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How to Use Mass (Email) Marketing to Reach the Individual

Beyond • July 24, 2012

McDonald’s decided to take engagement to a whole new level. The fast food giant put up an interactive billboard in Sweden that allows those passing by to engage in a classic game of Pong tennis via their mobile phones. Coupons for McDonald’s discounts are being rewarded to participants lucky enough to stay alive for 30 seconds. Over the years, companies have employed methods of all sorts to target the masses. The McDonald’s Pong-powered billboard is a more extreme example, but email marketing is a simpler tactic that could work just as well. And while this tool can provide you with convenient access to a large audience, it takes a well crafted targeting strategy to reach the individual subscriber. How Well Do You Know Your Audience? The key to use a mass marketing tool like email effectively is knowing your audience. You may have defined an ideal market, but what about the individuals that make up that market? Who are they? What are they like? Getting to know your audience entails a lot, probably much more than it seems, so to give you a better idea, here is some information that will be good to collect: Age Gender Location Occupation Interests This is simple demographic data that could prove invaluable to your email marketing strategy. Just having these basic details helps you understand much more about the person you are targeting. For example, if an individual or even a group of subscribers indicate that they are only interested in receiving information at the moment, this could prevent you from scaring them off by sending offers. What you know about your audience ultimately dictates your strategy and marketing in general. Or at least it should. Being in the Dark Comes with a Price When it comes to using email marketing to reach the masses, your lack of focus could cost you dearly. There is much standing in between you and your audience, and competition is perhaps the most serious. Not only do you have to worry about marketers from your industry, but every other sender your subscriber has decided to have an email relationship with. Fail to maintain their interest, and they’ll tune you out in a heartbeat because they simply have other options. The consequences of your message falling on deaf ears could be more bounces, unsubscribes and complaints. By narrowing your focus, you can make it easier for your marketing message to stand out and give subscribers a reason to take notice. Get That Data You can start getting to know your audience the moment they sign up. While this information is usually enough to get you started, there is no need to stop there. You can get even more valuable information about your subscribers through occasional surveys and regular two-way interactions. Combine this with your performance data, and you will be that much closer to understanding what your audience truly wants.


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Easy Ways to Refresh Your Email Marketing

Easy Ways to Refresh Your Email Marketing

Beyond • July 11, 2012

Marketing is vital to the longevity of any business. However, if we keep using the exact same approach, things are bound to get stale over time. Change is good and often necessary when considering that you’ve got the threat of competition essentially forcing you to keep up with the ever evolving trends. Even the best game plan needs reloading every now and then, so here are some easy ways to refresh your email marketing strategy: Switch Up Your Design We are often told not to judge a book by its cover, but isn’t that’s what we do more often than not? Why? Because the book with the sturdy hardback cover and brilliant artwork is much more appealing to the eye than the flimsy looking book decorated with nothing but boring text beside it. We tend to do the same thing with email because the message complemented by an equally compelling design is more likely to get read than one presented in long blocks of plaintext. If response rates have been down, bringing them back to a respectable level could be as simple as refreshing your design. Whether it’s built around a holiday or season, a new look just might get some of those disengaged readers to start paying attention to your message again. Try Something New Maybe your email marketing needs a major overhaul. Maybe it just needs a little tweaking. Whatever the case may be, trying something new is never a bad idea. For your business it could be using email to entice subscribers with an incentive program. Or maybe it’s finally rolling out that newsletter you’ve been thinking about to scale back frequency and add more value to your interactions. Whether it’s experimenting with your first drip campaign or dedicating yourself to combine email marketing with other channels, taking a different approach can breath new life into your efforts. Change According to Your Audience Throughout the years, we have seen a number of brands repackage themselves to maintain relevance and adapt with the changing times. In several cases, those rebranding acts were done to keep up with the evolution of the company’s target audience. While you don’t necessarily need to rebrand just to refresh your email marketing, making changes according to your audience is never a bad idea. Are your readers really checking their email on mobile devices, or do most of them still prefer to view messages on their desktop? Find out what it is they truly want before you go making drastic changes they may not be receptive to. The key to refreshing an email marketing strategy is being able to make an honest assessment of your business and what it needs to continue to move in the right direction. You can’t be afraid to adopt a new strategic vision, even when your existing strategy has been working for the most part. Leave your email marketing idle and it could remain stuck in neutral while the competition steadily moves toward the finish line.


