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Email Templates: Don’t let routine cramp your style

April 29th, 2014 2 comments

Take a good, hard look at the things you do.

Perhaps you pour yourself a bowl of Raisin Bran every morning. Maybe you trot your dog along a certain path at the end of each day or peruse the same half-dozen websites during your lunch hour.

Now ask yourself why you do these things. Often, the answer is simply because you’ve always done them.

Such was the case for one of our MarketingSherpa Email Summit speakers.

Jessica Andreasen, Digital Marketing Manager, ZAGG, didn’t touch on her breakfast habits nor site surfing routines, but rather ZAGG’s habit of employing the same email template: a headline, supporting copy, multiple images, bullet points, one or two banner ads and multiple CTAs.

“We were using the same templates over and over,” Jessica told me in the Email Summit Media Center. “Our results were declining and we knew we had to do something different.”

 

For a customer appreciation campaign, the ZAGG team wanted to focus on a conversational tone, thanking the company’s loyal customers. However, when putting this together, the current template was restricting that message. Despite the fact the template was used again and again, Jessica implemented a change.

“I threw the template out and started with a clean slate and just decided what I wanted it to do,” she said. “What did I want this email to do and say?”

In her presentation, “Email Templates: How the No. 1 maker of mobile accessories tweaked promo emails to produce a 152% increase in revenue per email,” Jessica shared insights on how changing a template can significantly affect your results.

You can learn about what changes ZAGG made to its templates by watching Jessica’s full session from Email Summit. View a brief excerpt below:

 

When we chatted in the Media Center after her session, Jessica said she hoped the audience gained this key takeaway: step back and don’t let the template get in the way of what you want to say.

“You don’t have to stay with that same thing that you’ve always done,” she said.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even become inspired to swap your cereal for scrambled eggs today.

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Email Marketing: A canvas for visual storytelling

April 22nd, 2014 1 comment

Since the Stone Age and beyond, storytelling has been paramount for mankind. Sure, the modes and means have changed, but its prevalence certainly hasn’t.

But storytelling is getting better. Our ancestors may have only been armed with their voices (or grunts) and a rock on a wall to tell their tales. Now, our modern world is overflowing with ways to convey our stories.

Of course, we still have the old favorites like our voices and the written word, but with multimedia capabilities like GIFs, videos and PowerPoints, there’s no stopping our stories. In the email marketer’s world, the email is your canvas for a story, so why not approach it that way? Dell did.

David Sierk, Consumer & Small Business Email Strategy, Dell, joined us in Las Vegas as a speaker at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 back in February to talk about it. Dell needed to find a way to communicate the capabilities of its new product, the Dell XP 12 Convertible Ultrabook, which is a hybrid of a laptop and a tablet. A photo in an email wasn’t going to work. A bunch of text? Not happening.

“How do we visually tell a story of what this product does?” David asked me when we chatted in the Email Summit Media Center.

 

The Dell team decided that utilizing a GIF in the email marketing campaign would be the best way to effectively tell the Ultrabook’s story, ultimately lifting revenue 109%. If you weren’t at Summit this year (or just want to see it again), you can view David’s full session from Email Summit, “Old Dog, New Tricks: How Dell designed an email with old technology to launch a new product.” Watch a brief excerpt of this presentation below:

 

“I think now more than ever with the deluge of emails in a customer’s inbox, trying to get them to click on something is so important,” David said. “People are very visual so it’s tremendously beneficial to give them something to look at instead of forcing them to read through a ton of text.”

Visual storytelling isn’t easy. It’s a delicate craft that requires a certain eye. But when it’s done right, it’s invaluable.

At MarketingSherpa, we understand the importance of visual storytelling. In fact, we’ve implemented a position on our staff dedicated entirely to that skill (we’re hiring now). 

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Email Marketing: 4 steps to optimize a mobile experience for better conversion

April 15th, 2014 No comments

Mobile is big, but just how big is it?

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus, posed that question during her Industry Perspective session, “Email Design: How to optimize for all environments in a mobile world,” at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014.

mobile-demographics-chart

 

Almost half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, according to Litmus research. That’s definitely big – especially since it was just three years ago that Litmus found only 10% of emails were opened on mobile.

So what can we do to capitalize on this drastic shift?

