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Email Marketing: How the Kentucky Derby engages customers with relevant email

June 30th, 2015 No comments

The Kentucky Derby is a once a year event worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It has been held annually on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky since 1875.

It’s a race like no other, filled with traditions like the sweet taste of a mint julep dancing over the ice of a frozen silver cup, women in lavish hats ringed in a halo of soft glowing pearls and the victorious aroma of 554 red roses dripping across the backs of the winners.

Even with its long traditions, it takes a lot of effort and hard work to give the Kentucky Derby’s spectators exactly what they come to expect year after year as those expectations change through time.

To find out how the Kentucky Derby consistently makes this high level event continually more successful, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Kate Ellis, Marketing Analyst, and Jeff Koleba, Vice President of Marketing and Programming, both of Churchill Downs, at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 Media Center to discuss how the Kentucky Derby keeps its customers engaged all year long for an annual event.

 

What are your struggles in keeping customers consistently engaged for a once a year event?

It’s a challenge, Jeff said, because of the “immediate peak of relevance at one time of the year. Finding or creating a content plan that gives our guests a reason to care and how we are going to pace that out through the year is one of the biggest challenges.”

In order to create a content plan, the first thing a marketer should do is learn why someone engages with their brand. The Kentucky Derby started by asking their guests questions on what they were interested in and discovered a great interest set around how horses get into the Kentucky Derby. The team then created a whole new set of content around that journey. They also found that people were very interested in the horses themselves, so they highlighted the horses in a separate set of content, profiling their pedigree and official race history.

“By planning it out and accepting that that relevance is going to grow as we get closer [to the event] … is one of the challenges we have to manage,” Jeff said.

 

Why is relevancy becoming such an important part of email marketing?

“We are hit with so many messages today. Not only email but everywhere around us. You have to find that reason that someone will interact with you,” Kate said.

The world has changed the demands on people’s time. Traditional marketing is thinking about the economic choices people make about their money but, now, Jeff explained, it’s important to have the same consideration for the choices people make with their time.

“Relevancy is what drives your choice to invest your time [with a brand] as opposed to another [competitor] or just not at all because you have something more interesting to do with your time,” Jeff said.

 

Why is it important for marketers to consistently test their assumptions specifically about their customer?

The assumption among marketers is that we know everything about what customers want to hear.

Marketers can get trapped in a self-confirmation bias where “it becomes harder to imagine another consumer group or step out of your own set of beliefs and the consumers you do relate to start thinking about a different person’s reactions,” Jeff said.

This can happen especially when we become so engaged with our own product that “it gives us blinders to what else is going on or what else customers might want to know or see about us,” Kate explained.

This self-confirmation bias can be eliminated by using impartial data and customer interest surveys to develop relevant content.

 

What is the most valuable asset to an email marketer?

The ability to learn from their customers. Constantly challenge yourself by asking:

• What is the customer thinking?
• What do they want to think about?
• Why [do] they want to?
• Is this relevant or important to my customer?

Remember, the relationship you have with your consumer is critical. It’s critical to take care of and maintain that relationship. Without the investment into relevancy, a brand doesn’t have meaning.

 

You might also like

Email Marketing: The Kentucky Derby’s customer-centric newsletter reduces opt-out rate 64% [From MarketingSherpa]

Kentucky Derby [Official Website]

Why Implementing Relevancy into Email Programs Can’t Wait [More from the MarketingSherpa blog]

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Email Marketing for Nonprofits: Communicating value proposition

June 26th, 2015 No comments

We generally think of only companies or campaigns having value propositions. For nonprofit companies, communicating the value proposition effectively is necessary for survival.

There is a value prop behind every action, including each email sent — why should people read your entire email or click through to a landing page? In the case of nonprofits, it seems this challenge is stronger, with no promise of a product at the end of the cycle.

This value proposition of action for email marketing answers the question behind why customers should take a specific action when they get your email — click.

Once people land on your page, that’s when you give them the reason to take action.

At Web Optimization Summit 2014, Tim Kachuriack, Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer, NextAfter, shared his experiences of working with nonprofits on email and landing page designs.

He explained that he was inspired at a MarketingSherpa conference a few years prior, when his page was selected for live optimization and critiqued in front of the entire MarketingSherpa audience.

Although confident that the page could more effectively communicate his value proposition, he mentioned his reservations when asking to test this page for the first time, saying,

“You guys helped me create this ugly, Frankenstein-looking version of the landing page,” Tim said. “It took much convincing and pleading, and many adult beverages. I convinced my client to actually let us,  in fact, test this.”

It resulted in a 274% increase in revenue for the nonprofit.

