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A lot of the talk surrounding email marketing focuses on connecting with retail consumers and getting the word out about products and services to everyday shoppers. But what if your customers don’t exactly fit this mold? For businesses that primarily serve other businesses, the process takes on an entirely different, and sometimes complex, look. With this in mind, let’s dig into some powerful tips that can help keep your next business-to-business (B2B) campaign on track to be a major success.

B2B Emails Aren’t Always a Sales Pitch

The first tip covers an ideological mindset that plenty of brands stumble over when trying to enact B2B strategies in the inbox. As Douglas Burdett of Business 2 Community explains, utilizing email marketing in this manner requires a commitment to more than just pitching sales. Sure, offering up deals and discounts is a big part of the equation, but adding in some content marketing attributes to your approach can go a long way toward pleasing these email viewers.

For instance, highlighting snippets from your blog about breaking industry news, white papers that cover longstanding issues, and other powerful content can help turn your periodic messages into must-read material. Even if it’s something as simple as a newsletter linking to other major voices in your marketplace, having something outside of “salesy” content goes a long way with the corporate entities that make up your brand’s email contact list.

Don’t Assume You’ll Always Have Their Attention

Speaking of the contact list, Burdett goes on to point out that getting these companies into your digital rolodex is one thing, but don’t assume that this accomplishment is enough to keep them around. Having idle members is almost as bad as lacking members in the first place. Because of this, going out of your way to keep these organizations engaged is essential to the long-term viability of your campaign. Whether it’s via live webinars, regular social outreach, or a variety of other interactive activities that relate back to you email content, rubbing online elbows whenever possible is a great way to extend the effectiveness of your inbox initiative and hold onto the attention of these consumers.

Landing Pages Are More Important Than Ever

Of course, great email marketing doesn’t end in the inbox. If you want to truly turn your business-based viewers into customers, Simms Jenkins of ClickZ points out that you’ll need a killer set of landing pages. As the gateway between the inbox and your website, these pages work best when they go beyond the mundane and provide a treasure trove of content and information. Providing access to SMS contact lists, teasing promotional materials, and even offering up links to related blog posts and extended content all fit this approach perfectly. The big key here is that you don’t let this opportune space go to waste. When it comes to getting a leg up on the competition and roping in conversions, maximizing even the smallest of advantages pays off major dividends.

Segmentation Still Matters

In terms of knowing your audience, Jenkins also advocates the power of segmentation when engaging in B2B-oriented email marketing. Naturally, it might seem a little odd to implement this process; after all, we’re talking about businesses and not individuals. However, the same concepts apply, regardless of who or what constitutes your audience.

The more you know about these businesses, the more you can personalize and specialize your email content. You might not be able to learn as much as if your brand operated in the more conventional retail setting with specific consumers, but there’s still plenty to be gained by segmenting your audience. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you receive a lackluster response when shipping out “one size fits all” messages.

Look Beyond Simple Statistics

Finally, the last tip you’ll need to start, or improve, is your journey in the world of B2B email marketing which comes from Barry Saunders of B2BMarketing.net and addresses the role of analysis in the process. While plenty of brands understand the basic statistics, like conversion rates and raw contact list numbers, the reality of the situation is that if you want to succeed, you’ll need to go beyond these fundamentals and get into some more specialized metrics.

From A/B testing the subject lines of your message, and everything else that comes afterward, to consistently reviewing the latest trends and spending habits of your audience, digging into as much data as possible positions your campaign to truly make a splash. When combined with the rest of what you’ve learned, the sky really is the limit for the hard work you put forth in the inbox.

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For Canadian email marketers, 2014 will go down in history as one of the most interesting years ever. The launch of CASL in July rocked the digital landscape and changed the game forever. This, of course, was preceded by an absolute flurry of confirmation requests being sent to Canadians en masse, as organizations scrambled to salvage as many mailing list subscribers as possible. Let’s put aside the obvious irony: an anti-spam law causing a massive influx in the amount of email people received, with little value other than “click here to confirm”. In fact, it did result in organizations trimming the excess fat on their databases. This means that as organizations close out 2014, they have a much leaner and cleaner database comprising an audience that actually wants to be engaged. With a new rulebook and a refined (albeit smaller) database, how will email marketing change in 2015? In this article we’ll take a look at the trends to watch in 2015 as email celebrates it’s 43rd birthday (…for those scoring at home, the first email was sent in 1971).

