Tags: Email Marketing

Benchmark: One of Few Privacy Shield Certified Email Marketing Platforms

Benchmark: One of Few Privacy Shield Certified Email Marketing Platforms

• February 17, 2017

Transparency and protecting your data has always been of utmost importance to us. Even before the Privacy Shield was ratified, we ensured that we were TRUSTe certified and you can rest assured that the lists that you upload to our platform are yours alone. We will never use, rent or sell your client lists. That said, though, we are very excited to announce that we are now one of a select few companies that have been shown to comply with the Privacy Shield’s data protection requirements. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of questions on just what that means, so I’ve decided to answer five of the most pressing Privacy Shield questions asked by our customers. If you do have any others, feel free to leave a comment or contact us personally on support@benchmarkemail.com, subject: Privacy Shield. What is the Privacy Shield? Privacy Shield imposes stronger obligations on US companies to protect the personal data of Europeans. The agreement obliges the companies involved to enforce greater transparency and there are several redress possibilities. It also, for the first time, includes restrictions on the access that US public authorities have to the data. What does that mean? It means that your personal data can be transferred from the EU to a company in the United States as long as the company there “processes (e.g. uses, stores and further transfers) your personal data according to a strong set of data protection rules and safeguards. The protection given to your data applies regardless of whether you are an EU citizen or not.” How does it work? Any company that wants to be recognised as fulfilling the requirements of the Privacy Shield must get certified. Additionally, this certification is renewed on a yearly basis. If a company does not renew, they will not be able to receive and use data from the EU under this particular framework. How do I know if a company is Privacy Shield certified? Very easily. You can check by searching the official Privacy Shield list. Here’s the link: https://www.privacyshield.gov/list. If the company searched for is Privacy Shield certified, they will appear among the active results like this: What are the rights and obligations outlined in the agreement? You’ll find a full explanation of the Privacy Shield together with all rights and obligations in the following link http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/document/citizens-guide_en.pdf. A few key points include: You have a right to be informed generally. Whether that’s you being informed about how and why your data will be used, how to access your personal data or how to make a complaint There are now limitations on how your data can be used for different purposes The company is obliged to minimise the data it has on you and keep that data for only as long as can be proven necessary The company must keep your data secure In the case that it is necessary for your data to be transferred to another company, the Privacy Shield company must protect your data You have a right to access and correct your data You have the right to complain and receive a resolution. There are several ways to lodge a complaint You have the right to redress if your data is accessed by US public authorities Is there anything else I need to know? Yes, and it’s very important. We heard from a few customers that there was a rumour that any US-based company wanting to work with European data would need servers in Europe. This is completely false. The only requirement is that US-based companies comply with the Privacy Shield and we do. Your data is safe with us. If you are not yet a Benchmark customer but would like to know if your email marketing provider complies with current legislation, access the link we have provided above and search for them. If they don’t appear, they are not certified so your data and information may be at risk. Want to know more? Browse the following two official Privacy Shield documents or get in touch on support@benchmarkemail.com. Fact Sheet: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/files/factsheets/factsheet_eu-us_privacy_shield_en.pdf Guide to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/document/citizens-guide_en.pdf  


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Email Marketing Funnels: Two Ways You’re Creating Blockades

