Series Posts: Practical Marketer

How Content Fuels Your Email Marketing

How Content Fuels Your Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • January 23, 2020

It’s the classic question: which came first, the content or the marketing? Some may say that you can’t have a successful email marketing strategy without first creating the content that will sustain it. And while it’s really up to your team, process, and goals to determine how you go about prioritizing one over the other, it’s undeniable that content plays a significant role in shaping your email marketing plan — and its performance. Email marketing content often gets short shrift. There’s a tendency to undervalue the importance of email copy, or at least to give it a bit less care and oversight than you might something like a blog or white paper (though, as you’ll see, there’s a lot of overlap between these various content strategies). And while it’s undoubtedly true that emails usually differ from other content formats in terms of tone, the stakes are just as high. In this post, we’ll go over the importance of email marketing for your inbound marketing strategy and how good content is the fuel that keeps it healthy. Effective Email Marketing Starts With Strategy Email marketing is about more than just letting subscribers know what you’re selling. Your strategy needs substance, variety, and engaging content. When you put together a strategy with those three elements at the forefront, you’ll build beneficial brand awareness, stay top of mind with your prospects, and, most importantly, engage, nurture, and convert. But again, your approach is crucial.  When you craft the content you’ll be using in your email campaigns, you have to know what your audience craves. Knowing what they’re questions are, who they report to, what they don’t understand, and why they may want to use your services will help you create content that they can use and benefit from. It also ensures you’re personalizing your approach, which will ultimately move your leads through the customer journey. So, when putting together your email strategy, keep content at the heart of it. Include not just what you want to achieve with prospects at each stage, but exactly how you’re going to use your content to get there.  Content and Email Drip Campaigns Email drip campaigns are the epitome of personalized, educational outreach. Content for these campaigns depends on who the recipients of the message are and where they are in the buyer’s journey.  Prospects at the top of the funnel who are engaging with you for the first time will require more basic content that describes what it is your company does. Content like welcome emails and basics on your industry and services will service your leads at this stage best. Meanwhile, prospects further down the funnel will benefit from in-depth content that answers their need-to-know questions, content that differentiates you from your competitors, and shows what it’s like to work with you. Content and Email Newsletters To stay top of mind with prospects and continue to spread your brand’s thought leadership, you should keep them in the know on relevant news about your company and any content that you’ve recently published. Your blog content is great for email newsletters because it’s continuously updated and shows your leads that you’ve got a lot of knowledge to share.  With that said, vary the types of content you share in your newsletters. Linking to blog posts is great, but you’ll also want to diversify by including videos, images, user-generated content, and surveys to keep your email newsletters interesting and engaging.  Content and Promo Emails Content is necessary for your promotional emails because it’s what you’re promoting. You want compelling and highly informative content to be what drives your promotion, and you want to make sure you do whatever you can to create excitement around it.  A new guide, a long-form piece of content that’s gated, or a webinar are just some examples of content to promote. The reason being, these are all pieces of content you’ll want to see the most downloads or sign-ups from, so a dedicated eblast will be that extra necessary push.  By bringing together informative and actionable copy and compelling visuals, your promo emails will get more eyes on the content you’re promoting and inspire more people to act. As always, make sure that the content you are promoting applies to the people you’re sending it to. For example, if you’re hosting a webinar on how agencies can prioritize content marketing, send your promos to your segmented agency list. It’s just another way of personalizing your approach and ensuring you have a higher success rate.  Content truly is the fuel for your email marketing tactics. If you plan your email marketing with a clear understanding of what content you’ll need and how you’ll be using it, you’re sure to delight your subscribers and see better results from your efforts. 


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The 6 Types of Emails You Should Be Sending

The 6 Types of Emails You Should Be Sending

Practical Marketer • January 22, 2020

Are you knocking it out of the park with your emails? Any marketer would rarely answer yes to that question. No matter what your strategy looks like or how effective you think it is, email marketing mistakes happen, and results can always be improved.  A successful email marketing strategy goes a lot deeper than just a casual message to your subscribers once in a while to let them know you’re still around. If you want to create emails that engage, delight, and convert, you need to be diversifying your efforts with emails that span a range of formats, purposes, and frequencies.  Below are six essential types of messages you should be incorporating into your email strategy, and why they’re beneficial for not only you but your subscribers as well.  1. Newsletters Email newsletters are crucial for building brand awareness and loyalty, and a great opportunity for marketing teams of all sizes to increase engagement with their audience. Whether you send newsletters weekly, monthly, or just once a quarter, use them to provide a round-up of your most recently published content, as well as a place to highlight any new promotions, offers, or events. Why they’re great: Think of your email newsletters as hubs that can direct subscribers to other valuable digital resources. A well-done newsletter will drive more traffic to your website, grow your social media community, and increase your sales. Not too shabby for what some consider to be the most basic form of email marketing. 2. Lead Nurturing Drip Campaigns Drip campaigns roll out targeted content to your subscribers to gently guide them along the sales funnel. We recommend having segmented lists for prospects in each stage of the buyer’s journey so you can reach out to them with resources that answer their unique questions and needs. And because they’re automatic, drip campaigns save you time in the long run.  Why they’re great: Drip campaigns are incredibly useful when it comes to staying top of mind with your audience, including re-engaging with prospects who might have gotten distracted somewhere along the funnel. They also help ensure that the content you put a lot of work into creating (blog posts, webinars, infographics, guides, etc.) actually ends up in front of who it’s intended for. 3. Transactional Emails Marketing doesn’t stop at the point of sale. Transactional emails, which include digital receipts, shipping confirmations, and personalized post-sale product recommendations, deliver relevant information to your customers while also giving you a leg up when it comes to getting them to keep coming back again and again.  Why they’re great: Transactional emails fill in many of the gaps that often result in people becoming one-time customers. On top of providing need-to-know information, they also increase customer engagement and build trust — both of which are essential if you want to keep your customers around. 4. News Updates It’s okay to toot your own horn! News update emails call attention to anything exciting that’s going on with your company. Next time you win a big award, have an upcoming conference that your CEO will be speaking at, or secured additional funding, let your subscribers know about it. It helps contribute to your brand authority and continues to secure their faith in your partnership.  Why they’re great: With all of the competition out there, it makes sense to use email marketing as a way to increase brand integrity and authority, and news updates do just that. For the best outcomes, send them only when something big happens — everything else can be mentioned in a newsletter. 5. Milestones If you’re using a CRM, then chances are you’re monitoring key information about your customers, like their birthdays or anniversaries. So why not put all of that data to use with milestone emails? These creative and personalized campaigns recognize important occasions to drive conversions and make your customers feel appreciated. Why they’re great: You know your customers matter, but they need to know too. Milestone emails remind your subscribers that you care, and can include assets like personalized coupon codes that lead to future purchases. 6. Promo/Offer Emails Everyone loves a good deal, and promo emails are just the vehicle to share your most recent exciting offer. Why? Well, email marketing is one of the easiest ways to share deals and offers with your audience because they’re already enrolled and engaged with your messages. And, they’re a great way to get more eyes on a newly released piece of content, like a whitepaper or guide. After all, why create something if you’re not going to show it off? Why they’re great: These types of emails get more eyes on your most valuable campaigns and content and can inspire thought and conversions that might not have otherwise happened. So, change up your email marketing this year. Introduce a few new types of email messages into your campaigns and see how well they engage and delight your subscribers. Keep track of your results, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your approach. 


