Series Posts: Beyond

We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

Beyond • February 8, 2019

Rodney Couch doesn\'t just have the typical story of going from the dishwasher in a restaurant to running the whole place. He worked his way from the ground up and found a way to do things differently in the service industry. Now, with transparency on their side, his company Provider is disrupting the contract foodservice industry. Trust is not something easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors. People are very suspect. That\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers. We need to earn their trust and that doesn\'t happen overnight. It can happen, and when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship. If you prefer to read, the transcript is posted below: 00:14 Andy Shore: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Heart of Business. I\'m Andy Shore, here, as always, is my trusted co-host, Daniel Miller. 00:19 Daniel Miller: Hello everybody. 00:20 AS: And we have an awesome guest for you today. His name is Rodney Couch, and he is the founder and CEO of several restaurants, contract food service, all sorts of stuff. We did it during our lunch break and I know I was ready to go eat afterwards. We sampled some of their restaurants and they\'re quite good. 00:42 DM: Very, very good. 00:43 AS: And he\'s got a great story and they\'re doing some fun stuff and disrupting the industry. So, we were excited to talk to him. Before we get started, I wanna remind everybody about the Benchmark Starter Plan. For up to 2,000 of your contacts, you do your email marketing totally free, let you get started, start sending those first emails, start building those relationships with those subscribers. Check it out, benchmarkemail.com. Let\'s get rolling. 01:06 AS: So, how you doing today, Rodney? 01:08 Rodney Couch: I\'m great, thank you. And yourself? 01:10 AS: Oh, we\'re doing good, doing good. We\'re recording on a Friday, and happy that that\'s finally here, it\'s been a long week. But we\'ve got you here and we\'re excited to talk to you and hear more about everything you do. So, you\'re the CEO and founder of Preferred Hospitality, can you tell us a little bit about that company? 01:30 RC: Sure, yeah. We started our business back in 1989 with the seafood restaurant called Market Broiler and developed a number of those retail brands across the State of California. We\'ve also started a contract food service division, where we\'ve been serving other clients in mostly the educational sector, with some government and schools and others. And so, that business has grown over the years. And then we also have a chain, or involved in a chain of restaurants called Blue Water Grill where I\'m a general partner and we have eight restaurants throughout Southern California under that brand, mostly at water locations. 02:24 AS: Very cool. And where did you get started in the food service industry? [chuckle] 02:29 RC: Well, I started at the ripe old age of 15 and a half. Back in those days you could get a motorcycle license and get a permit at school that would allow you to work. And so, I took my first job as a dishwasher at a group called Lord Charlies, which was part of the C&C organization. And I really enjoyed working in the restaurant environment, it was much like in athletics, very much a team style environment, and so it just stuck. I stayed in the restaurant business my entire career. 03:14 DM: That\'s great. What do you think are some of the best qualities that one can get from working in the restaurant industry? 03:23 RC: Well, it\'s one of those things that you don\'t get taught in school. In today\'s public school system, most of what you learn is through reading and memorization. And actually in the work environment, particularly in restaurants, what you learn is team or collaboration in solving problems and working together. And that\'s something that, I think, most athletes enjoy. There\'s no one in team, there\'s just the group as a whole that participates to achieve high-end results. And as a leader, that\'s mostly what we do as leaders is organize teams to strategize to best deliver a customer experience, and not something that one person can do in a restaurant or a contract food service environment. We really need to operate with team to get results. 04:28 DM: I worked myself in the restaurant business for many years, and when I first got started at a very young age I never really thought what I could really learn from this and how that can help me later on in life. Going in there I\'m like, \"Oh, I got this job and I gotta wash dishes and clean floors and serve people.\" But like you say, the valuable lessons that that can teach you to work in a team, to be efficient, customer first, there\'s no other place that the customer is first more like in the restaurant business. You screw something up there, they\'re coming to your place to have an experience. So, yeah, I value a lot of what you say about... There\'s a lot of team building in the restaurant business itself. 05:15 RC: I read a restaurant staff from the Restaurant Association that reported that over 50% of the citizens in this country have worked in a restaurant at one point in time or another. And I think that really bodes well for the hospitality that is important in every business. Customer service is essential no matter what type of business you\'re in. I think most of us cut our teeth in the restaurant business, which is the epitome of the intimate fellowship with other people. Sharing a meal is something that we\'ve been doing as Americans for a long time. 05:54 AS: Yeah, absolutely, as people continue to get lost in their phones, that opportunity for social interaction and learning those skills is important. But in prepping for the episode and doing some research, what about that experience you had gained, made you believe that it was possible to go out on your own? 06:14 RC: C&C Organization was where I first cut my teeth, and I was in [06:21] ____. But I went on from there and worked for a number of other restaurant groups, including Red Baron and Taco Bell, a couple others, but I did work for a company called Seafood Broiler, where right out of high school, I was hired in the... And we grew that restaurant group from six restaurants when I joined, to, I think, 32, and that\'s the company that in fact, we did sell to Red Lobster. And during that time... You know, I mean I love my job, I was recognized as one of the the best leaders in the organization, and never thought twice about changing companies or moving on. 07:09 RC: But when the company decided to sell, ACCOR sold to Red Lobster, and it was kind of a turning point for me, where either I could, A, start over and prove myself to the new management team that was operating the restaurants, or it was an opportunity to start fresh and not face that threat again of having somebody buy out the group. And so, the decision was quite clear at the time and so I started looking for opportunities to open my first restaurant, drew up a business plan, raised the capital, and what can I say, that the rest is history. I was fortunate enough that the first restaurant I opened was a success, and that was in October 19th of 1989 and that restaurant is still successful to this day. 08:08 DM: Yeah, that\'s amazing. So just to kind of get a timeframe, that was right around 1988 or so? 08:20 RC: It was October of 1989. October 19th, 1989 was our first day of operations at Market Broiler in Riverside. 08:28 DM: Very interesting. And out of curiosity, has much changed in regards to how you define and set up a location for a restaurant, its menu? For some of our listeners here, that may be wanting to open a restaurant, what\'s been some of the changes from when you\'ve done that, to now, of what it really takes to start a restaurant? 08:57 RC: That\'s funny that you ask that question. A lot\'s changed. 09:02 AS: I\'m sure. 09:02 RC: Simultaneously, some things never change. What doesn\'t change is the value proposition of what a restaurant offers. The ambience, the quality of the food, the service, the cleanliness of the restaurant, the entire value proposition. When it gets to the point of reaching an art, and that\'s when the culinary experience is at its best. People know a great value when they see it. And they through word-of-mouth, flock to a restaurant that provides those things. And typically my experience has been, is when you do a good job, there\'s typically a margin there. 09:54 RC: On the other hand, what\'s changed is the economy of restaurants. And I think the biggest change that I\'ve seen in my career is the moving away of full service, or full service casual restaurants or full service restaurants at large and the shrinking of that marketplace, and the movement towards fast casual restaurants, and the reason is, one is price, it\'s a lot less expensive to operate and the prices at fast casual restaurants that don\'t have full service is more of a value. But second, the hurrying of America, everybody is so busy. The convenience of getting better quality food than you would get in fast food in these fast casual restaurants has really caused an explosion in America of these type of restaurants. 10:57 AS: Yeah. And you\'d add in the Uber Eats and all that, that you can get it delivered to your house while you\'re driving on the way home, it\'s nuts, it really changes the dynamic of the customer and the restaurant experience. 11:11 DM: Yeah, what advice could you give on staying on top of those trends, as Yelp comes into the fold and social media, and all that stuff that plays a role in any businesses, but especially in the food service industry? 11:25 RC: Without speaking to it specifically, I would say that any leader needs to be looking at organizational change as something that they have to accept and adopt. Every organization is constantly changing and the restaurant industry is no exception to that. You have to adopt changes and stay relevant, and if you don\'t, you\'re out of business. 