Series Posts: Practical Marketer

11 Marketing Automation Terms You Should Know

11 Marketing Automation Terms You Should Know

Practical Marketer • September 21, 2017

As we’ve said it before during our Automation Fridays weekly workshops: Marketing Automation is the next frontier of Digital Marketing. This means if you haven’t dabbled in automation yet, let me tell you, you’re already late. Perhaps you have already come across some terms that you are not familiar with. And let’s be honest, in SaaS products things can get pretty jargony pretty quick. So, if you are curious about marketing automation and want to keep up with some of the industry terms, here are 11 concepts we think you should know: 1. Trigger / Entry Point No, this doesn’t refer to the feeling you get when someone chews too loud when they are eating right next to you (or is that just me?). A trigger is where an automation starts, based on certain actions, like adding contacts to a particular list, sending out an email and even based on actions taken by a contact or a group of them. 2. Visitor A visitor is an anonymous user who comes to your site. Your goal should be to have them at least provide their email address. Once you have an address, you have yourself a contact or lead. 3. Condition Inside your automation, you can define conditions to be set for each of the actions you want your automation to perform. That means you can segment contacts based on their engagement with emails you previously sent in the same automation or segments they are already a part of or even their engagement with your site. [caption id=\"attachment_7311\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"1024\"] These are some of the conditions you can use when creating a series of emails to communicate with your contacts using Automation Pro.[/caption] 4. Contact, Lead or Prospect In essence, which of the three terms you use depends on the industry and division you are in, but what it means for you is that once a visitor has provided contact information, they become your subscriber. 5. List In Marketing Automation, a list is the collection of contacts or email addresses that will allow you to communicate with them. 6. Segment A segment is the result of the process of organizing your list. That means separating your contacts and target audience into buckets of specific needs, preferences and even desired experiences. [caption id=\"attachment_7312\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"1024\"] To achieve a higher success rate based on your goals, segment your contacts to ensure each email is hitting the best possible target audience. This keeps your email automation relevant.[/caption] 7. Drip A drip campaign is what sometimes an email automation is referred as, what both of these concepts are is a series of programmed and timely emails. 8. Journey / Email Flow Every automation you start should be goal oriented, so a flow is what you would layout as the stages or steps your automation would take to reach a specific goal. 9. Goal As mentioned above each automation should have a clear desired result, some of the most common goals are: Onboarding: teach users how to use your product Engagement: to encourage your users to interact with your company Retention: To keep customers coming back Re-engagement: to get customers or users to come back and start using your product again if they stopped But really, there are a lot of possibilities. 10. Signup form / email box You should have one of these on your site already, but if not, a signup form will allow you to gather visitor’s contact information, to be able to create campaigns geared towards them. 11. Automation Pro The most practical tool out there to manage and create your marketing automation (What? You thought I wouldn’t take the chance talk about our awesome tool?). Click here to learn more. So there you have it, Marketing Automation is becoming more and more ubiquitous each day. So, this is a good start for you to have an idea of what all the industry lingo means. Are there any other concepts you are still wondering about related to automation? Drop us a line in the comments section below, and we’ll make sure to answer any questions.


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How Can I Use Email Marketing with A Landing Page?

How Can I Use Email Marketing with A Landing Page?

Practical Marketer • September 12, 2017

Landing Pages (LPs) are an extremely effective marketing tool to unleash from your arsenal. They give you flexibility within your branding to do some different things, you can often develop them quicker than a typical page on your website and, most importantly to this post, they can be designed for a single goal. The most effective email marketing campaigns are also designed around a singular goal. That’s what makes email marketing such a natural pair with LPs. At MarketingSherpa Summit 2016, Flint McGlaughlin reminded the crowd of one important fact: an email campaign can’t sell anything … except a click. The sale takes places on your website. That really hammered home the importance of one clear goal for your email campaigns. Carry that ideology through to your LP. If you link someone to your website from an email campaign, there’s the possibility of distraction. Perhaps there are multiple products available on the page or various links in the header or footer that could distract from your goal. When you’re planning a marketing campaign, think about it from the email campaign through to the landing page and what you will consider a success. Match the branding in your email and landing page. Tell a story that begins in the inbox and ends on the LP. Put only on the LP what you will need to achieve success. Keep it simple and enjoy the ROI that email marketing and landing pages can deliver.


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Finding Your Target Audience

