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directvsemail

Letting go of the past is hard – especially when faced with leaving behind the allure of comfortable methods in exchange for the promise of potential. Sure it sounds a little melodramatic at first glance, but this statement sums up the struggle facing many brands that are still on the fence that stands between direct mail marketing and its modern successor, email marketing. To help you find the channel that’s right for your company moving forward, let’s take a look at both sides of the argument and see what each option has to offer.

The Case for Direct Mail Tactics

Considering that direct mail’s the elder of the two approaches, it seems only fitting to start the discussion with this avenue of interacting with your customers. In his look at the benefits of direct mail marketing, Craig Simpson of Entrepreneur magazine points to a variety attributes that support this process, including a more personalized feel to marketed messages that arrive via standard mail, as well as potentially increased levels of trust and familiarity garnered via this marketing tactic. Additionally, the notion that email inbox overload exists and can inhibit the practicality of email marketing is also used as means of promoting the viability of direct mail marketing.

Standing Behind the Power of Email Marketing

Naturally, we respectfully disagree with Mr. Simpson and the reasoning behind his claims regarding the effectiveness of direct mail marketing – as do other industry thought leaders and prominent voices that understand the true value of email marketing. To help differentiate email marketing and support the notion that this method for reaching out to customers stands above direct mail and other options, let’s turn to Megan Totka of Small Business Trends and her look at some indisputable facts.

First up, Totka notes that 72 percent of adults send and receive emails via smartphone at least weekly, speaking to both the penetration of email acceptance and the fact that on-the-go mobile usage is the biggest thing in the marketing world – and only getting bigger. In fact, 68 percent of consumers name email as the preferred channel for receiving commercial messages.

If that’s not enough, Totka wraps up her research with two astounding facts regarding consumer activity in the inbox. In terms of conversions, 81 percent of online shoppers are more likely to make both digital and in-store purchases due to the impact generated by marketed emails. Finally, about one in five consumers read every email that makes its way into the inbox; primarily due to the desire to receive exclusive offers and content.

Of course, to reach these astounding performance plateaus, you’ll need to be at the top of your game. From streamlining the process via automation, to developing high quality content that responds to mobile platforms, the reality of the situation is that the inbox is a competitive arena, so making the most of your opportunities isn’t only a good idea, it’s essential to the lasting success of your brand in the digital world.

Which One’s Right for Your Brand?

So with all of that being said, it’s time to put the brakes on any other form of advertising and shift your entire budget toward email marketing, right? As great as that sounds to proponents of the email marketing world, the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, no two audiences are the same, so there is a small chance that some alternative method – like direct mail – ends up as the proper answer.

Despite these unusual outliers, which stand few and far between in the global marketplace, the fact remains that few tools even come close to mirroring the power and reach generated by email marketing in the vast majority of instances. As Armando Roggio of the Practical Ecommerce blog suggests, it doesn’t matter what other strategies you employ – from direct mail marketing to putting up fliers in your local neighborhood – if you’re not trying to connect with these shoppers in the inbox, you’re probably losing out on a major chunk of sales.

In fact, Roggio puts the potential return on investment (ROI) via email marketing at $43 for every dollar spent, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s Statistical Face Book. Needless to say, you’ll be hard pressed to find this kind of ROI from virtually any other form of consumer outreach. At the end of the day, the choice to select one path over the other still rests on your shoulders, but hopefully with this information guiding the way, the discussion that leads to an appropriate marketing channel for your brand becomes a little clearer.

 

sweetspot

When it comes to stepping out in a crowded room, it generally helps to have a little something special up your sleeve. Considering the constant jockeying for position in the inbox and the fact that seemingly everyone has caught on to the power of email marketing in general, these golden opportunities are few and far between – to say the least. However, with the help of some recently released consumer data, as well as a few key tips and tricks, your brand could be on the verge of hitting the email “sweet spot” and taking your target audience by storm.

Finding the Sweet Spot

So what is this “sweet spot,” and why does it matter to your brand? According to a study conducted by The American Genius, a social media and business marketing news source, there’s one key misconception hindering most brand that make their way into consumer inboxes; the assumption that increased contact makes your organization come off as annoying.