Email Marketing Funnels: Two Ways You’re Creating Blockades

Beyond • February 16, 2017

Few marketing managers see email campaigns as it’s own separate entity in need of full management. In fact, few companies, allow for a unique email marketing manager who can focus on just email marketing. In most cases, likely due to limited understanding of email marketing or lack of resources, email marketing is seen as a peg in the marketing wall. While it’s possible to do this, the problem arises when email is not at least treated like its own unique system, which it needs to be. When it’s not treated uniquely, it’s very easy to succumb to common missteps that create a bottleneck in your marketing game. Here are some common ways that can happen: Widespread Campaigns It would seem counter-intuitive that a broad campaign would actually create a bottleneck, but that’s very likely. When you said a broad campaign, it’s a lot like sending out spam. The content won’t be tailored to different audiences. The data will also be misleading because you’ll have either too much to work or data that’s spread over too many different variables. It is much better to send to a segmented list of people so your campaign can be relevant to each group. If you have to send a campaign to your entire list, then at least send it through segmentation based on best practices and behavior patterns. You can break it up by demographic, purchase habits, topic interest or style/tone preference, and stage of audience and consumer cycle. Notice that your message isn’t changing, you’re just doing a better job of speaking in the language someone is more likely to understand or respond to. This allows your data to return to you in customized segmented doses, which is a lot easier to process and piece back together again. The Unsolicited Campaign If you’re still starting out and building your email list or trying to grow it to meet your enterprise stage of business. Sending to people haven’t necessarily subscribed to your email list is always going to create a backlash because now you’re dealing with an angered audience, or at the very least a higher percentage of unopened rates, higher bounce rates, less click throughs and more unsubscribes. At the enterprise level where reports matter and stakes are higher with investors or prospective investors, what this does is skew your reports unfavorably. So while it may be nice to think you’ve got 200 more subscribers this week, and you might feel good about sharing that, the fact is the people who matter aren’t going to care about that when they’re looking at the data that’s leftover when all’s said and done. That said you can tap into subscribers you didn’t even know you had: LinkedIn. There’s a way to export your contacts and import them as a new contact list. This can be done several times across the company with different stakeholders. Note though that at an enterprise level, this means that a CEO could use his LinkedIn email contacts in campaigns that come from him, versus from brand. That changes if the CEO is the brand. Understanding email bottleneck triggers is also about being a lean business. The more you can forecast what is going to be an obstacle in your ability to conduct business, the better off you are. This way you’re acting proactively instead of reactively once the bottleneck has kicked in.


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What Is A/B Testing?

What Is A/B Testing?

Beyond • February 10, 2017

There are practical strategies built into most ESPs of which many marketers are not taking advantage. One such strategy is A/B Testing. What this strategy does is give you a window into the minds of your subscribers and see how they are most likely to engage with your email campaigns. Probably the most common A/B Test is a subject line split test. It’s your email campaign’s first impression and your best shot at getting opens. How important is your subject line? Check out these stats: 19 Subject Line Stats Impacting Our Open Rates from Sidekick What Can I A/B Test Besides Subject Lines? A subject line A/B test is just the start. We recently sat down to discuss many other A/B tests that you can attempt. Here’s what we said: In An A/B Test, Why Is It Important To Only Test One Element At A Time? Now that you’ve got an idea of the various types of A/B tests that you can execute, it’s important to know how to test. Patience is key, as it’s imperative you only test one thing at a time.


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Creative and Personalized Birthday Email Campaigns

Creative and Personalized Birthday Email Campaigns

Beyond • January 31, 2017

People love feeling special. As a marketer or brand representative, this is a huge “in” for you. Whether it’s birthdays, births, or special victories, there are certain milestones in your client or audience’s life that you should always be celebrating. As your company grows, though, this is harder to keep up with - except for birthdays. Birthdays are a perennial opportunity, a consistent year date that will always have special meaning to your clients. This is the date that should also matter to you. Recognizing your clients’ birthdays gives us a chance to say “hey, look at me.” Of course, you’re recognizing their special day but that recognition is coming from you - so they’re also going to be recognizing you. This is a classic social media move: always wish people a happy birthday. Many times that just gets you on someone’s radar and/or it opens up a dialogue. This is where email marketing is more special. If you’ send your email subscriber a birthday email campaign - especially if it’s personalized - you’re able to send them a digital card versus what everyone else is doing, which is just sending them a message. Birthday campaigns can be automated. Put it in your project management system to set aside a couple hours at the start of each month or quarter and schedule email campaigns. The more personalized, the better. Even using someone’s name or getting their style down and sending them something tailored to suit their tastes shows you’ve taken the extra step as a brand. When sending a campaign you can offer a discount code or a freebie with purchase. If you’re able to, the best bet is to send a small gift that they can redeem by entering a special code on your landing page at checkout. It can have a $5 or $10 value, but it’s something they’re getting for free that triggers interest. Even just directing a consumer to your landing page to enter the code - even without purchase - will likely get them to make that purchase. However, it’s really about more than just the purchase. It’s about the brand and creating bonds with consumers. Sephora, a titanic makeup retailer, offers a pretty decent sized freebie. They offer a special “birthday cake” scented bath soap or bubble bath. For the retailer, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to how much they make a year. For recipients, it became a huge talking about and got people to sign up for the mailing list in order to get the freebie. There’s the real silver lining in giving away something in an email campaign - and that’s getting people to sign up as your subscriber in the first place. Even if you’re giving away something of small value to you, you’re gaining subscribers who are going to likely hang on in the long run, which means they will also be exposed to other email campaigns. And who said the act of giving is more rewarding than the act of receiving? If you plan it right, you can both give and receive for mutual gain.