Finding Your Target Audience

Practical Marketer • September 12, 2017

I’m sure every single one of us has complained about too many emails in our inbox. We agree to sign up for a list to get a discount, but have no need for additional purchases with that brand and do not continue to see value in being subscribed. Maybe you tried to win a giveaway and one brand partnered with others to compile the prize package. Entering subscribes you to brands you never even knew existed. You weren’t paying attention. You just wanted the free stuff. Even the brands we legitimately subscribed with can let us down after too many irrelevant emails. There is one action that can overcome each of these instances, and it’s targeting. That is why it’s so important to find your target audience. What is a Target Audience? A Target Audience is defined as the group of individuals, or for email marketing purposes the specific list or segment, at which a campaign is aimed. It’s the target demographic for each marketing effort. It’s also who would be most likely to convert, based on each targeted email campaign you send. For example, if you owned a plumbing company, your target audience would be homeowners or landlords. It’s important to remember that the target audience is who is most likely to purchase your goods or services and not necessarily for whom the goods and services are intended. Take, for example, a toy store. Yes, kids (of all ages) will play with the toys. However, more often than not it’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are most likely to be buying the toys. Why is it important to find a Target Audience for each email you send? In our guide, What Makes a Great Email, we discussed that content makes an email great. However, subject line, email copy and a Call To Action are only half of what we said makes for great emails. Your target audience is the other part of what will make your emails great. To paraphrase an old saying, greatness is in the eye of the beholder. In the above examples of inbox overload, all could have been avoided had the subscribers been able to relate to the tone and content of the emails. That would have made those emails great to those users. This is why it’s imperative to make sure each campaign you send is directed towards the correct target audience. After all, we’ve all surely heard the famous John Lydgate quote, that was also famously shared by Abraham Lincoln. …you can’t please all of the people all of the time. A lot of the time, your whole contact list will not be interested in all of the emails you want to send. However, a targeted email to the right audience is far more likely to find a happy audience. Are your emails being sent to the appropriate audience? It’s important to serve the needs and interests of each subscriber. A targeted audience means a segment of your list(s) filled with individuals who are pleased with the emails they’re receiving. In 2015, nearly 80% of all email marketing ROI was a result of being sent to the correct target audience! There Are No Targeted Audiences Without Proper Segmentation Knowing who to target with your email marketing campaigns begins with an understanding of the list segments you should be creating. List segmentation does not have to be difficult. It can begin with your signup form. Based on the data fields on your signup form, you can sort new subscribers from the beginning. One way you can segment your list is by demographic. This includes gender, age and location. It is possible to gather this data at signup, but be mindful that you’re not turning off potential email subscribers from completing your form. You can also build a segmented target audience around the type of industry a subscriber is in, the size of their company or any wide range of data that you can ask for on your signup form. Engagement is another opportunity for segmenting your sending email list. Find the subscribers who interact (open rates) most often with your effective emails. That could mean who is opening them a lot or even those who tend to click on links. This group comes in handy if you want to get customer feedback with a poll or survey or if you want to create a loyalty program. While your most active subscribers make a great segment, the opposite is also true. Inactive subscribers are another segment you can create and target. You can target that audience with a re-engagement campaign to bring them back into the fold. Clean your list of the ones to remain inactive. Your customer’s purchase history is another segment you can create. When you know what goods or services they have previously purchased, you can target that audience with a automated email campaign director towards their interests. [caption id=\"\" align=\"alignnone\" width=\"600\"] Finding Your Target Audience[/caption] Target Audience Examples It’s one thing to see how you could segment and target your audiences. Seeing examples makes more relatable: Perhaps you’re a microbrewery. You can segment your list into people who like IPAs or wheat beers based on on the items they’re clicking on in your emails.If you’re a car dealership, you can send targeted campaigns based on the types of cars your subscribers are clicking on in your email promotions.Or maybe you’re in charge of the email marketing for your local Park District. You can segment and create targeted emails for children’s camps, teen activities and adult programs based on the step by step email content in which your subscribers have shown interest. You can also create targeted audiences for the subscribers who most often engage with your emails. This is the audience who is most likely to open your real time emails. They might even be excited when they receive an email from you! It’s a good idea to reward that level of engagement. You can offer your engaged subscribers a sneak peek at new product launches. Give them early access to these products as a reward for their loyalty. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can create a targeted audience of your inactive subscribers. The easiest and most common way to target this audience is by telling them you’re going to remove them from your list unless they’d like to opt back in. People want what they can’t have, and they’ll probably start paying closer attention to your emails. Purchase history also gives you the information you need to create specific target audiences. Think about any time you’ve purchased something on Amazon. You’ve certainly received an email after the fact that said something like this: “Because you purchased Cards Against Humanity, you may also be interested in What Do You Meme? Adult Party Game.” If your business requires recurring payments, you can also create a target audience of canceled or expired accounts. Show them how to update their credit card information with a quick video. You will likely win back lost accounts and money! Tips for Understanding Your Target Audience It is incredibly important to understand who the individuals are in each target audience. One simple way to do this is by creating customer personas. You can even go so far as to search Google Images and choose a photo for each target audience and the individual that will represent each persona. Consider the car they drive, places they shop and even what magazines or blogs they enjoy reading. You should also turn to your reports to gain a better understanding of each target audience. Your reports are another opportunity to understand your target audience with expected return on investment. There, you can see the device they’re opening your emails on, what time they’re opening those emails and the goods or services of interest based on clicks. You can learn if your target audience is on-the-go opening emails on smartphones or if they open on a computer. This will help you know your sales process should be. If it’s hard for them to convert from a phone, create a process that will work on the phone and allow you to follow-up in a way that will let them actually convert later. Same goes for the time your emails are being opened. Learn when your emails are being opened by your segments, and you’ll know when to time your offerings. Early morning emails may get those that are opening their emails in bed (or the bathroom) every morning. If you’re in a business where your sales team talks to leads on the phone, you may want to send a targeted email campaign to those early morning openers that allows them to schedule a call or a demo later in the day when they’ll be more prepared to handle it. Each will give you an additional peek into the lives of your subscribers and help you know who they are as people. After all, remembering that there are people behind the email addresses you’re sending to is perhaps the most important part of understanding a target audience. Conclusion First, you have to understand what a target audience is and why they’re important and how you\'re going to target them by step by step email marketing guide. Armed with that knowledge, you can start creating your target audiences. That begins with the signup form and continues throughout your relationship with your subscribers. Once you have segmented your list(s) into various target audiences, you can create campaigns tailored specifically to those groups of people. That is what it means to send great emails. Share Your Ideas What do you do to create segments and create target audiences? We want to hear from you. Tell us in the comments your favorite tips for making great targeted emails. Want to Learn More? This post is only one part of what goes into finding your target audience, an integral part of what makes an email great. That’s why we wrote a new guide called What Makes a Great Email. There you can gain a better understanding for segmenting target audiences, and you’ll learn practical strategies to create them. Click here to download What Makes a Great Email. Get Started Today If this post has you inspired to make a great email for your target audiences, signup for the free Benchmark Starter Plan. Or login and put what you’ve learned to use.


