Series Posts: Practical Marketer

Your Networking Event is Cancelled. Now What?

Your Networking Event is Cancelled. Now What?

Practical Marketer • April 2, 2020

Every year, companies budget out for various marketing and sales expenses. They decide which tradeshows, conferences, and networking events they’ll be going to. Making room for these kinds of events is pretty important, as many give businesses a chance for face-to-face interaction with potential customers and partners. It allows businesses to build trust and a foundation for a solid relationship with their prospects. With the right sponsors and attendees, these events are invaluable.  Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most public events have been canceled for the year. With encouragement from our government to stay inside as much as possible and practice social distancing, we’re not able to use these kinds of methods right now. Which means we have to increase other efforts to make up for the lost opportunities.  We’ll break down a few alternative methods to keep your marketing and sales efforts chugging right along, all without having to leave your home.   The Value of Virtual Events Just because your in-person events have been canceled doesn’t mean there isn’t another way to bring people together (safely). Virtual events are the best way to still provide that real-time value to your customers, leads, and audience while maintaining a safe distance. Here are a few examples to give a whirl.  1. Webinars Webinars are a great addition to any marketing strategy and a wonderful alternative when in-person get-togethers just aren’t possible. What’s even better is that since you’re running the webinar, you can choose the topic. It can be anything you like, as long as it adds value for your audience. Typically, we like to host webinars that center on a particular area of expertise we have. However, given the climate we’re all in, you may want to break the rules a bit and focus your webinar on tips for dealing with this current crisis, or things to do that will help businesses experience a minimal amount of setbacks.  2. Podcasts  You’ve been considering starting a podcast for quite some time, but just never got around to it. Well, there’s no time like the present. We all could use a little background noise or audio tips while we work from our home offices, so consider mapping out a podcast strategy. Decide on your angle, a creative name, and then start a calendar that helps you figure out what topics you’ll discuss for each episode. You can even have guests on to chat with that you can set up via a Zoom meeting or Skype. 3. Facebook Live  Consider using Facebook Live as a way to engage with your audience quickly. Ask your team if anyone would like to volunteer themselves to lead a few. Each team member can choose a topic or area they’re experts in, like customer engagement, customer success, content, marketing, social media, etc. and offer tips. Or, they could walk viewers through your product and show them the problems it helps solve and its functionalities. There are a lot of fun things you can do with Facebook Live that will help you engage and maintain a presence with your audience while everyone is at home.  4. Instagram Live  Posting an Instagram Live video can be a fun way to offer a workshop to your customers. You can go over a particular feature of your product or service offering, then field questions as they come through on the video. Another idea is to interview someone in your industry, which can help increase the exposure the video gets and bring more value to viewers. Watch live videos from some of the accounts you follow and see what they do and decide if this method might be beneficial for you to try out.  Focus on Other Marketing Strategies Sales are probably down, and not a lot of people are picking up their phones. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect other marketing strategies to help bring in some possible leads. Since you’re already adjusting for lack of in-person events and meetings, it doesn’t hurt to focus on upping the ante on these other strategies.  Content Marketing: Content is a cost-effective way to provide your audience with valuable information and stay top-of-mind with them. It fuels your email marketing strategies and can give you great social media material as well. Focus on ramping up your content so you can share helpful tips with your audience for working remote, staying productive, and dealing with the COVID-19 consequences. Online Advertising: In an effort to cut costs, you may be considering scaling back on your online advertising efforts. It’s totally understandable if you must, but if you can afford to right now, don’t. Maintaining or even upping your online ads will help ensure your lead flows don’t dry up when things go back to normal. It can also help bring in some leads in a time when it’s particularly hard to do so.   Social Media: Keep your social media game strong by sharing out the content you’re creating, and using creative methods to continue to engage your followers and acquire new ones. Also, take advantage of each social platform’s ad features so you can tap into possible new leads.  Email Marketing: Focus on continuing to provide nurture to the prospects and clients you already have through your email marketing strategy. Switch up your drip campaigns and your newsletters to include more helpful content with what’s going on, as well as offer up general business tips. Make sure your prospects know you’re available if they need anything.  We know that each day brings its own struggle. And with the pandemic, the uncertainty is tenfold. But we’re here for you, and we want to help in any way we can so you can get through this and prosper on the other side. Hopefully, the tips above will help you find alternative methods to get you on your way. 


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4 Things Your Sales Team Should Be Doing But Isn’t

