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After reading that headline, you’re probably doing a double take. With virtually every blog and Twitter talking head espousing the benefits of getting personal with your text contact list, it might not make a lot of sense. However, there’s definitely a line that’s just waiting to be crossed by unsuspecting brands that don’t know when to put the brakes on the personalization tactics. To help you navigate the tricky landscape surrounding SMS marketing and personalization, let’s take a moment to look at what constitutes going too far in terms of personalization and what you can do to make sure your audience is never turned off when they see your company name in their inboxes.

A Prime Example of Going Too Far

Recently, the organizers over at Manchester’s Parklife in the United Kingdom found out that sometimes trying to make a mark with text messages can backfire in a big way. As part of its awareness campaign for parties starting up after the main Parklife event, the organization shot off a text message from “Mum” reminding the reader to be home for breakfast after the festivities. While this sounds like a cute and creative way of promoting these parties at first glance, some of the sadder parts of real-life quickly turned the campaign sour.

Unfortunately, plenty of the partygoers reacted negatively to the messages based on the fact that losing loved ones – particularly mothers in this case – is simply part of life. For those who no longer have their mothers in their lives, this message turned into a jarring and painful reminder of what they had lost. In some cases, receiving a text from “Mum” literally brought members of the contact list to tears. For those of us that have lost mothers too soon, it’s easy to understand the raw, emotional nature of this reaction.

Understanding the Thought Process

Obviously, this is not where you want to be with your messages moving forward. However, it’s hard to blame the Parklife organizers completely. On paper, it seemed like a smart tactic for breaking the monotony that comes with using a random string of numbers to spearhead your inbox offerings. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this faux pas put a huge damper on the event, leading to a wave of backlash on Twitter and Facebook, as well as culminating in an official apology from the organization. While time will eventually help soothe the wounds caused by this mental misstep, having this shadow hover over your brand, regardless of the intentions behind the process, is not something your brand can afford.

Finding Balance with Smart SMS Tactics

So does this mean you should say goodbye to personalized text messages and go back to the boring, generic staples that flood the rest of your audiences’ inboxes? Absolutely not. If you really want to make a positive impact on your consumers with these SMS offerings, you’ll need to learn to walk the tightrope between personalization overkill and an amount that’s just right. Thankfully, a few key tactics can steer your brand in the right direction while still maintaining a level of familiarity that cuts away unwanted brand anonymity.

First up is finding a replacement for “Mum” and other identifiers that are far too personal. While it might seem a little obvious, going with your company name is the easiest way to build familiarity and make things simple for your audience. This helps break down the barrier of anonymous texting, all while avoiding overstepping certain boundaries. Additionally, cutting out the text slang and abbreviations can also work wonders. In its place, focus on wording that makes your reader feel special, like “exclusive” or “limited.” Letting them know that you’re looking to reward them personally for signing up, while still maintaining a professional tone, is a powerful combo for SMS marketing campaigns.

Protecting Your Brand Now and Into the future

After reading through all of this, it’s clear that protecting your brand via SMS, while still firing off great content, requires a little thought and effort. However, a well-planned and properly personalized campaign can provide a massive boost to your brand in the short and long-term, ensuring that your hard work is well worth the effort. The key point to take away when it comes to SMS messaging, emails, and any other form of contact with your customers is that one of the most powerful things you can do is to simply step back and look at your content from as many perspectives as possible. This way, you can cut down on the risk of accidentally alienating your audience with a message that looked like a winner on the drawing board, but turned into a catastrophe in practice.

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If you’ve read one blog about optimizing you’re marketed emails, it feels like you’ve read them all, right? With so much generic information floating around the web, the talk surrounding optimization has definitely grown a little stale. However, there’s one interesting part of the process that doesn’t seem to actually get much attention – the emergence of preview panes across mail platforms. Considering that this is the first look readers have at what you’re trying to show off, giving some serious attention to how your brand comes across in these little windows definitely makes sense. To help you make a great first impression in the preview pane, here are some smart tips for optimizing your messages when they take center stage on this limited screen real estate.