This isn’t to say that email overload or oversaturation isn’t a real thing that has sunk campaigns in the past, but rather the demand for valuable marketed messages is a lot higher than most members of the community realize – especially during the various holidays in your area. To put it in perspective, the average consumer receives less than 10 emails a day, with major events – like Cyber Monday and Black Friday – pushing this number up to a reasonable 12. Additionally, opens during holiday seasons only drop from 22.8 percent to 22.4 percent, further dispelling the related myth that people don’t have time to open marketed messages during these busy periods.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that there’s room for growth in terms of email marketing volume is that fact that of the 10,000 marketed emails sent out during this study, only 63 elicited spam complaints; a number that’s far less than any other relevant inbox category and sure to ease the concerns of even the most cautious brands or marketers.

Revamping Your Viewpoint

Essentially, the moral of the story is pretty straightforward. The people that make up your target audience can’t get enough of great email content, so why not give them what they want? Naturally, this doesn’t mean you should institute a round-the-clock campaign that pings your contact list members incessantly, but that connecting a little more often – especially during the holiday season – is far from a bad idea. In fact, it could just be the key to taking your rightful spot above the competition as the most engaging and relevant content provider in the inbox.

Keeping Quality at the Forefront of Your Approach

Of course, being engaging and relevant does require that your content shine once the person on the other side of the screen takes a peek beyond the fold, so let’s cover a few key points to help you develop stellar emails that match this uptick in volume and outreach. First off, Jonathan Long of The Huffington Post suggests making personalization a priority. There’s nothing worse than receiving a ton of “fill in the blank” messages, so using first names, customer data, and anything else gleaned from your contact list information can help keep the relationship between your brand and these viewers from becoming too impersonal.

Additionally, Long also suggests keeping the conversation flowing by integrating reply tools and services into your content. While most other marketed messages wrap things up with the details regarding spam laws and unsubscribe options, consider sliding this info a little farther down the page and working in a request for all replies. From comments and concerns to general questions, letting these potential customers or loyal members of your brand community know that your virtual doors are always open for a little conversation goes a long way toward enhancing and preserving the familiarity that comes with an increased volume of offers and content.

Outside of maximizing the quality of your text content, Jimmy Daly of Marketing Land suggests giving your themes and graphics a little love as well if you plan on spending more time with your audience in the inbox. Whether you go with a minimalist approach or decide to be beautiful with sweeping color schemes, having a strong plan moving forward, and ensuring that this approach plays well with mobile devices, is the perfect way to round out your new approach. With these tips in hand, as well as a willingness to break the mold and tap into the currently underutilized sweet spot of email marketing volume and frequency, you’ll be well on your way to conquering the inbox in no time.

 

smssurveys

In the world of SMS marketing, getting to know your audience is not just an important thing, it’s potentially the most important thing your brand can do. Unfortunately, plenty of campaigns fail to succeed on this front, thereby inhibiting their ability to make an impact in the mobile inbox. But what if you could combine the desire to learn more about your audience with the outreach that every brand craves? To find out how, let’s take a look at the power of SMS surveys and how this tool can help bridge the gap between your brand and the people that matter most to it.

How It Works

As the name would imply, the concept behind an SMS survey is fairly straightforward. In his look at this process, Liam Supple of Business 2 Community breaks down this approach into a few key phases. The first part starts with reaching out to your contact list and requesting some sort of information or response. Whether it’s insight into a new product or just learning a little more about your average customer, gleaning a little extra data from the survey is key to the operation. Finally, Supple points out that you’ll want to incentive the process with a reward for your loyal list members to make participating worth their time and effort. Coupons and exclusive offers work wonders on this front.

Why Bother with SMS Surveys?

Of course, at this point you’re probably wondering what you’ll get in return for firing off a well-planned and enticing survey to your shoppers. As John McMalcolm of USA Business Review explains, surveying your contact list comes with a plethora of benefits. First, there’s the sustained contact with these shoppers that keeps your brand at the forefront of the discussion.

However, if you’re looking for some more tangible benefits, McMalcolm notes that most surveys conducted via SMS channels generate a 98 percent open rate and a near 50 percent response rate, so it’s safe to say that you’ll generate enough data to truly paint an accurate picture of the people that make up your contact list.

On the logistics front, SMS surveys require minimal resources to reach consumers virtually instantaneously, creating a powerful confluence of viability and budget-friendly operations. Obviously costs can vary based on the size and scale of the campaign, but McMalcolm helps illuminate the fact that this – or any other – SMS program gives your brand some serious bang for its buck.

