Search Results

Keyword: ‘email’

Blogs are Becoming the New Front Door for Prospects: Is Yours Open?

July 29th, 2010
Share

If you’re still on the fence about the importance of a company blog, consider this trend: Many B2B marketers report that their team’s blog — not the company homepage — is now the most popular entry point for online visitors.

While judging our Viral and Social Marketing Hall of Fame entries earlier this month, I reviewed several strong entries from B2B marketers that cited impressive statistics for their company blogs. Thanks to a solid blogging strategy and the inherent SEO benefits of blog content, these marketers reported that their blogs were now outpacing their company homepages for key metrics such as:
o Total visits
o Time spent on site
o Number of pages viewed

For example, the team from the ESP Delivra (who just missed the cut for our Viral and Social Hall of Fame honors but nonetheless had a strong entry) reported that their company blog and social networking activity have become the primary ways they get thought-leadership content in front of prospects.

Carissa Newton, Director, Marketing, Delivra, shared these stats:

– They now see 4x more blog traffic than website traffic.

– Visitors are now staying 3x-4x longer to read blog content and website links included in that blog.

“In previous years, visitors went straight to our website,” says Newton. “With social media and blogging, it’s kind of changing that dynamic.”

Two factors are at work here: Blog content that is frequently updated and loaded with your team’s most important keywords lead to greater visibility on search engines. Plus, social sharing tools now enable your readers to share that content with their extended networks, further extending your reach and visibility.

In fact, Delivra has jumped more than 20 pages in Google search results for key phrases such as “email marketing” since starting its concerted blogging and social media effort. And since last October, the team has seen a 70% increase in inbound leads.

So if you’re not yet using a company blog for your own marketing efforts, now is the time to develop a strategy. To make the most of that tool, Newton offers these three tips:

Tip #1. Recruit multiple bloggers

Effective blogs are updated frequently. But many small marketing teams struggle to find the time to continually feed the beast. Newton’s team uses nine or 10 regular contributors from within the company, as well as three to four frequent guest bloggers, including customers.

Having multiple contributors ensures your blog will be a compilation of multiple viewpoints and relevant expertise that attracts a variety of readers. Plus, each blogger’s writing style will incorporate keywords in different ways to attract search engines.

Tip #2. Enforce regular posting

Maintaining a consistent schedule is essential to a successful blogging strategy. Newton’s team posts at least once a day during the work week.

How did they enforce that rule? They got the company CEO, Neil Berman, on board, and he made it a requirement that the blog be updated five days a week. He also leads by example: Berman contributes to the blog each Monday.

Tip #3. Share metrics and reward success

Newton also recommends using carrots alongside the stick of mandatory blog posts to keep bloggers motivated.

In the early days of their blogging effort, she ran internal contests to single out the blogger whose post was shared the most. She also used gift cards as rewards for the most successful posts.

Now, she simply shares the metrics from the team’s blogging and social efforts to show the rest of the company how important their contributions are.

“By sharing results, such as traffic increases, people’s eyes get opened differently.”

Welcome Messages: Are You Making a Good First Impression on New Opt-ins?

July 1st, 2010
Share

I’ve just completed another MarketingSherpa Email Essentials Workshop Training session, and have another quick tale from the road:

In the recent Workshop in Atlanta, one attendee submitted the URL of his email sign-up page for a critique, but said that he wasn’t submitting a welcome message because he didn’t believe there was one. Lo and behold, when I signed up for his email list I received a welcome message. I then understood why he didn’t realize it existed — it was utterly forgettable.

There are so many things that a welcome message can and should be; so many ways it can get the email relationship off on the right foot. We critiqued this welcome message during the workshop; I look forward to seeing the marketer implement the ideas we discussed to make it more effective.

 

Do you know if a welcome message is sent to new subscribers to your email list? If it is, do you know what it says? Whether it’s text or HTML? Who to contact if you need to update or change it?

I’m often surprised at how many marketers overlook this critical aspect of a new email relationship. Here are a few tips on welcome messages (just a small taste of what we cover in the email list growth section of the Workshop).

Welcome messages are one of the most common types of transactional email messages. A survey published in MarketingSherpa’s Best Practices in Email Marketing Handbook found that:

– 54% of respondents stated that they open and read transactional messages “very often or always.”

– Only 21% of respondents reported opening and reading other opt-in email with the same frequency.

Bottom line: Your welcome message (and other transactional messages) are probably opened and read by two-and-a-half times as many people as your email marketing messages. They are worthy of your attention.

