Series Posts: Practical Marketer

6 Email Marketing Trends for 2020

6 Email Marketing Trends for 2020

Practical Marketer • December 12, 2019

We get pretty excited about email marketing and for good reason. Some of the most ambitious advancements in digital tech have made their way into emails, and many more are just around the corner — which is big news for any company that is using emails to engage with their audience (so, pretty much everyone). With 2020 fast approaching, we thought we\'d take a look at some of the email trends that are expected to make a significant impact in the coming year. In addition to helping inform your email marketing strategy in the year to come, these trends also give some insight into evolving consumer expectations and how you can modify even current best practices to provide your subscribers more of what they want.  Without further ado, here are six of the 2020 email marketing trends to look forward to — and work into your marketing strategy — as we enter the new year. 1. Design Over Copy As the saying goes, an image is worth a thousand words. But good email design is worth even more — especially when it comes to lending authority to your brand. Today\'s consumers are increasingly familiar with the tenets of good design, and even small taboos like unsophisticated fonts or non-complementary colors are going to have an impact on your perceived levels of trustworthiness and authenticity. What you say in your emails is always going to matter, but as we move into 2020, put an even higher priority on design than you already are. The big winners are going to be those brands that stand out not only for the substance of their emails but for the innovative design features that serve as their foundation. 2. Accessibility for Readers with Disabilities We often think of inclusive design in terms of web pages, but emails have a lot of room for growth when it comes to accessibility. Making emails more accessible for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities requires a multi-faceted approach, generally with third party input. But there are things you can do right now to create emails that can be enjoyed by a broader pool of readers — for example, using larger fonts and taking care to arrange your content in a logical order. Also, when using videos, it\'s important to have captions included for any hearing-impaired audience members. You\'ll be getting ahead of the game when it comes to accessibility, and that\'s a good thing for everyone.  3. Bring On the Videos Using videos in emails isn\'t a  new concept. But what is new is our increased awareness of how much more successful they can make your outreach. In fact, adding videos to your emails can increase click rates by an astounding 300 percent, which is a convincing reason to start working them in more often. The key to making videos work in email marketing: keep them short and keep them to the point. And while your videos should be entertaining, they should also be informative, so instead of just making videos for the heck of it, be sure to include some real value for your email recipients. From there, you can decide to embed your video or to tease it with a link to the video on your site. Better yet, try both methods and see which one results in better conversions. 4. User-Generated Content Peer-to-peer experiences are some of the best marketing tools around, so why not use them to your advantage? In 2020, try to work more user-generated content into your emails — things like positive reviews, social media posts, customer photos, and testimonials, all with credit given, of course. This sort of authentic feedback lends more legitimacy to what you\'re selling. It also encourages others to share their own experiences in the hopes of getting the same exposure and is equally (if not more so) influential in touting your product or service. 5. Gamification and Interactivity Having recipients simply read your emails is so last decade. Technology has shown us that there are a lot of other ways that people can interact with your content and that interactivity can stimulate a whole lot more interest than reading alone. Gamification and interactivity can mean a few different things in this context. They can refer to interactive content in the email itself, such as quizzes and puzzles, as well as interactive content that lends itself to actions off the page, such as site or social-hosted competitions and sweepstakes. What it all has in common is more engagement, plus some type of reward (even if that reward is just a bit of fun). With 93 percent of marketers already saying that interactive content is a useful tool, there’s clearly a lot to be gained by bringing this same concept to your emails. 6. Artificial Intelligence AI and email marketing go hand-in-hand, and that shows no signs of changing. AI can help you create better-targeted emails with higher rates of conversion, and it can help gather and make use of the data that supports the efforts of its human teammates. In 2020, look for more ways that you can use AI to augment your existing processes and free up more time for other things on this list (you know, like filming those entertaining and informative videos). Big things are happening in email marketing. And we don\'t know about you, but we can\'t wait to see where it takes us. Let us know what trends you\'re most excited about in 2020, and keep checking back as we cover these various concepts in more detail. 


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4 Unique Ways to Get More Opt-In Subscribers

4 Unique Ways to Get More Opt-In Subscribers

Practical Marketer • December 11, 2019

More than 59 percent of marketers count email marketing as their biggest source of ROI. This proves that investing in email marketing is one of the most lucrative marketing strategies you could use, so your lists must be filled with high-quality prospects that are interested in what your company offers. Enter: opt-in subscribers. Opt-in subscribers are a cornerstone of successful email marketing. More than just proof that people are out there who want to hear from you, opt-in subscribers are crucial for ensuring your emails make it to the inbox (and stay out of the spam folder). The lengthier your contact list, the more substantial amount of prospects you have to nurture and — hopefully — convert to customers. Now, if only it were easy to get all those opt-in subscribers in the first place. Getting people to opt into your emails, like most things in digital marketing, requires a creative approach to see success. Unlike building a contact base off of purchased lists and site skimming, there are no shortcuts when it comes to growing your opt-in email subscribers. To win more subscribers, you\'ve got to put work and time into it. Below are some of the creative ways you can encourage more people to opt-in to your emails for a stronger, more successful email marketing strategy. 1. Website Pop-Ups We’ve all seen them: pop-ups that appear right in the middle of the page (or perhaps less overtly, off in the corner), encouraging us to \"subscribe to our newsletter.\" Pop-ups are a good, sustainable way to get more subscribers via opt-in. The average conversion rate for a pop-up is 3.09 percent. It might not sound like much, but if you\'re getting 1,000 visitors a month to your site, that\'s 31 new opt-in subscribers — all with very little work required on your end. Prioritize pop-ups on the pages where people are most likely to end up, such as your homepage and your most viewed blog post pages. And to make it really \"pop,\" aim for bold colors and clean, concise text. Better yet, offer something of value for signing up, like a free asset or a discount code. 2. Tradeshows and Conferences You\'re probably going to at least one or two tradeshows or conferences a year, but are you using them as opportunities to get more email opt-ins? These kinds of events are great for building your network of potential leads, but you can also be using them to increase your email subscriber list. If a potential customer is already engaging with you person-to-person, there\'s a strong chance they\'re open to hearing more from you later on. And if they aren\'t ready to become a customer right away, enrolling them in your email, outreach is a great way to keep tabs on them without inundating or coming on too strong.  To maximize the potential of building your opt-in list at tradeshows or conferences, add it to your talking points when you start engaging with a potential prospect. Ask people if they\'d like to receive your emails and have a sheet ready where they can write down their email address and check off permission to receive your marketing. Or, bring a tablet or laptop that has an email opt-in page already pulled up that they can quickly enter their information into. At the end of the day, you should have a nice long list to work off of. 3. Re-Engagements Getting more opt-ins doesn\'t always require reaching out to new people. Sometimes, you have to reach out to people who have previously subscribed to your emails but who aren\'t currently engaging with them to see if they still want to keep their opt-in status. Re-engaging cold prospects serves two purposes: one, it can reanimate the relationship and spark more engagement moving forward. Two, it helps you remain compliant and avoid wasting time by emailing people who aren\'t interested in what you\'re selling. If you use an email autoresponder, set it up to send out re-engagement emails after a certain period of inactivity. Otherwise, take it on as part of your routine. You\'ll get a cleaner, more active opt-in list, and you\'ll also build more trust with your recipients. 4. Add A Checkbox To Your Forms Include an option for people to opt-in to your email marketing when they\'re engaging with other content on your site, such as downloading gated assets, entering contests and giveaways, and registering for webinars. They\'re already choosing to provide you with their contact information, so checking a box to enroll in your email marketing won\'t seem too lofty. Just make it clear and visible so that people don\'t miss it when they\'re filling out those forms. The methods that you use to get more people to opt-in to your emails should be implemented alongside your various other efforts, which makes it super easy to tackle. Focus on methods that build trust with your audience and never try to trick anyone into permitting further contact - that\'s no way to build trust with your prospects and begin a meaningful partnership. Likewise, diversify your efforts so that you\'re reaching as many people as possible. Everything from having a social presence to creating high-quality content is going to bring more eyes to what you\'re doing — and as a result, more opportunities for opt-ins.