Justine said we need to re-examine the subscriber experience from the mobile user’s perspective. While she covered the whole path, we’ll hit on four of the steps subscribers experience.

 mobile-conversion-path

 

Step #1. Don’t ignore pre-header text

Many inboxes are formatted so that users can see not only the subject line, but also a line of additional text in the email. This text is pulled from the first bit of text at the top of your email. However, you can hide this text and still have it show in the pre-header area if you wish.

The default text for most templates is not very valuable messaging. She showed these examples of dos and don’ts to the Summit audience:

mobile-preheader-examples

 

“My challenge to you is, is this a positive brand experience? Is this really what you want people to associate with your ‘From’ name and subject line? Go back and re-evaluate your pre-header text – it’s showing up in mobile inboxes everywhere,” Justine advised.

She suggested making your pre-header “tie into the subject line, bringing [readers] in and encouraging the click.”

The pre-header is another opportunity to infuse value into your email – don’t let it go to waste. iPhones cut your subject lines off at about 35 characters.

 

Step #2. Embrace scrolling in an opened email

mobile-email-comparison

 

This is the same email but it looks completely different. Why?

“It’s because not every smartphone or mobile device is going to support HTML and CSS or even display the email in similar way,” Justine said.

Plus, Android devices vary in what they do and don’t support, so they can be challenging to work with. Some scale the email, some cut off the right side of an email and some support responsive design. Justine said iPhones are a little friendlier, scaling to a 320-pixel width.

But with scaling comes other issues to keep in mind: text and images resize as well.

Justine hit on another key aspect of the user’s experience after opening an email on your email: scrolling.

“Scrolling is a really natural behavior on any mobile device,” she said. “Clicking, or tapping, represents a decision. It’s a point of friction that people are going to either have to embrace or move past.”

mobile-site-clicksIn an email like the one to the right, you don’t know where you’ll be tapping. Where will your finger land with so many small choices? You need to make the user experience more friendly in emails. You don’t need to compact as many options as possible “above the fold.” There is no fold on your iPhone.

“Embrace the scroll; people are inherently going to scroll on mobile devices,” Justine said.

 

Step #3. Recognize a finger is the new mouse

On mobile devices, people are not clicking. Instead, they’re tapping, rendering your “Click Here” call-to-action illogical. There is no mouse to click on a smartphone – only a finger, or stylus, to tap.

“’Click Here’ is a really crappy call-to-action anyway. You need to add a lot value, make sure the buttons are topical, and tell people what they’re going to get when they click or tap on your emails,” Justine said.

The “tap” experience is more than the text of your buttons and calls-to-action. It’s also about the area or location you want to physically tap.

Justine said, “You no longer have a one by one [pixel] target area. It’s more like a 40 by 40 target area.”

A finger requires more tapping space than a mouse needs clicking space. Make sure they can actually tap on that valuable CTA you crafted.

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Email Marketing: How a creative throwback helped Dell boost revenue 109%

March 18th, 2014 2 comments

Meeting customer expectations can be tough, but exceeding them consistently introduces a whole new set of challenges.

How do you build fresh excitement around a new product when customers have become comfortably numb?

This was the challenge facing Dave Sierk, Consumer & Small Business Email Strategist, Dell, who shared an interesting case study at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 on Dell’s approach to tackling this problem for a new product’s launch.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, let’s take a look at the throwback creative Dave and his team used to effectively communicate value.

 

Expectations on autopilot are tough to disrupt 

dell-laptop-emails

 

Dell launches a few products a year, and as you would expect, most of them are laptops.

When the team prepared to launch the XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook, a laptop that can transform from a laptop to a tablet, they realized communicating the new product’s value effectively would prove a little tricky.

 

Text and images don’t always cut it

A versatile range of motion is one of the core values of the product.dell-text-emails

How do you communicate that aspect through an email using text or images?

You can’t.

Image stills do not fully deliver the product’s fluid range of motion, and a wall of descriptive text telling customers about it is not very appealing either.

Let’s not forget an even bigger problem …

While the laptop’s motion could be demonstrated at a brick-and-mortar store, the gap in effectively demonstrating the product online would remain unsolved.

 

A blast from the past emerges as a solution

dell-gif-email

 

The team decided to use a GIF to illustrate the product’s full range of motion in the email campaign. Another advantage of using this throwback to the 90s was that the GIF solved the problem of showing online users how the product worked.

“It’s a great way for a customer to get a full understanding of how that product is going to work in their hands,” Dave said.

 

Delivering value to the inbox is why customers buy from you

dell-gif-email-results

 

After Dell compared the campaign’s performance against internal benchmarks, it proved a success. Dave’s team increased conversion 103% and boosted revenue 109%.

