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3 Priceless Email Marketing Lessons from Fatherly Advice

Practical Marketer - Reading Time: 11 Minutes

3 Priceless Email Marketing Lessons from Fatherly Advice

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Email Marketing Content: Trawling the Customer Service Files

Email Marketing Content: Trawling the Customer Service Files

Beyond • May 14, 2009

Has this happened to you? Step 1: You sit down to try and create your next newsletter or email Step 2: Your mind draws a blank on what you should write about / feature Step 3: You finally put together a list of ideas, but they\'re either lame or boring If you haven\'t gone through this, you will at some point. But the bottom line is that you still need to come up with good content, even if your mind is not cooperating at the moment. So, how do you find good email campaign content for your HTML newsletter or sales email? Three words: Customer service data Think of your customer service data as your “get out of jail free” card when you\'re plum out of good ideas. You can either sit down with your customer service reps or open up the program that tracks customer complaints, responses and suggestions. Here are the questions you want to ask – and answer: What are the top three customer issues with your Website? Answer these questions in your campaign. Maybe there\'s an easy solution you can give subscribers to avoid any headaches on their part. What are the top three products or services receive the most complaints? Is it because they\'re being used wrong? If so, send an email showing recipients, step by step, on how to avoid this problem. You may need to be a bit creative when answering these questions to avoid sending a basic FAQ. Try packaging it as an educational experience, titling your email something like, top “three ways to use lawnmowers more efficiently” or even “Navigating our forums: 5 easy steps”. True, it\'s not sales content that you\'re sending, but your recipients will appreciate the data. If you do your job correctly and your subscribers see that you\'ve eliminated a problem that\'s been holding them back from purchasing something, you might see a nice up-tick in sales that originate from your email or newsletter campaigns.


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The incredible shrinking subject line: how to handle it

The incredible shrinking subject line: how to handle it

Beyond • May 13, 2009

A few years ago, it was not uncommon to see subject lines that were full sentences. Robust and info-heavy, these subject lines told the email marketing recipient everything they  needed to know. Not anymore. Thanks to the shrinking space due to chat programs and more, expect that your subject line will have to be one part innovation and two parts shorthand. Remember: you want to keep your subject line under 45 or 50 characters. Here\'s how to do that: Use common abbreviations when possible. Some common abbreviations include: Included – Incl. Attention – Attn. Limited – Ltd. Five – 5 (use numerals instead of spelling out numbers) Association – Assn. October – Oct. (abbreviate months when you can)Remember: you don\'t want your email subject line to be a long string of abbreviations, however, one or even two may work to keep your character count down. Focus on one brand. If you\'re sending a sales email pumping up a big sale, put the name of your most popular brand in your subject line rather than many. This will cut back on space in a major way. Throw out the rules on grammar. It\'s tough to put together a full sentence in less than 50 characters, so forget everything you ever learned in elementary school in relation to grammar. In the newsletter subject line world, sentences only get you truncated. Avoid text-speak. Unless your email list is strictly young and hipster, any email with the subject line “gr8 deal 4 u” is only going to get your email dumped. Period. Your subject line is as critical as anything you put out there. A bad one will sink your open rates and destroy your ROI. Even though it\'s tough, work within this email campaign framework to shorten your subject lines and keep your open rates high.


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Managing email unsubscribes that don’t follow protocol

Managing email unsubscribes that don’t follow protocol

Beyond • May 12, 2009

Have you ever sent out an email marketing campaign with an obvious unsubscribe link at the bottom – and found that a handful of people choose to ignore it and instead bounce back an email with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject line or body? If you have, you understand how maddening this is. In a perfect world, everyone follows the rules and hits the unsubscribe link. As email marketers, we\'ve done everything we can to give people an easy out. However, one has to wonder why a customer would take the less-used route. Here are a few reasons why: They got your email on their smart phone and aren\'t seeing the link They find the old method to be faster than scrolling to the bottom of your email They\'re just plain vindictive They\'re stuck on using older unsubscribe methods So, what can you do about these three scenarios? Nothing, really. But rather than opening up your master unsubscribe list and adding them by hand, you can do the following to save time. Open the email response from the person unsubscribing. Check to see if your email is still attached. Most people who unsubscribe tend to keep your email intact when they ask you to add them to your master unsubscribe list. Scroll down to the bottom of the response email and hit the unsubscribe link on their behalf. This sends you to the unsubscribe page as a customer rather than in an admin capacity. Doing this is much faster than opening up your HTML newsletter or email master unsubscribe list and adding the contact by hand. Truth be told, there may always be one or two people who fail to follow the unsubscribe rules. Clicking on the link in the email they send back can save you lots of time in the long run.


