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Victor Green

 

For most email marketing practitioners, it’s all about staying hip and current with your inbox content. Tips on being conversational, relevant, and engaging have flooded the web, leading plenty of brands to fire off messages that look more like emails between old friends and less like marketing offerings. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that doesn’t mean it’s always the right way to approach email marketing and brand outreach. With a growing push for more official, professionally composed newsletters gaining steam in the industry, now might be the time for your company to switch up its style and partake in a little brand journalism the next time you fire off a marketed message to your audience.

The Current Case for Newsletters

So why exactly are branded newsletters back on the upswing? According to Klint Finley of TechCrunch, you can thank the rise of celebrity bloggers for this renewed interest in more structured email content. By making this content exclusive to the email audience, these digital thought leaders and personalities have drummed up some serious hype for the format. Essentially, it’s the tried and true method of taking something popular, in this case pop culture or industry oriented content, and telling people the only way to indulge in it is by signing up for the “secret club” – in this case the email contact list.

The Benefit of This Approach

Even if your brand isn’t generating the same traffic as the biggest blogging names on the web, that doesn’t mean you can’t ride this wave of excitement as well. Finley goes on in his report on newsletters to note that for those able to pull off a successful email newsletter, there’s plenty to look forward to. First up is the increased control in the content dissemination process. Instead of saving your best copy for the company blog and hoping it makes its way around the web, brands that have a killer newsletter can leverage the most influential platform – the inbox – to spread the word on these top tier offerings.

Additionally, there’s the simple fact that readers pay more attention to what’s going with their emails. We could bore you with a mountain of stats regarding the power of this channel, but Finley’s discussion regarding author Warren Ellis’ contact list provides a much more personal example. Essentially, for each newsletter Ellis sends out, he averages around 5,000 opens. When you consider that his total contact list sits at 6,865, that number really starts to carry some weight. To put it simply, newsletters are in a great position to take advantage of the demand for more detailed content.

Everything You Need to Make a Successful Newsletter

So now that you’ve heard the case for trying out newsletters, it’s time to talk about what goes into an optimized take on this content. To start off, Forbes Magazine’s Kate Kiefer Lee suggests spending some time working on your brand message. It’s definitely not the flashiest part of the process, but if your newsletters come out as disjointed sections with random facts inserted at varying intervals, you’ll be wishing you took the time to hammer out a clear, distinct theme to your content.

Once you have your brand message in order, Lee goes on to point out that the best newsletters are “scannable.” Naturally, not all of the content you offer is relevant to every single reader, so breaking it up into easily digestible, but related and interwoven, sections is a great way to offer an attractive experience for your audience.

The next step, according to Summer Luu of Business 2 Community, is all about timing. Even the best newsletters in the world don’t stand much of a chance if you’re firing them off during odd hours or lulls in audience activity. While it might seem easy to just fit these emails into your schedule and call it good, you’re much better off devoting some time to researching the peak hours and behavioral habits of your audience. This way, your approach can focus more on the data supporting appropriate timing, and less on convenience and the path of least resistance.

Finally, Luu offers up the last key piece to a great newsletter – attention to detail. Whether it’s proofreading or double-checking linked materials, anything you can do to put a little polish on your content goes a long way to making a splash with discerning readers. With so many great options flooding consumer inboxes these days, even the smallest upgrades that come from focusing on the little things could mean the difference between revolutionizing how you interact with your audience and watching the competition steal your thunder with higher quality content.

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Some things are just destined to be together. If you’re in the business of connecting with customers via email marketing, you know that this practice, when paired with social media, is right up there with mustard and ketchup, Abbott and Costello, and all the other great tandems found throughout history. To make this bond even stronger, here are some creative and effective ways to build a better relationship between your marketed messages and the social outreach that compliments these offerings.

Don’t Forget the Social Buttons

One of the easiest ways to fortify this connection is by giving your readers a chance to share the great deals found within your emails. As DJ Waldow of Social Media Examiner notes in his piece on the subject, simply dropping in a button for Twitter, Facebook, or any other relevant network into your messages is a powerful strategy that provides new reach to your deals and promos. With each share, like, favorite, and retweet, your email ends up in front of an entirely new audience. Incentivizing this social promotion with additional discounts and offers gives your audience even more reason to let their friends and family members in on your latest message.