4 Things Your Sales Team Should Be Doing But Isn’t

Practical Marketer • April 1, 2020

Your sales team is a significant contributor to the overall success of your company. Aside from being the ones to get your products or services sold in the first place, sales also have a responsibility to help propagate your brand identity and maintain a high level of trust with your customers. Often, they’re also privy to product or service complaints that might never make it to your official customer service department. With so many balls in the air, it’s easy to understand why a sales team that fails to do its job well is going to have a major effect on a company’s morale and bottom line. There’s a lot of value in ensuring that your sales team is running as optimally as possible — even if you’re on the marketing end. Is your sales team doing everything that they can to contribute to the overall success of your company and the product you (and especially they) are selling? For most companies, the answer is probably no. With that in mind, here are four sales tips that your team should be following if they’re not already. 1. Regularly Meeting with the Marketing Team Clearing up the misconception that marketing and sales are two wildly different departments is a necessary step in maximizing the utility of both teams. It’s marketing’s job to help boost sales, so essentially,  the two departments need to enable one another and strive to reach the same goals. Cracks in the relationship between the two are also usually quite apparent to clients and suggest that the company as a whole might not have its stuff together. Bring in the sales team as active participants in your marketing efforts, opening the lines of communication for the free trade of ideas. This approach makes a ton of sense, considering that marketing creates the content that the sales team uses in their conversations, and thus benefits greatly from knowing exactly what kind of content sales needs.  To align sales and marketing, schedule regular meetings between sales and marketing, and talk about the questions your sales team gets and the obstacles that they’re facing when they talk to leads. Then use those conversations to drive your content strategy. 2. Creating Content Your entire company is a team of thought leaders, including sales. So why not tap into that wealth of wisdom by encouraging your sales team to contribute original content of their own? Be it for your company blog or an outside publication, content is the fuel needed to showcase expertise and credibility.  When a sales team creates content that is then shared with their prospects, they’re building trust, as well as their pool of potentially useful content resources. This gives them a ton of email marketing fuel and can make their sales emails far more engaging.  3. Automating Their Email Just like their marketing counterparts, sales reps are busy, busy, busy. They don’t always have time to manually touch base with all of their leads, or to check-in via email at just the right moment. That’s where automation comes in — a no brainer for more effective emailing. Just as in marketing, automating your sales teams’ emails helps maintain a high level of connection with your customers, keeps your brand name top of mind, and ensures you’re optimizing your entire funnel. If your sales team automates their email outreach, they can stay in better touch with them, and send them personalized content that addresses their unique needs. This helps sales focus more on all of the other things their job demands while still ensuring their prospects receive the nurture needed based on where they are in the buyer journey.  4. Building Their Social Media Networks To be effective with your sales tactics in today’s modern landscape, you need to be creative. You also need to consider where your audience is the most active, and that’s social media. While it’s an obvious necessity for marketing, social media often gets downplayed when it comes to sales. Since many of your customers are looking to social media platforms to ascertain the credibility of your brand and the people who work for it, maintaining a social presence is key for sales. Any employee who is front-facing with clients should have a strong presence on social, and this includes sharing content regularly and posting industry data and compelling articles. This shows prospects and existing customers alike that you’re on top of your game, with your fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. You can achieve this all through one platform like LinkedIn, or diversify and encourage sales professionals to hop onto other networks too, like Twitter and Facebook. Just like all of the departments that make up a company, sales are in it to win it. And while you might not have any direct authority coming from the marketing angle, you can (and should!) make suggestions that help you both work better and faster. Start with the four ideas above and, together, plan where you go from there. 


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The Pros and Cons of Text-Based Email Versus HTML

The Pros and Cons of Text-Based Email Versus HTML

Practical Marketer • March 26, 2020

Which is better: text-based emails or HTML? The debate is almost as old as email marketing itself. In 2011 and 2014, HubSpot asked survey takers which they prefer, and both years a majority chose HTML. In practice, though, simple, text-based email designs win out time and time again in A/B testing. Of course, it would be silly to write off HTML emails — and in fact, images, videos, and creative design elements are some of the most memorable features of successful email marketing. What is there to make of it all then? In this post, we’ll explain the basics of both text-based emails and HTML emails as well as their pros and cons so that you can decide for yourself which is worth your time and effort. Plain Text Emails Plain text emails are messages that contain text without any additional flair, such as fonts, colors, or design elements. Nothing is embedded, including images or links. They’re just plain Jane, good ole’ fashion text emails — the same as you might send to your friends or colleagues. These types of emails were commonplace when emails were first being used in marketing. For obvious reasons, too, considering we hadn’t yet tapped the potential of what emails could be and look like — or built an infrastructure of email tools and platforms to aid in their transformation. Pros They’re better for one-on-one email correspondence. Where plain text emails really excel is with sales letters and updates. They’re inherently personal, and offer quick, clean information without any added fluff. They load quickly. No buffering times needed for plain text emails, since there’s not much to load in the first place. They work on every device. Mobile, tables, desktops, laptops… you name it, and plain text emails work on it, too. While with HTML, you have to worry about certain features getting warped when going from device to device, plain text appears as-is no matter where you open it. They’re more accessible to those with disabilities. Many individuals require the use of read-aloud software for email. The output can be confusing with HTML, however, since there are images and formatting changes breaking up the text. With plain text, the message is straightforward and comes across loud and clear. Cons Their formatting isn’t up to you. When you use plain text in your email marketing, your messages are sent with ASCII text, giving you little to no control over their formatting. Your recipients might see the image broken up in a way you didn’t intend, or with a different font than what you originally used. They’re not as engaging. While they do get your point across succinctly, plain text emails lack the fun and engaging touches that you get from including embedded features. With little to draw the eye, the impact of your message is 100% reliant on the copy. They’re link-less. Plain text emails don’t make a ton of sense for marketing emails with a landing page CTA since, without links, you can’t directly drive traffic there. They’re harder to measure. All those links make the actions recipients take on HTML emails extremely easy to measure. Not so for plain text emails, where your only true measurement is who writes you back. HTML Emails HTML (or HyperText Markup Langage) emails are a much more visual approach to email marketing. You can incorporate your own colors, styles, and images, as well as all the links your heart desires. While they originally caused a lot of rendering issues, especially on mobile devices, the rise of responsive design has changed that, making it easier to send HTML emails that look just how you intended them to. Pros They give you more design control. With HTML, you can optimize every design feature to your brand’s image and identity. They offer more utility. Images, links, and other media in emails all serve their own unique purposes — and HTML allows you to capitalize (or at least attempt to capitalize) on them. They’re engaging. The design elements you include in your HTML emails draw the eye and add variety to the page, all of which is good for performance. They’re trackable. With HTML, you can easily track open rates, click-through-rates, and a wide range of other conversion rates. Cons They’re less trustworthy. The average consumer is a lot savvier than they used to be, especially when it comes to email-based malware. As such, they might be wary of links and attachments, since these can spread viruses. They’re more likely to go to spam. Email providers use a whole host of different qualifying measures to decide what goes to spam and what goes to the inbox. And because they’re so varied in features, HTML emails tend to send off more red flags than their plain text counterparts. They’re less accessible to those with disabilities. HTML emails can be tricky for read-aloud software to adapt for users, which means your message might not come across clearly or concisely. Both plain text and HTML emails service a purpose — it just comes down to what you’re trying to achieve. Do what most marketers do and send a hybrid of both to maximize your email marketing potential. 


