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Preparing for Black Friday

Beyond • November 14, 2012

Black Friday is one of the most prosperous days of the entire holiday season. Statistics show that this one day generated more than a billion sales in 2010. Each year, retailers look forward to this momentous shopping event because it gives them the opportunity to move old stock, create buzz for new inventory and boost sales by appealing to bargain seeking shoppers. For several marketers, it is a way to get back in the black and ride a wave of momentum into the new year. The hype around this year’s Black Friday hasn’t been any less than the hype for previous years. Both stores offline and servers online will be packed with traffic. If anything, the statistics are an indication that retailers will need to have stepped up their marketing game from day one because in the end preparation will determine the winners and losers of the Black Friday shopping frenzy. Starting Early Is Key Black Friday officially begins at 12:01 AM the morning after Thanksgiving. That hasn’t stopped retailers from getting an early start with their sales and promotional efforts. Retail giant Walmart planned to get a jump last year by kicking off its sales at 10 pm on Thanksgiving evening. A move like this is sure to attract consumers who understand the importance of beating the rush, but good preparation goes beyond putting the deals out there a little early. It’s also about getting an early start with the actual planning. Some of the best marketing campaigns are planned months in advance. Visibility Matters Some consumers prefer to thumb through the pages of sales papers to find Black Friday sales. More and more people are turning to the internet to secure their deals. Even those who are headed out to the crowded malls and retail stores are starting to do the bulk of their research online. The tool most of them rely on to find bargains? Their favorite search engine. Online marketers who want to maximize their visibility and benefit from all the traffic that pours in around Black Friday will apply the early bird mantra to their SEO strategy. The opportunities are there, but websites will need to have secured great rankings before consumers start shopping. Information Reigns Supreme For consumers, a successful Black Friday shopping venture is largely dependent on having all the pertinent details. They need to know what’s on sale, for how long, the exact details of return policies, and so on. They will surely want to get information from, or even share shopping experiences with, their friends on Facebook and Twitter, so expect the internet to play a significant role. Marketers who realize this and capitalize on the opportunity to be a trusted source of information will be in position to clean up big time. Whether it’s providing updates via social or email, it pays to be a valuable informational resource in the consumer’s time of need. Black Friday was huge for the retail industry in 2010. 2011 saw a slight dip in overall purchases, but the economy is showing gradual improvement. Will 2012 be a return to form? We will have to wait for some official numbers to roll out, but with items like new iPhones, iPads and Kindles on the gift list, it has the potential to be one of the best yet. Benchmark has HTML email templates for any occasion! Check them out at the link above or go directly to our Black Friday Templates.

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How to Use Email Marketing to Bring Obscure Topics Together

Beyond • September 11, 2012

Knitting fetishes, bone collecting and tornado chasing are just a few examples of the many weird niche topics out there. Despite their obscurity, these topics have a market comprised of people who dedicate themselves to the niche. There are people out there who share your passion for the odd hobby you have taken a liking to, but how do you connect and bring them together? Email marketing is the right tool for the job, and here is a simple three step plan that will enable you to use it effectively: 1. Define Your Goals What objective are you trying to meet with email marketing? Regardless of what you have planned, defining the goals you want to accomplish is something that must be done before proceeding. This step is so important because it helps determine how you should move forward with your email marketing initiatives. For instance, if you are trying to boost your sales, you know you need to be attracting new prospects and enticing them with offers that compel them to buy. If you are merely looking to share important information your target market must know, it probably makes sense to reach out to the leaders and influencers in your niche to help get the word out. It sounds obvious, but you can’t accomplish anything without knowing what you want to accomplish. 2. Identify Your Audience Who is the audience you are trying to reach with email marketing? Is it consumers, industry experts or other hobbyists? The audience isn’t important for now. What is important is knowing what that audience is looking for. In order to engage them, you must have the answers to questions such as: What do they like? What do they expect? How much do they know about the topic at hand? How often would they like to hear from me? When you know your audience, you have the knowledge necessary to make it easy to focus on their needs, wants and preferences, as opposed to basing your strategy on what you think they want. It is all about targeting your efforts and getting the best possible response. 3. Grow Your Audience After you have defined your goals and identified your audience, there is really only one thing left to do - grow your audience. In order to do this, you need to build up a list of email addresses and names from people who have given you the permission to contact them. The Benchmark Email signup box, which is available in our Free Edition, provides a convenient way to grow your audience by capturing new subscriptions and automatically adding them to your master list. If you can drive people to your website and give them a reason to subscribe, a good signup box will do the rest. No matter how obscure your topic, email marketing can be extremely effective at connecting the people who care about it the most. By reading this post, you have learned that there is plenty that must be done before the actual marketing begins. Overlook these crucial steps and you may find it very difficult to have any success with your efforts. For more tips on growing your email marketing audience, download our free PDF on Creating an Email Marketing Plan.