Generate Social Opt-ins

Waldow goes on to point out that your social media accounts hold an untapped reservoir of new contact list members. Unfortunately, these ready and willing consumers simply don’t have an easy way to get in touch with your brand’s email marketing campaign. To put an end to this unfortunate circumstance, use Facebook’s built-in sign-up feature to generate an opt-in page. This way, as word spreads about your campaign and all the great savings that end up directly in shoppers’ inboxes, these social networkers will have easy access to your next round of emails and you’ll have a whole new set of members to add to your brand contact list.

Run a Social Tie-in Contest

Regardless of the medium, there’s one universal truth in the marketing world; customers love giveaways. For this very reason, social media expert Jeff Bulas suggests on his personal blog that brands looking to build better harmony between email and social marketing should operate a sweepstakes via these networks. The benefits of running this type of outreach program are numerous.

First, you’ll generate a major boost in your social network activity, which is never a bad thing. From here, expect to see your opt-in rates go up as word spreads to every corner of the web about the free stuff your brand is handing out. Naturally, you’ll need to offer a prize that’s worth the time and effort put forth by these customers when they sign up, but that’s the easy part. One look at your contact list after the fact will give you all the motivation you need to really knock their socks off with an amazing giveaway.

Put a Social Spin on Your Subject Lines

It’s amazing what a great subject line can do for your email marketing campaign. Obviously, we’ve talked about optimizing these headers at great length, but when it comes to integrating your social strategy, there’s still a few thoughts to cover. Amy Birch of Social Media Today helps get the discussion rolling by covering this very concept in her article detailing great integration examples.

In her piece, Birch notes that fashion retailer New Look pushed customer responsiveness through the roof by using the simple headline, “Are You a Social Butterfly?” With this simple, straightforward, and incredibly powerful headline guiding the way, New Look was able to let contact list members know right away that this brand’s message was all about looking good in person, as well as on social media. Even if you’re not in the fashion business, a smart headline oriented toward social media can really help your brand strut its stuff.

Know Which Platforms Matter Most

The final tip for complimenting your email strategy with powerful social media tactics comes from Pamella Neely of Web Marketing Today. Neely explains that to really build a dedicated following that boosts inbox open rates and shares, you need to know which platforms matter most to your audience. While some brands might say Facebook and Twitter are just fine and go from there, if you really want to make a splash, this path of least resistance simply isn’t good enough. With Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ all pulling plenty of subscribers, harnessing the power of all the options placed before your brand can really set it apart from the competition. If your organization can put this tip with the rest of what you’ve learned in this post, there’s nothing stopping your next email marketing campaign from reaching new heights, all thanks to a little help from the world of social media.

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In a perfect digital world, once a consumer clicks on your subscribe button, he or she will always be ready and willing to check out your latest messages. Unfortunately, this dream scenario is far from reality. Sometimes, subscribers grow weary of your marketed emails and simply stop paying attention. To keep your target audience from hitting the snooze button any longer when it comes to your email marketing tactics, here are five strategies that will not only wake up a dormant contact list, but also revitalize your entire inbox approach.

Bringing Your Messages Into Real-time

One of the most exciting new takes on email marketing comes in the form of real-time interaction, according to Liz Rowley of Ad Exchanger. In her look at the programmatic side of email advertising, Rowley notes that some brands are using geo-location services to reconnect with disinterested contact list members.

Essentially, this process uses the viewer’s proximity to your store or shop as a trigger for custom email content. If the consumer passes within the location threshold, they’ll receive an exclusive offer or friendly reminder to stop by and see your latest offerings. When it comes to catching the attention of a wayward shopper, few strategies are as exciting or innovative as real-time outreach.

Offer Them a Chance to Unsubscribe

Yes, you read that subhead correctly. While offering your dormant contact list members a chance to unsubscribe seems counterintuitive at best and damaging to your strategy at worst, it’s actually a smart way to reconnect with users or streamline your marketing initiative. As Carol Stott of Marketing Profs explains, leaving these disinterested subscribers unattended could eventually lead to an unnecessary spam report. For any brand that wants to stay on the right side of the leading email service providers, you simply can’t let this happen.

Instead, send them a friendly reminder letting them know that they’re still members of your contact list. This could convince them to re-engage your brand and start participating in your inbox offers. If they go the other way and unsubscribe, at least you’ll have a more accurate list of contacts and a reduced chance at dealing with the damage that comes from a mistaken spam report.

