Tags: Email Marketing

Best Free Online Forum Services

Beyond • May 25, 2011

Online forums are one of the most overlooked aspects of online marketing. When small business owners consider their online presence, they unfortunately overlook ways to directly interact with their customers beyond just social media. In addition to web chat software, which still requires a “live” person, online forums allow you to gauge questions and have a set list of answers ready to go. It’s hands down one of the best kept secrets for small businesses looking to cater to their customers while still being time- and cost-efficient. Small business owners also need to think outside the box. Forums aren’t just about answering your customers\' questions but about allowing your website to be a valuable space for discussion. This idea worked great for boat blueprint company Glen-L Marine Designs, which saw itself save countless hours in customer Q&A by hosting a forum where boat enthusiasts could engage with one another. An industry veteran, owner Gayle Brantuk also noted she’d sometimes be surprised by how knowledgeable forum members were; she’s been in the business for over 30 yeas and she still manages to learn something new through the forum. Creating and fostering a successful forum ensures website traffic, promotes you as the authority on a subject and often also allows forum users to answer each other’s questions (which again saves you the hassle of answering it yourself). So what are the best online forum services out there? Consider Bravenet, which offers free interactive message forums that you can embed into your website within minutes. Bravenet also allows for multiple forums and categories, supports HTML coding within forum messages/posts, quoted replies and allows users to create their own avatars. This easy-to-use system goes beyond expectations offering customized design and page layouts, as well as statistics to help track usage. It also grants the moderator the editorship to edit/delete posts and to control who has access to your forum through IP banning. One of the most popular online forum services, InvisionFree has earned its stellar reputation through millions of users that have turned to the software to create forum communities. What you get is a customizable forum (if you’re CSS savvy), free support for custom domains, calendar events, spam prevention (and a promise by InvisionFree not to populate your forum with advertising or pop ups). You also get access to a forum that you can index by birthdays, active users, events, messages and statistics. InvisionFree set the bar high by keeping user needs as their foremost priority; they extend users a personal messenger system, complete user control from a simple control panel and updated forum activity that allows you to keep up-to-speed with the conversation. Most InvisionFree users also appreciate the generous tech support and user feedback available on the internet due to the high volume of users and shared information available as a result. A strong competitor with InvisonFree, Zetaboards offers many of the same perks but allows for greater creative/design control. Those who don’t have a site but need a forum as a priority can turn to this forum software that also allows you to use a website maker to craft your forum around. Zetaboards also offers completely free internet tech support. And finally there’s Forumotion, which also allows you to create a free blog alongside a free forum. Forumotion is not quite as popular as these other free forums, but it does allow for unlimited forum use – meaning there’s no cap on messages or users. What makes Forumotion a forum contender is in its ability to host a chat box and a role playing game in addition to the other features that it does offer and share with its competitors. The major downside with this forum is that their custom skin menu is a bit on the amateur side (even though there are over 7,000 skins to choose from). Aesthetically, it doesn’t offer the professionalism you’d expect with business – although some businesses can and do get away with this for a number of reasons. If you’re still not sure if Forumotion is right for you, I recommend checking out their forum directory, which lists all the users who have forums with them; a quick browse through lets you take a peek at your forum\'s peers, after which you can decide if the audience that’s attracted to this forum style is your target audience.


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Helping App Developers to Succeed with Email Marketing

