure out where your mail need to be improvised.

    Make changes:The last step to your mail marketing campaign is to use the results of your tests to make improvisations to the mail. Whether you change the subject line, questions, line format, add more interesting content, decrease mail content, increase clicks, add links, add details or bring any other change, make sure those areas which have generated less response are changed so that the later mails have an increased participation from the consumers.

    Before embarking on any email marketing campaign, run a test campaign that helps in strengthening those marketing areas, which may be less interesting to a consumer. Cash in on your test results to derive maximum benefit from your e-mail marketing program.

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  • Email Marketing for Small Business: What’s the Big Idea?

    email marketing for successYou’re considering email marketing to promote your business? Smart Move!
    Congratulations, you’re about to step into the world of email marketing – one of the smartest ways ever for developing your business. And to help you get started, here’s a bird’s-eye view of what email marketing’s all about – from planning, to getting your campaign going, to making it successful.

    Good, Fast, or Low Cost Marketing?

    Now you can have all three. And effectiveness, too.
    We’ve all heard the old adage about how, when it comes to marketing, you can get what you need done well, delivered quickly or produced inexpensively; but you can only choose two out of the three.

    Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, those days are gone. Today, using email marketing, you can communicate effectively with quality content, design, and delivery. You can do it quickly and repeatedly. And, you can do it within a budget that makes absolute sense for your business. What’s more, you can do all this and at the same time build excellent relationships with your customers.

    Who doesn’t want to save money?
    When you communicate with your customers through permission-based email you get everything you would in a print ad – except the paper. And without the paper, you can skip things like printing costs, mailing costs, and media costs. Plus email targets exactly who you want to reach, so you don’t waste dollars on unlikely prospects, like other advertising options do.

    It is said that communication is a 50/50 proposition.
    We beg to differ. We believe good communication should be a 100/100 effort. With email, you not only control your message, but you also create a welcoming, easy way for recipients to have a two-way dialogue with you. They can also pass along your message to their family and friends – valuable referrals for your business.

    Just like fingerprints, no two customers are alike.
    With email marketing, you can send different messages to match the interests of different customer groups or even individuals. And, because email is so easy to create and change, you can revise your messaging to reflect the changing focus of your audience.

    Things To Think About

    • What was the total cost of your most recent newspaper or direct mail campaign? Do you think it was a good investment?
    • What mechanism do you currently use to hear the voice of your customers? Is it effective?
    • How much time does it take to adjust your marketing message using your current system of communicating with your customers?

    How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

    Now you can learn more about them as they learn more about you.
    The fact is, all of business is built on relationships. And the better you understand your customers, the better your chances of building a mutually- rewarding, ongoing relationship with each other. An email marketing campaign should be built on a clear understanding of your customers and their needs, as well as what you have to offer them.

    It’s easier – and cheaper – to keep a customer than to find a new one.
    The more you know about your customers, the better able you are to meet their needs. That means they are much more likely to remain customers, and you don’t have to spend extra money and effort trying to find new ones. What’s more, a satisfied customer is your best advertisement, and can help you build your business through referrals to their friends and colleagues.

    No matter what you say, say it consistently and regularly.
    A sustained email marketing campaign is the perfect way to educate your customers about your goods, services, policies, and community involvement. Just be sure to map out a strategy for the types of information you plan to share with them, and make sure it’s helpful, informative, or enlightening.

    Don’t forget to listen.
    Every successful email marketing campaign shares a very important common denominator – the ability of the recipient to respond to the message. By including at least one, and preferably several, ways in which your customer can reach you (by email, phone, or in person), you invite comment, criticism, and congratulations. All are valuable ways to learn more about your customers and respond to their needs.

    Make sure your email marketing campaign fits with your overall marketing plan.
    Different kinds of objectives are best served by different kinds of email. For example, if you are looking for immediate sales, then an email highlighting a price reduction or new product introduction may be best. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to establish yourself as an expert in your field, then a more informative email with case histories may be appropriate.

    Things To Think About

    • Can you identify satisfied customers who may be willing to be quoted in your email marketing campaign?
    • What would a communications calendar about your business look like?
    • How can you ensure that your business responds to all customer comments in a timely fashion?

    Do You Make Every Contact Count?

    Collecting contact information is as simple as just asking for it.
    The fact is, that email marketing can help you establish and build relationships that will help you grow your business. But, there are two rules you need to follow:

    1. You can’t communicate if you don’t make contact.
    2. Not all contacts are equal. The more information you gather about each contact, the better your chances of delivering the right message to the right person.