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The 10 Best Free Email Marketing Tools

The 10 Best Free Email Marketing Tools

Practical Marketer • December 5, 2019

It’s no secret: email marketing is an extremely powerful way to reach your customer base. All it takes is knowing your audience, peppering in some personality and a bit of help from a robust email marketing toolkit arsenal. There\'s no way to do practical, consistent email marketing alone. The complex task of managing your lists, personalizing each email based on selected criteria, and creating templates that will quickly render on any device is best left in the capable hands of a computer. There are so many email marketing tools out there, though. Where do you even start? Let\'s examine 10 of the best free email marketing tools to make your email campaigns soar. 1. Benchmark Email We don\'t mean to be vain, but our email tools are pretty darn great. Our free email service allows you to send up to 14,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 clients. We offer an excellent starter in drip campaigns, easy-to-understand reporting, eCommerce integrations, and beautiful responsive templates. 2. Sender Sender has some cool features that aren\'t seen in some of the other email marketing tools. It is optimized for use with eCommerce solutions and offers easy-to-use plug-ins for all the major content management systems on the market. One cool feature that Sender has is the ability to turn videos into animated GIFs inside of your emails, adding an element of interactivity that gets your message noticed. 3. Omnisend OmniSend is the email marketing toolkit of choice for eCommerce. It is completely optimized for online stores. It offers some advantageous features like fun newsletter sign-up forms, product integrations, and automated emails for notable triggers on eCommerce sites like cart abandonment. 4. Groupmail GroupMail is perfect for email newsletters and automated messages. This free service is geared more towards smaller lists that don\'t require a lot of customization or segmentation. Their service offers basic personalization options and can send to small lists—it maxes out at 100 recipients per send. Groupmail is a great service to dip your toes into email marketing or newsletters and is a nice stepping stone to more significant marketing or mailing lists efforts. 5. Pabbly Email Marketing Pabbly Email Marketing offers its free plan as more of a trial than a permanent solution, but their pricing is still some of the lowest in the business. They offer a dizzying array of features, including unlimited emails starting at the Rookie package. Their service also offers standard features like email tracking, list management, email personalization, and list segmentation. 6. SendInBlue SendInBlue\'s free tool offers some extra features not seen in some of its competitors. Of course, they provide the standard fare like an email template library, list customization, and email personalization. Where they shine is their additional features available on their free plan. SendInBlue offers A/B testing and SMS messaging to enhance your customer outreach efforts. 7. MailChimp MailChimp is one of the most well-known email marketing platforms out there. Their free plan has acted as a gateway for email marketing efforts to small businesses for years now. While the list size and recipients are limited, MailChimp makes up for this with an easy-to-use interface that is beginner-friendly. 8. Campayn Campayn is a simple and light solution for companies that don\'t require a lot of features out of their free plan. Their offering allows you to send 12,500 emails to up to 500 contacts and use your choice from their expertly designed templates. Their free service also offers a single auto-responder. 9. Mailjet Mailjet is a little more advanced in their free offerings than others. They allow the standard fare, like up 6,000 emails sent per month, using nicely designed templates and advanced statistics. However, their claim to fame is more technical. They offer a robust set of APIs, webhooks, and SMTP relay to enhance your email integrations with your website. While these take some effort from your IT team, the customized email triggers can be extremely worthwhile. 10. Moosend Moosend doesn\'t limit the number of email campaigns that you send per month, even on their free version. Instead, this sleek and clean platform only limits your total number of subscribers. If your list is under 1,000 recipients, Moosend is a perfect fit. Their product is perfectly tailored to non-profits and start-up companies, with discounts and incentives to attract those industries to their service. So, there you have it—some of the best movers and shakers into the email marketing tools industry. Whether you\'re a small business who is just getting started in email marketing or a start-up that is trying to build an audience, email marketing can an expensive and daunting undertaking. At least with these free services, though some of their offerings may be limited, you can spend more time figuring out what works for your organization without the burden of additional costs.