11:55 DM: Yeah, absolutely. And I wanna kinda shift gears a little bit and talk more about provider, \'cause in our research and heard a little bit about what you guys are doing there. I mean, my experience in college, I remember my parents buying me a food plan and going to the cafeteria and they\'d get no refund at the end of the year if I didn\'t use all of the plan. So we\'ve been going to the convenience store that you can use your meal plan for and loading up on cases of water and Gatorade and snacks, and all sorts of things. And there is a McDonald\'s you could use it for that would just be treating friends to food because like I said, it wasn\'t going back to my parents or anything, or who knows where that money was going? And what you guys are doing with your contract food service operation sounds like it\'s looking to change all that. 12:52 RC: Yeah. The Contract Food Service Division was something that I tripped into, if you will. I was a member of the board of directors of a large church in the Riverside market, and there was a movement in the mega church movement to incorporate food service. And so my pastor asked me, \"Hey would you consider running the food service operation here and leading it?\" My first response was, \"No, that\'s not why I go to church, to work. I go to church to worship.\" But after I thought about it, I was really convicted. If not you Rodney, then who? And so I decided that I would lead the charge, and that... But it was important to me to memorialize the contractual agreement in which we were more of a steward over the program as opposed to a contractor. And you might think that that\'s a subtle difference, but to me it\'s not subtle at all. I don\'t think that universities or businesses should be bifurcating the responsibility and letting a contractor determine food prices, food quality, service, operating hours, all of those things that are important; aesthetics, to a well-run food service operation. 14:29 RC: So what I did that was a little bit disruptive is I organized a contract where in collaboration with the leader of this particular church, we, together chose and decided on, what was best practices for that particular business? And things worked out fairly well. We were earning a fee for doing what we know how to do, which is to, well, run restaurants. And the clients that we were serving were getting first class, best of breed restaurant practices. And so, that morphed into a collegiate account called Cal Baptist University, and we were brought on to alter the trajectory of the current food service that was operated by one of the big contract food service companies in America, Sodexo. And so they hired us and I basically deployed the same model for them, and we\'ve seen, over the last 15 years, this university has grown from less than 2000 folks on campus to over 10,000 folks on campus. And the food service budget is 15 times what it was, instead of operating one outlet, we\'re operating nine outlets with three additional outlets coming online in the next year, year and a half. 16:05 RC: And so it\'s just really been an exciting time for me because I get to exercise my gifts and hospitality in a way that helps strategically the university accomplish its long-term goals of attraction of new students and retention of students. And we were fortunate enough this year and in the last few years, to be rated second best in California and I think seventh or eighth best in the country for the type of program that we\'re operating. And all that with the university really controlling the cost of what program they wanna offer. And that\'s just been exciting to be able to serve them and accomplish the things that we\'ve accomplished together, has just been very rewarding for me. 17:02 AS: So to go from zero to hero for an industry that seems like it\'s already pretty well established, what are some of the big differences that your program has versus the others? 17:19 RC: Well, I think one of the differences is clearly the perspective that we bring to large contract food service accounts. In retail, it\'s every guest every time. In the contract arena, that sentiment is not always every guest every time. And so, bringing this retail mentality of just doing a great job with each and every guest, and you\'re only as good as that last meal that you serve, that\'s really structurally helped us in the contract food service arena, because typically in the contract arena, it\'s not operated to the degree that we operate in the retail sector. I think that\'s one of the big differentials for us, is just the level of hospitality service quality that we serve to each and every guest in the contract business. 18:24 DM: That\'s great. And I\'m sure going into this new arena with provider has helped in the other side of the business too, you flex muscles a little differently. Maybe even just in the relationships you have with your vendors. I\'m sure it\'s helped you grow everything just using like I said, flexing new muscles and thinking about things from a slightly different perspective. 18:48 RC: And that\'s probably another point of differentiation. What we\'ve gleaned in this business is that the competitors that we operate with, in the contract arena, they\'re certainly not as transparent with the financial information as our model has proven to be. And so there\'s a lot of learning that takes place with our clients, in terms of what is best practices, what is your actual food cost, what are labor costs? We manage those things in the retail environment because we must, in order to be successful, we have to keep control over each and every cost of operating a restaurant, \'cause there\'s just... There\'s not that much margin in restaurants. 19:44 RC: So when we activate those costs in the contract arena, it delivers the same type of results that we deliver in the retail sector. But again, one of those differences is that not all the large contractors disclose what their real costs are to their clients. So we found that in meeting with new clients, oftentimes the most negotiated part of the discussion is about price. We try to take price out of the equation by building a contract that gives us what we call our stewardship management fee, and then by sharing with 100% traceability and transparency what the costs are, the risk is taken out in regards to price. So we spend majority of our time with our clients talking about best practices, how to achieve strategic results, as opposed to incessantly negotiating price each and every day we serve them. 20:55 DM: Yeah, I think transparency really is one of the strongest tools businesses can have and it\'s way underused because the world we live in today with social media, phone chat, email, they have so much access to your business, for brands to be transparent upfront and with their customers, helps build that trust that is what gets you loyal customers. 21:16 AS: Yeah, I\'ve been reading a lot about how businesses can clarify their company message and how to be customer-centric, and the two main things that they do focus on is people buy not what they think is the best, but what they understand the best, that is gonna solve their problem. So there may be two competing services, one works way better, but the other one explains it better, the person is more likely to buy that one, \'cause they clearly understand what they\'re getting into, the value proposition cost and so forth. And the other main thing was, people don\'t really worry about price, what they\'re worried about is being played. So it seems like you guys have the perfect recipe of setting the customer upfront, being transparent, clear. And by doing that, that shows the success that you\'re having. So, yeah. Congratulations. That\'s awesome. 22:11 RC: Well, thanks. Trust is not something that\'s easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. We\'re a fallen people and so none of us are perfect and so many of us have been abused and taken advantage of, and it\'s certainly like that in the business environment. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors, and so people are very suspect. So that\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers, is that we needed to earn, earn their trust, and that doesn\'t happen overnight, but it can happen. And when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship, all strategically shooting for goals that your client has, in regards to their overall business and their core competence. And while as stewards, we use our core competence to deliver the type of program that best suits their needs. 23:26 AS: Yeah, definitely. And so what\'s next for you, guys? Is it more restaurants and expansion and getting more schools for the contract food service? Is there bigger ideas in the works? 23:38 RC: No, I think it\'s stay on the continuum that we\'re on, operate where we operate best, which is in the hospitality sector, certainly, we want to grow both the retail and contract food service components. We think that it\'s really important to have both. We like cutting the teeth of our leadership in the retail sector, and then moving those leaders into the contract food service arena, where each and every guest experience is extremely important, that\'s working really well for us, and I think it\'s worked for quite a few contract food service companies historically, some of the best have been incubated in the retail sector, where every meal, every time is critical. 24:33 AS: Yeah. I think that\'s great. You guys are clearly on to something and it\'s working, so congratulations and keep up the good work. Wanna thank you for spending time to talk with us today. 24:45 RC: Well, thanks a lot for your time, that was fun. 24:47 AS: Thanks everyone for listening and we\'ll catch you next time, bye guys.


