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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 Legends In Concert tribute revue spread the word about its show via stellar SMS messages and extended billboard integration.

Imagine if you could sit down and watch Elvis Presley, Adele, and The Blues Brothers all perform on the same night. Seems impossible, right? Well for fans of the Legends In Concert tribute show located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the ability to come close to this dream, via talented impersonators and a one-of-a-kind concert environment, turned to reality, even if just for one night. However, spreading the word regarding this amazing series of performances wasn’t exactly easy, especially amid a sluggish music marketplace.

To overcome this roadblock, Legends In Concert turned to one of the most powerful marketing tools around – SMS marketing. In order to learn exactly how this method helped bring in a slew of new customers, and generate a lasting mobile contact list, let’s spend a few minutes digging into the particulars of this campaign.

Setting the Stage for an SMS Showcase

At the core of this mobile marketing initiative was a two-fold approach. First, the management arm of Legends In Concert wanted to build an SMS contact list from the ground up in order to develop a lasting relationship with the local Myrtle Beach audience. However, as a business located in one of the biggest tourist destinations in the United States, this tribute show also wanted to capitalize on the short term gains of marketing toward the heavy flow of transient traffic found in the area. These two vastly different requirements presented a serious challenge to the brand, yet also provided an opportunity to highlight the flexibility and expansive reach of mobile marketing.

Finding the Right Platform for Both Goals

Trying to appeal to two different segments of the target audience isn’t exactly easy, so most readers probably assume that Legends In Concert needed to include a variety of different platforms to reach its goals. However, this case of mobile marketing surprisingly goes in a different direction. In order to reach both targeted groups, this show purchased ad space on billboards in high traffic areas around town and highlighted a discount coupon offer in return for joining the burgeoning contact list. While this might seem like an unexciting method of spreading the word, Legends In Concert utilized a very unique approach to this traditional platform.

By incorporating billboards equipped with digital technology, they were able to implement several promotional slides, each with shifting variations of “text-in” keywords. This process not only vaulted over the issues associated with static billboards – namely fading into the local scenery – but also provided the promoter with the ability to get creative and showcase various acts from the show. Adding in that these billboards promoted the SMS campaign in areas trafficked by tourists and locals further cemented that this decision keyed in on both goals.

During the later stages of the campaign, Legends In Concert utilized geo-location tools to increase the amount of ads displayed when contact list members were in the area. This practice proved that with the right technology, even something as mundane as a standard billboard can instantly become a highly refined and optimized tool for the promotion of text marketing.

The Big Finale

In return for all of this hard work, the Legends In Concert review received a major push on both fronts. First, in the short term the coupon promotion associated with new members of the contact list generated a 16 percent conversion rate and 1,200 percent return on the initial investment. Naturally, these figures are pretty nice on their own. However, the true success came from the lasting connection created by the growth of the contact list. Today, Legends In Concert boasts a 1,600 member list that is still growing at a healthy pace each day.

Writing Your Own SMS Hit

For brands looking to break onto the SMS scene like this organization, the message behind the success is fairly straightforward. If you connect with consumers via the right platform, and offer solid value in your promotion, they’ll go above and beyond in rewarding you for your hard work. Naturally, utilizing billboard space might not always be the right call, but taking the time to find what does work when spreading the word about your upcoming text campaign can help you join the ranks of Legends In Concert and other brands that unlocked the power of a properly tuned SMS initiative.

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While there’s no denying that was goes on inside of your emails matters quite a bit, the simple truth of the situation is that if you can’t convince these readers to stick around and check out your messages in the first place, it doesn’t matter what’s going on behind the open button. If you’re on the fence about the importance of the subject line in the email marketing process, look no farther than this stat from Nathan Safran of the Moz Blog.

According to Safran, 80 percent of readers don’t look any farther than the subject line of promotional emails. Essentially, if you can’t win the battle surrounding subject lines against your inbox competition, you’ve already lost the email marketing war. To ensure this fate doesn’t befall your brand, here’s some simple ways to spice up your stable of subject lines and really make a major splash with your audience moving forward.