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Pair Social Deals with Your Email Marketing

Beyond • July 9, 2012

More and more sales offers, promotions and contests are popping up on the social media networks. For this reason alone, standing out and being unique in your social marketing is now more important than ever. Fortunately, distancing yourself from the crowd is relatively easy when your strategy aims to buck the trend of what has become the norm. This post will provide a few examples of how social media can be used to engage your email audience while keeping your marketing unique in the process. Take Your Efforts Offline Bringing email marketing and social media together to reward your subscribers is great, but keep in mind that there is no golden rulebook stating that your efforts have to be limited entirely to the web. Here is an example of how you can use both channels to pamper your loyal customers offline. Let’s say you are a successful restaurant owner opening up a new location in your area. If so, you could use email to invite those customers to participate in the sweepstakes running on your Facebook page and in turn, give them a chance to win a free meal at your grand opening. This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary marketing tactic, but it can spread like viral wildfire all due to the involvement of the social arena. Get in on the Location Game When we think of social, most of us envision the more conventional sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These outlets have potential, but despite their size and power, they are just mere pieces in a much bigger picture. Social media has spawned a few submarkets, and the one that looks like it has the most potential is geolocation. Something as simple as a free cocktail for checking in at your local sports bar on a site like Foursquare could be the perfect way to show your email subscribers that they are appreciated. The subscriber gets to quench their thirst without paying a penny and you benefit from word of mouth marketing. So while the usual suspects have their place, location-based tools can also be an effective part of your social email integration strategy. Engage Your Audience Any marketer can post a tweet or status update promising a free gift to their audience. While several people would love to get something without having to lift a finger, you’d be surprised at how many would much rather take a specific action in order to redeem the prize at the end of your offer. Adding the stipulations of checking on FourSquare and participating in your Facebook sweepstakes are perfect examples of encouraging your customers to interact as opposed to rewarding them without rewarding yourself. Your audience wants to be engaged, so why not play along? When it comes to integrated communications, email marketing and social media are two of the best tools you can team up. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make this marriage pay off for both you and your audience, all with the added benefit of not coming off like the next bandwagon jumper.


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The 3 Tiers of Opt-In Email Marketing

Beyond • July 6, 2012

As a marketing tool, email holds its own with some of the best around. In fact, it is one of the best. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using it as a promotional method. The right way always starts with fully exercising the opt-in aspect of permission-based email marketing. Which type of opt-in option is right for you, well, that’s another story. To help you decide, let’s take a closer look at the different tiers of opt-in email marketing and see what each kind has to offer. Single Opt-In With the single opt-in, you are pretty much doing just enough to get by, which in this case means you are satisfying one of the most important requirements of CAN-SPAM. Someone visits your website, sees that you are offering a newsletter on a topic that interests them, and sign their name on the virtual dotted line to receive it. You put them on your list, send along a welcome message and catch them the next time you send out your newsletter. In this scenario, you are essentially getting the permission to contact and proceed into the email relationship with the new subscriber in one fell swoop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, but as far as stocking your list with the best prospects or potential customers, it is far from the most reliable method. Double Opt-In In the email marketing world, the double opt-in is considered a best practice (and the one Benchmark Email prefers). Going off the tier explained above, you should be able to see that this option is basically what it sounds like. Instead of taking the everything-in-one-fell-swoop approach after the visitor initially expresses their interest, you send them a follow-up message asking them to reconfirm their interest in the email newsletter that got them to sign up. From there, you add them to your master list, send along your welcome message and proceed with nurturing the email relationship. This simple extra step can go a long way towards improving the overall quality of your list and stocking it full of excited subscribers who are more likely to respond. Soft Opt-In Lastly we have an option not too many email marketers feel comfortable fooling around with - for good reasons. In simple terms, a soft opt-in is a form of temporary consent or permission to contact someone via email. For example, if you meet someone at a convention who doesn’t necessarily want to be on your list, but wants more information about your solution, a soft opt-in would technically allow you to contact them without violating privacy regulations. However, this option has some specifics such as making sure your content is related to the product or service at hand, letting the person know they can stop receiving your communications upon collecting their information and providing a way to opt-out of subsequent mailings. Needless to say, you need to be very thorough when incorporating the soft opt-in into your email marketing efforts. Meeting someone and having them hand you a business card and ask you to email them is a form of consent, to be sure. However, in this case there is a much greater risk of a person forgetting they ever met you or solicited your newsletters. A worst case scenario has them firing back at your email as spamming and endangering your sending reputation. For this reason, it is Benchmark’s stance that this form of opt-in should be avoided. You can strengthen a soft opt-in by sending the reader a Welcome or Verification Email that confirms they wish to receive your correspondence. This transforms a soft opt-in to a confirmed opt-in, and is a much better practice.