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How to Implement Lifecycle Email Marketing Campaigns

How to Implement Lifecycle Email Marketing Campaigns

Practical Marketer • March 25, 2020

Even as we’re in the middle of a pandemic, business, and life, must go on as much as possible. And as your business feels the repercussions right now, you may be looking for tips and tools that can help. Enter: email marketing. Email marketing is great for a number of things. It helps nurture your leads, provide them with educational content, and helps you stay top of mind with them. And let’s face it, right now you need to stay on their minds.  From crisis email marketing to regular drip campaigns, utilizing email marketing strategies right now is in your best interest. Your prospects are just as worried as you are, and that’s a call for you to be a resource to help them. But first, you need to understand the customer lifecycle and how it informs your approach.  All consumers follow a distinct lifecycle when they go from prospect to lead to customer to brand loyalist. And utilizing what you know about each of the stages of the lifecycle with your email marketing is one of the best ways to get more utility out of every single message that you send. Lifecycle email marketing refers to product emails that are sent to recipients based on what stage of the customer lifecycle they’re in. To help you do it, we’ll go over the basics of what the customer lifecycle looks like and how you can send emails that better pertain to each stage — and why it’s so beneficial to do so. Email Marketing Throughout the Stages of the Customer Lifecycle Every company — and every customer — is unique. That being said, we can learn a lot from general marketing psychology about how the basic customer lifecycle operates. Depending on how your business uses and understands the customer lifecycle, you may break it down into three, four, or five stages, and what you call each of these stages may vary. For our purposes here, we’ve divided the customer lifecycle into five stages, each of which depends on particular marketing formats and techniques to help guide leads onward. Let’s dive in. Stage 1: Awareness Most customers start their lifecycle here, at the awareness stage. At this point, customers are aware that they have a need and are actively looking for a solution. The job for you as a marketer then is to make your brand and product known through marketing strategies that put you in front of prospects and keep your name top of mind. Notably, email marketing isn’t really going to be the core of your strategy here. Since prospects in the awareness stage of the customer lifecycle haven’t established much (if any) of a connection with your brand yet, they probably haven’t signed up for or opted-in to your emails. So instead, you need to diversify with tactics that put your brand in front of them. Try: Paid and organic online advertising, social media, guest posts, and shareable graphics and videos.  Stage 2: Consideration At the second stage of the customer lifecycle, consumers have narrowed it down to a few possible solutions and are comparing and contrasting to weigh their options. Building brand awareness was necessary for getting you into this favorable group in the first place, but now the job is to position yourself as the right and final choice. Your marketing strategy at this stage should be focused on conveying how and why you are the solution to your customers’ needs and/or problems. Because initial interest has already been established, you’ll have the benefit of email marketing to spur your effort — and customer behavior data to drive it even further. Try: Targeted email marketing that’s personalized based on a customer’s site activity. If they’re circling back through the cycle again, use their previous purchase history here too. Stage 3: Decision Customers at the decision stage of the lifecycle are ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. Whether it’s your product or not that they buy depends on how good of a job you do nurturing them with email marketing. Your marketing here is going to be pretty specific since you’ve done the general work to get a customer this far already. The goal is to provide content that makes their purchasing decision easier, removing any doubts, and using incentives to inspire a purchase. Try: Conversion-driven emails like cart abandonment emails, promos, and discounts for a first-time purchase. Stage 4: Retention Think all of your work is done once a customer has bought your product? Not quite. There’s way more to be gained from retaining your existing customers than spending big on bringing in new ones. Customer retention is one of the most profitable marketing strategies that you can focus on. Just because a customer has made a purchase doesn’t mean that they’re not still interested in what you have to say. Marketing materials, sales, offers, content, discounts, and so on will strengthen brand loyalty and keep a customer coming back. Try: Personalized emails and newsletters with other product recommendations, loyalty program offers, incentives, and links to helpful content that helps them make the most of their purchase. Stage 5: Advocacy Satisfied customers can go on to become brand advocates, recommending your company to their peers through vehicles like social media, review sites, and face-to-face communications. So how do you get them to this point? Aside from just having a great product, you need to continue to engage your customers with marketing that maximizes your customer service and keeps the relationship going strong. Try: Referral program incentives and personalized messages to VIP customers. The email marketing choices you make at each stage of the customer lifecycle will play a big role in how often prospects turn into brand loyalists, and ultimately, how successful you are in meeting your sales goals quarter after quarter. Is your strategy up to speed? 