Utilize the Right Amount of Brevity

The first thing you can do to give your subject lines a facelift is to simply trim off any excess fluff. As Pamela Neely of Web Marketing Today points out in her look at improving open rates, having a subject line that hovers between six and ten words produces the best response. Naturally, there’s more factors at play here, including the engaging nature of this content, but ensuring you don’t write a novel in this header is a great way to start off on the right foot. Considering that the Harvard School of Business’ Nancy Koehn reports that the average attention span for a human stands at eight seconds, a full one second less than a goldfish, opting for brevity is a decision that can truly pay dividends in the inbox.

Find the Right Words

Spam filters are redefining what’s acceptable in regards to subject lines, so Neely goes on to recommend treading carefully in this area. Some of the biggest offenders that can relegate your offerings to the trash bin include “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder.” While these offerings might seem innocuous at first glance, they are common tools of the less than savory sect of email marketing.

If possible, you’re much better off utilizing words like “announcement,” “alert,” and “free delivery.” If you can sneak in a “freebie” somewhere in the subject line, Neely notes that consumers respond exceptionally well to this type of inclusion. Obviously, subject lines are highly customizable and depend a lot on what you plan on promoting, but steering clear of the prime offenders is well worth the effort.

Making Good Use of Your Audience Information

Speaking of your target audience, chances are you’ve worked hard to learn as much as possible about these consumers, so why not put this information to good use? As D.J. Waldow of Entrepreneur magazine explains, adding flair and flavor to the subject line based on what resonates with these viewers is an excellent way to surpass the mundane offerings of other brands. For instance, if fashion is the primary focus of your industry, firing off an email with “A Dress For…” is a smart way to capture their interest and preview the contents of the message.

It might take some time tinkering with this customization considering our previous discussion surrounding brevity, but the best in the business know that if you can cater your subject lines to what matters most to the reader, you’ve entered a special spot in the email marketing world.

Say Goodbye to Guesswork

Additionally, Waldow points out that even if you think you have a great idea that embodies everything we’ve discusses so far, there’s no guarantees that this subject line can be successful until you test it against other variations. By split testing against other subject lines via select portions of your contact list, you can settle the discussion once and for all and leave the guesswork to other brands.

Aside from learning about the effectiveness of the test subject lines, utilizing this method can also tell you even more about your deliverability rates and potential steps for improvement. Considering how valuable your time is, employing the “two birds, one stone” approach can help optimize your time investment and improve the effectiveness of your overall marketing plans at the same time.

By combining these tips with what everything else you’ve learned about subject lines in previous articles, you’ll have everything you need to knock the digital socks off of your targeted customers when they see your messages. Naturally, you’ll still need to follow up with some powerful content in the body of the email, but at least you won’t have to worry about getting lost in the see of substandard offerings that flood the inbox anymore.

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There’s definitely not a lot of love lost between the worlds of email and print marketing. After all, with the rise of this form of digital advertising and the fact that more brands than ever want to connect with consumers via the inbox, it’s easy to see why newspapers and other publications are feeling the pinch when it comes to the dipping value of open ad space. However, just because email marketing is the current top dog doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a thing or two from the more traditional variations of connecting with customers. With this in mind, let’s dig into the concept of “above the fold” marketing and find out if it has a spot in your next campaign.

Understanding the Concept Behind “Above the Fold”

For those readers out there that aren’t familiar with print marketing lingo, it’s necessary to establish a proper definitely of what “above the fold” means before diving headfirst into the discussion. As Web 1’s Internet marketing glossary explains, headlines and advertisements placed above the physical fold of the newspaper naturally attract more attention than offerings positioned on the opposing side of the publication.

Digging a little deeper into this definition unveils a slightly more philosophical approach to understanding the “above the fold” mentality. Aside from making sense from a logistics standpoint, advertising in this region during the peak years of newspaper readership became a prestigious endeavor reserved only for premier brands. Basically, if your business acquired this kind of ad space during this era of advertising, there was no question that your organization had made it to the big time.

Does This Translate to Email Marketing?

Obviously, the connection between what “above the fold” means in the email marketing world and realm of print advertising doesn’t necessarily translate at a one-to-one ratio. The big difference here is that you’re not competing with other brands for prime email real estate since your brand controls what goes into these messages.

Instead, “above the fold” marketing in terms of what goes on in the inbox is all about maximizing the limited real estate of the preview pane, according to Ciara Gill of Business 2 Community. Much like the finite resource of page space above the physical fold for newspapers, the preview pane generated by email service clients like Gmail and Yahoo provides you with a limited platform to spread your message, so it’s vital to the health of your campaign that you put your best foot forward with your message previews.

