Series Posts: Practical Marketer

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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Save Time & Look Good with Inbox Checker

Save Time & Look Good with Inbox Checker

Practical Marketer • June 5, 2017

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds all too familiar to you: You’ve put in the time to craft the perfect email campaign. You’re sure that the design and copy will combine to create engagement and makes sales. Because you’re a practical marketer, you want to send a test email. You even know you should send it to a couple coworkers, family or friends just to be sure you’re set up for success. The test campaign goes out, and two coworkers tell you that the line spacing is off. A friend says that the images were broken. Your sister sends you a screenshot of the email she received and the font looks entirely different in her inbox! We’ve all been there. The Problem We Face In today’s day and age, most of us have multiple devices and dozens of apps installed on them. Some of us even have multiple apps to accomplish the same task (hello Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps). You may use the default email system that comes with your device to check your emails when you’re not at your desk, but log on to your browser on your desktop to do the same when you’re at the office. The thing is, each of the apps, inbox clients and browsers we all use are built by different companies, with different programmers. All have the intention of doing it better than the next, and naturally they each have their own opinion on how that is done. Here’s the Email Client Market Share, according to Litmus: Apple iPhone: 31% Gmail: 21% Apple iPad: 11% Apple Mail: 7% Outlook: 6% Google Android: 5% Outlook.com: 5% Samsung Email App: 4% Yahoo! Mail: 2% Windows Mail: 1% The result can be an inconsistent appearance of your email campaigns across devices, inbox clients and browsers. The Variety Can Be Overwhelming Most of us here at Benchmark drank the Apple Kool-Aid long ago. They keep is simple with just a few offerings in terms of devices. Android, on the other hand, has enough devices that considering testing on all of them is enough to give you a headache. Check out this Android fragmentation breakdown from OpenSignal: While this might look like a fun backsplash for your kitchen, having it as a testing agenda is overwhelming, if not impossible. That doesn’t mean you should give up on having your email campaigns appear the way you intended each and every time. We’ve Got Your Back Inbox Checkers are available to make sure your email marketing campaigns look good on every single device. Thanks to our integration with Litmus, a company which specializes in creating a better world for email, you can check all of your emails before you hit send. You are able to check how your email campaigns will appear on the most popular devices, inbox clients and browsers. You can even determine the possibility of your emails being marked as spam. Even on the Benchmark Starter Plan, Inbox Checker for Gmail (Explorer) and Outlook 2003 is totally free. For any paid Benchmark Email plan, there are 50 free checks included. If you determine you have more testing to do, you can purchase 100 checks for just $14.00. It is not a recurring payment and you can use the service as needed. Why Use Inbox Checker? It’s important to ensure your email campaigns look great on every device, inbox client and browser. Sure, when you use our Drag-and-Drop Email Designer, you are creating responsive email campaigns. That means that your emails will fit on the screen of any device you send to. However, with Inbox Checker, you will be able to check for spacing, font styles, how images display and even spam tolerance across the most popular devices and platforms. Quick Tip Once you have sent your first email campaign, you can look to your reports for help on understanding which devices for which you should test. Within your email reports, you can clicked on Opened Emails to see everyone who has opened your email campaign. In that report, you can also view on what device the email was opened. From there, you will be able to see a pattern of what email client or device your subscribers use. With that data, you can select to test those devices using Inbox Checker. That way you’re not paying for checks that you do not need. What Do You Test? Aside from using Inbox Checker, there are plenty of other tests that you can run with your email campaigns. What are some tests that you do? Share with us in the comments section!


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Picture Perfect: Images, Hosting and Your Benchmark Email Campaigns

Picture Perfect: Images, Hosting and Your Benchmark Email Campaigns

Practical Marketer • June 5, 2017

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you: Your pet is doing the cutest thing, or you and your significant other are posed for the perfect Kodak moment. Or maybe you just know that Facebook absolutely has to see the photo of your child with food all over its face. You click to take the picture and… ...an alert pops up saying your storage space is full. Cue scrambling to delete photos and rank in your head which special memories are more important than others (or which restaurant you still want to be able to brag about eating at later). That’s the worst. Right? Visual Content Matters It happens with businesses too. Sometimes businesses hire professional photographer to take candid shots around the office or glamour shots of their products. We all have a hoard of photos from events and expos or even company gatherings. In fact, visual marketing ranked second only to blogging in terms of important content when marketers were polled by Social Media Examiner last year. Sharing images helps to give a personal touch to any business. Including your logo works to establish your brand recognition. Readers pay close attention to images that carry information. Eyetracking studies tell us when images are relevant, they will spend more time looking at the images than text. The data is there. We need to have our stockpile of photos and visual content at the ready for every email campaign. When you’ve budgeted your time for your latest email campaign, the last thing you need is get an alert that your Image Gallery is full. There’s that same sinking feeling we all know too well. Benchmark Understands Your Visual Content Needs With every account, whether it’s free or paid, Benchmark offers marketers an Image Gallery that can store up to 10MB of images. Depending on the size of your images, that can help you store up to 100 images! For your email campaigns to load as fast as possible and for the best deliverability, we recommend uploading images of around 100KBs. As you upload images into your account, our system will automatically compress them a bit without losing quality. You can also try a few other free tools here: Compressor.io Kraken.io GiftOfSpeed PNG Compressor or JPEG Compressor Tinypng OptimiZilla ImageRecycle With the editing tool inside of your account, Aviary, you can also edit your images by adding filters, text and much more! Say Goodbye to the Storage Full Alert As you continue to hone your craft and become an email marketing pro, and have images as a huge part of your email campaigns, you may bump up against the Image Gallery storage limit. Don’t fret. You can easily upgrade to Image Hosting Plus! This add-on will give you UNLIMITED space for all of your visual content for just $5 per month. The Smarter Way To Engage with Your Customers Our platform is built for the practical marketer, we offer all of the tools you need to get started and even more as you grow. Share Your Ideas Let us know your tips for visual content in your email marketing. Did we miss any tools? Have you tried something that’s yielded impressive results. Tell us in the comments below.  