Try out a New Design

Sometimes, the biggest way to breathe new life into your email marketing is to do a little design house cleaning. Even if you’re old templates and color schemes work just fine, changing things up a bit can spice up consumers relationships that have fizzled, according to Ellen Valentine of Advertising Age. This approach doesn’t mean you have to rethink your entire marketing strategy, but rather repackage your current content into a new and exciting format.

While there’s no guarantee that this will bring distant users back into the fold, it can’t hurt to build a few extra templates and layouts for your campaign. The worst-case scenario, if you can even call it that, is that your brand will have a little extra flexibility regarding design features moving forward.

Shift Your Focus to Mobile Outreach

For most brands, the vast majority of its contact list checks in via mobile devices. For this very reason, Amber Whiteman of Target Marketing Magazine suggests that you push your email marketing focus toward smartphones and tablets. By optimizing your messages for these devices, you can zero in on the platform that matters most to consumers. Naturally, if you data points toward an audience that’s primarily desktop-oriented, then this strategy really doesn’t hold much value. However, the reality is that very few brands fall into this category, and even the ones that do have plenty of other reasons to consider optimizing branded content for today’s mobile world.

Don’t Forget Who the Top Dog In Digital Marketing Really Is

The final strategy covered is a simple reminder that the best way to reconnect with customers that have slipped out of the loop is to keep your priorities in order. No business has an infinite marketing budget, so naturally certain cuts and allotments have to be made. However, getting too experimental and shifting your focus away from email marketing is never a good idea. Regardless of the latest fads or trends, the fact remains that branded emails are still the top dog in the marketing world.

To prove this point, Josh Constine of Tech Crunch highlights the fact that 62 percent of consumers prefer email marketing to other methods of receiving promotions. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with using other services and approaches in a complimentary role. However, not giving email marketing its proper due is still the easiest way not only fail at reconnecting with your email audience, but also lose whatever inbox following you still had.

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It doesn’t seem like all that long ago the notion of having a primarily mobile audience was unheard of. When it came to optimizing messages, it was all about maximizing the vast real estate found on the traditional desktop screen. Oh, how things have changed in just a few short years. Today, over 65 percent of all emails are viewed on mobile platforms first, according to J. O’Dell of Venture Beat. While there’s still a part of your contact list that feels more comfortable reading messages solely on a desktop, it’s a safe bet to say that the mobile portion of this list makes up the overwhelming majority. With this in mind, there’s no better time than now to hand out a few tips regarding mobile optimization. This way, the next time someone opens up one of your messages on the go, you’ll have all the tools you need to blow them away with great email content.

A Simple Message Says a Lot

Before doing anything else, the best thing you can do to maximize the potency of your mobile messages is to keep things simple. As Steve Dille of Marketing Land explains in his piece on optimizing mobile emails, certain smartphone apps, like Gmail and Outlook, have a tough time rendering complex layouts and designs. While it might not be the flashiest trick in your bag, going with a more conservative, text-based approach is your best bet to reach these customers. If you stick to your guns and keep sending out image heavy messages, don’t be too surprised when you see contact list numbers take a tumble in response to these jumbled and messy templates.

Size Matters for CTAs

Dille goes on to note that plenty of marketers think in terms of mouse pointers and not thumbs when it comes to setting up calls to action (CTA) in marketed emails. When viewed under the contemporary approach to optimizing content, this makes sense. However, in the mobile world, having a small CTA button is an easy way to kiss conversions goodbye. Think of it this way, how much patience do you have to fumble and fight with a button that’s hard to press, especially when misclicks could create even more problems in the form of opened links and scrolling pages? If you’re being honest with yourself, the answer is probably somewhere between little and none.

To overcome this issue, don’t be afraid to give a little extra real estate on the screen to the CTA. Even if it seems like this button stands out a little too much, the customers trying to click it and act on your offer will definitely be happy you took the time to put a premium on thumbs and not mouse pointers.