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Creating Email Marketing Campaigns that Users Want to See

Beyond • July 25, 2012

Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in touch with your audience. It is highly targeted by nature due to its permission-based aspect that generally sees people only signing up and giving you the green light to contact them when they are interested in what you have to offer. Whether or not they remain interested in that offering - well, that’s all up to you. Just look at all the emails in your inbox you’ve been neglecting to read and you will see how some marketers are struggling to keep their subscribers engaged. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take towards creating campaigns your subscribers actually want to open and read. Make It Look Good Very few subscribers are going to look forward to reading your message if it wasn’t visually appealing the first couple of times they encountered it. Looks aren’t everything, but when it comes to email, a tight presentation can carry a message far amongst your audience. When trying to hammer out that visually stunning email campaign, keep in mind that a good look goes beyond a catchy logo and rich graphics. You also need to pay close attention to formatting. Efficient use of simple elements like headlines, bullet points and white space can help make your message much easier to digest for the scanners who are short on time. Maintain Consistency Some users don’t open emails because the marketer got their hopes up, but ended up letting them down. These users are often idle and have one foot out the door. However, your subscribers will gladly open your message and respond to it when they know they can count on it. If you told subscribers to expect to hear from you once a week, make sure your message is in their inbox around the same time every week. Have your campaigns ready to go weeks in advance if you feel it is necessary to keep up. From designs to frequency, consistency is the key to creating campaigns your audience wants to interact with. Be Useful No matter what you do for a living, you can bet that the people you are marketing it to are extremely busy. If the only thing they know you for is trying to sell something in every email you send, they may find your message easy to skip over for something less pushy and more interesting. Your subscribers are pressed for time, so you need to make sure every campaign and every message is worth their while beyond a good deal. Email marketing can help strengthen your bottom line, but driving sales doesn’t have to be the focus 100% of the time. You can garner even more sales in the long run by focusing on being useful in every interaction. If you’re going to devote the time and effort to email marketing, you might as well do it right. While every campaign may not generate the greatest response, you are for more likely to get the results you desire when giving your readers something they can depend on.

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How Mobile Shoppers Use Their Time & Money