Building a Lasting Connection

So now that you know what SMS surveying is and why it matters to your brand, it’s time to talk about the best ways to pull off this practice and create a lasting connection with your audience. According to the team of experts at Marketing Sherpa, there’s several crucial steps that lead to the completion of this kind of campaign. Once you decide that this is the best route for your brand in terms of mobile marketing, it’s important to lay out your objectives. What do you hope to learn? Can this information change how you approach SMS marketing? These and many other questions need to serve as the cornerstone of your initial planning.

From here, creating the survey content and potentially exploring supporting channels comes next. Some members of your contact list won’t want to respond by text, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave them out of the loop. Directing this portion of your audience to social media accounts or web pages not only provides them with more options, it ensures that you have a higher response rate and a more accurate data set representing these shoppers.

Before you fire off this mobile survey, make sure you test it with a portion of your audience, as well as in-house. Just like marketed emails, getting this content right before handing it over to the public is vital to its success and helps keep your brand persona in tip-top shape. If you really want to go the extra mile, setting up a customer panel comprised of some of your most valuable audience members can help provide real-time analysis regarding your survey and any other SMS content.

Finally, and most importantly, incorporate all of the legal fine print regarding unsubscribe options and a generous reward for participation into the finished product. Both running afoul of the various SMS governing bodies and turning off your customer base with lackluster offerings can quickly lead to a campaign that falls flat on its face. However, if you’re able to put this breakdown of the survey process to good use, there’s nothing stopping your brand from making a lasting impression with these valued customers and learning a little more about them at the same time.

 

sixkeys

It’s no big secret that a strong subject line can stand out on the screen. In fact, plenty of industry voices point to this part of the marketed message as the most crucial point in the process. Unfortunately, simply acknowledging the need for a great subject line isn’t the same as crafting offerings that capture the attention of your audience. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the six examples of subject lines that stand out on a page – as explained by Business 2 Community’s Larisa Bedgood – as well as how your brand can incorporate these archetypes into your next winning campaign.

The Role of Curiosity

First up on Bedgood’s list is the concept of curiosity. Piquing the curiosity of the viewer on the other side of the screen derives its power from one fundamental truth – people generally can’t stand leaving a question or query unsolved. For instance, having a subject that starts with “you’ll never believe that…” and finishing with an outrageous claim fits this approach admirably. Naturally, you’ll need something truly stunning on the other side of the email fold to avoid a letdown, but if you build around this constraint, you’ll be the proud owner of an engaging and attractive subject line.

Fitting in a Question Mark

Much like statements that play on the curiosity of the reader, question marks naturally lead to a desire to see a resolution or ending to the topic. The best part about incorporating relevant and engaging questions into your subject lines is that once you’ve captured the attention of the reader, this base query helps foster and grow what can be a continuing discussion with your target audience – something any brand would be happy to add to its outreach initiatives.

The Name Game

Too often, brands on the right track for email marketing success speak to the audience as a whole, and not to each person on the other side of the screen. As Tim Ash of ClickZ points out, utilizing pronouns, like you and your, in your subject lines – and throughout the body of your message – helps turn the dialogue in the inbox into a true conversation, and not just a speech directed toward an ambiguous group of users. The big key here is finding a relevant subject that speaks to the audience and not just shoehorning in pronouns for little to no reason.

The Draw of Odd Numbers

If you’re looking to put your consumer or product data to good use on the subject line, Bedgood goes on to note that odd or irregular numbers do a great job of standing out in a crowded inbox. Subject lines that fit this mold – like “Why He Paid Yahoo $42,571.68…” – have a unique appeal that text only offerings just can’t replicate. As long as you can cite your sources or build a compelling argument for your product or service around these numbers, don’t be afraid to pull out the most eye-popping example you have on hand.

Parceling out Percentages

Even if you’re not in possession of a singularly astounding figure, percentages and other statistics help fill this void. Again, accuracy and context play a major role on this front, but the same concepts that create an attractive numerical subject line still hold true – the more head-turning the better. For the brands that do sneak their toes over the line and fudge a few statistics to build an artificially attractively subject line, be forewarned; if and when your audience finds out, you’ll never be able to truly regain the trust of these valued potential and current customers again.