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Tools To Help Teams Work Remotely During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Tools To Help Teams Work Remotely During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Practical Marketer • March 18, 2020

With the COVID-19 outbreak, there are a lot of businesses that have instilled a temporary work from home policy. Perhaps your company is one of them, and you’re currently sitting on your couch or at your home office desk reading this blog post, looking for tips.  While your priority is probably dealing with the consequences and improving communication with your customers, you’ll also want to make sure your teams are set up for success while they work remotely. Luckily, we live in an age with tons of digital tools and enabling software that help us not only be better at our jobs but are also designed for bringing teams together and creating simpler processes.  Here are seven tools that are sure to help your team work remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak: 1. Hatchbuck Having marketing automation and a CRM tool, like Hachbuck, will assist your sales and marketing teams with eliminating redundancies in their day-to-day tasks. As your team works from home, having a tool like Hatchbuck ensures they don’t drop the ball when it comes to adequate customer management and nurture. Your teams can email numerous prospects with ease, informing them of any protocols your organization has in place regarding COVID-19, and ensure them that you’re still available should they need you. They can also continue to send personalized content so that business can continue as normal.  2. Slack Working from home sounds like a luxury, and in many cases, it usually is. But given the circumstances, working from home can be daunting and disorganized, primarily if your team is used to working directly with one another. Utilize Slack, a messaging tool, to quickly touch base with one another regarding a project, or to share files quickly and easily. Instead of booking tons of meetings, Slack enables you to message or call one another quickly so you can get back to your projects and not miss a beat while you’re working from home.  3. Benchmark Email We’re definitely not too afraid to mention our own product. Time and time again, we’ve seen our email marketing software enable our clients to stay top of mind with their prospects and effectively track the success of their messaging. Just because your environment has changed, doesn’t mean your outreach has to. Create campaigns geared towards providing special support and communication to your customers and prospects during this trying time, and use Benchmark Email to get the job done.  4. Zoom You’re probably no stranger to Zoom and it’s many benefits. When it comes to bringing numerous people together from various different locations, it’s pretty perfect. This video communication tool is a necessity for remote teams. You can easily set up meetings, and since there’s a video element, it’s almost as if everyone is in the same room together. What’s more, it has chat and the ability to set up from conference rooms, desktops, and mobile devices. It’s super-efficient, which is something we can all use right now.  5. Evernote In times of emergency, the need to work from home is rather sudden. Forgetting supplies at the office shouldn’t hinder your workflow. Evernote is great because it helps you take notes from any location and share your ideas with whoever you need to (without a notebook or pen). You can also create to-do lists that help you segment base on priority. So even though you’re working from the confines of your home, you can easily organize and tackle individual tasks or projects.  6. Buffer  Don’t neglect your social publishing just because your environment has changed. Use Buffer to schedule all your social posts so that your company can maintain an active social presence. It’s essential that you continue to tap into your audience where they’re active, and that you don’t let your strategies change if you can help it. Keeping up with your social engagement will continue to benefit your company, and Buffer is a great tool to help.  7. Basecamp Yes, we’re dealing with a bit of a global crisis right now, but certain projects must continue. To keep your team aligned and to help ensure everyone knows who is managing what, use Basecamp. Basecamp is a great project management tool that enables you to log activity, pass off projects between team members, and keep everyone updated and on-task.  Use these seven tools to keep your team moving and your business thriving during this difficult time. Each will help employees stay organized, manage their time, and communicate effectively while they work from home. 


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COVID-19: 6 Ways Email Marketing Can Help in Dealing With the Consequences