List Segmentation 2.0

Gone are the days of treating everyone on a mailing list like they are the same. Organizations of all sizes are now realizing the amazing power a good mailing list can have when managed correctly. What previously seemed like one long, never-ending list of email addresses all lumped together in one glorious unsegmented and undivided group, is now a wealth of data ripe for the most meticulous of segmentation.

Every email address has a story, has buying habits, has interests, and has a certain way it reacts to different types of messages. In 2015 marketers are going to really focus on the persona of the email address (…well, really the person behind the address) to segment their data in new ways that allow for much better targeting.

Traditional marketing segments on the most obvious of categories such as age, gender, race, income, etc. But email marketers are going to dig way deeper in 2015 and build segments not only based on profile data, but on behavioral data too. Mailing list subscribers who click on links about “blue pants” will be added to behavioral segments for people who like the color blue and are interested in pants. At Elite Email we saw a rise in this type of segmentation across our Canadian clients in the back half of 2014 and the expectation is that this will continue to be a prominent trend throughout 2015.

Emails For Me, Not Emails For Everyone

As marketers build targeted segments, it will also pave the way for much more personalized emails in 2015. Organizations that currently send one main newsletter to their entire mailing list are going to shift to a model where multiple variations of that email are deployed. For some organizations, the differences may be rather small, while for others the email may be completely different. The underlying idea is that the email content needs to be specifically targeted to the segment that receives it to produce the greatest chance of engagement and conversion.

To email recipients this will be a welcome trend because emails that are received will be much more relevant to their unique interests. As an example, your local community center runs programs for everyone, from toddlers to senior citizens. They used to send out a newsletter to everyone covering “All Activities This Week”. Now, they’re going to send a specific email to each age bracket (after all, very few seniors are going to sign-up for a toddler music program… so it’s kind of a waste of email real estate to promote something like that!)

This does mean that email marketers are going to be investing more time throughout 2015 in terms of content creation and building out the emails. However, this is going to lead to a much greater ROI for organizations, because open rates and conversion rates will soar to new heights. This means that in 2015 organizations should be getting their email marketing staff to spend more time optimizing this critical communication channel.

Mobile First Mentality

The amount of organizations that still sent non-mobile friendly emails throughout 2014 is absolutely shocking. The statement “everyone checks email on their smartphone” would not surprise any marketer, and yet so many have not taken steps to provide a better mobile experience. This is a huge missed opportunity and something that will simply not be allowed in 2015. At Elite Email, every year the amount of emails opened on mobile devices has increased, then increased, and then increased some more. That trend is not likely to slow down. Currently every email sent from Elite Email is fully responsive, which means it looks perfect on desktops, mobiles, and everything in between. That will be the new defacto standard for 2015 and beyond.

Creating emails for mobile requires a different thought process. On a mobile device, marketers need to get used to their layout stacking to one column and familiarize themselves with how that impacts click-through rate and what displays ‘above the fold’. In addition to having a responsive mobile-friendly email, marketers will have to make sure that all the links in an email link to a responsive mobile-friendly landing page as well. 2015 will be the year when all points of engagement become as optimized for mobile as they are for desktops.

Tighter Messaging Between Email & Social for One Cohesive Messaging Strategy

In 2015, organizations are going to pay more attention to their cross-channel messaging to ensure greater integration with their communication strategy. Posts on social media will now be more in-sync and aligned with the messaging contained in their email. Organizations of all sizes will take a more holistic look at all their digital channels and craft content calendars that keep everything focused on shared common goals. The days of the social media person operating in a silo (separate from the email marketing person) are absolutely behind us.

As consumers access each of these digital channels on a daily basis, organizations will need to ensure not only that they have a presence on each network, but that it’s all part of the larger integrated strategy. The blog article, newsletter, tweet, Facebook post, and photos on Instagram and Pinterest must answer the question ‘how does this achieve our overall goal’. When all channels have a shared goal, the digital footprint of an organization will lead to greater conversions.

The future is bright for email marketers as that channel continues to drive the greatest ROI and highest level of engagement. The email marketer of 2015 is armed with a wealth of strategies that can drive goals and raise the bar of what is possible with this tried, tested, and true channel.

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The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How the Viking Cooking School started with a grass roots approach and built a powerful SMS contact list in no time.

Have you ever wanted to chase a culinary dream and learn to cook with some of the best chefs around? If so, chances are you fall right in line with the Viking Cooking School’s target audience. Unfortunately, reaching out to these aspiring food savants wasn’t always as easy as pie. With this realization guiding the way, let’s take a few minutes to see how Viking Cooking School whipped up the perfect SMS recipe, as well as what you brand can do to mix in a few tips and tricks as well the next time you try to connect with potential customers on the go.