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When Social Media Platforms Die, Your Email List Stands Strong

When Social Media Platforms Die, Your Email List Stands Strong

Beyond • January 31, 2017

Rule number one of any website design project is that you keep as much of your data and mechanics under one umbrella. Here’s why: If you’re building a website that relies on third-party apps and platforms to flesh that out, you’re compromising your ability to keep your website and data intact as those apps and platforms naturally die over time. Say you invest $5k in a website but then rely on a completely different third party app to build out the community forum -- what will you do if that third party forum app goes out of business? What will you do if they sell to another business that then changes pricing or the model itself? In any of those situations, your digital assets are completely compromised and beyond your control. It is not uncommon for even the most popular apps themselves to cut off from the third party apps they also use. In fact, Snapchat did exactly this recently. This brings us back to how else the same rule of security and data applies to our business in other - even lesser known - ways: our social media platforms. Third party apps aren’t the only thing to die off. Think of all the social media platforms that have come and gone. Sure you might not have used some of them but everyone used MySpace - and what happened when MySpace died out, changed it’s direction to once again be focused on music, and/or you choose to leave it for Facebook? What happened to all your contacts as they chose to leave and migrate elsewhere? Let’s look at some of the data concerns to hit just MySpace alone. After its decline, MySpace \"vanished\" user blogs. All that hard-won content and the engagement with it disappeared overnight for some people. It was particularly damaging to users who hadn’t saved the content elsewhere or relied on MySpace as their platform. The social media platform pushed for this move in an effort to \'modernize\' their platform. All that user history and critical records went in the blink of an eye without any notice or ability to retrieve content. MySpace and LinkedIn were also hit by hackers, an attack that compromised the login credentials for millions of users -- that then compromises their accounts. 427 million MySpace accounts were hacked and 100 million LinkedIn users were attacked, their info then up for sale to the highest bidder on the dark web. The 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report showed cyber security crimes as one of the biggest threats, costing an estimated $2 trillion by 2019. The fact remains, any social media platform is a target. The bigger the platform, the bigger the target it becomes. The same holds true for those social media platforms that might be attacked for political reasons and their policies when it comes to censorship. And if they have secured their walls against these attacks, there is still nothing to ensure that the company won’t change their method of practice or business, or sell to another company. This speculation is especially the case for Twitter and Facebook as they become more entrenched in political affiliations through management interests or investor interests. The point is, you can’t control the direction of the platform in the future, but you can minimize your damages. LinkedIn is a great place to start. LinkedIn, the biggest business social media platform there is, allows users to export their contact list which you can then integrate into your email lists. At the end of the day, your email list is the only real tangible asset you have -- the one thing that stays with you as platforms rise and fall. Having a list of engaged subscribers - especially subscribers you’ve been able to curate from social media as well in case those platforms fail -- is worth its weight in gold. This is the tribe of people who will stay with you even as the digital landscape changes. With Benchmark’s Automation Pro, you can set up a journey to optimize the lists and increase engagement with the subscribers. At the end of the day, it’s not just about having that list; it’s about how you use that list and how you maintain its integrity.


