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Email Marketing: Why phishing emails (unfortunately) work … and what marketers can learn from them

August 8th, 2018
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I was riding in the car with my wife’s uncle. And when he found out that email marketing was one of the things I work on, he said, “Oh, so you send spam. I hate spam!”

It goes without saying, spam is bad marketing and I don’t support it. As I’ve written before, email marketing is just a means to an end. And the end should be helping a person.

I bring this up because we’re going to a pretty dark place today: Phishing emails.

Let me be clear. Phishing emails aren’t marketing. They are a flat-out scam. The role of marketing is to help a customer perceive the value and cost of products in a world of choice to — ultimately — make the best choice for them. Phishing emails are just plain thievery.

While phishing emails don’t ultimately deliver value, they do communicate value. Not to everyone, but to a specific audience. And that is why some people act on them.

So let’s see what legitimate marketers can learn from them. Let’s not be close-minded because their intentions are wrong. After all, for the marketer who seeks to grow his personal capacity, there are lessons everywhere. So here are some email marketing insights from email marketing scams.

What is a phishing email?

Earlier in my career, I worked in the IT security space for a bit, and I learned that the weakest link in security isn’t that encryption could be hacked.

It’s you. And me.

And that’s what phishing is, essentially. Instead of trying some complex technological ways to steal, just get people to act of their own volition. It’s a form of social engineering. They are using bait to catch a victim, and the visceral way it is named always reminds me of this scene from “Wayne’s World.”

 

You can see 15 examples of phishing emails here, and I’ve included a few of the most common types below.

 

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Email Testing: 7 tips from your peers for email conversion optimization

May 10th, 2018
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We recently asked the MarketingSherpa audience for tips on running effective email tests. Here are a few of the most helpful responses to consider as you start to develop an email testing program.

Tip #1: Start with send time and subject line testing

“Testing and measuring open rate data for send times and subject lines is the best place to start. Once the open rates increase, you can work on the messaging to improve email engagement and conversions.” – Markelle Harden, Content Marketing Specialist, Classy Inbound

Tip #2: The language of your best customer

“Subject line tests are an incredible way to drill down into the language of your best customer and we use this to directly influence the rest of the offer.” – Al Simon

Tip #3: Don’t overlook the landing page

“Landing page tests are especially important and often overlooked. The more seamless the experience leading to the call to action, the higher the conversion rate. I have seen conversions increase substantially as the landing page was edited based on test results to more specifically match the offer.” – Susan F. Heywood, Marketer, educator, entrepreneur

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Email Clickthrough Rate: 9-point checklist to get more clicks for your email marketing by reducing perceived cost

April 5th, 2018
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To help you increase the clickthrough rate of your email marketing, here’s a nine-point checklist for minimizing your recipients’ perceived cost of clicking in your emails. 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 Click Cost Force Checklist (no form fill required, instant download), and I will walk through the checklist step-by-step in this blog post.

EMAIL CLICK COST FORCE

For macro decisions, like a purchase, you likely spend significant time and resources ensuring that customers want to purchase the product.

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

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.

For example, could the customer be concerned that you are sending a phishing email, and by clicking through they will get a virus or be scammed in some other way? That is a cost, a major cost.

But every click has a cost. Even if it’s just the time it takes their phone to load the data of the landing page they are clicking through to.

Now, the actual value or cost of the email click isn’t what determines if your subscribers will act (although it could affect their likelihood to take future actions). It is the perceived cost or value before customers even take that action. After all, they don’t know what value they will really receive or cost they will incur until they act.

This checklist will help you minimize the perceived cost of an email click to help you increase your brand’s email clickthrough rate. For a checklist that will help you maximize the perceived value of the email click, along with checklists to help you grow your email list and increase open rate, you can download this bundle of six email marketing checklists.

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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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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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Ask MarketingSherpa: How do I write emails that sell?

November 3rd, 2017
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We frequently receive questions about marketing advice from our email subscribers. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we publish some of them here on the MarketingSherpa blog since they may be able to help many other readers. And if you have any questions, let us know.

Ask MarketingSherpa: Hi Daniel!

Maybe you can help me.

My position is Advertising Sales at a Print Media Magazine.

What tips can you guide me with in terms of constructing emails to get my existing clients or new clients to advertise with us?