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Why Email Marketing Needs the Free Trial Period

Beyond • June 18, 2012

Social and mobile are huge right now, yet email marketing still ranks as one of the best tools to promote just about anything. Times have changed, no doubt, but this medium continues to get plenty of play as a tool for raising awareness, building relationships and even driving revenue. Email marketing has a lot to offer, but just like most internet-based services, you never know what you’re getting when buying something for the first time. Dabbling in online services can be a gamble of sorts as you’re often dealing with intangibles. Because you can never trust the claims of a service provider without having dealt with the company firsthand, a free trial is something you need to start looking for before you make that important investment. Let’s take a look at some more specific reasons why a free trial period is so crucial for email marketing. You Need to Know You’re Making the Right Decision Although we like to toot our own horn from time to time, we will be the first to tell you that despite all its advantages, email marketing is not right for every company or organization. This is mainly because there are so many important factors that must be taken into consideration when making the decision. For instance, you have to think about your target audience and how likely they are to use the internet, particularly email, how this method can be used to complement your existing marketing efforts and whether or not you have the budget to support the ongoing investment. These factors and more deserve careful attention before you even think about rolling out your first campaign. A free email marketing trial period, which usually runs for 30 days, gives you ample time to try out a given service and determine if it is indeed the answer to your needs. Within this timeframe, you figure out how effective the service is at reaching your audience by analyzing the results email makes so easily accessible. In addition, you can determine if the service is worth shelling out money for and, more importantly, if this particular marketing venue is right for you. Everything Needs a Return Policy You know you’re taking a risk when you purchase something labeled “sold as is.” However, you can be taking just as big a gamble when purchasing something without a warranty. You could browse the shelves of a retail store and narrow your options down to two different products offering the same features for the same price, but the one that offers some type of warranty always makes the best choice. Why? Because you can return it, and get a refund if you are not completely satisfied with the performance. The free trial period attached to email marketing is similar to a retail store’s return policy. While you will not be getting any money back, you can experience the service through a test drive and alleviate the associated risks by doing so. And you can take us for a test drive with our free email marketing trial today!


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How to Create Great Social Content with Email & Online Marketing