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4 Ways Deliverability-Based List Pruning Can Increase Your Email ROI

4 Ways Deliverability-Based List Pruning Can Increase Your Email ROI

Practical Marketer • December 4, 2019

Email list cleanup can be a scary thing.  As marketers, we understand that our contacts are our currency, and we work hard to grow and maintain our database. But over time, especially with a database that is older or managed across multiple teams or departments, data quality issues can take a chunk out of our bottom line if sender reputation and deliverability begin to dip. So we\'re left to figure out the best solution, faced with the challenge of cleaning up our email lists without missing out on opportunities for future engagement. We know we should prune our list, but we can\'t go lopping off vast segments indiscriminately. For example, when tasked to shape up an email database before a more massive send or when preparing for data migration. But no pressure, though. An industry \"best practice\" is to prune your email list based on how long it has been since the subscriber has interacted with your email. However, the timeframe used as criteria for determining whether a subscriber is active or inactive can be arbitrary, leave opportunities on the table, and can be debatable among marketers in an organization. After all, there is data to suggest that sending emails to a deliverable subscriber can still have a positive effect without an open or click.  Instead, a better place to start is by using the deliverability-based method to begin the pruning process. What Is Deliverability-Based Pruning, Exactly? For those looking for a more concrete way to identify and prune low-quality subscribers beyond historical opens and clicks, deliverability-based pruning can be a good starting point for increasing email ROI. It involves three necessary steps: Identify what your organization considers a quality address based on your goals and the context in which the emails are collected. For example, some companies will only accept company emails while others are perfectly fine with collecting emails from free services such as Google or Yahoo. Verify the quality of your email addresses by determining deliverability. This can give insight into how likely you are to reach the recipient\'s inbox.  Part ways with the undeliverable email addresses on your list, as well as any,  addresses your company considers to be low-quality. And while not always the most exciting, jump-for-joy project to take on, deliverability-based pruning is one of the simplest ways to see your email ROI climb after it\'s implemented. Particularly in four ways: 1. It Can Uncover Risky Data That’s Muddling Your Marketing Database If you\'re going to roll up your sleeves and start cleaning your marketing database, the first thing to do is to separate the junk from the valuable stuff. Easier said than done, though, if you\'re facing off with a heap of emails that are aren\'t verified or validated. Verification services like Kickbox give you insight into your marketing database health by classifying email addresses and uncovering information about an email address\' deliverability and overall quality. Data champions can use these categories as \"bins\" to help with decision making on what to keep and what to prune. The categories uncovered by Kickbox are: Deliverable - Safer to send. The recipient\'s mail server stated the recipient exists. Accept-all - Risky. The domain accepts all email you to send to it, even if the email address is not valid Disposable - Risky. One-time email addresses often used to receive initial communications from a service (such as an activation email) and then are discarded. Role - Risky. An email address that is associated with a team or job function instead of an individual.  Free - Potentially risky. Free email such as Yahoo or Gmail, in specific contexts, businesses can receive better open/response rates when only sending to non-free email addresses. Undeliverable - Low-quality. The email address does not exist or is syntactically incorrect. Once you have your email addresses organized by quality and deliverability, any low-quality candidates for list pruning are now in plain sight, and deciding which segments to pare down becomes a lot easier. 2. It Can Boost Your Sender Reputation and Trustworthiness With Your ESP A strong sender reputation will help you reach more subscribers and ultimately make your email marketing more effective over the long-term, so it\'s safe to say that it\'s in a marketer\'s best interest to protect it by maintaining quality data. Not to mention, Email Service Providers and messaging platforms don\'t want poor data entering their pool and potentially damaging their IPs. Poor sender reputation not only decreases your ability to reach the inbox but in more severe cases, can lead to blacklisting (yikes). While deliverability and reputation are multifaceted issues, one of the most fundamental ways to maintain a strong sender reputation is to ensure that only quality, opt-in email addresses are making their way into your marketing stack. No purchased lists or scraped data! Whether it be through integrations, point of capture API, or manual list upload, monitoring the health of the email addresses coming into your database is a surefire way to build on your relationship with subscribers and email providers alike. 3. It Can Feed Better Data Into Your Marketing Stack You can\'t employ even the most well-built campaign on a foundation of questionable data and expect it to work. Put bluntly; if you put crap in, you\'ll get crap out. That\'s why keeping tabs on the quality of both legacy new email addresses in your database is essential. Letting go of bad emails and sending only to a list of verified, real email addresses can have a \"halo\" effect on higher-level marketing automation and email subscriber journeys. Strategically paring out contacts from your email database can increase the percentage of delivery receipts and reduce hard bounces. Reducing hard bounces can increase your sender reputation. Increasing your sender reputation can improve your inbox placement, creating a virtuous cycle of better engagement rates and, eventually, ROI. To get the most out of this \"halo\" effect, we recommend employing two methods of email verification for a one-two-punch: List verification - verifying via manual list uploads (ideal for legacy contacts) Real-time API verification at the point-of-capture 4. It Can Help To Recapture Lost Value We spend a lot of precious time and money on building and deploying our marketing, but often those efforts go into the ether of wrong email addresses, which is sad. Cue the violins. On the front-end, it\'s possible to cut down bad data at the point of capture. Every fat-fingered email address is a missed opportunity to connect with a new potential new customer when all that was needed was a simple error message or \"did you mean\" suggestion to prompt the user to correct the email address. And if you are gathering higher volumes of email addresses every month through your signup forms, calculating ROI for real-time verification is easy once you know the lifetime value of your email addresses.  On the back-end, verifying lists like unengaged subscribers or other deliverability-unknown lists can prevent wasted marketing dollars. For example, some marketers would assume that all bounces should be removed; however, some of those soft-bounced addresses may now be entirely deliverable and, therefore, potentially profitable. We recently verified a list of bounces from a sub-list of our users and found that nearly one-third of the email addresses were now deliverable. The only profitable email address is a deliverable one, so covering your bases by verifying at different stages in the customer lifecycle journey is an excellent way to get the most out of your marketing efforts. Cleaning email data and calculating email ROI aren\'t always the sexiest topics to address with the marketing team, nor are they the simplest to analyze. But by being equipped with the correct deliverability data, the pruning process can be a lot simpler, helping you to maximize your marketing dollars and making you a database hero within your organization.