The Basic Ingredients

At the heart of this campaign was a desire to reach out to kids, moms, dads, business professionals, and anyone else who enjoys the art of cooking and making a great meal for friends and family. Naturally, there’s was no better place to start than with past and current cooking students. From this point, honing in on potential new students helped lay the foundation for a successful and interactive SMS campaign.

Mixing Things Up

Of course, targeting the right audience is one thing, but spreading the word and generating sign-ups is an entirely different matter. To successfully accumulate the latter, the Viking Cooking School fired off an email blast to existing customers with a slew of exclusive offers and discounts. This practice helped stabilize the burgeoning contact list with individuals known to be interested in the services offered by this culinary learning center.

Once the wheels started rolling on the awareness phase of this campaign, the team behind this initiative posted in-school signage, enabled word-of-mouth promotion by instructors, and looked to traditional print advertising to help spread the word. On the digital front, revamping the school’s website with an informative opt-in widget helped capture curious visitors who might not have been aware of the physical campaign materials.

Raking in the Results

After a strong four months of testing at the Ridgeland, Mississippi branch, the Viking Cooking School proudly claimed control of an SMS contact list of close to 300 members. While this might not seem like much to some, the fact that this list contained a highly interactive audience should not go unnoticed.

For instance, a single text message to this group – costing just $15 to generate and ship – filled eight $79 spots in a class that would have otherwise been under capacity. If you’re keeping up with the math on that exchange, it’s a net gain of $632. Today, the Viking Cooking School now has two more of its 16 locations enacting SMS operations, with plans to implement the same strategy at the remaining branches as well.

Finding Your Own Path to SMS Success

Now that we’ve recounted the successes of the Viking Cooking School, it’s time to lay the foundation for your own inspiring SMS success story. To do this, let’s talk a little about what made this campaign so effective. First up is the fact that the Viking Cooking School utilized as many resources as possible to build a strong contact list. While some brands might assume that current and former customers aren’t the target demographic, this initiative proved that there’s nothing wrong with starting with these consumers before branching out to new potential customers.

Once you’re on track for a strong foundation, it’s time to leave no stone unturned when searching for new members for your SMS contact list. From traditional print advertising to online promotional materials, going the distance on all fronts is the best way to ensure you maximize the reach and impact of this texting operation.

Finally, don’t worry so much about raw numbers. We’ve covered SMS campaigns before that easily dwarf the Viking Cooking School’s 300 member list. However, few examples come close to the return on investment (ROI) generated by the texts offered by this institution. As long as you understand this and enact the strategies covered in this case study, you’ll be enjoying a massive boost on behalf of your brand via SMS marketing like the Viking Cooking School in no time.

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Getting your current campaign up to par now obviously means a lot when it comes to the viability of your email operations in the short term, but what about preparing for tomorrow? In virtually any industry, having an eye on the future is the only way to keep the competition at bay. When it comes to the advantage garnered by successful email marketing operations, this practice is no different. To keep your brand on top now, and moving forward, let’s spend a little time talking about where leading inbox initiatives are heading and where your organization needs to be to take advantage of these trends.

Mobile Stepping out Front

At the top of the list regarding email marketing’s future is the continued emphasis placed on catering to the mobile viewership. Sure, this isn’t exactly a breaking news development, but as Elizabeth Carter of Charity Digital News explains, there’s no escaping the ongoing shift toward these portable platforms. The odds are that we’ll never see a completely mobile audience, but that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of the customers that matter most to your brand won’t someday view your content exclusively via their favorite tablets and smartphones. The message here is clear; if you want to stay relevant over the next several years and beyond, you better start focusing in on mobile email marketing optimization in a hurry.

Reducing Noise and Frequency

Additionally, Carter fully expects the sheer amount of marketed emails – especially the ones originating from charities – to drop in the future. For those who can’t help but assume this prediction correlates to a downturn or other negative issues with email marketing, you actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reason for this expected reduction hinges on the concept that nonprofits, and to a lesser extent corporate entities, will eventually take on a more “tactical” approach to message frequency in response to the overwhelming amount of emails hitting inboxes today. Essentially, Carter surmises that embodying a “less is more” mentality and focusing on fewer, high impact selections could help cut through the noise and offer an avenue to truly connect with viewers who might be feeling a bit of sensory overload when opening up the contents of their inbox.