Beyond • May 29, 2012

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard all about how social media makes a fine companion for your online marketing strategy. It is a topic that has been beaten to death, so let’s not waste space reiterating that. Instead, let’s take a look at how you can leverage the social web to create content that compels your audience to share. Make Your Content Shareable Sure, it sounds simple enough, but how shareable is your content? If you want it to travel, it needs to be overwhelmingly easy and convenient. Sharing is a big part of social media and its success. This channel not only made sharing a breeze, but the trendy thing to do. It is a trend that can benefit any marketer with a web presence, but you have to put yourself in position to benefit. Making your content easily shareable is as simple as including Facebook and Twitter buttons in your email campaigns. If you have a blog, bundle up Digg and Delicious buttons next to your blog posts. While forward-to-a-friend has always been useful, that extra step can take your message that much further. Get the Conversation Going Sprinkling social media buttons and icons in your newsletter is great, but you know what’s even more effective? Convincing your users to actually put them to use. Let your subscribers know you want them to join the conversation on Twitter. Give your blog readers an invitation to join your group on LinkedIn. Here you need to create a dynamite call to action that grabs their attention and explains why they should connect with you on a particular network or share your content. If you want them to take a specific action, you have to be specific. Don’t expect the buttons to do all the work. Integrate Your Marketing Channels Having an integrated marketing strategy is becoming more important as consumers continue to move across multiple channels. Wherever your audience is interacting is where you need to be. Why leave your special offers or timely updates chained in the email domain when they can be making an even greater impact in your social communities? Maybe the blog post that got so many readers talking can generate even more chatter via email. An integrated marketing strategy will increase your exposure and give your message that extended mileage it needs to maximize its potential. Yes, you heard it here first: email marketing is fabulous. Be Human in Your Communications Maintaining a human tone in your communications can be more difficult than it sounds. We spend so much time trying to appease search engines and crunching numbers that it’s often easy to forget that we’re actually catering to people. Unless you have a robot or piece of software doing your copywriting, your tone should always come off as friendly, personal and approachable. From the email arena to the online communities, this is what the social era of marketing is all about.


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Twitter Fighting Spammers in Court

Beyond • May 17, 2012

There are always downsides to success, even when that success is built on a web-based platform like Twitter. The mini-blogging site is growing rapidly, but as it continues to grow, it becomes a more attractive medium for the internet’s greatest nuisance - spam. Twitter has been a huge target of the spam community for a while now, but the company is finally saying no more. Twitter Strikes Back Last month, Twitter filed a lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court against numerous companies it claims are responsible for most of the spam on the site. These companies are said to be the sources providing the offenders with the tools they need to carry out their nagging deeds. The spamming tools mentioned in the suit are TweetBuddy, TweetAdder and TweetAttacks. Ironically, these are the same tools some brands are using to drive their Twitter marketing campaigns. TweetAttacks, for example, is a fully automated tool designed to help brands obtain more followers, faster. It provides a streamlined interface that allows users to perform targeted searches, manage multiple accounts and analyze data. TweetAttacks is a similar tool, offering automatic tweeting, direct messaging and many of the grueling aspects of a Twitter marketing campaign. Though effective, these third-party applications are perfectly suited for spammers looking to take the easy route and flood the network with advertising content. Twitter is also aiming its spam cleaning initiative at a couple of individuals. James Lucero, the name connected to Justinlover.info, is reportedly being pursued for falsely promising to have teen pop sensation Justin Bieber follow fans on Twitter. The company is going after Garland Harris as well, who has been connected to Troption.com, an online payment system that has built its own small digital economy around the use of credits. Hit ‘em Where It Hurts Twitter is hoping that by cutting off the companies behind the bulk of the spam, other would-be spammers will get the message and back off. This may be considered optimistic under ordinary circumstances, but the involvement of the court system obviously makes it an entirely different situation. According to Twitter, it has had to spend more than $700,000 on spam fighting measures. The company blames the defendants for having to take these measures, and is thus seeking monetary damages. Filing a lawsuit against the parties it deems as the biggest offenders is not the only action Twitter is taking to weed out spam on its platform. The social network is also introducing a plethora of new tools to keep spammers at bay. Shortly before filing the suit, Twitter engineers released new site-wide measures to suspend mention spam. In addition, the company has decided to use t.co, its link shortening service, to analyze tweets and determine if their links are directing users to sites harboring malicious content. And as an added measure, it is asking users to step up to report and block the spammers they encounter on the site. Apparently Twitter is more serious than ever about eliminating spam and creating a safe environment for its users. Back in January, it acquired Dasient, a Sunnyvale, California-based firm that specializes in protecting websites from malware and other security threats. The company says the acquisition will play a significant role in its plans of a providing a safer, spam-free experience on Twitter. There are many factors that led to the hard fall of MySpace, but the overabundance of spam-like behavior was undoubtedly one of the biggest factors of all. Instead of sitting back and doing nothing, Twitter is grabbing this bull by the horns and trying to get things under wraps before its reputation takes too big a hit.