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6 Email Trends In 2019 No One Is Talking About

6 Email Trends In 2019 No One Is Talking About

Beyond • January 4, 2019

We’ve already come a long way since the beginning days of emails. Customers are starting to perceive branded emails as not so much a nuisance, but a chance to learn more about their favorite companies and the industry overall, as well as an opportunity to read content that actually interests them. As we head into 2019, brands will be working towards improving their emails in all sorts of ways, such as using Gifs and the continuation of eye-grabbing subject lines. While these are a couple of the more common themes we’ll see in the upcoming year, here are 7 email trends to look for in 2019 that not as many people are talking about. Implementing Artificial Intelligence Artificial Intelligence is taking over. Don’t worry, not in a catastrophic I, Robot kind of way, but certainly within our digital marketing efforts. Email is certainly one avenue that will be seeing some new, revolutionary artificial intelligence measures being put forward. While the main reason for some businesses, particularly smaller ones, not having put AI into their emails is due to the cost, many companies are starting to invest in artificial intelligence for their marketing. Here are the ways in which AI will be involved with email in 2019 Coming up with subject lines and images Customize content for an individual user by looking at past interactions with other emails Estimating when users may unsubscribe to emails Provide additional insights on engagement and look for potential solutions to issues Automation: Increasing Segmentation It is not a secret that highly personalized and segmented emails do better than those that are not. According to HubSpot, adding personalization elements to your subject lines (such as city and name) will increase the open rate by 20%. Going further, that same HubSpot article cited that emails that are segmented and targeted account for roughly 58 percent of all earnings. The fact of the matter is that email marketing is becoming more intricate, and in 2019, you can anticipate more and more companies working towards automating the segmentation Here are the ways in which Automation will be used in email for 2019 Keeping track of open rates for specific customers and optimize by cutting out those who do not engage in with emails Looking at which content leads to website traffic from emails Curate nurture emails that to push customers towards engagement Less Hard Selling We are shifting further and further away from the ‘hard sell’ in emails, and in 2019 we will continue to see businesses move away from this approach. And it couldn’t have come sooner enough. Hard sell emails are rarely successful, and if you can provide value to your subscribers and get them to not only open but look forward to your emails, the sales will come naturally. Here are the ways in which less hard selling content will help with emails in 2019: Less unsubscribes from your customers Reduce the feeling of spammy emails JetBlue spiced up their email marketing by avoiding hard sells and instead incorporating an ‘anniversary email’ that highlights the positives of the relationship between JetBlue and their consumers. More Storytelling in Content So, if there is going to be less hard sell content on emails, what will be seeing more of exactly? That’s where storytelling takes over. Storytelling content is an effective means of grabbing your customer’s attention by engaging them – we build storytelling into every project as we do Medical SEO, and no matter what kind of marketer you are, it’s crucial to connecting emotionally to ideal clients. Your goal should be to get every one of your email subscribers to open up every single one of the emails you send them. Seems a bit ambitious right? Good. Storytelling content will improve emails by: Offering meaningful and powerful stories that are focused on your customer’s pain points Further the connection between consumer and brand Provide value for the reader Reduce the ‘spam’ connotations with brand emails Patagonia consistently talks about how they’re company works towards environmental sustainability throughout their marketing efforts, including their emails. Additional Personalization Branching off of the segmentation point, emails in 2019 will further the trend of personalized emails. Imagine you’re an outdoor apparel company. Through your email database and information, you can pick out everyone in your subscriber list who bought a ski suit. Then, you can tailor the content they receive to be associated with skiing. Your subscribers would certainly appreciate opening up emails and reading content that is highly personalized to their interests. Additional personalization in emails will help in 2019 by: -Helping curate content that your customers actually want to receive -Increase open rates of emails -Help establish your brand as one that listens to the needs of their consumers Spotify is the king of personalization, which includes their emails. Writing in Conversational Tones People like to engage with other people, not some run-of-the-mill corporate sounding email blurbs. Your emails need to be distinctive and creative so that they resonate with subscribers. In 2019, we’ll see more brand working towards throwing in personality and humor into their email copy to help create that connection with their audience, as well as to get them to read the entire copy rather than bouncing right after they open it. Obviously, tailor the tonality of your copy to your target market. For example, if you’re a company in the financial sector, you can still have fun with the content, but make sure you’re still serious about serious topics. Conversational tones will improve email in 2019 by: Connecting with the audience Increasing email engagement Help push your brands as one that is personable Chubbies has positioned itself as a brand for the care-free and those who like to kick back and have a beer or two. And their chill, conversational emails help further convey this feeling. I for one am personally very excited to see where the future of email marketing is heading. If you’re looking to increase open rates, conversions, and the overall satisfaction of your customers, then make sure that you try and implement these email marketing strategies!


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Top Effective Email Marketing Strategies That Will Boost Your Sales in 2019

Top Effective Email Marketing Strategies That Will Boost Your Sales in 2019

Beyond • November 19, 2018

Boosting sales is a key to success, and effective marketing strategies are a key to boosting sales. Learn about the most potentially effective innovative email marketing strategies recommended as core shots for the upcoming 2019. This article aims to identify the most perspective email marketing strategies to be employed for boosting the revenue of a company in the next business year via highlights of triggers of their potential. The strategies will be discussed in terms of the main trends and priorities of the modern world of digital marketing. Triggering Headlines to Be Honored and Employed Are you still in a doubt whether headlines can trigger your sales? The Return On Investment (ROI) on email marketing is, on average, 38:1. That means you can earn $38 for every $1.00 spent. No more doubts now, right? Awesome, cause we have a list of working tips for you to add this tool to effective daily use. Every perspective of response starts with the first words a receiver sees. As a rule, it is a headline in the context of email marketing. Having trouble with a headline is not a failure, but a high time to learn the strategy: be concise, be flamboyant, mean it. Do not overwhelm a reader with information – headlines are to attract attention, not to give every single detail. Triggering headline leads to reading further, which means that it should refer to the reader’s needs, values, or current emotions. Actually, it is emotions that are responsible primarily for the interaction with the target audience. Once a constructive reference to emotions is implemented in a message of the headline, it is easier to engage the target audience. The potential use of the following email is another substantial power that should be incorporated in the headline if there is a real benefit in the message, in particular, and the offer, in general: It is also crucial to literally imply what a headline says: there will be no efficiency if headlines have no actions or quality behind them. One more important aspect of a functional headline is that it should not be excessively long. There is no need to build a complete sentence, but a phrase should evoke emotions and create a particular impression, scene, or atmosphere. As a rule, creating an atmosphere implies invitation for a person in a world that atmosphere embodies, and people love being invited to a different reality or being offered an alternative to something they already have or have already experienced. Emotions mean new experiences and opportunities in the given context, whereas basically every offer is a promise. Make this promise concise and tempting by answering the following question: would this headline trigger my own interest? Several examples of working headlines are here for you: Stating the Obvious: Constructive Analysis vs Personal Opinion in the Ar No Sales – Justified, yet Affordable Prices only The Art of Being Persuasive and Efficient Religious Matters: Believing in or Following the Schedule. Welcome Interactive Emails to Regular Use Interactivity in terms of email sent with a business-oriented purpose implies engagement, participation, different kinds of activity from a receiver. Interactive triggers that can be employed in such emails involve swiping, tapping, or responding to the content provided. These activities vary from clicking a button to actual instant purchase or subscription. Some businesses prefer only informing their customers via emails, whereas others make a real profit due to the given marketing tool. Apparently, the latter case is an example of big corporations with a well-known name and crystal clean reputation when it comes to quality and integrity issues. If a company is newly born or is not recognized widely, it is recommended to employ informative and entertaining e-mails so as to avoid pressuring the target audience with constant claims to buy or visit since such patterns can result in unsubscribing or even blocking the sender. It is crucial to choose the type of interaction that will be perceived as a comfortable and suitable one for the target audience, not a burdening or annoying kind of interaction. Interaction should be presented in the light form: not an obligation, but an entertainment since customers strive to have fun above all the rest. Entertainment comes first, and only then being informed and curiosity appear on the radar. Take a look: “91% of B2B buyers prefer to consume interactive and visual content.” Once this is established, let us underline some crucial aspects: Build your brand on inspiration and vividness, and make sure emails are no different: We strongly recommend using innovative techniques such as digital scratch cards or offering a fun deal (nothing complicated or creepy, just a game): Personalizing every message will get you profits, loyal customers, and reputation. The examples of such interaction in e-mails are as follows: It makes the impression that this particular email is addressed directly to me. People, tend to react better when they see their names. Video Content: How to Make a Difference Video captures attention immediately, it is known. As Biteable claims, people prefer watching videos to reading texts, especially when those are long ones. The ultimate secret of effective videos used all over the profitable companies is as follows: it is crucial to make an impactful, vivid image that triggers interests and simultaneously appeals in terms of esthetics, and link it to the video. The visual element can surprise people, make them smile or wonder, in any case, the main task here is to enter the emotional area of the target audience. Again. Experts recommend mentioning the word “video” in the subject line, keep this subject line sweet and short, and remember about viral qualities necessary for success in this domain. Apart from it, do not make mysterious assumptions or vague suggestion: the call to action should be impeccably clear. Nevertheless, sending an excellent video with an attractive visual basic element is not enough. We recommend placing this video as a central element within a bigger context. Remember: you do not want the text to be too long and your message – too redundant. Just put some highlights and outline core points of what it’s all about. Concerning the impeccably clear call to action, emails from Jobs for Editors tend to have it: No Hints to Spam: Natural and Effective Spam is the worst threat to your business in terms of digital marketing one could have ever imagined. First of all, it is necessary to avoid all the spam words that can be recognized as spam. It is strongly recommended to steer clear of conventional phrases marking it is a matter of business offer sent to numerous receivers. Spam is one thing when it is recognized by the system and quite another one when a receiver marks it as one. Therefore, do everything possible in order to gain and sustain the loyalty of the target audience. A visual aspect is also important in the given context. To be more precise, it is recommended to pick a particular color and font for your brand so as to make it recognizable and distinguish it from the pile of other emails aiming to conquer attention of the target audience: A piece of alarming statistics: an average person tends to receive approximately 88 e-mails per day. Impressive, right? Remember that branding your e-mails is like branding your products or services: it may look like a small aspect right now, but it will repay you in the long run significantly. Make sure that both chosen font and color are relevant to your mission, vision, positioning and values. It is important in the world of business to make a holistic impression. Words triggering spam status to be avoided include “buy,” “order,” “order status,” “scores,” “stakes,” “additional income,” “beneficiary,” “be your own boss,” “cash,” “work at home,” “make $ while you sleep,” “cheap,” “credit,” “insurance,” “price,” “profits,” etc Infographics as It Is in Email Marketing A call to action is your major weapon for email marketers. You may already know that. What you might not know is that a traditional point for placing your call to action, namely, the end of the letter, is often a major reason of e-mail’s failure, especially when there are two or more sections in the letter. An optimal solution for this dilemma is to have a call to action for each section. One more thing about emails with several sections: you need to mark them appropriately and vividly. It does not mean that you should use multiple colors, fonts or images – no way, that is a definite taboo. A smart way to mark different sections for reader’s convenience is to use constructive icons. Requirements to those icons: they should reflect the theme of the section, have a consistent style, and be smartly structured. Black and white colors are a classic solution provided you are in a serious business niche or do not want to mess with multicolored content. Nevertheless, classic is not always a go. Try using an unconventional layout since this will both distinguish your email from others and at the same time will increase chances to draw the attention of a receiver to the headlines of sections. In such a way, there will be more chances to interest him or her and engage. Finally, a template is a smart decision in terms of infographics. Approximately 80% of the receivers tend to only skim the letter, not read it thoroughly. Hence, an infographic can become your advantage for catching their attention at first and sustaining the interest further on. Here is an example of a smart infographic:   We wish you good luck in battles located in the area of digital marketing. Be smart, be concise, and be consistent!