Put an Emphasis on Building Trust

Considering that the inbox can be a “Wild West” of sorts with so many scams and shady messages floating around, the best way to avoid having your emails hit the virtual trash bin is to make it readily apparent to your reader that the message they’re looking at is legit. This means showing off your brand logo and name prominently in a place that won’t be cut off in either vertical or horizontal preview panes. The top left corner of the message is your best bet if you’re aiming to keep things visible. By sticking to smart formatting like this, you can avoid turning off skeptical readers before they open your email.

Limit the Amount of Copy in the Preview Pane

While it might seem a little odd to skimp on the body of the message, having a solid brick wall of text in the preview pane isn’t the way to go about your email marketing campaign. Not only is this not an attractive way to showcase your deals and offers, it also cuts down on the chances of your audience seeing the really important parts of the message. Before firing off a new round of content, take a moment to think about everything that shows up in the preview pane. If you even have the slightest concern that something in this window might be extraneous, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and pull it. Otherwise, you could be kicking yourself when you realize that the first thing viewers see isn’t an enticing offer, but rather filler content that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

HTML is Your Friend

With 59 percent of users blocking images in their email clients, leaning heavily on external images isn’t a good idea in the preview pane. Sure, these images can help you track open rates, but they are most definitely suited for the body of the message. When possible, coding the portions of the message that popup in the preview pane with HTML is the best way to work around the rise of image suppression. Naturally, this might require a little extra work if you’re trying to keep your logo prominently displayed, but you’ll definitely be happy with results. After all, if you don’t like seeing those annoying red “X’s” that signify a blocked image in your inbox, what makes you think that your audience will like it when it comes to your marketed emails?

Avoid Link Overload

One of the most grievous faux pas your brand can inadvertently slip into is link overload. This means cramming excessive amounts of links into the space that shows up on a horizontal or vertical preview pane. Obviously, you’re going to need links to products, deals, or your homepage somewhere in the message. However, the real problem starts when all of these, and then a few more, end up crowding a preview page and turning it into a cluttered mess. Adding in that plenty of spam messages from shadier brands or scammers come jammed with links as well, doesn’t put your messages in good company that you’d be proud to keep anyways.

Focus on the Call to Action

Finally, the biggest thing your message can do in the preview pane is generate a powerful call to action. At the core of any marketing message that shows up in your audiences’ inboxes is an incentive to do something with your products or services. Whether it is a limited time offer or a handy guide for using these retail items in new and exciting ways, having a clear and concise call to action not only helps streamline your message as a whole, it also keeps your preview focused and enticing for viewers. Before worrying about images, content length, or anything else, making sure you have this fundamental piece of the puzzle in place in the best way to keep your message on track and give your readers all the reason they need to read on after the preview.

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Even with Canada’s housing market showing some serious signs of continued growth, making your way through the real estate industry isn’t exactly a walk in the park. With so many other agents and firms vying for the same limited number of potential new homeowners, doing everything you can to get the upper hand and get your message out to the masses is always a top priority. With this in mind, let’s look at how exactly a smart SMS marketing campaign can breathe new life into your real estate sales efforts.

It’s Never a Bad Thing to Build an Inexpensive, Reusable Database

The focus of any marketing initiative is to find a cost effective, powerful way of making connections with customers – all on a budget that can be pretty tight at times. While other forms of marketing definitely have their perks, few options are as cost effective as connecting via SMS. Aside from taking it easy on a budget, having these numbers in your contact list gives you the chance to incorporate a reusable database of potentially interested buyers into each new home sale, adding lasting value to an approach that already rewards you getting ahead of the curve in the first place.

It’s Hard to Ignore a Text Message

Think back to all the times you called a prospective buyer to talk with them about a new house and they didn’t even bother to pick up. While some agents might just tell you that it’s part of the business and not to take it personally, the reality is that people can’t help but open their messages, giving you that much needed first contact to get your message out and intrigue your audience. In fact, those who receive these messages open it 98 percent of time, proving that at the very least, you can count on your message popping up on the screen and in front of their eyes at least once; which is more than you can say about some of your other marketing options.