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Communication Tips for Business Leaders

Beyond • April 27, 2012

Most managers and supervisors would probably agree that their job is a heck of a lot easier when employees are on the ball. It is when those workers are restless and unhappy that things become exponentially more difficult. When the wheels start to fall off, the source of the problem can usually be traced back to a lapse in communication. There is no way around it. In order to be a great leader, one must also be a great communicator. Here are a few solid tips bosses can use to improve their communication skills and, at the same time, bolster productivity in the workplace. Personalize Your Approach Personalization is not only a powerful marketing technique. It can also be an effective tool for sharpening your communication skills. Some company leaders are of the mindset that work and friendship do not mix when it comes to bosses and employees. No one is saying that you have to treat staff to a night on the town or even befriend them, but if you don’t take the time to establish relationships and get to know your team on a personal level, your message may never fully get through to them. Be Willing to Listen As a manager, supervisor or other leadership authority, you probably spend a good portion of your day listening to what the people around you have to say. But are you really listening? Being a great communicator is much more than talking to people in a nice, friendly tone. It calls for keeping an ear open and sometimes sitting there and shutting up. We all have to start somewhere, and more often than not the first step in mastering the art of employee communications is simply knowing how to actively listen. Know Your Stuff Sure, you were lucky enough to secure that leadership role, but how well do you really know the position? Hopefully you know it inside and out because your degree of knowledge will ultimately determine how effective you are at communicating with employees. You can make all the threats and stern faces you want, but if you don’t know what you’re talking about, very few, if any, employees will take you seriously. No matter how good you are at it, you can only fake your expertise for so long. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to show and prove. Let Go of That Ego As a leader, one of the worst things you can do is allow your ego to grow bigger than the company itself. You can get a much better response from your team when you check that ego at the door and show a little compassion. Of course you don’t want to be the pushover who falls for anything, but leaders who are able to incorporate empathy in their communications have a greater chance of earning the trust and respect of their subordinates. Don’t Beat around the Bush Whether it involves dealing with employees, partners or customers, clarity will always be one of the most important elements of effective communications. You can’t afford to pussyfoot around any issues. Time is of the essence. When you know for a fact that you are communicating clearly, there is no confusion, so all excuses go directly out the window. Besides, you wouldn’t want anyone to waste your time with fluff talk, so why waste the time of your employees when productivity is on the line? Simply brushing up on your communication skills can ensure that you receive a more dedicated effort from your workers. Is there anything we missed here? Feel free to share a tip or two in the comments.


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How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Beyond • April 12, 2012