Beyond • July 20, 2012

Many experts believe that it is only a matter of time before shopping from a mobile device becomes the norm. The number of mobile shoppers has steadily increased over the last couple of years and slowly but surely, more data is rolling in to give us a better understanding of what drives the purchasing actions of these consumers. According to a study conducted by IAB, just 29% of respondents cited using their mobile device while out and about. This may be shocking news to some, but the findings get more encouraging. 73% of the people in that group use their phones while shopping at stores out in the real world. 34% said they use those devices to look up price info, but an alarming 53% decided not to go through with the purchase after encountering negative reviews and finding better deals elsewhere. IAB’s findings provide insight into the how, why and when consumers are using mobile devices. When digging deeper into some of the latest research, we get an idea of what it may take to get them to go all the way and actually complete the purchase process. An infographic born from a recent study by iYogi revealed that leveraging the freemium model may be the key to getting consumers in general to take action. According to the results, 42% of respondents said they have gone on to buy a particular product after being able to try it free at first. Certain areas perform better than others, as the data showed, but the point is that there are actions companies can take to get those consumers who are on the fence to climb all the way over. Maximizing Your Marketing Times are changing, but when it comes to engaging consumers with products and services, many of the same rules apply. Following are a few ways online marketers can use these findings to accordingly shape their strategies from the mobile arena to beyond.Know Your Customer - As I mentioned earlier, consumers are increasingly making purchases from mobile devices. But as the IAB data showed, most people are more likely to use their devices to aid in the process, as opposed to making actual purchases. What category does your ideal customer fit in? It literally pays to know. Create the Ideal Experience - When you know your ideal customer, you know what it takes to create fitting experiences they are more likely to respond to. For instance, if you know that the bulk of your audience is using iPhone and Android phones, you can design your website and applications to deliver the condensed, touchscreen-friendly experiences those users generally demand. Don’t Waste Time - Today’s consumer demands a seamless shopping experience that respects their time, which most are short on to begin with. Make sure the experiences you deliver take this into account. Requesting too much data on your signup forms or in the shopping cart could serve as a roadblock between converting those who’ve only got a minute to spare. Reward with Value - We live in a world where everyone wants instant gratification. As a marketer, you need to play into this by consistently offering value. I don’t mean give away discounts so big that it cuts into huge chunks of your profits. But whether it is your email campaign, website or mobile app, make sure the experience is worth the time they took to invest. Mass marketing is still highly effective, but the days of targeting consumers with the same robotic message are done – or at least they should be. People want experiences that are as relevant and personalized as possible. Marketers able to deliver are out in front with the oh so important competitive advantage.

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Emailing Cart Abandoners Can Bring Back Real Business

Beyond • July 10, 2012

Not all shoppers make it through the checkout process. Some spend a good amount of time browsing, fill their virtual basket with goodies and then decide to abandon the cart without purchasing the items they selected. Regardless of why it happens, this consumer habit means lost business opportunities and sales when it takes place on your website. Shopping cart abandonment can be a major problem, but as you are about to learn, you have the power to do something about it. Vintage Tub & Bath, an online retailer that sells clawfoot tubs and related bathroom items, realized it had a huge problem on its hands: The inability to get potential shoppers to complete the checkout process. In fact, its shopping cart abandonment rate sat in the ballpark of 80%, an alarmingly high number indicating that the company was failing miserably to capture a substantial amount of revenue. Unable to ignore the issue any longer, it turned to email to rectify the situation. Vintage Tub & Bath deployed an email campaign consisting of three follow-up messages. The campaign was designed to remind abandoners that they had left items behind in their shopping cart. According to Dawn Bobeck, the company’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the emails were delivered in a sequence in order to prevent the customers from feeling overwhelmed. The first message went out 24 hours from the cart being abandoned. A lack of response, which in this case was the cart still being abandoned, was set up as the trigger that automatically delivered the second and third messages two and four days later respectively. As for the results, the Vintage Tub & Bath email campaign was an overwhelming success. Over the months immediately following the initial campaign launch, the company reported an amazing 122% increase in revenue generated from email. This significant increase was attributed to a 26% rise in open rates and a 137% boost in click-through rates. Overall, Bobeck said that Vintage Tub & Bath predicts that it will recover $193,000 from shopping cart abandonment in 2011 alone. The company was so pleased with the results from this campaign, that it is currently looking into adding an opt-in option to abandonment emails to optimize its marketing initiatives. Triggered Email Is the Key You may have noticed that a trigger-based email marketing strategy was vital in Vintage Tub & Bath resolving its high shopping cart abandonment rate. Its campaign serves as proof of how effective this approach can be at recovering sales that would have been lost otherwise if no efforts were made to salvage them. Unfortunately, it appears that most email marketers are dropping the ball on this one. A recent study conducted by Epsilon’s Email Institute focusing on the importance of triggered-based marketing in consumer re-engagement showed that just 30.7% of retailers are leveraging shopping cart abandonment to follow up with consumers who don’t complete their purchases.Combined with Vintage Tub & Bath’s success story, the data from the Email Institute report should be incentive for marketers to go after those abandoners and attempt to minimize as many lost sales as possible. In this case, the worst thing you can do is sit back and do nothing.