Maximizing the Most Important Portion of Your Emails

So what can you do to maximize your email preview panes and boost open rates? As Heather Fletcher of Target Marketing Magazine explains, it all starts with keeping your preheaders short, both in text length and font size. Preheaders are often the first thing viewers on either mobile or desktop platforms see in the preview pane, so making sure this text doesn’t take up too much real estate and block out the rest of your message is essential. Instead of writing a novel for this portion of your email, think of it as a chance to use one or two sentences to reinforce your subject line, drawing the reader in and leading them to your call-to-action.

From here, Fletcher goes on to suggest using HTML instead of imbedded graphics whenever possible. With so many email service providers suppressing images as part of the ongoing fight against spam, using HTML coding can help you avoid the dreaded “empty box” disaster that comes with images not rendering in the preview pane. Additionally, making sure you find a way to fit your logo into this portion of the message adds a level of familiarity and trust to the email. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when customers don’t respond well to a message from a source that’s not easily identified and differentiated from spam.

The last part of maximizing this preview comes with fitting in the most important pieces of content into the remaining space. By pushing extraneous and supporting information to beneath the preview pane “fold,” you can send a powerful message to consumers by highlighting the valuable content held within. Whether it’s a summary of what’s inside the message or a table of contents that directs newsletter readers to their favorite sections, avoiding wasted space with fluff can drastically improve your preview pane performance. With these tips, as well as everything else you’ve learned about putting the “above the fold” approach to good use, there’s nothing stopping your brand from making a major splash with readers who can’t wait to see your next email.

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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 Southwest Airlines and WEEI sports radio brought excellent SMS messages and a game-winning approach to fans of the Boston Celtics.

While the 2010 NBA Finals offered up plenty of excitement for basketball fans around the globe, it also holds a special place of prominence in the history of mobile marketing. During this best-of-seven playoff, Southwest Airlines and Boston’s WEEI sports radio station teamed up to promote an SMS campaign designed to heighten the experience for one lucky fan. To find out more about the particulars of this initiative, as well as what it might mean for your brand, let’s spend some time breaking down this campaign like the sideline reporters break down the action standing courtside at the Finals.

Laying the Foundation for a Solid SMS Campaign

Just like Red Auerbach and his team of assistant coaches building a winning game plan before the 1957 NBA Finals, Southwest and WEEI knew that this SMS campaign needed to send a powerful message to Celtics fans in Boston and the surrounding areas. To do this, these brands offered Celtics fans a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles to watch game two of the Finals. Roundtrip airfare, hotel accommodations, and a pair of tickets were all included in the prize package.

To have a shot at winning this dream trip, Celtics fans in the WEEI coverage area were instructed to text “FINALS’ to 850850. Once this simple opt-in was completed, WEEI and Southwest let customers know the submission was accepted by firing back a friendly bounce-back message thanking them for their participation and wishing good luck to all entrants.

Promoting on Powerful Platforms

To spread the word regarding this campaign, WEEI and Southwest utilized promotional vehicles featuring informative decals, on-air talent discussion, recorded commercial spots, social media outreach, and newsletters distributed via email. Needless to say these SMS partners didn’t leave anything on the table when it came to connecting with customers and drumming up interest for this promotion.

However, to add a little spice to this big giveaway, all of the promotional material directed Celtics fans to listen to the June 4 edition of the Dennis and Callahan Show on WEEI to receive the “FINALS” SMS keyword. After revealing the text-in keyword on live air, contestants had 10 minutes to opt-in and try their luck at this dream trip. As far as excitement goes, the amount of suspense generated by this tactic was as close to watching the ball tip into the basket on a game winning shot during the Finals as SMS marketing can get.

The Final Score

By this point, you’re probably thinking that 10 minutes isn’t a lot of time to fully realize the potential of an SMS campaign. However, the numbers surrounding this joint program highlight the fact that with the right promotion and a big enough prize, 10 minutes is all you really need. In total, WEEI and Southwest received 10,154 entries, with these entries coming from 4,220 unique sources. Naturally, any brand would be more than happy to receive this kind of response in such a short period of time. Adding the enhanced listenership of the Dennis and Callahan Show, as well as the lasting commitment of many of these participants to a joint contact list further reinforced the successful nature of WEEI and Southwest’s SMS campaign.