This example also serves as a reminder as to why capturing and delivering a value proposition is vital to your email efforts versus just plugging a few product images and text in an email and hoping for the best.

You have to go beyond just sharing what something is with customers and show them why it’s the ideal solution for them.

To learn more about this campaign and other inspirational and transferable takeaways from Email Summit 2014, check out the on-demand replay of “Email Summit 2014: Top takeaways from award-winning campaigns.”

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Email Marketing: Genuine mistake or evil genius email tactic?

March 4th, 2014 7 comments

Just the other day, I received an interesting email from a company that shall not be named (we’ll call them “the Brain” for the purposes of this post).

This email read, “Thank you for your interest in our 2013 Canadian Bacon Report.” I was invited to access my copy of the report, download my free copy of the presentation and attend a related webinar.

The thing is, while I am a subscriber of the Brain’s list, I was not at all interested in the report, nor did I ever indicate that I was ever interested (no offense to Canada).

I sat puzzled for a second and then just proceeded to delete and move on with my inbox purging.

Later that night, a little email notification popped up on my phone that stated, “Yeah, We Messed Up. Our Apologies … ”  It was from the Brain.

This conversational and customer service email informed me that they had a “technology glitch” and accidentally sent me the report.

“But don’t get us wrong,” the email stated, “This is a great report, as are all 18 of our global reports on bacon.”

Not-so-shameless plug.

They apologized for sending me something that may not have been of my interests.

Post apology, the Brain seized the opportunity to ask me to update my email preferences to make sure they were sending me email communications based on my preferred topics: “It will be less than 30 seconds, we promise.”

 

Genuine mistake or evil genius email tactic?

I wasn’t sure until curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to “update” my email preferences.

My conclusion: evil genius.

 

After I “updated my preferences” with information that was never asked of me when I signed up for the Brain’s list, I received a third email.

This email stated it all: “Subscription Confirmation: Thank you for joining the Brain’s mailing list.”

Update, not so much; list subscription ploy was more like it. I wasn’t sure whether I should be offended or impressed.

Whether this was truly a mistake or a calculated psychology tactic, it probably worked well for them for a couple of reasons.

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Email Summit 2014: Finding your email voice

February 19th, 2014 1 comment

Sometimes marketers might feel as though they are stuck in a permanent promotional cycle. Promo email after promo email goes out, and there are high expectations for each one.

It may make sense to the bottom line, but what is the cost to the relationship with your customers?

Discovering a human voice for your email content was one of the topics covered yesterday at the ninth annual MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014, held this year in Las Vegas, where marketers spoke about how a fresh perspective or voice can help keep the magic alive between a brand and consumers.

Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, in her Tuesday morning session spoke on her team’s tricky situation last year. The email channel was almost exclusively utilized for promotion, and had no real “voice” despite sending roughly 50 million emails a year.

“We were only talking at our customers, not really talking with them. We wanted to evolve beyond that,” she said.

 

Find your voice in unexpected places

When Marcia’s team decided to break away from promotions with a monthly newsletter establish a voice, they had to integrate two previously underutilized assets into the email sphere.

Calendars.com social media provided the voice with the plethora of quirky blog posts via Calendars.com’s official blog, “The Daily Grid,” useful tips and boards on Pinterest and a trademarked phrase, “Flip Day,” which gave the brand a fun excuse to reach out with content on the first of every month.

 

Even the interactive design of the Flip Day newsletter conveys the voice with an interactive grid calendar design that reinforces the brand with engaging and fun imagery. Marcia said they needed to consistently supply newsletter content that:

  • Entertains
  • Informs
  • Is seasonal and timely

The most important aspect, she added, was that if the voice and the content of the send didn’t provide a benefit to the subscriber, it would fail.

To provide that benefit, the days of each month are filled with celebrity’s birthdays, a “word of the month” and historical facts and helpful hints such as “25 make-ahead breakfast ideas” in every Flip Day newsletter. All of this content is interactive and links to Calendars.com Pinterest, Facebook and blog content.

Creating a consistent voice is more than just knocking off the company-speak, Marcia said. It’s a consistent balance of time and assets for the sake of consumer interaction. Sometimes, promotions and monetary goals have to be set aside for the sake of brand equity with your consumers.

“We’re more than just a website to order calendars for your family at Christmas,” Marcia said, adding that the Flip Day newsletter voice has allowed feedback that “is really exciting as a marketer to see someone value your content.”