Don’t Forget to Make Links Mobile

Another issue that trips up plenty of marketers and brands comes with using links properly in marketed messages. The big problem here isn’t having links in your message – these additions definitely have a spot in many emails – but rather what type of links you use. According to Charles Gaudet of Forbes Magazine, the simple error of not directing users to your mobile site can ruin the impact of your marketed message. Much like clicking on a small CTA button, there are few things more frustrating than trying to view a desktop-enabled page on a small mobile screen. With this in mind, take a few minutes to double check your links before firing off your next email. It might seem like overkill initially, but you’ll be kicking yourself if you find out that potential customers ended up skipping your message because they didn’t feel like fighting with a regular page on their smartphone browsers.

Click-to-call Speeds Things Up

Of course, if you’re really in the business of making the conversion process a breeze for potential customers, then it’s probably time to consider adding in a click-to-call button on your marketed messages. As Jenny DeGraff of the Content Marketing Institute explains in her post regarding mobile optimization, the idea of talking with a trained professional is far more appealing that scrolling and clicking through digital sign-up and payment forms for many customers.

Naturally, for this method to really take off, you’ll need to have a sales team dedicated to handling the needs of mobile users. However, switching over the professionals you already have in place to take on this new approach really shouldn’t take too much training. From here, if you can round out the process with the rest of what you’ve learned about making the most of the continued emphasis on mobile devices, there’s little that can stand between your brand and a bright email marketing future that connects with users who are always on the go.

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Fact is, when Google speaks, even if you don’t exactly like what you hear, you don’t have much choice but to listen. The world of email marketing learned this lesson once again with the unveiling of a new unsubscribe feature in Gmail on August 6, 2014. Although switching up the Gmail inbox interface in generally isn’t anything new, moving the button that handles taking people off of mailing lists certainly shakes things up quite a bit. To bring you up to speed with this change, as well as what it means for your marketing operations moving forward, here’s everything you need to know about Google’s revamped approach to unsubscribe buttons.

What Exactly Happened?

For casual Gmail users around the world, the change that’s sending waves through the email marketing industry is one that isn’t even all that noticeable. As the Gmail team explained in a post on Google+, the unsubscribe button will now “surface” or move to the top of the message, next to the name of the sender, if such a button exists within the body of the message. Of course, if you’re a marketer or brand looking to stay on the right side of CASL, there are no ifs, ands, or buts when it comes to unsubscribe buttons; either you have one or you run the risk of feeling the long arm of the law loom over your campaign.

Pushing Back Against Spam

So what does Google hope to accomplish by employing automated button placement in all incoming messages moving forward? As Konrad Krawcyzk of Digital Trends explains, this move is all about kicking spam to the curb for good. Instead of letting shady senders hide or bury unsubscribe buttons deep within the message content, the tech giant is taking the wheel on this issue and saying no to these less than transparent practices. However, it’s important to note that Google isn’t changing the basic makeup of messages; the incoming email still has to have an unsubscribe button, otherwise this change doesn’t do anything. However, it’s now easier than ever before for users of one of the most popular email clients on the web to turn off messages from spammers and legitimate brands alike.

Is the Sky Falling?

After reading all of that, your first reaction probably registers somewhere between disbelief and a sense of complete dread regarding the future of your brand’s marketed messages. However, it’s not nearly as bad as it initially sounds. Whether it’s creating tabbed dividers for promotional emails in the inbox or tweaking how images appear in the body of messages, Google’s made a name for itself when it comes to constantly breaking the mold in an effort to improve the user experience.

As far as this particular change goes, you might see a little dip in your subscriber numbers from this client now that the change is live, but as Anne P. Mitchell of The Internet Patrol notes in her coverage of the change, there’s definitely a silver lining to this development for affected brands. Instead of having users incorrectly flag your messages as spam, which does way more harm than just watching these users leave the contact list, readers can just end the relationship with a simple click.

Aside from refining your contacts by cutting out the people who probably weren’t going to convert anyway, this change could also help provide enhanced, and more accurate, click-through and open rates. For some ISPs, these ratios serve as the deciding factor between seeing your message land in the inbox with other legit offerings or languishing in the spam folder with the riff-raff.

Predicting Google’s Next Move

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to predict what’s next on Google’s agenda when it comes to fighting spam and, often inadvertently, changing the way you connect with your audience via email marketing. The truth is that when the guys pulling the strings at Gmail make a move, all you can do is sit back and watch. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re completely helpless.

Regardless of what Google does, as long as you place a premium on quality and consistency in your messages, you’ll be just fine. These rules and changes to the structure of Gmail aren’t designed to ruin your campaign, but rather to ensure that quality content takes a place that’s far above spam in the inbox. As long as you stick to honest and powerful methods that keep you in this group, you’ll have everything you need to weather the storm if, and when, the next big change to this email client sets the newswires aflame.