Continued Regulation

While the tactical method is a matter worthy of debate, there’s no question that the future holds a continued emphasis on regulation and the fight against spam. Whether it’s the EU’s plan to have data protection and required opt-ins on the table by 2015 and in place by 2017, or the continued emphasis of CASL enforcement and other more local legal movements, the powers that be have a very clear message for the coming years – if you’re sending messages via email however you are sending out spam, you’ll need to start looking for a new way to connect.

Changing the Conversation

In terms of the conceptual approach to engaging email content, Ernie Smith of Associations Now feels that we’ve just begun to scratch the surface in terms of the connection between creativity and email marketing. For instance, Smith tosses around the idea of skipping out on the “institutional voice” and adopting an individual voice that speaks on behalf of your brand. Whether it’s working under the name of an in-house expert, or sponsoring content that originates from an outside industry thought leader, having a single voice do the talking in the inbox and leaving behind the sometimes cold and impartial corporate front, could create a more personal and conversational method of supplying exciting content to your target audience.

The Evolution of Design

Even if you’re not ready to drop your standard content creation and take on a radically new interpersonal approach, Smith still believes that there’s innovation to be had on the technical design and the message of your email. Instead of relying on designs created for dated programs and email service providers, the emails of tomorrow will focus on optimization and interactive designs built exclusively for modern platforms.

Obviously, taking this path comes with a certain amount of risk, especially considering our previous look at the roles of images and scripts in the inbox. However, the next brand that finds a way to incorporate a striking new design that plays by the rules and doesn’t bog down the viewer experience at the same time will undoubtedly take its audience by storm. Adding in the rest of what we’ve learned about the impending future of email marketing proves that the next step in the evolution of this approach could be a big one indeed.

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Setting up a successful email marketing campaign often requires taking on a big picture outlook and gauging the situation from a variety of angles. However, this doesn’t mean that looking over the little things isn’t also part of the process. In fact, failing to keep the smaller moving pieces in line during your next inbox initiative is an easy way to watch conversions slip through the cracks and into the waiting arms of the competition. To ensure you’re never on the losing end of this affair, and you always have a leg up on these competitors, here’s five easy tricks for keeping your email microcontent in shape.

Squaring up the Subject Line

In her look at the proper use of microcontent, Kivi Leroux Miller of the Nonprofit Marketing Guide resource page notes that everything starts with the subject line. The biggest mistake brands make with this first piece of frontline content comes in the form of having only one or two options to test with during the campaign. If you really want to wow customers with the first thing they see, don’t be afraid to unload a multitude of options in order to find what resonates most with customers. It might take a little extra time testing these offerings, but once the results start rolling in, you’ll be glad you went above and beyond the bare minimum with your subject lines.

Sender Name Clarity

Additionally, Miller recommends cleaning up the next piece of microcontent on the frontline of the inbox experience – the sender name – before worrying about what happens behind the email fold. While there’s no one right way to approach your sender name, the big key here is to embody and engender trust among your readers. Whether this means adopting a persona on behalf of your brand like the United States Health Department’s “Get Covered America Team” or “Nona,” or simply using your corporate name for the sake of continuity, building an easily recognized sender name goes a long way toward maximizing your microcontent.

Making the Most out of Preheaders

The final portion of Miller’s frontline microcontent offerings – preheaders – stand as an oft untapped source of powerful engagement. Essentially, many of the brands aiming for a connection in the inbox let bland and unremarkable stock selections waste this tiny bit of pre-fold copy that holds a ton of potential. Instead of watching this opportunity fall by the wayside, spend some time testing and optimizing the preheader blurb. Sure, it’s often just one sentence, but in the ultra-competitive environment of the inbox, this seemingly inconsequential portion of the process could mean the difference between luring in a new reader to your content, or having this message join the rest of the unopened offerings that couldn’t quite get it done.

The Power of Social Sidebars

Once you’ve secured an open, there’s still plenty of opportunities for powerful microcontent to shine. According to Lauren Hall-Stigerts of the Marketing Gal blog, one of the best tools of this trade comes in the form of email sidebars – specifically via Gmail and the Google+ social network.

As Hall-Stigerts points out in her look at the power of the sidebar on the Gmail platform, this marketing tool incorporates recently shared photos from Google+ in the content. While this might not seem like much at first glance, the truth of the matter is that having these posts integrated into the sidebar offers a unique opportunity for additional branded content in your email marketing operations. Sure, it might take some creative timing and forethought to line everything up, but leveraging an underutilized promotional tool like the sidebar stands as yet another way to manage microcontent in ways that the competition just can’t comprehend.