COVID-19: 6 Ways Email Marketing Can Help in Dealing With the Consequences

Practical Marketer • March 16, 2020

Our world is going through a very trying time right now. Our hearts go out to each and every person out there dealing with COVID-19 and its repercussions.  Please know that while our team is working from home to do our part to help mitigate the spread, our availability and service to our customers remains the same. We’re here for you to help with anything regarding our product; all you have to do is send an email to support@benchmarkemail.com or call.  We realize there are a lot of businesses out there who, like us, are finding themselves in uncharted territory right now. We’re all being forced to adopt measures we never believed possible, and clear and direct communication has grown essential in a jungle of fake news and social media noise.  Email marketing is a direct and measurable medium, making it stand out among other messages and content. It allows companies and organizations to manage the way they’ll be handling the effects of this deep crisis, and maintain transparency with their customers.  Six Ways Email Marketing Helps Your Business Deal With the Consequences of COVID-19 1. Maintain Transparency Sending an email to your customers allows you to maintain transparency about how your business is dealing with the situation. In your email outreach, you can include any specific details about what your company is doing to prepare and how you’ll continue to support your customers.  Your customers appreciate transparency, especially in times like this. It assures them that no matter what, you’ll be doing all you can for them, which will alleviate some of the concern and anxiety they’re currently experiencing.  Take Flywheel’s email as a great example of how to inform your customers during this time: 2. Provide Special Measures Everyone, especially town halls and councils, has to do their part to adhere to strict measures to control the virus. News broadcasts, radio and podcasts, and social media platforms are doing a solid job of spreading the word. Still, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there, and those outlets are all competing for our attention.  By sending an email, you’re able to address customers one-on-one, and it’s more likely that you’ll have their full attention. They can even go back to the email for more details or share it with others.  Here are some examples of instances in which these kinds of emails make sense: The regional health service is making recommendations and providing a hotline for citizens to call and seek advice. A gym is only allowing a certain number of people to use the facility and is requiring specific hygiene protocols.  An educational institution is informing students that it’s safe to attend classes due to specific cleaning measures they’re taking.  Their email doesn’t lead with something that would cause readers to get agitated or fearful. It uses calm language, indicating that yes, this is a cautious time, but that they will be making decisions based on the health and well-being of their employees, clients, and community.  3. Communicate Changes  If you’re a B2C business, a storefront, or an event venue, you may be faced with changing your business hours, canceling events, or closing altogether for the time being. Peoples’ health, including your own, is the most important thing right now. The last thing you want to do is continue to encourage interaction when that is what isn’t being advised. If temporarily closing your doors is something you need to do, then definitely alert your customers via email as soon as possible, so they’re completely in the know, and they don’t show up only to be disappointed.  Some specific examples of changes include: A theatre postponing some concerts and therefore informing ticket holders about new dates. A restaurant staying open during the morning but closing after lunch.  A gym that has canceled all group classes and is only permitting individual use of the facility. 4. Offer Services at a Distance When deciding to close down temporarily, you can stay in touch with customers by sending email campaigns that offer some kind of alternative to your services. Perhaps you’ve found a way for your product to be used from home until everyone is back to the usual routine.  Some examples include: A class offering students to attend via video conference.  Closed schools providing recommendations and educational content for parents.  A gym sending daily workout videos so members can workout from home.  5. Promote eCommerce Alternatives We’ve all seen the images of empty supermarkets and deserted shopping streets. eCommerce businesses are suffering, and email marketing tactics can definitely help boost sales. Send an email offer with a discount for those who shop online. Or, notify your subscribers that there’s a way for their goods to be delivered to them if they purchase online. This will help you continue making revenue while your doors are closed and stay top-of-mind with customers who would normally do business with you in person. Some additional examples: A small shop or boutique putting all its products online so customers can shop from home. A restaurant offering free delivery if customers order through the email or fill out a form.   A supermarket offering to deliver your groceries for you if you order online or by email.  6. Communicate Internally Many companies have resisted letting their employees work remotely but are now obligated to close their offices. If a team is not used to working from home, this can provide some difficulties in the beginning. Messaging services and video conferencing will be necessary tools, but don’t forget to keep everyone on the same page by sending out regular updates via email. Some examples of what to communicate to your team: All COVID-19 related changes.  Specific reporting that certain teams need for their department.  If your CEO wants to send regular video messages via email to employees.  Additional Tips to Keep In Mind:  As we all navigate through this, here are some other tips to keep in mind that can help your business and communication with your customers. Evaluate Your Ad Spend If you’re worried about spending money when not as much is coming in, look at your ad spend and make adjustments. With “social distancing,” the economy is going to feel the results. Spend will go down, which means your spending may have to go down as well. Don’t be afraid to look at your budgets and make the necessary cuts.  With that said, keep in mind that if you nix your ad spend temporarily, it could dry up your lead flow. This can affect success when it comes time to operate as usual and lead to a big game of catch-up.  Segment Your Messaging  Each region of the world is experiencing a different reality of the virus, so be mindful of that. Use your marketing automation software to easily segment your lists based on the region so you can better personalize your outreach. Consider the situation your contacts are in so that you can reach each segment of your list with the appropriate message.  Don’t Incite Fear Tech leaders have an opportunity to lift up employees and help other businesses as the face of work changes. The brands who put people and marketing first have a great opportunity to shine and weather the storm. With that said, tensions and anxieties are still high. Don’t feed into them by using language that creates more fear in your audience. Instead, remind them that we’re all in this together. Take Milk and Honey’s email, for example:   Don’t Send Pointless Emails Don’t send your customers emails just for the sake of acknowledging the outbreak and only because you see other brands doing so. If you don’t have anything compelling or essential to share with your customers about how your company is changing or reacting to the virus, don’t inundate your prospects with an email. Trust me; they’re getting enough emails from other businesses right now, so only create an email if it’s necessary. Otherwise, a blog post and/or social posts will do.  Be safe out there, everyone. And make sure you look out for one another.  Your team at Benchmark  


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How to Plan Your Social Media Calendar