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Top 10 Email Marketing Blogs You Should Follow

Top 10 Email Marketing Blogs You Should Follow

Practical Marketer • November 27, 2019

It’s easy to fall into a routine with your email marketing. You find that special blend of herbs and spices that kicks your emails into success and you coast along. No shame here—we all get complacent sometimes. But, with an industry like email marketing, you have to stay sharp to keep ahead of the curve. Email is always changing. The way emails render on different devices and services, what is considered accessible design, new developments in interactivity, and innovations in copy or design happen at lightning speed.  Many of us combat this by subscribing to our competitor’s newsletters and watching our analytics like a hawk. That is a great first step, but one of the best ways to keep your fingers on the pulse of the industry is to pick the minds of the great movers and shakers of the field. Luckily, in the age of blogs, you have a wealth of excellent sources to choose from. Let’s look at a curated list of excellent email marketing blogs to follow that will keep you on-trend with both technological advances and creative inspiration. Benchmark We’re not ones to brag, but we work tirelessly to create and curate content that drives both email inspiration and success. We cover a lot of topics in our articles, with everything from the psychology of marketing to what causes a spam filter to trigger. We are forward thinkers in the email marketing game and are always striving to find new and innovative ways to drive our customers’ success. So, whether you’re looking for some technical words of wisdom, design inspiration, or want to dive into email marketing for the first time, we have to say that we’ve built a pretty great resource. Must-read: We’re particularly proud of the article, “Why Email Marketing is Your Most Valuable Brand Touchpoint,” as it really shows just how important email marketing is to your business. Hatchbuck Hatchbuck is a CRM that also features an excellent email marketing toolkit. Their blog is a bit more general and covers all aspects of digital marketing. The thing is, even if you’re looking for email marketing solutions, almost all aspects of digital marketing are interconnected. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of how all of your advertising efforts in the online world work together, the Hatchbuck blog is a great place to build your knowledge. Must-read: The article, “5 Vital Deliverability Tips for 2019” will help your emails land into more inboxes than ever before. Litmus  Litmus is an email marketing enhancement service that provides excellent tools for creating emails that stay away from the SPAM filter and render well on any platform. They do this through excellent analytics, builders, and email proofing. Their services veer to more of the technical side of email marketing, so it’s safe to say their blog does as well. What is excellent about Litmus’ blog is it’s more than just articles. Their blog is a wealth of information in the form of articles, ebooks, and training webinars. They are the king of technical email knowledge. Must-read: “The Secrets to Ready Good Emails” webinar is absolutely fantastic for creating beautiful emails that deliver well. It’s a collaboration between Litmus and the email design inspiration site Really Good Emails. It’s a total must-watch. AdWeek AdWeek is one of the leaders in the space for everything related to design, traditional advertising, marketing, and digital marketing, so chances are you’ve heard of them before. You can expect to see the latest from the marketing and advertising world. AdWeek’s blog has various sections, including digital, creative-focused, branding, and they highlight articles from their print issues as well. Must-read: “7 Ways Brands Can Win on Amazon This Holiday Season” is an excellent read for those in the eCommerce industry. Everyone and their moms use Amazon for a quick and easy shopping experience. With the holidays approaching, Amazon is the first line of relief for those avoiding the overcrowded shops and malls. Make sure you check out this article to get retail-ready.  Content Marketing Institute CMI is a leader in the marketing industry. Every year they have a huge conference that attracts all the industry movers and shakers, and not to mention they regularly release amazing data-backed reports about the state of the industry and what’s just on the horizon that marketers should be preparing for.  So, it’s no wonder that CMI has one of the best marketing blogs out there. I always know I’m going to read something of quality and substance and come away with some brand new knowledge that inspires my content creation and evaluation process. Must-read: “Analyze 6 Elements to Land Better Conversion Rates” is an article that breaks down consumer performance and how you can influence that to see better conversion rates from your offerings. This article is pretty much a dream for any marketer, as achieving conversions is the whole point behind what we do.  Email on Acid  Email on Acid is a service that allows you to test how your email will render on just about every email client, browser, and operating system imaginable. Their blog offers a decent amount of information on email marketing, but where they really shine is their articles about email development. Many of us develop emails through builders, but some features can only be achieved by hand-coding. If you want to create emails that innovate and are at the forefront of trends, Email on Acid can show you how. Must-read: “How to Code Search Bars in Emails” is an excellent article to create an extra layer of interactivity in your emails. A search bar directly into your email will drive engagement and lead to an increased ROI with only a little effort. This tutorial is well-written and easy to understand, with only a little bit of technical knowledge. A must-read for sure. Moz Through Moz’s software, you’re able to track your site’s SEO more effectively and zero in on how specific articles and pages are ranking online. Using one of Moz’s free SEO tools is a game-changer for your strategy, so if you aren’t using it currently, definitely do so asap.  With its focus on SEO and marketing specifically, The Moz blog offers tons of comprehensive insight from industry thought leaders. But that’s not all. They also regularly post tips for branding, blogging, keyword research, link building, and social media, to name a few. The quality is great, too. No fluffy, filler content in sight. Only comprehensive tips and education that can benefit any modern marketer. You should go ahead and bookmark it or subscribe to their email updates.  Must-read: “10 Link Building Lies You Must Ignore” cuts right to the chase. There are so many misconceptions around link building, and this article is all about debunking them so you can know exactly what to expect.  Emma Emma is an email marketing service that focuses beautifully branded, highly personalized emails. So, their blog naturally serves as a place to inspire and spark creativity within their readers. The Emma blog is lovely to look at, with beautifully designed illustrations that accompany each article. Their articles also feature lovely examples and data charts that help drive their ideas home in a visually compelling way. Must-read: “3 Creative ideas to kickstart your 2019 holiday email marketing” gives great advice on how to start your marketing rounds for the big holiday shopping season, using sound data and lovely examples to back up their claims. Unbounce What marketer doesn’t want to improve their conversion rates? The answer is none. None marketers. Unbounce offers a landing page analyzer (it’s free!) to assist you with creating landing pages that actually convert. When it comes to their blog, Unbounce covers everything related to landing pages and conversions (obviously). But they don’t stop there. They also offer tips on content marketing, SaaS, conferences, branding, and more.  Must-read: “2019 Ecommerce Landing Page Best Practices (with 27 Examples)” is loaded with tips for a successful eCommerce landing page and examples to help you connect the dots more quickly.  Intercom Intercom is a SaaS company that offers a customizable messaging suite aimed at capitalizing on customer touchpoints at every stage of the buyer’s journey.  I could write a full page on their visuals alone, but that aside, their blog is a wonderful place to go for insightful reads on various topics and areas within marketing. We’re talking design, storage, understanding your customers, and sales tips. Intercom nails it when it comes to a robust content calendar, which makes it an essential blog for various marketing professionals to read.  Must-read: “Who’s who: Understanding your business with customer segmentation” dissects what segmentation is and why doing so will help you truly understand your audience and therefore reach them and speak to them better.  So, what are you waiting for? Get to reading! These email marketing blogs will fill you with so much knowledge. You’ll feel unstoppable. From marketing tips to design, copy, and technical code, there’s a blog for you to learn every aspect of the digital marketing world.