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7 Ways to Spice Up Your Email Newsletters

7 Ways to Spice Up Your Email Newsletters

Practical Marketer • January 16, 2020

Email newsletters are one of the best tools that you have for providing prospects with valuable resources and staying top of mind with them. And with more than half of U.S. consumers checking their email accounts over ten times a day, brands have plenty of opportunities to connect with interested leads. But it’s not enough to just check-in — you have to be sending newsletters that are worthy of your subscribers’ attention and inspire them to keep the connection going. What’s more, newsletters can get stale fast, so continuously brainstorming ideas to keep your newsletters fresh is necessary. It’s your job as a marketer to ensure that the messages you’re sending out are always providing interest and value to your audience. If you don’t keep them engaging and fun to read, you run a significant risk of losing subscribers, which can be bad news for your inbound marketing strategy. With so much riding on keeping your email newsletters from ending up straight in the trash folder, we thought we’d share some of our best ideas for keeping your prospects’ interest. Here are seven of them. 1. Play Around With Tone Why so serious? Instilling brand authority doesn’t have to mean avoiding all colloquial language. I don’t know about you, but I love it when brands’ messaging is less buttoned up. Speaking to your audience as if you personally know them is one of the best ways to break down that wall and let them in. Prospects want to engage with brands in a more open and laid back manner.  When it comes to your email newsletters, work on finding a friendly, fun, and maybe even comical tone that will make readers feel more connected to you — and more excited to open your emails. Don’t be afraid to reference newsworthy events or things that are currently trending. All of this shows your readers that a real person is behind your messaging.  2. Pay Attention to the Subject Line First impressions matter a lot when it comes to your email newsletters. In fact, 47% of email recipients open emails based solely on the subject line. It’s the first thing they see when your email hits their inbox, so it makes sense that it’s a high priority.  Get creative. Try using emojis in your subject lines, new greetings, or puns. Make sure to keep them short and sweet, as well as relevant to what the newsletter is about. Avoid known subject line spam trigger words like “free,” “act now,” and “don’t delete,” as those will just leave a bad taste in your subscribers’ mouths. If you’re really in need of inspiration, try some subject line templates to help you out.  3. Include GIFs and Videos Incorporating video in your newsletters, as well as other animated content, is almost guaranteed to increase engagement. That’s because 20% of people will read text on a page, but 80% of people will watch a video. Videos and moving visual content is hard to resist because it takes very little effort to consume.  GIFs and videos allow you to break up your content and make it more exciting. To get started, create your own behind the scene videos that look at your office. Or, try interviewing a few employees so they can share what it is they do for the company, which can pull back the curtain a bit and show how you add value for your clients. Another idea is to create a video or GIF of your product in action. This can be used on your website as well as your email marketing.  4. Go For a Slow Reveal Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. If you have a new resource that you’re making available, roll it out with flair by incorporating a slow reveal in your email newsletters. Maybe hint at it four weeks out and add a bit of information. Build on it from there with additional hints and a relative stat thrown in three weeks out, and a vague but interesting video the next week.  By incorporating a slow reveal strategy for a special promotion or release, you build anticipation, which can inspire action once you reveal. This anticipation is not just for the new product, service, or resource that you’re going to be offering, but in your email newsletters and how you’re choosing to go about the slow reveal.  5. Swap Out Links for Buttons and Icons There are a lot of email design tricks you can do in your newsletters that will add some life, but first, start with the obvious. Instead of going the easy route and hyperlinking your text, try adding more visual appeal with clickable elements like buttons and icons. These tend to help break up the monotony of emails and get more attention to your call to action. They’re also much more eye-grabbing for those subscribers who are just doing a cursory scan of your newsletter. If you’re going the button route, make them a color that stands out and keep them consistent across your emails. If you’d rather go the icon route, then make sure the icon accurately represents the piece of content it’s linking to.  6. Get Your Audience Involved Everyone loves a great mention. Incorporate user-generated content like reviews, and social media posts you’re company is tagged in. Your audience won’t just engage with your newsletter more — they’ll also engage with you on those channels more.  Peer-to-peer recommendations are a solid form of third-party credibility and one of the strongest drivers of consumer trust. Sharing them in your newsletters can be fairly easy, and it’s also a quick way to gain trust with your subscribers and thank your current customers with a friendly shout out. 7. Focus on Just One Call to Action Ideally, it would be great if your email newsletters could lead to multiple conversions. But putting too many CTA irons in the fire can muddle your message, confuse your subscribers, and ultimately leave you burned. As an alternative, set your sights on just one call to action, with content that’s geared toward a singular (and thereby less confusing) purpose. This will allow you to focus all your effort on driving one key conversion, which, if all goes well, should be more beneficial.  Successful email newsletters have higher open rates, higher click-through rates, and higher rates of satisfaction among their recipients. Make it your goal to incorporate some, or all, of the tips above into your email marketing strategy. Your newsletters aren’t just getting where they need to be but making an impact once they get there. Not only will you avoid the spam box, but you’ll also start to see more prospects turning into customers. 