How to Plan Your Social Media Calendar

Practical Marketer • March 12, 2020

Social media is often an afterthought for marketers. It’s not our fault — we’ve got a lot on our plates and not a lot of time to do it. But if you’re not paying enough attention to social, you’re definitely missing out. No matter your market, there’s a good chance that a large portion of your audience is using social media. In fact, about 90 percent of Millennials, 77 percent of Gen Xers, and 48 percent of Baby Boomers are active on social media. And for a good portion of Gen Z’ers and Millennials, social media is the most relevant advertising channel driving their purchases. With so many people heavily engaged in social media — both in terms of day to day life and purchase decisions — having a sound social strategy is key. And for that, you’re going to need a social media calendar. Posting is a lot easier when you know what you’re going to post, when you’re going to post it, and how it fits into your broader digital marketing strategy. Here’s how to start planning and putting together a social media calendar that helps you finally take advantage of all that untapped potential. Establish a Content Plan Content planning helps you narrow down your efforts and focus on what matters. What types of content you post on each social media channel depends on what works well for that individual platform. While it might be easier to assign the same content and ledes for all channels, if you don’t optimize your content plan, you’re going to end up with a lot of unsuccessful posts. Here are some examples of what works best for different types of social channels: Facebook: Behind the scenes posts and glimpses into your company and its team members. This includes company culture posts, team updates and outing, and volunteer work. It doesn’t hurt to also share blog content and articles, which help show your followers what your bread and butter is. Include some lead generation posts, too, like gated content and guides. LinkedIn: This is a professional social network, so stick to posts that focus on your content and services, as well as lead generation. Examples include job listings, blog posts, and guest-contributed articles. Other useful types of LinkedIn content are industry trend reports, interesting articles from reputable publications and thought leaders in your industry, gated content, and special promos like free trials or newly released content. Twitter: Due to the fast-paced nature and high traffic of Twitter, you can up the frequency on your postings here. There aren’t many rules in terms of what content does and doesn’t work. Test out all of the various types mentioned above and see what performs best. Instagram: Because of its algorithm, sharing a ton doesn’t help you on Instagram like it might on Twitter or LinkedIn. In addition to paring down the frequency of your postings, focus on edited and brand-consistent imagery. Examples of what to post include new product releases, company updates and insights, team outings, and other visually-driven news. Map Out Your Strategy Once you’ve established what kinds of content you want to be sharing on your various social media platforms, it’s time to put together your actual calendar. Create a spreadsheet that includes: Each social platform you’ll be posting on The days of the week you’ll be publishing social content The kinds of content you’ll be posting each day, per platform Be as specific as you can, and make sure to include particular items that don’t happen frequently but are worth posting, such as webinars, whitepaper releases, and conference speaking engagements or attendances. This spreadsheet will help you see your social media strategy as a whole. Pay close attention when looking at it to ensure that you’ve scheduled enough posts for each platform and that they’re the right kind of posts. Be ready to adapt this schedule as needed to accommodate new content and factor in existing reports and data on what days, times, and types of content have already been performing well for you. Track Results and Adjust Accordingly  Crucial to any good calendar is tweaking it when the situation warrants. For your social media calendar, you’ll want to optimize it each month, depending on the analytics around how your posts are doing and the KPIs that you’re trying to achieve. Be sure to have an idea of what you’re hoping to get out of your posts so that you have a goal you can track progress against. Keep your KPIs specific to each platform. Some goals that you might want to keep in mind are: Increasing followers by a certain percentage in three-month increments Generating X amounts of leads on LinkedIn each month Getting X amount of retweets on Twitter each month Knowing your goals — and having a content and timing plan for how to achieve them — is the crux of what your social media calendar is all about. Once you have your spreadsheet template made, it should be easy to adapt month to month. Good luck, and don’t forget to keep a close eye on those all-important analytic reports.


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Email Marketing: 10 Reasons Why Your Response Rate Is Low