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Marketers Share Why Benchmark is the One

Marketers Share Why Benchmark is the One

Beyond • October 30, 2018

We appreciate the marketers who use Benchmark Email for many reasons. Helping businesses grow is an honor we do not take lightly. That sometimes business owners and marketers take the time to sing our praises and let us know how they\'re thriving with email marketing swells our hearts with joy. We\'ve said it before and we\'ll say it a million more times: thank you for choosing Benchmark Email. Speaking of picking us... :) Here is why some of our favorite businesses in the Philippines chose Benchmark Email: Mansmith & Fielders Customer Support is Superb. Benchmark has a local team that we can depend on for any of our concerns. Though Benchmark has 24/7 chat and email support, having local representatives that we can talk to and serves as our account manager is what we love most. We are very happy that they always join our quarterly planning sessions. Who would do that extended support? Functional Features.  The first thing that you will look for any tool is its features, right? The good thing is it has useful features that you can use for your email marketing. We are very happy to see the analytics in the email reports which helps our marketing team improve our contents. Easy, and fun to use. Of course, we don\'t want to have a boring job and imagine making hundreds, or thousands of emails, we all get bored with that. With this platform making templates is easier. There comes the time that your brain can\'t function well, but don\'t worry because we got you on that. Benchmark has their ready-made templates for all occasions. You can do everything to make your email to look more interesting than before. Flexible Payment Terms. As for the pricing, for us, it’s no brainer that it\'s the least we think of because we are getting way more than what we are paying for. When it comes to email marketing, we can proudly say that Benchmark is like our soul mate, our perfect partner for our business. Benchmark indeed delivers its promise, which is to connect with our customers regularly. We could come up with a longer list on what we love about Benchmark, but we would rather encourage you to experience it yourselves. Mae Naval - Marketing Manager One of the most important tasks in a business is finding and dealing with increasing customers. This is just one task that I am talking about. There\'s a lot more so you need to plan carefully and manage your time effectively. And most marketers technique is to use email marketing software. Email marketing will be an easy task if you know the ins and outs of the tool or software that you are using and for me, that will be Benchmark. Yes, BENCHMARK. I love the mission of Benchmark which focuses on customer engagement. If you own a business, this should be your priority because, without this, your business will not have any potential to grow and move forward. Let me tell you three reasons why I like Benchmark. 1.) Easy Navigation. Benchmark provides a clear analytics interface.  Admit it! Not everyone is tech savvy and has mastered everything that goes on on the internet. You need something that you can easily understand and navigate. 2.) Well-designed templates. If you are looking to attract your prospective clients, you should be able to deliver your message in a professional way. Templates help us to make that easier and since it is well-designed, it turns out to be effective especially for sending newsletters. 3.) Support. Who doesn\'t like a knowledgeable and responsive customer service? At one point, there will still be questions that will pop out of your mind and you need somebody who can answer you. That is what you will get with Benchmark. In addition to that, having someone that recognizes and answers your reviews about their service is also a good thing about Benchmark. And the biggest advantage Benchmark has in the Philippines is that they are the only US-based email software who has a local presence. Having a local expert in email marketing is way so helpful and they even conduct a free weekly workshop. How cool is that? Another one reason why I like Benchmark is they\'re free (another free, huh!) to create your account and gather up to 2000 subscribers. Who doesn\'t love free stuff? I mentioned that I will tell you only three reasons to like Benchmark but I guess there’s so much more because their local representatives are very forthcoming in educating marketers. And very patient for beginners. They really walk you through each step of the way to becoming a pro. Cathy Sipoy - NPS Realty Most, if not all businesses, use email marketing in one form or another nowadays. It is making yourself aware that \"hey, I am here, and I am willing to do business with you\". The potential in email marketing is so huge since the email itself is already a publicity. As they say, negative publicity is still publicity. There will be some who will be encouraged to read a part or your whole email and the primary goal of email marketing is to create awareness. A lot of companies nowadays get the help of marketing firms to ensure this way of advertisement is tapped and maximized. Benchmark, an email tool can help businesses in a lot of ways from enhancing repeat sales, promotional emails, customer engagement and increasing your subscription base. Don\'t get me wrong, these features are also available with other providers, so what sets Benchmark apart? Not all businesses, especially start-ups, are willing to spend an additional amount for something that is very hard to measure until they get to test the waters. That is one risk in email marketing, the results are difficult to quantify especially for first-timers. This is where Benchmark helps your business grow. They offer a free plan for a maximum of 2,000 subscribers per month, yes, you read that right first-timer, two thousand emails without leaving a single penny on the table. Challenge with free plans though are, it is very limited, so what do you get with Benchmark’s $0.00 subscription? Not much actually. You will just get access to their email editor (insanely simple and easy to use as they say); signup forms; drip campaigns; RSS email campaigns; Email Delivery Management; Google Analytics Tracking; List Management and Segments; and, List Hygiene. I do not think you will get that elsewhere. Let me share why the features of Benchmark’s free plan is very useful from start-ups to mid-size businesses. For new businesses, hiring an expert to do email marketing and design will prove costly. Just knowing that anyone with basic computer skills can do it using Benchmark’s tools, is a sigh of relief while you’re busy making your mark in the business world. That is aside from the fact that the email templates don’t need tinkering even if it is seen thru a desktop, laptop or other mobile devices. One of the many great features is the drag and drop email designer. Who says you need expertise in coding to create an email design? With this feature you will be able to customize your email newsletter as easy as 1 2 3. On top of that, it comes with a photo editor, so you don’t have to purchase expensive software or hire a professional to do it for you. If you’re too busy to create your own email designs, you can always use Benchmark’s email templates which comes in different styles and formats to suit your business needs. If you are knowledgeable in HTML, the free plan also has a Code Editor. You can build your own email template or edit an existing one with the help of this. So much for just one system, right? You can integrate Benchmark with your CRM, CMS, Email accounts, social media and other customer-sourcing channels. Integrating Benchmark with other apps and systems will help maximize your email marketing campaign and boost audience engagement. You can create surveys and polls in the free plan. This will enable you to gather insights from your customers which will help in your product research and development. It also gives you the chance to retain customers who voiced out their frustration with your products and services. That is customer service 101! Signup forms is another feature from the free plan as it enables you to embed forms or pop-ups for customers to fill from your website to your Facebook page. You can save images and videos too! Benchmark enables you to store your files which makes it easy for you to access and use it anytime. Very convenient, right? One of the most important features you get is their built-in analytics tracking. You will be able to get the success rate of your email campaigns. Benchmark provide reports that will help you recognize which of your campaign works and which doesn’t. This also helps you identify areas and campaigns that need improvement. These are just a few of the features you get from it. There are a lot more from it that will definitely help your business thrive. Benchmark is one of the best email marketing platforms for me as it is a tailor-fit for my business needs; cost-effective; helps me make the most out of my email marketing campaign and absolutely user-friendly. Deljane Querijero - Freelance Marketer Benchmark, one of the slickest-looking email marketing platform with very user-friendly features,  is hitting all the industry benchmarks and more. Benchmark is an automation pro. It allows you to send automated emails according to “triggers” set by the user. Follow-ups are customized based on engagement so you never lose that “human touch.” Their email designer is one of the most user-friendly and intuitive email editors ever. It’s all drag and drop, coupled with some live editing. Let’s not forget that your email will always be optimized, regardless of what device the user is viewing it in. They make good on their promise to dress your emails for success! Benchmarks can be your CRM so you don’t have to purchase a separate CRM. They make growing and nurturing your audience and leads easy with their list building, custom sign-up forms and list management tool. They also add the ability to run beautifully composed polls and surveys, so you don’t have to invest in a separate survey tool. Analytics ensure that you, as a marketing professional, always makes informed decisions. It takes out the guesswork and having to rely on gut feel. Benchmark offers AB Testing, an Inbox Checker and Reporting features to track your campaign’s progress in real time. Benchmark can be integrated with more than 300 apps! Migrating can be a pain when you switch platforms but Benchmark makes it easy for you. Finally, let’s talk about pricing. First, the free plan offers 50% of what the paid plan does. 50%?! I know right! The last time I saw a free plan that offered that much features was ...never? Second, the price range for the paid plan from $14/mo to $28/mo. Those are prices that definitely play nice with freelancers, sole entrepreneurs and small business owners. Benchmark is easily one of the best email marketing platforms in the market today. It’s user-friendly, offers a host of features in its free plan and has a very nice looking interface. Email marketing, when done right, can renew your faith in modern marketing. And in case you have no idea how to do it the right way, let me give you a great tip - let Benchmark show you how. The Benchmark Email review at emailvendorselection.com echos that exactly. These guys know a lot about different systems – and even side by side they were very surprised by the onboarding support and step by step guide to getting started. And the chat support. Even after just starting with the tool got it up and running so quickly. (the first email created from scratch in 5 minutes).