Helping App Developers to Succeed with Email Marketing

Beyond • May 23, 2011

Are you in the app store? Well, not you personally - unless you’re a plant, zombie or angry bird – but rather your company, software or service. I want to know if your company makes software that runs on iPhones, iPads or Droid devices. If so, this blog’s for you. And even if you don’t make apps, read on anyway, because the apps and the devices that run them are quickly changing everything. You may soon be making or marketing an app in the not-so-distant future. The Tablets Are (Still) Coming It’s true. CNet.com reports this week that Apple will sell 47 million tablets this year while other manufacturers will account for the rest of the 80 million worldwide. BusinessInsider.com recently cited an RBC study estimating about 400 million smart phones shipping for 2011. Apps Fuel the Frenzy Google’s Admob surveyed tablet owners in March 2011. They found that 43% of users spend more time with their tablet than their traditional PCs. One in three tablet users are on their tablets more than watching TV. And are they emailing? Web-surfing? Facebooking? Um, yes. But those aren’t number one in usage. The number one activity is playing games… games that are apps. Of course the activity isn’t limited to games. The app stores are bursting with worthwhile productivity, business, navigation, shopping and lifestyle apps. And people are buying them up fast. Telegraph.co.uk reports that Gartner, a research firm, estimates that total app sales for all mobile devices will top $15 billion for 2011. That’s a lot of word games, camera apps and auto-tune! Billions of Dollars and One Email Me? All my money that used to go to Tower Records (remember them?) now goes to apps too. My computer claims I have 158 of them at the moment. That might sound like a lot until you consider how many apps Apple says they sell: hundreds of thousands. But north of a hundred is a good if not unscientific personal research pool. So, do you know how many of those 158 app developers email market to me? The answer is one. Last week it was zero. That’s a shame, too, because so many of those app developers sell multiple apps. Even more shameful, some of the apps on my phone and tablet are just extensions of major retail, service and financial companies. They really have a lot of non-app products they could promote to me if they had signed me up for emails through their apps. If You\'re Building a List with Your App True, I can’t guarantee that I’ve never been asked but I honestly can’t recall ever seeing an email list offer while researching, installing or interacting with an app. I’m sure some company tried to get me on their list with an annoying nag screen, ill-timed pop-up or poorly placed request hidden in the bowels of some settings tab. Who knows? Like I said, I wasn’t on anyone’s list... until now. There\'s a Right Way to Do It Endloop, the company that makes an app called iMockups, got it right. Not only did they recognize the value of building an email list of app users, but they found the right way to ask for the email address. If you’re building an app, take a clue from these clever developers: Ask for the Email Address Immediately Upon First Opening the App Look, I’m never going to be more excited about your app than the day I purchase it. I just spent the money. I’m yours. What’s an email address on top of the cost of actually buying the app? Endloop is a smart bunch. There’s a time to be restrained and a time to be confident. Yes, I trust you because I just bought your app. Go ahead and be bold with the promises of “cool stuff.” I’m believing it because I’m in your hands… or is it you’re in my hands? Use a Call to Action I’m not the biggest fan of pointless, clichéd calls to action like “buy now” or “call in now.” But a call to action in an app is a different situation. I just bought the app and I’m going to follow the directions on the screen in order to learn the app or use it. Use that Jedi mind control and tell me to sign up. Say it twice even, like the example in the picture. Okay, all you Star Wars geeks join in with me, “These are not the droids we’re looking for.” Honestly, no pun intended there. Really. Give Me Some Sugar A few blogs back, I got sweet talked into the Corner Bakery email list with the temptation of a sweet, crispy treat. Now iMockups promises a single free template. Not quite as delicious, but good enough. Sign me up. Prove It Where You Put It What I liked about this email list request was that it was not isolated. It sits atop good information on a barely separated pane. All I have to do is look one line down and see that there was a recent update that made this app much better. This is important to me. Apps get updated all the time and it doesn’t happen “automagically.” I currently have over 60 apps that want updating and I don’t have time to do them all, nor do I know which apps need it and what content the updates deliver. So an email that lets me know that I need to update is a great thing. I honestly won’t mind if you tell me about other apps or products while you do this. Finally, Do It in the App Look, you or your developers are already doing a ton of coding. What’s one more day to figure out how to build your email list from within the app? Don’t tell me to manually type in a webpage address, don’t even hyperlink me to open a browser and visit a page. I’m not going to do it and you’ll lose my potential email subscription. Right now, I have the app open. If I’m going to sign up, it had better be now and easy. Thanks, Endloop, for showing us all how it’s done and done right. May you spawn a thousand lists and a million emails.


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A Marketing Tribute to a Macho Man

Beyond • May 20, 2011

Today we were sad to learn about the passing of wrestling superstar Macho Man Randy Savage. It seems like just yesterday Pierce was doing his best impression (actually it was yesterday). Savage hadn’t been a public face lately, but there is a reason that so many people still mourn his death today. He was flashy, he had catchphrases and he was well-branded. I’m pretty sure I even had a Macho Man Randy Savage action figure at one point in my life, and maybe even one of those inflatable things that bob up and down when you hit them. Like I said before, it’s no mistake that Macho Man Randy Savage is one of the few WWF wrestlers we can still recall vividly. He had his “OHHHH YEAH!!!” to hype up the crowd while he was in the ring and “snap into a Slim Jim” when on the TV screen. It is instantly recognizable all these years later. For an email marketer, having something that catchy that will stick with your subscribers can mean the longterm success of your email campaigns. It can be the name of your newsletter or even a catchy or funny video bit. Another thing that made Macho Man Randy Savage so memorable was his flashy clothes. He had colorful outfits, cowboy hats and headbands and sunglasses that said MACHO on them. Those images are forever ingrained in my memory. Do your templates stand out like that? Maybe you need to add some color - a little extra punch. A great design will make your subscribers take notice. We’ll all have to snap into a Slim Jim in remembrance of the great Macho Man Randy Savage today. Seems like a (slightly) safer and less violent tribute than delivering a diving elbow drop to an opponent. We can also honor him by taking what he showed us and applying it to our email campaigns. Sometimes it’s good to be flashy and give your subscribers something they won’t soon forget.