Building Your Own SMS Playbook

Even if you don’t share an industry with WEEI and Southwest, there’s still plenty of powerful ideas you can pull from this SMS case study to build your own mobile marketing playbook. First, don’t be afraid to create an event around this campaign. By doing this, you’ll not only generate additional excitement with your audience, but convince consumers who are on the fence to join in due to the urgency of the event. Outside of properly promoting your campaign, it’s also important that you offer real value to participants. While giving away seats to the NBA Finals might be a little too expensive for smaller businesses, providing regular coupons, discounts, and other smaller gestures still sends a strong message to members of your contact list. If you can pull off these tips, you’ll soon be joining the ranks of Southwest, WEEI, and the other SMS all-stars that make up this case study series.

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The key to email marketing isn’t always found within the body of text that makes up the message. Sure, if the core of your email is weak, that’s a major issue on its own. However, simply relying on this text alone, even if it is properly composed, also isn’t always the right call. Sometimes you need to go above and beyond to really connect with your audience. As one of the biggest trends that’s picking up steam in the email marketing world, video fits this billing perfectly. To find out if adding this content to your next campaign is the right call, let’s spend some time looking over the particulars of setting your brand message in motion with embedded video offerings.

The Case for Video in Email Marketing

The potential for video to serve a major role in your email marketing operations comes from two different angles. First is the concept that this method can differentiate your brand from the masses. As an industry report from eMarketer points out, only one in four brands utilize video content when setting up marketed messages. While it’s not a guarantee for success, there’s no denying that going down this path does offer the opportunity to stand out in a crowd.

Of course, when it comes to your marketing budget, simply being different for the sake of being different isn’t a good enough reason. In addition to relatively limited competition on this front, Sherry Chao of Business 2 Community explains that adding video to your emails is also highly effective. Specifically, Chao reports that some campaigns saw clickthrough rates (CTR) jump by up to 583 percent, all thanks to adding video to the equation. Basically, if you can pull of this addition to your standard messages in the right way, the payoff is huge.

Potential Pitfalls

Naturally, properly implementing video is far easier said than done. With the rise of multiple platforms and devices as a means of viewing emails, optimizing your messages and avoiding unplayable video content becomes far more difficult. Considering how disastrous a broken video can be to the aesthetic of your messages, failing on this front can cause lasting damage to a campaign. Additionally, some audiences simply might not be interested in video content, so rushing into this process without testing the waters is a quick way to turn off a large portion of your constituency if they fall into this category.

The real key to success doesn’t start with great video content and a powerful supporting message in your emails, but rather understanding what your audience wants. Once you’ve traversed this potential pitfall by ensuring this type of content falls into line with your ideal consumer profile, you can move on to more exciting portions of this process – creating and optimizing your video content.

Making a Positive Impact with Your Audience

So once you’ve confirmed that this type of content can reach its full potential with your viewers, what’s the next step? According to Lynn Baus of Marketing Land, the best place to start is by focusing on hammering out the deliverability details. First up is incorporating HTML5 into your content development process. While you can try to use third-party add-ons, like Flash, most email service clients aren’t too keen on these plug-ins, so you run a serious risk of ending up in the spam folder. HTML5 circumvents this issue by avoiding the usage of these plug-ins and embedding the video directly into your message template.

Additionally, utilizing hosting services that provide progressive downloads helps lower the burden of file size and sluggish load times by letting your audience begin watching the video before it finishes downloading. Considering how large these files can be, having progressive playback expedite the process can make the situation far more agreeable for you viewers.

With all of the technical details hammered out, you’ll need to shift your focus toward the actual video content. After all, making sure the video reaches these consumers doesn’t matter that much if what you’re offering leaves a lot to be desired. To avoid this, place an emphasis on supporting a strong message that evokes emotion within your audience. Whether it’s a customer profile or a “behind the scenes” look at your business operations, building a story that connects with these viewers and develops a strong call-to-action can put your video content over the top.

From here, don’t be afraid to repurpose this content later on down the road. There’s nothing wrong with squeezing out a little extra value by posting this video to your company YouTube account or website. If you can do this, in addition to everything else you’ve learned about video content, you’ll be well on your way to connecting with your audience in ways that the competition just can’t match.