    There’s really no mystery to how to collect contact information.
    Simply ask. Most people will be glad to supply basic contact information. Just be careful not to ask for too much personal information or they may balk at answering. Start by asking for a name and an email address. That’s enough to get a contact on your list.

    If the contact is in person or on the phone, you can also ask for a street address and a phone number. Additionally, you can capture contact information from a business card or an electronic communication.

    Don’t get caught “spamming.” Get permission first.
    When you send someone an email marketing communication and that person has not given you permission to do so, you are “spamming.” There are strict regulations against "spamming" and you never, ever want to send "spam" to anyone for any reason.

    The way to avoid becoming a "spammer" is to always get permission to send your messages to the people on your list. You can ask for explicit permission – which means the person understands that an email message will be headed their way – or you can go with implicit permission which means that you have an existing business relationship with the person and that they are open to hearing from you.

    Motivate people to give you their contact information.
    When you offer something to motivate contacts to provide their information, chances are more likely you’ll actually get what you asked for. It doesn’t have to be much, but it must have value to the person receiving it. A discount on certain products is a powerful motivator but something as simple as a downloadable white paper is also a good choice.

    Things To Think About

    • Are you and your staff asking for contact information at every encounter? Why not?
    • Have you ever sent an email with a marketing message to someone who might not want to have received it? Did you know it would be considered "spam"?
    • What low cost but effective offer could you make to help ensure the collection of contact information and permission to communicate with them?

    Why Would Your Customers Read Your Email?

    Make it relevant and you’ll build trust – and your business.
    The surest way to get your customers to come back again and again is to get them to trust you. And one way to earn their trust is to communicate with them honestly, regularly, and in a way they can relate to. Give them that, and you’ll not only have satisfied customers, you’ll have true advocates.

    Show that you care about their welfare, not just their dollars.
    When information is useful, it is more likely to be remembered and acted upon. And remember, customers want to hear about things they care about – not just what you’ve got to say about your business.

    For example, if you want to announce a sale, don’t just talk about the dollars off (though that’s certainly important). Also add information about how the product or service can benefit the customer. A 20% discount on cleaning a home’s air ducts is interesting, but improving the air quality of one’s home, or protecting one’s children from airborne pests, is compelling. This kind of messaging encourages trust and demonstrates that you are interested in the welfare of your customers, not just how much they spend with you. It’s all about building trust.

    When in doubt, ask the experts – your existing customers.
    If you find it difficult to figure out what to include in your emails, don’t overlook the obvious. While you may think certain topics are “old hat,” you’ll be surprised how many customers may not know – or may have forgotten – certain pieces of information.

    Another good source of content is your customer. Many of them will be happy to suggest topics, lend advice, or even be interviewed for your email campaign.

    Things To Think About

    • Can you name three things you think your customers would be interested in knowing about your service or products? What kind of story can you tell about each one?
    • Can you name four customers you can seek advice from regarding your email campaign?
    • If you were to survey your customers on what they would like to see in an email from you, how would you do it?

    How Can You Get Your Email Opened?

    A few simple rules can keep you out of the junk mail file.
    You may be thinking that, for all the potential benefits of an email marketing campaign, there are just too many emails floating around out there. And it is true that many emails are simply discarded without being opened at all.

    But yours doesn’t have to be one of them. Here are some simple ways you can encourage your customers to open, read, and act on your emails.

    Make sure they know it’s from you.
    If there’s ever a time to ditch the clever headline in favor of the straightforward approach, it’s in the “from” line of your email. Always use the better-known of your name, your company name, your product name or whatever other designation your customers will most readily recognize. And do not use such common but ill-advised addresses like sales@ or service@. They’re unfriendly and won’t do a thing to build your relationship with your customers.

    Make sure they know it’s something they’re interested in.
    Is there anything more frustrating than opening an email and discovering you just don’t care what it’s about? It’s a waste of time and a frustration to your customers. That’s why your “subject” line should be descriptive but not deceptive. Instead of a generic phrase like “What’s New This Month,” try, “10 Reasons…” or “New Survey Reveals…” or “8 Ways to…” as more compelling titles.

    Keep those emails coming.
    No one likes to be bothered unnecessarily, but there is something to be said for establishing a regular schedule of communication and sticking to it. If your emails are interesting and pertinent, your customers will look forward to receiving them – and will be disappointed when they don’t.

    The way your email looks is just as important as what it says.
    No matter how important or well-written your email is, if the design is cluttered, too busy, or just plain disorganized, the message will never get read. Remember that readers decide whether to read an email by previewing the first few lines. Be sure to use strong headlines and include words and phrases that appeal to their interests.