P.S. – One Last Thing

Finally, nothing embodies the mindset of maximizing microcontent quite like sneaking one last shot in with a strong post script. As Sid Smith explains in his post for Marketing Profs, powerful post scripts come in many shapes and forms. From restating the key benefits of your promotional offer to providing additional informational and guarantees, the options are limitless. If you’re aiming for a time sensitive engagement, you can even create a powerful sense of urgency via a well composed post script.

The big point here is that this final piece of microcontent is a blank canvas. It’s up to your brand to find what fits best. With this mindset guiding your way, as well as everything else we’ve covered concerning the proper management of microcontent, there’s nothing standing in the way of your brand and its ability to maximize every piece of the marketing puzzle – even the seemingly inconsequential – as it works toward a great email campaign.

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The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Tampa, Florida Turned out a 35 Percent Redemption Rate

One part great content, one part timing, and a little smooth talking sprinkled on top for good measure. If you’re new to the world of SMS marketing, chances are your idea of the perfect text message follows along these lines to some degree. However, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to look beyond this rudimentary recipe and uncover the truth behind powerful and effective mobile marketing tactics.

To help you find the perfect blend of SMS “spices” that make up a great campaign, let’s dig into the tasty particulars of the top-notch initiative set forth by Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Tampa, Florida. This way, when it’s your time to whip up a winning batch of text offers, you’ll have all the ingredients you need to wow the eager customers waiting for your next great message.

Prepping the Kitchen

First off, it’s important to understand why Carrabba’s decided to enact this strategy in the Tampa market. Aside from the obvious desire to boost sales and increase foot traffic in its local restaurants, this brand also wanted to see if it could replicate, and exceed, the prior success enjoyed by the branches in the nearby Orlando region. With this in mind, the team behind this campaign laid out a four week stretch of text marketing. During this time, the goal was to reach a healthy five percent redemption rate – something any brand would be more than happy to collect at the end of a mobile marketing run. However, as you’ll soon see, this campaign went above and beyond in a major way.

Reaching out to the Audience

The outreach and education portion of this campaign featured segmentation on a variety of levels. First, each branch in the Tampa area set up a localized database to ensure a closer connection with repeat and unique consumers. Additionally, these locations also applied separate promotional strategies in an effort to appeal to varying patron groups. This specialized approach focused on early diners (4 P.M to 6 P.M.), late dining customers (8 P.M. to 10 P.M.), “Carside” carry-out patrons, Sunday lunch fans, and the “Happy Hour” demographic. Even though the promotional materials and outreach methods varied from group to group, each customer interested in joining the SMS list simply needed to text “AMICI” to the 82672 short code in order to join the contact list. Once on this list, members received a steady stream of relevant offers and discounts.

Exceeding Expectations in a Major Way

At the end of the four week campaign, the Tampa branches of Carrabba’s Italian Grill tallied up the results. In total, 443 local patrons joined the SMS contact lists, which in turn accounted for a 35 percent redemption rate. After dwarfing the original five percent goal, the team at Carrabba’s quickly made plans to expand this initiative to the national stage. Today, this campaign serves as the basis for a continuing bond between locations across the United States and the happy customers who can’t wait for the next great text message deal.

Creating Your Own SMS Success Story

Naturally, this is a lot to digest in one sitting. However, there’s a couple key themes to pick up on and help guide you during your next SMS campaign. First, even if you’ve already been around the block with your SMS operations, there’s always room for improvement. Even though the Orlando version of this campaign was a success, the team at Carrabba’s pushed the envelope in the Tampa market, and then later on a national stage.

Aside from constantly innovating your approach, learning how to break down your audience goes a long way toward specializing promotional offers and outreach methods. You might not have as many varied demographics within your base of consumers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least learn to hone in on what each group likes and dislikes in terms of SMS marketing. If you can pull this tactic off, in addition to the rest of what you’ve learned from the stellar example set by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, you’ll have the perfect blend of SMS methods backing up your brand in no time.

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If you’re like most other people, chances are you spent the entire holiday weekend, from the moment you set the fork down at Thanksgiving to the wee hours of Monday morning, shopping. However, once the fervor of Black Friday and Cyber Monday wore down, did you realize that there’s a new player for your holiday attention – Giving Tuesday – right on the horizon? If you’re a member of the nonprofit community looking to leverage an email marketing campaign to increase donations, there’s plenty of lessons waiting for you and your upcoming operations in this look back at the most successful Giving Tuesday ever.