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How To Set & Achieve Your Email Marketing Goals

How To Set & Achieve Your Email Marketing Goals

Practical Marketer • August 4, 2017

In any role in your business, it’s easy to fall into autopilot. Most of us are creatures of habit. How often is the reason for doing something, “we’ve always done it that way?” The truth is, we should spend no time or resources on any task without understanding the goal for it. What are you hoping to achieve? When it comes to email marketing, do you know the reason behind each and every email you send? Factors to Consider When Setting a Goal For your email marketing, the needs of your subscriber should almost come first and foremost. This is what makes an email great. Of course, we’re all doing email marketing because it’s great for our business too. Balancing these two is sides of a goal is what leads to great emails. Why Setting a Goal Makes for Great Emails When you understand the ultimate goal of an email, you can reverse engineer the steps it takes to achieve that purpose. Keeping a goal in mind puts every aspect of your email into focus. It lets you know what you need to achieve at each level of your email. Choosing Your Goal Yes, there are many different things that you achieve with email marketing. You can build trust, further your branding, increase your sales and so much more. In reality, it’s really just whether it’s a slow play or a long play towards boosting your bottom line. Knowing that the end game is always going to be sales, even if it’s hard to see how that email will impact sales in the short-term, you can pick your goal based on where that email plays into your overall sales funnel. Marketing is always about micro wins. You won’t go far if your only move is “here buy this.” You have to do the work and approach each small step (or goal) that will lead you towards that ultimate goal of a sale. So how do you do it? How To Achieve Your Goals As mentioned above, to achieve your goals work backwards from your end point. It’s important to gain a complete understanding of each of these levels, in order to truly make your emails great. Without this knowledge, you’re playing a guessing game and you cannot expect to achieve your goals. So, what are the steps a customer or subscribe must take for you to achieve your goal? Step 1: Provide a Clear Call To Action We’ve often shared the sage words of Flint McGlaughlin, Founder and Managing Director of MECLABS, who likes to say that you cannot sell anything with email marketing other than a click. The final goal will likely take place on a product page, landing page or another location outside of your email. That means that Call To Action (CTA) that compels a subscriber to reach that page must be on point. If you have properly identified a goal for your email, the CTA should be obvious. Your CTA should be clear and easy to follow. In fact, that there are impressive stats that demonstrate the benefit of only having one CTA in an email campaign. Recently, Toast tested having one clear CTA in their email campaigns. This test yielded increased clicks to the tune of 371% and boosted sales 1,617%. [caption id=\"attachment_6659\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"615\"] H&M used one clear and simple CTA.[/caption] Most subscribers are busy or in some cases just lazy. Don’t ask too much of subscribers. At this point, you may be thinking, “but Andy ... there are more than one things I may need a subscriber or customer to take action on!” That’s perfectly fine. Just use more than one email to achieve this. What makes a great CTA? A great CTA does three things well: Creates urgency. A subscriber should feel the need to act right away. Provides clear instructions on what you want the email recipient to do next. Gives confidence. Avoid friction or anxiety. There’s no risk when something is free, right? Here’s an example of those points in action: Don’t wait another minute to make a great email! Start email marketing free today. If you don’t already have one, click here to get your Free Plan now! It’s important to test the various CTAs that are available to you, to find out what works with your audience. Test what is more successful for you between buttons for CTAs or using linked text. If you opt for using buttons, the design of your button is another factor to consider. Color, size, placement and even something as simple as adding an arrow graphic, like a mouse cursor, can have a significant impact on your email marketing success. Simply adding an arrow icon to their CTA buttons gave Helzberg Diamonds a 26% increase in clicks. The copy you use to motive in your CTA is also important. One company, ContentVerve, used first-person phrasing and saw a 90% increase in Click-Through Rate (CTR). For example, \"Start my free 30 day trial\" vs. \"Start your free 30 day trial.\" Step 2: Write Compelling Email Copy Your CTA isn’t the only place that copy is important. Write compelling email copy that causes a subscriber to read your entire email through to the CTA. Follow these tips for writing quality email copy: Write quickly. It will help your enthusiasm and personality shine. Be brief. Write like each word costs you money. Subscribers have a short attention span. You don’t want them to lose interest. Write conversationally. Craft your emails as if you were having a face-to-face conversation with one subscriber. Look back at your copy and ask yourself if you would talk that way if you were in a conversation. No boilerplates. Being too formulaic will result in a one way ticket to Boring Town. Break from the norm. Throw away things like “Sincerely,” “Best” or “Thanks.” Use your own personality. You might just see an email from Benchmark end in “With regards from sunny Southern California.” You want to use “you.” It’s among the most persuasive words in the dictionary. It’s not about you. Care and compassion for your subscribers will take your email marketing a long way. Step 3: Write A Great Subject Line Now that you know you can write a great email, let’s make sure that email gets opened. Enter subject lines. According to Convince & Convert, 35% of subscribers will open an email based on the subject line alone. Follow these tips for great subject lines: Be concise. With so many emails being viewed on mobile first, they’ll only see your subject line in its entirety if it’s around 50 characters. Deliver on your promise. Make sure your subject line is an honest representation of what follows within the email. The point of great emails is to build trust! Begin with an action-oriented verb. Your subject line is similar to a CTA and beginning a subject line with an action verb will help your email get opened. Give a sense of urgency. Same logic behind a subject line being like your CTA applies. Make them want to open your email. NOW! Ask a question? One that your subscribers will want the answer to and open the email to find the answer or consider the answer for themselves. In case you still need extra help with subject lines, Sumo has 62 formulas for great subject lines. Other factors that should be considered here are From Name and the email address from which you are sending as well as the Preview Text. Conclusion These are the important steps for creating great emails. Yes, they are in reverse order from how your subscriber will experience them. However, it’s always easiest when you understand what your goal is and then work backwards from there. That way you can make sure that you’ve set yourself up for success at each level of your email. Before you create any great email, you must first know your goal for that email. Then you have you make sure that the CTA in your email is great enough to get them to act on it, ultimately achieving your goal. To get them to your CTA, you have to first craft great email copy. This will make them read through your email to the CTA. For your email to be read in the first place, you need to write a great subject line that inspires your subscribers to open your email. Share Your Ideas What do you do to make your emails great? We want to hear from you. Tell us in the comments your favorite tips for making great emails. Want to Learn More? This post is only one part of what goes into making a great email. That’s why we wrote a new guide called What Makes a Great Email. There you can gain a better understanding for great emails and learn practical strategies to create them. Click here to download What Makes a Great Email. Get Started Today If this post has you inspired to make a great email, signup for the free Benchmark Starter Plan. Or login and put what you’ve learned to use.