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6 Email Subject Line Templates That Will Get Your Emails Opened

6 Email Subject Line Templates That Will Get Your Emails Opened

Practical Marketer • May 31, 2017

Back in 1963, David Ogilvy reminded his profession that ‘on the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.’ Email open rates average 18.2% for ad agencies, rising to 27.3% for car and transport businesses. So it looks like Ogilvy is still reliable. Your subject line, like his headline, is 80 cents of your email dollar. And it counts: 47% of readers open emails based on subject line alone. 70% will dismiss you as spam on the same basis. It’s the biggest variable you can control. Great subject lines can impact your deliverability and your open rate, and open rates count because they’re the first step to conversions. Of the people who don’t open your email, 100% don’t convert. Upping open rates has a dramatic effect on ROI. Want to see what it could do for yours? Check out the email ROI calculator. Our subject lines have to make it through spam filters, and they have to engage readers and ‘sell’ them the rest of the email. Here are six email subject line templates that will do both. 1: The Reason Why Why nobody is actually reading your content - and what you can do about it Inbound.org ‘Reason Why’ subject lines combine two powerful effects: curiosity and self-interest. They convince readers that they should do something, and offer compelling reasons. (Bonus points for numbering the reasons.) The desired behavior speaks to self-interest. The reasons speak to curiosity. Together, they’re an effective combination. Numbered reasons (‘5 reasons why,’ ‘Top 3 reasons’) reassure readers that the email won’t be too long to read in the time they have or guarantee meaty, usable content a couple of clicks away. But single reasons can work too: ‘the REAL reason you should...’ or ‘the number one reason startups fail’ subject lines offer insider knowledge. Try these templates: The REAL reason {undesirable outcome relevant to audience} Example: The REAL reason your emails aren’t getting opened The top X reasons {undesirable outcome} and how to avoid them Example: The top 6 reasons projects fail and how to avoid them 2: The Offer Last chance! Save 25% when you come back to Shutterstock Shutterstock.com If you want something, ask for it. Sales people tell each other all the time to ask for the sale. Don’t be scared to do it in your emails. Making the offer more powerful is partly a matter of segmentation: don’t offer suburban soccer moms 10% off Iron Maiden, and don’t offer college kids lower rates on retirement insurance. Copywriting can’t fix this. But there are things we can do to make an offer more compelling. If your 10% off will be there forever, no rush. That email slips down the inbox, never to be opened. If it’s all over in 12 hours, better check it out now. Try adding a call-out. Emailing runners saying ‘10% off tights for your next marathon’ or ‘Kayakers: save 40% on paddles - this weekend ONLY’ hits all the right buttons, making your recipients feel like you’re talking right to them. It’s like hearing your name over the PA in the store: ‘Hey, that’s me!’ Try these templates: X% off {targeted product} this weekend Example: Get 22% off skiwear this weekend or {Call-out}: save X% when you {desirable action} - ends in {time} Example: Marathoners: save 22% when you sign up - ends in 12 hours 3: The Question What can you afford? Zillow Try these templates: How much {desirable outcome} can you get for {low sum}? Example: How much car does $500 buy you? Or: Can you afford to {not do desired action}? Example: Can you afford to ignore these 17 email marketing stats? 4: The Urgency Time is running out to save $400 on B2B Marketing Forum MarketingProfs   Urgency and scarcity have been triggers to buy since the first time anyone sold anything. When we send out emails advising, ‘hurry - ends in 14 hours,’ or ‘DON’T MISS OUT: last chance to get your free DVD,’ we’re not doing anything new. But we are doing something effective. It’s effective because it pushes them toward making a decision now, not waiting til later and then forgetting about it. But they might decide they don’t really want it. So use urgency with purchase-ready recipients. There are several ways to achieve the urgency we want. We can focus on a deadline. Tell recipients they have just 4 hours, or that the sale ends Friday. Or we can inject some urgent language into the subject line. Like ‘final,’ ‘last,’ ‘go,’ ‘now.’ Even just telling customers to ‘hurry’ can work. These words trigger arousal states that make engagement more likely. Try these templates: Hurry - sale ends at {deadline} Example: Hurry - sale ends at midnight Friday! Or Last chance to get {offer} - {time} to go! Example: Last chance to get your subject line templates - 4 hours to go! 5: Too cool for a subject line Hey   Say what you like about Obama, his marketing was on point. One of the ways he set himself apart from his competition was an email campaign with this simple one-word subject line. It’s effective because it sounds like a call for attention - hey! Over here! - and a greeting. Hey, how’s it going? Every subject line in your audience’s inbox is making an effort. Sometimes it can feel like all that engineered urgency and corporate targeting is just trying too hard. Subject lines that stand out by being human give you an in. They work best when you’re looking for engagement, not direct sales, but even a sales or outreach email often gets opened more with a ‘Just a quick idea’ subject line than when it’s clanking along under a pile of caps, punctuation and dollar signs. It’s not about being super short - though that does visually distinguish your email in an inbox. It’s about being a human voice. Your\"So I was thinking…\" subject line sounds like a real person, and it makes people want to know what’s on your mind in a way that no superheated special offer could. Try these templates: {Name}, quick question...? Example: Jonathan, quick question…? Or: Hey {Name}, talk to me about {subject}? Example: Lou, talk to me about your conversion rate? 6: My Story How he doubled his traffic (and gets ~50% new clients from his blog) Derek Halpern What’s better than telling me how I should do something? Telling me how you already did it. Now I know that you know what you’re talking about. You’re qualified to show me the way, and your experience is just as useful as your advice. (I’ve learned a lot from asides in blog posts that say stuff like ‘one thing I noticed was that people seemed to…’ At least as much as I ever have from advice saying ‘do this because figures.’) Subject lines like this let you make specific, factual offers. You’d like to learn how to double your traffic and get half your business as inbound off your blog, right? But you make those offers in a way that feels natural, gripping and un-salesy. And we love a story. It’s part of being human. What film or TV show isn’t about someone overcoming adversity to get what they want? Not usually more blog traffic, granted, but the point remains the same. We can’t resist narrative. Gear it to our special interests and promise us a payoff at the end? Hooked. Try these templates: How I turned/went from {disadvantageous position} into a successful business Example: How I went from a mental asylum to running a successful business Or: How {Name} {outsize success} in {tiny time period} using {tool or technique} Example: How Michael doubled conversions in just three weeks using persuasive copy Conclusion When you’re trying to make sure your emails get opened, your subject line is the most important tool you can wield. Some of what makes it work is getting to know your audience, and it’s tough for even the best subject line to work ‘uphill’ against the results of poor segmentation. But if you’re all set otherwise, these 6 email subject line templates should get your copy, offers and images where they need to be: in front of your audience. Have you received any awesome or horrifying subject lines? Share them in the comments below - I would love to hear about them.