Email Marketing: 10 Reasons Why Your Response Rate Is Low

Practical Marketer • March 11, 2020

When you implement an email marketing strategy, you have to continually be ready to adapt to new methods and improve whenever needed. Some metrics gauge the performance of marketing emails, and if they portray that the response rate is low, you should revise the strategy you’re using.  Perhaps you need to write more engaging sales emails, include more visuals, or try incorporating video content in your emails. Regardless of what new methods you try, first, you have to understand what could be lowering the response rate on the email marketing strategy you are implementing.  Well, here are ten culprits of a low email response rate: 1. Bad Timing Sending emails at random times can lead to a lower open rate because your target audience looks at their inbox at very certain times. If you send the email while they are busy at work or when they’re asleep, it will be buried by others that will be sent after it. It will lose its priority, and potential customers won’t see it and, therefore, open it.  It is essential to identify the trends of the target market you have in mind and determine the best time to send emails to them. Generally, it’s good practice to send emails in the morning when your audience wakes up. Also, consider that some people go through their emails when commuting to work, so up until about 10 a.m. should be a good window.  2. Promotion Overkill  Don’t bore your audience. Even when writing product emails, you should avoid talking too much about your brand because your audience will quickly lose interest. Instead, focus more on your clients and their needs. Use these emails as a chance to address their pain points and issues, and explain how you, or your product, can help them. Make the connection between them and your service or product, which will bring them in and make them interested in what you have to say.  After your intro, outline your offer, specifically focusing on how it will add value. It’s best to keep the intro short and to jump straight to the offer and CTA. You have a limited amount of time to entice your readers and inspire them to act, so don’t use it all up with unnecessary wordiness.  If you need help in this area, you can always outsource your content creation by using an agency or a professional writing service that provides high-quality content, creative writing, and email content.  3. Confusing CTAs  CTAs are very important. They direct customers to take a certain step, like visiting your product page, downloading a piece of content, or registering for an informative webinar.  They’re also very effective in driving customers down the sales funnel and leading them towards a purchase. Hence why CTAs are so important, and why going about them the wrong way is a mistake you just don’t want to be making.  Not being direct, clear, and straightforward with what action you want your audience to take will result in absolutely no action being taken whatsoever. Or what’s worse, you could inspire them to unsubscribe from your messaging altogether.   Next time you put together an email, come up with specific CTAs and make sure you’re only using one per email. Try making them a button or image instead of using a text-based link, which will make them pop and be clearly identified.  4. Lengthy Copy People are always on the move. Especially working professionals, which no doubt make up a large portion of your audience base (if not all of it).  Sending your busy audience unnecessarily long emails is a waste of your energy and theirs. Putting in all that effort towards an email that will most likely not be read isn’t a great usage of time. What’s more, there’s little chance a lengthy, wordy email will boost conversions. Keep it up, and your business will be known for these kinds of emails, and eventually, you’ll lose subscribers and customers. It’s not a good look.  When writing an email, remember that time is very precious for everyone involved because, in most cases, their income depends on it. Showing how you respect their time by writing short and concise emails will show your audience you’re reliable and a valuable resource for them to spend their time engaging with.  5. Sending Without Testing  You could be lowering the open rate of your emails if you’re sending them without testing first. Emails aren’t something to rush through. Even if you’re always in a hurry, you have to find time to send yourself a test email first. Trust me; your customers will see when you don’t make an effort.  If the email you send is disproportionate, the links don’t work, or the images used are somehow warped, your audience will start to lose trust in you. They’ll associate your brand with low quality, and they could think the service you provide is probably low quality as well.  Take the extra few minutes to test your emails. Determine if they are suitable on mobile devices and ensure they look okay on different email service providers, as well. It’s definitely worth it.  6. No Personalization Sending emails that aren’t personalized and have lackluster copy tell your prospects that you don’t care about where they are in the buyer’s journey, or about their personal needs. Each prospect is different. Each works within a particular industry, is at a different stage in the journey, and needs different content to receive adequate education. When you send all your prospects the same emails, it’s going to be irrelevant to a substantial portion of them. When an email is irrelevant to someone, they won’t read it, they won’t click on a CTA, and they definitely won’t open the next one they receive. Instead of sending generic emails, gather data on the audience you have by using marketing automation and CRM software. Find out what type of content they like by tracking what they’re clicking on and downloading. Use that data to get to know them better and inform the email campaigns you send them.  7. Wrong Messaging When you’re sent an email that includes negative language, how does that make you feel? It’s awkward, weird, and just doesn’t sit well with most people. Sometimes, companies think that by taking a strong stance on an issue, they’re showing their prospects that they’re a leader in the space and that they have an informed opinion. While this may be true for some content, like opinion pieces and guest-contributed content, this could backfire significantly when it comes to emails.  Specifically, sometimes I see brands sending emails with the words “do not reply.” Implying that prospects cannot simply reply to an email translates to the sender, not wanting to be contacted with problems or questions.   Instantly, customers will believe that you are all about the money but don’t want to resolve their queries. This can have adverse effects on a brand’s subscriber rate and can leave a negative impression of the brand for a lot of people.  Be transparent in your messaging, but don’t confuse things by being overly negative or by implying that you are unreachable.  8. Not Proofreading Sending grammatically incorrect emails, and including typos and incorrect punctuation will put a fast track on disengagement for your brand. Again, don’t let being in a hurry make you careless. Remember the detrimental effect these silly errors can potentially have on the email you send.  Carve out some time to go through your emails carefully and meticulously. Proofread them to weed out any visible errors. After doing so, use an editing tool, like Grammarly, to ensure any errors that are hard to identify are spotted and corrected.  9. Lacking CAN-SPAM Standards Neglecting to comply with the CAN-SPAM standards will send your emails straight to the spam folder. There’s an immediate branding of untrustworthiness associated with anything in spam folders, so trust me, that’s not the place you want your emails to end up.  To avoid that aftermath, go through the CAN-SPAM checklist to ensure you’re practicing all the points in your email content creation.  For example, companies should avoid certain spam trigger words, include their physical address, and a way to unsubscribe that’s easy to find in the email. Making those simple changes will make the emails you send more trustworthy and can keep them out of the spam folder.  10. No Consistency  Don’t throw in the towel when your email outreach strategies don’t take flight as soon as you thought they would.  After sending a couple of marketing emails with little response or activity, some businesses jump to conclusions and immediately adjust their strategy. While being proactive is great, you don’t want to do so without gaining real insight first. Sometimes, all you need is a  little time and consistency to start seeing results. Remember that an email marketing strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. Results are rarely instantaneous, and emails live in inboxes for a while. So just because someone didn’t open your email right away, doesn’t mean that the open rate won’t improve as time moves on.   An email marketing strategy is an excellent method to reach prospects, engage them, nurture them, and convert them to customers. But your strategy is only as good as the way you practice it. It’s crucial that you email with care, and take the necessary steps to ensure you aren’t doing anything that could negatively affect your response rate.  Author Bio Isabell Gaylord is a professional content writer, academic writer and journalist. The subjects she works on include digital marketing, SEO, and human resource management. Her current freelance assignment is with an essay writing service, dissertation writing services, and research paper writing services.


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4 Ways to Generate More Leads