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How Bars & Nightclubs Can Emulate Pepsi’s Social Vending Machine

Beyond • May 12, 2011

PepsiCo’s latest vending machine may be somewhat bizarre, but the concept at the heart of this new technology illustrates a valid aspect of this decade’s interactive online world that can be leveraged by bar and nightclub owners and managers to supercharge their email marketing campaigns. Social Cola Gifting Pepsi recently unveiled their “social vending machine,” which the company is promoting as the next generation of interactive vending. The machine has a touch screen that not only allows the customer to buy a bottle of cola for themselves but also provide one as a gift to someone else. By entering the recipient’s name, mobile phone number and a text message, a code will be sent to them with instructions on how to get their free Pepsi from their nearest “social vend” location. Not only can the gift be personalized by recording a short video right at the machine, but free colas can be sent to total strangers in what the company calls “Random Acts Of Refreshment.” The Basic Idea Bears Emulation The holes in this strategy are obvious even from just a cursory reading. Unless PepsiCo replaces all of their current machines with one these new models, the recipient may find themselves many miles away from their free bottle. Furthermore, many of their inner city vending machines are encased in steel bars, so their nifty touchscreen webcam units will soon be pried out with screwdrivers and sold in back alleys. Let’s not even mention that some hacker will break into the Pentagon’s networks through a cola machine. However, it is the basic idea that bears emulation by bar and nightclub owners and managers, certainly not Pepsi’s conceptually flawed implementation. Free Drink to Another Subscriber The profile of the Pepsi social vend customer is essentially similar to that targeted by your bar or nightclub’s email marketing campaign: they’re mostly mobile device enabled, they like to connect with each other and they like to drink! Well… at least cola! Offering your email marketing newsletter subscribers a one time code to obtain a free drink or other incentive for one of their friends can be a remarkably successful ploy. Chances are that the friend they send along to is not currently on your subscription list, and the text content you include along with the code could certainly incentivize them to sign up to see what other goodies can be had. Forcing the gift recipient to sign up in order to obtain their code is a hard sell scheme that should be avoided, as social media participants do not look lightly on being coerced into doing anything at all. Light hearted innocent altruism (or at least the semblance of it) is the approach that works best in the social networking sphere. Varying Levels of Gift Codes As for how your serving staff would validate these email gifts, it could be patterned along the way that automated car washes work. They provide you a code that you enter into the keypad at the entrance to the drive-thru tunnel and you get exactly the type of wash cycle you paid for. The free drink codes could be entered into the main computer system through an easily concocted validation process that uses your POS system or even the bar staff’s mobile smartphones as input devices. You could even offer different codes for different levels of gifts. The codes sent to your more casual customer segments could offer a free draft beer or glass of house white wine, while your habitual high rolling VIPs could be empowered to send along a bottle of Dom Perignon. Even the “Random Acts Of Refreshment” could be emulated in your bar or nightclub setting. Why not offer your subscribers the opportunity to send a free drink to a subscriber of their preferred gender completely at random? The sender would not know who the recipient is but the subscriber receiving the gift would be informed of the person’s identity and could reply, if they wished, through an email address anonymizer like a Craigslist posting. In social media email marketing, your imagination is the only limit!