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How to Build an Effective Email Drip Campaign

How to Build an Effective Email Drip Campaign

Practical Marketer • January 15, 2020

Drip campaigns are crucial in educating, nurturing, and converting your prospects. They’re the star player in your overall marketing and sales game, so assembling them must be done with a lot of thought, care, and strategy. You also need a firm grasp on what makes your prospects tick so you can fill your campaigns with targeted content and the right message, which will move them through the funnel more seamlessly.  Drip campaigns have this annoying habit of seeming like a very confusing strategy, one with a lot of moving parts and factors that ultimately determine their success. While it’s true that a lot goes into them, they’re actually a huge time-saver, and putting them together doesn’t have to be such a headache.  We’ll cover all of the basics that you need to know about drip campaigns, including the benefits that they offer your marketing strategy and how to put them together effectively. So don’t grab the Excedrin just yet. The Benefits of an Email Drip Campaign When it comes to marketing, every minute matters, and every strategy has to deliver. So let’s get into the weeds a bit on the beneficial reasons to invest time and resources into drip campaigns.  1. Personalized Content Personalized emails result in transaction rates that are 6x higher than non-personalized emails. The whole point of drip campaigns is to offer your audience a consistent stream of touchpoints, filled with personalized content based on what they need and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Each email within a drip campaign works off of each other, offering a little bit of content each time that is meant to help solve a problem your prospect is having.  2. Steady Progress Drip campaigns aren’t designed to push leads through the funnel faster than usual. Instead, they guide them at an even pace, gradually helping them become more informed and moving them closer to a decision. As I mentioned in the previous point, each email is meant to work off the one sent prior. They’re designed to assist you with creating a steady progression for your prospects, informing them more and more with each email, hence moving them through the funnel at a controlled pace they’re comfortable with.  3. Smarter Leads An educated prospect is a better prospect. With drip campaigns, you’re providing ongoing education for your leads, proving your worth, and building trust. The result is a well-informed lead, and we all know that a knowledgable lead makes for a strong, long-lasting customer relationship.  Okay, now it’s time to get started. Enter: email automation software, of course. When paired with an effective CRM, the right automation platform can help you track and analyze your prospects to figure out where they are in the buyer’s journey and segment your lists for your drip campaign. It will also allow you to put together the drip campaign and automate it for marketing ease. How to Build an Email Drip Campaign Putting together a drip campaign is a lot easier than you might think, once you have the right tools. Follow the steps below and create a campaign driven to convert. Step One: Tier Your Prospects To make sure the right content is sent to the right people, you need to segment your prospects based on where they are in their journey. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that might look like. Leads — Awareness phase. Leads are anyone who visits your site. Their level of knowledge regarding what you do is most likely low.  Prospects — Awareness and consideration phase. Prospects are anyone who downloads something on your site and subscribes to your email marketing campaign. They may know a little bit more about what you do, but they’re still learning more about you. This is where your email drip campaigns come in to play.  Opportunity — Consideration phase. When a prospect becomes an opportunity, it’s because they’ve asked for a demo of your service or product. They are now seriously considering working with your company.  Customer — Decision phase. Customers are obviously anyone who decides to partner with you and use your service or product. You’ve done it! You converted a lead to a customer!  Closed/Lost — Anyone who qualifies as an opportunity but then decides against moving forward, for whatever reason. Womp, womp.  MIA — Unresponsive opportunities who go dormant after requesting a demo. Super womp, womp.  There’s an opportunity within each of these classifications to engage (and re-engage) in a way that moves the relationship forward. To do it, move on to step two. Step Two: Create Content for Each Stage Collaborate with your sales team and your account team to gather insights on the pain points of people in each of the classifications mentioned in step one. What do they want to know? What don’t they know already but should? What might they be confused about at this stage? Once you’ve workshopped a bit and built audience personas for each group, get to work creating content that addresses their unique wants and needs, or start assembling your existing content that fits within these areas. Think broadly, focusing on general content that can be useful for each type of lead/prospect, including gated resources, manuals, webinars, and blog posts. Having this content on hand will give you a good base of educational materials that you can then put to use in your drip campaigns. Step Three: Segment Your Lists You’ve tiered your prospects already, so now it’s time to create your actual email lists. Create a list for each tier, and make sure to automatically enroll new prospects into the most appropriate list for their current stage.  How you do this depends on how your marketing automation software helps you qualify your prospects. Some allow you to take into consideration a lot of factors, like actions they’ve taken on your site, the industry they’re in, and the size of their company. But at the end of the day, you should have segmented contact lists that you can easily connect throughout each campaign. Step Four: Craft Your Emails Once you’ve got your lists segmented, start putting together the actual email series for your drip campaigns. To make it easy on yourself and your team, you may want to tackle just one prospect tier at once. Start small while you get your footing and see what works, and then adjust accordingly.   Make sure you create engaging email content that will delight your prospects. You want them to enjoy reading your emails and look forward to opening them. Don’t forget to add links to your existing content so that you can make these more personalized and helpful.   Step Five: Check In to Measure Success Let your drip campaigns run their course for a few months, then check to see how well they’re performing. Focus on how well they’re able to move prospects through the funnel and see if your sales team is getting any feedback for improvement. Also, look at click-through-rates, open rates, and conversion rates to help determine overall success. Sometimes, something a simple as swapping in updated and/or otherwise enhanced content will be enough to overcome hurdles. Remember: drip campaigns are ongoing strategies. Tweak your practices and your content as needed, and always use any associated data to help evolve your campaigns. Soon, you’ll have a drip campaign that operates — and excels.