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Designing Email Templates: How to Inspire a Younger Audience

Beyond • July 3, 2012

Although email marketing helps senders achieve the common goal of reaching a target audience best suited for their message, no two campaigns are the same. This is mainly because just about every sender is trying to reach a unique and specific audience. The right approach is dependent on your ideal readers. In this post, we will go over some easy ways you can design your email templates to appeal to a younger crowd. Make It Cool I’m going to lay something really heavy on you so brace yourself: the younger generation are drawn to stuff that oozes coolness. In order to get their attention, you must appeal to their senses, meaning you may have to toss some of the conventional design aspects out the window. This is okay, though, because HTML gives you plenty of flexibility to work with, allowing you to incorporate the colors, images and shapes that will enhance the experience for the younger reader. You could also use video to engage them and keep their attention. When attempting to give your email template that perfect touch of coolness, don’t forget to keep your presentation professional. While you want to impress your subscribers, what you don’t want to do is lose sight of your ultimate goal. “Cool” is a subjective term, of course, but in an email template you can take that to mean a design that appeals to the eye and reflects a modern aesthetic. Your newsletters should always look their best, but designing with a younger audience in mind should get your mind working past your usual parameters. Ask yourself if each and every link is absolutely necessary; tighten overly long or jargon-filled phrases; keep your eyes on trending sites to match their sensibilities (and remember that these sensibilities can change from week to week). The overall design trend of the internet seems to be simplification, so if your email has multiple borders, tabs, links all over the place and gigantic images that a busy subscriber might not even display, “you’re doing it wrong.” Keep It Focused They say people these days have short attention spans. If this is true for adults, then the younger crowd must be working with little to no attention span at all. The importance of keeping your email template focused is even more important when communicating with the college demographic or people even younger. You have to keep in mind that some of your young subscribers may be reading your message on their smartphone. If they have one of the latest super devices, they probably could be doing hundreds of other things beside reading your email. Don’t give them a reason to ditch your message by designing a template that lacks focus and distracts the reader. Apply the KISS Principle KISS is a mantra often spoken in the military. What does it mean? “Keep it simple, stupid.” This is the mindset you need to adopt when designing your email templates for a younger audience. Understanding that the young crowd tends to be drawn to cool and fun designs can make it fairly easy to go overboard by incorporating too much technology. While it may be tempting to utilize impressive elements such as AJAX, ASP and Flash, this complicated stuff is best left out of the inbox. By limiting your design to basic HTML, you can ensure that your message both looks and performs its very best. The younger crowd is a viable target audience for most email marketers. These are the buyers of the future and could be your customers of today with the right strategy. Getting them to respond takes far more than a good looking email template, but an appealing design can surely get you off to a heck of a good start.

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6 Tips for Affiliate Email Marketing Campaigns

Beyond • September 15, 2011

While social networks like Facebook and Twitter are taking the affiliate marketing world by storm, there is still nothing as powerful as a solid email newsletter campaign to push your sales through the roof. Here are some things to consider when you are putting together your email campaign: Subject Lines The subject line may be the most important part of your email campaign. Subjects have to be catchy and attention grabbing, without being overly long. In fact, the shorter the title, the better. Remember that the subject of your email is the first thing that your target reader is going to see. Draw them in with a killer subject line and the rest will come easily. The First Third Most people scan promotional emails as opposed to reading each and every line, so it’s important to have the most important (or appealing) information in the first third of your email. Make sure that when they open your newsletter the best content is waiting for them at the top. The better the content, the more likely they are to read the rest of the email. Keep It Short If you have a lot of information you are trying to get across to your readers, it’s best to give that information to them in easy to handle nuggets instead of long paragraphs. Use bullet points to make the content of your newsletter easy to glance over and then link to a more in depth article on your website. Testimonials Testimonials are a fantastic addition to any marketing email. There is no better way to build trust between you and a prospective client than to have a satisfied customer talk about his or her experience dealing with you. There are different types of testimonials that you can use: success stories, reviews, even video testimonials, so make sure to switch it up occasionally. Social Sharing Buttons Want to have your customers help you promote your affiliate business by telling their friends? Easy. Add social sharing buttons to your email newsletter after each article so that your readers can forward the article to everyone in their social network. These buttons are available for nearly every social networking site, and most of them give you the code so you can just copy and paste it into your email template. Study the Results If you are just getting into the affiliate marketing game, you can’t expect to be a big player right away. However, there are certainly things you can do to speed up the process. Google Analytics is a phenomenal tool that every email marketer should use. Google Analytics allows you to track everything from how many people are opening your emails, the time they spend reading your email, to whether or not they go to your web site afterwards. Like most things, in email marketing you learn from your mistakes; Google Analytics just speeds up the process. Email marketing is a great way to increase your long term sales, as well as gain new clients. Be sure to try different things, and get creative. One of the first things you will learn is that what works for one customer won’t necessarily work for another, so stay on your toes, and happy marketing!