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When it comes to connecting with your audience, if a picture’s worth 1,000 words, just how much value does video hold in your marketing aspirations? While plenty of brands have tried to answer this question, the road to incorporating video content into marketed messages is littered with horror stories and failed attempts. To help you unlock the true potential of this strategy, let’s take a moment to learn a little more about the role of video content in email marketing, as well as what you should and shouldn’t be doing once you’re ready to take the plunge and add this approach to your next campaign.

Navigating Murky Waters

The history of video content in marketed messages has been a rocky road to say the least. As Lynn Baus of Marketing Land explains, plenty of hurdles have kept this practice from truly becoming the golden standard in the industry. Whether it’s file sizing issues or the former need of plug-ins to run video, which in turn exposed consumers to malicious script from shady emails, plenty of brands have come up short with this kind of content in the past. In fact, these issues are some of the main reasons that The Wall Street Journal reported that only 25 percent of marketers currently use branded video content in emails today.

Understanding the Appeal

While the number of campaigns using video is definitely in the minority, the advent of modern technology that protects and enhances the consumer experience – such as HTML5 support in most email clients – and the potential for massive returns on investment (ROI) signal a major opportunity for brands that can pull this off right. In fact, eMarketer’s study on video in email marketing from 2013 highlights this opportunity. For campaigns willing to incorporate video content, 44 percent saw an increase in time subscribers spent viewing the email, while 41 percent noted that shares and forwards of this content rose significantly.

As for clickthrough and conversion rates, video content accounted for a boost of 55 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Finally, a 20 percent jump in dollars generated by each message puts the notion that video can help an already great marketed message in terms of cold, hard cash. Simply put, if you can pull this one of right, the sky is the limit for your ROI and brand awareness.

Getting Off to A Solid Start

Of course, like most things, hitting the nail on the head with your video content is easier said than done. Thankfully, There’s a few key tips that can really make the process more manageable. According to Karen J. Bannan of Advertising Age, plenty of campaigns look over the simple things when trying to incorporate video content. For starters, make it easy to find the video in your email. If it’s lost beneath a wall of text or improperly formatted, it’s not doing your readers any good.

From here, be careful with the quality of your video. Sure, shooting it on your smartphone during a lunch break might save you a few bucks now, but Bannan notes that the vast majority of your audience won’t bother sitting through even the first few seconds if it looks like a cheaply made home movie. Once you have this under control, don’t forget your call to action (CTA.) By using YouTube or another video service to host your content, some brands fail to include this as part of the actual video. Unfortunately, all this does is ensure that you miss out on conversions that would otherwise come from including even a simple CTA.

Fine Tuning the Process

Once you have the basics under control, there’s still room for refinement and improvement in the video content process. Digging a little deeper into the specifics starts with keeping the video short, according to Tom Burke of Business 2 Community. Staying concise and focused with your message is a powerful way to maximize your time with an audience that doesn’t have the desire to watch long form videos. From here, don’t forget to turn off the sound on auto-play videos. Few things are as annoying as a loud message blaring while you frantically search for the source in a new email message.

When you’re setting up the video on whatever hosting service you choose, avoid selecting a bandwidth greater than 200kB/second. More is definitely better in some circumstance, but pumping up the bandwidth usage on your video is a great way to bog down the loading process for your viewers. If you can piece together all of these little tips with your already stellar traditional email content, you’ll be well on your way to unlocking the potential boast that comes from adding powerful and effective video content to your marketed messages.

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It’s hard to argue with the fact that texting with your customers is at or near the top of the list when it comes to effective marketing strategies. Whether it’s Mashable’s Allegra Tepper noting that viewers open 98 percent of sent messages, or Rimma Kats from Mobile Commerce Daily reporting that consumers are 10 times more likely to redeem a mobile coupon when compared to a traditional options, there’s no denying that SMS marketing is a powerhouse for brands that pull it off right. However, like any other great thing, a few bad apples can spoil the whole deal for everyone involved.

To help combat this wave of illicit text usage, the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, otherwise known as M3AAWG, has released a series of industry best practices to help steer brands away from the temptation of mistreating contact list members. With that in mind, let’s dig into the report and see what your brand needs to do to ensure that it stays on the straight and narrow, all while keeping the good vibes flowing with audience members.