SMS Campaigns Fit the Real Estate Cycle Perfectly

At times, closing the deal on house feels like a whirlwind affair. In just a few days, you’re sitting across from the happy new homeowners, signing the papers and looking forward to when your commission check clears the bank. However, plenty of other sales take weeks and weeks to finally wrap up. You probably already know that the key to closing deals with shoppers on the fence is consistent, reliable communication – falling out of contact for even a few days could shut the door permanently on this sale, sending you back to the drawing board for the house in question.

By working in SMS marketing to your approach, you not only have a better chance at making initial contact with your list of interested buyers, but you can also create a steady stream of communications over the following days and weeks. This is primarily due to the fact that mobile users check their phones 150 times a day and rarely spend time away from these devices. As you continue to hammer out the particulars with your potential buyer, having a reliable and consistent channel of communication ensures you never fall off the radar once they open up that first promotional message.

Regardless of Your Business, SMS Marketing is Just Plain Powerful

Perhaps the biggest way SMS marketing can pump up your real estate sales is the same reason that this type of marketing is good for pretty much any business; it is one of the most effective strategies out there. With most campaigns holding opt-out rates that stay below 5 percent, as well as the fact that 70 percent of people like to receive promotional information via text, it is hard to look the other way when the time comes to talk about reaching out via SMS. Of course, building your list does require some legwork, but once you get the ball rolling, there’s no denying the power of going mobile with your marketing.

Beefing up Your Strategy with Smart Tactics

For agencies that already have a similar email campaign underway, getting new numbers for your contact list, and gaining momentum the next time you put a house up on the market, becomes significantly easier. However, simply knowing the how strong this process is, doesn’t mean it automatically sets itself up.  Doing simple things like adding a sign-up sheet at your next open house will have you well on your way to turning these messages into happy customers and a happier bottom line.

In fact, one of the best ways to go the extra mile with your audience is to have a mobile site that showcases all of your listings, while also making it accessible via a simple text code. This system will obviously generate you some pretty hot leads with customers who are clearly interested in your current properties, in addition to the fact that keeping track of their numbers and the keyword used to pull up your text description and mobile site, lets you know what really resonates with customers. With this info in hand, you have all the tools you need to constantly optimize your automated messages. Of course, you’ll still need to ask for permission before firing off additional texts, but considering the interest you’re generating with this tactic, chances are you’ll fair pretty well in this part of the process.

The Final Verdict

At this point, it’s pretty easy to see that SMS messages are a great addition to the marketing strategy you already have in place to help turn vacant houses into new homes for people in your area. For any realtor that’s really looking to make a mark on his or her audience, the choice is simple. With the right tools on your side, as well as the right approach, there’s nothing stopping your agency from growing an eager base of customers who can’t wait to hear from you the next time a beautiful home hits the market.

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In a world of endless marketing blogs, talking heads on Twitter, and a glut of information in general, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the jargon and buzz words. Unfortunately for those who aren’t already in the know with the latest trends and happenings in the marketing world, this can be a major turn-off. To keep you from hitting the brakes on mobile marketing before you ever get rolling, let’s look at some of the essential components of a great campaign. Once you’ve got all of this mastered and start shooting out texts to customers who are ready to put your discounts and coupons to good use, you can put your new found knowledge to work and start tweaking and optimizing your strategy with all of those concepts and tactics that used to look more like a game of Scrabble gone wrong.

Make a Starting Point

Are you even ready to start promoting your brand with mobile messages? This first thing to consider is one that might not make many other blog posts, but it still should on your mind as your learn about mobile marketing. In a lot of ways, creating a starting point impacts all the other steps we’ll cover as you get ready to connect with customers on their smartphones. By gauging just how much of the infrastructure you have in place – mobile landing pages, database tools for tracking customers, etc. – the entire process becomes much easier and way more effective.