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3 Reasons Your Marketing Plan Isn’t Working

3 Reasons Your Marketing Plan Isn’t Working

Practical Marketer • January 9, 2020

Tons of hard work goes into implementing a marketing plan. From planning to execution, your team has to invest a lot of hours and a lot of effort into putting together a strategy that will succeed — which is why it’s such a bummer when it doesn’t. A failed marketing strategy is usually the result of three common mistakes, and by identifying what they are, you’ll be able to avoid making them. We’ll go over what those three mistakes are so you can craft a strategy that avoids them, and see real success out of your marketing efforts. 1. You Didn’t Clearly Identify Your Goals Marketing is an end to a mean. But if you’re not really sure what you’re trying to achieve, how are you going to optimize your efforts to get there? The goals that you choose for your marketing efforts should be specific, measurable, and attainable. Instead of focusing on something overly broad like “increase revenue,” break down your bigger goals into smaller goals that will serve as stepping stones toward that more ambitious undertaking. Some of the most common marketing goals include: Broadening exposure and increasing brand awareness among new customers Generating new leads Converting more prospects into sales  Increasing SEO and page rankings Enhancing customer relations Each of these goals is tied to specific marketing practices that make them achievable for teams of all sizes. The key is to know exactly what you’re trying to achieve in the first place so that you can target your efforts in the right direction. 2. You Didn’t Look at the Right Metrics If you didn’t clearly outline your goals, then chances are you’re also using the wrong metrics to measure success. And even if you did clearly outline your goals, you might still be looking at the wrong markers of performance. Evaluating the correct metrics is crucial to a successful marketing plan. If you’re looking at the wrong data, or just aren’t quite sure what to make of the data that you’ve got, then you’re going to end up missing out on key insights that will tell you if you’re on or off track. So what metrics should you look at? Here is what you should be measuring based on some of the common goals mentioned above: Brand awareness and generating new leads — Look at referral traffic, organic traffic, and the number of new leads being generated from your gated content and enrolling in your email marketing.  More sales — Look at your conversion rates, average lead score, and your sales team’s close rate. SEO — Look at search visibility, keyword rankings, and organic search traffic. Customer relations — Look at referrals, client reviews, and your average client lifespan.   When you hone in on the right metrics, you ensure that you’re paying attention where it really counts. You also give yourself the best opportunity to see where and how you need to tweak your marketing plan. 3. You Lacked Consistency A marketing plan isn’t a one and done kind of thing. Truly effective marketing comes down to consistency — with your paid advertising, your content marketing, your email marketing, and so on. If you just jump from strategy to strategy, you’re not giving your team a chance to see what’s working and what’s not. You’re also running the risk of confusing your customers. At its core, marketing is about controlling the conversation around your brand. You want to set the dialogue in terms of your identity and your values, and to make those ideas and values a central part of how current and potential customers perceive you. If you’re not consistent with your marketing, you’re not strengthening your brand messaging. This opens the doors for others to set it for you, and can also cloud the perceptions that others have of you. When you’re forming your marketing plan, always keep consistency in mind. What are the common threads that are tying all of your individual pieces of content together? What is the overall message you are sending about your company? What is your unique voice, and is it coming through in all variables of your campaigns? Consistency builds trust, authority, and awareness. And in turn, these factors help get you closer to your major goals. Aim to be consistent in everything you do related to marketing, and your message will be a lot more impactful. There’s a difference between hard work and difficult work. If you go into your marketing plan with clear direction and a strategy for measuring your success, then you’ll take out a lot of the hurdles that can stand in the way of productive marketing. Ultimately, every single tactic and every single step of your marketing plan should be driven toward promoting your brand identity and furthering your established goals. And if you approach your plan with these factors in mind, you’ve already got a serious leg up on everyone who doesn’t.


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The Anatomy of an Effective Email