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Much like connecting with your customers via text messages, email marketing isn’t only for the brands with a Fortune 500 marketing budget. With the right approach, this practice is not only budget friendly, it’s also effective with your target audience. However, there’s still a few roadblocks along the way that can trip you up. To help keep your organization in the clear and connecting with the shoppers that matter most, here are five email marketing mistakes that small businesses simply can’t afford to make.

Disregarding Anti-Spam Legislation

The first mistake on the list also offers up the biggest legal ramifications – failing to comply with Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL.) As David Harris of the Boston Business Journal explains, even small businesses in the United States must refrain from spamming Canadian inboxes with unwanted messages and promotions. Otherwise, your small business, regardless of where you call home, could face penalties that scale up to $10 million per violation.

To protect your organization from these potentially crippling fines, make sure that every person on your list has opted in and consented to receiving marketed messages from your brand. By doing this, you’ll not only refine your contact list by trimming off the individuals who weren’t likely to convert anyways, but also keep your bottom line from dipping too deeply into the red via stiff government penalties.

Failing to Target the Right Customers

Speaking of the people that are most likely to convert, Sara Angeles of Business News Daily points out that plenty of small businesses fail to truly harness the power of email marketing thanks to shoddy or substandard targeting practices. In some cases, these brands simply don’t implement targeting at all in the campaign process.

To keep your business on track with targeting, you’ll need to learn to build a profile around your ideal customer. By answering questions around optimal delivery times, preferred email content, and location, you can segment your audience and cater to the people who show the most interest in your brand. While it does take some work to get to this point, the results you’ll garner are well worth the time and effort you put into targeting.

Skipping Over Responsive Design

It’s no secret that mobile optimization matters in today’s marketplace. However, there’s still plenty of brands that don’t probably value responsive email design that adjusts to the devices used by your readers. As Cara Olson of Marketing Land reports, more than 50 percent of email opens occur on mobile devices and 70 percent of consumers immediately delete messages that don’t render properly. Basically, you’re letting a massive chunk of your audience slip through the cracks by making this mistake. Thankfully, the fix on this one is pretty easy. Implementing a responsive design template that optimizes your emails for mobile viewing ensures that you never lose a customer due to technical difficulties.

Letting Your Contact List Succumb to Address Bloat

When it comes to spreading the word about your products and services, especially as a small business, if some is good, more is better, right? Not always. Andy Shore of Huffington Post illuminates this point by noting that plenty of brands don’t take the time to keep up with “contact list hygiene.” Under this practice, you’ll routinely clear out unresponsive and inactive consumer email addresses.

While it might seem counterintuitive to drop these contact list members – after all, they might return someday – Shore points out that continuing to message these members is not only a waste of resources, it’s potentially harmful to your deliverability. It’s a little hard to swallow at first, but as you continue along the path to the email marketing success, you’ll soon learn that there’s an ebb and flow to the size of your contact list that requires a little upkeep now and then.

Sending Irrelevant Content

Personalization and geographic relevancy in your messages is a great thing, especially if your small business relies on regional customers to keep things rolling. However, utilizing these tools opens you up to one of the biggest marketing mistakes out there, according to Kim Lachance Shandrow. Content irrelevancy, such as using the wrong name or location, is one of the fastest ways to turn off your audience members. Whether it’s mixing up contact list names or referencing the wrong city, personalization can backfire quickly.

To protect your small business from this embarrassing mistake, Shandrow suggests that you spend some time guaranteeing that your sign-up and opt-in sheets are as clear and easy to complete as possible. By doing this, in addition to everything else you’ve learned about avoiding mistakes that have sunk other small businesses, you can ensure that you always put your best foot forward with the shoppers that matter most to your brand.

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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 building a better product for the environment, and promoting it via smart SMS messages, put Eagle Claw over the top with eco-friendly customers.

Who says you can’t be environmentally friendly and make a splash with your customers at the same time? For Eagle Claw, a fishing equipment manufacturer and industry leader for the past 84 years, finding the balance between these two goals was the key to gaining ground with the rising tide of environmentally conscious consumers who enjoy fishing and getting a little closer with nature. To find out how Eagle Claw succeeded on both fronts, let’s spend some time looking over this fishing equipment provider’s stellar SMS campaign and see what lessons it might hold for your brand moving forward.