Landing Pages Matter

Speaking of landing pages, now is a great time to talk about how important they are to mobile marketing. Basically, you can have the best text message plan in the world that literally makes an impression on every person that opens it up, but if your landing page won’t show up right on their screen, all of that work goes down the drain. A great mobile landing page is different from your regular landing pages because it keeps things simple with minimal graphics and maximum functionality.

While being flashy and having lots of bells and whistles is great for regular forays into Internet retailing, cut all the fluff and keep it to the tools that your customer needs to make a sale. While it might go against your initial thoughts, think about how much you really want massive graphics that bog down load times when you’re trying to cash in a text discount on your coffee break.

First Name Basis

This one might be stepping things up in the complexity department, but having personalized messages is so important when it comes to connecting with users that it should be part of your plan from the start. While you’ve got limited real estate in an SMS message, slipping in a “Brian” here and a “Susan” there goes a long way. Just like your emails, though, don’t go overboard with the name game. If you do, it’s safe to say that you’re moving from savvy marketer territory to coming off as awkward and creepy. If you’ve already got a database for customers or an email list, you’re in great shape to start this part of a smart SMS campaign. If not, ramping up an opt-in list that includes promoting sign-ups in your store and other media – like social networks – can help you get moving.

Are You Getting the Most out of Social Media?

Another big question that needs a solid answer as you prepare to send off text messages is how good are you with social media? While it might not seem like there’s much overlap here, a great mobile marketing plan gets customers interacting with your brand on any channel possible. This includes everything from Facebook to LinkedIn, so you’ll need to be on top of your game.

On your landing pages and even in your texts (if you can fit it in), linking back to your social media pages is a great idea. However, all these likes, comments, and shares won’t do much if you’re not managing the page to its potential. Before you start promoting your social media along with your text messages, make sure you’re not embarrassing yourself with a sub-par page or account.

A Little Help Never Hurts

What’s the best way to wrap everything we’ve covered up in a nice little package and ensure you’re ready to dazzle them with great offers via text message? Enlist the help of a marketing expert or firm. With this kind of support on your side, you can skip the learning curve and get right to connecting with customers on the go. If you’re always on the go yourself, you can definitely use a leg up to get your brand on their screens and in their minds.

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Sometimes we let the discussion on this blog get a little too meta, covering topics and reports that assume you have years of experience in the email marketing business. However, if you’re just looking for something a little more introductory to get your feet wet before taking the plunge into a full-on campaign centered around emailing interested customers, we’ve got you covered. With the help of a great study on the subject, as well as a few other resources that offer some seriously potent insight, you can get up to speed in no time and see just how important email marketing is to your brand awareness.

Content

The first pillar, which also happens to be the most obvious, focuses on what your message actually says to the reader. Of course, shooting off an email that makes you and your customers sound like old pals getting back in touch – all while sneaking in a sales pitch – is easier said than done. Thankfully, there are a few simple tips that can help get your message across and beef up your email content in a big way.

To start, give your readers something they actually want. Is your newsletter just thinly veiled product links and descriptions? Chances are you’re not going to get very far with that kind of approach. Instead, tie your offerings into things that relate to your reader’s daily life if possible. Making things fun and conversational never hurts either – but more on that in just a little bit. Perhaps the biggest way to make great content is to make your message scalable by the viewer. Your audience is just as busy as you are, so make it simple for them and put an emphasis on the big points. From there, they can go the extra step and read a little deeper if you caught their attention.

Personalization

Getting back to that whole conversational thing brings us to the second pillar – personalization. If you can swing this one, expect open rates to jump by 29 percent when compared to the standard mass message approach. Just remember that personalizing your messages and adding a conversational tone can go wrong in a big way if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to avoid coming off like a creep, don’t go overboard with the name dropping. While it might seem like a great idea to have your emails insert the viewer’s name for “X” throughout the message, all you’re doing is making what could be a great newsletter or promo turn into the most awkward email your audience members have ever opened. That’s not a reputation you want attached to your brand no matter how good your prices are.

