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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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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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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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If you’re in the business of connecting with customers via marketed emails or SMS messages, you have probably heard that Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) is up and running this month. Of course, knowing that things have changed regarding marketing laws doesn’t do your organization much good if you’re not familiar with the new rules. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to do a quick crash course regarding the new legislation. From here, next week’s post on the subject will cover the basics of staying in compliance with the CASL as you roll out your next email or text marketing campaign.

Does CASL Affect You?

If you’re reading this article and you use email or SMS messages to connect with customers, the new anti-spam legislation directly affects how you conduct your operations on a daily basis. However, there are other facets of your business outlook that can also change based on the expanded coverage brought forth by this legal ruling. CASL also has specific regulations for any company that also installs software or programs on mobile phones or computers. Basically, if you have a branded app or download in addition to an email or text initiative, you’ll need to be extra careful as you move forward under this new system.

Express Consent

Now that we know who’s affected by this development, it’s time to look at the specifics of the regulations. First up is the concept of express consent and its role in the marketing process. At the core of every shady spam operation is the idea that quantity is better than quality. Naturally, the best way to boost numbers is to simply fire off emails to any address, regardless of whether or not the user wants these promotional messages. Under the new CASL laws, if you want to send an email, text message, or have your app installed on a consumer phone, express and documented consent is the only way to stay on the right side of the law.

Transparency In Transit

Outside of making sure everything’s crystal clear when it comes to asking for permission, the anti-spam legislation also takes aim at less than transparent communications. For instance, altering transmissions in order to have the message arrive at a different location is a major faux pas. Obviously, this is something that most legitimate brands aren’t interested in, but it’s still important to know about this technicality as it ties directly in with express consent and ensuring that the consumer always knows exactly what they’re receiving during a marketing operation.

False or Misleading Content

After covering how these messages arrive, the government’s new stance on the matter takes a look at what’s inside your messages. While this might seem a little nosy at first, the main issue here is that CASL wants to protect consumers from false or misleading emails and texts. Whether it’s slight embellishments or complete lies about products and services, hedging the truth for the sake of a great marketing push is a quick way to bring down sanctions and fines from the various branches covering the enactment of this new legislation.

Unethical Data Harvesting

The final big move from CASL covers unethical data harvesting during an electronic marketing campaign. Whether it’s prying into your audience’s personal life without their consent or keeping tabs via illegally acquired consumer data, this new set of legislation takes a firm stance on where morality fits into the marketing process. Additionally, infiltrating computer systems and installing programs without the knowledge and consent of the owner are also mentioned at length in this portion of the new legislation, giving the powers that be enhanced reach in the fight against unethical operations during the marketing process.

The Big Three

So what happens if you slip up and stick a toe over the CASL line? In this circumstance, be prepared to come in contact with at least one of the three government agencies responsible for enforcing the law. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has the power to issue monetary penalties to violators of this anti-spam law. In conjunction with this new ability, the Competition Bureau has the right to pursue potential misconduct and seek monetary penalties or criminal sanctions. Finally, an amended version of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act gives the Office of the Privacy Commissioner extended authority to investigate illicit marketing operations occurring via text and email.

Now that you’re familiar with all the ins and outs of who administers CASL and what it covers, be sure to check in next week as we delve into the best ways to stay on the right side of this legislation and still make a major impact with your SMS and email campaigns.

CASL - Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation

 

Happening every four years, the FIFA World Cup is an event unlike any other. Whether you’re a fan of this kind of football or not, it’s hard to deny the impact this tournament has on daily life around the globe. However, have you ever wondered what kind of effect events like the World Cup might have on your brand awareness via email marketing? While this might seem like an odd question to pose, a quick breakdown of the statistics surrounding marketing initiatives could radically change how you view the connection between sports and marketing in the context of making a splash via the inbox.

A History of Sports and Marketing

But wait, don’t the sporting and marketing worlds have a great history of working together? While the answer to this question is a definite yes, things aren’t always so cut and dry. Sure, plenty of campaigns have utilized sports icons and figures to deliver a powerful message, but that’s not the only overlap between these two platforms. In regard to email marketing, the truth of the matter is that mega sporting events aren’t always great to have going on in the background when you start firing off marketed messages.

Discovering a Digital Connection

While the average football friendly or exhibition game might not garner a noticeable bump in consumer interest, events like the World Cup can drastically warp the priorities and focus of your target audience. In a recent study covered by Amy Gesenhues of Marketing Land, the digital connection between these worlds generally isn’t very accommodating to the world of email marketing. In fact, special circumstances – like the World Cup, Super Bowl, and other major occurrences – can actually cause some serious harm to you open and conversion rates.