What Is Giving Tuesday?

First off, this retrospective won’t make much sense if you have no clue what Giving Tuesday is, so let’s spend a few minutes going over the particulars. Essentially, this new member to the holiday season aims to provide a more impactful and heartfelt element to the shopping craze that takes place on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Instead of buying products and services during the massive sales on these days, proponents of this alternative implore consumers to divert these funds to a variety of charitable causes and other goodwill operations.

The Email Marketing Connection

As admirable as this sentiment is, you’re probably wondering what exactly Giving Tuesday has to do with email marketing right about now. According to Ernie Smith of Associations Now magazine, the answer to this question rests in a single word – everything. As Smith notes in his review of the most recent Giving Tuesday, email marketing played a major role in spreading the word for these charitable causes, in addition to pumping up donation totals to unheard of levels.

Don’t believe it? Consider this fact; Cyber Monday lead the way as usual with the highest number of marketed email messages, clocking in at 54.6 million. However, Giving Tuesday and the charitable organizations backing this process easily trumped Black Friday’s 40.5 million emails and overtook second place with an astounding 48.3 million such offerings.

What’s even more impressive is that the number of individual email marketing campaigns enacted during this period helped cement this upward trend in a big way. Despite not firing off as many marketing messages, more organizations enacted Giving Tuesday initiatives than ever before. In fact, this number of unique campaigns – which stood at 7,626 – roared past the 7,216 of Cyber Monday and the 3,660 offered up on Black Friday.

Gauging the Impact of This Year’s Holiday

Of course, email marketing is a bottom line business, so tossing around abstract facts and figures only goes so far. To help put this growth into perspective, Brett Zongker of ABC News reports that this Giving Tuesday brought in approximately $46 million worth of donations, thanks in large part to effective email marketing campaigns. Considering that this number is a 63 percent increase over last year’s similar 24 hour period, it’s safe to say that the nonprofit organizations that utilized email marketing during this time of year were clearly onto something special.

Building Your Next Nonprofit Email Marketing Campaign

Now that you’re up to speed with the particulars of this most charitable of holiday traditions, it’s time to delve into the lessons learned from these campaigns. By doing this, you’ll have all the tools needed to make your next email campaign aimed at former and future donors a major hit, even if Giving Tuesday is in the rearview mirror.

According to Emma Wilhelm of Business 2 Community, if you want to follow in the footsteps of these successful charitable campaigns, it all starts with keeping things simple. Instead of dancing around the subject, try to make the message as clear and straightforward as possible. Some of the most evocative calls-to-action lay out the need for help right at the top of the email, ensuring that these readers understand just how important their aid can be to your cause.

From here, utilizing the body of the message to explain donation amounts can help spur viewers into action. By seeing preferred amounts, as well as exactly where this money is going, Wilhelm explains that donors during Giving Tuesday, or any other day, are more receptive to the idea of helping out.

However, the most powerful lesson learned from these emails comes in the form of the continued bond between nonprofit email marketing campaigns and social media. By requesting shares, likes, favorites, and all other manner of digital proliferation, your message can take on a whole new life outside of the inbox. Regardless of what charity or cause you support, it’s hard to deny that this, along with the rest of the lessons learned from this past Giving Tuesday, will come in handy the next time you plan an email marketing campaign on behalf of your organization.

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At the heart of developing an email marketing campaign is an emphasis on solid fundamentals and the creation of valuable and engaging content. However, once you take these attributes and apply them to real world situations, the path to success becomes a considerably rockier road. This resonates even more if you’re brand hasn’t always had the best reputation when it comes to what goes on in the inbox. Thankfully, with a solid plan in place, you can dig yourself out of this mire and finally capture the true power that comes with being a reputable email marketing entity.

Does Your Brand’s Reputation Really Matter?

Of course, there’s no doubt that some of you on the other side of the screen are probably a little wary about where something as subjective as reputation fits into the bigger picture. After all, we do spend quite some time hashing out the intricacies surrounding advanced tactics and the implementation of metrics and data in the world of email marketing. However, not giving the presentation of your brand and its reputation the proper due is a quick way to come out on the short end of the marketing process.

As George Bilbrey of Media Post explains, reputation matters more than ever in today’s email marketing landscape. In fact, Bilbrey believes that the impact of reputation in the decision to open emails has never been higher. For the established and reputable brands, breaking through the often congested inbox becomes a much more manageable affair. Don’t believe this? Try getting your message across on the other end of the spectrum and it won’t take long to see that consumers, and their email service providers, see more than just the offers, discounts, and content held within the body of your message.

