Category Archives: Marketing

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Impact

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Impact

Despite your best efforts to keep customers up-to-date with the latest brand news and offers, you’re seeing flat lined open or click-through rates, an unsubscribe mass exodus, and — worst of all — emails tagged to funnel directly to your customers’ spam folders (yikes). These are all sure signs that your email campaigns have stopped resonating with your audience and are, instead, starting to offend them. That’s because, while frequency of interaction can build loyalty and brand advocacy, there’s such a thing as being too attentive.

And if you’re being too attentive with the wrong kind of attention? That’s a relationship deal breaker on every level.

Too much of the wrong content delivered to the wrong people at the wrong time is better known in email marketing speak as list fatigue. The good news is your problem is fairly easy to diagnose. Even better: it’s fairly easy to fix, too. And fixing it should definitely be a priority — according to Econsultancy’s latest census, email marketing continues to be the leading channel for delivering ROI, ranking above SEO, PPC, content marketing, and social media.

Here are three major reasons your customers have lost interest in your emails, and what you can do to make it right again.

1. It’s like you don’t even know me.

The most integral part to any strategy — be that business plan or marketing plan — is doing the legwork to define and identify exactly who it is you’re trying to reach, what kinds of content they love, and when/where/how is the best time to capture their attention and deliver value. If you haven’t, there’s your first (and probably biggest) mistake. And because a whopping 60 percent of marketers admit that their biggest barrier to effective email marketing is the quality of their email database, it’s likely that many are skipping or skimping on this critical step. Unfortunately, your customers will notice immediately if you haven’t taken the time to do this; receiving content that’s canned or is irrelevant is an obvious indication of just how much you don’t care about their individual experiences — and they’ll show their displeasure by ending the relationship.

  • Map your customer’s journey. Defining all the important touchpoints along your sales funnel will help you suss out the nuances and influences that drive your customer’s decision-making, which in turn will help you develop the most effective messaging and timing. And since it’s likely that your lists of customers (both existing and potential) aren’t presorted by where they are in the sales cycle, this will help you to begin the next most important process…
  • Segment your lists. While your customers might all be interested in your product or service, that’s likely where their similarities end; your messaging, strategy, and cadence needs to be aligned to where your customers are along their journey so that every interaction with you is relevant and valuable to each of them. Segmenting your lists enables you to further refine your content and ensure that the right stuff is going out to the right people at the right time, which makes your outreach more effective in capturing and retaining their attention as your relationship evolves.
  • Test. Retest. Optimize. Defining and identifying your customer’s journey is essential for establishing a solid foundation to strategize campaigns, but sometimes no matter how much you learn, you just can’t predict what customers will engage with most. The best part about messaging, email length, cadence—and everything else about email marketing — is that it’s all easily testable. Create different versions of subject lines and test them against each other; create one long and one short email newsletter and see which resonates the best. Testing will help you focus your strategies on what you know works best for your target audience, so you can optimize your campaigns and deliver higher quality content at every touchpoint.

2. I just need some space.

While almost 70 percent of consumers want to communicate with brands via email rather than direct mail or text, frequency of interaction is a key consideration; bombarding your customers is just as bad as forgetting about them. Unfortunately, getting the cadence right can be tricky. According to MarketingSherpa research, 86 percent of U.S. adults would like to receive promo emails at least monthly, but 15 percent would like to receive promotional emails every day.

That’s a pretty big difference.

Mapping your customer’s journey and segmenting your lists will help you define an appropriate email frequency based on specific customer needs or expectations. From there, you can test to see what works best and identify your email frequency sweet-spot, per segment.