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The Email Marketing Benchmarks You Should be Measuring

The Email Marketing Benchmarks You Should be Measuring

Practical Marketer • November 19, 2019

Technology is like the ocean. It ebbs and flows and can change on a dime. Take, for instance, email. When electronic mail first came on the scene, the idea of quickly sending a correspondence instead of waiting a couple of days for snail mail felt like magic. The tide was in, and the possibilities were endless. Pretty soon, email marketing became one of the best ways to reach and nurture your audience.  But like all periods of greatness, there comes a time when the light fades a bit. And in an instant, the tide went out, leaving tin cans of spam in its wake. Email became inundated with clutter and junk, and people began to dread checking their inbox. Eventually, it became an unpopular form of digital marketing.  But, with 60% of marketers claiming email is the biggest source of ROI, the tide is coming back in again.  By the year 2022, the number of active email users is forecasted to reach 4.3 billion people. The rise of intelligent email service providers and securely encrypted firewall technology has gained the trust of consumers once more, leading to the development of automated sales and marketing technologies that streamline email strategies. These programs produce a lot of data that a brand should know how to measure and put to work. But the key is in knowing what metrics to look at. Email Marketing Metrics to Measure Every business has different objectives they want to reach. That means there is no set standard for what you must measure in an email campaign. Your particular business goals should drive the metrics you use to measure success. With that said, there are a few go-to benchmarks to note when formulating a plan, benchmarks that make sense for most marketers to look at and consider. 1. Open Rate The top priority when sending an email is to have it opened. This is the first sign of interest that can spark a variety of campaigns. It\'s also the best way to tell whether your subject lines are engaging enough to encourage people to read the email. The benchmark figure for an acceptable open rate varies by industry. The average for all industries is approximately 20%. Anything lower means you probably need to reconfigure the campaign. Total vs. unique opens is also something to compare. Did the prospect open the email once, or did they go back and read it a few times? This data can be very telling and can be used to better position leads in the marketing funnel.  2. Mobile Open Rate Every marketer knows that mobile optimization is key to reaching your consumers. We’re always on our phones, and that includes when we’re consuming email content.  Keeping that in mind, the rate at which your prospects open emails on their mobile devices can say a lot about their behavior. If you find the open rate is higher through mobile channels, make sure your campaigns are optimized on mobile, your site is responsive, fonts are larger, your emails aren’t too text-heavy, and the call-to-action isn’t hidden.  3. Click-through Rate (CTR) The goal of most email campaigns is to get subscribers to convert on a webpage from an email you send. This is usually presented in the text of the email as a call-to-action (as mentioned in the previous point). It can be a button or link that redirects the consumer to a promotional item or branded offering. The CTR signifies the percentage of people who clicked the link in your email vs. the number of people who opened it. It’s a metric that indicates a willingness to convert. When people click the link, it means you’ve successfully compelled them to the next step. Half the battle is won.  A benchmark for a healthy email CTR is 7.77% (add an extra 14% if you personalize the subject line).  The CTR is essential because it’s the gateway metric to conversions. The more people that “click-through,” your email directly relates to the success of the email you’re sending. It can help you determine that the subject and content are engaging, drawing people in, and guiding them through the inbound funnel.  4. Reply Rate This is the most vital metric to track, and yet it is often ignored. Yes, you need your email opened before you can even see a reply, but even if you have an open rate of 50%, it’s not a metric that is directly connected to revenue. The reply rate is. This figure will always be on the lower side. That’s because some leads may simply click the link without ever replying. However, a reply leapfrogs leads into the hot part of the funnel. The business standard for a reply rate is typically between 5-6%.  Additional Email Marketing Metrics to Consider Don’t stop there! Here are a few more metrics to consider measuring for email marketing success:  Bounce rate Spam score Time spent viewing email Purchase rate Unsubscribes These are all pretty self-explanatory. But, these additional five metrics can ultimately help you upgrade your email marketing. Determining if people are disengaging from your emails, if you’re being marked as spam, or if your emails are encouraging buying behavior are important indicators of success. Ongoing Analysis  A/B testing is a great way to measure the success of an email marketing campaign, and it starts with the subject line. If you find you have a low open rate, try using the same content but with a different subject line, and then see which subject line has a higher open rate.  Improving your email marketing metrics starts with personalization. Studies show that a subject line with the recipient’s first name is 26% more likely to be opened. Know your audience and establish email benchmarks accordingly, so once you have the right information, you can use it to drive successful campaigns that generate revenue.