Honing in on the Prime Suspects

So what makes a brand lose credibility with an audience? While the answer to this question comes in a variety of forms, it all starts with the reputation of your domain and the IP address from which the email originates. In his look at how these two pillars of brand reputation in the inbox work, Business 2 Community’s Chris Arrendale points out that email service providers continue to segment and isolate ill-reputed senders to the spam folder with increasingly effective tactics. This means that auditing your site and ensuring it matches up with other industry leaders in terms of functionality and safety is a must.

Additionally, having images in your emails can cause a plethora of reputation problems. This doesn’t mean that fitting in these visual aids is always a bad call, but rather hosting these selections off-site at a disreputable domain, or keeping them in-house on a server that’s prone to crashing, can sink your reputation and ability to successfully capture the attention of wary email customers.

On top of all of this, enacting “spammy” tactics that once stood as yesteryear’s best practices can also derail your deliverability. Whether it’s taking on a message frequency that steps beyond an appropriate amount or implementing misleading and obtuse subject lines, abiding by these methods can often be just as detrimental to your campaign as the rest of the aforementioned reputation issues.

Protecting Your Brand Moving Forward

Now that we have you up to speed on the importance of reputation, as well as what causes customers to turn the other way, Tom Sather has some great ideas for regaining lost ground on this front. First up, make sure you’re aware of every step of the marketing process. Simply assuming that you’re brand has a spot in the ranks of the reputable sets a dangerous and inaccurate precedent for the rest of your operations.

From here, working with a trusted service provider and getting your hosting practices in order can eliminate plenty of deliverability and content issues. If you’ve been around the block before you might think you’re doing okay, but there’s nothing that compares to having the helping hand of an expert when you’re trying to lower blocked message rates and inbox viewer complaints made to Internet service providers (ISP.)

The last piece of the reputation puzzle focuses on keeping your email contact list in top shape. While more is better in many cases, invalid or inaccurate addresses can distort your consumer data and contribute to deliverability and reputation issues. Additionally, trimming off the less active portions of this list can also help lower the risk of blocked and flagged messages. Obviously, watching this shift back in the right direction won’t happen overnight, but at least with this information in hand, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you’re doing everything needed to get your reputation in the right place.

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The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How Sara Lee’s State Fair brand helped one luck person win a dream home and build awareness for the organization’s line of corn dogs.

Corn dogs may not be the epitome of fine cuisine in the dining world, but it’s hard to argue with the great taste of this enjoyable treat once you give it a chance. Even so, the team at Sara Lee knew that promoting their line of State Fair products would require something extra special. To find out how this brand broke through with consumers in grocery stores across North America, let’s take a few minutes to look the stellar SMS campaign that made this marketing dream become a reality.

A Deal Unlike Any Other

If there’s one thing you need to know about marketing corn dogs to customers on-the-go, it’s that undertaking this SMS goal requires a deal unlike any other to succeed. With this in mind, the marketers at Sara Lee decided to offer over 10,000 prizes as part of the mobile campaign. At the top of this prize list was a staggering $500,000 that the winner could put toward the home of his or her dreams. All participants had to do to enter the contest and have a shot at this life-changing offer was to text the keyword “STATEFAIR” to the short code 75309.

By following this simple request, entrants in the contest could learn more about the prizes offered and receive instructions on how to redeem codes, which could then be entered on the campaign’s unique website for a chance to win. Naturally, few SMS programs have ever embraced a campaign of this magnitude while trying to build a lasting relationship with contact list members, but that didn’t ensure that this initiative in particular would be an instant success.

Spreading the Word

To back up this unheard of promotion, Sara Lee spared no expense in terms of getting the message to its target audience. Speaking of the target audience, this brand honed in on a very specific demographic – busy moms, aged 25 to 44, with two or more children.

Aside from releasing new promotional packaging for the State Fair line of corn dogs and keying in on specific shoppers, the team at Sara Lee also utilized email blasts to leverage the brand’s established email marketing contact list, social media pages, and a new campaign microsite filled with promotional material and the aforementioned ability to redeem entry codes.

Reaping the Rewards

Over the nine month duration of the SMS campaign, Sara Lee recorded an astounding amount of support and interest. In total, thousands of visitors connected with the brand, averaging five site visits per SMS subscriber and four and a half page views per visit. Considering that the campaign site only had five unique pages, these numbers become even more impressive. If that’s not enough to convince you that Sara Lee unlocked the power of connecting with customers via text, the fact that the campaign finished with an opt-in retention rate of 80 percent should be more than enough to change your mind.