The Anatomy of an Effective Email

Practical Marketer • January 8, 2020

For every dollar spent on email marketing, you get $38 in return. That’s a lot of ROI for one strategy. But, before you hit send, there are various things you have to keep in mind that ensure your email is built effectively.  A successful email is much like the human body. It has various parts that all need to work together for it to function and operate smoothly as a whole. The anatomy of every effective email includes at least seven specific components that should be present, all of which will encourage people to open it, engage with the content, and eventually convert. So to get it right and see that sweet ROI, here are the necessary components that comprise the anatomy of an effective email:  1. “From” Field The “from” space is an essential piece of real estate because it can immediately initiate trust. Never set up your emails to be sent from a generic address. Instead, have the “from” contain the name of someone within your organization, preferably someone from your sales or marketing team. Next to the subject line, the “from” field is where most people look at before opening the email. And the easier it is to identify the source of an email, the more likely it will be opened. 2. Subject Line As we alluded to in the previous point, your subject line is the second opportunity to make a good first impression. 35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone. If you don’t engage here, people will not be opening your email, which means you have zero opportunity to convert them. The body of your email can contain the best information in the world, but if the subject line is boring, they’ll never see it. A few tips to remember when creating subject lines: Don’t overuse punctuation (ie. !!!! or ????). Keep it short. No longer than 40-50 characters. Don’t use all caps. Don’t repeat the “from” label. 3. Content Content is the meat of the email. It’s everything, and it starts with your preview text. The preview text is like the sidekick of your subject line because it’s meant to provide more context and further compel readers to open the email. It should grab attention and get people engaged.  The body of your email is where you provide the primary messaging and information for your readers. It must create value for the consumer and cause them to take action (we’ll get to that specific part later). Make sure that whatever you’re promoting has your brand voice tied to it, is concise, and is presented in an easily digestible way. Make sure this content is personalized by addressing specific pain points and provides aid based on where the recipient is in the customer journey.  Commit to quality and send content that people actually want to read. It’s just as easy to fail an email campaign if your content is boring, or worse, rife with errors.  The content should also vary. Don’t send out the same campaign over and over. A/B test subject lines and content to see what people respond to. Then create more of it. A company newsletter is usually the best place to start if you’re scratching your head on content.  4. Call to Action One of the most important parts of your email is where you ask people to “do something.” This is your call-to-action (CTA) and is what leads to conversion. Whether you want people to make a purchase or simply fill out a survey, you need to request it somewhere in the email.  When writing the content, ask yourself, “what do I want people to do after they receive this?” It doesn’t have to be a purchase. If it’s a survey, don’t forget to include a link where they can fill it out.  The idea is always to make the CTA clear and concise, so people aren’t wondering what to do next. One of the most engaging ways to do this is to include an easily clickable button that redirects people to your exact destination. 5. Visuals/Design We have all heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but it’s no different when it comes to email marketing. Using an image in an email appeals to the recipient’s visual nature. It makes it easier for them to receive information, it gives character to your emails, and it can break up the written content.  Don’t neglect visual components like color blocks or graphics. And make sure you give thought to the overall design and layout of your emails. Visuals play a big part in branding, and having them be consistent with the look and feel of your other digital assets and collateral is a must.   6. Mobile-Optimized At this point, there’s no excuse for not having mobile-optimized emails. We already know that people are glued their phones, and with recent studies showing that up to 77% of emails are opened on mobile devices, the deal is sealed. You must be optimizing your emails for mobile. If someone receives an email they can’t read on their phone, they’re not only going to neglect reading it, but they may even unsubscribe from all your future email messages.  7. Analytics Any email campaign you send out must always be measurable. Evaluating the performance of your email marketing strategies is critical to understanding what works and what is failing.  An effective email will have a high open-rate and click-rate, and if you measure a campaign and both of these metrics are failing, it’s time to make some changes. When reviewing your email benchmarks and making adjustments, make sure you play around with A/B testing, the day and time you’re sending your emails, and frequency. These can all play a part in the overall effectiveness, and that’s what matters most.  So, when putting together your next email newsletter or campaign, make sure you pay mind to the seven pieces of the email anatomy mentioned above. Don’t neglect one over the other, as all are needed for well-functioning, successful email. 


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The California Consumer Privacy Act and What You Need to Know

The California Consumer Privacy Act and What You Need to Know

Practical Marketer • December 23, 2019

Maintaining compliance is a daily necessity for marketers. With the amount of information that is now accessible, it’s crucial that consumers feel protected and in the know. With the GDPR somewhat recently released, we’ve all become accustomed to making sure our consumers are fully aware of what we do with their information, should they choose to offer it up to us.  Transparency is the key to trust, and now that California released a new policy, it’s time we get up to speed on what it means, how it will affect our marketing, and what we need to disclose to our consumers to maintain transparency with them.  Here are a few basics of the CCPA to help you better understand how this Act affects the way you market to your customers.  What is the CCPA, and When Will it Go Into Effect?  The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a new data privacy law that applies to businesses that collect personal information from California residents. This law reinforces the privacy of California residents and maintains full transparency over what their information will be used for when collected. The act goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.  What Do You Mean By “Information”? Information can be anything from your consumers’ names and email addresses to their IP address and financial information. Basically, it’s anything that can be traced back to or related to a consumer.  What Does the CCPA Mean for Consumers? The CCPA protects California consumers (anyone living in California or anyone that is a resident but traveling out of the state). It gives them the right to be informed on which of their personal information is being collected and what will be done with their information once it is collected. This includes where it was sourced from and whether or not it will be sold.  This Act also gives them the ability to opt-out of the sale of their information, gain access to their information, and request the deletion of their information at any time.  How Does the CCPA Effect Businesses?  Businesses must comply with the CCPA by not selling consumers information should they make that request. Selling includes making it available in any way in exchange for monetary or other benefits.  If a business sells any information at all, it must provide a link that states “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” or “Do Not Sell My Info” on your company’s website’s homepage, as well as within your privacy notice. If a consumer opts-out, it must be honored and communicated to the third party that you sell their information to.  Businesses must notify their consumers of their full rights under this Act. This can be done in many ways, including disclosure on their privacy policy, a dedicated email notice, or when the data is being collected.  Also, businesses must have a process in place to respond to opt-out requests and make at least two methods for submitting these requests available. These methods include, at minimum, a toll-free telephone number and a website address if the business has one. Businesses must respond to these requests within the time limits outlined by the CCPA. Is Benchmark Email Compliant?  Yes. Every email you create with Benchmark will be compliant with this Act. We’ll also offer support for CCPA related requests from your contacts. Learn more in our Privacy Policy.  For more information, and to gain a full understanding of the entire requirements under this new Act, please visit the CCPA website. 


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Overcoming Our Fears: Getting Started with Email Marketing

Overcoming Our Fears: Getting Started with Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • December 19, 2019