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Creating a Viral Environment to Serve Your Customers

June 23rd, 2015 No comments

The impulse to share something new with someone else is a natural and universal trait.

In the age of the Internet, why are some things shared while others are not? What causes a piece of content to go viral? To help answer this, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down with Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to learn how an email marketer can create a viral environment. 

 

Word-of-mouth is extremely important in creating a viral environment. You have a subscriber list but to grow that list you have to get people to share your content. We all know word-of-mouth marketing matters. What’s less clear is how to get it.

There is a science to word-of-mouth, and the key is to think about it internally and externally while keeping the customer at the center. Too often we find ourselves focusing on the product — but how in-depth do we go thinking about the users? What drives them? What is that underlying behavior that triggers them to share content?

After spending 15 years studying the science of why things catch on, Jonah Berger developed the S.T.E.P.P.S. framework, which is a series of psychological factors that drive and trigger the sharing mechanism.

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Email Marketing: What are some of the biggest deliverability challenges?

June 19th, 2015 3 comments

Deliverability should be a concern for any email marketer. If you can’t get into the inbox, your email send might as well not have even happened.

Deliverability can be a challenge. A bad reputation score can significantly impact your ability to reach the inbox. An ESP (email service provider) with other clients behaving poorly on a shared IP also hurts you. Getting off of a spam or junk mail blacklist can be a Kafka-esque experience of not really being sure who or what will get you off that list.

To help you with deliverability issues, I reached out to three industry experts to find out what they considered to be the biggest deliverability challenges facing marketers today.

 

Understand why you have a deliverability problem

Tom Sather, Senior Director of Research, Return Path, said, “The biggest challenge that marketers have today is gaining awareness and understanding why they’re having a problem. Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo!, as well as spam filters, make real-time, data-driven decisions based on their users’ behaviors and actions.”

He said understanding the data behind your email program is going to do more towards solving a deliverability issue than following any list of tips or best practices.

Tom explained, “Most email marketers lack this fundamental data that the email providers have access to and are essentially in the dark ages when it comes to finding a solution. As a result, we hear experts touting general best practices — which is more like alchemy and doesn’t provide the desired results or can make the situation worse. Marketers who have access[to]  and analyze the data will see the highest inbox placement rates and happier and more engaged subscribers as a result.”

deliverability-final

 

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Four Key Discoveries from “The Economist’s” Global Content Survey of Brand Marketers and Their B2B Audiences

June 16th, 2015 No comments

The Economist, in association with New York-based marketing research firm Peppercomm, recently conducted a global survey of top business leaders and marketers on the topic of content marketing. 500 global business executives were surveyed to find out what they look for from content providers, and 500 global marketers were asked about how they build their content strategy. Findings were published in a study titled “Missing the Mark: Global Content Survey of Brand Marketers and their B2B Audiences.

Let’s take a brief look at four key discoveries from “Missing the Mark”:

 

1. Though marketers are increasing their investment in content, content strategy remains poorly understood organizationally

93% of brand marketers surveyed have plans to either maintain or increase their budget for content marketing. Despite this heavy investment in content creation, less than a third of marketers believe that the purpose of the brand’s content is highly understood within their organizations.

 

2. There is a massive disconnect between the content that business executives seek and the content that marketers provide

1-final

 

The majority of global business leaders surveyed (75%) report that they turn to content to research complex business ideas within their industries. Specifically, executives find the most value in content that helps them to better understand the general views and practices of their peers. Also, content that presents two sides of complicated industry issues and content that confirms or sheds new light on business strategies are considered to have value.

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User-Generated Content: How a payday loan company takes advantage of customer reviews

June 12th, 2015 2 comments

Customer reviews and testimonials can be a powerful source of third-party validation and credibility when added to an overall content marketing strategy.

Today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post looks at how one consumer marketer — in a business area that is potentially hostile to positive customer feedback — initiated a campaign to actively add customer reviews to its marketing mix.

Check ‘n Go is a payday loan company with a focus on short-term consumer lending with retail outlets going back almost 20 years and, more recently, an online option for loans as well. Farhad Rahbardar, Web Analytics Analyst, Check ‘n Go, worked with the company’s Analytics and Customer Acquisition Group. Rahbardar said the team wanted to begin using customer reviews in different touchpoints on the website. The team also wanted to aggregate those reviews through an independent third party to help build Check ‘n Go’s Google Seller ratings.

One initial challenge was internal concern about what sort of feedback customers might provide — or possibly even refuse to provide — given the reputation of the company’s business space. In fact, the company had already found that it couldn’t really get any sharing via social media platforms because, as Farhad said, “Customers are really not fine with sharing their experience getting a payday loan on any social media, which is understandable.”