What the email review liked: 24/7 real user support. Chat phone and email, even for free users. The image editor is amazing fun One of the cheapest email autoresponders Free small business CRM functions The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) The Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA), Inc. is a non-stock and non-profit organization of tour operators and allied members who actively involved in the advocacy of responsible tourism. PHILTOA was founded on 12 June 1986 and with almost 400 members which includes travel agencies, hotels, resorts, transportation companies, handicraft stores, and other tourism-oriented establishments and associations. PHILTOA is the largest organization accredited enterprise by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and they are the organizer of the annual Philippine Travel Mart (PTM), the biggest and longest-running travel trade exhibition in the Philippines. PTM aims to get more Filipinos to engage in local tourism by promoting ways to enjoy the beautiful, scenic, and exciting Philippines. PHILTOA also provides all their members educational workshops and events through their 4P Seminar program. PHILTOA: Partnering for Professionalism and Progress In cooperation with Benchmark Email, one of the partners of PHILTOA, the members are entitled with a series of workshops on how to effectively engage with their customers. The workshop covers the following: The Complete Guide To Email Marketing For Customer Engagement? How To Build and Grow Your Database? How To Create An Email Marketing Plan? As a prime example, PHILTOA sends a monthly newsletter campaign to their members to disseminate circulars and important announcements. PHILTOA likewise post archive newsletters sent through Benchmark in their website so that members can easily access. As delightedly shared by Mr. Ryan Meimban, the Marketing Head of PHILTOA, “using Benchmark has been beneficial for our organization as it serves as a bridge in tracking that all our members have received and read our circulars and announcements. It may sound funny but sometimes, our members claim that they did not receive anything from us but we can easily track it through the report in our Benchmark account. Most of our members take a traditional approach in reaching their customers, they just want to send their promo packages through regular email and no tracking. That’s why whenever they attend our quarterly workshops, it’s always a new learning for them.  As such, Benchmark is indeed a very important part of our organization. We are very thankful that they have an office and representatives here in the Philippines which assist not just us but also to all our members who use Benchmark.”


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We Wrote a Book! Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer

We Wrote a Book! Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer

Beyond • October 23, 2018

We spend a lot of time on the Benchmark Blog, in our emails, on chat, the phones and email helping businesses do their email marketing. You’d think we’d be pretty good about practicing what we preach, right? Well, full transparency here. When going through our new book, Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer, we had to admit that even we could be a bit clueless from time to time. It happens to the best of us. You see, we’re all clueless once in a while. After all, you have to start somewhere. We’re not born knowing everything, as much as some of us would like to think otherwise (just me?!). The book contains seven quick and easy strategies for nurturing relationships with your email list. After all, it’s your most valuable marketing asset! Here’s what you have to look forward to when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer: Grow Your Email List This chapter talks about how to grow your most valuable marketing asset: your email list. The first step in doing growing your email list is understanding all the off touchpoints where you have an opportunity to do so. Here are all the touchpoints we discuss how you can go about growing your list: Homepage Blog Other high trafficked pages Social Media Over the phone In-store/on-location Events Print Ads The next step in growing your list is getting your timing right. Timing comes down to where you place your signup forms on your page and whether you use things like pop-up signup forms or exit-intent signup forms. The last step for growing your list is the words you use in your signup forms. It’s important to know what voice to use, what incentive to offer and how to craft a compelling Call To Action (CTA). Learn how to grow your email list when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Know Your Subscribers Once you’ve done all the work to bring in as many subscribers as possible, it’s time to gain an understanding of them. After all, it’s important to remember that there’s a person behind every email address. Even some of the more clueless email marketers have at least heard of list segmentation. This chapter focuses on the ways you can do that both from the start using signup form data and then after signup using their engagement history. Opportunities for segmentation during signup: Gender Location Industry Job Role More! How you can segment based on interests: Purchase history Website activity Clicking habits More! You can also create a preference center to allow your subscribers to segment themselves and choose what types of communications they want to receive from you. This chapter also discusses proper email list hygiene. That includes actions like list verification and creating a re-engagement campaign and then ultimately removing inactive subscribers. Learn what it takes to deliver relevant content to your subscribers when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Use New Tools and Technology Growing your list and caring for it is important. As we already mentioned, your list is your most valuable marketing asset. After that, it’s time to expand your horizons beyond the basics with email marketing. Some tools and features we believe you need to be taking advantage of: Marketing automation Targeted Emailing A/B Testing Integrations These are features that will save you time, foster better relationships with your contacts, improve your sales and make you a better email marketer overall. Learn how to take advantage of every aspect of email marketing when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Create Better Content If you’re not ready to try the more advanced features, though we believe Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer makes it possible to do so, you can focus on improving the content of the emails you are already sending. Or at least try sending some new types of email marketing campaigns. Here are some of the types of email campaigns you should be sending: Welcome Emails Promo Emails Follow-up Emails Newsletters Value Emails Product Education Emails Survey Emails Testimonial Emails Special Occasion and Holiday Emails Aside from the types of emails, you can create to better your email marketing, you can also work to improve the content of those emails. Focus on writing better subject lines and on including better topics within the email itself. You can also work on kicking the design of your emails up a notch. Learn how to send more quality emails when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Get Better Information from Subscribers Hopefully, by now, you’re starting to understand how important it is to nurture your relationships with the contacts on your email list. The best way to do that is by doing customer-centric email marketing. To achieve customer-centric email marketing, you need to learn as much as possible about the subscribers on your list. One great way to get some more intel on your subscribers is to simply ask them. Groundbreaking, we know. Sending polls and surveys is an excellent way to gain some insight into your contacts. Here are some additional free resources where you can seek out information on your subscribers: Social media Niche blogs Discussion forums Q&A sites Amazon reviews Video sharing communities Newsletters Search engines eBooks, manuals and guides Case studies Support documentation Learn how to effectively gain important data on your subscribers via polls, surveys and free resources when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Understand Your Reports By this point, we’ve discussed how effectively nurture relationships with your email list by growing it, learning from it and sending better content to it. Is it working? That’s where your reports come in. Your reports are the clues you need to become a better email marketer. You can look at these elements of your reports to see what is (or isn’t) working for your email marketing: Open rate Click-through rate Opens by hour Unsubscribe and abuse Use this information to see areas that need improvement and what tactics you should be doing more of. Learn how to turn your report data into a better email marketing strategy when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Seize Opportunities Carpe diem! Sometimes, it’s possible to tap into the zeitgeist with a timely email and it will get more attention from your subscribers. Holiday email marketing campaigns are one way to do this because everyone is focused on that day (and may even expect deals or sales around that holiday). Don’t be afraid to think big! Sometimes, the only limits to what we can achieve with email marketing are what we believe is possible. Give yourself some lofty goals and reverse engineer them to figure out the steps to work towards it. Learn how to take advantage of the right moment with the right message when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Wrapping Up The ROI for email marketing is about $42 for every $1 spent. The value of email marketing cannot be understated. Trying something new can be intimidating. We get that and have been there. Nobody likes to feel like they’re clueless. That’s why we wrote the book, Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer. Everyone, even all of us here at Benchmark, had to start somewhere. That’s why we’re here to clue you in. Learn how you can quickly and easily turn your most valuable marketing asset, your email list, into relationships and sales when you download Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer.