  • Start with best practices. You’ll be well-served to tap into the wisdom and tactics of those who’ve blazed the trail before you, especially if you have no idea where to begin. Look into case studies, research, and insight from industry experts like Hubspot and Buffer. When it comes to email marketing, small things can make a big difference—we’re talking as small as a few characters’ worth of elements, like how subject line length, day of the week sent, and formatting can and will affect clicks and conversions. Find out what’s tried and true so you have a foundation for developing your own strategies.
  • Define a schedule (and stick with it). When customers sign up to receive email news and updates about your brand, use that initial welcome email (you’ve created one of those, right?) to tell them just what they’ll be receiving and how often. If customers know what they’re getting from the outset, they’ll not only expect to see you in their inboxes on a regular basis, they’ll also be less likely to feel smothered or exploited by your agreed-upon cadence. You can also use your welcome email to ask them specifically about their contact preferences, and save yourself from guesswork.
  • Don’t rely solely on automation. Email marketing automation is an incredible tool that helps marketers automate many of the tedious processes involved with identifying and nurturing sales leads. That said, it’s not like a Crock-Pot — you can’t just set it and forget it. If you’ve defined your customer journey touchpoints, make sure you’re consistently using them to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of your campaigns. And be prepared to make quick adjustments to messaging or email frequency as soon as click rates drop — something you can’t do by depending on automation alone.
  • Suggest a break rather than a breakup. An increase in the number of customers opting out (or unsubscribing) from marketing emails can be an indication that they’re put off by the frequency of content filling their inboxes. However, hitting unsubscribe doesn’t have to be their only recourse. According to a recent BlueHornet survey, 47.1 percent of customers would rather “opt-down” and receive fewer emails than unsubscribe. Not only will giving your customers a similar option help keep them engaged by allowing them to customize their interaction with your brand, it will also help you further refine the optimal frequency for your specific audience.

3. The thrill is gone.

If the first reason for customers hitting the unsubscribe button is frequency, the second is almost always bad or irrelevant content. By now you should have already made several passes through thecustomer journey map to define Moments of Value for your customers, and used that data to start developing content that delivers on them. Remember: you’re vying for the attention of a customer who may be accustomed to receiving more promotional emails a month than personal emails (nearly 54 percent of their total monthly emails received!) — you better make sure that your emails are the ones they open.

  • Get personal. Customers don’t want to just buy from companies, they want to connect with the people and personalities behind the brands — and they expect the same sort of consideration. Personalized content helps to show that you know, understand, and care about the people whose inboxes you’re occupying. Whether that means providing exclusive downloadable content based on their needs in the sales funnel or sending out personalized birthday promotions, that effort to keep the content personal and relevant will go a long way. In fact, Experian research finds that birthday emails have a 481 percent higher transaction rate than promotional emails! Try thinking of ways to harness and deliver that level of customization to delight your customers all year round.
  • Make a killer first impression. The truth is, it won’t matter how amazing and lovingly crafted your content is if nobody will open your email to see it. Since your subject line is typically the first thing customers see (and judge), you’ll need to be able to win them over quickly — preferably in 50 characters or less. It’s also important to be straightforward and not mislead your audience with “clickbait”-style subject lines. If your customer clicks to open an email and feels misled by the subject line related to the content inside, you may just lose their trust for good.
  • Optimize for mobile. BlueHornet research indicates that 67.2 percent of consumers now use a smartphone to check their email. Why is this important? Because of this: 42 percent of subscribers delete emails that don’t display correctly on mobile phones. Again, it won’t matter how awesome your content is if nobody will (or can) open your email to see it; if you’re not taking into account where and when your customers might be accessing your emails, and optimizing that content accordingly, you’re missing a vital component to your overall email campaign success.

Your customers want to stay connected through email. In fact, Forrester research finds that U.S. adults are twice as likely to sign up for emails to stay in touch with your brand than to interact with you on Facebook. Don’t let something as easily reversible—and preventable—as list fatigue spoil a perfectly good relationship. Staying in tune with your customers’ wants and needs, providing them with options, and customizing their experience whenever possible are all things that will help maximize their delight and reinforce their long-term devotion to your brand.


Do Your Marketing Emails Prompt ‘Inbox Blindness’?

Ever heard of “banner blindness”? It’s your email subscribers’ brains’ natural defense against the ads plastered over every website they visit.

Related: 3 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Impact

Think about it: Most websites position their ads in similar places — such as across the top and down the right-hand side of the page

And after your subscribers visit hundreds of sites and see thousands of ads, those spots on the screen become black holes. They don’t even register in people’s consciousness anymore.

The ‘inbox blindness’ your email subscribers develop

The average adult gets 121 emails per day, according to a report by the Radicati group — and that’s more than most people can afford the time to pay attention to. So, even though your subscribers did opt-in for your emails, they’re likely numb from the sheer volume of commercial emails they have to wade through overall. Your emails simply no longer register (your competitors’ don’t either).