Creating Action Due to Scarcity

Finally, the last example on the list taps into the idea that generating a reaction based on scarcity or time-sensitive information can create an immensely powerful response from the people that comprise your contact list. In his look at this concept, Pete Prestipinio of Website magazine explains that scarcity tactics can help “scare up” favorable responses from your audience.

Puns aside, the formula behind this approach is simple. People tend to procrastinate or waffle on important decisions, so putting a time limit or expiry date on your content and offerings can help get these individuals off the fence and heading to your web page in a hurry. Just like the rest of these methods, going overboard and labeling every email as “URGENT” isn’t the way to approach this process. However, sprinkling in this tactic, as well as some of the other options covered, could hold the key to sustained email marketing success via attractive and engaging subject lines.

 

sms_mistakes

It’s no surprise that SMS marketing is often viewed as a layup, or “gimmie,” in terms of consumer outreach and influence. After all, people can’t put down their phones, so why wouldn’t this type of marketing stand as the path of least resistance when compared to other alternatives? Unfortunately, history is littered with simple shots and opportunities gone wrong, from Rutgers’ Myles Mack firing off this unbelievably bad shot, to the various blunders of His Airness, Michael Jordan. To ensure your brand never makes the SMS gag reel, let’s spend a few minutes talking about the five simple SMS mistakes you simply can’t afford to make as you move forward with your mobile marketing operations.

Forgetting the CTA

First up on the list of unforgivable mobile blunders is forgetting to include a call-to-action (CTA) in your message content. While some of you are probably staring at the screen and shaking your head with disbelief in response to that mistake, Rimma Kats of the Mobile Marketer points out that this issue pops up quite often in the world of SMS marketing. Naturally, you’ll want to support your CTA with solid details and message content, but try not to lose sight of just what you’re aiming for with this outreach. Otherwise, you could be the not-so-proud owner of a mobile marketing campaign that didn’t bother engaging its target audience and spurring these individuals to further action.

Succumbing to Generic Content

Additionally, Kats also hones in on the fact that generic or boring content is another prime issue afflicting many SMS messages. Sure, there’s something to be said for getting straight to the point, but this approach omits one crucial fact – customers who sign up for your contact list generally see a lot of other mobile content as well, so you better find a way to differentiate yourself in a sometimes crowded inbox. If you’re just one among many, standing out and making a name for your brand in the text message inbox won’t come easy.

Being Too Complex

Conversely, Business 2 Community’s Matt Baglia points out that cramming a novel’s worth of text into one of these messages isn’t exactly the right answer either. The beauty of the text message is that it’s a short and sweet way to connect with customers, so keep these attributes in mind as you build your content. A good rule of thumb is that if you can impart the same engaging and exciting message with fewer words, there’s no reason not to distill your content down to a more straightforward and simpler form. For the brands that find the middle ground between complex and generic solutions, SMS success and growth shouldn’t follow too far behind.

Thinking Everyone That Owns a Phone Is the Same

When it comes to getting to know your audience, Douglas Karr of the Marketing Technology Blog explains that, just like the people who open your marketed emails, not everyone who owns a phone is the same. If you’re familiar with list segmentation and targeting specific portions of your audience via email marketing or social media management, then this revelation should come as no surprise.

Naturally, the ways in which you differentiate viewers might be a little different – phone type, data plans, etc. – but the basic premise remains the same; if you’re able to build unique and personalized content for each portion of your audience, your campaign’s ability to convert these messages into sales and brand page visits should rise by a significant margin.

Skipping the Unsubscribe Details

Finally, Karr rounds out our list of unforgivable SMS mistakes with a look at the most egregious error committed by modern brands – failing to inform your audience about their mandated right to unsubscribe from your list. While the other follies found on this list can deal temporary damage to your reputation and ability to generate influence among your target demographics, skipping the unsubscribe details can put you firmly on the wrong side of the law.

From our anti-spam laws here in Canada (CASL), to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) sister legislation imposed by the lawmakers south of the border, the message remains clear; if you don’t give these readers a chance to say “no thanks,” expect some serious backlash. However, as long as you play by the rules, as well as take to heart the other solutions laid out by this list, there’s nothing that says your brand can’t exist and thrive in the world of mobile marketing.