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The Impact of Mexico’s New Personal Data Exclusion & Breach Laws

Beyond • May 9, 2011

“As a straight black man who is wheelchair bound after an accident in a CTM unionized shop caused by dizziness due to sickle cell anemia, I object to the anti-Catholic, anti-family tone of the PRD\'s latest campaign so I\'m switching my vote to PAN.”https://blog.benchmarkemail.com/ https://blog.benchmarkemail.com/ If you have that statement from a Mexican citizen on your computer systems and just that one lone sentence is compromised and revealed, congratulations! You\'ve just violated the \"sensitive personal data\" regulations of Mexico’s new federal government laws punishing each unauthorized release of:https://blog.benchmarkemail.com/ Genetic information Philosophical and moral beliefs Political views Present and future health status Racial or ethnic origin Religious beliefs Sexual preference Union membershiphttps://blog.benchmarkemail.com/ …with a fine of over $3 million and ten years in jail. That one statement above is a Grand Slam hitting each of the eight factors, so now you can look forward to eighty years in a Mexican prison, right after your check for $24 million clears the bank. Mexico’s new legislation definitely has sharp and jagged teeth and any email marketer with even one Mexican citizen on their subscription list would be well advised to take special precautions to avoid a debacle. Under Mexican law, if just 2% of the 77 million personal records revealed in the recent Sony Playstation Network breach were Mexican citizens, the Japanese electronics giant would be hit with fines totaling $4.6 trillion dollars - which is roughly equal to Japan’s entire Gross Domestic Product. What Constitutes \"Legitimate Reasons\" for Total Personal Data Deletion? Mexico implemented its Robinson exclusionary list several years ago to allow citizens to place their telephone numbers onto a national do not call database. Similarly to the other Robinson list systems implemented by a variety of nations, it has proven effective in ceasing the calls from legitimate, reputable telemarketing firms while at the same time being a boon for snake oil salesmen who thumb their nose at the law and use the list as a juicy database of leads to be milked. The new Mexican online citizen rights legislation allows any individual to demand complete data deletion directly from a company for what are deemed “legitimate reasons.” The Mexican courts have yet to weigh in on what the legal level of “legitimacy” entails, but it could be as quirky as “I don’t like your company because you changed your policies / prices / logo / chile relleno recipe.” The Law Is Packed with Imprecise Language Open to Court Interpretation The Mexican regulations also call for a company to “immediately” notify its customers of any data breach that would “significantly” affect them. This legal language is also open to a wide spectrum of interpretation by the courts. Is a “significant” effect the disclosure of the customer’s credit card number, or just their phone number or email address? Furthermore, what is “immediate?” In some cases companies may not be aware that their systems have been breached by hackers until months after the fact. Does “immediate” refer to when the act occurs or when the company admits it publicly? Personal Data to Be Kept at DoD Top Secret Security Level? The law also requires that companies marketing to Mexican citizens apply security measures to protect their customers\' personal data that are not “inferior to those they keep to manage their own information.” This statement is yet another trip wire, as a corporation acting as a defense contractor to the Mexican government would have to maintain its email subscription list as Top Secret as the most sensitive data provided to them by the Department Of Defense! Questioning Mexico\'s Enforcement Priorities Observers seem to be split as to whether a government that has proven fairly ineffective in quelling the heated drug wars that have claimed the lives of tens of thousands of its own people is able to exercise the political will and bureaucratic capability to enforce the violations of such adamantine laws on cyberspace. Some believe that this will be just another “paper law” with little to no enforcement, while others claim that due to the incentive of the massive fines that can be levied, the Mexican federal government may adopt the policy of some small, budget strapped American towns: plunk traffic cameras along known speeding streets not so much for safety concerns but to use as a fine-machine cash cow. Regardless of any personal viewpoint, Mexico’s new laws deserve the careful attention of any email marketer to that nation.


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5 Tactics that Can Improve Your Delivery Rate