Segmentation

Last, but not least, is matching up your messages with the right audience at the right time. This process, called segmentation, looks pretty complex at first glance, but is a breeze once you set your mailing list forms up right. Basically, think back to any form you’ve filled out recently online. While it might not have meant much to you to tell the site your gender, location, and any other vanilla info, this stuff goes a long way when splitting up your audience into little groups. Digging a little deeper and asking simple questions related to your business gives you all the knobs and levers you need to push out your various emails to the right screens at the perfect time.

In many ways, you can use this data to make personalizing your emails go beyond “Hi, (insert name here).” Think of it this way; if you sell car parts and ask for the type of vehicle on the subscriber form, you can drop in a little nod to the car by asking how it is in the email. For all the brand diehards out there, asking how the Chevy, Ford, etc. is running to kick off the email adds a nice little touch that can reel them in for the rest of the pitch.

Bringing It All Together

Naturally, these three pillars are just the beginning of email marketing. Just like anything else, once you’ve mastered the basics, there is always more you can add to go the extra mile. To hit the ground running though, you really can’t go wrong by hammering out great, personalized content that segments your audience into manageable, unique groups. From here, the sky’s the limit for where your email marketing campaign can go as you learn to tweak all the moving parts of the process and score a win with your target viewers.

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“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”

We all know it’s easy to get distracted by the millions of things that go on in our daily professional and personal lives that we forget to plan our email marketing & social media strategy. Don’t let that happen this year!

January is the perfect time of year to spend a little bit of time mapping out your strategy for the upcoming calendar year. The act of creating a “content calendar” can make things a lot easier for you in the future and avoid those fun “oh my god, what are we going to do this month” moments.

Your content calendar can cover your email marketing campaigns, social media campaigns, and even offline promotional activities. The nice thing about mapping it out now is that you’ll have one concise strategy for all your marketing activities.

To help with your planning, we have put together a list of the Top US and Canadian holidays for 2013. Holidays are a great way to make your email and social campaigns timely and relevant. It also goes a long way towards making promotions that much more clever.

Saturday, February 2: Groundhog Day
Will spring come early or are we all in for a lot more winter? This somewhat fun tradition still captures media attention and is therefore on people’s minds so it’s a good tie-in for your marketing campaigns.

When To Market: Week of
Email Marketing Idea: Create two offers in your email that hinge on whether the groundhog goes back into it’s burrow or stays out to welcome spring. Whatever happens with the groundhog determines what offer is live.

Thursday, February 14: Valentine’s Day
It’s the holiday of love, cupid and chocolates. It’s also a holiday loved by marketers since this theme is everywhere!

When to Market: Early February through to the day itself
Email Marketing Idea: Brand your emails in red and play on the idea of giving gifts to your loved ones by offering special prices on great gift ideas. Even if your product/services is not usually positioned as something you’d “gift”, now is the time to break out of that mindset for your marketing this month.

Monday, February 18: Presidents Day
A national holiday to celebrate the birthday of George Washington. Whether people celebrate Mr. Washington or not, the key thing to remember is that they are home from work so they have extra time to engage with your emails and social media postings.

When to Market: Week of & Day Of
Email Marketing Idea: Since people are off work for just the day (and ready to buy something!) it’s a good idea to create “today only” special offers. You can even build hype for those special offers the week before to get people excited and ready to act on your deals. If your products are made in America, it’s also a good idea to tout that.

 Sunday, March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
Green beer… need I say more? This day that celebrates the Irish in America may have a religious background, but now it’s celebrated by almost everyone. This holiday also brings about some great imagery that can be used in your marketing materials.

When to Market: Early March
Email Marketing Idea: Brand your emails in green. Create a contest playing on the “Luck of the Irish” where you award prizes or special offers to people who take a certain action such as liking your Facebook page, forwarding your email, purchasing a specific product, etc.

Sunday, March 31: Easter
Although this is a religious holiday, most organizations focus on the lighter side with images of the Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs, and chocolate.