Instead, your subscribers just scroll right on past them.

So, how do you beat this inbox blindness and grab your subscribers’ attention? The key is to use pattern interrupts — subject lines that stand out and jolt your dozing subscribers back to life.

Here are three pattern-interrupt subject lines you can use to snap your subscribers out of their inbox comas and get your emails opened.

1. The ‘faux-personal’ subject line

What’s the one kind of email that everyone always opens? It’s the quick note from a friend or a family member.

And if you take a look at the subject lines people naturally use when they communicate with those they know and love, you’ll notice that they don’t look anything like the long headline-style subject lines most marketers write. Instead, friends use subject lines that are short, playful, informal. Like these:

  • hey =)
  • quick question
  • Can I ask a favor?

Short subject lines like these work especially well for cold email outreach, for that first “welcome” email you send to new subscribers, and for when you want to wake up a list of folks you haven’t mailed in a while.

Related: 7 Statistics That Prove Email Marketing Isn’t Dead

2. The ‘quirky characters’ subject line

Another way to make your subject line stand out: Give it a little extra visual “pop,” with unusual symbols and emoji characters. Those special characters come installed on all popular mobile and desktop devices, so you can use them with confidence that they’ll show up when your subscribers view your emails.

In a typical overstuffed inbox, subject lines run together into a wall of gray — but emoji characters seem to leap from the screen.

Online marketing expert Ryan Deiss, who tests his emails relentlessly, makes heavy use of emoji in his subject lines. Deiss has said that he used an alarm clock in the subject line of a recent email campaign to emphasize to customers that “your time is running out.”

I myself recently sent an email newsletter with the “?” character in the subject line. That particular email snagged me an open rate that was 80 percent higher than normal for that particular email list.

3. The “Uncle Sam” subject line

Remember those iconic world wars I and II posters with the guy in the star-spangled top hat? In those posters, Uncle Sam points straight at the viewer and says, “I want YOU for the U.S. Army.” Remember?

There’s a reason this became the most famous poster in the world. It’s that that image stops you cold in your tracks — there’s no doubt in your mind that Uncle Sam is calling you out.

In the same way, an “Uncle Sam” subject line can grab your subscribers’ attention, addressing them directly.

So, for this particular subject line, start off with the words “You” or “You’re,” followed by a blunt, hard-hitting statement, such as the following:

  • You’re a fraud.
  • You had ONE job.
  • Your account has been suspended.

A word of warning: This technique can come across as aggressive or even shocking to some subscribers. There may be repercussions.

But if you do use it, the copy of your email should quickly hook the reader and “pay off” the subject line — helping the viewer see the connection between the subject line and the content of your company’s email.

For example, software development coach John Sonmez recently sent an email with the alarming subject line “You’re fired!” And at the top of the email, he proceeded to pay off the subject line by showing how he himself had once made a bad assumption — a mistake shared by many in his audience — and how that assumption had cost him his job.

But, Sonmez’ unhappy memories aside, this subject line worked, spiking his open rate by 39 percent; Sonmez also received a flurry of replies from customers wanting to learn more about the program he was selling.

A little goes a long way . . .

Used sparingly, these three techniques can grab the attention of subscribers who habitually turn a blind eye to your emails.

You’ll get noticed — which is tougher and tougher to do these days.

Related: 3 Reasons Your Small Business Should Use Email Marketing

And you’ll have an opening to win back your subscribers’ attention with your captivating content.

15 Ways to Drive More Home Page Conversions Without Reinventing the Wheel

If you’re serious about generating leads through your website, you’ll probably have several landing pages set up for a variety of content offers, with multiple conversion paths for visitors to take. That’s great, but it’s surprising how many people miss relatively straightforward opportunities to drive conversions on their home page.

Think about it – your home page is almost certainly the most visited page on your site. But how many people arrive and bounce straight off? If you can keep them there and push that conversion rate up by just a couple of percentage points – that’s potentially a big increase in leads.