The main issue here is not that the sporting world hates promotional emails packed with value and substance. Instead, it’s simply that when the game is on, rabid fans don’t have eyes for anything else. Whether the match ends in a one-sided rout or goes to penalty kicks, expecting your audience to check their inbox or alerts is a recipe for unexpected disaster that can really sink your email marketing ship long before it sets sail.

A Look at the World Cup

The aforementioned study from Marketing Land and the World Cup focused on three countries; Mexico, Brazil, and the United States. In Brazil, click rates and email activity during football matches plummeted to 61 percent of the country’s standard activity. While that might not seem like much at first glance, imagine losing around 40 percent of your audience right after you hit send on your latest content. Mexico saw a similar drop, this time measured in raw percentage of clicks, going from the usual 9 percent of email clicks to just 5 percent.

The final country reviewed in this survey of the email marketing climate during the FIFA World Cup, the United States, showed a minimal dip in email activity during the game. However, the drop, measured between 1 and 2 percent total, still shows that in countries only recently experiencing the football or soccer craze, this event still had a negative impact on email activity during the match times.

Coming To a Conclusion

This one instance of reduced email activity underlies a major problem facing brands looking to make a move via marketing messages. Even though email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to connect with consumers, if your timing is off, you can’t expect much from this type of outreach. Naturally, you won’t always be facing down the World Cup, Olympics, or NHL Finals every day, but it’s still worth keeping these events in mind as you begin to roll out your last digital campaign that places a premium on what happens in the inbox.

Building a Smart Plan for Your Business

If you don’t want to watch your email marketing operations take a nosedive every time your favorite team scores the game winning goal, build a schedule that’s cognizant of what’s happening in the sporting world. This doesn’t mean keeping track of every preseason or regular season game. In fact, depending on your target audience’s location, it might mean taking out certain sports entirely from the equation. However, once you have your ideal consumer profile set up and certain sports highlighted as potential problems, you can start to build strategies with playoffs, championships, and other major events in mind. This way, you’ll never deliver great email content that goes unseen when the big game is on the line.

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There’s no denying that email marketing is one of the fastest, most productive ways of making a splash with your audience. Unfortunately, all the great aspects of this channel can lead to opportunities for misuse and abuse, creating some serious ill will with your targeted customers. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to go over the seven “Deadly Sins” of email marketing and what your brand can do to avoid the temptation of falling into these traps.

Relying on Promotional Fluff

First up on the list is all about what’s going on in the body of your emails. While there’s no denying that these messages are promotional in nature, that’s no excuse for offering little to no value in your emails. In addition to the basic offers of discounts, coupons, and sales, be sure to add in content that relates with the reader and goes beyond the simple “buy this now” approach. Things like weekly newsletters and even previews of your latest blog post fit this niche perfectly. Not only will this save your readers from promotional fatigue, it’s also a great way to build a lasting connection that keeps your contact list healthy and full.

Forgetting about Your Mobile Customers

Once you have your message in order, making sure you go beyond desktop optimization is the next part of the process. While standard emails are still going to be the bread and butter of most marketing initiatives, not giving the mobile portion of your audience its due, is an easy way to miss out on a great opportunity for conversions. The worst part about falling prey to this marketing sin is that it really doesn’t take much effort to build a proper mobile message with the rise of templates and professionals who can help you along the way.

Poaching or Copying Content

Like pretty much any other facet of your business, taking the easy way out and copying or poaching content isn’t a strategy designed for the long haul. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with leaning on the work of others to build a message or flesh out an idea. However, continuing along this path without giving credit where it is due, is a one way street that leads straight to email purgatory and a dwindling fan base that’s less than thrilled with your brand’s marketing efforts.

Going Overboard with Email Word Counts

When it comes to the length of your message, more is better, right? While this sounds good on paper, the truth is that most readers don’t have all day to sit around and read a novel delivered directly to their inbox. To really connect with your audience, keep this promotional content short and to the point, leaving out filler and unnecessary information when possible. By saying goodbye to forced word counts and shifting your focus toward brevity and impact, your brand can go above and beyond competition that’s still stuck writing long after your emails start hitting consumer inboxes.

Failing to Adapt Your Content to the Cold, Hard Facts

Much like the original Deadly Sins, there’s no place for pride in a proper email marketing campaign. Although it might be a hard pill to swallow at times, few email initiatives start off perfect. As the results from your latest series come back, don’t be afraid to face the facts and follow the lead your customer data illuminates. Sure, it might not be the best feeling in the world to admit that your content needs a little tweaking. However, when it comes to increased conversions and brand awareness, putting pride on the side and adapting to the cold, hard facts is always in the best interest of your marketing goals.