 

quits_on_facebook

As far as social media goes, it’s hard to top the raw reach and power offered by Facebook. Sure, it might not have a complete monopoly on the market, but this platform still stands as the top dog when it comes to using social networks to generate consumer outreach. Of course, having everyone vying for the same spotlight can make it pretty hard to get noticed as you try and build a following. If you’re about ready to give up hope and call it quits with Facebook, take a few minutes to read over these quick tips and tricks that could help you get back on track for converting your social presence on this front into increased email contact list membership.

The Too Little/Too Much Dilemma

The first place to look if you’re struggling to make a dent in your target audience is how often you post on this network. As Jesse Aaron of Business 2 Community explains, regardless of whether you’re trying to promote your email content or just gain a few more likes, committing to posting too often or not enough can end your chances of making a splash before you even log in to your account.

Unfortunately, when it comes to frequency, there is no magic number to aim for as you map out your social schedule. Generally, you’ll need to gauge the feedback from your audience and key in on high traffic and activity times – a little more on this later – as well as watch for opportunities to stay relevant and current with breaking stories. Social media is all about having your voice heard, so slipping in some non-promotional posts and offering insight or reactions to trending topics can help you break down the frequency barrier and keep your audience interested.

Make Use of Facebook Analytics and Data

Speaking of your audience, Aaron goes on to point out that there’s no reason not to know quite a bit about these people, considering the ample suite of data and analytics tools built into the Facebook platform. Not only can this information help you decide when and what to post, but it also has the ability to help splash a little insight into your email marketing operations and message content. Naturally, there’s not always this kind of room for crossover, but as you learn more about your Facebook audience and find this potential overlap, you’ll see that this type of efficiency offers quite a bit of incentive to keep pushing forward with both your social and inbox operations.

Take Creativity to a New Level

In terms of your actual Facebook posts and shares, AdWeek’s David Cohen recommends that you let your creative side off of its leash and have a little fun. Holiday themed offerings, “behind the scenes” insight into how your company works during daily tasks or special events, and even sharing the occasional meme or funny picture, fits the bill. People come to Facebook to let off a little steam and enjoy some digital rest and relaxation, so try and be the fun brand from time to time. If you can do this, you’ll find there’s plenty of opportunities later on to provide a quick glimpse into what’s going on in the inbox.

Ask Questions

As you probably know by now, faking or manufacturing interaction with your audience isn’t just a tough task – it’s virtually impossible. If you want to try your hand at some authentic back and forth, Victor Luckerson of Time magazine has a surprisingly simple, and effective, suggestion; ask a question.

Simply skipping the “statement” posts and requesting a response from your audience in the form of a thought-provoking or intriguing question can help get your brand name trending. The best part is that as followers respond, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to engage each person and present an active persona on behalf of your organization.

Don’t Be Afraid to Give Your Brand a Little Boost

Of course, sometimes doing your best just isn’t enough to get over the hump in this highly competitive social arena. For this reason, Luckerson goes on to point out that there’s nothing wrong with picking up some targeted ads or even cross-promoting with already established entities. Both of these methods might force you to readjust your company’s marketing budget, but the return in brand awareness – and eventually email list gains – should make this investment more than worthwhile. Once you’re on the map, putting the rest of these tips to good use, and spreading the word about your email content, should become a decidedly easier affair.

 

supercharge

It’s one thing to build a contact list full of eager and excited customers, but maintaining and growing this list is any entirely different matter altogether. It might seem like a fairly innocuous statement at first glance, but for most brands it represents a problem that is both hard to handle and harder still to solve. With this in mind, let’s spend a few minutes digging into how loyalty programs – and the rewards held within these strategies – can help keep your contact list engaged and ensure customers are always ready to open your next great email.

The Basic Concept

If you’re currently just dipping your toes into the world of email marketing, it’s probably a good idea to start with a quick overview of how a loyalty program works. Essentially, this type of strategy offers some sort of incentive – a reward – to customers that either stick around as part of your list, participate in a certain campaign, or even go so far as to spread the word about your email content to friends, family members, and other interested parties. It definitely sounds simple right now, but you’ll soon see that pulling off this approach requires quite a bit of planning and strategy.