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Give your emails and newsletters a second life: Create an online archive

Beyond • May 1, 2009

After you\'ve sent out your email or newsletter and viewed all your stats, wouldn\'t it be perfect if you could put it online so everyone could find it? Well, here\'s the good news. Now you can. The Benchmark Email archive feature gives you a neat, easily found online home to store all your emails and newsletters. Here\'s how it works. You create your email or newsletter. In the final stage of the process, you\'ll be asked if you want to archive it. Click on that button and you can create your own custom archive with a unique Web address you can send to your customers. Your archive can look exactly how you want it to, using the colors of your Website, your logo and more. You can even choose which newsletters and emails you want featured in your archive: Here are just some of the benefits of having an online archive: You can link it to your Website, making it easy for all your customers to find back issues Once your archive is online, outsiders can find your newsletters via a Web search You can add a list builder to your archive and sign up new email subscribers By having your archive online, you can build a whole new base of customers You can post links your archive from your Facebook, myspace site and more You can use Twitter to promote your archive, sending other people on Twitter to it via a link If you use your newsletter or emails to promote your goods, but also post how-to articles, product demonstrations and more, your archive is an invaluable tool that not only shows off what you have to sell, but gives Web surfers valuable content they can find in a simple search. By adding new pages to your Website in the form of archived newsletters and emails, you\'ll even improve your site\'s rank in search engines, funneling more people to your site to browse, buy, or even just subscribe to your newsletter.


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How to Improve Your Online Brand

Beyond • April 28, 2009

So you have a business. Great. So do 100,000 other people. What sets you apart from your competitors is your brand and the accompanying emotion it invokes. If you’re a small business that operates mostly or exclusively online, your brand becomes that much more important because you don’t have the luxury of relying on a physical presence or making a physical connection. Know Your Audience In order to build a brand, you have to first know who your brand will cater to. Consider stats like age, marital status, gender, household income and demographics and you will start realizing the tone your brand needs to have. For example, a product or service catering to the green industry will have a specific brand that caters to that audience; the same branding elements and tools would not necessarily work for an audience that has a conservative political leaning. If you can’t understand your audience, it follows that you won’t know how to brand your company. This is why it’s that much more important to spend the necessary time really understanding your target base. Keep Your Brand Simple Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” He had the right idea. In business this translates to skipping flashy gimmicks and sticking to a calm demeanor, focusing on what makes your business or service stand out from the competition. Just as with the idea that a small dog barks the loudest, so does a desperate business offend your senses with tacky presentations, cheesy tag lines and demands that you do business with them. On the other hand, a smart business that knows its strengths doesn’t need tricks, gadgets or gizmos; they carry a big stick. In business the big stick translates to business know-how, a network of contacts, industry knowledge and the right attitude to get the job done. Once this foundation is set, you can then branch out to polishing your internet presence. Visualizing Your Brand Your brand demands respect. Business owners who dismiss creativity and try to save a few dollars by bypassing this important element miss out on the opportunity to attract a much wider audience. Your brand needs to communicate a message. It needs to be easily recognizable and quickly understood and accepted. Your vision, paired with the right creative and technical team, can make this happen. A talented team of web/graphic designers and internet marketers is an investment in your business. Most people make the mistake of skimping on this crucial investment, and the result is an online presence that lacks authority and credibility. And if you’re going to be a cheapskate in your own business, your customers won’t have much confidence in how you might treat them or in the value of your product/services. If you wouldn’t buy goods or services from someone selling out of their trunk, then the same example works for your potential customers – who aren’t going to go spend their hard earned dollars on a company that doesn’t even invest in its image. Synchronize Your Brand Your brand should have a consistent theme and styling across all new media platforms. To do this, you should first turn to your web page. Create a compelling web page that in and of itself does a thorough job in communicating your brand. Take that concept, the styling, graphics and colors and implement that consistency across social media channels. In particular, popular channels such as Twitter and YouTube will allow you to customize your page. Take advantage of this option and use your design to reflect your mission statement. On the same note, any print literature should also be a reflection of your website. And finally, keep the message consistent. You should use the same tag lines, phrases, and concise copy to communicate your brand across all channels.