Beyond • May 9, 2011

You have an online business. Of course, for your business to succeed you need a strong, comprehensive email marketing campaign. But, no matter how strong your email marketing campaign, there is no way you can completely control whether or not your email will make it to your target\'s inbox, or that it will be opened when it does. ISPs often change the way they block emails and your readers may have intense security filters set on their accounts. Even though the odds may seem stacked against you, don\'t get discouraged. Here are five tips that can help your email land in that inbox. 1. Spam Checkers Before you click that send button on your marketing email, make sure that you run it through a spam checker. Spam checkers scan you email for any spam \"triggers\" or \"red flag words\" that may prevent them from reaching their destination. Any email marketing service worth its salt should have one, and if you choose to do your email marketing without the help on an outside company, you can find a number of free spam checkers online. 2. Test, and Test Again Now that email is checked on smartphones and mobile devices as often as it is on laptops and desktops (if not more so), it\'s important to test your email on a few different devices and platforms. First of all, testing your email will make sure that it looks good on the screen. Emails that don\'t load properly almost always end up in the trash. More importantly, if there are any breaks in the layout code, a server may mistake your email for spam and send it right to the spam box. Always make sure that your emails are good to go before sending them to your entire email list. 3. More Testing: Subject Lines The email subject line may be the most important part of your campaign. It\'s the first thing that the reader sets their eyes on, and the first impression is always the most important. Steer clear of unnecessary punctuation. Depending on the person who is receiving the email and the spam filters they have set on their account, a single exclamation point, dollar sign or spammy word could kill your email. 4. Help Your Readers Help You Make it easy for your readers to whitelist you. The easier you make it for your audience to receive your emails, the more likely they are to keep opening them. Include a \"whitelist me\" link in your email that leads to a page on your site that shows your readers how to whitelist your emails on popular platforms like Google, Yahoo and Apple Mail. 5. Give Them Options While you may have put a lot of time and effort into making your email look sharp - pictures, video, a slick template - not everyone wants to be visually wowed. There are still a lot of meat and potatoes people out there who want their information delivered to them in the simplest of ways. Give these folks a text only option by adding a link at the top of your email that will direct them to a text only version of your campaign. Like I said, there is no way to guarantee that your email will reach its destination, but the more your refine your emails and learn to watch out for spammy words and red flags, the more often you\'ll hit your mark - and you can be sure your business will benefit.


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Make Email Newsletters Interactive: Give Users a Reason to Click

Beyond • May 6, 2011

Getting email newsletter subscribers to interact and take action is more important than ever in today’s communication channel. Long gone are the days when sending coupons and special offers was enough to provoke a response. Recipients get enough of this as it is, plus falling into that trap only makes it harder for you to stand out from the bunch. In 2011, it’s all about engaging the reader. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do increase interaction among your subscriber base. Following are some examples: Make Your Message Social Do you currently have a presence in the social media space? If so, that presence can be leveraged as a way to get your subscribers to interact. By simply including social media links and icons in your newsletter and coupling them with specific calls to action, you can dramatically boost the activity within your message. Don’t have a social presence? That’s okay, because you can still take advantage. It is now possibly to easily embed social sharing buttons that provide a convenient way for subscribers to pass along your newsletter for you. What can be better than having them share your content on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter? Create a Survey Getting your subscribers to provide you with feedback can be just as effective as getting them to make a purchase. All it takes is a simple survey to gather valuable insight that can be used to create content that is more to their liking and helps to improve your email marketing efforts. People love to share their opinions, so make them see the value in giving their feedback and most of your subscribers will be happy to participate. A newsletter gives you plenty of real estate for embedding an HTML survey, but if that\'s not an option, don’t hesitate to set one up on your website or blog and include a link to it. The same benefits are up for grabs. Target Your Marketing Efforts You can incorporate all the interactive elements you want, but your newsletter will continually fail to get a response if it is lacking in the relevance department. People want to read stuff that piques their interests. They want content that benefits them specifically. Just because you are sending a newsletter doesn’t mean you can’t tailor your message to suit individual preferences. If you want to get more subscribers interacting and clicking links, segment your list and start treating them as individuals rather than a single entity. Sorry to say, but what one reader cherishes as quality content could be considered crap by the next. Many of your subscribers are drowning in newsletters and emails from other marketers who share your ambitions. For this reason, it is crucial to find a way to connect with them and stand out from the crowd. Not all of them may be ready to move today, but if you keep at it, they just might decide to take you up on your offer and provide the interaction you’ve been looking for in due time.


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Plan a Fiesta with These Cinco de Mayo Email Templates

Beyond • May 3, 2011

I always thought that Cinco de Mayo was Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s not. Although it is a time for those living in the United States to celebrate their Mexican heritage and pride. In that way, it is like an Independence Day. After all, I generally spend Independence Day throwing back domestic brews and belting out “Proud to be an American” while draped in the red, white and blue. Swap out the domestic beers for some Coronas or Dos Equis and the red, white and blue for green, white and red and you’ve got yourself a rocking Cinco de Mayo celebration. Living in Los Angeles, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to enjoy a Cinco de Mayo celebration or four. I’ll find a nice, authentic Mexican restaurant and enjoy me some fish tacos. I’m getting hungry just thinking of it. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with your subscribers. Use a Benchmark Cinco de Mayo email template for a campaign worthy of the Most Interesting Man in the World. After all, I don’t always celebrate holidays that I can’t claim as my own, but when I do, I prefer Cinco de Mayo.


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