Understanding the Need for Loyalty Programs

Of course, there’s always the chance that if you’re doing okay now, why rock the boat, right? While good enough might get you by for some time, the truth of the matter is that customers want more from brands in terms of content and value than ever before. In fact, The Huffington Post’s Seamus Egan goes so far as to say that these loyalty programs have never been more integral to the success of brands in the inbox as they are right now.

Basically, loyalty programs divide companies like your own into two categories in the eyes of consumers – those that succeed, and those that either fail or simply don’t try to make a lasting impression. On the positive side of this spectrum are brands like Starbucks, which racked up a 26 percent increase in profit and 11 percent jump in total revenue thanks to a smart and well-planned approach, according to Egan’s review of email-based reward systems. For the 20 percent of business that don’t have loyalty programs in place, or the 62 percent that believe this practice is just too hard to pull off correctly considering their current circumstances, the outlook isn’t as bright and sunny as the one viewed by companies like Starbucks.

Making Sure You Have Your Facts Straight

If you’re not interested in being on the wrong side of the debate, ClickZ’s Tia Matsumoto suggests that you better get your facts straight before you go charging off into the inbox. From understanding the makeup of your contact list audience in terms of attributes and demographics to testing different content and incentives, there’s plenty of variables to master before you release your offerings to the public.

Specifically, Matsumoto goes on to point out the need for constant interaction and engagement as part of the core of this program. As Matsumoto explains, the number of loyalty programs initiated in the last several years is on the rise, but consumer engagement and retention have fallen significantly thanks to shortsightedness on both the content creation and data collection fronts.

Finding the Right Plan of Attack

Once you have your facts in order and you’re confident you know enough about your audience to build a loyalty or reward system based around the inbox, what’s next? As Courtney Eckerle of Marketing Sherpa points out, moving forward is all about differentiating your brand. For instance, Eckerle reports that Sony’s try at an email-based rewards program netted an astounding 300 percent increase in conversions, all thanks to a fairly novel approach – letting the customer spread the word on behalf of their brand.

By offering sizable rewards that ranged from $100 to $250 per new recruit to the dual email marketing/credit card campaign, Sony captured a huge segment of viewers that would otherwise have never heard about this media giant’s inbox offerings. Naturally, your business might not be able to operate on the same scale or offer the same rewards, but the point remains the same. Email marketing is all about value, so your rewards better keep up with this concept if you want to keep your audience interested.

Whether you offer coupons to loyal readers or swing for the fences like Sony, with this info in hand you’ll be able to build a reward program that both engages and retains the attention of the people that matter most to your brand. For companies of all shapes and sizes that place a premium on the inbox, that’s a pretty hard scenario to top.

 

net_neutrality

If you’re a fan of keeping up with the latest tech stories – or you just like kicking back in the evening and watching Netflix with the family – chances are you’ve heard a bunch about the issue of net neutrality over the past year. In fact, some would argue that the political and social implications of this debate far exceed the tech world and reflect on the very future of technology and consumer services.

However, despite all of this publicity and fanfare, few people realize that the concerns and arguments surrounding net neutrality could also affect the future of SMS marketing. To help catch your brand up with the SMS implications of this ongoing news story, let’s spend a few minutes digging into the particulars of this development, as well as what your brand needs to do to keep its connection with mobile consumers alive and well moving forward.

What Is Net Neutrality?

Of course, there’s plenty of people who are still in the dark regarding what net neutrality is, so we’ll start by explaining both sides of the debate and discussing the points of contention that divides much of the tech world. As Kazi Stasna of CBC News explains, net neutrality focuses on whether or not Internet service providers (ISPs) have the right to discriminate between various data and usage requests and what rights consumers and brands have in the whole process.

Essentially, the question can be boiled down to if ISPs should throttle or inhibit connections based on what’s happening on the other side of the screen with the end user. While advocates of both sides have made strong cases, Stasna goes on to note that not only is this fight far from a resolution, it’s also has the potential to affect the way businesses operate in Canada as well.

Currently, major providers like Rogers and Bell have eschewed the more heavy handed tactics embodied by their counterparts south of the border, but that doesn’t mean that the status quo is set in stone forever. Adding in that many net-based services also operate out of the United States further complicates the matter and ensure that sooner or later, Canada will play some role in this overarching discussion and its eventual resolution.