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Discover the Value of Each Subscriber in Your List

Discover the Value of Each Subscriber in Your List

Beyond • October 22, 2018

Not all email marketing subscribers are created equal. Contact A: Has come to your website after visiting several other competitors. They see your popup signup form that boasts a 20% off discount for new subscribers. They signup just in case, but they haven’t made a decision yet about your business or any other one. After opt-in, they aren’t really paying much attention to your emails. Contact B: Has already done their research. They even have a recommendation or referral about your business. They’re confident you’re the solution for what they seek. They might just be waiting to save some more money, for a holiday bonus or any other number of reasons. They signup, because they want to hear more from you. Emails from you are almost always opened. Do you think it pays to communicate to those two subscribers in the same manner? It’s not rhetorical. The answer is no. If you were to continue on sending to Contact A, the same way you were sending to Contact B, it would eventually affect your deliverability. Inbox clients pay attention to when you’re continually sending to inactive subscribers and will act accordingly. For that reason alone, knowing how important each individual subscriber is to your business has incredible value. Enter Benchmark Email’s brand new Contact Rating system. What is the Contact Ratings System? Contact Rating is a way of telling how engaged your subscribers are with your email campaigns. Aside from seeing who is interacting with the emails you send, contact rating is also beneficial because it allows you to segment your emails based on the subscriber’s rating. Ratings can go from 0 stars, meaning they’re a new subscriber who you haven’t sent to yet, to one star, meaning they’ve received an email, but haven’t clicked or opened, and 2-5, which show how engaged that contact is with your emails. The rating is based off of your previous 90 days of sending. You can improve your email’s deliverability (and do some awesome strategies we’ll get into shortly), with the Contact Rating system. You can segment your emails on the fly using the rating system and separate the low rated contacts (0-2) from the highly rated ones (3-5). To learn more about Contact Rating, you can check out our helpful FAQ. Now that you know how to segment based on Contact Rating, let’s look at how you can put it to use: Create a Loyalty Program for Your Highest Rated Subscribers On average, it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep the ones you already have. That’s why a customer loyalty program is a good strategy for any business. Knowing how important customer retention is, making your subscribers feel special with a loyalty program is an essential part of nurturing positive customer relationships with email marketing. How can you do it? Create Special Sales or Events Exclusive to Your Highest Rated Contacts To make your loyal subscribers feel special, creating an heir of exclusivity can go a long ways. It can be a single day or a week-long affair, but the idea is to generate some excitement and to make your loyal contacts feel appreciated. Think about how Amazon handles Prime Day. It’s 24+ hours of new deals occurring throughout the day. It incentives Prime members to return all day and night to see the new deals that have opened up. This Amazon Prime Day email lets you know only a select group gets to enjoy the benefits and it creates a sense of urgency. It’s sure to result in plenty of repeat business. Give Loyal Customers a Say Aside from showing your customers that you appreciate them by giving them discounts and access to special sales, asking for their feedback is another way to show your contacts that they’re valued. I play fantasy football with my friends. I’m in a handful of leagues. Recently, Yahoo emailed me to tell me that as one of their more active users for fantasy football, they wanted to know if I’d be interested in participating in a survey about their services. Of course I was. I wanted to feel like I had a say in what was happening. They even sweetened the deal by offering a gift card as a token of their gratitude. They remind me that it’s only for me, which gives it that level of exclusivity as well. It’s a simple, plain text email. It doesn’t look great. However, it did get me to complete the survey as they requested. Re-engage Your Lowest Rated Contacts Inactive subscribers happen. There are various reasons a subscribe doesn’t engage with your emails. Perhaps they’re traveling or they’re busy. Maybe they already made a purchase and don’t need your emails any more. Or it could be that they just don’t see the value in what you’re sending. It could be any of those reasons or none of them. Why it happens is a topic for another blog. For now, we’ll focus on what you can to to re-engage them when it happens. Tell Them You’re Going to Remove Them Everyone wants what they can’t have. Telling your subscribers that you’re going to remove them from your list, unless they opt back into your list is a good way to re-engage your inactive subscribers. It may make them realize they do want to hear from you, or let you know that they’ve just been too busy to engage. If you do this, it’s important to toe the line of desperation and creepiness and just let them know that you’ll stop dropping by their inbox unless they say otherwise. This re-engagement email from Sidekick, now known as HubSpot Sales Tools, does a really great job of being friendly and understanding, while staying on brand and not over-stepping. Incentivize Re-engagement Sometimes, it just takes a friendly nudge to re-engage an inactive subscriber. Say something like “we miss you” and offer a small discount to get them in the door. There is a lot of competition in most industries these days. If you’re not staying top of mind, you’re going to be forgetting. Giving a little reminder can help you bring back lost business. Pinkberry does a nice job with this re-engagement email for their loyal customers with a Pinkcard who haven’t been around in a while. That they put an expiration on it, creates a sense of urgency and ensures the customer comes back soon. Additional Re-engagement Strategies Much like rewarding your engaged contacts by listening to them, you can ask for feedback from your inactive ones. Give them a chance to tell you what they’d have liked to be receiving from you, rather than the content they’ve been ignoring. Their passion for what they don’t like can be a lesson to you as well. You can also try to throw a hail mary. After all, they’re already inactive. If they decide to unsubscribe at that point, it will make little difference. Has there been an idea for an email campaign you’ve always wanted to do, but have been too nervous to try? Use it as a re-engagement campaign. Do something bold (yet appropriate) to catch their attention and you may even learn a new tactic you can use with your engaged customers. Wrapping Up Whether you have two or two million subscribers, it’s important to know what not all contacts have the same value to your business. Thankfully, the new Contact Rating System from Benchmark makes it easy for you to see which contacts are engaged (and which ones aren’t).


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Inbox Placement Results from 2 Billion Email Messages

Inbox Placement Results from 2 Billion Email Messages

Beyond • October 18, 2018

Return Path announced this year’s annual benchmark report and it is very important to gain perspectives to boost our email deliverability. In this benchmark report more than 2 billion promotional email messages that send between July 2017 and June 2018, have analyzed. Thanks to this research we have now 12 month global, regional, and country inbox placement results, as well as inbox placement rates by industry and the top four mailbox providers. Before sharing the findings of this report, I want to start by describing the email path to the inbox. Email Delivery Through the internet, multiple servers help emails to reach their destination point. Through their journey, there occurs a decision process to determine them as they’re trustable or not. Unfortunately, a lot of emails blocked on the gateway and never reach the spam folder or inbox folder. Also, email open rates are very important. They are calculated by email service providers. ESPs consider the number of people who open the email and dividing it by the number of emails sent that failed to reach the reader. For example, if you sent out 100 emails, 20 bounced, and 10 were opened, you would have an open rate of 12.5%. After passing the gateway, spam filters consider the relevancy of the content, sender reputation, and user engagement to decide whether to send them in the spam folder or inbox. For detailed information about spam folders check out How to Increase Email Open Rates. Measuring the Inbox Placement In this report, Return Path used two different sets of data to calculate inbox placement; Seed Data Panel Data (Consumer Data) First of all, don’t forget that we’re talking about hundreds of mailbox providers around the world. So, numbers are huge! Let’s start by measuring the inbox placement. Well, seed data is used to see if seed addresses are delivered or went into the spam folder or inbox. It’s a good option to measure missing or blocked emails. Also, global or country-specific inbox placement rates are calculated by seed data. Panel data is used for email data and real-world information. The main purpose is to understand subscriber engagement. How about measuring engagement data? Well, the answer is, they have 2 million users in their system! So, mailbox provider and industry-specific inbox placement are calculated with panel data in this research. Global Inbox Placement Average global inbox placement increased by 5% points this year. In the second quarter of 2018, the most significant increase came in with 7% points over the same period last year. Inbox Placement in North America North America deliverability was driven largely by increased inbox placement in the United States. Mails sent to US subscribers reached the inbox an average of 83% of the time. An increase of 6% percentage points over the previous period. The average inbox placement rate to Canadian mailboxes of 89% exceeded the global average. Inbox Placement in Latin America Latin America region dropped 3% percentage points this period for an average of 78%. Only Mexico was able to achieve deliverability above the global average. Inbox Placement in Europe Deliverability to European mailboxes rose slightly to an average inbox placement rate of 86%. Greece, Portugal, and Norway have Europe’s highest inbox placement at 93%. Austrian mailboxes saw the lowest inbox placement of any European country (79%). In Ireland, email deliverability rate increased 15% points for a new average of 92% inbox placement. Denmark and the Czech Republic saw the largest decline in deliverability among European countries with 3% points below the previous period. Inbox Placement in Asia-Pacific In the previous reporting period, Asia-Pacific Region had 79% in inbox placement. This year they saw a slight decline in inbox placement with an average rate of  78%. Senders in mailing to Singapore and New Zealand consumers helped bring up the regional average with inbox placement rates of 90% in both countries. Chinese mailboxes fell far below the global average with an average inbox placement rate of just 57%. Before jumping up the findings I should remind you that this part is calculated using panel data. While reviewing these benchmarks, consider: This data shows accepted emails by the gateway. Blocked or blacklisted messages aren’t included. Panel data shows only the top four webmail providers: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and AOL. Global Inbox Placement at the Top Four Mailbox Providers Marketers are successfully reaching mailboxes at AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo, seeing inbox placement rates above 90 every quarter. Outlook was a challenging mailbox for marketers to reach with a period average of just 75%. Inbox Placement By Industry Industry results are based on global panel data consisting of more than 17,000 commercial senders, 2 million consumer panelists, and 2 billion commercial email messages sent to Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and AOL users in the same time period. Across the board, every industry saw an increase in inbox placement compared to the previous period. Distribution & manufacturing and banking & finance had the highest inbox placement averages for the period at 96%. Education/nonprofit/government had the lowest inbox placement rate at 83%. The automotive industry saw the largest increase in inbox placement with %88 of email reaching subscribers’ inboxes—an increase of 11% points over the previous period. Well, we’ve covered the email deliverability benchmark 2018 in this article. I hope you find it useful for your email marketing benefits. I’d be glad if you share your comments or additional information.