Writing Your Own SMS Dream Story

So now that there’s no questions surrounding the outcome of Sara Lee’s SMS endeavor, let’s talk about how your brand can tap into the power of texting as well. First off, you don’t have to give away $500,000 to turn your campaign into a hit. Sure, it could definitely generate some serious buzz, but as long as you offer something of value, like a limited time discount or coupon, you’ll get a positive response from your audience.

Speaking of your audience, one of the biggest reasons the State Fair promotion took off is because the team behind this program knew who to focus on when the time came to start spreading the word. Naturally, your products might not share the same demographic consisting of busy moms trying to keep their hungry kids happy and fed, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend some time honing in on the proper target audience. If you can line this portion of the SMS process up with a strong set of offers and accessible promotional materials, the sky is the limit for where this kind of campaign can take your brand.

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The modern online shoppers loves to feel special, unique, and desired by digital merchants and brands alike. Unfortunately, when it comes to tapping into this notion via the inbox, there’s few things that can kill a consumer’s enthusiasm quite like a “personalized” email that slaps in the shopper’s name at various points with a fill-in-the-blank approach. Even worse is the reality that failed personalization, according to Jack Loechner of Media Post, is something that plenty of brands struggle with during email marketing campaigns. To ensure you never fall into this group, let’s look at six quick and easy ways to break the mold and implement effective personalization tactics in your next email initiative.

Keep Past Purchases in Mind

The first tip, coming straight from Beta News’ Ian Barker, focuses on taking a look back into the past with your audience. By developing personalized content that goes beyond simply adding the customer’s name into the greeting of the email and acknowledging past purchases, you can show these shoppers that your brand cares about developments and events that take place in their lives. Whether it’s reminding them to pick up the new edition of an outdated product or noting that other customers came back for something else after purchasing the original item, adding little touches like these help build continuity and keep your brand in play as a constant and positive factor in the inbox.

Take Note of Abandoned Carts

Similarly, watching out for abandoned carts can also help keep the conversation going with your target audience. Of course, treading into this territory shouldn’t be something that your brand takes lightly. It’s one thing to remind shoppers that you still have a sale going on for the specific product they found interesting, but constantly flooding their inbox with requests to finish the purchase can come off as overbearing or creepy. In some cases, adding in a limited time offer that only applies to these abandoned cart emails takes the personalization a step farther while also creating a sense of urgency within the viewer.

Don’t Forget Birthdays

If you’re looking to hone in on major life events, Rachel Serpa of Business 2 Community suggests sending out fun and friendly birthday greetings when that special time of year comes around for the members of your contact list. Not only does this practice show your audience that you care about building an interactive relationship, it also offers the perfect opportunity to give a little birthday discount as part of the festivities. Just be sure to keep your email contact list up-to-date, otherwise you run the risk of a potentially embarrassing misunderstanding.

Welcome Your Customers Home

Serpa also has a clever idea for any brand associated with the travel industry. After a long trip or vacation, there’s few things as nice as a warm welcome home. If you’re brand is privy to the dates associated with the customer’s trip, sending a quick, personalized message on his or her way back can go a long way. If your customer data points to a consistent and regular need for these trips, you can even take this opportunity to offer a friendly reminder regarding future bookings, upcoming discounts, and even travel tips.

Offer Recommendations

The next tip on the list takes things back to a more straightforward approach, but still packs quite the punch in the inbox. Throughout the purchasing process, it’s only natural to come across related products. With this in mind, consider firing off a series of emails aimed at bringing these connected offerings to light for your shoppers. In some cases, you can even work in recommendations and reviews from other satisfied customers to add a little extra impact to the message. Naturally, you’ll have to take the hint and avoid oversaturation with these emails in some situations, but if you commit to offering relevant recommendations, these messages have the potential to become true inbox home runs.

Put Your Data to Good Use

Of course, the only true way to create a perfectly personalized email for your each of your target audience members is to get to know these individuals. The best way to do this? Utilize consumer data as often as possible. By creating complete consumer profiles and working with an email platform that allows the integration of data, you can build an approach that truly takes into account what matters to your audience. Regardless of what you have to offer, there’s no denying that embodying these concepts, along with the power of email marketing, is a quick way to go beyond the mundane and truly personalize your marketed messages.

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