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Join Us for Automation Fridays

Join Us for Automation Fridays

Practical Marketer • August 4, 2017

Automation is the next frontier of email marketing. Thankfully, automation technology has reached a point where it is accessible to the masses. Automated customer journeys need not look like a toddler hurled a handful of spaghetti at a wall. Automation can be simple, straightforward and easy to build. The best news is: we’re here to help. We’re hosting Automation Fridays every single Friday at noon PST. Do you have questions about automation? It could be about how to get started with automation or perhaps you have questions about a current automation you are trying to execute. Join us and have your questions answered by our Director of Marketing, Daniel Miller. He may even jump right into an account and show you how to build it himself! Even if you’re not sure what using automation would look like for your business, come see what others are doing with automation. You might find some inspiration! Plus, we’ll have practical strategies prepared to discuss every week. It could be talking about creating a shopping cart abandonment email sequence or the perfect drip sequence to attach to your lead magnets. We’ll get to those when all of our attendees questions are done being answered. Automation Fridays are totally free to join. We’re here to serve as your teacher, consultant and sounding board for automating your emails. Register for Automation Fridays.


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Awesome Ways to Grow Your Email List with Facebook and Snapchat

Awesome Ways to Grow Your Email List with Facebook and Snapchat

Practical Marketer • July 24, 2017

It’s a question older than email marketing itself: How do I grow my contact list? Your list is one of the most valuable assets to your company. No matter the communication channel, you own your list. Nobody can take that away from you. With a return on investment for Email Marketing of $45 for every $1 spent, of course you want to grow your list! Consider Your Options There is no shortage of tried and true methods to grow your email list. Let’s take this time to get a little creative and consider what else is available to you. Are you getting the most out of the tools and apps you’re already using? With every new social media tool that debuts, the questions of “is email marketing dead?” soon follows. The opposite is true. Email marketing thrives in tandem with social media. It’s actually a new avenue to support and strengthen your email list. While it may sometimes seem like Facebook and Snapchat are engaging in an all out battle to the death, both are exciting options for growing your email list. The Power of Social Media and Its Users With each new feature released by a social channel, new marketing opportunities arise. Why? Because no marketer can ignore the numbers. The stats on Facebook are staggering: 1.9 Billion active monthly users 1.2 Billion logon to the platform daily 20 min is the average time a user spends on Facebook when they log on 4.75 Billion pieces of content are shared daily Over 16 Million Business pages on the platform Snapchat is rapidly growing each day: 300 Million monthly active users 100 Million daily active users 1.7 Billiion snaps are shared each day 30% of US Millennial Internet Users use Snapchat regularly 60% of college students would purchased from a brand off of Spapchat With all those users, some will surely subscribe to your email list. Right? Right. Let’s look at how. Harness the Power of Facebook You can promote your email subscription to your existing Facebook fans. To do this, you can put a signup form on a Tab on your Facebook page. You can best accomplish this with an iFrame app. Using the iFrame app, you can paste the HTML code of a signup form you’ve previously designed or even link the URL of a landing page built for gathering subscribers. The result will be a signup form that matches your branding, directly on your Facebook page. Once you’ve added a signup form to your Facebook page, you can also create ads to promote it. You can drive traffic directly to the Tab on your page that has your signup form with a simple ad. The best part, is that you can target to whom you promote your ad. When you’re in the process of creating your ad, you have the option to customize the audience for your ad. There, you’ll see the immensely valuable option to create a Lookalike Audience. That means you’ll target your ad towards people on Facebook who are similar to your most valuable customers. Snapchat, Crackle and Make Your List Pop As Snapchat is still the relatively new kid on the block, it doesn’t hurt to take some steps to grow your audience there. Snapchat users have found many creative ways to share their snapcode: Print it out and put it on your storefront, car or anywhere! Set it as your profile picture on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel Put your snapcode on your business card Simply forward it to your list of contacts (in a post on how social media can boost your email marketing, let’s not forget email can promote your social media efforts as well) Now, you can turn your new and existing Snapchat followers into subscribers. This can be done with the new attachment feature on Snapchat. The way this looks from a user experience, is that your follower can swipe up on your snap. This will take them to the website you’ve chosen. Much like Facebook, you can direct them to a landing page with your signup form on it. Tailor the page to your Snapchat followers and give them good incentive to subscribe. Also like Facebook, there are unique targeting options available to you in Snapchat. Using the Our Story feature, you can target your signup form snaps to a specific audience. This feature allows you to add a snap to a local story, whether it be a location or even an event. Adding a snap in Our Story means anyone watching the story for their location or the event they’re attending or following will see your snap. Snapchat has more recently added an option to view snaps from anywhere in the world. That’s right! Now your snap you’ve sent to build your list can even go viral. Go to a highly dense snap area or look