What Is M3AAWG?

While all of this sounds nice, you’re probably sitting in front of your computer wondering what M3AAWG is and why this organization cares about your text marketing campaign. To answer the first part of that quandary, this organization is an open membership group that services the technologically oriented communications industries – in this case, anyone who plans to connect with customers via text. As far as the motives of this group, the goal of M3AAWG is to bring these related sectors together to combat messaging abuse – namely spam, viruses, and any other threat to the digital well being of consumers around the globe.

Laying the Foundation

To pave the way for this goal, M3AAWG released a comprehensive review of the issues facing the industry and its recommended feedback to these problems. At the heart of the report is the concept of making mobile marketing abuse unprofitable. By having regulatory bodies and laws, like CASL, bring the hammer down on those who stick a toe over the line that separates acceptable from illicit, M3AAWG hopes to curtail the threat of spam and other shady practices to unsuspecting readers. Aside from covering the threats faced by the text community, the report also covers safe Internet browsing and protecting business web domains.

Developing Industry Best Practices

To help realize this dream of a spam-free community, M3AAWG offers up some important best practices for brands like your own. Before your messages start hitting mobile inboxes, here’s a quick breakdown of M3AAWG’s recommended tactics, as explained by The Wall Street’s MarketWatch blog. First, limiting the number of messages you send, as well as notifying the authorities of any group soliciting black market bulk user information, can help separate your campaign from the ranks of generic spammers. Naturally, there’s nothing wrong with connecting with your audience regularly, but if you’re going overboard with multiple daily messages, you’ve definitely crossed over into the shadier part of the industry.

From here, resist the temptation of spam endorsements at all costs. While the idea of pumping up your contact list with new users is great at first glance, subscribing to these services, even if it is free, only propagates consumer abuse in the form of compromised personal information and illicit data harvesting. Additionally, letting your customers provide feedback with the 7726 (SPAM) system keeps your campaign honest and provides feedback from the viewers at the same time. The last recommendation is a call to action of sorts for the industry. Instead of just reading about text messaging best practices on blogs like this one, connect with others via comment sections, forums, and social media to help spread the word about doing business, and gaining results, the right way.

Is This the Same as CASL?

Considering all the coverage we’ve given CASL recently, you’re probably seeing a lot of similarities between that legislation and this industry report. The big difference here is that CASL is a law with severe penalties for those who decide to break it, while M3AAWG’s recommendations for best practices is simply the industry chiming in with its own take on the right way to connect with mobile shoppers. However, if you truly want to stay on the good side of the law, the overlap between these two offerings can help reinforce a strong approach to mobile marketing, according to Candice So of news outlet ITBusiness.ca. It might seem like a little bit of overkill at first glance, but keeping up with M3AAWG’s releases and staying on top of all the latest regarding CASL enforcement is a smart way to keep your campaign rolling smoothly and avoid the long arm of the law.

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In today’s email marketing landscape, mailing list numbers are nice, but if you don’t have the content to keep these consumers interested, don’t expect them to stick around for very long. As Elite Email’s president, Robert Burko, explained in a recent post on Marketo, brands must ensure that they emphasize value when fighting with the competition in a packed inbox setting. To help get you on your way toward this goal, let’s spend a few minutes looking over some of the more effective ways you can add value to your email content as you prepare to roll out a new series of marketed messages.

Avoid Stock Content

One of the biggest ways to turn off your audience is by offering up bland information that’s easily found with a quick Google search. While this is definitely easier than spending time creating unique, engaging brand content, it’s not the best way to build a marketing strategy. In the place of boring, worn-out offerings, Shawn Naggiar of the Content Marketing Institute suggests that brands should personalize the experience as much as possible.

In the case of your marketed messages, this goes beyond simply starting greetings with the reader’s first name and toward building content that fits their habits and styles. Whether it’s a sporting goods company using this space to tie in its products to the world’s greatest hiking locations or a restaurant offering up tips for the ultimate romantic dinner date, having content that speaks to what matters to your audience is one of the best ways to add value to the email experience.