 

Demolishing discount fatigue

Jessica Andreasen, Digital Marketing Manager, ZAGG, spoke in her Tuesday afternoon session about subscribers succumbing to discount fatigue.

“We’ve been doing the same promotions for years – buy-one-get-one, discounts, and we were just not seeing the same kind of results,” she said.

To better communicate with their customers, the team at ZAGG decided to totally reassess their email design template with an email send to loyal customers.

“A template can’t get in the way of what you need to say,” Jessica said.

Her team started with a conversation with ZAGG’s Web development team.

“Tell me everything you have. I don’t care if it’s relevant or not, tell me everything you have,” she explained.

Whatever data or information you are able to uncover can help you develop a voice that speaks to your consumer and anticipates their behavior.

With data in tow, Jessica’s team studied their current email template with the consumer in mind – how could they speak to them in the design?

She said it was decided they needed to:

  • Disarm the customer by only using one call-to-action, and placing it below the fold
  • Connect to the customer by using image and word selection to convey the email’s purpose to customers
  • Deliver value to the customer by ensuring product details are prominent

Jessica added, “We still needed to deliver value to our customers – we attempted to do this by enlarging and simplifying the text as well as programming a personalized image.”

Some ZAGG customers had been on the list for three or four years, and Jessica wanted to reward that brand loyalty.

“These are loyal customers. I wanted to have a conversation with them,” she said.

By fighting against the discount fatigue they were seeing and developing a voice through their template to communicate with subscribers, the ZAGG team was able to increase their revenue per email by 152%.

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E-commerce: 2 tactics to increase relevance in your email sends

February 11th, 2014 5 comments

Relevance.

Relevance is the biggest reason why a customer opens your emails amid the flurry of messages they don’t open.

True relevance is elusive, tough to achieve and even harder to maintain.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I wanted to share two tactics for moving the relevance dial that you can you can use to aid your own email marketing efforts.

 

Move from rebates to readership

For some marketing teams, promotional sending is habitual on a scale viewed as borderline narcotic.

With limited time and resources, incentives intuitively seem like the right move to drive sales, but when the customer experience becomes built on a quid pro quo discount purchase relationship, you’ve got a bit of a problem on your hands.

So how do you break the cycle of promotional-only emails?

Well, one approach Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, shared in a recent case study is to create relevant content that celebrates your product and engages your customers.

Marcia’s team realized that their problem was two-fold, as calendars are a seasonal product and even promotions have their limits with customers.

“There are only so many ‘calendar clearance’ messages that our subscribers will receive before they will opt-out,” Marcia explained, adding, “We don’t want our list to go cold. That would hurt us with our deliverability with the major ISPs.”

 

Marcia’s team built a monthly newsletter around blogging and social media that engaged their subscribers with year-round entertaining content.

Their move beyond promotions to audience building resulted in open rate increases of 46% over the previous year.

 

Customers will abandon more than just your cart

I think it’s important here to make a distinction.

Moving beyond a tactic doesn’t mean you abandon it altogether.

It just simply means you take one more deliberate step toward doing it better than you did yesterday, and hopefully better than the other guy.

For example, Laura Santos, Marketing Manager, Envelopes.com, saw an opportunity to move beyond cart abandonment triggers and seized it.

Laura’s team used their customer data to determine a chance existed to increase sales among their multiple-visit shoppers by sending emails to customers triggered by abandoned product pages that encouraged them to return and complete the transaction.

 

The tactic slashed checkout abandonment rates by 40% in less than two years while increasing overall checkout conversions by 65%.

You can learn more about how Laura’s team used triggered sends and testing to increase their ROI in a recent case study, “E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions.”

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Email Marketing Analytics: Fight for your right to not be bored

February 7th, 2014 No comments

200,000 clicks.

Is that good? Is that bad? Who knows?

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, Matt Bailey, President and Founder, SiteLogic, compelled marketers to “fight for your right not to be bored” at marketing meetings.

Analytics by themselves, he said, don’t mean anything unless you can apply a meaning to the numbers.

In this excerpt, Matt explained that marketers should ask three questions about analytics:

  1. Where did your visitors come from?
  2. What did they see?
  3. How did they react?

 

Knowing who your customers are and establishing what prompted customers to make an action can help you better target your audience and further segment them into specialized categories.

 

Email is highest profit-per-dollar activity

During his consultations, Matt’s team discovered that regardless of industry, “email is their highest profit-per-dollar activity.”