When to Market: Mid-March
Email Marketing Idea: Create a digital Easter egg hunt on your website. Hide an Easter Bunny on one or more pages and then push people to your website from your email and social media channels. If people reply to your email, tweet at you, etc. and find the bunny they can be entered into a contest to win a prize or qualify for special discounts. Sure, these posts may be public which makes the hunt less challenging, but the key is that you’ll have people engaging with you!

Monday, April 1: April Fool’s Day
Let me share a story with you… a couple years ago I showed up to work on April 1 and walked into my office. Instead of my office chair being at my desk, it was replaced with a toilet! I think that summarizes this day of pranks and jokes.

When To Market: Day Of
Email Marketing Idea: This is a day where you can have a lot of fun and go to extremes. There are no rules! You can really go for some shock value with your emails and social posts on this day.

Monday, April 22: Earth Day
We love our planet and today’s the day we really focus on going green to preserve our previous resources.

When to Market: Week Before & Day Of
Email Marketing Ideas: You’re already using email instead of printed flyers, so you’re going green in a big way (without much effort!). Remind people that you did this to help reduce paper waste so they feel like they are supporting a company that does good things. You can also offer to plant a tree for every X number of sales of a certain promotional item. This way you get sales, and mother earth gets more trees!

Sunday, May 12: Mother’s Day
As my mother would say, “mother’s should be celebrated every day”… but this day in particular!

When to Market: Early May
Email Marketing Idea: Encourage people to buy a gift for their mother. If you are shipping the items, give people a cut off date to both create a sense of urgency to make a purchase and to make sure it arrives in time.

Monday, May 20: Victoria Day (Canada)
A holiday in Canada typically called the May 2-4 long weekend that is the unofficial start of the cottage season. Officially it is a holiday in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday.

When to Market: Mid-May
Email Marketing Idea: Since this holiday sort of marks the start of summer, try to pair some special offers with the general summer season. If you sell seasonal products that are really summer-only, now is the time to put those front and center.

Monday, May 27: Memorial Day
A day of remembering the men and women who dies while serving in the US military.

When to Market: Mid-May
Email Marketing Idea: Make sure to thank our troops on this day! You can also offer special discounts to members of the military and their families. This may exclude a large percentage of your customers, but it also sends a nice message about how your organization feels about the people keeping us safe.

Sunday, June 16: Father’s Day
A day to celebrate dad’s everywhere. Since I just became a father last October, I am personally looking forward to my first father’s day.

When to Market: Early June
Email Marketing Idea: If you sell products commonly used by men, this is the holiday for you. Encourage the women/mothers on your mailing list and social media channels to buy gifts for the great men in their lives. Just like mother’s day, give a cut-off day to order by so that you create a sense of urgency and can make sure items arrive in time.

Monday, July 1: Canada Day
OH Canada! Similar to Independence Day in America, this day celebrates Canada’s birthday.

When to Market: End of June
Email Marketing Idea: Theme your email in red & white. Try to find a linkage between your products and celebrations to pair them together for a winning deal.

Thursday, July 4: Independence Day
Today we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Bring on the fireworks!

When to Market: End of June / Beginning of July
Email Marketing Idea: Today is all about being patriotic so brand your emails in some good ol’ red, white and blue. Run special “one day only” discounts and if you’re products are made in America, be sure to emphasize that.

Monday, September 2: Labor Day (USA & Canada)
This federal holiday celebrates the economic and social contribution of workers. More importantly for merchants, it is historically one of largest sale days of the year.

When to Market: Mid-August / Early September
Email Marketing Idea: This is going to be a big spending day for consumers so hold nothing back on your special promotions. Show people that they get the best value when they buy from you!

Monday, October 14: Columbus Day
The anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. History Pop Quiz… what year did that happen in? If you said 1492 then your history teachers are proud of you!

When to Market: Early October
Email Marketing Idea: If you have a traditional physical location for your store, then you can offer special in-store discounts only for those that take the voyage into your store instead of shopping online.