For a lot of us, doing something new is scary. It could be that we fear the unknown, a fear of failing or that we fear we won’t know how to do something. Regardless of the source, many of us won’t ever try a new thing as we succumb to our fears. When it comes to email marketing, several fears or impediments may come into play. So, let’s address them. But first, let’s take a look at why you should even be doing email marketing in the first place. If you made it this far, you’re at least curious. The Case For Email Marketing It’s projected that there will be 2.9 billion email users worldwide by 2019. That’s quite the large audience. Additionally, 105 billion emails are sent daily, with that number expected to increase to 246 billion by 2020. If the numbers aren’t convincing enough, here are several more reasons you need to be doing email marketing: It’s Affordable. Hands down, email marketing is one of the most, if not the most, cost-effective marketing solutions available to businesses today. It\'s Fast. You can create and send your first email in under thirty minutes. You can reach thousands (or more!) of customers and leads in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Sending the right message will even inspire your subscribers to quickly engage with your campaign and act upon your call to action. It’s Focused. Few people enjoy feeling like they’re being marketing to. Email marketing allows you to segment your lists into targeted opportunities which allows you to address the needs and wants of your subscribers and provide them with value. That makes for a happy, engaged audience. It’s Simple. Anyone can succeed with email marketing, no matter their experience. Thanks to email templates and drag and drop email builders, as well as other easy-to-implement tools such as A/B Testing and List Segmentation, the learning curve for email marketing is lower than ever before. Plus, real-time reporting shows you your successes and areas for improvement. When your strategy is properly executed, your campaigns will contribute to managing themselves while freeing you up to plan the next move. It Works. A well-planned email campaign will work to drive traffic to your website, increase sales and create ongoing engagement that leads to loyal customers. In fact, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the Return on Investment is $42 earned. Other marketing opportunities simply don’t see those results, all while creating and building brand reputation. So, now you know why you should be doing email marketing. Now, what’s stopping you? Fear of Not Knowing Where to Get Started In the almost decade that I have been working in the email marketing industry, there is one statement that I hear all too frequently from business owners: “We’re not ready for email marketing yet.” However, the real reason they’re not doing email marketing yet is that they don’t know what to do or afraid they’ll do the wrong thing. The truth is, any business, even before they have officially opened their doors (either at a brick and mortar physical location or on the web), should have an email marketing account. Why? It All Starts with a List An email list is the single most important marketing asset to any business. It’s more important than social media followers and a presence on those sites. After all, those sites could go away one day, and all your hard work would be erased along with your followers on that site. Your list of contacts endures. Plus, you can start growing your list even before you company officially launches. It’s a good idea to place a signup form on your website and Facebook page. Tell people to signup to get updates from the company to begin growing excitement. That reason for that is twofold. On the one hand, it helps you build hype leading up to your launch date. It also helps you hit the ground running once you’re open for business. Upload Your List Many companies have a list of contacts, even if they are new to email marketing. For some, it’s the list of customers with whom you’ve already established a relationship. For others, it’s the leads you’re already nurturing with one-off basic emails or phone calls. It could even be just the friends and family members who you can test your early strategies on. Take what you have to work with and upload it to your email marketing account. Based on the amount of data you have on your list, you may even be able to begin some segmentation. At the very least, it’ll give you your start to email marketing. You have to start somewhere, and even sending to a small audience will help you learn what works. Create a Signup Form After uploading any existing contacts you may have already had, a signup form is going to be your new best friend. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, when asked to opt-in to receive updates for a company, 90% chose to receive an email newsletter. Only 10% elected to get updates via Facebook. This is how your list will grow. From there, you expand your reach, follow-up with leads and build your brand--all while doing nothing more than placing a lead capturing form in the places that people interested in your business may visit. So what goes into a great signup form? Keep It Simple, Stupid. You don’t want anything on your list that will give someone pause before signing up. That means keep it short by not asking for too much information. Do you need more than the email address? Can you get that information or qualify your leads in another way? In most cases, the answer is yes. Set clear expectations for the subscriber. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it helps convince people to sign up. If they know they’re going to get deals from you or helpful information once a month, they won’t be worried about getting their inboxes bombarded. It also helps you attract the kind of subscribers you want and ones who won’t quickly unsubscribe. Create a strong CTA. It should make your site visitors or social followers feel like they simply have to sign up to hear from you and that they have to act now. Make sure the button is large enough to be easily noticed Again, the button must stand out. Traditionally, red buttons work best, and green is the second most effective. Your CTA copy should not be longer than 40 characters. Use first-person language such as “me” or “my” to help potential subscribers relate better. Now that you know what makes up a great signup form, it’s also important to understand where you should put them. Your homepage is the obvious place to start. Some will place it right smack dab above the fold, as the hero image at the top of their page. These are people whose business relies on capturing email addresses. You can’t miss this signup form on the homepage for by Regina. It helps that they’re offering something for signing up. Any incentive is always helpful. Others may relegate their signup form to a sidebar or footer on the page. Make sure it’s on the top of your sidebar. The further down the page it gets, the fewer subscribers you’ll receive. Yes, the footer is all the way at the bottom of your page. However, if someone gets that far, they’re interested in what you’re doing. That makes for better quality subscribers in most cases. A company like Casper knows you’re not on their website to sign up for their emails. That’s why it makes sense for them to reserve their signup form for their footer. The “Free bedtime reading” copy is very on brand for them. If you want to demand attention, use a pop-up signup form. A website visitor will not be able to miss your signup form when it pops directly into their sightlines. You can’t ignore these savings from TOMS when their signup form pops up in front of your face. Saying “Join Us” is another nice touch. It sounds like you have less on the line to sign up. It sounds more like your helping them in their cause of donating shoes to those in need. Aside from your homepage, here are a few other places you should put a signup form: Your blog. It can even be a separate list from your main list. These people may just want to subscribe to receive email updates when you post new content on the blog. Facebook page. Your social media followers aren’t always your email subscribers or website visitors. Change that. About Us page. For many businesses, the About Us page is among the most visited on their website. Take advantage of the eyeballs on the page! That little bar across the top of your site. You’ve probably seen it on some sites you frequent. There are tools that make it easy. Try Hello Bar or ViperBar. SPF Records and DKIM The phrase SPF Records sounds like it means I have to show proof to my overbearing mother that I wore sunscreen at the beach yesterday. DKIM sounds intimidating as well. They don’t need to be! While these two steps in getting started with email marketing are on the technical side, there are easy to follow instructions on how to do them. But first, let’s understand them. SPF Records SPF stands for Sender Policy Framework. If you’re like me, that doesn’t mean anything. In fact, it makes it more confusing. Simply put, SPF Records allow ISPs and inbox clients to trust the authenticity of your emails. Still lost? Say someone knocks on your door. You look through the peephole to see who it is. SPF Records are the peephole of your email campaigns. One of the most common tricks that spammers run is a phishing scam. They design an email to look like it’s from your bank and use it to gain access to your passwords or other sensitive data. Establishing your SPF Records means the ISP can identify the email campaigns you’re sending. It ensures the best chance of delivery of your email campaigns. To establish your SPF records, you’ll do so with your DNS Manager. If you’re unsure of what a DNS Manager is, you’re not alone. If you’ve purchased a domain name and hosting, you\'ll have access to a DNS manager. If you don’t, whoever runs your website does. Ask them for help. The SPF record for yourwebdomain.com should go in your DNS manager something like this: yourwebdomain.com IN TXT “v=spf1 a mx ip4:1.2.3.4 include:thirdpartyespdomain.com -all” In this example, 1.2.3.4 = the IP Address of your mail server or 3rd party ESP, like Benchmark Email. Also, thirdpartyespdomain.com = the domain of the 3rd party ESP, such as Benchmark Email, or their relay mail server’s domain name. Your ESP will give you this information. Here’s a very helpful FAQ that will help you establish SPF Records with various domain hosts. Additionally, you can get help with your SPF Records on these sites: http://www.openspf.org/SPF_Record_Syntax http://www.openspf.org/FAQ Once you’ve finished establishing your SPF Records, it’s time to test it. You can do so with either of these sites: http://www.mxtoolbox.com/spf.aspx http://www.kitterman.com/spf/validate.html If you’re still lost or confused, you can reach out to the support with your domain host or your ESP. Both will have plenty of resources to help you out. We cannot emphasize enough how important this step is to getting started with email marketing on the right foot. If you need help, just ask! DKIM DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is another intimidating sounding phrase, but one which is another easy step in setting yourself up for good email delivery from the start. What DKIM does, is grants an organization the responsibility for an email being delivered, which may pertain to your own business or the ESP you’re using … or both! Any ESP will automatically authenticate your emails with DKIM. That’s good news! However, you can take it up a notch and enable a DKIM CName, which gives you double authentication. That means your emails are authenticated as coming from your business, sent through your ESP. This lets the ISPs identify you as the sender and builds your sender reputation with the help of your ESP as your co-signer. This is what you’ll need: CNAME RECORD FOR DKIM: bmdeda._domainkey.yourdomain.net VALUE: bmdeda._domainkey.bmsend.com Here is a very helpful FAQ to assist you with DKIM and various domain hosting companies. For even more on what you can do to improve your email deliverability, check out our guide The Deliverability Formula: 5 Steps to Reach the Inbox.