Yet many organizations don’t think much about their welcome messages. Case in point: Exhibit A below.

text-only welcome message

This welcome isn’t bad, but it’s not reaching its full potential. It does thank the reader for subscribing. Then it reiterates the information provided at sign-up — but why? There’s really no reason.

Contrast this with Exhibit B: A welcome email from NFL Shop.

HTML welcome message

NFL Shop’s welcome message is in HTML, not text. But that alone doesn’t make it better. Just as the previous message did, it thanks the recipient for subscribing. But then it goes a few steps further.

– The benefits of having an email relationship with NFL Shop are front and center, in bullet points so they are easy to skim. This gets the recipient excited about receiving future email messages from NFL Shop.

– They also provide a link to get a free team catalog. They are making it easy for people to learn more about the merchandise they offer to entice them to shop and buy.

– Speaking of which, I love the “Begin Shopping” button on the right side of the email. It drives people back to the site to browse and buy, which is NFL Shop’s bottom line goal.

As good as this welcome message is, they are still missing an opportunity. See all the blank space below the “Begin Shopping” button? Why aren’t they using it to provide a coupon for a discount on my next purchase? They could add urgency by having the offer expire a week after the date that the welcome message was sent. That would give recipients an extra incentive to go back to the NFL Shop site and buy.

In a nutshell, an effective welcome message should:

o Thank the subscriber for signing up

o Reiterate the benefits of the email relationship

o Include a call-to-action

o Offer an incentive to encourage the desired action

Dating analogies are rampant in the email world, so here’s another. When someone signs up for your email list, they’re expressing interest in having an online relationship with your organization. Sending an effective welcome message right away is critical for leveraging this “honeymoon” period and getting the relationship off on the right foot.

Testing Interactive Ecommerce Features

June 21st, 2010
Share

Social ecommerce technology has lifted sales and turned one-way websites into two-way conversations. Ratings and reviews, for example, have tremendously improved the consumers’ shopping experience, as well as many marketers’ conversion rates.

Frank Malsbenden, VP and General Manager, Shoeline.com and his team are already looking for the next winning interactive ecommerce feature. The team maintains several footwear ecommerce sites, including SuperShoes.com, which Maslbenden calls “the perfect sandbox.”

The team often tests new ideas on this smaller site, giving it a unique feature set that’s worth browsing for ideas. Features include:

– One-click voting and tagging

On product pages, visitors can click to declare they “like” or “hate” a product. A score is tallied on the page. They can also tag products, similar to how blog posts are tagged. Visitors can view the most “liked” or “hated” products, or products bearing the same user-generated tag.

– Drag-and-drop sharing

On product category pages, visitors can click product images and drag them onto icons to share their links on Facebook, Twitter or via email.

– Profile and live feed

Customers are given profile pages, where they can track all the shoes they’ve “liked,” “hated,” tagged and shared. They can create a vanity URL and have their profile’s page views tallied and displayed. The profile also shows a live feed of all activity on the site, such as:
o Products recently viewed
o Products recently liked, hated, shared or emailed

Malsbenden’s team is testing these features and others, such as a possible live feed integration on the homepage. Features they deem as winners will be incorporated into the fall redesign of the team’s flagship website, Shoeline.com.

Preview Panes, Image Blocking and My Pitch to Have Microsoft Outlook Turn Images on by Default

June 17th, 2010
Share

My “official” blog post will begin in a minute, but first here’s a quick tale from the road:

Some marketers from Microsoft attended the Email Essentials Workshop in Seattle, Washington last month. The creative they brought to share didn’t leverage the preview pane as effectively as it could have when images were blocked.

We were discussing ways to address this as a group, when I just couldn’t resist. I suggested that, since Outlook was a Microsoft product, they just talk to the developers at their company and change the default from “images blocked” to “images on.”

The room broke out in laughter and a little applause; the other attendees were definitely on board with this idea. One of the people from Microsoft jokingly said he’d speak to Steve Ballmer about it right away. Who says that talking about email marketing can’t be fun!

Some of the most interesting discussions in the MarketingSherpa Email Essentials Workshop Training sessions I’ve been leading center around creative execution, preview panes and image blocking.

Workshop attendees bring samples of their email marketing efforts that we review as a group, identifying areas where the creative mirrors standards and best practices, and also looking for things the marketer might test to improve performance. It’s surprising to me how few marketers take image blocking into account when developing their email creative.

In the latest MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report, a survey of email recipients found that only 33% have images turned on by default. That means that 67% – or two-thirds of recipients – don’t.