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Email Opens Geographic Map in Benchmark Email

Email Opens Geographic Map in Benchmark Email

Beyond • April 27, 2009

After you send out your campaign, you can see who opened your email or newsletter in your reports section. But have you ever wondered where those email openers are located? Thanks to our new Opens Map feature, you\'ll get a visual on where on the planet the people who opened your emails live and work. Here are the benefits of using our free Opens Map feature: Get the Big Picture of where most of your customers are located Create custom email lists based on geographic location Build and send custom campaigns targeting customers in certain countries and cities Focus your efforts on pockets of people in different areas This new feature can be used for all campaigns sent after April 25th. If you send a campaign on or after that date, all you need to do is go into you reports section to view your Opens Map to get an accurate picture of where your customers are located.


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How Email Templates Can Be Used on a Personal Scale

Beyond • April 26, 2009

Email remains a wonderful tool in the era of social media, mobile communications and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. It provides an easy way for businesses to connect and keep in touch with customers while allowing regular people to reach out and say hello to family or friends whenever they feel the need. And while composing a message is simple enough no matter what service you’re using, there is only so much that can be done from a design standpoint in your typical email client. Yet you can enjoy a great design and personal message with the right email templates. Save Time on Creation Planning and organizing an event is no walk in the park, hence why there is a nice sized market for such services. Mapping out an intimate event involving friends and relatives can get pretty hectic the bigger the guest list. It can be a time consuming endeavor, but a good email template helps you save time by taking the repetitious work out of the equation. Instead of creating what is essentially the same message over and over, you can create it once and use the template as often as needed. The time you save allows you to set your attention on planning and pulling off a successful event. Personalize Your Message Email is a very personal medium. When it comes to one-to-one communications of the digital variety, there isn’t much like it. Email templates allow you to take personalization to a whole new level. For instance, if you are sharing memories from a recent family reunion, you can create a personal message for each recipient and make sure everyone has the appropriate photos. And thanks to the digital format, all photos, invitations or special messages can be easily archived for safe storage. Customize to Your Liking You are very limited from a customization standpoint when using services like AOL and Yahoo! to create a message. This factor alone makes email templates an excellent choice. A flexible template will allow you to customize your message your way. You can incorporate your own text and images as well as more sophisticated features such as video and social media elements. The great thing about email templates is that they cater to different experience levels. Most are easy to use for beginners with no design experience, but can be greatly developed by those with HTML skills. No matter where you stand, you have the ability to customize a beautiful message. Email templates can come in handy for individuals with a need to send a personal message that looks good to a group of people. At the basic level, you are creating a message through a simple drag-and-drop process that is simple enough to grasp for anyone. When your message calls for something more advanced, it can be realized through the flexibility of HTML coding. These are some of the reasons email templates are widely used by marketers and becoming an increasingly popular choice among consumers.