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How Design Impacts Deliverability

How Design Impacts Deliverability

Practical Marketer • April 19, 2017

Just before we get started, this article isn’t about us showing you how to make an email look beautiful. This is the sixth article in our deliverability series and the intention is not to teach you design tips here, but to explain the kind of design that your email campaigns need to pass spam filters and get to your recipient’s inbox. So, what works best? The answer is, in fact, surprisingly simple. What works best are emails that are 100% text. No images. That’s the answer when looking at the topic purely from a deliverability perspective. I know, though, that you need to balance this ideal with your need to make campaigns that convert and are aesthetically pleasing. It’s up to you how you balance one goal against the other. The important thing is that when you finish reading this article, you’ll understand how to design your campaigns so that your designs don’t harm your deliverability. Here’s what to keep in mind when designing for deliverability: Keep your use of images to a minimum As I mentioned above, in an ideal world, your email would be 100% text. I know that that doesn’t make for beautiful emails but it’s true. If you want to include images, you should aim for a ratio of 70% text and 30% images. The further you are from this 70:30 ratio, with images taking a heavier weighting, the more trouble you’ll have with your deliverability. Single column designs Yes, it might not be very exciting but simplicity is the key to success. Creating multi-column or complex emails won’t help you get to the inbox. Designing single-column emails offers several benefits: content clarity, order and, importantly, your responsive email campaign will be able to more easily adapt to all screen types. Be careful with colours The most highly recommended colours are #FFFFFF for the email’s background and #000000 for the font colour. You can imagine which colours they are, can’t you? That’s right, a white background and black text. Again this would be what you’d use in a perfect world. I know you’ll want to use your company colours but, be careful, don’t go wild with them. Don’t put them as the background colours for example. I’d also recommend that you keep an eye on making sure that there’s a strong contrast between text and background colours. They should not be similar as it makes reading your email a lot more difficult for your recipient. Font type and formatting We’re often asked why we only have 17 fonts in our drag & drop editor. The answer is simple. They are the only fonts that are read and accepted by all inbox clients. This means that when you use one of them, you know that it will be shown in that exact format across all inboxes. Besides choosing the font itself, it’s also best that you keep the text formatting simple. Going all out with bold formatting, for example, could help land your campaign in the spam folder or, if the text is quite large, it might simply SEEM LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING. Try to keep in mind that usability and the experience of your recipient when interacting with your email is important here. Spammy words and symbols This is a classic. You’ve probably already heard that you need to be careful with the kinds of words that you use in your emails because if you abuse words like free, earn money, millions, extra income, free access, work from home, amazing, limited time, mortgages, credit, opportunity, act now, price, thousands, lose weight … or use several exclamation marks, capital letters, currency signs, asterisks or unusual symbols, it’s very likely that you will see poor deliverability. We often get asked about emojis and, while you can use them, make sure your use of them is relevant and not excessive. Be careful with links too. Make sure they work and that they are sending your recipient to the right page. An email with false, incorrect or misleading links will look suspicious to spam filters and won’t help further your objectives either. Subscription links You probably weren’t expecting to see this last section, but it’s part of the design of emails created in our Drag & Drop editor and has an important impact on deliverability. In this block, you can choose the links to include although the unsubscribe link is not optional. We also recommend that you always include the following at least: Manage subscription Sent to information Report abuse These links will silently but effectively look after your reputation. Don’t be afraid of including them and always keep things open and transparent for your subscribers. That’s it for today’s article. Be sure to apply these 6 basic but essential pieces of advice to your email marketing and let us know how you get on. Help others learn more about email marketing best practices too 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!