Succumbing to Link Overload

When it comes to proper linking, you’re probably looking back up the list and wondering how this fits in with poaching or copying content. Essentially, if you reference or cite something, there’s nothing wrong providing a link back to the source. Where you can really get in hot water with your audience is turning half of your email into hyperlinks back to your site and landing pages. When wrapping up the final tweaks to your message before it goes live, try to keep the links to a minimum. Not only can you avoid link overload this way, you’ll also be able to use the limited number of redirects to really emphasize a call to action or time sensitive offer as your email hits its crescendo.

Disregarding Spam Laws and Regulations

Of course, the biggest sin any brand can commit when it comes to firing off promotional emails is to run afoul of the government’s anti-spam laws. With the recent changes in the Canadian spam regulation, it matters now more than ever to get things right the first time. Failing to stay on target not only damages your reputation with customers, it also can lead to some serious penalties and fines. Aside from keeping up with the latest developments straight from the source, having an expert opinion on your side can help you avoid this sin, as well as the rest, once you’re ready to start harnessing the power of email marketing.

Sins

 

Although the medium has changed over the years, moving from the printed word to digital screens, one thing never changes – great marketing campaigns always evoke a powerful response from the audience. Naturally, the days of an eye-catching ad in the newspaper doing the trick are long gone. However, that doesn’t mean that your brand still can’t create a “customer journey” that truly connects with and inspires members of your contact list. To learn more about this concept and how to help your consumers get the most out of this process, let’s dig a little deeper into what the customer journey means in today’s online setting.

What Exactly Is the Customer Journey?

The customer journey encompasses everything that happens from the moment shoppers find out about your brand to when these individuals check out from your online storefront. While that might seem a little too “big picture” from some brands, you can also think of it as more of a mindset regarding the customer experience. Essentially, when they think of your brand and what it takes to learn about your products and services, as well as making a purchase, is it enough to make these shoppers come back for more? If your quick internal audit sends back an answer that is anything less than an overwhelming yes, there’s definitely some work to be done when it comes to your brand’s customer journey.

The Role of Email Marketing In the Process

So where does email marketing fit into this process? For all the military history buffs out there, this portion of your brand awareness initiatives serves as the vanguard – paving the way for the rest of your marketed material. In other words, a great marketing email acts as an open invitation to the viewers to take a journey with your brand. Naturally, for portions of your contact list, this journey has already started to some degree, considering that they have signed up for promotional emails in-store or online.

However, only a few tools in your marketing bag of tricks are as effective at adapting to the situation. With just one message, you can bring all of these separate individuals along the path, heading toward a continued relationship and some well-deserved conversions. The key is making the most out of this first impression. As tired and worn out as this cliché is, it still rings true in the digital marketing world; you only get one first impression, so you had better make the most of it.

Potential Bumps In the Road

Unfortunately, there are plenty of hazards along this road. If your brand isn’t careful, these missteps can turn what should be a strong point in your customer journey into a glaring weakness in no time. First up is a promotional email that’s full of design errors and sloppy layout choices. While your text content might be second to none, having an email that looks like it went through a digital blender before hitting the inbox is no way to start your customer journey.

As for the body of the email itself, think of this portion as the directions for the trip. If you offer up something that’s irrelevant or unclear, don’t expect much from an audience that doesn’t have time to read between the lines and figure out where to go. Additionally, if you’re firing off messages far too often like a GPS in overdrive, don’t expect a warm reception from customers who need a little break between emails.

Creating the Perfect Journey for Your Customers

To create the perfect customer journey for your email contact list, you’ll need to focus on making a great first impression, as well as guiding them with valuable content once things start shifting into high gear. One of the best ways to get started on the right foot is with a welcome email. This message can be just a short, friendly greeting, thanking the user for signing up and offering a few teasers for what’s to come if they stay subscribed. Not only is this polite, it helps set the tone for a friendly, warm relationship between your brand and the audience.

From here, don’t be afraid to branch out into related topics to keep your content fresh and exciting. For instance, reviewing safety tips and best practices for shopping on your site – and around the web – is not only useful, it helps give the audience the confidence to make a purchase if they were dealing with any concerns about Internet security prior to the email. Additionally, this approach also shows that not everything you offer will be sales related, giving your contact list plenty of reasons to stick around for the long haul as you continue to make this journey a great one with valuable email content that goes beyond the thinly veiled fluff offered by the competition.

Journey

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