    Things To Think About

    • What emails are you most likely to open and read? Which are you most likely to trash without reading?
    • If you were one of your customers, what would you like to read in an email from your business?
    • Can you make a commitment to regularly scheduled emails? Do you need help maintaining a regular schedule of communications?

    Sign up now with email marketing and use it free for 60 days!

  • Email Marketing Statistics

    With the advent of social media, it is widely debated that email marketing is redundant and business are choosing Twitter and Facebook for client communication. It is true that social media has taken the online business world by storm. However, email marketing is still an effective means to communicate with clients, giving you a chance to get into an individual’s personal space online, their email inbox.

    To further highlight the power of email marketing, you can read the statistics listed below:

    • Epsilon "Branding Survey" (Feb 2009) found that 50% are more likely to buy products from companies who send them email, whether their purchases are online or at a place of business.
    • The same survey revealed that 67% of subscribers purchased products offline as a direct result of receiving an email from a retail company and 40% experienced positive impact on their likelihood to make a future purchase a company upon receiving an email.
    • Close to 84% of respondents said that they like receiving email from companies with whom they register. Even if they don't always read the message, it's good to know the information or offer will be there when they are ready to make a purchase. This response rate is up significantly from 69% in the 2005 study.
    • The Email Experience Council statistics reveal that over 49% of people who are happy with their recent purchase from your company will open future e-mails seven times faster than those who have not made a purchase in over three months.
    • According to the research firm Hurwitz & Associates, 46% of small businesses use email marketing; and 36% plan to start using it in the next 12 months. For more details, refer to the screenshot below:

    Marketing, all thanks to the Internet, has become measurable. Intelligent implementation of email marketing has led to an inexpensive, immediate, and interactive means to correspond with customers. At only around $15 per month, email marketing is an affordable option, which saves on paper, printing costs and postage. Email marketing is not restricted by any geographical boundary too. With the ability to reach a global audience, you can offer them a wider variety of options or products than in a one-time visit on your site. However, you need to ensure that you provide quality information to your emailing list.

    Find 6 Simple Tips to Increase Your Email Marketing Customer Base and Ideas for Email Marketing Campaigns.

  • Ideas for Email Marketing Campaigns

    email-1There are a plethora of reasons to send out an eMail Newsletter. Here are just a few:

    • Announce changes at your business (new product, employee, services!)
    • Broadcast a sale or special promotion
    • Link to a downloadable coupon
    • Showcase informative and educational news pertinent to your business or industry and how it impacts your clientele!
    • Link to new content or features on your website
    • Remind them of upcoming events
    • Announce a new product
    • Link to a free PDF download
    • Share your blogs with them
    • Announce a grand opening
    • Publicize your new website presence
    • Make known your latest projects or newsworthy items (toot your own horn!)

    Sign up for eMail Marketing for FREE for 60 days, and we'll put a FREE "Subscribe" form on your website to start gathering your visitors email addresses!

  • Performance Metrics to Judge the Effectiveness of Your Email Marketing Campaigns

    email-statisticsIn the world of email marketing, companies evaluate their marketing efforts using certain marketing metrics that act as statistical data for studying the effectiveness of their email marketing campaigns. The metrics used differ according to the type of marketing campaign used and also depend on the size of each campaign. Marketing metrics may focus on the ROI that the campaign generates, may measure the level of awareness that a company and brand name creates, as well as keep track of the number of new customers who get attracted and the old ones who are retained.

    Since a large portion of a company’s budget is spent on marketing campaigns, every company needs some data showing whether the campaign is effective or if it is generating no response from the consumers. To accomplish this, marketing metrics are very necessary. Three top performance metrics used to judge the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign are:

    Email campaign generated performance:Not all emails are sent out with the intention of encouraging a customer to purchase. However, all emails require a click-through action or some sort of confirmation indicating that the mail has been viewed or has generated interest. Such indicators can be converted into applicable metrics to measure the success of the marketing campaign. Certain queries like the number of registrations and the number of purchases etc can be directly calculated via such metrics. Email conversions and their rate percentage can also be determined through such metrics.

    The revenue generated from emails: The monetary amount generated from email campaigns or gained as a result of emails being a part of some multi-channel marketing campaign also acts as an effective metric by which to judge the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign. The gross profit derived from each campaign excluding the direct costs, deployment costs, the costs incurred from creative development, list rental costs, losses from unsubscribers, lost opportunities, customer service gaffes and complaints, are a valid measure of the campaign’s success. More profits are an obvious indicator of success and those statistics can be used as the basis for future email marketing campaigns.