The Role of SMS Marketing in the Debate

So where does SMS marketing fit into this greater technological and philosophical debate? According to Nic Denholm of Tech Crunch, service providers like Verizon have begun to claim that text-based marketing falls under the “Internet” designation of mobile operations, therefore making it subject to fees, regulations, and the discretion of the ISP. In fact, some organizations have already learned the hard way – thanks to thousands of texts suddenly bouncing back and failing to reach the targeted contact list member – that the battle of usage and neutrality has firmly grasped the mobile front.

As far as your brand’s current operations go, chances are that your messaging programs don’t place the same strain on ISPs as Netflix and Amazon streaming video, but Jefferson Graham of USA Today explains that if these major Internet outlets succumb to throttling or usage fees, don’t be surprised if the trickle-down effect eventually takes some toll on even the smallest SMS or MMS texting campaigns.

Protecting Your Brand Moving Forward

In terms of the future, there’s a variety of outcomes that could drastically affect your brand’s SMS operations. For starters, if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States resolves the issue and banishes the idea of restrictive services and fees, then life will go on as usual for your mobile operations.

If things take a turn for the worse though on the mobile marketing front, WIRED magazine’s Robert McMillian forecasts a decidedly different future. Instead of relying on standard SMS communications, McMillian expects services like Google Hangouts and Apple iMessage to rise to prominence and reclaim the fractured bond of texting that once existed between consumers and brands.

Of course, at this point it’s near impossible to predict just how the debate surrounding net neutrality ends. However, that doesn’t mean that you should go forward completely in the dark. Until the time comes that a change needs to be made, the best course of action – and the one that will protect your SMS operations and return on investment (ROI) until this theoretical point arrives – is to stay abreast of the latest developments and stay connected with your SMS messaging provider. This way, you’ll never be caught off guard when the next big story regarding net neutrality, and the future of mobile marketing, sends shockwaves through the industry.

 

social_reach

Whether you’re knee deep in a successful email marketing campaign or just testing the waters of texting with customers, blending in a bit of social outreach isn’t just recommended, it’s getting pretty close to being mandatory these days. But what if you could have your target audience pitch in and help spread the word about your latest offerings and promotions? As crazy as this dream scenario might sound, the truth of the matter is that if you get your email, text, and other digital marketing content on the right track, expecting the people that like, follow, and interact with your brand to help increase your social reach isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Images in the Inbox and Beyond

As Nicole Fallon of Business News Daily points out, getting your audience to react, respond, and share with their friends and family starts with eye-catching imagery. Naturally, graphic content has a place in plenty of email marketing programs, but if you really want to go above and beyond, consider developing these images with social sharing in mind.

From infographics to user-generated selections, images that either provide value or evoke a certain emotion ignite a special spark that rests inside each of these social butterflies. Once this desire has taken hold, it’s only a matter of time before the various networks and circles that connect these people to others online become a part of your growing brand audience via engaging, and shareable, imagery.

Make All of Your Content Shareable

Speaking of giving your audience a reason to share images, why not take the next step and make all of your content shareable? We’ve talked before about sharing your offers and discounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks as a way to grow your mailing list, but as Entrepreneur magazine’s Ann Handley explains, there’s something far more credible and compelling about making this experience a peer-to-peer affair.

If you’re just getting started on this front, adding social link plug-ins with simple reminder text, like “Click here to share this with your friends,” to your emails is a good start. For those looking for a slightly more advanced approach, consider turning related content, including white papers and presentations, into shareable selections or even rewards for those who participate in this new program. It might seem like a little extra work, but if you want your audience to help promote and enhance the reach of your brand’s message organically, it’s only fair you give them something worthwhile in return.

Understanding the Power of the Consumer Testimonial

Continuing on with the peer-to-peer theme is the concept that consumer testimonials can help enact this strategy as engaging and creative content. In his look at the usage of these user-based offerings, Paul Gustafson of the Content Marketing Institute notes that tethering a podcast to your email, SMS, or social content lets satisfied customers tell their stories in their own words. The best part about using this type of consumer content is that it not only helps keep your brand’s efforts from coming off as contrived, but these testimonials can serve as a major part of your content arsenal for as long as the relevant product or service stays in production.

Even if you don’t want to go down the podcast route, there’s still plenty of good tidbits and suggestions found within Gustafson’s article. First off, skip the sales pitch and focus on telling a story. Too many brands think of testimonials from the infomercial perspective, but the reality is that today’s content consumers would rather enjoy an honest and natural recollection that skips the fluff and speaks to them in a way that captures their attention.