Don’t Be Afraid of User Generated Content

One of the most effective ways to learn about a product or service is to connect with someone you know, like a friend of family member, and get his or her opinion on the item. Thanks to the Internet, there’s no shortage of even more unbiased reviews and testimonials. With this in mind, it only makes sense to bring the value of a second opinion directly to your email audience with user-generated content, according to Courtney Eckerle of Marketing Sherpa.

As you harvest these social media posts, customer testimonials, blog reviews, and even comments off your site, it’s important to get permission from the original author. If you’re running a little short on options, don’t be afraid to reach out to your audience and request feedback. If you stick to these honest customer opinions that support your offerings and avoid faking the process with staged reviews, you’ll give a significant amount of value to the audience from the source they trust the most.

Highlight the Big Points

The old sayings about time being the most precious commodity or resource might seem worn-out, but there’s still some truth in these statements. With this perspective, one of the most unique ways you can add value to your emails is not with the content you offer, but how you offer this content. To save your readers time and effort when they open up your message, Kate Kiefer Lee of Forbes Magazine suggests making your content “scannable.”

Short paragraphs, subheadings, bolded statements, and even image breaks that help highlight important points all do this job exceptionally well. If you’re planning on releasing a particularly long message in your next campaign, take a second to add a teaser with info on the content at the top of the email. This way, your readers can get right to the point and start sifting through the message for the portions that matter most to them.

Location Is Everything

One of the best tools in your email marketing bag of tricks is understanding the location of your target audience. Naturally, this is a little tougher for national or international brands to pull off, but if you’re honing in on shoppers in a certain city or region, this knowledge is good to use during your campaign. As Angie Zener of Marketing Land suggests, tailoring your content to add value in the form of local updates is a smart and savvy way to build an even better relationship with these consumers.

Whether your brand is sending out severe weather warnings during a particularly bitter winter, or you have the chance to remind customers to pick up sunscreen and sunglasses with a UV index update during those hot summer months, adding value in the form of localized message content is a smart way to add enhance the quality of your messages. While this, and the rest of the tips in this post, will require a little extra effort on your end, there’s no doubt that your audience will love this new approach that’s engaging and rich in meaningful content.

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Whether you’re new to the world of email marketing or a seasoned veteran spearheading your brand’s latest campaign, there’s one thing that always stays the same – good enough won’t get you very far. With so many companies offering great email content, resting on your laurels is a quick way to fall behind the pack when it comes to your email templates and message content. To help you avoid a campaign that falls flat on its face, here are some quick tips that can help ensure your templates and messages are responsive and evocative moving forward.

Avoid Multiple Columns When Possible

Starting off the list is the basic structure of your template. By skipping multiple columns and sticking with a single text column approach, you can standardize your templates and ensure consistency between your desktop and mobile variants, according to Andre Lejeune in an article on Chief Marketer. This approach comes from two different perspectives. First is the fact that multiple columns are often hard to render and read comfortably on a mobile screen. From here, your brand really can’t afford to disregard its mobile constituency, as all signs point to smartphone and tablet usage continuing its meteoric rise in relevancy. Because of this, the best plan of action is finding a happy medium between the two and a unified template that’s responsive on both platforms.

Placing Your CTA

With the single column approach, you can continue to build a powerful template by reserving premium screen space at the top of the template for the call-to-action (CTA.) As part of the responsive approach, it’s important to engage your readers quickly, lest they lose focus and click over to the next promotional message in the inbox. By putting the CTA button or blurb at the top of the template, you offer a high impact piece of content that supports the body of the message and piques the viewer’s interest to continue reading, eventually leading into potential conversion territory by having them visit your page. When compared to the old approach of sticking the CTA at the bottom of the message, it’s easy to see that keeping things upfront and straightforward is a more proactive way to illicit a response from your audience.

Understand the Size Constraints of Mobile Screens

Continuing with the mobile theme, it’s important to keep interactive design fluid on smartphone and tablet platforms. While your desktop templates might be full of nifty graphics and buttons, these additions often don’t translate well to the small screen, even if you’re using the one column approach. If you absolutely need graphics in your marketed messages, consider building in the option to hide this secondary content. As The Business Journals’ report on the subject explains, keeping load times down and emails brief is a smart way to boost the response from your targeted demographic.

In regard to buttons, navigating these waters can be a little trickier because hiding this interactive feature can marginalize your CTA. For the buttons on your mobile platform to function properly, use them sparingly when possible and provide ample space on the template between interactive features to help mitigate the risk of unintentional clicks. Not only will this keep your click rates honest, it’s also key to avoiding a frustrated set of readers that can’t properly navigate or use your marketed message.