    The effective cost of email per thousand or Email CPM: This is a measure of the amount of revenue generated because of the impressions that email deliver and is used for list rentals. The total revenue calculation is done by subtracting the costs incurred by sending emails from the total revenue that is generated. The figure is then divided by the number of impressions which are delivered and the result is multiplied by 1000.

    Most marketers have access to some of the above mentioned metrics. However, you can access the rest through your service provider or your software. With email becoming an indispensible part of our life, it serves as a very powerful marketing media. But it can only be effective if the campaign is designed well enough to generate public response. Metrics measuring the effectiveness of each such marketing campaign will help the company/seller in figuring out how to make email marketing better and in tune with the desired objectives. In case you haven’t yet assessed the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, it’s time to do so using the performance metrics as mentioned above.

    Sign up for eMail Marketing for FREE for 60 days, and we'll put a FREE "Subscribe" form on your website to start gathering your visitors email addresses!

  • Top 25 Email Marketing Terms You Should Know

    email1If you have ever felt out of your depth in a discussion about email marketing, rest assured you are not alone. These top 25 common email marketing terms and definitions below will help you expand your email marketing vocabulary and make you look and feel like an expert.

    1. Above-the-fold - The part of a web page that is visible without scrolling. It is generally more desirable placement on a Website because of its visibility. If you have a “join our mailing list” tag on your Website, you should place it “above the fold” making it easy for visitors to opt-in.
    2. CPM(Cost per thousand) - In email marketing, CPM commonly refers to the cost per 1000 names on a given rental list. For example, a rental list priced at $250 CPM would mean that the list owner charges $.25 per email address.
    3. CTR (or Click-through rate) - Th e percentage (the number of unique clicks divided by the number that were opened) of recipients that click on a given URL in your email.
    4. Conversion rate - Th e number or percentage of recipients who respond to your call-to-action in a given email marketing campaign or promotion. This is the measure of your email campaign’s success. You may measure conversion in sales, phone calls, appointments etc.
    5. Email blacklist- It is common for an ISP to a use a blacklist to determine which emails should be blocked (see “email blocking”). Blacklists contain lists of domains or IP addresses of known and suspected spammers. Unfortunately, these blacklists also contain many legitimate email service providers. Just a few spam complaints can land an email service provider or IP address on a
      blacklist despite the fact that the ratio of complaints to volume of email sent is extremely low.
    6. Email blocking - Email blocking typically refers to blocking by ISPs or corporate servers. Email blocking occurs when the receiving email server (e.g. Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail etc) prevents an inbound email from reaching the inbox of the intended recipient. Most of the time the sender of the email receives a “bounce” message notifying the sender that their email has been blocked. ISPs actively block email coming from suspected spammers.
    7. Email filters– “Filtering” is a technique used to block email based on the content in the “from:” line, “subject:” line, or body copy of an email. Filtering soft ware searches for key words and other indicators that identify the email as potential spam. Th is type of blocking occurs on a per email basis.
    8. Email newsletter ads or sponsorships - Buying ad space in an email newsletter or sponsoring a specific article or series of articles. Advertisers pay to have their ad (text, HTML or both depending on the publication) inserted into the body of the email. Email newsletter ads and sponsorships allow advertisers to reach a targeted audience driving traffic to a website, store or office, signups to a newsletter or sales of a product or service.
    9. Email whitelist - A whitelist is the opposite of a blacklist. Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved to deliver email despite blocking measures. It is common practice for ISPs to maintain both a blacklist and a whitelist. When email service providers, like Constant Contact, say they are “whitelisted” it means that their IP addresses are on a specific ISP’s whitelist and are confident that emails sent using their service will be delivered.
    10. False positive- A false positive occurs when a legitimate permission based email is incorrectly filtered or blocked as spam.
    11. Hard bounce/Soft bounce - A hard bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a permanent reason like a non-existent address. A soft bounce is the failed delivery of an email due to a temporary issue, like a full mailbox or an unavailable server.
    12. House list (or Retention list) - A permission-based list that you built yourself. Use it to market, cross sell and up-sell, and to establish a relationship with customers over time. It is one of your most valuable assets because it is 7 times less expensive to market to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Use every opportunity to add to it and use it.
    13. HTML email- Sending HTML email makes it possible to include unique fonts, graphics and background colors. HTML makes an email more interesting and when used properly can generate response rates up to 35% higher than plain text.
    14. Open rate - The percentage of emails opened in any given email marketing
      campaign, or the percentage opened of the total number of emails sent.
    15. Opt-in (or Subscribe) - To opt-in or subscribe to an email list is to choose to receive email communications by supplying your email address to a particular company, website or individual thereby giving them permission to email you. The subscriber can often indicate areas of personal interest (e.g. mountain biking) and/or indicate what types of emails they wish to receive from the sender (e.g. newsletters).