Despite not getting the attention some loyal fans feel it rightfully deserves, LinkedIn is quietly rolling along as one of best online marketing platforms for professionals. The site recently surpassed the impressive milestone of 150 million users, which is another sign that it is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the social arena. Is your LinkedIn profile the best it could be? If you’re like many busy professionals out there, it could probably use a tune-up. Here are some simple things you can do to tighten up your LinkedIn profile: Use Your Best Photos One of the easiest things you can do to improve your LinkedIn profile is put up a good picture. What? You say you already have a photo? That’s cool, but is it a good one? Hopefully so, because the photo you choose can hurt you just as much as it helps you. For example, that picture of the slimmer, trimmer you of 10 years ago may represent you looking your best, but what happens when you land that job interview or secure that face-to-face meeting with a potential client? Maybe it’s no big deal at all - or maybe it makes you come off as a deceptive individual who can’t be trusted. Be Honest It is common for people to pretend to be someone else online. The anonymity aspect of the internet makes it far too easy. Despite how common it may be, this is something you want to avoid when it comes to your LinkedIn profile. This goes for little white lies as well. So you don’t really have a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing? This is the internet. No one will find out. Maybe you’re right, or maybe you’ll have to own up and verify your claims. You can pad your LinkedIn profile with all sorts of accolades, but what happens when you can’t produce? Take Advantages of Apps The LinkedIn profile has more than enough sections to play with, but there are also quite a few extra perks you incorporate for added value. For example, by using some of the available apps, you can give your profile functionality that ranges from slideshow presentations to WordPress integration. The LinkedIn platform certainly benefits developers, but you don’t need programming skills to benefit from these extras. Whether it is showcasing your work with Portfolio Display or sharing documents with Box.net Files, all apps can be added in a single click. Complete It The LinkedIn profile is pretty extensive and new sections seem to be added on a regular basis. With that said, you want to make sure you get as close to 100% complete as you possibly can. The more complete it is, the better you look to the potential employers, clients or partners you want to connect with on LinkedIn. In the process of completing your profile, keep in mind that while you want to use keywords to enhance search value, you don’t want to go overboard by using too many. Aside from staying on Google’s good side, keeping your SEO touches light will make your profile look more appealing to human visitors, which is who you are trying to attract. As a professional navigating the social media space, the profile is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. This, along with your content is what will attract outsiders and encourage them to connect. LinkedIn may not necessarily have the social appeal of Facebook or Twitter, but it can be just as and even more valuable on the networking side when used correctly. Creating a killer profile is half the battle.


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How Employers and Employees Can Improve the American Economy

Beyond • April 4, 2012

Slowly but surely, the U.S. economy is climbing its way out of the dumps. This is not just a sideline observation. Americans are starting to see it, too. New research from Bloomberg showed that the percentage of Americans confident in where the economy is headed is at its highest since 2004. More jobs are being created and, as a result, the dreaded nationwide unemployment rate continues to drop. From December 2011 to February 2012, U.S. employers added 734,000 jobs, the most activity recorded in nearly six years. From small to large, companies are making a difference, and with the aid of the job seeking population they can continue to help get the economy back on track. Fuel the Local Job Scene (Employers) Employers and consumers shouldn’t depend too much on Washington for economic change; the bulk of their efforts should be focused on the local community. Employment is a key factor in the condition of the economy on both a local and national level. For instance, when the job scene is flourishing, things are generally in good shape across the board. When unemployment is high, things are stagnant. Companies are in a position to provide a boost for their local economy, and one of the most effective ways to do it is to fuel the job scene by adding more employees to their staff. Spend Money in the Community (Employees) If it’s one thing we have really noticed during this economic slump, it is that consumers tend to spend a lot less when times are tough. Sure, the splurging on sports, entertainment and other luxuries never seems to stop, but several people have committed to buckling down and limiting their spending to the essentials of food, shelter and bills. Even consumers on the tightest of budgets can help stimulate the economy by making sure they spend the bulk of their money in the community. Keeping your purchases local supports the small businesses in your area who can in turn pour their resources back into the neighborhoods. Reward with Fair Pay (Employers) Being able to earn a steady paycheck is all many consumers can ask for in this rough economic climate. However, it doesn’t take a degree in econometrics to know that employees can do more when they are being paid more. They can make sure they have reliable transportation to and from work, start paying down existing debt and improve their overall health. This could set off a chain reaction that results in more local financial institutions picking up their recruitment efforts and even being more generous with financing. Next, consumers are spending more of their money in the community, making larger purchases, and strengthening the framework of the local economy. Employers and employees can play a major role in getting the economy on a faster road to recovery, and it all starts with companies stepping up and being leaders in their communities. Still, employers should not increase their staff and reward employees solely for the sake of stimulating the economy. Making moves out of desire could backfire in a big way, leaving companies overstaffed, strained of resources and still failing to meet production goals. Whether it’s hiring more employees, beefing up incentive plans or sponsoring local causes, companies should allow their stimulus strategies to be driven by essentials that factor into their business. Company growth and customer demand are two good examples of reasons to push forward. In the right situation, the initiative of local business leaders creates opportunities all can enjoy.


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