However, he added, companies aren’t leveraging email as effectively as it could or should be used.

 

When you send the same message to everybody, it doesn’t work

Companies need to determine whether or not customers are opening emails and if they are continuing on to the website through that email send.

Matt found that “when you send the same message to everybody, it doesn’t work.”

Companies should use analytics to analyze customer behavior in emails, and look at specific metrics including:

  • Which headlines prompted customers to open an email
  • From there, whether or not they were brought to the website, or other content within that email
  • How much time they spent engaged with the content

He also added that email is best treated as a conversation.

But when you write a single-send email, “you’re not having a valued conversation; you’re having a one-way announcement,” Matt explained.

The best way to see email numbers improve is by communicating value and relevance to the customer, which enables the customer to continue or initiate a conversation with you.

As Matt said, when it comes to the customer, “it’s all about value.”

Integrating analytics with email marketing provides the marketer with insights into customer behavior and how email marketing strategies can be improved. As a result, the marketer can better serve the customer with that insight, rather than just seeing those metrics as numbers on a page.

You can watch the full video replay of Matt’s Email Summit 2013 session in the MarketingSherpa video archives.

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Multichannel Campaigns: How do you avoid zombie marketing?

February 4th, 2014 No comments

Zombie marketing.

It’s where lackluster marketing runs rampant as customers are swarmed by hordes of mediocre messages.

So how do you avoid it?

 

Commit to breaking through the noise  

When you strip away all the fluff, marketing is a choice to communicate with the chance that someone might care enough to listen.  

But when you’re in an industry where there’s not much excitement, saying something of interest to customers can be tough. Christine Nurnberger, Vice President of Marketing, SunGard Availability Services, revealed some of the challenges she faced in taking on zombie marketing at SunGard, both figuratively and literally.

“Let’s be honest. Selling managed services, business continuity, production resiliency at the surface level isn’t really all that sexy,” Christine explained. “I was challenged by the CEO when I took on this position last October to find a way to really break through the noise of all the B2B technology clutter that’s out there.”

 

Focus on creating quality content for the channels that will help you break out

SunGard’s overall efforts across email, direct mail and social media were influenced by the buzz zombies are enjoying in popular culture. But according to Christine, the focus on delivering something of value to your customers is vital to your marketing’s survival.

“There is no substitute for really focusing on quality creative content that breaks through the noise,” Christine said.

To learn more about how you can survive zombie marketing, check out our next MarketingSherpa webinar, “How to Leverage the Zombie Apocalypse for an Award-winning Multichannel Campaign,” where Christine will reveal some key takeaways every marketer needs to stay ahead of the marketing undead.

Also, if you have any questions you’d like to ask Christine, tweet them to our host @DanielBurstein, or use #SherpaWebinar.

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Email Marketing: The benefits email campaigns can have for your business

January 17th, 2014 8 comments

“One of the biggest challenges we face is educating people about the benefits email campaigns can have for their business when they are done well.”

The above is a recent comment we received about the benefits of email marketing and e-newsletters. Perhaps you face a similar challenge with your clients or business leaders? To help you make the case, here are four benefits of email marketing.

 

Benefit #1. Social media is traffic, PPC is a billboard, but email is a fork in the road

Social media can be effective, but it doesn’t force a decision. It is much like traffic on a road – a nonstop flow of information. If you look over at the right time, you might see a particular car, and if you don’t, you may never notice it.

PPC advertising can be effective as well, but it is a distraction off to the side. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get noticed occasionally. However, it does not force an action. You can drive by a billboard without even noticing it.

Email, on the other hand, is a fork in the road. It forces a decision. Even if people simply delete an email without opening it, they took an action. While they were physically taking an action, your subject line had an opportunity to encourage an open.

Perhaps this is why so many social media platforms use email. Think about it – every time an action happens on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, you receive an email letting you know that it happened so you don’t miss it.

 

Benefit #2. Build your case over time (automatically)

By setting up a drip email nurturing campaign, you can take prospects from having a limited interest in your company to fully embracing your company’s value proposition – from tire kickers to warm leads.

For example, a gym chain was able to get 98% of people who qualify for a consultation to sign an agreement by using an email education drip campaign.

 

Benefit #3. Learn about your customers

“Hey”

This was one of the most effective messages for Obama for America that Zoltar himself could never have foretold.

By conducting A/B testing of email messages, the campaign learned what really resonated with its audience and generated more than $500 million in digital donations.

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