Many home pages underperform because people are reluctant to change them. The design, layout and content were probably settled on following hours of discussion involving multiple contributors during the initial website project. So there can be some anxiety about tweaking that formula. Understandably, because the home page is so important, some people just won’t want to mess around with it once it’s done.

However, there’s no need to treat your home page like a sacred text – and making changes doesn’t have to be a huge project. This list contains 15 things you can do to drive more conversions on your home page without reinventing the wheel. And by sharing the rationale for such changes with your colleagues, you should be able to ease any lingering doubts.

1) Put people on your home page

Think carefully about the images on your home page. If you don’t include images of people actually using your product or service (or looking like they need to), it could be difficult for others to imagine themselves doing so. Using images of people in industries and scenarios that your prospects will recognise and identify with is a simple way to add the human element to your business, and could be the simple prompt a visitor needs to click your ‘contact us’ button or another CTA.

2) Avoid poor stock photos

Putting people on the home page doesn’t mean using the first stock photo you find. Be careful about the images you select – many of those available in stock image libraries are bland and cheesy. A poorly chosen image will quickly send visitors away. You need images that relate to your target industries, will resonate with your prospects and most importantly inspire action.

3) Use emotional language on your home page

Don’t overdo it, but rewriting the copy on your home page to provoke an emotional response in your visitors is a good way to increase conversions. The first step is to think about your potential customers and identify their emotional needs. You can then write copy that taps into those emotions. HubSpot recently shared this list of emotional words that could help you to get started.

4) Show your product on your home page

It’s surprising how many businesses don’t show their product on their home page. If you’re a huge organization with a strong brand, you probably don’t need to. But if you’re struggling to convert people on the home page, this could be a reason for your problem.

Software firms are some of the worst offenders here. People want to know what your product looks like – can they see themselves or their colleagues using it? They shouldn’t have to delve further into your site to find out what it’s like. Including a few screenshots is a simple way to give people an initial idea of your user experience.

5) Get to your value proposition quickly

Research has shown that a large percentage of website visitors will leave between zero and eight seconds of landing on the page. You only have a few seconds to get your unique value proposition across, why people should do business with you and the benefit of it. You need to make this clear with a simple, punchy and jargon-free headline at the top of your home page.

6) Try different CTAs on your home page

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different calls to action on the home page. You don’t always have to offer content to generate leads. Sometimes you may instinctively feel that the home page is just too early on in the user journey to justify pushing your white papers and guides. But sticking to a generic ‘contact us’ or similar CTA probably won’t set your conversion rate alight.
Think about what your visitors are likely to respond to and experiment.

One of our software reseller customers recently boosted conversions by changing a home page CTA to ‘Request a demo’. Their prospects were clearly engaged by the prospect of signing up for a demo, rather than just making contact.

7) Use testimonials/social proof on your home page

Social proof and testimonials build trust. You need them on your home page, not tucked away in a corner of your site. Select a few of your best quotes from satisfied customers, with names and photographs if possible. You can also link through to full case studies if appropriate.

This kind of content can be particularly persuasive for prospects who shortlist your product alongside several others and are looking for a reason to make a decision. Putting it on the home page shows you can afford to be open and transparent about what existing customers think.

8) Keep your forms simple and short

Forms on the home page should be as short as possible. You can use a larger number of fields on your landing page forms for high-value content offers, but remember that many people arriving on the home page are engaging with your business for the first time. Don’t give them a reason to leave, which they almost definitely will if faced with a form that looks time-consuming.

Think carefully about what you really need on your forms and remove anything that is surplus to requirements.

9) Include a great content offer

Many people will want to find out more about you before they download some content, but there’s nothing to stop you from promoting a really great white paper or downloadable guide on the home page. Choose the content offer that best represents the current focus of the business and create an outstanding CTA to tempt visitors into downloading.

Don’t forget that your navigation also needs a clear link to a resources/download center, where people who aren’t yet ready to download can see the content you have to offer.

10) Add a video

Video can be a powerful conversion tool for your home page. According to Crazy Egg, people who watch a video of your product are as much as 85% more likely to buy.

For IT and software companies, demo and walkthrough videos are particularly effective. You can’t explain all the features of your software in text on your home page, and few people would take the time to read it anyway. A video can explain what your software does and why it’s better than the competitors all in less than a minute. Due to the abundance of screen capture and recording tools now available, making this kind of video is also relatively cheap and straightforward.