Dear Reader: Great looking magazine!

Here’s the best advice I can give you — think about the question you just asked me. I don’t mean to sound harsh, 99% of people selling advertising would have worded it the same way.

However, think about it as a customer. Do you want someone to “get” you to advertise? No! You want value.

So take a customer-first marketing approach. What value can you provide to existing and new clients? And that goes for both those that buy from you and those that don’t. Focus your email around that. Nobody is waiting to get an email that sells them something. However, an email with value for them, now that might get a response.

That’s my top tip. In addition, this PDF transcript — Email Messaging: How overcoming 3 common errors increased clickthrough 104%  — has some good advice based on our research.

And we go even deeper in this online course — MECLABS Institute Email Messaging Online Certification.

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Marketing 101: What is deduping?

October 6th, 2017
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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.

Deduplication, or deduping for short, is the process of removing identical entries from two or more data sets such as mailing lists.

Also known as merge and purge, deduping can be done for a lot of reasons. For example, the marketing team for MECLABS Institute, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, need to dedupe lists for its online certification courses.

Basically, if a student is enrolled in all four courses, they would be on four lists as a student.

So if Erin Donker, Associate Director of Marketing for MECLABS, wants to send an email to all the course students, she would dedupe the master list of enrolled students so that a particularly industrious one who is enrolled in all four courses wouldn’t receive the email four times.

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How to Drive Conversion Using a Value Proposition-focused Testing Strategy in Email Marketing

September 27th, 2017
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Your company’s value proposition is its answer to the question, “If I’m your ideal customer, why should I buy from you over your competitors?”

While this might seem like something that lives and dies on your landing page, value proposition needs to be brought into every aspect of your marketing, especially your email. It is the channel where customers are going to be interacting with you most.

Plenty of email marketers have begun at least light A/B testing — subject lines, images, button colors — but value proposition is often an untapped area of email testing that could lead to serious returns.

There are four elements that increase or decrease the force of your value proposition:

  • Appeal: How badly do I want this offer?
  • Exclusivity: Where else can I get this offer?
  • Credibility: Can I trust your claims?
  • Clarity: What are you actually offering?

Take this recent case study with Willow Creek, which dabbles in all four of these elements, for example.

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Email Marketing: Five ideas to increase your email’s perceived value

August 16th, 2017
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This article was partially informed by The MECLABS Guide for Optimizing Your Webpages and Better Serving Your Customers. For more information, you may download the full, free guide here.

Email messaging is a constant evolution of tiny tweaks and testing, always in search of the “perfect” formula to keep customers interested and clicking.

The ugly truth is, of course, that there is no perfect email formula. You will always need to test to see what is working — and what will continue to work for your customers.

You always need to be striving towards value. People will open your email and engage with it if they perceive that it will provide some value or service to them.

Marketers and customers shouldn’t be opposed — their issues, concerns and needs are yours as well. So it follows that when you focus on customer-centric tactics that put providing value before promoting your own product, engagement is bound to follow.

In fact, according to a MarketingSherpa online research survey conducted with 2,400 consumers, “the emails are not relevant to me” was chosen as the second most likely reason that customers would unsubscribe from a company’s email list.

This means that relevance and value is more important than ever when planning out your sends, and here are five ideas on how to do it:

Idea #1. Turn your email into a personal note, not a promotion

This is something that all marketers struggle with — we getting tunnel vision, focusing only on meeting certain goals instead of looking at the customer’s perspective and needs.

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Marketing 101: What is a lightbox?

August 4th, 2017
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Lightboxes are controversial. It’s a website element that is basically the “West Side Story” of marketing — you’re either for them or against them. Sides are chosen, co-workers torn apart.

We went through this ourselves at MarketingSherpa. Hopefully, you noticed but were not incredibly annoyed that we feature a lightbox on our site. It appears to first-time visitors after they’ve been on a page for 10 seconds.

As with most, our lightbox is a website overlay that encourages visitors to sign up for our newsletters. Admittedly, we have received one complaint about them that was emailed to our customer service department. So, in response, we looked at the numbers.

Numbers don’t lie, and our numbers say that people use this lightbox. We get quite a few sign-ups to our newsletter with this tactic, and we’re not alone.

I went through our case study library to see what other information we had about marketers’ interactions with lightboxes and what they had found when testing them.

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