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5 Ways to Kickstart Your Email Marketing This Year

5 Ways to Kickstart Your Email Marketing This Year

Practical Marketer • December 19, 2019

There’s no doubt that consumers prefer emails when it comes to brand updates and marketing. More than half of consumers check their personal email accounts more than ten times a day, and 99% of consumers are checking their email accounts at least one time per day. That\'s a lot of chances to connect with tons of people, as well as one of the reasons emails are the most effective ways to engage with consumers. With more than 59% of marketers reporting email marketing as their number one source of ROI, it makes sense to put extra effort into your campaigns. So why not make sure that your 2020 email marketing strategy is off to a great start from the get-go? Here are five of our top tips for breathing new life into your emails and maximizing their performance and returns. 1. Start With Great Content Content is always going to be king in the marketing world. After all, the whole point of content is to communicate a specific message — right? Putting content at the top of your priority list makes a ton of sense when it comes to optimizing your email marketing efforts, and it’s one of the biggest things you can do to boost engagement across the buying journey. High-performing email marketing content has a couple of critical features. To start, it’s well-written and original (this is a biggie). Poorly edited copy, overly wordy copy, and boring copy are all going to turn off your subscribers. Great content is also personalized to specific prospects based on where they are in the sales cycle. This helps you improve the utility of your outreach and better appeal to the right customers at the right time. Also, make sure you have a clear and specific CTA so your emails can convert.  2. Automate Wherever You Can Email marketing involves a lot of rote tasks. It also consists of a lot of highly specific tasks that the human brain isn’t always ideally fit to undertake, such as data-driven segmentation. Enter artificial intelligence, which has become an increasingly integral part of effective brand-to-consumer messaging. With a marketing automation tool, your business can create emails more efficiently and put data to use for more conversion-friendly marketing. Use it to do everything from pinpointing the optimal days and times to send your emails to creating customized contact lists for better targeting and segmentation. And don’t forget to use an email autoresponder, which can engage with consumers at important stages in their journey to move them along the path to purchase.  3. Know Your Metrics Every business is different. The email marketing metrics that a business tracks for success may be relatively standard from brand to brand (think open rates, click-through rates, and so on). However, it’s your individual goals that inform these metrics and help you best determine where you need to go and how you’re going to get there. Ultimately, you need to understand your own metrics — not just the general ones the inform successful email marketing — in order to determine how well you’re performing. You may be doing this already, but as we enter a new year, go back in, and audit your protocols to account for your most recent analytics. Not only will you have more accurate metrics to go on, but you’ll also be able to refresh your team on what your big goals and intentions are. 4. Go Big Create campaigns, not just individual emails. There’s a tendency with email marketing to silo messages and let whatever topic, product, or service you’re trying to cover at the moment be the overarching theme you’re getting at. But for truly effective email marketing, you want to think big picture. We’re going for the whole puzzle here, not just the individual pieces. The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to restrategize. As you go to the drawing board, focus not just on what topics and ideas you want your subscribers to engage with but how they all fit together. See if you can work in more cohesive, campaign-driven practices, too, like creating more drip campaigns. Your audience might not notice the difference, but you will. 5. Be More Accessible If you’re not already designing emails with accessibility in mind, now is the time to start. This broadens your pool of potential leads and is also part of fair and inclusive communications. Some easy places to start: go for bigger fonts and cleaner backgrounds, and work on maintaining a clear and identifiable structure to how you arrange the content within your emails. Another tip is if you’re using video in your emails, make sure they’re captioned so hearing-impaired subscribers can still engage with the video and pull information from it.  There’s always something that you can do to improve your email marketing efforts. Take advantage of this transition to a new year (and a new decade!) to spur your strategy and encourage your team to find innovative ways to do more and do better. A simple kickstart might be all that you need to start exceeding your goals.