Thursday, October 31: Halloween
Ghost, goblins, vampires and yummy yummy trick-or-treat candy. A marketing mega holiday that is cherished by people of all ages.

When to Market: October
Email Marketing Idea: This is another holiday that is tied with great imagery to put into your emails. Last year we had a customer send out a “bobbing for apples” email. There were 8 apples in the email and each one led to a page on their website with a different special offer. Of course, people could click all the apples, but that type of engagement is to be celebrated.

Monday, November 11: Veteran’s Day (USA) & Remembrance Day (Canada)
A holiday that honors people who have served in the American & Canadian armed services. [Note: Don't confuse this with Memorial Day which remembers those who died while serving.]

When to Market: Early November
Email Marketing Idea: Similar to Memorial Day, it’s a good time to use your emails and social channels to thank everyone in our armed services. You can also offer special discounts to members of the armed services and their families. To expand your potential market, you can include people who are buying a gift for someone in the armed services.

Wednesday, November 27: Start of Chanukah
It’s time for the festival of lights and 8 days of presents.

When to Market: Mid/Late November
Email Marketing Idea: Since this holiday lasts for 8 days, you can offer a discount on 8 different items. To create a sense of urgency you can have each item only be on sale for one specific day or you can have the same in effect up until a certain day and then it expires.

Thursday, November 28: Thanksgiving
This is one of the major holidays of the year in America, often used for family time (and possibly watching some football!).

When to Market: Mid-November
Email Marketing Idea: This is a good opportunity to push for sales prior to the beginning of the December holiday season. If you’re looking to clear out some inventory space in preparation for Christmas, now is the time to offer deep discounts on those items.

Wednesday, December 25: Christmas
The Christmas season begins well before the 25th as Santa Clause shows up in malls around the country and streets become lined with beautiful lights. Get ready for marketing mayhem!

When to Market: Day after Thanksgiving
Email Marketing Idea: T’is the season for daily deal promotions. Having the “12 Days of Christmas Deals” is a great way to send out an email every day with a special offer for 24 hours only.

Tuesday, December 31: New Years Eve
Wow that year went by fast. Here comes 2014! Before you drink too much champagne be sure to pat yourself on the back for all the great marketing you did this year.

When to Market: After Christmas related emails
Email Marketing Idea: It’s time to celebrate as people get caught up in the excitement of New Year’s. Harness that excitement by offering special end of year discounts on items that might not have sold as well as you wanted during the Christmas season. Don’t forget to take this time to wish everyone a happy new year.

One last suggestion is to make sure you have a mailing list signup button/form on your website right away. This way by the time you get to December, you’ve accumulated all sorts of great new contacts on your mailing list and can really boost your email marketing throughout the year! All Elite Email customers can easily generate these buttons & forms from their account.

Happy Marketing!

2013 Email Marketing Content Calendar

 

 

 

Markham, Ontario is knows as “The Silicon Valley of the North” and tomorrow (October 16, 2012) kicks off Small Business Forum 2012.

Our CEO, Robert Burko, is one of the featured panelists for the discussion at 9:00am titled “Maneuvering Through The Marketing Maze, from Plan to Execution”.

The event is open to the public, so if you are in the area, swing by and hopefully walk away with a few good ideas for your business.

The feedback from Robert’s presentation last week at the SMB Exchange in Toronto was amazingly positive and I’m confident tomorrow will be just as good.

The all day event has a great speaker line-up and is sure to help start-ups and businesses looking to grow.

Markham Small Business Forum 2012

 

Earlier today we issued a press release announcing the results of a recent study we did of 1,000 small business owners in North America.

We wanted to get inside the minds of small business owners to see what they were thinking and what some of their focus areas were for 2012.

Prior to diving into the numbers, we are happy to report that the general sentiment from small business owners is that they are optimistic about the year ahead. This is good news and hopefully a strong indicator that the economy is bouncing back to it’s former glory with increased spending, lower unemployment, etc, etc. The sentiment a few years ago was fairly negative, so we’re glad (along with everyone else) to see the tides turning.