11) Don’t use a slider/carousel

The use of home page sliders, also known as carousels, was identified as “one of the most prevalent design flaws in B2B websites” by Search Engine Land in 2013. They were right, but there are still too many sites clinging on to this feature – and it can damage conversions.

Sliders are problematic from a number of different standpoints, including SEO (multiple slides means multiple H1 tags to dilute your keyword relevance) and website performance (slides featuring hi-res images typically increase page load times). The potential result is that either people don’t find your site in the first place, or they’ll get frustrated and leave before you even have a chance to convert them.

12) Optimize your home page for search

More traffic to your home page means more conversion opportunities, so don’t treat SEO as a separate job best left to your technical colleagues. Before you convert, you need to get found – so your home page has to be optimized for search.

Identify your main keyword, plus supporting keywords and phrases, and follow SEO best practices with the content on your home page. It’s important not to neglect any aspect of your page, from the meta description to the H1 tags and image alt tags.

13) Put CTAs above and below the fold

Placing a call to action below the fold (where visitors must scroll down to see it) can seem counter-intuitive. After all, you want people to see your CTA button and click it straight away to maximise conversions, right?

Of course that makes sense, but several tests including those highlighted here by Kissmetrics, show how some pages with CTAs placed below the fold have out-converted pages with a CTA right at the top. The key thing is not the placement of the CTA in itself, but where it is placed in relation to the copy on your page.

Do you need to explain the benefits of your product in more depth before asking your visitor to click? Or can you convince them with one or two lines of copy and a well-chosen image? These are the things you need to consider when placing CTAs on the home page.

14) Make it fast

You simply can’t afford a home page that doesn’t load quickly. The impact of a slow page on conversions can be huge. One Aberdeen Group survey found that a single second delay in page load time typically results in 11% fewer page views, a 16% customer satisfaction rate and a 7% loss in conversions.

15) Test everything

The final point goes back to one of my original recommendations. Unless your conversion rate is already sky-high, don’t treat your home page like it’s set in stone. Test different approaches, different headline copy, an alternative CTA placement, a new image style or form. Monitor your results. Keep working at it and you’ll see a much better return.

See, that wasn’t so bad, wasn’t it? The truth is that no homepage is perfect and you shouldn’t worry about trying new things, especially when the benefits far outweigh the risks. The trick is to understand that improving your homepage conversion rate doesn’t have to be a huge project.

All you have to do is start small and focus on a few of the areas above for some quick wins. Maybe add a video, hone your emotive language, try a couple of different CTAs, and then continue optimising from there. Pretty soon you’ll have a homepage that swaps bounce rates for greater user engagement and helps improves conversions across the board. 


How to Solve the Marketing Skills Gap In Your Company

A few weeks ago I was talking to Maureen Blandford about marketers, marketing technology, and the need for all of us to move faster.

Our conversation turned to skill sets and the current digital and technology skills gap in marketing today. A thought I had in that conversation has been gnawing at me since: “Today’s marketers don’t have the aptitude for marketing technology.”

We continue to hear about the skills gap in marketing today and marketers are continuing to get trained on technology. But it isn’t closing the gap. If anything, as we rely more on technology in marketing, the gap is actually getting worse! Why?

Because today’s marketers don’t want to deal with technology.

I complete my time sheets because I have to. It is a requirement, and I’ll here about it from my boss if I don’t. I don’t love doing my timesheets. I have no passion for it. (Well, actually I do, but it isn’t a good kind).

Many marketers approach technology the way I approach timesheets. It is a functional requirement. Just one more thing they need to deal with in their day. This is why we are facing a shortage of the skills we need today, and the situation continues to get worse.

The solution to today’s marketing skills gap isn’t training. It is hiring people who are genuinely interested in and curious about marketing technology. People that look for ways technology can solve their challenges and aren’t phased by using technology in new or unexpected ways.

Training many marketers today to use technology is a band-aid that just briefly covers up the problem, until our marketing technology changes again a few months later.

So let’s stop focusing on training the wrong people and start focusing on hiring people with the interest in and aptitude for the technology we will use today and into the future.