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Mistakes To Avoid In Email Marketing Automation

Mistakes To Avoid In Email Marketing Automation

Practical Marketer • April 14, 2017

I am of the first generation to really have grown up with cell phones. Actually, I’m probably just older than that generation but play along for the sake of my point (and feelings). I’m very familiar with using my smartphone and am often guilty of it being seemingly attached to my hands. Due to advancing technology and ease-of-use, my grandmother now has a smartphone too. However, she convinced herself she doesn’t know how to use it and doesn’t want to learn. Last time I was in town, I spent time with her to show her how easy it was. Seeing it for herself, she finally admitted she was fully capable of using her smartphone. She’d built up fears in her head that kept her from using her phone, but getting to see it in action, felt confident enough to use her phone. For years, I would attend expos or events and would talk to business owners who felt similarly about email marketing and social media. As time has gone on, that fear has subsided. In its place is email marketing automation. The technology has gotten to a point where any marketer can successfully execute automated campaigns. However, we need to break down the mental barriers keeping marketers from trying. Below, I’m sharing what not to do, so that the only thing left to do is to setup automated journeys for your subscribers. Here are four mistakes to avoid in email marketing automation: Mistake #1: Not Doing Email Marketing Automation Why avoid something that can save you time, increase your efficiency and make you a more impactful marketer? Automation also frees up time for your other important tasks. In fact, a practical marketer should be doing as much as possible with automation. Perhaps the reason you’ve avoided automation to this point is that you’re not sure where to begin. Well, start simple. Many marketers have set up a Welcome Email to send upon subscription. It doesn’t hurt to start off with a concept with which you’re already familiar. Rather than that onboarding process being a one-off email, try and make it a three email journey that brings a subscriber in and introduces them to your brand. Say you’ve custom designed t-shirts for a local sports team and you’re trying to convert a new website visitor into a customer. Use a signup form that offers a small discount for subscribing to your list. In your first Welcome Email, be sure to provide the promo code for the discount you promised on the signup form. The CTA should be to purchase a t-shirt using the promo code. Three days after they subscribe, you can follow up with an email campaign that has customer testimonials. They can boast how comfortable the t-shirts are or how many compliments someone got when wearing the shirt to the team’s recent game. Once again, the CTA should be to purchase a t-shirt and a reminder of the promo code. For your third email, seven days after they subscribe you can share a few of your most popular t-shirts or even the most recent designs. A site visitor may have liked the look of your homepage and figured they’d be interested in a t-shirt at some point but hasn’t had the chance to browse your site. Seeing the shirts in their inbox may just be the thing that pushes them to convert. Don’t forget, add a CTA to purchase a t-shirt with a reminder of the promo code. Benchmark provides a template within Automation Pro to execute this strategy. Check it out: You’re not the only one just getting your start in automation. According to the 2016 Marketing Maturity Benchmark Report from LeadMD, only 21% said they had a marketing automation maturity level of above average or higher. Mistake #2: Not Setting a Goal Knowing the reason for each automated journey is imperative. The reason automation is so successful is that each automated touch point should be one step closer to a conversion. Understanding what that conversion is whether it’s to subscribe, purchase, download a case study, etc., is the first step in succeeding with automation. You work your way backward from there. It’s important to see things from the perspective of your subscribers and customers. While your goal is likely going to be to sell more, they’re looking to solve a problem. It’s your job to meet them on their level and explain all the ways that your goods or services can help to do that. Let’s look back at the previous example. If they’re visiting your website, they likely want to support their local sports team or they want a gift for someone else who does. Offering a discount incentivizes the visitor to subscribe because they’re seeing the value in doing so right off the bat. If they haven’t purchased a t-shirt by the time your second email sends, seeing the testimonials can help reduce any anxiety they may have in purchasing a t-shirt from you. Let your customers boast about how soft the cotton is or how many compliments they have received on the t-shirt’s custom design. A week in, it’s possible the new subscriber got distracted or forgot to browse the selection on your website. It happens. We live in an A.D.D. culture. So, when your third email in the journey is automatically sent, you’re doing the work for that new subscriber by sharing some of your more popular items. Mistake #3: Not Segmenting or Moving Lists I recently re-told my automation and list segmenting horror story and shared some strategies. Here, I’ll focus on this mistake and how to overcome. Failure to segment your lists will result in non-relevant, non-targeted email campaigns, automated or not. The first solution to this mistake is to begin your list segmentation from signup. This could either be via the data that you collect or by allowing the new subscriber to determine which list he or she would like to join such as daily, weekly or monthly newsletters, which a checkbox for each they want to receive. The next solution is to use the subscriber’s engagement to segment your email campaigns or website. If a subscriber is consistently clicking on one type of products or services, you can segment them into a list that will continue to provide info on those items of interest. To keep with our ongoing example, this could be whether a subscriber has been interested in men’s or women’s t-shirts or you can even segment by which team(s) they are interested in. Another solution is to create a journey that will check to see if a subscriber has converted or not. That way, you can move a lead to a customer list once they have. A purchase confirmation strategy template is available to you in Automation Pro. Mistake #4: Sending Too Often Or Not Enough Like with any email marketing, the frequency with which you send your emails is important. Keeping with our t-shirt company example, the journey detailed above does a good job of striking while the iron is hot, in terms of serving the new subscriber’s interest, but it doesn’t send so often that you risk annoying the new subscriber or coming off as desperate. On the other end of the spectrum, you send so infrequently that the contact forgets who you are or why he or she subscribed in the first place. Test with your one-off email campaigns and get a feel for what frequency works with your audience. Once you’ve got that knowledge, it will be easier to make an educated decision when it comes to building your customer journeys and understanding the wait times you place between your email campaigns in the sequence. [caption id=\"attachment_5036\" align=\"alignleft\" width=\"1114\"] DMA research report 2016 as seen on Smart Insights.[/caption] If learning the important mistakes with email marketing automation hasn’t been enough to assuage your concerns and help you overcome the fear hurdle standing in your way, our friend Jordie van Rijn has put together a long list of marketing automation statistics that should convince you to make the jump to automate your customer journeys. What fears keep you from using automation?


