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Email Open Rates: 9-point checklist to get more opens for your email marketing by reducing perceived cost

March 21st, 2018
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The Radicati Group predicted that the average business user would receive 97 emails per day in 2018.

97 emails per day.

So why should they open yours?

To help you optimize your open rate, we’re giving you a nine-point checklist for minimizing the perceived cost of the email open. This checklist is from the Email Messaging online certification course taught by MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization).

You can click here to download a PDF of the Email Open Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

EMAIL OPEN COST FORCE

For macro decisions, like a purchase process, you likely spend significant time and resources ensuring that customers understand the value of the product.

However, it’s all too easy to overlook the smaller decisions your customers are taking every day — the micro-yes(s) — like email open.

Every decision you ask prospective customers to make has a perceived value to the customer as well as a perceived cost. The “force” of value or cost is a term designed to discuss the strength of the effect of those elements on the customer’s decision-making process.

Put simply, if the value force is stronger, your customer will take the action you are asking. If the cost force is stronger, your customer will not take the action.

Now, this isn’t the actual value or cost of an action. It is the perceived cost or value before customers take an action. After all, they don’t know what value they will really receive until they act.

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Social Doubt: Beware the downside of social proof in social media marketing

March 8th, 2018
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Back when I was an undergrad at the University of Florida, our basketball team won in the Elite Eight round of March Madness, meaning we were headed to the Final Four. Right after we won that game, students poured out onto University Avenue. There was jubilation in the street.

And then … all of a sudden … everyone just ran down to the football stadium and tore down the goalposts. (We were a football school at the time, not yet accustomed to basketball success)

It was a very odd moment. No one planned anything. People didn’t even shout out any directions. Most (but not all, let the record show I stayed put) of the students in the streets simply started running together toward the stadium.

Ah, the human animal

Much like a V-shaped formation of birds adjusting down the line to keep the formation tight, or a school of fish quickly changing direction, humans also engage in unthinking, subconscious herd behavior without even realizing what they’re doing.

And this is one of the most powerful drivers behind social media marketing.

Psychologists call this phenomenon social proof, which Wikipedia describes as “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.”

Do you see what I just did there? Wikipedia is another example of social proof. If enough people agree to a definition of a term — even if they’re not experts — I guess it’s reliable enough to include in this MarketingSherpa blog post.

But social proof has its downsides for social media marketing as well

Now, I’m not the only person to write about social proof in social media marketing. Just search the term, and you’ll find endless articles and blog posts.

However, I noticed a serious dearth of conversation about the opposite of social proof in social media marketing. If social proof works because it shows other people are interested in your brand, the opposite of social proof shows that other people are not interested in your brand. What is the word for that?

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Marketing 101: What is above the fold?

March 2nd, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Above the fold refers to the part of an email message or webpage that is visible without scrolling. It refers to a printing term for the top half of a newspaper which is, literally, above the place in the newspaper where it is folded in half.

Unlike a newspaper, however, email and webpage fold locations aren’t predictable. The fold may be affected by the user’s preview pane, monitor size, monitor resolution, device type (i.e., mobile vs. desktop) and any headers placed by email programs such as Gmail or Yahoo!

Material in the above-the-fold area is considered more valuable because the reader sees it first. According to the Wikipedia entry for Above the fold, “Most web design advice available today encourages designers to place important information at the top of the website, but also to prioritize usability and design.”

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Optimizing Email Capture: 9-point checklist to grow your email marketing list by minimizing the perceived cost of opting in

February 27th, 2018
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In the early days of email marketing, many sites used to brag about their FREE email newsletters and try to entice customers to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE.

Today, many email marketers have simplified the ask to “Subscribe Now” or “Send Me Updates.” Email newsletters with no monetary cost have become so commonplace that it is no longer worth mentioning.

Notice how I said “no monetary cost” as opposed to “free.” Email newsletters aren’t actually free, and they never were. Sure, the vast majority do not require a monetary payment, but they cost the customer’s time. And the friction and anxiety involved in signing up is essentially a cost to the customer as well.

So to help you get more opt-ins for your email list, here is a nine-point checklist for minimizing the perceived cost of the email capture. The checklist is from the Email Messaging online certification course taught by MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa’s parent research organization).