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Email Marketing in Holiday Season: How to Get the Most Out of it?

Email Marketing in Holiday Season: How to Get the Most Out of it?

Beyond • October 9, 2018

Small businesses have a lot of competition around the holiday season and a lot of pressure to make sure that the customers are ready to purchase even when they are reluctant to do so. ‘Big guys’ can afford to wait until the end of November and then spend huge chunks of their marketing budget on TV commercials, billboard advertising, radio jingles, newspaper advertisement, digital marketing channels and sponsorships. However, small businesses may not have multi-million dollar budgets but they do have the power of social media and email marketing! According to a Forbes survey, 82% of the consumers said they’re likely to buy online as compared to 77% people who prefer in-store shopping. Let’s take a look at the 2017 online shopping trends during the holiday season: Desktop beats mobile in terms of purchasing behavior. Amazon’s 72% of sales in December 2017 were made through desktop devices. Amazon is still the king in US eCommerce scenario but other competitors are making huge gains. About two-thirds of total purchases made during the holiday season were made on Amazon. However, Macy’s improved its desktop conversion rates by 7-8 times. It is no longer about a specific day during the holiday season but over an extensive period of time. November 2017 generated $33bn in sales which is 17% more than the previous year according to Adobe. When it comes to marketing, one of the most important things to be aware of is the demographics of your Target Audience. According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence earlier this year, millennials remain the key age demographic for online commerce, spending more money online in a given year than any other age group. Millennial consumers–especially those between ages 18 and 29–are also interested in adopting alternative ways of gift-giving, such as loyalty points/rewards, gift cards, etc. Therefore, as an eCommerce business owner, you must make sure to come up with email marketing strategies that cater to this segment i.e. the infamous millennials! Before we get into the tips and tricks on how to get most of the holiday season, let’s take a look at some of the most important dates in the Holiday season: Nov. 23: Thanksgiving Nov. 24: Black Friday Nov. 25: Small Business Saturday Nov. 27: Cyber Monday Nov. 28: Giving Tuesday Dec. 11: Green Monday Dec. 12: Start of Hanukkah Dec. 15: Free Shipping Day Dec. 24: Christmas Eve Dec. 25: Christmas Day Dec. 26: Start of Kwanzaa Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve Jan. 1: New Year’s Day Now that you’ve memorized the above-mentioned dates, here are a few tips and tricks to use to make sure that you stand out from the ‘big guys’ during the holiday season. 1. Start Early and Maintain Momentum For many customers, the holiday season begins before Black Friday or Cyber Monday and they’re lining up their purchases before that. Most of the customer purchases are now well-researched as customers make the purchases after comparing several offers and products. Making an email marketing strategy and sending out a holiday teaser email is a great way to get the attention of your customers. Sending out an early email makes sure that your email arrives before the major inflow of the marketing emails from other brands and gives you the edge. Teaser emails also build excitement and momentum among the customers for the business. Fulcrum Tech, for example, sent out teaser holiday season emails in 2016 and witnessed a whopping 238% increase in revenue from over the previous year on the Cyber Monday deals. 2. Leverage Urgency Using urgency is a great way to boost your revenues. A limited offer in an email that is sent out to your customers would prompt them to take action now instead of later. Nobody likes to miss out! We’ve all had to deal with heartbreaks where we liked something and when we came back to buy it, it was sold out! You can leverage urgency in the following ways: Promotion of early bird discounts for some of your products and services. Including the cut-off time and dates for the products to ship so that your customers know that they will have to make a purchase before that Displaying countdown timer on your email driving urgency among the customer to buy the product. Sending out emails with a limited product quantity or creating flash sales. Below is a good example of Optinmonster executing the idea of leveraging urgency without a cluttered design: 3. Personalize Your Holiday Email Campaigns A vast usage of predictive analytics can help your business personalize the content of the emails that you are sending out. Customer engagement can be generated through the recommendation of the products similar to the ones that they recently purchased or the ones that they browsed through your website. Businesses can also leverage other demographics such as age and gender to design and send out their email marketing campaigns. This makes the emails more personalized and the customers feel connected to your brand, developing a stronger brand loyalty with it. 4. Pay Attention to What Your Users Want This Year/Season If I ask people what they want for the holiday season in the context of shopping, they are most likely to say nice warm clothes and discounts. Their needs and wants change with every season, and you, as an eCommerce store owner, have to keep a keen eye on their changing needs and wants. If you check Google Trends for the topic of sweaters, you will see: Upon analyzing the graph Google has generated for us, we understand that the trends for Sweaters in the USA in 2017 rose between the colder months (which also include the holiday season) i.e. September to January. Again, in August 2018, the graph has begun to rise. As an eCommerce store, you need to prepare for the rising trends by starting early. When I typed women’s knitwear USA on Google, the first organic link to appear was Boohoo’s, an online fashion store based in the US. This shows that they know exactly what the customers will be wanting and hence searching for around this time and in the upcoming months, and have prepared their eCommerce website accordingly. Also, they have made 7 categories for knitwear to make it easy for the customer to navigate and find exactly the kind of knitwear they are looking for. Upon visiting the website, I am taken directly to the sale section in women’s knitwear, which again shows they are catering to both the things their customers currently want: warm clothes and hot sales. Paying attention to your customer base’s needs can be very helpful. A business needs to deliver content that the customer cares about. The question is, “shouldn’t I always deliver content that my customer cares about?” The answer to this is ‘YES!’ but since the customers are bombarded with content over the holiday season, the best way to get a response from them would be by providing them the content that they really want to see. You can use customer feedback collection forms to get a fair idea of what your customers want and then build your eCommerce website around these insights. The survey would help you in following: Improving the content that you’re sending out in your emails Targeting your messages through segmentation of the email lists. Creating and defining offers/discounts for the holiday season While segmenting the email lists, please take into account the open and click through rate factors. Also the purchase behaviors of the customers and their preferences when they chose to sign up for your email list. 5. Growing the Email List Through Pop-Ups Did you know that a recent Listrak study found that pop-ups help achieve an average email list growth of 20%? In addition to this finding, Listrak also reported that the revenue of the welcome/sign-up email is 23% higher for the new subscribers who join your email lists through pop-ups on your website. Pop-ups are an excellent way to gather email data of the users. An excellent strategy would be to offer a discount on sign-up for the website. Sophie and Trey use pop-ups on the home page of their website and offer 10% off on the next purchase. The cost of acquisition of the customer is 10% of the order but in the long run, it can translate into more sales and remarketing opportunities. Once the user is within your email list, you can reach out to them with the latest products, promotions and offers. 6. Exclusive Content The people in your email list signed up for exclusive content. They became the readers/receivers of your emails in order to get exclusive content. Offer them something extra. Treating the people on your email list the same way as the ones on your social media accounts is not going to help them feel exclusive. Tell your readers about the upcoming holiday deals in advance. Offer them extra discounts or free shipping. Give them early bird deals. Another way of reaching out to them is by making sure that they are the first ones to know when the holiday deals are live. Exclusivity can be a great tool for generating brand loyalty. Providing customers with content that can be helpful for them in the shopping seasons like tips for the busy holiday season or family traditions can help you make a personal connection with your customers. Wrapping Up Remember, improving your sales by improving your website is one of the best things you can do for your brand. With October (hint: Halloween!) and November just around the corner, we’re sure you can make use of some of the tips mentioned above and make your holiday email marketing campaigns a great success. Let me know what techniques you use during holidays in the comments below!