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One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

Practical Marketer • April 12, 2017

We have seen in previous articles why it’s so important to build your own database but did you know that it’s also extremely important that you keep it up to date? If your subscriber list isn’t up to date, then you’ll certainly see deliverability issues and this not only means that you won’t see as many conversions as you expect but also that you risk your emails being marked as spam. Keep reading to find out how to get better results from your email marketing campaigns. Manage your list to optimise email deliverability I hinted at this above but my first piece of advice is that you need to make sure that you’re creating your database yourselves, from scratch. Forget about buying lists of thousands of subscribers. It’s much better to start with nothing and encourage people to sign up bit by bit than buy a list or harvest addresses from the internet. Sending 100 emails to people that have given you their email address voluntarily is much more effective than sending to 1000s that have never even heard of you before. To create a list, you need to get people interested enough to give you their email address. To do this, you’ll need to think up a strategy for each of the different channels on which you intend to be present. Here are some ideas that are 100% practical and effective: Website: Not only do you need a signup form but your contact form must be visible and easy to find. You must also inform all those that contact you via the contact form that they are also opting in to receiving future info and updates from you. Blog: It’s likely that your website has a link to your blog. If that’s the case, make sure that you request email addresses via a popup that appears when your readers visit. You can tempt them to share their valuable information by letting them know that, in return, they’ll receive inside info, a special offer, a report etc. Create a group on tools like Meetup and organise face-to-face events with people that have interests in common with yours. Organise online courses and webinars where all participants must register with their email address to attend. On your landing pages, offer ebooks, manuals, checklists or any other content of value that can be downloaded when an email address is provided. Competitions and giveaways on social media. Exchange business cards with new contacts at business shows, fairs, events and networking sessions. Once you have subscribers, it’s very important that you communicate with them in a way that keeps them opening your emails, going back to your website and clicking on your links. Automation Pro makes doing this really easy. It’s an excellent tool for keeping people engaged and interested as it allows you to create personalised journeys for each of your clients based on what they do or don’t do on your website or in response to your emails. Let’s have a more detailed look at how to engage and keep engagement high. Every time you send a campaign, you need to keep an eye on who is and who isn’t opening your messages. If you have a group of people who haven’t opened any of your messages in some time, they may not be interested in your product anymore, or the email address might no longer be in use. In cases like these, the risk of being marked as spam is increased. Here are a few practical tips to follow: On Benchmark, you have a “Clean List” tool. It’s very important that every 3 or 4 campaigns, you review the quality of your list and delete confirmed and hard bounces. If you have a high percentage of people who haven’t opened your emails in several campaigns you can: Delete them from the list. They’re not interested in what you’re offering and deleting them may mean that you can move onto a smaller plan. Not only are you saving money but you’re increasing your open rate by only focusing on your core subscriber. Separate those that open from those that don’t. With this strategy, it’s best to create a subaccount where you’ll place only those that don’t open your emails. To this group, you’ll send a reengagement campaign. Those that come back on board can be moved to the master account. Doing this will make sure that your master account has an excellent reputation as you’ll be sending to only your most engaged subscribers from here. Also, make sure that the campaigns sent to the non-openers are built specifically to re-engage. You should not be sending the same email to someone on a reengagement campaign as to someone who is already showing an interest. Consider creating segments too. As you know, the more personalised and targeted the campaign, the more relevant and successful it will be. Lastly, remember that within your Benchmark account, you have access to a Targeted Emailing tool. Take advantage of this tool and create lists of those that have opened several campaigns or a specific campaign, those that don’t open, those that click, those that click on a specific link and so on. You can find out how interested your subscriber list is in particular products, for example. Just include the products in question in a campaign and wait to see who clicks. Once you’ve sent the campaign and have the results, you can create lists segmented by who was interested in each product. Not only does this give you more information on who’s interested in what but you can also follow up with future campaigns based on these interests. In our next article, we’ll be looking at how an email’s design can impact its 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!