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8 Marketing Automation Tips for Small Business

8 Marketing Automation Tips for Small Business

Practical Marketer • November 13, 2019

Marketing automation can be a godsend for small businesses. With limited time, resources, and team members on hand, automating repetitive tasks and processes allows your small business to do more with less for better marketing results. But even the robots need a little help doing their jobs. To make sure that you’re optimizing your business’s usage of marketing automation, it pays to take a step back and overview the best practices that others have learned along the way. And to make it easy for you, we’ve compiled some of the very best small business marketing automation tips and must-dos from around the web. Ready? Let’s get into it. 1. Choose Your Software Carefully Not all marketing automation solutions are created equally. Keep in mind that, while there are certainly a lot of great options out there, not all of them are necessarily right for your business. Put time and effort into researching marketing automation software so you can be sure to make the right pick, and don’t be afraid to drill vendors on the things that matter most to your company, including data integration capabilities with your existing software solutions and the platform’s strengths and weaknesses. Source: CRM Magazine 2. Build Your List — Don’t Buy It “Your campaigns are only as good as your list,” says Debbie Farese, Senior Manager of Product Marketing for HubSpot. And if you really want your list to pull its weight, it needs to be filled with qualified leads. So while it might be tempting to get the instant engagement push that buying a contact list can give you, there’s no point in doing so if those leads aren’t interested in what you’re selling. Source: HubSpot 3. Put Strategy First It’s difficult to maximize the utility of your marketing automation platform if you’re not sure exactly what you’re trying to achieve. Defining a clear strategy is key at each step of the process, from choosing your best software option to tracking and analyzing your customer data. The more you understand what you’re looking for, the more you’ll be able to steer your marketing automation in the right direction. Source: Martech Advisor 4. Produce Great Content Marketing automation can exceed your expectations when it comes to disseminating content, but it can’t create the content for you. You’ll still need to plan, create, and refine the content that you share with your leads, with a focus on quality and originality. Not only will you get more benefits out of your marketing automation platform, you’ll also get more conversions. Source: ActiveCampaign 5. Offer Training Whether your marketing team is five people, two people, or just you, it’s important that you provide training on how to use the platform you’ve put in place. Even the best marketing automation solutions might not be very intuitive to use, and if you don’t get an advanced overview of what you’re working with you’ll probably end up misusing or neglecting key features. Pretty much all vendors offer training services, so talk to your sales rep about getting set up. Source: Act-On 6. Think Agile Instead of trying to set up everything at once, start with just one or two processes and build from there. The agile method of marketing is based on data — not assumptions. By executing a small number of strategies and then tracking the data for actionable insights, you create campaigns that are more likely to drive conversions and engagement, and you avoid some of the common mistakes that you might otherwise end up repeating from campaign to campaign. Source: Forbes 7. Segment Your Contact List Segmentation is instrumental in effective marketing automation. By dividing your contact list into targeted subsets, you ensure that you’re reaching the right people with the right message at the right time—and that’s crucial if you want to convert. Source: Soffront 8. Develop Customer Personas Speaking of segmentation, it helps to assign personas to each subset list. Customer personas are a solution to today’s marketing challenge of needing to address each customer personally but not having the time to write out individual messages. When developing yours, try to get as specific as you can, identifying not just the core demographics of certain types of customers but their pain points, behaviors, and objectives. Source: Small Business Trends Automation is still a relatively new player in the marketing game. While we can’t predict exactly how it will change and evolve over time, we can tell you that following the tips above will help you get more value of your automation platform — regardless of how it functions. Use your vendor as a resource to help you navigate the platform as efficiently as possible, and if something isn’t working right, look for ways to improve your own processes first, instead of giving up on the system.


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11 Ways to Upgrade Your Email Marketing Content