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8 Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Killing Your Results

8 Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Killing Your Results

Practical Marketer • December 18, 2019

All brands have the best intentions with their emails, but there are a lot of little things that can hurt your email marketing performance — and many of them you might not even be aware that you’re doing. Some email marketing mistakes annoy consumers. Others make it so that the message never gets in front of them in the first place. And all email marketing mistakes can lead to major missed opportunities when it comes to open rates, click-throughs, and other forms of engagement. All-in-all, making mistakes with your email marketing can make you lose trust with your subscribers, and possibly lose them altogether.  The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to know what they are in the first place. Take a look at this list of eight common email mistakes that brands make to determine which, if any, your messages — and your metrics — might be falling victim to. 1. Poorly Edited Copy Nobody is expecting an email marketing message to read like The Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with typos, grammatical errors, and other writing mistakes. Poorly edited copy hurts the integrity of your brand and suggests to your subscribers that you don’t have quite as much authority as you’re trying to project. Hire a professional editor to do damage control on all your pieces of content, including your email copy. If there isn’t room for that in your budget, then check out free online editing tools, like Grammarly, that can spot errors that you may not see.  2. Lack of Personalization Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates, and yet 70% of brands are failing to personalize their messages. That’s a huge missed opportunity. Today’s consumers are turned off by broad, impersonal marketing, and they don’t have much time for messaging that doesn’t, at the very least, acknowledge who they are. If you’re not taking the time to personalize, you’re almost certainly missing out on a huge chunk of potential conversions. The best thing about personalization is that marketing automation tools can tell you so much about your subscribers, making it super easy to speak to them. Make sure you’re using an automation tool that gives you insight into where your prospects are in their buyer journey, and what their current pain points and issues may be so you can easily personalize your outreach.  3. Bait-Driven Subject Lines You need to be delivering on what you promise in your subject lines. So while a clickbait-y subject line might get more people to open your message, misleading recipients on what they’ll find when they open your message is going to affect their trust in your brand. And considering just how vital trust is in consumer marketing, that’s not a risk you can take. No one likes seeing a subject line that looks really interesting, only to open up the email and see that what’s inside has nothing to do with the subject line. You feel duped, bamboozled, bested. Don’t do that to your subscribers; it’s just not good marketing.  4. Lengthy, Boring Content Don’t bore your subscribers with lengthy, unnecessary copy. Content that is overly wordy, needlessly convoluted, or just plain uninteresting is not the kind of content that is going to get people to stick around. If you want to run a longer piece, tease it with a sentence or short paragraph and then link it to the larger piece of content on your site. Also, most people are reading their emails on their phones, so they may be in the middle of doing something else or don’t have a lot of time to consume the content. Be respectful of that by keeping your emails short and sweet and to the point, which will also yield better results for you.  5. ALL-CAPS SUBJECT LINES If it looks like we’re yelling at you in that subhead, then how do you think your subscribers feel when they see all-caps in subject lines? Aside from just looking like you’re shouting, capital letters in the subject line connote spam — both to your email recipients and to the email platforms filtering their messages. So if you think use all-caps in your subject lines will be the attention-grabbing method your email strategy needs, think again.  Instead of using all caps, try using emojis in email subject lines. We’ve found that emojis do a great job of catching our subscribers’ attention and also encourages them to open the email. It’s a win-win!  6. Not Sending on the Right Day and Time There’s been a lot of research done on the optimal days and times to send marketing emails, so there’s really no excuse to be scheduling your emails for random times. And just as important as the research is your own data. It’s a huge mistake not to let the information you have around your conversion rates dictate what day, and what times of day, you hit send. We recommend reading up on the data that’s out there on this and have that inform your email marketing schedule. Make sure to measure results and keep track of your open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate month over month. If you think those numbers could be improved, try different days and times, track, and then re-evaluate. 7. Neglecting Mobile Not making your emails mobile-friendly is a big no-no, and honestly, every marketer out there should know this. As we mentioned earlier, more than half of email recipients are reading email on their phones, compared to just 15% reading email on their desktops. Mobile email growth is more than just a trend — it’s the new normal. If you neglect to optimize your message design and content for the small screen, then you’re pretty much nullifying the impact of your email for a large swath of its recipients. There’s an easy solution to this. Most marketing automation platforms automatically optimize your emails for mobile. Make sure you are using a platform that does this for you so you can eliminate a step in the process while also reaching a larger number of people.  8. Not Performing A/B Testing Industry-wide statistics can tell you a lot about best practices when it comes to email marketing, and they are, without a doubt, one of the most valuable resources you have for guiding your strategy. But even more important than that is your own statistics, which is why regular A/B testing is so important. There’s no one-size-fits-all email marketing approach; there’s only the one that works for you. A/B testing your emails ensures that you make the most of your experience and put data-driven insights to use for the betterment of your campaigns. So if you’re not doing it, you’re not sending optimized emails. Put together two emails with the same copy, but each with a different CTA or a different subject line. Send each email to a segment of your audience at the same time and day, and then track the results. See which one has a higher open-rate and click-through rate. That will help you determine which CTA and subject line resonated with them.   Mistakes are part of marketing. It’s whether you learn from them that makes the big difference. By taking care to avoid the email marketing mistakes outlined above, you avoid falling into the traps that so often lead to poor results on emails that otherwise likely would have performed quite well. You can’t be perfect (and nobody is expecting you to be), but if you know it’s a misstep, then make it part of your strategy not to let it happen.


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