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How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

Practical Marketer • April 5, 2017

In previous articles, we’ve had a look at the definition of deliverability, key factors and the advantages of having a Dedicated IP. In this installment, we’re going to have a look at abuse complaints as this is another aspect of email marketing that, when not dealt with correctly, can negatively impact your sender reputation and, therefore, your deliverability. Unfortunately, it’s just as bad to be marked as spam as it is to hit spam traps. But, what is an abuse complaint? If you’re using Benchmark, an abuse complaint can come from one of two sources: When a client marks an email as spam using the button in their inbox. This is the most serious of the two because it’s Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. who will receive the complaint and take measures against your emails. Via Benchmark’s “Report Abuse” button. If the recipient chooses to complain via this button, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. don’t receive the complaint and this gives us time to resolve the issue. This doesn’t mean that it’s not serious, though. At Benchmark, we take abuse complaints very seriously and, while we will work with you to help you resolve the issue, if any client has a ratio of abuse complaints that\'s over 0.05%, their account will be terminated. To put this in perspective, this means we allow one abuse complaint per 2000 emails sent. What gets my emails marked as spam? This is a very good question. Many factors may be behind your recipient marking you as spam. For example: The database that you’re using is too old. A database being old may mean that the information that you’re sending is no longer relevant or they don’t remember signing up to your emails. The information that you’re sending isn’t of interest to your subscribers so they incorrectly mark you as spam instead of unsubscribing. You’re sending too many emails and your recipients are tired of receiving them. If you think that this could be the case, it’s time to stop and review your strategy. You’re sending emails to people that haven’t opted-in. This isn’t only bad email marketing practice but it’s also illegal and can have consequences that are much more far-reaching than bad campaign results. You’re sending content to people that had requested/expected information about something else when they signed up. For example, if they signed up to receive a webinar series on carpentry, don’t send them one on haute cuisine. People will be happy to receive more information related to what they originally signed up for but not offers for other things. The recipient was simply having a bad day and decided they weren’t interested in your email so marked you as spam.  It hardly happens but you’ll learn more on resolving this below. You’ll see now then that there are various factors that can be behind an abuse complaint and, while this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, you must ask yourself if you’re guilty of any of the above because your abuse complaint ratio is something that you can control. At Benchmark, when you send a campaign, you can see if you receive an abuse complaint in your reports: Don’t forget though that you can only control your abuse complaints if you add the “Report Abuse” link to your campaign. If you don’t use this link, the recipient will only be able to complain directly to their inbox provider and this will seriously damage your sender reputation. How can I avoid being marked as spam? We’ve already seen some of the reasons behind why we might get labeled as spam so let’s have a look at some possible solutions: If your database is old, send only to those that open your emails. Why pay for the big plan if it’s not being effective? We often think that what we’re sending is very interesting and relevant but, are you completely sure? Take a minute now to go and have a look at your last campaign’s click-through rate. Are you satisfied? If you’re not, consider changing your content so that it really is something that provokes engagement from your subscribers. Tip: Our “click heat maps” within your email reports can give you some valuable insights into the type of content that your recipients are interested in. Create a strategy around the emails you send. Consider your content and the best time and day to send that particular message. Also, don’t ever send the same content twice in the same week. Less is more. Don’t send spam. Make sure that you’re only sending to people who have opted in to receiving news from you. Segment your clients by the type of content that they want to receive. This will boost relevancy. If a recipient has marked you as spam, review your reports and contact them personally to find out why they did it and understand what actions you need to take. Final recommendations Remember to always add our “Report Abuse” link to your emails Keep an eye on your reports Listen to your recipients and learn from their actions In our next article, we’ll be discussing why it’s important to keep your lists up to date. 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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Why and How To Re-Engage Your Email Leads