4 Ways to Generate More Leads

Practical Marketer • March 5, 2020

Lead generation is extremely important for the continued and sustainable success of your business, but it can also be quite challenging. Sixty-eight percent of businesses report that they struggle to generate leads, with things like a lack of budget, time, and staff resources as barriers. Regardless of the resources you’re working with, finding a strategy for effective lead generation is crucial. You not only need new leads to bring in new customers. An active lead generation plan helps fuel your marketing efforts as well, providing you with an audience to nurture and educate, and a driving force behind the type of content you create and why you create it. If you’re one of the 61% of marketers who report lead generation as being their top challenge, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss four of our favorite ideas for generating more leads — both now and as you grow. The Importance of a CRM for Lead Generation Like lead generation, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) plays an important role in marketing and content creation. By tracking the behaviors of your leads and the relationships that you’re establishing with them, you gain vital insights that help you better personalize the content you’re sending. More than half of customers expect brands to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they ever even make a purchase. To get the most out of the ideas listed below, make sure you have a comprehensive CRM system in place that you can utilize to create more refined, more purposeful, and, most importantly, more personalized content for the leads who come through the door. 4 Useful Lead Generation Ideas The first step to effectively generating leads is making lead generation itself a top priority — no matter what resources you’re lacking. A business can’t grow if it can’t generate new leads, so instead of dwelling on limitations, focus on your strengths, and get to work. These four lead generation ideas are a great place to start. 1. Host Co-Branded Webinars We’re stronger when we work together. While all industries are competitive and the goal is always going to be to stand out, there’s a lot to gain from partnering with your peers when it counts. And when it comes to lead generation, it definitely counts. When you partner with a brand on a webinar, you not only build your email list by tapping into their network, you also gain an opportunity to nurture those engaged leads with your content and services. If you’re wary about partnering with someone who you’re in direct competition with, look for other brands that are within your industry but not vying for the same end result. For example, relevant publications or influencers. 2. Create More (and Better) Landing Pages Companies that increase their amount of landing pages from five to 10 see a 55% increase in leads. On top of that, landing pages help you track information from your site visitors that you can then input into your CRM and use to send useful and conversion-friendly email content. When building your landing pages, make sure the content is clear, concise, and offering something substantial. All landing pages should also clearly tie into the ad that is promoting them to avoid the dreaded bait and switch. 3. Become a Guest Contributor A content strategy that includes providing valuable guest content to online publications that your audience already reads gets your company and name in front of more people and expands your traffic potential.  To get the most out of your guest posts, be sure to include a link back to your blog or another useful landing page. This creates a path to your site, and will hopefully get some new leads generated. 4. Have an Email Marketing Strategy Email marketing is one of the best ways to generate more leads. Strategize not just what you want to send and when you want to send it but how you can get more visitors to sign up for emails in the first place. Web pop-ups, gated content, and contests or promotions are all excellent ways to grow your contact list. From there, invest in a marketing automation system that will enable you to send personalized and valuable emails to anyone who opts in. While automation does require a decent investment in terms of cost and upfront labor, it’s almost always going to save you time and money in the long run. If lead generation hasn’t been a top priority, let this be the year that you change that. Generating leads is a necessary task on the path to higher conversion rates and revenue, and a must-do for all brands. Follow the ideas above and use your CRM to devise additional ways that you can work to generate more leads.


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Content or Design: What Matters More for Your Email Marketing?

Content or Design: What Matters More for Your Email Marketing?

Practical Marketer • March 4, 2020

When it comes to email marketing, what holds the most weight, email content, or email design? The answer, which likely isn’t very surprising, is that it’s both! Successful emails are balanced, beautiful, and pleasing to the eye. They’re also filled with valuable, conversion-driven content for your subscribers. And you’ll need to prioritize both if you want your emails to make as much of an impact as possible. In this article, we’ll go over the role that email content and email design play in effective digital marketing. Keep them both in mind when you create your emails, and you should have no trouble keeping your recipients engaged. The Value of Email Content If we pare down email marketing to its most basic purpose, then it is, above all, a tool for sending content to prospects and leads. Sending emails is a way to share insights — and for those insights to drive some sort of action on the part of the reader. That means that the actual text and substance of what you’re sharing is incredibly important. You never want to email your subscriber list without an apparent reason for doing so. That wastes everyone’s time (including yours) and may make it difficult for you to build and maintain trust with your contact list — assuming they decide to stick around. The content of your emails needs to provide some sort of value, and it needs to be obvious to your subscribers what that value is. Additional content features that are important to include in your emails include: Catchy and engaging subject lines Short but descriptive preview text A format that isn’t too lengthy and that is laid out in a digestible, easily skimmable way A clear and powerful call to action A “From” line that includes the contact information for an actual member of your sales team To get the most bang for your buck when it comes to email content, you’ll also want to make sure that your content is personalized for its recipients. This shows that you both know and care about the needs of potential buyers at all stages of the purchase cycle, and even more crucial, that you have the resources to address those needs. When you personalize your email content, you help build trust and reliability, and you also add that all-important value feature. The Value of Email Design Everyone loves looking at pretty things — it’s why photo aggregate sites like Instagram and Pinterest are such mainstays of the digital marketing world. Images and design elements help evoke certain emotions, and those emotions can work in your favor when you’re trying to guide leads to a sale. Great email design helps make your messages easier and more interesting to read. And those are both keys if you want to keep your subscribers opening your messages. Think of ways to frame your content that both highlights the most important parts and makes them as entertaining as possible. Paying close attention to these areas will help you do it: Layout. Make sure that the overall layout of your email design is clean and balanced, with just the right amount of white space. Your layout should flow smoothly, and should also be driven to lead to conversions. Icons. Adding small icons or other visual elements like bullet points and checkmarks helps emphasize certain points that you’re trying to make, and also adds some visual diversity to the page. Header image. A well-designed email should always have some sort of image at the header that provides a hierarchy to the layout. These header images will likely look different for different types of emails in your marketing campaign, for example, newsletter headers versus drip campaign headers versus promo email headers. They should all have one thing in common, however, which is a clear and obvious tie-in to your brand — and the message that you’re trying to sell. Logo and colors. This is one of the most significant areas for allowing your company branding to come through. Make sure you set clear brand guidelines for these features, and that everyone follows them when adding branding and design elements to your emails. Font. No comic sans here! Keep your fonts clean, modern, and easy to read. Call to action. Use design features to draw eyes to your CTA. Things like click-through images and buttons associated with your CTA will make it more likely that your readers see it on the page, in turn making it more likely that they’ll click through. Footer. The footer is a great spot to add your social icons so your readers can easily find you on other channels. Use icons to call out this section of the message and make it more visually interesting. Good design and content can make a huge difference in how your emails perform. Understanding the value of both — and the best practices for deriving that value — will get you far. Follow the tips above, and you should start seeing great results! 


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