      Single Opt-In (with a subscriber acknowledgement email) - The most widely accepted and routinely used method of obtaining email addresses and permission. A single opt-in list is created by inviting visitors and customers to subscribe to your email list. When you use a sign-up tag on your website, a message immediately goes out to the subscriber acknowledging the subscription. This message should reiterate what the subscriber has signed up for, and provide an immediate way for the subscriber to edit interests or opt-out.

      Confirmed Opt-In(a.k.a. Double Opt-In) - A more stringent method of obtaining permission to send email campaigns. Confirmed opt-in adds an additional step to the opt-in process. It requires the subscriber to respond to a confirmation email, either by clicking on a confirmation link, or by replying to the email to confirm their subscription. Only those subscribers who take this additional step are added to your list.
    16. Opt-out(or Unsubscribe) - To opt-out or unsubscribe from an email list is to choose not to receive communications from the sender by requesting the removal of your email address from their list.
    17. Permission-based email- Email sent to recipients who have opted-in or subscribed to receive email communications from a particular company, website or individual. Permission is an absolute prerequisite for legitimate and profitable email marketing.
    18. Personalization – Addressing individual recipients by first name, last name or both dynamically in an email. Personalization can also include a reference to previous purchases, or other content unique to each recipient. Avoid using personalization in the subject line of your emails as this is a tactic widely used by spammers.
    19. Privacy policy- A clear description of a website or company’s policy on the use of information collected from and about website visitors and what they do, and do not do, with the data. Your privacy policy builds trust especially among those who opt-in to receive email from you or those who register on your site. If subscribers, prospects and customers know their information is safe with you, they will likely share more information with you making your relationship that much more valuable.
    20. Rental list (or Acquisition list) - A list of prospects or a targeted group of recipients who have opted-in to receive information about certain subjects. Using permission-based rental lists, marketers can send email messages to audiences targeted by interest category, profession, demographic information and more. Renting a list usually costs between $.10 and $.40 per name. Be sure your rental list is a true permission-based, opt-in list. Permission-based lists are rented, not sold. Don’t be fooled by a list off er that sounds too good to be true or by someone who tries to mislead you by calling their list “targeted” or “clean” without certifying that it is permission-based.
    21. Signature file(or sigfile for short) - A tagline or short block of text at the end of an email message that identifies the sender and provides additional information such as company name and contact information. Your signature file is a marketing opportunity. Use it to convey a benefit and include a callto-action with a link.
    22. Spam or UCE(Unsolicited Commercial Email) - Email sent to someone who has not opted-in or given permission to the sender. Characteristically, spam is unwanted, unexpected email from a sender unknown to the recipient.
    23. Targeting- Selecting a target audience or group of individuals likely to be interested in a certain product or service. Targeting is very important for an email marketer because targeted and relevant email campaign, yield a higher response and result in fewer unsubscribes.
    24. URL (or Universal Resource Locator) - A website, page or any other document address or location on the Internet that indicates the location of every file on every computer accessible through the Internet.
    25. Viral Marketing- A type of marketing that is carried out voluntarily by a company’s customers. It is oft en referred to as word-of-mouth advertising. Email has made this type of marketing very prevalent. Tools such as “send this page, article or website to a friend” encourage people to refer or recommend your newsletter, company, product, service or specific offer to others.
  • Top Reasons to Use Email Marketing

    top reasons to use email marketingEmail marketing remains a successful marketing tactic that delivers great results—even in a world of increasing mobile and social channels. With more than 600,000 customers, Constant Contact is the leading provider of email marketing for small businesses and nonprofits. Our easy-to-use solution lets you quickly create beautiful, professional-looking emails that get meaningful results—more customers, more donors, more sales, and more revenue.

    Email Marketing fits right into your current marketing mix.

    Supercharge your website.
    Your website is the central hub of your online presence. Create and customize your web sign-up form, then sit back as you turn your visitors into subscribers. Use the content on your blog in your next newsletter—drive your subscribers back to your website to view content, donate funds, or purchase a product.