Why and How To Re-Engage Your Email Leads

Practical Marketer • March 30, 2017

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention. And that’s a big challenge, as you’re up against a lot of noise. To be honest, noise is only how marketers describe all the other messages and distractions consumers have in their life. If you can get and keep subscribers engaged email remains one of the most consistent channels to reach and motivate your target audience.
 In earning the same valuable piece of attention, the trick is, of course, to not become noise yourself. Your potential customer is assaulted by marketing messages everywhere he goes, so it’s tough to firstly generate quality SMB leads and after that keep them engaged. The even harsher truth is that many well-intentioned, committed SMB marketers are working with email lists in which an average 60% of the subscribers are inactive – or, to use the appropriate industry term, “dead.” These contacts have not opened, clicked on or responded to any email sent in in the last period. Usually, the yardstick is six months or longer. Armed with this knowledge, SMB marketers can make the choice not to ignore the inactives
and just keep sending, with the risk of diminished deliverability. Instead, go for re-engagement, attempt to re-establish a relationship with those potential customers. Why It’s Worthwhile to Re-Engage It is a big chunk of the email list we are talking about. Inactive subscribers on your list have not unsubscribed. That means they are still part of your (addressable) audience. They already like you and want to hear from your brand. At one point, they opted in, which means they are on your good side – they’re a far cry from cold calls. You want to keep your email subscribers longer than a day. Although the email marketing rule of thumb has historically been to proactively “prune” dead subscribers to avoid damaging your message deliverability and refrain from teaching ISPs to recognize you as spam, it’s worthwhile to attempt re-engagement before starting to prune. Ultimately, the ROI of email marketing campaign for reactivation is hard to miss. The dollars and cents tell you to attempt re-engagement before cutting the inactive subscribers from your list. Don’t take your existing contacts for granted. Re-engaging them is a way to improve your list quality, increase conversion rates, and maintain good list hygiene. Re-engagement Versus Winback Before we break down disengagement into “reason buckets” in order to formulate your re-engagement strategy, it’s critical to define a “reengage” message vs. a “win-back” message. A re-engagement email’s purpose is to convince a dead subscriber to become interested in hearing from your brand again, whereas a win-back email is used to drive a specific purchase after that purchase may seem lost. For instance when someone cancels his subscription. The difference between the two is essential because you are not attempting to get one customer to buy anything at this point. Your goal is to spark your potential customer’s interest in your messaging and re-establishing a long-term relationship with your brand. Why Did Your Subscribers Flat-Line?
 In order to formulate your reengagement strategy, first it is good to identify various reasons behind disengagement. You can adjust your email marketing strategy if the reasons are known. Here are the most likely disengagement enhancing culprits. 1. Poor quality content: If your emails didn’t deliver relevant, valuable content that your target audience could genuinely benefit from, no wonder your subscribers stopped opening your messages. Back to the (content) drawing board after you find out this is the main reason for large scale disengagement. You have to give your email subscribers some love if you are to expect anything in return. 2. Email overload: Did you send too many emails? Subscribers have limits to their attention, so they prioritize. Overloading them likely landed your messages in your subscriber’s “I’ll read that tomorrow” pile… and tomorrow never came. Image via notablist.com One way to prevent overload in combination with re-engagement is to (just once) give the option to decrease frequency, like Delish does with their “we miss you” campaign. 3. They were never interested in the first place: Perhaps, with the best of intentions, you offered an expertly marketed opt-in to increase subscribers. But it ultimately didn’t provide you with quality leads. If the freebie offer was “too good,” you may have unintentionally attracted people who don’t care about your brand, but instead simply wanted the freebie you were offering. In order to keep track of your subscription quality always mark save the name of your subscription in the customer profile. It avoids investing in a big but uninterested freebie/giveaway group which is watering down your subscriber list in the future. 4. You broke a promise (or many): Clickbait-y titles that don’t deliver, a super useful-looking download which turns out to be nothing more than a blatant advertisement… broken promises compromise the trust your subscribers hold in your brand, and that leads to disengagement. Take Their Pulse It’s important to identify how disengaged your subscriber really is. Has this person walked away just from your email marketing campaigns or from your other touch-points as well? Because there are different levels of “dead,” each rightfully having its own reengagement strategy. You must segment your dead subscribers into groups based on what channels they’ve disengaged from. Alive but unengaged: This person isn’t opening your emails but is still visiting your website and your brick-and-mortar store, and last week, she liked one of your Facebook posts. She is going to be reasonably easy to re-engage. Mostly dead: This person not only isn’t opening your emails, she isn’t visiting your website or engaged via other channels. She made a purchase and this year, but you haven’t heard from her since. She is going to be hard, hard, hard to re-engage Go through his clothes and look for loose change dead: This person is entirely uninterested. He isn’t opening your emails, isn’t engaging with your brand, and has never made a purchase. The only engagement you’ve ever seen is the email subscription, but it stopped there. You may never be able to win him back because he likely wasn’t interested from the start. How to Re-engage If someone has only disengaged from your emails but is still engaging with your brand on alternate channels, your best move is to reach out directly with a reactivation email prompting them to update their preferences. Perhaps the emails they’ve received from you thus far haven’t been properly personalized or are simply not valuable or engaging. Revamp your emails to make them more valuable, and reach out. Not once. Not twice. Attempt at least three times before closing the door on this still valuable contact. If, however, someone has walked away from most or all of your channels – email, social, website – you have to re-demonstrate your value entirely. You can send an offer to entice, or send something that shoots straight including messaging that states clearly that you haven’t seen this person in a while and that you’d love to re-establish a relationship. Highlight all the news, features, sales and “buzz” that you’ve created in the last few months, and perhaps even kick it up a notch by including recent testimonials to prove your value. Yes, there are some subscribers you’re going to have to cut from the list. When you find yourself picking through his clothes for loose change, it’s time to cut him.  If he has never made a purchase or interacted with your brand on any channel, you can feel productive eliminating him from your subscriber list. Don’t Let the Contact Wither When you notice “dead” weight on your subscriber list, avoid the temptation to delete disengaged users immediately. First re-market to them intelligently. Remember, your purpose here is not to convince the disinterested subscriber to buy directly from that first email, but neither is it to open just that one email. What you really want is for your potential customers to start interacting with you again and ultimately purchase regularly. It’s a worthwhile effort to re-engage your contacts!