for events in your area and upload snaps to the public story with your attachment. This will bring in new subscribers to your landing page. Don’t Forget the Details No matter what methods you use to grow your list, make sure to keep your lists well organized and segmented. Try not to group all your new subscribers together in one list. You can do this with the fields in the signup forms you’re using on Facebook and Snapchat. Or you can even create separate lists for each one. That will let you send campaigns tailored to the audience on each channel. Conclusion There are many creative and interesting ways that you can incentivize your social media followers to become email subscribers. The method you choose is the first step. Getting someone to subscribe to your email list is all about the “why.” Think of an email address as a currency. You better give value for the exchange. Otherwise, why would anyone signup? How Do You Grow Your List? Have you found effective ways to use Facebook, Snapchat or any other social tool that we didn’t discuss? Share your successes in the comments! We love to hear about what others are doing. If you’re inspired to put these ideas to use, signup and get started today.


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Protect Your Brand with SPF Records

Protect Your Brand with SPF Records

Beyond Practical Marketer • July 20, 2017

At 32, and in a long-term relationship, I seldom get a quiet night alone. On those rare occasions, I usually order in. Cooking for one isn’t too much fun. Inevitably, the pizza delivery person will knock. Every time, without fail, I will peek through the eyehole to see who is at the door even though I’m expecting the arrival of the pizza (my girlfriend is lactose intolerant, and it’s the only chance I get to eat pizza). I won’t open the door for the pizza I’m expecting without confirming that it’s the delivery person. The same way that I sought to authenticate the identity of the individual knocking on my door, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do the same with your email campaigns. What are SPF Records? Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records ensure higher deliverability for your emails by allowing ISPs to trust the authenticity of your email. In short, the ISP can trust the email is genuine and not fraudulently sent in your name, which is a common spammers\' trick. SPF is an email validation system that blocks spam in the form of spoofing. \"Spoofers\" commit mail fraud by sending mail from what appear to be trusted addresses to gain sensitive information. If you are following email marketing best practices, your good reputation and verified identity should be enough to let the ISP know that your email is not spam and thus should be delivered. Using SPF records, an administrator can choose which hosts may use a given domain by creating an SPF record in the public Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS can then be used to verify that email from a given domain is sent from a host approved by the domain\'s administrators. Why Does Benchmark Use SPF Records? Benchmark Email creates a record on your behalf that shows the ISP that you are exactly who you say you are when your email is being sent. By adding an SPF to include Benchmark Email, you will authorize Benchmark to send on your behalf, by verifying that we are doing the sending with the SPF Record. The single advantage of publishing an SPF Record is that Spammers and Phishers will not be able to forge the email sending domain. Spammers will not be able to pretend that they are sending mails from your domain name. If they do, that mail will be caught by the Anti-Spam systems of the respective ISPs and the mail will land in the Junk or Spam folder. Thus by publishing an SPF record, you are making your domain spoof-proof. Benchmark Email authenticates outgoing emails by using SPF and other authentication methods. You can find out more by reading our article on email authentication. Further Understanding SPF Records An SPF Record looks something like this: \"v=spf1 a mx -all\" In the SPF Record, you can determine which IP addresses and domains can send mails on behalf of your domain, preventing spoofing. Let\'s say you are a client of Benchmark Email and you are sending emails to your customers through the Benchmark Email platform. For better deliverability, you need to explicitly allow Benchmark Email to send mails to your customers on your behalf. 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 scenario, 1.2.3.4 = the IP Address of your mail server or 3rd party ESP, like Benchmark Email. Furthermore, thirdpartyespdomain.com = the domain of the 3rd party ESP, such as Benchmark Email, or their relay mail server\'s domain name. Additional SPF Resources We\'ve put together a helpful FAQ that teaches you how to establish SPF Records with many different domain hosts. You can get great help from the links given here: http://www.openspf.org/SPF_Record_Syntax http://www.openspf.org/FAQ Once you have published your SPF record as a DNS TXT record, you can test it by visiting the given links: http://www.mxtoolbox.com/spf.aspx http://www.kitterman.com/spf/validate.html Bonus Section: DKIM DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is the second factor that goes into authenticating an email address. DKIM grants an organization the responsibility for an email being delivered. DKIM may pertain to your business or your ESP. What DKIM does is it verifies a domain using cryptographic authentication. Using an ESP like Benchmark, you will automatically have your emails authenticated with DKIM. You can take it up a notch and further improve your deliverability by enabling a DKIM CName, giving yourself double authentication. This lets ISPs know who you are and will assist you in building a sender reputation with your ESP as your co-signer. Here\'s what you\'ll need: CNAME RECORD FOR DKIM: bmdeda._domainkey.yourdomain.net VALUE: bmdeda._domainkey.bmsend.com We\'ve put together a helpful FAQ to assist you with DKIM and various domain hosting companies. Need Help? Our customer engagement specialists are here to help if you have any questions or need any assistance with SPF Records. Contact us via phone, chat or email.