As long as the Mayan calendar isn’t right, 2012 will hopefully be a good year for the North American and global economy! :)

You can read the full press release here: Email Marketing and Social Marketing Are Key Focus Areas for Small Businesses in 2012

Here are some of the key highlights:

  • 63% of small businesses plan on increasing their email marketing budget in 2012
  • 58% of small businesses plan on increasing their social media budget in 2012
  • 86% of respondents reported that the ROI from email marketing activities in 2011 “exceeded expectations”
  • 60% of respondents reported that their content strategy on social networks is often driven by the content of their email marketing campaigns.

We also investigated the reasons small businesses decided to adopt email marketing into their marketing mix. In order to qualify as a “recent adopter” the businesses must have started email marketing within the last 3 months. Here are the highlights from that perspective:

  • 81% of small businesses cited the cost benefit over printed flyers as a key reason to shift dollars away from print and towards email
  • 29% cited the environmental benefit and wanting to present their organization as more “eco-friendly”
  • 34% cited the reports & analytics available with email marketing (and the benefit that provides to their ROI) as a reason for switching to email

When asked about the top priority for 2012, the majority of small business owners said their goal was to grow their opt-in mailing list database and increase the numbers of likes/followers on social networks. This way when they broadcast a message, it reaches a larger audience.

 

I’m totally confident that all of you remember the November 1981 issue of Management Review where George T. Doran first used the mnemonic term “SMART” for setting goals. WHAT?! You don’t remember that issue? :) Let me give you the overview…

The idea is that it gives you a framework for creating goals that is as follows:

S = Specific
M = Measureable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant
T = Timely

A valid goal must meet all those criteria. I am a big fan of this framework because I think it provides a good way to ask yourself if the goal(s) you’ve setup are structured properly. After all, if I have the goal of being 6 feet tall, that isn’t particularly a good goal because although it is specific & measureable, it’s not attainable (… and I hear platform shoes are still not in style!).
[Read more @ Wikipedia]

This past weekend I was thinking about this framework while talking to my very good friend Elisha Chesler. She is a talented, passionate and energetic young entrepreneur who owns the Sunshine Learning Center, which is an incredible program that helps children with special needs. (She is also a long time Elite Email client.) She was telling me about all the milestones she’s accomplished in the past few months (…very impressive stuff!), but each time she would list a goal she accomplished, she’d follow it up by saying she wants something more. I truly love the attitude of always wanting ‘more’ and I think shooting for the stars is an excellent plan. But, one of the things I kept saying to her is that you don’t just arrive at those stars you’re shooting for, you need to make a pathway with small measurable goals and celebrate each one of those victories.

This is the same thing we always tell new customers when they are first embarking on email marketing.

Everyone wants to wake up tomorrow and have 100,000+ opt-in mailing list subscribers that are actively engaging with your content, but it just doesn’t happen like that. There is no short-cut and no magic trick for building your mailing list. The process takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it.

Of course, it goes without saying that the bigger your mailing list, the more people you can contact and therefore the more effective your email marketing can be. But, if you are just getting started and have 0 people on your mailing list today, you cannot set the goal of having 100,000 tomorrow. That goal would fail the SMART test (and probably just cause you to be frustrated).

Instead, you need to set short term mailing list growth objectives. How many new contacts do you want to add this month? How many contacts do you want to have at the end of the current quarter? While setting these numbers, you’ll want to choose something that is realistic. Even if your underlying goal is always that you want the biggest number possible, you need to choose something that is attainable.

After you achieve your first goal and your mailing list is starting to get bigger, you can move onto the second goal, then the first goal, etc, etc.

The key is to be patient and trust that over time (with your hard work and effort), you will end up with a really big mailing list. It just won’t happen when you snap your fingers or click your heels three times…. But it will happen!

If you login to your Elite Email account and go to Contacts > More > Get More Contacts, you will find a variety of tools to help you build your mailing list.

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