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The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

Practical Marketer • March 29, 2017

You can spend hours planning and creating the perfect newsletter, tweaking it until you’re sure that it’s going to help bring in new clients and boost profits, but it doesn’t matter how well-thought-out or well-designed it is: if it doesn’t get to your recipients, it won’t fulfill your objectives. This is why working to ensure that the email arrives in the inbox needs to be your number one priority. Deliverability is all about getting to the inbox and avoiding the spam folder. Basically, If you don’t look after your deliverability and it takes a turn for the worse, it’s likely that your emails will end up in spam. The consequence of this is usually that your recipients will start to think of you as “that company that sends spam”. This isn’t only a problem for your marketing but it can also bring with it legal problems, being added to a blacklist or your account being permanently blocked. Ignoring deliverability, or not actively working to improve or maintain it, is not an option for anyone working in email marketing. There are 5 factors that can affect a campaign’s deliverability. Each one needs to be considered and optimised, as deliverability can be negatively impacted by just one of them going awry. The Email Marketing Manager   The person that decides the email campaign’s content. They’ll choose the subject line, the layout of images, text etc. and they’ll also have the final word on how many emails to send and when. They’re responsible for ensuring that the list is up-to-date, correct and cleansed of old addresses that no longer exist, spam traps and generic email addresses. Sender domain By sender, we mean the name, the address and the domain used to send the campaign. While the name and address have the biggest impact on whether the email gets opened or not, the domain can be key to guaranteeing good deliverability as it’s the first thing that the different organisations and filters will analyse to classify the newsletter. The domain’s reputation and not having been classified as spam previously is essential for the success of your campaign. As a general rule, it’s recommended that you don’t use a public domain like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Instead, opt to use a private domain that in itself doesn’t contain expressions that can be interpreted as spammy. You also need to make sure that it’s not on any blacklists. Configuring the SPF record that we provide is also good practice as it helps prove that we have permission to send campaigns on your behalf. No excuses! It’s quick, easy and free to do so if you’re not sure how, please contact your Benchmark representative who will be happy to assist you. Email Marketing Platform The platform you choose has a decisive impact on deliverability. It must have a good infrastructure for sending bulk email campaigns and it should also provide statistics on each one you send. Check to see if they can show you how many abuse complaints,  bounces, clicks etc. you receive as this information will help you optimise your database and strategy for upcoming campaigns. It’s also useful if they have good customer service available in case you need it. The Recipient The person that receives your email also has a relevant part to play in your deliverability as it’s them that has the power to configure their account’s anti-spam filter. Not only this but their inbox will learn from and monitor their actions. Do they open your emails? Do they interact with them? Do they mark them as spam? The ISP will learn and filter the emails accordingly. Suggest to your recipients that they whitelist you and that they remove your emails from spam if they find you there. Inbox filters will learn that you are a good sender this way. It’s also important that the recipient interacts with our emails and this can only be achieved with relevant content and thoughtful design. Don’t forget either that, even before they open the email, the subject line has to win them over so take the time to think about it and make it a good, eye-catching, non-spammy one. You can also use our Targeted Emailing tool to create segments of, and target, clients based on their open and click behaviour. Additionally, Inbox Checkers are another great way of double-checking your campaign before it gets sent out. Use them to see what your email will look like on different devices and browsers and avoid surprises when you’ve already sent out the campaign. Spam filters This is who decides whether the recipient receives the email or not. We don’t have control over this but it will analyse the factors that we’ve been looking at in this article. Now we’ve seen the 5 main actors in the email marketing process, consider how your deliverability is being influenced by each one and be sure to optimise each area for campaign success. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing deliverability that you can improve? This is the third article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up... How abuse complaints affect your 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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