In terms of asking for customer reviews, he said “We were hesitant about implementing this — the senior management here — just because there’s a stigma about short-term lending and we were unsure if we were going to receive anything positive.”

 

Begin collecting customer reviews

The team pressed on, chose a customer review vendor and implemented a process for collecting customer reviews. After someone secures a loan, they receive messaging that simply asks them to come back to Check ‘n Go and write about their experience.

“To our surprise, we started receiving really positive reviews,” said Farhad. “Nine out of 10 were either four star or five star. We had a lot of people who were really happy with the fact that we were able to help them.”

The first place Check ‘n Go began using these reviews was on its landing pages, and the team even tested different ways to display the reviews.

check-n-go-1

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How Public Speaking Can Enhance Your Career and Professional Development

June 9th, 2015 1 comment

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Mary Abrahamson, Email Marketing Specialist, Ferguson Enterprises, not only spoke onstage in front of 1,000 of her peers but she was also awarded the Best B2B Campaign.

The video below was recorded at Email Summit, and I recently had the privilege of talking to Mary about how speaking has impacted her career and what other marketers can do to find success through public speaking.

“When I was doing the [interview at Email Summit], that’s exactly how I feel, still exactly how I feel [about speaking at events],” said Mary, describing the importance of public speaking events.

With the Call for Speakers for MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 ending Monday, June 15, I asked Mary what advice she had for marketers selected to speak at industry events.

“You will get out of the experience what you put into it. It will bring you tremendous growth both personally and professionally — don’t take a moment of the experience for granted. Also, just like you do in your daily job, think about your ‘customer’ — the attendee — first. What do they want to hear about?  That is the key,” she said.

Since MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Mary has had two other speaking opportunities and continues to find ways to improve the quality of her email program.

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Mobile Marketing: How Voices.com involved its customers in a responsive design campaign [video]

Today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post features an excerpt from a MarketingSherpa Optimization Summit 2014 presentation — “Mobile Optimization: How a B2B ecommerce company used responsive design to increase revenue by 180%” — with David Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer, Voices.com, providing insights into how the company utilized its customers in a mobile marketing campaign on responsive design.


In this video David explains how Voices.com tested its website with click tracking and heatmaps, saying that the first goal was to find out what website elements the team needed to keep when rolling out a new, responsive version that would be effective on both desktops and mobile devices.

“That’s how we identified the [website] elements that we were going to keep,” he says.

Another aspect of taking a customer-centric approach was that the team made a change in how interaction with the website was explained in help guides, tips and tutorials, email instruction and FAQs. This was done in order to reflect that mobile users will be tapping, spreading and pinching rather than navigating with mouse clicks like desktop users.

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Why Implementing Relevancy into Email Programs Can’t Wait

May 26th, 2015 1 comment

A few moments after her featured speaker session at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Shawna Dahlin, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Microsoft Store, sat down at the Media Center with MarketingSherpa Reporter Courtney Eckerle to discuss why it’s so important for marketers to recognize problems and implement changes to their email campaigns as soon as they can.

 

Why shouldn’t marketers wait until everything is set up perfectly to implement program changes?

“It’s never too soon to start being relevant to your customer,” Shawna explained.

A lot of lists are “leaky buckets.” With every email send that isn’t relevant to the customer, you risk losing them forever. With the technology available today, marketers now have the ability to use data to find out what their customers are interested in and segment their email sends to make those sends more personalized.

Even the tiniest bit of data can be converted into a big win. “You can’t wait. You’ll have to do everything you can to be ever, just a little bit, more relevant so you don’t lose them out of your database,” she said.

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The Hidden Side of Email Marketing: The once-and-done option, A/B testing and a supersmart kind of dumb

May 19th, 2015 No comments

What assumptions do you make about your customers? Your competitors? Your industry in general? More importantly, what do those assumptions cost you?

At MarketingSherpa, we write case studies to help you execute your marketing strategy.

We also talk to writers, researchers and, well, renegades to help you challenge those assumptions and create an effective strategy to begin with.

I’m talking about people like Stephen J. Dubner. Not only has Dubner learned about economic theory and customer behavior as co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and, more recently, Think Like a Freak, but he’s also a very successful digital content creator in his own right as host of the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which nets more than 5 million downloads per month.

Customer behavior. Digital content. Sounds like a guy who could offer a few words of wisdom to email marketers to help them challenge their potentially costly assumptions. I sat down with Dubner at the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 before his featured speaker session later that morning:

 

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