The Environmentally Sound Approach

At the heart of this SMS promotion was company’s latest offering, Bioline. As the world’s first biodegradable fishing line, this product aimed to please the fishing fanatics that wanted to reduce the impact synthetic lines had on their local waterways. Of course, spamming these customers with paper coupons that the eventually turn into litter and trash kind of defeats the purpose.

To maximize the environmental slant of this message, Eagle Claw turned to a smart text-oriented initiative. Not only did this approach provide these consumers with paperless coupons, thereby reducing the impact of the promotion on the local ecology, but it also tapped into the inherent power of SMS marketing.

Promoting the SMS Initiative

Naturally, this was a win-win for both parties at first glance. However, Eagle Claw knew that it had to build a solid SMS contact list to get the word out on Bioline. To achieve this, the brand honed in on the 33rd Annual International Sportsmen’s Expo in Denver, Colorado. By setting up opt-in sheets and promotional materials throughout the convention, as well as purchasing ad space in local markets, Eagle Claw developed a strong text backing.

From here, the brand moved to connecting with the customers that opted-in via powerful and engaging mobile messages. As part of this outreach, participating shoppers received a paperless, environmentally friendly coupon to put toward the initial purchase of a spool of Bioline. For customers that enjoyed the product and stuck around as part of the contact list, more exciting and valuable offers regularly appeared via text.

Reeling In the Results

While Eagle Claw expected quite the response from the expo, the guys in charge of the promotion weren’t prepared for the influx of purchase requests that this SMS campaign spawned. After two days, the company’s inventory had been depleted, causing the fishing manufacturer to pull down signage and rush production to catch up with the overwhelming rise in business and demand.

In total, Eagle Claw analyzed all sales for the four day period and concluded that a whopping 23 percent of the company’s total profit during this period was directly related to the SMS campaign. Considering that the brand ran out of Bioline halfway through the promotion, it’s fairly safe to say that this percentage, and the gross profit of this push, would have been even higher had Eagle Claw expected such a massive amount of participation.

Creating Your Own Brand Message

So now that you’ve read up on how Eagle Claw leveraged an eco-friendly text message campaign to increase sales and goodwill among customers, it’s time to find out what tips and ideas you can pull from this case study to give your brand an extra SMS boost. To start, finding a cause related to your products and making it the focal point of your advertising operations is a powerful way to strengthen the bond with your audience. While Eagle Claw chose to focus on protecting the environment, it’s okay if the desires and ideals of your customers take you down a different path. The big point here is that you find what matters to them, and show how your brand cares about the same issues and ideological concerns.

Additionally, finding the right platform to spread the word regarding your SMS campaign is also important. While digital advertising and traditional outlets definitely have a spot in most initiatives, going above and beyond with industry conventions and local events can really impress your customers. If you can do this, in addition to the rest of what you’ve learned from Eagle Claw’s outstanding text campaign, you’ll be well on your way to standing above the competition in no time.

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With the rise of lists that incorporate GIFs making the rounds on virtually every social media platform, there’s a lot of buzz going on in the world of email marketing about what role these animated images might have in upcoming campaigns. While there’s no doubt that people love visual content, the inbox is a fickle place at times, so it’s important to tread carefully before bombarding your audience with an entirely new approach. To help your company make a smart call when it comes to GIFs, here’s a breakdown of what this approach has to offer, as well as the potential problems that could put a damper on your inbox initiatives.

The Power of This Tool

There’s no denying that GIFs, when used properly, can add a significant boost to an email marketing campaign. As Allison Banko of Marketing Sherpa reports in a case study focused on Dell’s convertible tablet-laptop promotion, GIFs helped give this tech giant a 109 percent increase in revenue throughout the duration of the marketing event. Regardless of what you’re selling, seeing gains that more than double your prior returns is definitely a sign that you’re doing things right.

The big key to Dell’s success came from the realization that a static image simply couldn’t get the job done when trying to showcase how the convertible product shifted seamlessly from tablet to laptop capabilities. By utilizing animated GIFs in its marketed messages, Dell added a striking visual that helped bring to life the appeal of the XPS 12 and convince customers that the product was right for their computing needs.

Potential Pitfalls

Of course, just because Dell made great use of this image format doesn’t mean that GIFs are always the right call for every brand out there. As Elyse Dupre of Direct Marketing News explains, there are plenty of issues you need to be aware of before going all in with GIFs in your marketed messages. First off, size matters when shipping out emails, so you’ll need to avoid GIFS that are too bulky. If your GIFs take up more than 125K in space, you could be creating a situation in which the animation loads slowly or freezes entirely. Neither of these options are where you want to be when trying to make a strong sales pitch to customers who aren’t always the most patient people.