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How International Robinson Lists Can Impact Your Email Marketing

Beyond • April 25, 2009

An entry onto the Robinson list can be considered a demand by the individual to be treated like Robinson Crusoe on his desert island and thus receive no marketing communications. The various national Robinson lists were originally created to provide a database of telephone numbers and addresses that had opted out of any incoming direct mail marketing or telemarketing, but recently are being amplified to encompass mobile device texts and email marketing as well. Canada\'s Bell: The Fox in the Chicken Coop A Robinson list situation suitable for a parody show occurred in December 2010 in Canada. In a clear case of a fox in the chicken coop, the Bell Canada telephone company had been granted management of the country’s “Do Not Call List” by the government’s telecom commission and then was fined $1.3 million by that same agency for using that list’s numbers for its own telemarketing! Spammers See DO NOT CONTACT Lists as Prime Prospects The Bell Canada violation of trust lies at the heart of the problem with all types of Robinson lists. They are intended to provide a reference guide to marketers as to who not to contact, but unethical spammers see the lists as a treasure trove of contacts to blast with their illegal missives. Even though all national Robinson lists are backed by severe legal penalties, spammers bet that by setting up their operations in loosely controlled jurisdictions such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Vietnam they have placed themselves far from the long arm of European or North American law. The European Union Has Stringent Laws that Are Widely Flouted Not all illegal online operators are located in Asia. Although the European Union has the most stringent online anti-piracy regulation on Earth, the web’s leading television program sharing site, eztv.it, has been operating from Italy with total impunity for years. The Union’s strict anti-spam laws have also had little effect on Spain as it is the number one country where email harvesters are located, with the latest statistics accounting for nearly 22% of the world’s total. That equals more than 21,000 harvesters with an average of nearly 800 spam servers each in Spain alone! Spain Leads in Both Robinson Lists & Spammers With such an overwhelming problem on its hands, Spain has taken steps to crack down by empowering a special agency to implement Robinson list procedures across the email and overall marketing spectrum. The Consulting Council of the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) includes both the directors of the various regional data protection agencies as well as directors placed by the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. This government body guides the activities of the AEPD and is primarily responsible for the proposals of various statutes such as the ones adopted in March 2011. These laws were formulated to provide greater powers to impose financial sanctions on spammers and to be able to modify these fines to suit the type and volume of violating emails sent. Penalties can vary from a fairly nominal 900 Euros ($1,300) to a very severe 600,000 Euros ($875,000). Various Countries Have Their Own Robinson Lists Robinson lists are implemented to some degree in a number of nations. Over and above Spain and Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Greece are among the countries that have their own Robinson list services, as does Australia with its Do Not Call Register, the United Kingdom with the Telephone Preference Service and New Zealand with its Name Removal Service. As many of the titles suggest, these Robinson lists were initially formulated to target telemarketing but most are in the process of being expanded to include email marketing. The United States National Do Not Call Registry is currently limited to telemarketing alone, and the only effective option for consumers wishing to block incoming email marketing is the Direct Marketing Association’s Email Preference Service, which is limited to the association’s members alone and is not binding on any spammer who is not a member. European Union law is not overly clear on what occurs if individuals provide you with email newsletter permission and then place themselves on a Robinson list without opting out from your list. One interpretation is that you’re just as liable as if you didn’t receive permission at all, although that would be a case ripe for court challenge. If you see the current international Robinson list situation as a confounding patchwork, you’re essentially correct. The lack of a homogeneous structure to determine which email addresses are off limits is going to require a great deal of awareness from any American email marketer wishing to engage customers in other countries.


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Data Breach Triggers Spear Phishing Warning