    Drive more likes, fans, and followers.
    Expand your reach by posting your email content to your social networks right from your Constant Contact account. Then, add social buttons to every email, and a “Join My Mailing List” Facebook app to your business page. Constant Contact makes it easy to manage everything from one place.

    Bring offline, online.
    Set up a newsletter signup form in your business to collect email addresses, use the Constant Contact ListBuilder mobile app, or set up a Text-to-Join so your customers can use their mobile device to subscribe to your newsletters. Stop missing out on repeat sales, and add email to your marketing mix!

    91% of all U.S. adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with.
    Source: Marketing Sherpa

    There are 2.5 billion email users in the world— about 233 million are in the U.S.
    Source: Statista, 2015

    For every $1 spent, $38 is the average return on Email Marketing investment.
    Source: Direct Marketing Association, 2015

    Small businesses that promote their business with multiple social channels in conjunction with email, reported increases in key metrics:

    • Customer engagement: 73%
    • New customers: 57%
    • Website traffic: 54%
    • Revenue: 40%
    • Referrals: 39%

    Source: Constant Contact Survey

    98% of Constant Contact emails hit customers’ inboxes. Only 77% of regular email does.

    Try it for free with a 60-day trial, or dive right in starting at $20/month. Pre-pay and nonprofit discounts available.

  • Using Social Media to Extend Your Email Marketing Campaign Effectiveness

    Great Together
    Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are generating a lot of hype in the marketing world as new ways of reaching and communicating with customers, members, donors, and anyone else you come in contact with. While this might sound a lot like the goal of email marketing, social media is not a wholesale replacement for email; rather, social media can be used to compliment an email strategy by reaching out to customers wherever they happen to be and opening more avenues of communication with them.

    A report by the Nielsen Company shows that people who are heavy users of sites like Facebook and Twitter actually use email more than casual social network users do.

    Why is this? Social media networks like Facebook allow you to set your preferences so an email is sent whenever someone comments on something you post, or on a friend’s post that you may have commented on. You can also get notified when someone sends you a private message within the confines of Facebook. Similarly, Twitter sends an email update every time someone new decides to “follow” you, and when you receive a direct (private) message from another user.

    For you, as an email marketer, this presents some good news: All of this activity drives people into their email inbox. The more email people get, the more they’re going to be checking their inboxes. And the more they check their inboxes, the more chances they have to see your email messages. This is just one way in which social media helps and increases email use. In this guide, we’ll explain some of the basics of social media, and show you how you can use these tools in tandem with email to create a more effective marketing mix.


    Getting Started with Social Media

    If you’re having trouble getting your head around what “social media” is, how to “friend” people on Facebook, and “follow” people on Twitter, let’s first take a step back from the email marketing/social media integration path for a brief primer on what social media is.

    Social media networks are essentially semi-closed communities that require an account to post information to them. We say these networks are “semi-closed” because some information and pages posted in the communities, such as a Facebook Fan Page or postings to Twitter, can be viewed by non-account holders.

    While there are hundreds of social media networks out there, the big three people focus on are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on them too.

    Facebook is the largest of the social networks, with more than 802 million daily active users. It is also the most multimedia-friendly of the big three; members can post text, pictures, audio, and video.

    Users sign up for an account, then can make connections with other users on the site by “friending” them: When you find someone you know on Facebook, you request to be their friend. If the request is accepted, you can see that person’s profile information, status updates, photos, and more (which is why you wouldn’t want to be “friends” with someone you don’t actually know). Your friends in turn can see your profile, status updates, and photos, as well. If you don’t want to share all your information with all your friends (for example, if you connect with coworkers or family members), there are more granular privacy settings available to limit who can see what information you post.

    More important for business users of Facebook are Groups and Fan Pages. Groups allow like-minded people to join and share information through public message boards. Fan Pages allow a business to set up an information hub that other users can become “fans” of. Anyone can build a Fan Page. You don’t have to be an actor, musician, or politician to have fans on Facebook, and you don’t have to be accepted to be a fan. These pages are the preferred method for most businesses and organizations to reach Facebook users because a business owner or nonprofit manager can use them to share information with fans, and the pages are public-facing (though only Facebook members can become fans).

    Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media networks, with an estimated 255 million monthly active users. Twitter’s philosophy is simple: Users can post 140-character status updates that are viewable by anyone “following” their Twitter stream. On Twitter, the follower relationship is not two-way; you don’t have to wait for someone to approve your follow request and vice versa.

    Your Twitter updates are public as well, meaning non-Twitter users can still view them. Even without an account, you can use that link to see all our updates.