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3 Brand Points to Communicate with New Subscribers

3 Brand Points to Communicate with New Subscribers

Beyond • January 23, 2017

One of the top email marketing questions on Quora is about what type of email campaigns should be sent to new subscribers. You shouldn’t be thinking of one-off email campaigns to send to subscribers. Instead, you should have ready-to-go email marketing campaigns that are automatically sent out to every new subscriber. This means beyond setting up that trigger email, you can cross this question off the list until you revisit it in a year to update that email campaign. So the real question is, what sort of automation campaigns should new subscribers be receiving? The answer is a branded email campaign.  Communicating your brand is going to be absolutely critical in a new subscriber automation email. You’re essentially sending an email campaign to someone who has opted in but in often cases is opting in to see what you’re really about. Someone who opts into an email campaign has actually set foot in your house and taken a seat at your table. A first-time email campaign opt-in means they’re stepping closer to your home and taking a peek through the window. That first email they get from you is what they’re going to be seeing when they look into your home. So the next question is what brand points should be communicated? Brand points need to really reflect your brand and what makes your voice and vision unique. But to break it down it really comes down to these three identifiers: Structure The first is structure. Structure is another word for template, but it’s about more than just the frame of your email campaign. A structure means that the design and information layout needs to follow the thought process that visitors experience when they’re on your site. This means that you’re your stand-alone email campaign, which can always be converted to a URL, should look like it’s jumped off your website as a landing page. A lot of companies miss the mark on this. The graphics don’t mirror the site and the tone is totally different as well. This isn’t branding. Branding means consistency. These mistakes most often happen because of a design failure. Companies invest months in a website design but don’t put that same thought into an email design or even in creating custom email graphics – all things that are part of the structure of any campaign. Key Language & Phrasing The next thing to consider is key language and phrasing, which should be spread throughout the campaign. Everything from the tagline to the linked articles or key features with bolded headlines should reflect the key ideas that your brand drives. This might seem easy because it\'s often the case that your first campaign to new subscribers is a short intro message and a set of linked articles with strong graphics – but what you choose to share needs to tell a story. You have to really think about what you’re going to share here and whether it drives the value your company and brand have to offer. Some tough calls will need to be made here. Authority The last is authority. Relaying brand authority is a lot simpler than it sounds, but it’s also often overlooked. Authority is about trust and letting your new subscriber know they can rely on you. For retailers, this means letting consumers know that your online purchases will be made safely. For data-driven companies that rely on a service or information dissemination, it’s about letting subscribers know others trust you. These are pieces of information that can be included in the footer. In fact, it’s a key conversion heuristics principle: calming anxiety in a prospect in order to encourage conversion. For email marketing campaigns that not only means fewer unsubscribes; it also means increased conversion possibilities.


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New Drag & Drop Editor Updates

New Drag & Drop Editor Updates

Product & Design • January 20, 2017

We’ve already introduced you to the Lean Journey that we are all undergoing here at Benchmark. It’s a process of eliminating waste and continuous improvement. In 2017, our goal is to increase the lean focus on our product. The first such example of that is the improvements we have made to our Drag & Drop Email Designer. It will now be easier than ever to create your next email campaign … not to mention faster! Don’t fear, we haven’t removed any of your favorite features. We’ve simply reorganized a few items to improve your workflow. Editor Navigation For our Layouts, Blocks and Global Styles tabs, we’ve replaced the navigation icons with title text. It’s another improvement toward making things simple, easier to understand and more efficient to use. Our UX team has really worked to keep the marketer in mind and we hope these changes will continue to establish Benchmark as the clear and best email marketing solution. Improved Content Block Organization Each content block has now been broken down into two tabs: Container and Content. The container tab controls the outer block settings. This includes background color, outer padding, and everything else which wraps the content. The content tab involves the insides, or all the pieces within that container and how they relate to each other. It’s the relationship for how the elements work together within your block. For example, in the Image Caption block, whether an image is to the left or to the right of your text is set in the Content tab. Text Editing Toolbar Update We’ve cleaned up the toolbar with an eye towards form and function and a better experience for various browsers and devices as well. If you’re on a smaller screen, the toolbar will now collapse into the more menu. This will keep everything available to you while presenting a quicker and more user-friendly toolbar. Expect to see these updates live in your Benchmark account beginning next week.