Beyond • April 22, 2009

What some online security experts are calling the largest breach in the history of the internet has triggered concerns that a marked increase in the amount of the criminal phishing activity known as Spear Fishing will be witnessed in the inboxes of individuals and small businesses across the nation and around the world. To learn how this will impact your email and online marketing, read below and take all necessary precautions to protect yourself. Phishers Can Address Spam Victims by Name Phishers can use the victim’s name within the email itself in a ploy designed to gain the trust and confidence of the individual. Once that is achieved it is the goal of the criminals to get the user to click on a link in the email that leads to a clone of the legitimate login screen devised to steal the customer’s user name and password. Email Addresses Stolen from 7 of the 10 Largest Companies in the World Millions of customers of the following corporations are in the process of receiving notices that their names and email addresses were compromised by hackers: Ameriprise Financial, Barclays Bank, Best Buy, Brookstone, CapitalOne, Citibank, Disney, Home Shopping Network, JPMorgan Chase, Kroger, L.L. Bean, Marriott, McKinsey & Company, Ritz Carlton, TiVo, US Bancorp, and Walgreens. The data theft occurred from the servers of Epsilon, a subsidiary of Alliance Data Company, which sends 40 billion emails per year on behalf of seven of the ten largest multi-nationals in the world as well as 2,500 other corporate clients. A Fresh Wave of Spam Is on Its Way to Millions With these data breaches revealing the email addresses of millions of bank, retail and communications company customers, hackers have reached new heights in their nefarious arts. A considerable number of customers and companies that do business with these firms can look forward to receiving a fresh new wave of spam messages in the coming days. Contact Authorities when Receiving Spam The first step when receiving a spam email is to report it to the various authorities and agencies that deal with this pestilent problem. Contacting Spamcop, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Anti-Phishing Working Group will help to curb the amount of spam being received by all, thus it is a highly recommended action. You may also want to refer to the Spam & Phishing Page on StaySafeOnline, which lists the spam contacts for all ten of the United States’ leading ISPs.


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Email Marketing Plan: Can You Include Maps in Your Email Campaign?

Beyond • April 22, 2009

Maps have become quite popular in the era of mobile apps and GPS tracking technology. Apart from helping us find our way, we are also learning that they can be useful for those interested in using email marketing to drive traffic to an event. However, while embedding maps in your email message has many potential benefits, actually ensuring that they work across the board is an entirely different story. Here’s both sides of that tale. The Pros and Cons of Embedded Email Maps Email is pretty flexible, so technically, embedding maps is a relatively straightforward process. In fact, Microsoft and Google have enabled this functionality seamlessly with Bing Maps for Hotmail and Google Maps for Gmail respectively. In these particular instances, they work quite well. Unfortunately, this is not always the case when other email clients and different web browsers come into play. Embedding maps in an email is not impossible, but there are no guarantees that they will display properly or at all. It isn’t really an issue of rendering capability as most clients are more than capable. It has more to do with the fact that most automatically strip out or disable additional HTML elements for security purposes. Since the popular mapping applications are built on top of technologies such as AJAX, Javascript and iFrames, the practice of embedding their features is not very reliable. Depending on the mail client and browser the subscriber is using, your map may just show up as one big blank space. Viable Alternative Method Successfully integrating maps with your email marketing may require you to take the same approach as you do with video email, surveys and other elements that often cause trouble for HTML messages. Include a link to them in your message instead of embedding them directly in your email. The good thing about this method is that both Microsoft and Google have made it convenient to incorporate their maps on web pages through flexible, easy to use APIs. All you have to worry about is coming up with a compelling call to action that convinces the subscriber to click through and have a look. For now, this is definitely the safest option. Test and Find Out Although there are obvious disadvantages, embedding maps in your email message isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Hotmail and Gmail have been optimized to support this functionality, so if most of your subscribers use these clients you may experience little to no problems. Yet regardless of what mail programs your subscribers use, the best way to determine the effectiveness of embedded email maps is through testing. Set up a few test accounts on the services you will be targeting, run them through the most widely used browsers and analyze the results. Whenever in doubt, test and find out.


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Biggest Complaints Users Lodge with Their Email Service Providers