    When you follow someone on Twitter, you’ll see his or her status updates in real time on your private Twitter home page, along with updates from everyone else you follow. If you follow many people, this can create a bit of “noise,” especially if those people are heavy users of the site. That said, the beauty of Twitter from a business perspective is the ability to search all updates for a certain term or phrase as the search spans the entire public Twittersphere and not just your followers. (This is especially useful when looking to keep tabs on customer service issues.)

    The third of the big three, LinkedIn is one of the more professional of the social networks. Individual users’ profiles are tantamount to an online resume (complete with recommendations and endorsements) and, like Facebook, connections between users must be confirmed by both parties. Businesses and organizations can have profile pages as well that outline the who, what, and where of their operations.

    Two of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn are the community and question areas, which tend to be more professional in nature than those found on Facebook or Twitter. Answering questions in your area of expertise can help establish you and your business or organization as experts.

    Get Signed up
    If you don’t already have accounts on these three major social media networks, you should sign up. Even if you don’t plan to use any or all of the networks right away, they’re free, so there’s no financial barrier to entry. Additionally, signing up will make sure you reserve your company’s name in case you decide to use the sites in the future.

    It’s recommended that you keep your professional and personal online personas separate, so you have the freedom to share family photos and other personal things just with people you know, and your customers can only see things that relate to your business or organization. To do this, you may want to create separate business and personal accounts on the networks you plan to use. Facebook users should also set up a Fan Page as soon as possible, if only to keep your company’s name reserved for later purposes.


    Integrating Email and Social Media

    Now that you have a better understanding of how the various social networks operate, let’s take a look at them in another way.

    Sites like Facebook and Twitter do require more frequent updating than your blog or email marketing do, but they also often have less compelling content. At the same time, Facebook and Twitter are more viral than a blog or email marketing, but a blog or email marketing creates a deeper customer relationship.

    To most effectively strengthen your relationships, it’s best to use social media in tandem with your email marketing efforts. Here are eight ways to extend the reach of your content and act as a source of new information for your email recipients.

    Let the world know: “We’re on Facebook and Twitter!”
    Once your accounts are established and you’re comfortable using the social media networks, begin telling the world about your new online presence. Add links to your social media accounts to your email newsletter and in your regular email signature. Put the same links on your website and, if you have one, your blog, as well.

    Users of social media networks are always looking for like-minded people and companies to “friend” and follow. If you’re participating in the same networks, there’s a good chance people will become a fan or follow you. The more places you link from, the more likely people will find you on your social networks of choice.


    Integrating Email and Social Media

    Grow your email contact list
    Just as you can use your outgoing emails as a way to advertise your social network accounts, you can use social media to add subscribers to your email contact list. A few easy ways to do this:

    • Occasionally, ask your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn followers if they want to be on your email list, and provide them with a link to your newsletter signup page. Keeping with good marketing practices, you’ll want to keep straight pleas to join your list to a minimum. If all your updates to Facebook and Twitter say “Sign up for my list,” then you won’t have many followers. Keep the pitches to a bare minimum, and let the content you post be your sales pitch.
    • A good way to entice new signups is to tease an upcoming issue of your newsletter a few days before it’s sent. For example, if your monthly newsletter goes out on a Thursday, post a quick headline or synopsis of that month’s main article on Monday or Tuesday, and tell people that if they want the information, they’ll have to sign up by Wednesday night to get this hot content.
    • Similarly, you can post a snippet from one of your newsletter articles and tell your fans and followers that if they want to read the rest, they will have to sign up for your newsletter.
    • You can embed a Join My Mailing List signup box on your Facebook Fan page, blog, or just about any other site that allows embeddable HTML code.


    Extend the life of your content
    A lot of thought, effort, and time go into creating and publishing the content for each issue of your newsletter, so why limit distribution to one method? If your newsletter content is permanently accessible via a URL (either through an email archive or posted on your website), post that URL to your Facebook pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other network where your company has a presence.

    Posting your content to your social networks provides a couple key benefits. First, the links back to your website help boost traffic and your search engine rankings (the more links from outside sources, the better), meaning that your business or organization’s website will show up higher in the results when someone goes to look for you on Google or another search site. Second, it puts your content in a place where it can be easily shared and passed along. That gets it in front of people who are not already on your email list, and can help drive new subscribers.

    For those who are worried about cannibalizing their email list by posting content elsewhere, know that you can always delay your social media posts until a few days after the email has gone out — providing a window of exclusivity to newsletter subscribers.