Outside of the size of your GIF, it’s also important to refrain from overloading the message with too many of these files. Just like normal images, going overboard with graphics is a quick way to disenfranchise customers viewing your content on mobile devices. Again, broken email designs and unwieldy load times are the culprits here.

The final major pitfall faced by brands that rely on GIFs in the inbox comes from content relevancy. Simply using a GIF to have one in your message isn’t a good idea. While it definitely adds a layer of flair to your message, Dupre points out that customers want more than just filler when delving into your content. If you have to ask whether or not your GIF fits in with your theme or product, changes are you should leave it for a different, more relevant promotional cycle.

Hitting the Mark with Your Own GIFs

Now that you’re up to speed with the power of GIFs and when to use these images, it’s time to talk about how to maximize the value of your animations. Emily Konouchi of Marketing Profs offers up a few simple guidelines to help you along your way. First off, keep the animation simple. Having a GIF that’s better suited for the latest Hollywood blockbuster release is an easy way to reduce the effectiveness of your animation by making it too long.

From here, consider repurposing your Flash web content for GIF usage. Not only does this practice cut down on the time needed to produce these images since you already have the content, it also creates a perfect bridge that connects your marketed email to the page containing the original flash presentation.

Once you’re ready to send out the email, pump the brakes a little before hitting the send button. Konouchi’s also suggests testing your message a few times before reaching out to your targeted audience. This way, you can ensure that you’re not falling into the content relevancy and size pitfalls covered earlier. If you’ve passed all of these checkpoints, now it’s time to dazzle your audience with an animated GIF that supports and enhances the overall message found within your promotional emails.

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Who says that email marketing is only for the big boys? Whether you’re just starting out or you have established your small business firmly in the local community, having a great email marketing plan can give your company a serious competitive advantage. To help you wow your digital customers the next time your messages reach the inbox, here’s all the pieces that make up the secret to email marketing success for small businesses.

Build a Content Game Plan

While some small businesses get hung up on the technical side of developing great emails, your best bet to build a successful foundation is to start off with a content game plan. From here, you can worry about templates, analytics, and all the other things that take place during campaign optimization and refinement. If you’re in need of a little guidance for a content game plan, Chris Rancourt of The Business Journals suggests starting off with a weekly newsletter.

This type of content might not be the flashiest way to enter the market, but it offers a stable, consistent platform to connect with customers and provide them with valuable content and offers. Additionally, small businesses that properly utilize this channel can further leverage this inbox access by showing off upcoming products and exclusive insider information to participants – both of which add even more value to your small business newsletter.

Play to Upcoming Events

Another way to bridge the gap between you and your customers, while still staying competitive with the bigger brands in your industry, is by maximizing your seasonal relevancy. As Steve Dille of Marketing Land explains, having email content that focuses on the time of year shows your customers that you’re willing to go beyond the standard “promo” messages and actually put some thought into your marketing messages.

While Christmas, Thanksgiving, and all the other major players definitely make the seasonal relevancy cut, that doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the smaller, local traditions in your area. In fact, capitalizing on these events, like city festivals and upcoming concerts, gives you a decided advantage that national and international brands simply can’t replicate.

Get to Know the Spam List

This tip is really for businesses of any size, but it’s still well worth your time if you’re running a smaller outfit. With Gmail and the rest of the email service provider world segmenting your inbox into primary and secondary sections, it’s more important than ever before that you know which spam words can earn your emails a one way trip into the digital trash can, according to Matthew Collis of Huffington Post.

Plenty of the entries on this list are the usual suspects. “Free,” “urgent,” “sales,” and “act now” all headline the spam word gallery. However, some less obvious options, like “click” and “legal,” also put a big red flag on your email operations. If you’re unsure about a certain word, don’t hesitate to connect with your email marketing service provider. This way, you can avoid joining the less than savory crowd that calls the spam folder home.

Think Mobile

The days of email access exclusively coming from the desktop are long gone, so putting an emphasis on mobile viewers matters now more than ever. As Kate Kiefer Lee of Forbes Magazine points out, 63 percent of North Americans and 41 percent of Europeans would either delete or ignore a marketed email if it’s not optimized for mobile devices. Even if your audience isn’t as a big as the national and international brands, it’s still important to cater to these readers.