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How Key Points of Contact, Good Data Design Can Help with Click & Open Rates

How Key Points of Contact, Good Data Design Can Help with Click & Open Rates

Beyond • January 20, 2017

At the enterprise level, the average email marketing campaign can take anywhere from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the scale of the email. You invest time in designing and crafting content for the email, only to shoot it out into cyberspace with the hope of a blind arrow. You’re trusting people are reading. If we’re being honest, most of us are really just hoping someone reads it. That by definition is a bad email marketing practice. It would be like renting a boat to go fishing, picking the best spot, getting the best bait and putting in all that work only to walk away from the fishing line as soon as you’ve cast it into the water. Doing all that work not to see through the final step is not what a lean agency does. A lean agency sticks around to see how much fish took the bait. In your case, each email marketing campaign you send out is like a finishing line cast into the water. Part of the complete email marketing cycle is to go around to your email marketing reports and see what your click and open rates look like. Understanding click and open rates – from the entire email down to the links within the email – is something that’s integral to your success. Doing this ritually after every campaign means you’re understanding your data. With a true sense of what your data looks like, you’re able to adapt your future campaigns so that your email marketing efforts are an investment in your brand messaging that nurtures sales or audience loyalty. Data Diagnosis that Looks at Key Points of Contact Understanding data was key for Gen Next, an exclusive members-only group that helps moves entrepreneurs from being successful to being impactful by getting them involved in world-changing conversations. Gen Next’s audience base are comprised of powerful people with very little free time on their hands. This means that in order for them to read something, it has to be worth their time. You would think the default tone of a successful email campaign for this audience would be somewhat serious. However, that strategy wasn’t quite so effective and yielded incredibly low open rates. Their marketing team started with the first breadcrumb in any campaign: the subject line. They switched it up from stuff to interesting, creating a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) that was the one thing that really drove their membership in the first place. Click and open rates bumped up within the first week. The ability to even question the first step in your audience’s encounter with our campaign is something that’s initiated when you look at data. Data allows us to step outside of the emotionally driven nature of marketing, and look at things with the objectivity of a scientist. At the end of the day, we’re not scientists. We don’t want to be buried in data, which is why data design matters just as much as the data itself. Why Good Data Design is Part of a Happy Ending Your email template isn’t the only thing that should be well designed. For most marketing teams, analytics is an incredible challenge. It’s time-consuming to read through and — if we’re being honest — a little difficult to comprehend. This is why choosing an email marketing provider that can deliver well-designed analytics is going to be something you’ll want to consider. Benchmark, for example, offers a clean analytics report with a simple design that lays out the information in two ways. This way you’re able to quickly scan to get a big picture and a more detailed report that doesn’t take more than a few seconds to understand. By comparison, leading email marketing providers offer more rudimentary analytics which gives you a few numbers but doesn’t give you the big picture.


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Customer Engagement Is The New Email

Customer Engagement Is The New Email

Beyond • January 11, 2017

For many, just sending email to subscribers is missing the point. There is a person behind every email address and that is an important fact which cannot be forgotten. Email marketing is not the blasters of the world who may find ROI in the short term with low open rates, but a few big sales. Deliverability may start to fail that marketer. It’s the long-term game of creating sustainable success by having a conversation with your subscribers. Let’s work backward for a second. When talking to Millennials, have you ever stopped to count the number of social media accounts they’re using let alone actively using? Listen more closely and you’ll see how many times in passing conversation they’ll say they didn’t get a notification or the notification was buried in dozens of other notifications that are piling up with each point of contact across their network. The fact is, Millennials are overwhelmed with social media data. The email account they have however is now one of the most competitive places you can go to get their attention and engage them. Hardly anyone else is there vying for their attention. For the rest of you - the older generations - email sounds outdated because of how this group specifically sees email. They see it as a chore rather than the opportunity it is: a direct, uninterrupted one-on-one time where you get to say more than 120 characters. It’s the place where once they’ve clicked, they’re in your world. There are no other comments or advertisements or scrolling sidebars competing for their attention. They’re yours. This is where customer engagement begins. It begins with realizing that emails aren’t a memo shoot, a black hole vacuum where messages go in one direction into an abysmal void of no return. In truth, email is the most real time digital space you’re going to get where YOU get to focus on the audience. That’s a mindset shift and it starts with eliminating the word email and replacing it with “customer engagement.” So while your competitors are still doing email marketing, you’re at the frontier of communications. You’re engaging. This isn’t a totally new concept to be asking a lot of you to get your head around. Your business is probably already in the engagement gear. Let’s take a look at how that’s the case: you’ve just gotten done reaching out to your audience for the holiday season. Maybe you’ve thrown real time events to bring brand and customer together. Or you get on the phone and hear the latest concerns from your subscribers and readers. You’re ALREADY engaged. You’re just now stretching that to make sure your email campaigns reflect the same value in your direct brand to user contact. The question you invariably end up at is how to measure engagement? Is it the number of clicks, open rates, or the follow throughs? Maybe it’s a combination of all three, but per campaign, it will depend on the desired call to action. So for that reason, don’t stick to a hard and fast rule about how engagement is measured. It is a moveable goal. That said, customer engagement means you’re also measuring success by engaged customers versus just the numbers and analytics. For example, a 100% open rate is wonderful for any company. Yet, even with stunning return rates like that you can’t guarantee there was any engagement. Engagement might look more like 35% open rate mixed with 3 reader responses directly to you and 2 shares on social media. That’s how you measure customer engagement. In simpler terms think of throwing a dinner party. Everyone on your guest list attended, but no one engaged you. No one laughed, had a drink or shared stories. How much more ‘real’ is your event if just 5 out of 55 people showed up but everyone had a really great time and talked about your stellar party with their brunch pack the next day? That right there is what customer engagement should look like. It’s not about who is on your list or who pops in the door. It’s about who stayed to play and walked away with a shareable experience.