You can click here to click here for a PDF of the Email Capture Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

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Business Intelligence: If only more of our customers were like Larry David

February 23rd, 2018
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I usually watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” through the eyes of a fan. But recently I watched the popular HBO show through the eyes of a marketer.

And it struck me — Larry David is an extremely valuable customer. And not just because he has all of that “Seinfeld” money (some $900 million of it, according to Adweek).

Larry is valuable because he actually tells brands what he is thinking. Commonly derided as “complaints” or “rants,” in reality, Larry is offering up valuable customer intelligence.

Complaints are business intelligence

In a recent episode, Larry is staying at a hotel. When asked by the front desk employee if he had any feedback on his stay, he suggests that they shouldn’t tuck the sheets in so tight when making the bed. Who sleeps like that?

But Larry isn’t the normal, quiet customer. He’s a super-suggester. And he goes far beyond replying to a question from an employee asking for feedback. He offers unsolicited advice on topics the hotel doesn’t even think to ask about.

While the hotel brags about cookies made by its pastry chef, Larry isn’t buying it. He says the cookies are from Pepperidge Farm.

And Larry is none too happy about the cookie retrieval system the hotel has set up in its lobby. Larry doesn’t want to use tongs to grab the cookies — he is afraid the cookie will get crushed — and he suggests a wider cookie layout system so guests can pick cookies with their bare hands without touching an adjacent cookie.

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Screw the Competition: How to avoid dreaded commodification

February 16th, 2018
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In high school, I never quite found my niche. I wasn’t a jock or preppie, neither freak nor geek. I just had to be me.

In other words, my focus was on my intrinsic value proposition, not what the competition was doing.

Competitive analyses are valuable, don’t get me wrong. They are necessary to ensure you have a unique value proposition. After all, your product isn’t for sale in a vacuum. I’ve worked with a competitive sales office in the past and you can learn a lot from win-loss reports as well.

But don’t go too far with this business intelligence. My point is this …

Don’t let the competition define you

At some point, you have to say, “screw the competition.”

If your focus is on the competition, you’ll just be another Why Bother Brand.

And if your focus is on the competition, it’s in the wrong place. Your focus should be on the customer. That’s the way you create differentiated value.

Here are three examples of focusing on the customers, not the competition, from otherwise commodified industries:

Example #1: Southwest Airlines

Airlines have become a dreadfully commoditized industry. Just look how they move in lockstep. One airline adds baggage fees, and then every other “me too” airline jumps in behind it.

Not Southwest Airlines. I’m sure it has analyzed the competition. I’m sure it is aware of fee revenue.

But that simply doesn’t work for this brand. So Southwest offers “No change fees. No matter what.” And communicated that value proposition cleverly in a recent TV ad about a coach who believed in his basketball team so much, he already booked tickets to the championship game.

The kicker, of course, is that the team doesn’t make it to the championship game and has to change their flight plans. Cue the tagline — “That’s Transfarency. Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.”

Does this mean you’ll fly Southwest every time? Probably not. I know I prefer non-stop flights. And you might have a favorite frequent flyer program.

But I tell you this — next time you’re charged $200 for canceling a flight, you’re going to remember that Southwest commercial. And if you go through negative experiences with your current airline enough, you may choose not to shop only on price but to favor flights from Southwest Airlines.

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Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

February 14th, 2018
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Think of all the money you invest in attracting customers before they even get to the call-to-action … buying media or traffic, designing websites and landing pages, crafting just the right offer.

If you can squeeze just a bit higher conversion rate out of your calls-to-action (CTAs), it increases the ROI on the rest of your marketing investment.

And that’s just a few percent. What about more than doubling the conversion of that CTA? Without the need for any IT or development resources?

A recent experiment MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa) ran with a Research Partner did just that. Let’s walk through the simple word changes and what you can learn from them as you craft your own calls-to-action and button copy.

Experiment design

This experiment was a landing page test that encouraged people to get a physical copy of a textbook mailed to them. These people are decision makers. They choose a product that will lead to significant product sales from others. By getting the sample in these decision makers’ hands, they are more likely to select this product and, therefore, drive significant sales.

The experiment had a control and two treatments. There were several differences between the control and the treatments including changing the image, headline and call-to-action. Both treatments improved clickthrough rate (CTR), with the second treatment generating a 277% increase in CTR at a 99% level of confidence.