Beyond • April 21, 2009

Choosing an email service provider that is right for your needs can be hard enough. Unfortunately, it can get even tougher after you make the final decision and sign up. The relationship between customer and provider can turn rocky fast, and when it does it’s usually the customer on the short end of the stick. Here are some of the top gripes users have with their ESPs: Lack of Support From web hosting to standalone software, support is important when you invest money in just about any technology these days. This is especially the case when investing in something like email marketing to promote your business. Most companies claim to be on the ball in this department, but not all are living up to those claims. Some of the more unfortunate email marketers have signed up with ESPs only to find out that they never answer the phones, take days to respond to email queries and the live chat function is always down. The lack of support is a major reason for complaints and why some users are one step closer to calling it quits. Difficult to Use If it isn’t cheap, then it’s cheap and incredibly easy to use. Ease of use is a selling point that attracts customers to email marketing services because, after all, everyone wants a user-friendly solution. Ironically, one of the biggest complaints customers have has to do with usability. They sign up and learn the hard way that the company’s software is not as accessible as advertised. The software is either too complex or lacks the features and functionality the marketer requires to really make an impact. Either way, the user is stuck with a solution that doesn’t live up to expectations. Poor Deliverability From what we’ve seen, the biggest complaint users have with their ESP is poor deliverability rates. They realize that email marketing is something they can’t do on their own, yet find that their messages are not being delivered as promised. This could actually be for two reasons: either the user is not following some of the most important best practices of permission based marketing or the company simply doesn’t have the infrastructure and reputation to support the user’s sending requirements. Neither is good for the marketer because poor deliverability rates usually means you’re not far from being blacklisted. Know Who You’re Dealing With Many email marketing services will look like gold on the surface, but you know what they say about everything that glitters. It pays to do your homework before you make that investment. No relationship is ever going to be perfect, but by evaluating the level of support, test-driving a service through a demo or trial offer and conducting thorough research to learn more about a company’s deliverability beforehand, you can avoid having to file the same complaints made by so many others.


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Boost your email’s visibility with the Benchmark Email Community!

Beyond • April 20, 2009

Once you\'ve sent your email and added it to your custom archive, did you know there\'s another easy way to drive Web traffic to your email or newsletter? The Benchmark Email Community gives you yet another opportunity to put your email online so everyone can find it. Post your email or newsletter in the community and Web surfers can find it via search, social bookmark, Twitter, Facebook and more. . How do you do this? It\'s easy! In the last stage of the email campaign creation process, you\'ll be given two options: add your email to your archive and/or add it to the Benchmark Email Community. Click on the Benchmark Email Community option. Once you\'ve done that your email will be given a permanent Web address and you can name your email, add tags and even send the URL to your customers. We\'ve even added social networking and bookmarking options. Once your email is up in the community, you can: Send the link to your email page via myspace or Facebook Send out a Tweet via Twitter with a link to your email or newsletter Social bookmark your email or newsletter URL through Digg, Delicious and more Use Stumbleupon and Technorati to boost your page views Sign up additional subscribers who find your email in a keyword search Allow people to vote for your email as well as comment on how good it looks Through the Benchmark Email Community, your email has a life far beyond the time it lands in the inbox of your subscribers. This permanent home on the Web gives you a load of opportunities to drive as many people to your email or newsletter as possible, empowering you to sign up new subscribers, bring in new customers and even sell your products or services.


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New Email Marketing Manual: How to Get Better User Feedback

Beyond • April 20, 2009

Keen observers of the Benchmark blog will note that a new email marketing manual released today would mean that three such guides have been released within the past seven days. Is it some form of online skulduggery? A trick of the monitor contrast setting? No, friends, it is nothing of the sort. Today, Benchmark Email is happy to present its latest guide, How to Get Better User Feedback. But how did it get here so fast? As Queen says, “It’s a kind of magic.” Better User Feedback focuses on taking the initiative with customers, not in an overbearing way, but in the way that the shifting landscape of the internet demands: on equal terms. The term “user” is integral to how you market your services or products online. By contrast, a consumer is simply that, with nothing to say and everything to spend. Users are in on the experience, actually want to offer feedback and can lash out with fair or damning praise depending on their experience. This manual provides insight on how to get your message to the discerning user, generating content that is relevant and fresh and then encouraging the user to share what they like. Testing, polling, surveys and psychographics all have a part to play and will ultimately mold the expectations of those interested in your product. But to properly mold those expectations, a producer must remain honest and open to the users who will ultimately choose to purchase, ignore or slam it. Check out How to Get Better User Feedback by clicking on the link above and downloading the PDF or read it on our site. Benchmark’s online resources are growing and we’re pleased to offer you all sixteen of our current email marketing manuals for free. Visit the page and check them out. And in the spirit of better user feedback, leave us some comments to let us know what guides and manuals you’d like to see in the future!


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