Thinking In Sections

Outside of some of the technical considerations surrounding the responsive approach, it’s also important to understand the big picture design implications of this strategy. At the heart of a responsive template is the idea that messages and visuals separated by segments are far easier for your audience to enjoy and view. Whether it’s split into block sections of the column, or breakaways explaining related deals, having defined borders and positioning helps present a more palatable email for consumers who don’t have time to sift through a single block of text.

Reaping Your Rewards

Now that you’re an expert on bringing your templates up to speed with modern trends, it’s time to look at some of the benefits you can expect from making the switch to the responsive design approach. As Cara Olson of Marketing Land explains in her case study on responsive emails, messages that don’t render well on desktops and mobile devices due to improper design are deleted immediately 70 percent of consumers. On the flip side, responsive templates generate more views, clicks, and conversions when compared to traditional message layouts. From this perspective, and with the tools to build a great responsive template in hand, there’s no reason your brand should ever send out a bland marketed message again.

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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 right approach to SMS messages and retail promotion turned Westfield Malls into a mobile marketing leader.

Regardless of whether you live on the shores of Nova Scotia or reside in sunny northern California, it’s always a treat to spend an afternoon at the mall. For residents of the latter location, Westfield Malls is one of the premier destinations for just such a shopping excursion. However, staying on top of the retail world doesn’t come easy. For the guys in charge of this chain, connecting with customers was essential to the sustained success of the malls, so the decision to roll out a smart and effective SMS marketing campaign came pretty easy. If you’re interested in learning more about how this retail giant rode an outstanding series of texts to increased customer activity in the participating stores, take a moment to read on and find out how you can put these lessons to good use for your brand.

A Different Approach

One of the most intriguing facets of this case study is that unlike the other companies and brands we’ve profiled, this campaign came from the center’s management and not from particular stores within the mall. Instead of letting the shops renting stalls within the mall fend for themselves as far as promotional materials went, the executives of the Westfield Mall management team decided that what’s good for these particular outlets was good for the center as a whole. With this big picture outlook serving as the foundation of its mobile marketing campaign, the advertising team was ready to make some waves with an audience that couldn’t wait to connect via their mobile phones.

Breaking down the Promotion Particulars

To start, the Westfield Mall chain pushed hard to generate substantial gains within its subscriber database. Via in-store promotional material and external outreach programs – namely local radio broadcasts and TV spots – the northern California audience soon became well aware of the buzz going on down by the local mall. At the heart of the promotion was a “text-to-win” event.

For those willing to join the contact list and receive promotional materials, a chance at winning a $1000 shopping spree was the grand prize. The best part? Westfield Malls used the SMS short-code “SPREE” as the lynchpin of the campaign to keep things simple and memorable for those willing to join in on the fun.

Understanding the Impact of Great Text Messages

After the dust had settled and the shoppers came out to the mall in droves, the people in charge of this campaign had plenty to be happy about. First off, over 6,000 new individuals joined the contact list during the event. While that’s great on its own, understanding that all of this occurred within just a week, adds an entirely different and impressive perspective to the increased subscriber number.

Today, all five locations of Westfield Mall enjoy increased foot traffic and extended reach via a stable and highly responsive mobile messaging contact list. For mall management and independent retailers within these centers alike, it’s hard to call this campaign anything other than a resounding success.

Building Your Own Powerful Campaign

So what can your brand learn from the Westfield Mall campaign about connecting with customers via powerful marketed text messages? Above all else, having a smart plan matters when you’re setting up your advertising operations. By putting the greater good before individual promotion, the people in charge of this initiative were able to create a situation that benefited those renting space within the chain’s retail space. This in turn created increased business for the malls as a whole, which was definitely music to the ears of those operating the outlets.

As for the actual texts you send out, don’t be afraid to keep things simple. Too often brands worry about wowing the audience with long prose and witty banter. While there’s nothing wrong with keeping your messages engaging and informative, remember that people are more likely to participate if you make the process easy and straightforward. A memorable or brief short-code, as well as texts that get straight to the point, can help round out everything else you’ve learned and provide all the tools you need to build the perfect messages for your next mobile marketing campaign.Wesfield

 

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