    Use social networks as a source for new content
    Social media networks can be a way for you to answer customer questions. Your own customers might be saying or asking similar things about your business, service, or product. After all, one of the most common uses of social media is asking common customer service–type questions.

    Obviously, when a customer asks a question through one of these social media sites (whether directly or indirectly), you should answer them as promptly and directly as possible. For example, on Twitter, you should use the person’s Twitter handle in your reply so it shows up on the person’s Twitter home page. But don’t end the “conversation” there. Use the question and your original answer as a newsletter topic to share with the rest of your email newsletter recipients. Chances are good the answer will be relevant to more than just the one customer who asked the question.

    One thing you can do in addition is repost the question to your social networks and direct people to your newsletter for the answer (for example, “A customer recently asked when we’re getting new merchandise. Check out the next issue of our newsletter for the answer” and then include a link to your website where they can sign up). A single question from a social media fan then becomes content for your newsletter and a lure for new subscribers.

    As you’re building your network, maybe the number of customers asking questions or specifically commenting about your business or organization is limited. That doesn’t mean the social media content well is dry. Watch the networks for hot topics and trends in your industry. Use that information as a source for article content. Talk about the trend, how it affects your customer
    base, and what you can do to help.

    Mention in your article that you saw people talking about this on Twitter or Facebook, and be sure to put a plug for your own accounts on the services as another means of making your customers aware of your presence on these networks.

    Get feedback from your social network circles
    When trying to decide between a couple of good article ideas for your next newsletter, if you are not sure which will appeal more to your customers, you can ask your social networking circle for quick feedback.

    Post the question to your Facebook News Feed or Fan Page. Ask your Twitter followers which of the articles they’d like to see. (Remember to do so in 140 characters or less). Use the response generated to make the final decision on which article to use. You may even get a few other ideas for future articles along the way.

    Continue the cycle
    Chances are good your newsletter content will elicit some comments and feedback from your Facebook and Twitter networks. Why not feature them in the next issue of your newsletter?

    In your issue, let readers know that they can share their thoughts on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever you want them to), and that you’ll share the “best” comments in the next issue. That will encourage reader participation and give you content for the next issue that you won’t even have to write.

    Blogging for content
    Blogs may not be the first thing you think of when the term social media is mentioned, but they can play an important part of your overall content strategy. It’s important to remember that a blog is merely a publishing platform that makes it easy to get content onto the Web. A blog’s content does not have to be just opinion or just news. It can be used to easily share just about any type of content with your audience.

    How does this help you in your email marketing efforts? For newsletter authors who find they have a lot of content ideas through the month, but come up blank when it comes time to produce the newsletter, writing a regularly updated blog can be of help. As an idea strikes, capture your thoughts in a blog post. When it comes time to put together your email, the blog becomes a well of usable content that can be copied, pasted, and linked to from your newsletter.

    Alternatively, your blog can act as an archive for your newsletter content. Paste your articles into your blog platform as a means of saving and linking from your social media networks.

    With either use case, a regularly updated blog will help with search engine optimization efforts as it provides fresh content for web crawlers and more potential links to your site.

    Get your followers to refer you
    Word of mouth mentions of your business is a main tenet of referral marketing. As a customer, when someone you deem trustworthy posts a link to something on a social network, chances are good you will click on that link and maybe even share it with your own network of friends and followers. Having your loyal customers and members serve as evangelists for your business or organization via social networking is the ultimate in referral marketing.

    Obviously, putting out good content is key if you want people to forward and share your posts and links with their circle of friends. But sometimes, people need to be told to forward or share your content. Say you own a restaurant that’s offering half-priced appetizers tonight. In your Tweet or Facebook post announcing the special, tell people to spread the word by “Retweeting” (or RT) through Twitter and sharing it on Facebook.

    Of course, just like it’s a good idea to keep the “sign up for my email list” pleas to a few posts, it’s also good social network etiquette to keep the “please Retweet/share” requests to a minimum. Following the 80/20 Rule is a good baseline, with 80% of your messaging educational in nature and only 20% a sales pitch.

    Email and Social Media: Interact With Customers on Their Terms

    With the explosion of social networks, blogs, and other Internet technologies, the number of ways we can meaningfully interact with our customers is growing exponentially. Customers who use social media networks expect the companies they do business with to have a presence and be active in the same networks. And each method — email marketing, social media, blogs, websites, etc. — feeds
    the others.

    As a devotee of email marketing, you’re already interacting with customers via their inbox. Using the steps outlined in this guide, you can leverage your existing content to interact with customers in social networks and beyond.

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