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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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Time to Move On: Three email marketing habits your customers are sick of seeing

July 19th, 2017
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Habits are strong, and the biggest part of their hold over us is that we don’t often recognize them. Sometimes, our worst habits need to be pointed out in order for us to summon up the will to actually change them.

Email marketers have a lot of these small habits that have built up over the years. We use so-called “best practices” so often that we run them into the ground, forgetting to actually test to see if these habits are helpful or harmful.

Read below to see if these three habits are ones that you need to break.

Habit #1. Tricky subject lines

Every marketer is looking for that new hook that is going to catch a subscriber’s attention the second before your carefully crafted email is tossed into the trash.

That can get old for subscribers though. When you’re constantly changing up your subject-line strategy to find that hook, what you usually end up losing is clarity.

There’s something to be said for people knowing what they’re going to get when they open up your email. I’ve fallen prey to my fair share of tricky or “clever” subject lines, and when I realize what has happened, I feel … well, tricked.

For example, once I got onto the list for an online wine club, which was essentially a millennial twist on a wine-of-the-month club.

I never actually signed up or ordered anything, but about once every two weeks, I would get an email letting me know I had some kind of free something-or-other waiting for me; I’ve unlocked some fantastic new deal.

It always came “directly” from a person (we’re all email marketing friends here; we know that the chances that person actually, totally wrote that email are at best 50/50 — it’s a friendly trick to make you forget it’s a company) and their name would rotate between about three different senders.

The subject lines were always wildly different, and clearly they were experimenting to see what would finally grab my latent attention.

That’s fine. And actually, it’s not a bad tactic to test and see what works on unmotivated subscribers, especially if, like this company, you’re sending an email about the same thing over and over again.

Then one day, I got this email in my inbox — it grabbed my attention, and without thinking, I actually clicked.

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How Mr. Lube Canada Leveraged Data to Create a Personalized Customer Experience

May 15th, 2017
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Canadian chain of automotive maintenance service centers Mr. Lube was challenged with customer retention and relationship management across the various touch points.

Before her session at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017, Andrea Shaikin, (Former) Director of Customer Experience and Engagement, Mr. Lube, sat down with me in the Media Center to discuss how her team approached the challenge.

Andrea said that the first and biggest issue (as it is with many marketers) was data.

“We had so much data. It was unbelievable. Transactional information going back 40 years, but we couldn’t use it for customer information. We didn’t actually know what people were doing [because] our unique identifier was the license plate, not the person,” she said.

The team had no clue how to meaningfully interpret the data to give people the information they needed at the actual time when they needed it. The team had to find a way to do that, without changing too many of the systems for the financial reporting purposes.

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How to Use Social Media Tactics to Make Your Emails More Enticing

May 5th, 2017
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Email marketing is tough. You have almost no time to grab your audience’s attention with a subject line, and even if they do open — that’s when the battle is just beginning.

For those who do open your email, you can’t give them any reason to click the ‘delete’ button, and you have to pique their interest immediately.

One of the best ways to accomplish that is through visuals. Something fun, bright and colorful to catch their eye so that they give the content and copy in the email — no doubt wonderful and scintillating — the time it deserves.

When it comes to visuals, there’s a lot that can be taken from social media. If your company has a strong social presence, start pulling some tactics from there. If you don’t, do some research to see what companies in your sphere are doing on social.

Here are three companies taking those dynamic tactics and successfully implementing them into email:

Tactic #1. Gamify emails to entice readers

Primm Valley Resort and Casino, part of the Affinity Gaming family of casinos, wanted to leverage insights from behavioral economics to create campaigns that would be not only fun, but motivating.

With email, that meant embedding bite-sized games into the experience, allowing customers to play and win prizes they otherwise would have been given for free.

Evans and her team decided to play off of customers’ penchant for playing games to promote events.

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Inbox Equilibrium: How small businesses are making an impact in customer’s inboxes

April 28th, 2017
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I have been writing email marketing case studies for MarketingSherpa for almost five years, and almost without fail, they’ve been from companies large enough to have a dedicated marketer working on campaigns. At the very least, small companies that had big company aspirations and a “jack of all trades”-type working on campaigns.

But when I take a look at my personal inbox, I realize that’s only a partial view. Sure, I receive emails from big brands, but my inbox has changed in recent years. At least half of the emails I receive now are from small, local businesses.

In fact, the one I look forward to the most is the update from the historic San Marco Theater here in Jacksonville — the owner writes each email himself as if it were a personal letter to each of us. The theater recently upgraded to a second screen, and I have been following the building drama rabidly.

There’s something about receiving a personal and detailed email that is almost quaint, now. The only people who email me any more to give me the small updates about their lives now are those small, local businesses.

In recent years, there has been an email evolution where email marketing became accessible and easily doable for people who are juggling the majority — if not all of — the tasks associated with running a business.

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Customer-First Marketing: The argument for sending your customers non-transactional emails in two case studies

March 3rd, 2017
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In a 2016 MarketingSherpa study, we split 2,400 consumers into two groups. We asked half of the respondents to name a company they were satisfied with, and we asked the other 1,200 to name a company they were unsatisfied with.

The most popular response from satisfied customers — 42% of respondents — said that their chosen company’s marketing puts their needs before its business goals.

For unsatisfied customers, the most popular responses — 30% of respondents in each case — were that the company they were unsatisfied with “sometimes” or “seldom” puts their needs before its business goals.

How does this translate into email marketing? Examining the ratio of company-first emails (heavily transactional) to customer-first emails.

We’ll do this by reviewing two case studies featuring marketers who decided to dedicate significant time and effort into producing an email send where the goal wasn’t to drive revenue.

Case study #1: Marriott International

“It felt like we had the opportunity to really do something that was much more member-centric, and really use all the data that we’ve got on our members and present it to them in an interesting, fun way that they might not expect from us,” Clark Cummings, Senior Manager of Member Marketing, Marriott International.

Clark said that in the interview for his published case study for MarketingSherpa, where he was describing Marriott’s Year in Review campaign.

That send — which was non-transactional in nature — helped triple the December average of revenue per message delivered and contributed to making Marriott’s Q4 of 2014 the most successful fourth quarter in three years.

The Year in Review campaign led with a video that summarized several of the Marriott-specific highlights of 2014. This video was customized to each Rewards member.

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