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Email Marketers: Awesome Free Stock Photo Sites & the Right Way to Use Images

Email Marketers: Awesome Free Stock Photo Sites & the Right Way to Use Images

Practical Marketer • July 5, 2017

When was the last time you went anywhere and did not see at least one person stop to snap a picture? I honestly can’t remember. Not at a restaurant. Not on a hike. Not even walking down the street. Everywhere you go, someone is capturing the moment. In 2017, 85% of all digital photos taken were on a phone. The impact of the iPhone and the smartphones that followed has been massive. It’s how we communicate in this day in age. Our photos cross all language and cultural barriers. A picture is worth even more than a thousand words when you’re limited to 140 characters on Twitter. Images Are Essential In Marketing With the abundance of photographs in our everyday lives, it should come as no surprise to find out how effective images are as a part of a successful marketing campaign. We recently wrote about how much visual content matters. You don’t have to believe me (though I’ve about I have an honest face). There is no shortage of data that proves just how important images are to your marketing efforts. Blog posts and articles with quality images see an average of 94% more total views than those without them Sending a press release with photos receives nearly 15% more online views than their text-only counterparts When it comes to web search, 60% of consumers prefer to contact a business whose listing includes an image Almost 70% of online shoppers say that the product image is of the utmost importance when making a purchase decision Not sold yet? Let’s use an image to demonstrate these points and more. Check out this MDG Advertising Infographic: Infographic by MDG Advertising Where You Can Find Great Images Not every business can afford an in-house design team or professional photographer. Thankfully, you don’t need those if you know the right places to look. You do, however, need to find quality images. There is so much bad stock art that is available to marketers out there. You also don’t want to be using the same exact images your competitors have on their website. Shopify, who we have created a helpful email marketing integration with, created a list of many great free stock image sites. We compiled a list our favorite sites from their list that offer free stock images for you to use in your email marketing: Startup Stock: Ideal for businesses in the tech space. This site features high res stock images that focus on startup photography. Pexels: This site adds five photos each day and boasts quality images featuring nature, technology and even abstract photography. ISO Republic: Great photos for eCommerce. Easy to sort through images by category. Cupcake: Features photography related to landscapes and nature. This site is ideal for hero images. Commercial use of the images is free. Buckelistly: This site has great photographs from all over the world, which is helpful if you’re selling globally. SplitShire: If you need portrait-type images or even abstract photography, this site is great for you. Getrefe: This site advertising real life photos. There are a lot of cityscape images, but there’s also a good mix of everything. Function: Ideal for B2B businesses, as this site feature many overhead photographs of desks. Picography: A great site to find lifestyle photography for your email campaigns. Stock Snap: This is a very user-friendly site that has a powerful search engine to find the best images for your business. What To Look For In An Image Now that we know where to find great images, let’s touch on just what makes an image great. Here are three questions that you should ask yourself when choosing an image for your email campaigns: Is it relevant to your content? It seems like common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder. Your image should represent what your email content is discussing. Is it a captivating image? A great image will draw the eye in and demand attention. Remember, you’re only going to a get a small amount of time before a subscriber decides to check the next email in their inbox. Make sure the images in your emails demand attention when they are opened. Is it a high-quality image? If you’re selecting images from the sites I suggested above, you should be in good shape. However, if you’re grabbing photos from elsewhere on the web (be sure you have the right to use it!), it’s possible that the image will be of a lesser quality. Same goes for using images you may have taken with your smartphone. The Best Ways To Use Images Knowing where to get free stock photos and what to look for are only the first steps. Learning how to properly use them is just as important. Here are a few important factors to keep in mind when using images in your email marketing: Maintain a ratio of 80% text to 20% images. There a few factors that play into the reasoning behind this. First, is that image only emails are far more likely to be delivered to the spam or junk folder. Second, many inbox clients or even subscribers may have images turned off. This means your email will not display correctly if it’s too image heavy (it also means that you should plan for how your email will be viewed when images are turned off). Lastly, image-heavy emails take longer to load. Make it mobile-friendly. It’s estimated that by 2018, 8 out of 10 email users will be checking their emails from a mobile device. That means that images which feature one clear subject than can be easily understood at a smaller size will be most effective. Otherwise, you risk your images feeling too dense or crowded when viewed on a smartphone. Understand the psychology of color. You have a short window of time that a subscriber will look at each email. Why not use science to make the greatest impact in that brief moment? Certain colors influence individuals in specific ways. Pink is calming. That’s why many sports teams will paint the visitor’s locker room pink. Red encourages appetite, so many restaurants will feature red on their menus or in their logos. Here’s a helpful infographic to learn more on the psychology of color: Courtesy of NowSourcing, Inc Find Inspiration If you’re still unsure of whether or not you’re finding the best images and using them in the most effective ways, look to the companies that you think have captivating images. It’s perfectly OK to take inspiration from those around us. Wayfair does a great job of designing email campaigns filled with images of well-designed homes that I’d love to live in. As I’m currently nearing the time when my girlfriend will be moving in with me, we have both perused these emails and fantasized about how nice our apartment might look with some of these items. Viyet does an excellent job with the photography in their email campaigns as well. Take, for example, this email campaign that features the sofas that they sell. Rather than the standard box images we’re all used to seeing in email campaigns, they show each sofa and nothing else. There’s nothing to distract you from the matter at hand. Plus, it breaks up the flow and encourages you to scroll through to see them all. Groupon does a great job with photographs on their Getaways list as well. Each photograph they pick entices me to want to experience that little slice of life from the given destination. Photos Cannot Be Denied The power of photography in marketing is undeniable. That is the world we live in. Our marketing cannot thrive without great photography. Just remember, using great photographs in your email marketing is a three part process. The first part is knowing where to find great photographs. Next, is gaining an understanding of what makes a photo great. Last, is implementing photographs in your email marketing campaigns in an effective manner. Put these steps together, and you’re ready to thrive. Share What You Do Did we forgot one of the free stock photo sites that you prefer? Share it in the comments! We want to learn about and share everything that is out there for marketers to put to use. Tell us about the successes you’ve had with using photographs in your email campaigns. What lessons have you learned? Share your advice and spread the wealth. If you’re ready to put what you’ve learned to use, login to your Benchmark account or signup for a free Starter Plan and get started today.