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Building Exclusivity: Turn Your Email Marketing Into A VIP Destination

Building Exclusivity: Turn Your Email Marketing Into A VIP Destination

Beyond • January 5, 2017

The ever brilliant Jacobin magazine, self-billed as Reason in Revolt, published a creative piece that looks at demographic exclusivity. Titled “Twenty-First Century Victorians,” writer Jason Tebbe examines niche group in society that lives in yoga pants and shops at health food stores. Just like the morally superior culture of the Victorian-era, this new group looks to set itself apart through what it sees as superior lifestyle choices that mirror their values. This is a particularly interesting observation from a marketing perspective because it flies in the face of branding that tells you to appeal to everyone, to push for a level of sameness in the hopes of connecting with a wider net group.  Let’s look at spin classes and gluten-free diets, for example. While these things are for everyone, they go further for others. They grow into becoming part of a lifestyle for some. And through that, consumers carve out their own identity. Let’s repeat that. You’re not building a brand that caters to people. You’re building a brand in which people find themselves, in which they identify themselves. While Tebbe looks at it from a larger consumer point of view, we can look at it in the other ways exclusivity has surfaced and then apply it to email marketing. You see exclusivity in brand name labels and ivy league schools. You saw it in the art of Andy Warhol and between the walls of Studio 54. You even saw it in the iconic artists who passed away last year, including David Bowie, Prince and George Michael to name a few. These are all concepts, places and people that show something not everyone can have - and that makes them coveted. Exclusivity works because it appeals to basic psychology. For one, it signals scarcity. Not everyone has it or can have it means that it must be exceptional. And vice versa, once you build that value, scarcity heuristics kicks in which shows that it’s more difficult to acquire an item the more value it has. A blog post by Nir and Far sums this up pretty well by showing us how the context of a thing matters just as much as the thing itself. Consider what happened when the world-class violinist Joshua Bell decided to play a free impromptu concert in the Washington, DC subway. Bell regularly sells-out venues like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for hundreds of dollars per ticket. But placed in the context of the DC subway, his music fell upon deaf ears. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world. When Bell gave away his concert for free, few stopped to listen. But when he charges beaucoup bucks, his music becomes a rarefied commodity and thousands of people pay-up. For you, this doesn’t mean charge for your email marketing campaigns. What it means is offering content that is exclusive to just your email campaigns, whether it’s videos, image storytelling or exclusive content -- and then create buzz around that exclusivity by dropping teaser bread crumbs in social media, on your website and in the media and press circuits. Being able to successfully pull this off and position your email marketing as an exclusive VIP destination is something you can really only alongside building your brand and creating buzz around the thought leadership you have to offer in your industry.


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