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Email Marketing Company Tips: How to Sell Your Email Newsletter

Beyond • August 25, 2011

Your email newsletter is the best way to get in touch with your current subscribers. But how do you convince newcomers to subscribe? Simple. You’ve got to show them that the content that they receive will be worth it. Here are a few tips for infusing some new blood in your subscriber list. Give It to ‘Em Straight There are few things as irritating as signing up for an email newsletter you think you’ll receive once every two weeks - only to find your inbox flooded with new marketing emails daily; emails that you didn&rsqauo;t ask for. Of course, as a business owner, you want the people who sign up for your newsletter to learn about new and discounted products as soon as they become available. But over-sending your email newsletter is not the way to encourage people to buy your products. Instead, make a schedule, let your subscribers know how often they should expect your email and stick to it. Tell Them What They’ll Find Why do people sign up for email newsletters? The answer is simple; they want the content. What better way to persuade people to sign up for your newsletter than to let them know what kind of content they are going to find inside? Is your email newsletter mostly informational, or is it chock full of discounts and coupons? By letting your prospective subscribers know exactly what kind of content you’ll be providing in your newsletter, you’ll be taking the guess work out of the equation and making sure that people are not signing up for something that they don’t want. Give an Example Let’s take it a step further shall we? Why not give your potential subscribers an example of the content that they will be receiving? Choose one article from your most current newsletter and write up a short summary that you will send with your subscription request email. Or better yet, why not give them the whole kit and caboodle? Include a link in your email to your most current newsletter. Don’t just tell them how good the content will be - show them. Archive A first class email newsletter archive of all of your previous campaigns, just for your subscribers, will make opting-in to your newsletter even more attractive. Archive your newsletter as easily searchable web pages and give your subscribers access to all the content from the very first newsletter to the most recent, no matter where they are. Streamline Signup Some people can be weary of signing up for newsletters - they aren’t comfortable giving out too much information to a business that they aren’t familiar with yet. Minimize the information needed to sign up for your newsletter and you’ll find that people are more willing to give your online signup form a shot. Ask for only what is necessary, a name and an email address. If you don’t need their physical address and phone number, then don’t ask for it. An email newsletter is all about communicating value. Let your readers know that you have their interests in mind, that you are trustworthy and they’ll be lining up to opt-in.

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6 Ways to Avoid Having Your Email Marketing Reported as Spam