To keep the attention of these members of your audience, spend some time developing mobile messages that fit the smaller screen. Whether it is cutting all nonessential imagery or adopting a vertical layout that puts your call-to-action (CTA) front and center, making it easy to view these emails from smartphones and tablets is a crucial part of making a splash in the inbox.

Test Often

The final secret to email marketing success as a small business comes with some good old-fashioned hard work. Understanding what your email audience wants isn’t always easy, so be prepared to test variations of your message early and often. A/B testing, consumer polling, and a variety of other practices hold the key to developing a consumer profile that fits these customers. With this constantly evolving profile in hand, as well as the rest of what you’ve learned about email marketing, there’s nothing stopping your small business from joining the ranks of the biggest names in the business with a powerful and responsive campaign.

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The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How the perfect SMS plan helped ViQuest Wellness Center bring healthy workouts and powerful promotional materials to fitness fanatics in the Greenville, North Carolina area.

When it comes to connecting with your audience via text messages, it’s easy to become comfortable and let your campaign fall into disrepair. However, if you’re ready to whip this operation back into shape, this case study is just what you need. Located in the heart of Greenville, North Carolina, ViQuest Wellness Center and the story of its branded mobile marketing campaign offers a plethora of lessons that can help your organization return to the ranks of SMS health and prosperity. To find out how, let’s spend some time breaking down the particulars of this campaign and what you can do to make your next text outreach program a hit with customers in your area.

Building a Healthy SMS Plan

To start things off, the people in charge of ViQuest decided to revamp the brand’s marketing approach. At the heart of this new program was an emphasis on connecting with residents in the Greenville area that might be interested in joining a local gym via text message. Considering the nature of the modern fitness industry, particularly the rise of major gym chains with locations spanning cities across North America, honing in on these consumers and offering great mobile content made perfect sense for a regional organization trying to stay afloat.

Reaching out

To connect with these customers, ViQuest promoted a simple call-to-action (CTA) regarding gym membership offers during local cable television spots. From here, all that was required of intrigued customers was simply texting the code “VIQUEST” to 74642. In return for participating in this phase of the campaign, ViQuest waived the registration costs that come with a new membership at the gym. As an additional incentive, this fitness center also handed out free after hours passes to those who joined the SMS contact list before January 31.

Evaluating Initial Gains

After the two-month campaign came to a close, the ViQuest team sat down and reviewed the numbers to find out just how effective this campaign really was. In total, 307 people joined the contact list, with over 44 percent of these new gym members opting-in for further text promotions and offers. Considering how hard it can be for local businesses to compete with national brands that boast significantly larger marketing budgets, it’s safe to say that this influx of new members not only helped create a vibrant new SMS audience, but also improved the general health of the ViQuest Wellness Center’s operations.

Going the Extra Mile

If you’re a regular reader of this mobile marketing series, you know most of the time that this is the part where we jump straight into what your business can take away from a particular case study. However, ViQuest’s story doesn’t quite end here. After the original promotion wound down, the ViQuest team re-marketed its SMS database with a second run of text messages. As part of this new phase in the gym’s overall marketing game plan, ViQuest reconnected with users who double opted into the initial list. In return for this action, participating gym members paid no dues until March 1. Additionally, the gym also dropped in a surprise gift to make sure that these customers understood how much the organization appreciated their commitment to the local business.

Lessons Learned

With this multi-tiered marketing approach completely dissected, it’s time to talk about what your brand can learn from ViQuest’s successful SMS campaign. First off, even if your marketing budget doesn’t have the same bottom line as the big national names, that doesn’t mean you can’t compete when it comes to effective text messages. With the right timing, and some solid promotional strategies backing your mobile marketing game plan, you can reach the customers that matter most.

Once you understand this, the next step comes in providing valuable incentives for participating members. If you don’t make it worth their time, don’t expect customers to go out of their way to connect with your brand. Finally, the SMS process is never ending. Just as ViQuest did with its second text message phase, re-marketing and revamping your approach is vital if you plan to build a lasting bond with your audience. When paired with the rest of what you’ve learned, there’s nothing stopping your brand from joining ViQuest as an organization that maintains its SMS health and wellness.

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© 2013 Elite Email Inc. Blog Admin