11 Ways to Upgrade Your Email Marketing Content

Practical Marketer • November 7, 2019

With new marketing channels popping up regularly, email marketing may seem like an outdated technique. Despite this, email marketing remains the channel with the highest ROI per marketing dollar and is an incredibly effective tool for everything from direct and effective sales to growing social media audiences. The main thing that has changed over the years in email marketing is the scope of the emails themselves (and the ability to get placed in the inbox). While some businesses still use email to deliver promotional or sales-y content, the most successful marketing emails are focused on valuable, educational content. It’s the content of your emails that gets people interested in subscribing regularly in the first place. Email can also serve as a great way to lead people from being simply aware of your company to being brand advocates. Here’s how to upgrade your content to make email marketing work efficiently. Put more work into it The first step toward creating better content is simply stepping up your game. You may think that people are now too engaged in 140-character Twitter posts to have the time to read anything for longer than a few seconds. That’s simply not true. Posts that contain over 3000 words show remarkable results in every metric from social media shares to attracting traffic. Invest more time in each email. Even though it’s more time-intensive to create them, the benefits will pay off later. Don’t just go for the length, go for the detail in the way you describe the topic at hand. The easier it is to consume and the more information there is about the topic, the better. Read existing articles on the topic you’re covering and make sure the content you’re creating is both detailed and actionable. Use editing and proofreading services like Grammarly, Typely, or any professional content writing service to make your content higher quality. Here are some ideas for formats you can implement in your email marketing. Guides While some industries are harder to create interesting, creative content for, downloadable guides are a format that seem to work for everyone. Whether you’re dealing in software development or home repairs, there’s always something to write a how-to guide on. Guides or e-books naturally lend themselves to long-form content. If something requires a guide to understand how it’s done, you’d expect it to have enough intricate details to explain at length. Checklist Checklists, while often short and sweet, can be a long-lasting resource for your prospects and customers. The most successful ones will become a go-to tool for your subscribers.  The best way to approach checklist creation is to identify key processes and tasks that people in your industry struggle with and to create a detailed breakdown, explaining each step. It doesn’t need to look fancy, but make sure it’s printable if you truly want it to be an everyday resource for your contacts. Source: Totalhomeinspection.com Case study Case studies are a win-win for your subscribers and your business. Not only are they a fantastic brand awareness tool, but they do much of the research legwork potential customers might be doing before pulling the trigger on making a purchase from your business. Case studies make great email content because they’re promotional without being outright sales-focused, and they give prospective buyers a look into what a partnership with your organization might look like.  E-book No, you don’t actually need to a 400 page book and publish it on Amazon. Sales and marketing e-books are typically anywhere from 10 - 30 pages (depending how detailed the information you’re providing is). Think about it as a long blog post taken to the next level. Since there’s a finite number of topics you can cover in such a long format, you’ll want to be sparse on e-books. The ones you do create, however, should be valuable enough to contribute to your email marketing campaign popularity and the success of your website as a whole. Be ready to spend several weeks creating an e-book. You may also hire a designer to do some illustrations for you. That’s not a must, but a good bonus. Even the biggest companies can keep their design minimal like Ahrefs here. Source: Ahrefs Ready-made content Long, detailed content keeps readers interested when they can gain a ton of benefits from reading it. Give them even more benefits if you want to keep your audience engaged. Share ready-made content in your email marketing campaign to increase traffic and social media shares. Ready-made content is something your reader can directly use in their job or hobby. Here’s what you can create. Template Templates are a great way to give your subscribers something of value that they can tailor specifically to their needs. The most commonly offered marketing template is the email template. An HTML email template may be useful for hundreds of people, and all they have to do it just change the text and insert their own images. Source: Benchmarkemail An email template can be even easier like this Quicksprout example. It’s a textual template that users can make their own by filling in the blanks. Source: Quicksprout You can do the same with any type of resource and share it in an email marketing campaign. Industry-specific resources You can create a guide on an industry-related topic in almost any walk of life. It’s much harder with resources, though. Every industry has its own set of resources that may be useful for the public. If you’re a software development company, you can share snippets of code that can later be used by other developers. A carpentry company can share specifications for a DIY bench. A web design company can create a set of icons and give them away for free. Think of a resource that is relevant to your industry and invest some time in creating it. Change the medium Content is king, but not all content has to be in a written form. Consider changing the medium to attract more people. Here are your two main options when it comes to diversifying your content. Podcast You’d be surprised by the fact that some people who don’t have the time to read an article for 10 minutes will gladly listen to a 30-minute podcast. Whether they’re listening to it during their commute to work or after working hours when they’re tired of staring at a screen, some people want to listen to what you have to say instead of reading it. Considering the fact that podcasts now show up in Google results, this medium is becoming even more lucrative and potentially beneficial for marketing strategies. Infographics You may be tired of infographics because for some time they’ve been everywhere. It’s not because they’re not useful, however, the infographic format became too popular and too many people jumped on the bandwagon. Now that the infographic hype seems to be passing, you can revisit the medium without being viewed as another company that contributes nothing with their visual media. Focus on the data instead of graphics, and your newsletter subscribers will appreciate the ability to see complex ideas in an easily digestible form. You don’t even have to provide proprietary data. Presenting old but reliable research can work as well. Source: Visual.ly Gather your own data Now that you know the basic content formats that work well in email marketing campaigns, here’s a great tip that will take it to the next level. It will undoubtedly take a bigger monetary and time investment, but it’s worth it. Gather your own data. It’s okay to do research and aggregate complex ideas into one resource, but what is more compelling than presenting your own research? It will give a fresh perspective on the topic you’re covering and establish you as an expert in the industry. Add unique content How do you motivate people to subscribe to your newsletter? You give them an incentive they can’t refuse. You offer unique content for newsletter subscribers, content that doesn’t appear on the website. The only way to get that unique information and resources is to be a subscriber. It’s a small sacrifice since your website users will miss out on the content, but it’s worth making. It will help the email marketing campaign become even more successful and make newsletter subscribers feel special. Want to have it both ways? You can mention the unique content on the website but make it accessible only by email. Ask users to subscribe before they can get it. Make it personal Not all emails should be serious, formal, and straight to the point. If your audience is okay with a bit of personality in their inbox, give them a glimpse into your inner workings as a company. Share a photo from the office, tell a bit about one of your employees, or share a story of how you solved a problem at work. These things can provide necessary relief from the stream of business emails your subscribers get every day and can help them see you as a group of people, not just as another company on the web. Conclusion Email marketing isn’t just about sending the right emails to the right people. It’s also about the content you send to them. “Give value for free” is probably the shortest way you could describe what creating successful content for email marketing entails. You have to invest more time into creating content in different formats and make it as useful for the reader as possible. With these tips in your arsenal, your email marketing campaign will no doubt be a success!


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Growing Your Email List With Chatbots

Growing Your Email List With Chatbots

Practical Marketer • October 28, 2019

As chatbots continue to grow in popularity, especially with the onset of AI-backed capabilities, their potential applications in the business realm continue to grow. According to Gartner, 55 percent of all companies will be using chatbots by 2020. Forrester research describes chatbot growth as “crazy,” stating, “Bots are easier to develop than apps, and they’re a way to reach customers where they spend a majority of their time.” One of the most pertinent uses for chatbots at the moment is in the automation arena. Bots are able to autonomously handle customer service conversations, answer questions, and gather useful consumer data. One of the most important components of this data is email. Although it may seem a bit old school, email marketing is still alive and well, and chatbots are one of the easiest and most effective ways to nurture that invaluable email list. Why Use Chatbots? Chatbots have become wildly popular, with more than 1.3 billion people using Facebook messenger bots alone. Drift’s State of Conversational Marketing report found people from all 195 countries use online chat. What explains this popularity? By all accounts, a chat is more convenient, faster, and more readily available than any other form of communication. As Forrester noted, these bots exist in places where customers are already spending a majority of their time — on social media and online. This makes chatbots an easy way to connect with users on a more personal level and provides them with a satisfying interaction. Chatbots are a great way to get your foot in the door and obtain email addresses to add to your subscriber list. If you’re not using chatbots to propel your email marketing campaigns forward, you might be missing out on a lot of potential leads. Why Use Chatbots? A quick note here - while chatbots are absolutely great in growing your email list, running a bot for the sole purpose of gathering emails can come across as pushy. The primary objective of your chatbot must be to provide customer service or gathering user\'s feedback. Capturing email addresses of your users is thus a desirable outcome of the value you provide. How Do You Get the Email Addresses? According to Optinmonster, “Email is a very personal thing. People aren’t going to give you their email address without a good incentive.” Chatbots allow you to target specific audiences and provide them with valuable, customized information. However, simply starting a chat is no longer enough to get users to hand over their email addresses. Using the “in case we get disconnected” line doesn’t cut it anymore. Users need to be wooed through relevant information, entertainment, and enticement. Provide Users With An Incentive In the digital marketing world, email addresses are like currency. In order to get users to hand over their email address, you must provide something equally as valuable for them in return. Chatbots can offer incentives that may benefit customers, such as ebooks, quizzes, podcasts, exclusive members-only content, product demos, promotions, or even trial offers on products. For example, if you have a chatbot for a clothing store, it can provide specific information about certain items, as well as provide advice such as fashion tips. The chatbot could then offer additional incentives like daily outfit inspiration, special offers, and discounts for users who provide an email address. In doing this, the bots have provided customers with enough value to incentivize customers to hand over their personal information. Ensure Bots Do What They’re Built To Do It’s imperative that your bots do exactly what they’re programmed to do and provide relevant information and answers to customers. Each message is vital to successful interaction and can mean the difference between an engaged customer and a disinterested one. An important component to remember is that users opt for chat communication because it’s faster, easier, and more to the point. Complicated messages or too many steps before addressing the main objective will likely disengage your customers. For example, the chatbot for Whole Foods Market is aimed at helping customers find recipes. The bots get right down to business, respond to their prompts, and drive the conversation to help users get exactly the kinds of food and recipes they’re searching for. The chatbot does what it’s supposed to do and aligns directly with the user’s expectations throughout the entire conversation. Don’t Ask For An Email Right Away The easiest time for a customer to say ‘no’ is at the beginning of a conversation. Don’t make the mistake of asking for an email address as soon as the conversation begins. Instead, genuinely engage with your users. An entertaining conversation can go a long way in gaining a user’s trust and keeping them interested until the right moment presents itself. Create bots with personality, like this sassy National Geographic chatbot. The longer a customer spends chatting with your bots and building a relationship, the more likely they’ll be to provide their email address at the end of the conversation. Begin by having bots ask for a user’s name and preferences, create an entertaining dialogue, and slowly work your way up to the big ask: the email address. Once customers have said yes to other questions and have engaged positively with a chatbot, they’ll be much more inclined to keep saying yes. Now That You Have The Emails, Where Do They go? Receiving email addresses is the most difficult task. But, once you have them, it’s important to have a system in place that will help you organize and use them effectively. There are many programs available that can integrate with Facebook messenger or other chatbots to funnel directly into creating automated subscriber lists. With the interconnection between these programs and your chosen email marketing platform, chatbots can build your subscriber list and send emails for your campaigns automatically. Platforms like Benchmark have the ability to take the emails your bots have gathered, sort through them, and send emails at the most optimal time, providing value to each user and ensuring the email addresses stay on the list rather than having users ask to be unsubscribed. Closing Thoughts Chatbots are a way to speak with customers in a setting where they’re already comfortable. The capabilities embedded into these bots allow them to intuitively interact with users, creating an overall positive customer experience. They create a perfect opportunity to foster a personal connection with users and collect valuable customer data, especially emails. In doing so, chatbots provide the perfect way to grow your subscriber list.