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Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Beyond • October 5, 2018

You don\'t wind up on Forbes 30 Under 30 list by accident. It takes hard work, determination and talent. All three of which Armando Veve has in spades. Armando is a Philadelphia-based artist and illustrator. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Wired and many more publications. He\'s also been awarded two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, which is extra special given that it\'s voted on by his peers. It involves a lot of storytelling. It\'s kind of like I\'m writing. I\'m a writer, but I do it through pictures. We discussed how Armando got his start as an Illustrator, some projects he\'s had along the way and advice he has for wannabe illustrators. We also talked about the opportunities he has for his work to come off the page and into art galleries, which creates a new experience for the viewer. Lastly, Aramando clues us in as to what his future might hold. 2:37 - On what it means to be an illustrator 5:16 - Talking about beginning his career as an illustrator 13:24 - The purpose that print publications still serve 21:30 - When he knew his passion was a viable career option and advice for others looking to do it 27:10 - The New York Times cover story he said no to


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15 Phrases You Should Never Use in Email Marketing

15 Phrases You Should Never Use in Email Marketing

Beyond • October 1, 2018

Email marketing can be complex business. To understand it and effectively leverage it, you should consistently practice and learn from the results. There are a lot of email practices that can boost your performance and a lot of disempowering techniques that will only damage your business. Hannah Digweed, CEO at edugeeksclub.com, had to say: The importance of the wording you use throughout your emails is high, simply because an email is simply a bridge of communication between your brand and your customers. When you send an email, you’ll have to be extremely careful about adding relevant information. On the other hand, you should also pay a great deal of attention to how your message could influence the perception or behavior of your subscribers. Nevertheless, some words should never be pronounced in email marketing. Some words can turn a loyal subscriber into a stranger, while some words can diminish your brand’s reputation. Well, in today’s post, I’ve collected a list of 15 phrases that you should never include in your email marketing campaigns. The reason is obvious: you’re risking decreasing your reputation and trust, making your prospects and customers less interested in what you’ll have to offer next. You can avoid that by simply avoiding these unprofessional phrases. “Hi, [Subscriber name]” Personalizing your subscribers’ experience is one thing and using an outdated strategy that is no longer effective is another. Customizing your user’s experience is now more than adding a “Hi/Hello/Hey/Yo”, followed by a personalization token (their first name), and perhaps, followed by a generic headline. Instead of using “Hi, subscriber name”, you should focus on keywords that actually reflect your subscriber’s intent. This way, you’ll build rapport instantaneously and you’ll build more trust than by simply calling your prospect’s name, letting him know that you’re aware of his existence. Most people have already got it – they understand that what email marketers are doing is automated, and for those that do understand, this email headline or email start will be a turnoff. “Free” Your subscribers probably understand that nothing in this world comes for free. The more you push the word “free” through your email headlines or through the email content, the less trustworthy you’ll look. A lot of spammy emails contain the word “free”, “consultation”, “opportunity”, “promotion”, and so on. Be different and keep this cheap wording away from your email subscribers. Try to find better ways to preserve their attention! “Act Now” Using “Act now” as an email headline is probably a big mistake, especially for those of you who haven’t had enough time or opportunities to strengthen the relationship with your customers. “Act now” is a strong call-to-action, and it should always be used very carefully. It sounds a little pushy, and a little scammy too. Check your spam emails – can you detect it? I tried, and it’s present in 5 different spam emails. “Don’t Delete” Asking your email subscribers (the ones who agreed to follow your emails) not to delete your email is nonsense. First of all, I get why you’d get an impulse to use this phrase. It attracts attention. However, if you think about it, this is a desperate phrase that most of the low-level marketers use to push mediocre offers. The phrase it’s used mostly when an audience is highly skeptical about something, so you should never give your email subscribers the chance to even contemplate on this aspect. Simply avoid it! “Hey there…” “Hey there” could be useful if your relationship with your customers is super tight. They should be your customers, you should have already met in person, and you should share some things in common before using this phrase. Otherwise, even if you believe that it might help you “bond” with your customers, using this phrase might get you a different result. Some readers might see it as “too informal,” so they won’t even bother reading it. “In my opinion” If your prospects have agreed to become your email subscribers, it means that they’re looking for an authoritative figure to teach them how to improve their lives. By constantly using “In my opinion”, you’re showing that your content is not carefully documented, and therefore it won’t be considered trustworthy. Instead of “In my opinion”, you should cite the references or the studies that prove your statements. “To be honest” Your readers are already expecting you to be honest, so why would you remind them that you’re being honest with them? This phrase is truly unnecessary and should be avoided. Sometimes, we keep using this phrase without realizing it. In real life, it might be useful for capturing someone’s attention. In emails? Useless! “Increase sales now” If you wonder why this phrase gets blocked by email providers, here’s the simple answer: it is used too many times, by too many people, in too many niches. Therefore, it is often counted as “spam”, so your email campaign’s performance will suffer consequences. Instead of using “Increase sales” or “Increase sales now” in your headline, try adding it throughout your email copy without overusing it. “Online biz opportunity” First of all, by shortening words in your emails you are proving that you lack self-awareness. Of course, shortening words might get your work done faster and in a more convenient way, but have you stopped a moment to reflect on how these half-words will be perceived by your audience? “Online biz opp” is a highly controversial phrase that screams “scam” to every Internet user who has been around for more than five years. You can bet that no millennial or Gen X or Z user will click on that headline, nor they will follow you again after noticing your “spam” attempt. “While you sleep” Most fake marketers are promising a goldmine opportunity: make money “while you sleep”, lose fat “while you sleep”, become famous “while you sleep”. You can see how absurd this promise looks like, right? It’s one of the phrases that “looks too good to be true”. However, marketers never seem to stop using it, even though it often backfires. My suggestion? Leave it out of your email campaigns and encourage your people to work more and do more to achieve their goals instead of delivering illusions. “Call now” or “Quick call?” Email is a channel of communication that allows businesses to interact with customers. More often than not, these customers have no understanding or knowledge about the businesses they follow, so they’re likely to keep their “shields’ ready. If you encourage your email subscribers to “Call now” or if you ask them whether they’re up for a “Quick call”, you’re stepping some boundaries that your customers surely don’t appreciate. I would always avoid this phrase, especially if you haven’t earned your customers’ full trust already. Misspelled Words Misspelled words are huge turn off, especially when they’re being spotted in emails. Your subscribers have chosen your email campaign because they’re looking for value. Some of these people could lack patience, could be critical, or could be harsh. When they detect misspelled words and poor phrases, their confidence and trust in your business will quickly decline. I’d suggest you always double check your email content using your own eyes, your editor’s skills, and perhaps you should use the help of some grammar and spellchecking digital tools. “Re:” Using “Re:” in a subject line is a cheap tactic that many marketers use to induce their subscribers into error. The strategy’s purpose is to make the subscriber believe that they’ve already had a discussion with the email sender. If the email subscriber falls for it, he’ll pay more attention to the next email. However, if the subscriber doesn’t fall for it, the “unsubscribe” button will often be pushed. “Great Deal” Unless you’re super familiar with your customers (and they’ve already bought many products from you), avoid this phrase by all means. Instead of getting into a real discussion, what you’re clogging your subscribers’ minds with money, equations, possibilities, opportunities, and so on. They’ll keep wanting you to get to the point, which is the “deal” that you’ve promised. Instead of that, focus on providing quality and valuable content and leave the promotional part at the end. “Urgent” or “Buy Now” Encouraging your customers to buy something right now is an action that can backfire and lead to negative consequences. If you choose to use “Urgent”, “Buy now”, “Deal is off tomorrow”, or anything else that creates scarcity and fear of missing out, ensure that your customers trust you with their hearts. Else, you’ll risk being seen as an intrusive marketer who’s there “for the money”. Takeaways Never use these phrases in your email marketing sequence and you should stay out of these unfortunate troubles. You can’t always control what people think about you and your brand. What you can do is ensure that you’re staying updated with the most common “rejected” phrases while keeping your emails clean, relevant, and professional.


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