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The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • June 19, 2017

In this second article of our deliverability series, we’re going to be looking at the importance of using a Dedicated IP. If you’re not sure what that is, or if you’re finding that your emails often end up in the spam folder, get comfortable, take note and get ready to put our second installment of expert advice into practice. If you’re running your own business or working in email marketing, you’ll expect that your emails arrive safe and sound in your recipient’s inbox. What you\'d least want, of course, is that they end up in the spam folder. To reduce the chances of this happening, one of the things that you can do is use a Dedicated IP. Boosting your chances of avoiding the spam folder is just one of the advantages of using a Dedicated IP in your email marketing. Let’s have a look at a few more. What is a Dedicated IP? Most of you have probably heard of Dedicated IPs but you may not be sure of exactly what they are. Let’s imagine then that an IP address is a road where, instead of having cars, we have lots of people\'s emails using the road. This would be a Shared IP. A Dedicated IP, on the other hand, is a private road where only the owner’s emails can travel. The advantage is that emails on a Dedicated IP move quicker and remain unaffected by the potential “accidents” of other users along the way. A Dedicated IP is for your very own use and not sharing it with others means that you don’t have to worry about how their quality and quantity of sending could affect you negatively. For example, if, from a Shared IP, one or more users sends spam, all users in that group could be marked as spammers. In the case of a Dedicated IP, only you would use it so your campaigns will depend on your actions alone. If you are using or choose to use Benchmark as your email marketing specialists, we will work to protect your reputation, even if you opt to use a Shared IP. We apply a quality protocol that groups clients by their public reputation. So, to give you an example, this protocol might qualify clients as good, bad or average. If you have good quality lists but don’t work by best email marketing practices, then you might belong to the average group. We monitor this behaviour constantly but you can also work to make sure you’re always in the best possible group by ensuring that you abide by best practices. You should also bear in mind that the various ISPs (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) have lists of IPs called “blacklists” and they use them to help to reduce spam. These lists contain IPs that are known to be used to send spam and they’re used to filter email messages and help when categorising a message as spam or not. Some examples of organisations that compile blacklists to help combat spam are SPAMHAUS, Trend Micro and spamcop.net. Of course, maximising the advantages of having a Dedicated IP requires that you use good email marketing practices. You don’t want to risk its reputation or end up on a blacklist. Some of these good email practices include: Good quality lists: You must have permission from your recipients. Double opt-in contacts are best. Minimal spam reports: The more your email campaigns are marked as spam, the more your reputation suffers. Avoid sending from public addresses like @gmail, @hotmail etc.: Using a private domain (like me@mydomain.com) looks more professional, but it also helps build your reputation. A private domain allows you to add an SPF record too, providing an extra layer of authentication that you wouldn’t get with a public address. List compilation: Don’t buy lists, avoid using lists that belong to third-parties and do not harvest addresses. Keep an eye out for future installments of this series for more definitions and advice. Other advantages of Dedicated IPs Dedicated IPs offer greater reliability when it comes to time-sensitive promotions. Those campaigns that require special attention also benefit from the timely delivery offered here. If you’re a high volume sender, we recommend that you buy various Dedicated IPs, apart from the one(s) that we will configure for you, as this will improve send speed. If you’re a client on a smaller plan, then one Dedicated IP is beneficial for the reasons mentioned above. At Benchmark, when we finish configuring a high volume plan, we will send a maximum of 20,000 emails at a time for your first 5 campaigns. Why? Because the various ISPs don’t like receiving lots of emails all of a sudden from an IP address with no history. Your campaigns would run the risk of ending up in the spam folder or being blocked. What about Dedicated IPs that are not on high volume plans? In this case, we “warm” the IP up for you beforehand and then it’s up to you to build your reputation and keep it as close to 100% as possible. In fact, you can keep an eye on your IP’s reputation on sites like https://senderscore.org/. Remember that your Dedicated IP with Benchmark costs just $28.95/month. If you’re a client with a high volume plan, contact us to find out how many Dedicated IPs you already have included in your plan. Adding another takes just 24 hours to set up and will boost your send speed. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing that you can improve? This is the second article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up, \"The 5 factors that affect your newsletter’s deliverability.\" Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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What You Need to Know About Creating a Brand Story