Beyond • August 11, 2011

Even though social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be used to promote your blog, there are still a lot of bloggers out there who promote their blogs via email. Some might say that when it comes to letting your readers know about new posts and blog related news, email is the way to go. If you do rely on email to promote your blog, you may run the risk of your emails being flagged as spam. Here are some tips on how to keep your email in the inbox. The Double Opt-In Method When someone signs up for your updates, make sure that you send them an email that confirms that they want to receive your campaigns or newsletters. This is called the double opt-in method because people have to click two separate links before they actually start receiving your emails. The Double Op-In method is a great way to protect yourself because it gives you proof of confirmation for everyone that gets your promotional emails. Subject Lines The fastest way to get your email flagged as spam is to have a spammy sounding subject line. Never use all caps in your subject lines and avoid punctuation that you don’t need like the the flu. No one wants to open an email with a subject line that looks like this: ^$$@NEWPOSTCHECKITOUT@$!!&. Keep Updates and Marketing Separate If you decide to start marketing products or promoting sites other than your own, ask your subscribers’ permission first. Just because someone agrees to receive updates about your blog, it doesn’t mean that they would be interested in every project you are involved with. If you are interested in starting a new “marketing/promoting” list, send your current subscribers a description of your new email along with an opt-in link. Stay Away from Purchased Lists Buying an email list from a broker or website, while legal in some cases, should be avoided. A lot of these lists contain dead email addresses, which won’t help your business at all. Even if the addresses are valid, you would be sending an email to someone who didn’t ask for it, which is a sure fire way to end up being called out as a spammer. Email Design If you want your subscribers to stick around, the information you give them in your email should be presented in a professional, aesthetically pleasing way. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are putting your email together. Keep the most important information towards the top of the email. There are a lot of people out there who check their email on their mobile devices or while they are at work, and you don’t want them missing the point of your email because it was buried at the bottom. When it comes to pictures and images, keep it to a minimum. Images are a great way to jazz up your email, but they shouldn’t be the main event. If you stuff your email full of images, it will slow down load time, frustrating your subscribers. And never tip the ratio of images to text in favor of images. Unless you have been explicitly whitelisted by your recipient, your emails will almost certainly be filtered or deleted if you have too many images (or images that are too large) in your campaign. Opt-Out Link Make sure that you include an Opt-Out link in every email that you send and that the link is in plain view, preferably at the top. Of course, you don’t want people to opt out of your emails, but not giving them the option can be frustrating for the subscriber. Remember, it’s their inbox, and they should be able to choose what mail they receive. Giving them the option to gracefully and easily opt out will both boost your open rates and lower your abuse complaints.

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5 Important Tips for Your Email Marketing Poll

Beyond • June 8, 2011

If email marketing is all about making a connection with the people who receive your email, then there is no better addition to your email than a poll. What better way is there to find out what your readers are really looking for than to ask them? When it comes to small business, the more you know about the people you are marketing to, the more successful your business will be. So you want to add a poll to your next email marketing newsletter? Here’s what you should know. It’s All in the Subject Line Email marketing, while seemingly complex, is really very simple to get right. You need to know your audience, you need to give them content that will get them excited and you need to have a killer subject line. Of these three things, nothing is more important than the subject line. If you have a bogus subject line, one that looks too spammy ($$$DEALSDEALSDEALS!!!) or even worse, no subject line at all, your email isn’t going to get opened. If your email isn’t opened you’ve already lost. Pump up your poll in the subject line. Get them excited. If your readers know that taking the poll is in their best interest, they’ll be sure to take it. Set a Realistic Close Date You don’t want your poll to be open forever, but then again, you don’t want to close the poll before everyone who wants to take part can put their two cents in. Use the habits of your readers to your advantage and make sure to give everyone enough time to take part. Give Them Options (but Not Too Many) Make sure to keep the available options for answering the questions in your poll to a minimum. Three seems to be the magic number, four if you include an “other” option. And speaking of that ever popular “other” option, if you choose to include it among the answers to your poll, give the people who take your poll a chance to explain why they chose it. Keep It Short The whole point of an email marketing poll is to let your audience know that you are interested in what they have to say, and to use that to make their experience with your business more efficient and enjoyable. What polls are not meant to be is long and boring. People should have fun taking the poll and it should be over quickly. Keep it short to ensure that people don’t give up on it halfway through. Don’t Forget to Be Polite You already showed your customers that you care about what they think by including a poll in your newsletter. Now take it to the next level. Each and every person who takes your poll should be thanked for their contribution. Even better, give everyone a coupon or discount for products or services. The information you get from the polls will be well worth it and rewarding your customers for taking the poll will only up their loyalty. Remember that email marketing is all about connecting with the customer and proving to them that your company not only offers value but cares about what their customers think. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on your way to increasing sales.

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