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5 Ways to Make Your Marketing Emails More Personal

5 Ways to Make Your Marketing Emails More Personal

Practical Marketer • October 24, 2019

Can you guess how many emails were sent in one day in 2018?  Would your guess be in the thousands or millions? Surprisingly, it is actually in the billions. In one day in 2018, there were 281 billion emails sent and received. Even more surprising is that number is expected to increase to 347 billion in just three years.  If your company is sending out marketing emails and you were already wondering how to stand-out, that number might not be what you want to hear. However, the good news is there are plenty of tips and tricks you can incorporate into your content to get noticed, read, appreciated and convert leads into customers. Personalize Your Subject Line  The first way is an old trick, but one that is still useful to marketers. If you made sure to get everyone’s first name when building out your email lists, this is one you can start using today. Now, you may be wondering if this still gets higher open rates, since you likely aren’t the first person your customer has seen add their first name to a sales email.  According to Experian, your customers are 29% more likely to open your email if their name is used. The study showed that personalized emails generated six times higher transaction rates. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get noticed and make your customer feel like you know them by name.  Take a Conversational Tone  Knowing what to say is the first part to writing a great email and the way you make it more personalized, is knowing how to say it. The tone of your messaging is an important way to stand out and shouldn’t be overlooked. Many sales emails that go out to inboxes everywhere take a more formal or sophisticated approach. That is not how people usually talk to their friends. You don’t have to make the tone too informal, but it is necessary to take a conversational approach to your content.  The easiest way to do this is to write like you would if you were talking with some friends. For example, use the word “it’s” instead of spelling out “it is” because when you read it out loud it usually sounds more awkward and not how people normally talk. You can also use words like “just” or even add in some emojis to make the email more fun to read. Let’s face it, people enjoy opening and reading emails from their friends more than they do from businesses.  Use Humor in Your Emails  On the note of emojis in marketing emails, another way to make an email more personalized is by adding in humor or some well-loved puns. Again, this is how friends talk to each other and it makes your content that much more fun to read. A lot of fashion and retail marketers are catching on to this trend and we aren’t mad about it. If you are going to get an email in your inbox in the morning, wouldn’t you rather it be something that brightens your day or makes you smile? Brands are now seen as more humanized, doing social good and they want to be seen as more approachable. They want more people to share their content, forward their email to a friend or post about them on social media. Brands want to build trust and they see the value. It’s a risk, but what if it’s one your competitors are willing to make? Of course, every marketing email message is different, so always make sure it is appropriate.  Segment Your Email Lists  Another great way to make your emails more personalized and feel less like a bulk email, is segmenting your lists. This isn’t something marketers always take the time to do, but it’s an important step if you’re also hopefully using email link clicks for tracking your leads. There are a few ways to segment your lists, but a popular one is by the target audience. If your company sells to a few different markets, organizing your lists will help you tailor your email marketing content. Let’s say you work with multiple industries, by segmenting your lists this way, you can write an email just focused on the interests and problems your product solves, just for them. When you are writing content for the masses, it’s more difficult to make your point. Use Automation to Send the Right Message at the Right Time Marketing automation doesn’t have to mean the end of email personalization. With so many affordable marketing automation platforms on the market, businesses that aren’t utilizing this technology are falling behind. Keep an eye out for specific buying signals, such as a demo request, email engagement or pricing page visit, and use those signals to trigger intelligent automations that will make your prospects feel like you’re reaching out to them on a one-to-one basis.  As a small business, you don’t have time to send one-off emails to prospects all day every day. Marketing automation allows you to put the processes in place to ensure that your outreach is nurturing leads through your sales funnel and never letting prospective customers fall through the cracks.  Email personalization is key to getting noticed in the overcrowded inbox. Using the tips we mentioned above, you can increase your odds that your prospects will open and engage with your emails – even when their inboxes are flooded.


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