What You Need to Know About Creating a Brand Story

Practical Marketer • June 5, 2017

Once upon a time… It’s the start of every great story, right? Each business has an origin story of its own. A reason why a business was started and what solution they sought out to fix for people. We all understand the trials and tribulations businesses face as they grow and evolve. Companies learn from successes and failures and their stories either become a testimony of success … or a cautionary tale. Every business faces competition in their market. A good story can help a company stand tall as customers latch onto it and become a part of the storytelling itself. But what makes a good brand story? What makes your story interesting. More importantly, how can you create a brand story that makes customers trust in you and what you are doing? Brand Stories on Display If you’re like us, you’ve watched more than a few episodes of Shark Tank. Time and time again, businesses get deals because the Sharks bought into the brand story that they are telling as much as the product which they are selling (if not more). Companies who assume a social responsibility are more investible to the Sharks, because they know that it makes a consumer more likely to support a brand. A great brand story also lends itself to more shareable content on social media. When customers buy into your brand story, they become brand advocates. Think about a company story which you have bought into. What worked? TOMS One for One One of the most successful recent examples of creating a brand story is TOMS One for One approach to business. For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. Additionally, when you buy a pair of eyewear, TOMS will help to restore sight to an individual in need. “It’s different from traditional marketing because we’re not just a shoe company, a sunglasses or a fashion company, or a coffee company. We’re not just selling — we’re also a movement.” – Zita Cassizzi, TOMS’ Chief Digital Officer Think about it. There is no shortage of options out there when you need a new pair of shoes. The brand story of TOMS helps the consumer feel something when they buy new shoes. From Visually. Bombas Warms Feet and Hearts A Shark Tank success story, Bombas donates one pair of socks for every one pair purchased. Their founders learned that socks were the most requested item at homeless shelters. So, Bombas works with shelters, non-profits, charities, and individuals dedicated to helping the homeless, in-need, or at-risk communities. On the strength of their brand story, Bombas sold $400,000 worth of socks in just four days after their Shark Tank appearance! That’s so many socks donated. R.Riveter Offers Pride in Storytelling Not every business needs a donation model to succeed with a brand story. There are other causes that people will rally behind. R.Riveter employs military spouses to handcraft handbags and accessories. They bring together a community and create a connection between their products and customers. Their concept was proven even before R.Riveter hit Shark Tank. They raised $42,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign first. In early 2017, co-founder Lisa Bradley revealed the company had grown 600% since airing on Shark Tank. It’s hard to deny the power of a brand story when you see the success stories at every level of R.Riveter. How To Create Your Own Brand Story There are several steps a business must take to establish a brand story that holds any merit. All of these elements add up to earn trust and lend authenticity to your brand story. Infuse Your Story with Personality Your marketing materials should speak with the same tone as the individuals who collectively make up your corporate culture. If the individuals who make up your company buy into that story, the customers will too. People like what others are passionate about. We talked about this with our friends at Tom’s of Maine on the Heart of Business podcast. Keep It Simple, Stupid A mantra for myself when it comes to copywriting. Simplicity is important when it comes to establishing a brand story. Achieving simplicity is as simple as remembering the basic elements of any good story. A beginning, middle and end. Beginning: This is the reason you went into business. That problem that you knew you could fix. The Why you’re in business. Middle: Not just the products or services you offer to solve the problem, but also the way in which your business operates. End: Your brand story will speak for itself when it’s a good one. You’ll be proud to boast your successes and your customers will be too. TOMS founder and CEO, Blake Mycoskie, often speaks about the simplicity to their One for One brand story. “My prior businesses really showed me how important it is to keep it simple,” says Mycoskie. “Some of the businesses that weren’t really successful in my earlier days were because they were too complex and required too much dependence on having a big customer to be successful.” Why Are You Here? In the example above, Bombas didn’t just set out to reinvent your socks drawer. They saw the success that Toms had with the One for One model and wanted to do something similar for the homeless community. Bombas managed to get people excited about socks with a great brand story. The punchline to every bad gift joke itself, socks, became something people were happy to buy into. That’s why you need a reason for existence that extends past making money. The Results When you can achieve these elements within your brand story, you will reap the rewards. As we all know, every good story has a great ending. It’s a third act that both your brand and your customers will enjoy. This is what you can look forward to: Customers who connect with your story. This is achieved when you speak to them in a way that says we are on your side, we get what you need, because we are just like you. Customers that buy into your brand … and the products or services you sell. When you have a great brand story, your customers are buying into that with each purchase. Customers that are brand advocates. They will share your story on social media and boast their association to your brand. It’s some of the best word-of-mouth marketing that you can achieve Let’s all work to build our happily ever afters. Share Your Story Do you have experience with creating a brand story? Share your tips and lessons in the comments. We want to hear from you!


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