Additionally, if you’re going to use a video or audio format for your testimonials, don’t skimp on the production values. Sure, your brand might not have the budget to turn this content into a major motion picture production before it hits the inbox and starts to spread among your audience, but using a scratchy mic or a low resolution camera is a quick way to invalidate and trivialize the message held within your testimonial.

Interact Across a Wide Variety of Platforms

Of course, the best way to turn your audience into a powerful marketing tool that operates on behalf of your brand independently is by going above and beyond in terms of interaction. This isn’t to say that putting your email or SMS content on the backburner is a good idea, but instead that taking every opportunity to connect on social sites, consumer review pages, and even in the comment section of your own blog posts can complement your operations and ensure that the people closest to your brand help spread the word to potential new customers across the web about your email, SMS, and social presence.

 

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When it comes to romance and getting a little closer to that special someone in your life, few holidays even come close to comparing to Valentine’s Day. However, did you know that Valentine’s Day also accounts for $13 billion in retail and online sales every year? For this reason, Douglas Karr of the Marketing Technology Blog and plenty of other industry experts point out that if you’re brand isn’t also trying to cozy up customers in the big lead up to this holiday, it’s time to switch up your approach. With this in mind, let’s dig into a few tips and tricks that are sure to get your campaign ready for Valentine’s Day.

Create Content for Everyone

First up is the realization that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples. As Karr goes on to explain, over 60 percent of people plan to pick up holiday gifts for friends and family members as well. Adding in that 45 percent who also buy Valentine’s gifts for their pets, shows that there’s plenty of space for brands to build an email marketing campaign during this holiday, even if you’re not dealing in “romantic” products and services. Basically, as long as you have a great discount or offer to fire off – or even some informative or engaging content – there’s no reason not to connect with your contact list in the inbox when February 14th rolls around.

Timing Is Everything

As far as when you should send out your emails, The Huffington Post’s Gabriel Shaoolian points out that timing is everything, but it can be a little tricky. If you want to get the most out of your content, try and send out your emails a day or two before the big holiday. If you wait until Valentine’s Day itself, or you jump the gun and send out an email four or five days in advance, your brand will have a hard time maximizing the impact of this content. Additionally, offering up “last minute” delivery and purchase discounts can help impart a sense of urgency among your audience and help make timing an even bigger part of your campaign process.

Have a Little Fun with Templates and Designs

Outside of pinpointing the proper timing, Shaoolian also suggests that if you want to boost the return of your Valentine holiday marketing investment, don’t be afraid to get into the spirit of the season with festive templates and designs. From the traditional cherubs and hearts, to themed version of your branded images and logos, fixing up your inbox content with shades of pink, red, and white can really get your audience into the spirit of the season.

For those brands willing to go the extra mile, Valentine’s Day graphic content can also take on a decidedly interactive flair. Embedded games, animations, and personalized messages all fit this billing and ensure that your brand provides a unique and custom experience that sets your message apart from the rest of the fluff found in the inbox.

Pairing up with Other Brands

Valentine’s Day is all about enjoying relationships with others, so why not use this time to create unique deals with related products and service providers – or even “deal-of-the-day” outlets like Groupon? As Kay McFadden of Inc. magazine explains, this process not only helps connect your brand to the holiday if it’s not exactly oriented toward this seasonal event, but it can also set the stage for future advertising and promotional partnerships. The best part about this approach is that customers love value, so few things you can do are more effective at reaching this goal than giving these consumers combined options and increased discounts.

Share the Fun on Social Media

Finally, use this special time of the year to be a little more social with your audience. Building relationships with these shoppers from around your city, the country, and even the globe isn’t easy, but breaking the ice with a fun Valentine’s offer makes the process a little more palatable. Even if it’s something as simple as posting your email content for the week to Twitter, Facebook, or any other platform, showing that you’re willing to reach out on this special holiday is a great step forward in terms of brand awareness and social outreach.

Naturally, this is a lot to take in all at once, but with these tips guiding the way, there’s no doubt that you’ll be having a blast with everyone on your contact list and enjoying all that Valentine’s day has to offer in the inbox and beyond.

© 2013 Elite Email Inc. Blog Admin