That clickthrough increase carried its way through the funnel to an increase for the final conversion as well — an 82% increase in conversion for Treatment 2 at a 99% level of confidence.

But here’s where it gets more interesting. While the team changed several variables between the control and the treatments, they only changed a single variable between Treatment 1 and Treatment 2 — the call-to-action — to discover the impact of the CTA wording.

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There’s Treasure Everywhere: Turning waste into profit

February 9th, 2018
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Hobbes: Why are you digging a hole?

Calvin: I’m looking for buried treasure!

Hobbes: What have you found?

Calvin: A few dirty rocks, a weird root, and some disgusting grubs.

Wait for it … Wait for it …

Hobbes: On your first try??

Calvin: There’s treasure everywhere!

I thought of this cartoon by Bill Watterson (which he also used to name a cartoon collection book) while reading the Harvard Business Review article Searching for New Ideas in the Curious Things Your Customers Do by Taddy Hall and Eddie Yoon.

Turning a waste product into a $500 million brand

Hall and Yoon tell the story of Steve Hughes, now the CEO of Sunrise Strategic Partners. He was walking through a Tropicana factory when he noticed some workers on break taking the excess pulp (a waste product in orange juice production) and mixing it into juice they would drink themselves.

Instead of ignoring the workers or just assuming their behavior was odd, Hughes got curious and asked them about it. They explained that it made the juice taste fresh squeezed. This interaction gave Hughes the idea to launch Tropicana Grovestand  “the taste of fresh-squeezed orange juice,” which after four years became a $500 million brand.

That is just one example of turning waste into profit. Throughout history, curious business people have not only used this process to launch complementary brands in their own company like Hall and Yoon’s Tropicana example, they’ve also launched entirely new companies off their company’s waste (Kingsford was created when Henry Ford turned wood scraps from Model T manufacturing into charcoal briquets) and launched new brands off other companies’ waste (I interviewed TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky back in 2007, and since then, the company has made everything from pencil cases to furniture out of other brands’ waste).

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Marketing 101: What is an A/B split test?

February 2nd, 2018
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

An A/B split test refers to a test situation in which two randomized groups of users are sent different content at the same time to monitor the performance of specific campaign elements.

A/B split testing is a powerful way to improve marketing and messaging performance because it enables you to make decisions about the best headline, ad copy, landing page design, offer, etc., based on actual customer behavior and not merely a marketer’s opinion.

 

Let’s break down the process of A/B split testing.

Real People Enter the Test

This is part of the power of A/B split testing as compared to other forms of marketing research such as focus groups or surveys. A/B split testing is conducted with real people in a real-world purchase situation making real decisions, as opposed to a survey or focus group where you’re asking people who (hopefully) represent your customers what they might do in a hypothetical situation, or to remember what they have done in a past situation.

Not only can you inadvertently influence people in ways that change their answer (since the research gathering mechanism does not exactly mimic the real-world situation), but people may simply tell you what they think you want to hear.

Or, many times, customers misjudge how they would act in a situation or misremember how they have acted in the past.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use surveys, focus groups and the like. Use this new information to create a hypothesis about your customers. And then run an A/B split test to learn from real customers if your hypothesis is correct.

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Customer Satisfaction Segmentation: Customer expectations extend beyond the end users of your products

January 26th, 2018
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When measuring customer satisfaction after the purchase of your products, it’s all too easy to think of the process in a linear fashion:

  • I produce marketing and advertising that sets an expectation for my product
  • A customer then buys and uses my product
  • I will then ask that customer if they are satisfied with the product

However, while reading Customer Expectations: 7 Types All Exceptional Researchers Must Understand by Scott Smith, Ph.D., as part of my studies in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program, there was a line from Dr. Smith that really stood out to me: “The product purchaser, influencer and user may have each been a different type of individual, each having different expectations.”

Notice he doesn’t just say a different individual, but a different type of individual. The key lesson here is that you should not only segment your marketing but segment your customer satisfaction measurement as well.

And while many B2B marketers will see how this is instantly applicable to them, it likely applies to many B2C and nonprofit marketers as well.

Let’s take a look at each type of customer, with an example for each type of marketer.

                                                                                Photo courtesy Flickr CC Village9991

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