The preview pane is your prime real estate to pull people into your email. In conjunction with the sender address and subject line, it’s the key to getting people to read your email. When I’m looking at image blocking, I focus on the preview pane view. This is the place that having images on, or off, makes the most impact.

More than 80% of business people and more than 50% of consumers utilize the preview pane view on their email clients. More than 75% are using a horizontal (rather than vertical) preview pane (data, again, comes from Marketing Sherpa’s 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report).

So you should all know what the preview pane view of your email looks like, both with and without images.

Exhibit A: A recent issue of one of USATODAY’s email newsletters (see below).

With the images turned on, I can see that it’s the Travel Briefing and even get part of an image and a headline to pull me into the email.

screenshot of the preview pane with images turned on

But that’s not the case when images are blocked (see below).

With images turned off I can see the “housekeeping” messages at the very top, as well as the copy associated with the Facebook and Twitter links, but nothing else.
screenshot of the preview pane with images turned off

At the very least, the “Travel Briefing” headline should be in rich text, as the social media copy is. Many companies prefer to make newsletter titles and even headlines images because it allows them control over the font for branding purposes. That’s fine on a website, but for email anything that can be rich text should be. That way the words will show even if images are blocked.

Also fine on websites are large “hero photos” which appear under the header — but they’re not so good in email. The caption for the photo at the top left, which is also the story headline, is “Top 10 Free Travel Apps.” It’s directly below the image. If USATODAY moved this above the image it would make the preview pane, with or without images blocked, much more engaging.

One more thing: With images blocked the content of the email is shifted down. So even though the headline on the right appears when images are on, it gets bumped below the preview pane when images are blocked. Without images there’s not a lot here to engage readers and pull them in to read the email.

Developing email creative to take full advantage of your preview pane prime real estate when images are blocked isn’t difficult or expensive. It just takes a little thought. If you don’t know what your email looks like in the preview pane with images blocked, now’s your chance to check.

So check how your messages appear in the preview pane when images are off. And if you don’t like what you see, fix it — and see your engagement and click-through rates rise. At least until my Microsoft marketing contact convinces Steve Ballmer to have the developers make “images on” the default setting for Outlook…

Editor’s Note: Jeanne Jennings is teaching MarketingSherpa’s Email Essentials Workshop Training in 10 locations around the country this year; the next one takes place in Atlanta on June 25th. She’ll be blogging about the course material and her experiences during the tour. We’re excited to have her on board and contributing to the blog.

Getting Serious about Lead Nurturing and Lead Management

June 8th, 2010
Share

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve noticed a recurring theme in my conversations with B2B marketers: This is the year to get serious about lead management and lead nurturing.

It’s not that lead management is a new concept – in fact, many marketers I talk to already have some kind of nurturing and scoring process in place. But many of those same marketers admit they haven’t fully realized all the benefits of their system and need to optimize it.

And now, a range factors are coming together to push those teams to get more out of their lead management systems – while pushing teams that haven’t adopted lead nurturing or scoring to create a system of their own.

Here are a few of the factors I’ve seen:

– Lead nurturing can address some of the biggest challenges B2B marketers reported facing in our 2009-2010 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report:
• Generating high-quality leads
• Marketing to lengthening sales cycle
• Marketing to a growing number of people in the buying process

– Staff and budget cuts brought on by the recession are forcing teams to streamline and automate more of their marketing processes. Things like automated drip-email nurturing campaigns look more like a “must-have” when your staff and budget for campaign execution shrinks.

– On a more positive note, optimism about an economic recovery has some teams thinking about future growth. They realize that the manual systems they use now won’t scale when their volume of leads and sales activity picks up again.

Any of those factors would be a good reason for you to revisit how you manage your own lead flow and qualification process. I have to note that, unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy route to lead nurturing nirvana.

The process requires a lot of work – collaboration between sales and marketing, planning and development of automated campaigns, monitoring and analysis of data, and routine testing and modification of your process, among other tasks.

On Thursday, June 10, I’ll be conducting a free webinar with Jennifer Horton, Best Practice Consultant, Eloqua, that provides research data and case study results to address some of the key challenges in optimizing lead management. (Here’s the registration form with more information.)

But if you’re ready to put in the effort, you can transform the way your marketing team operates, improve your relationship with sales, and make an even bigger contribution to your company’s revenue.

New Resource: The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal

April 30th, 2010
Share

I wanted to let you know about a new resource available from our sister company, MarketingExperiments. They’ve just released The MarketingExperiments Quarterly Research Journal.

This new publication collects the some of the best writing and research published during the last quarter by the three companies in the MECLABS Group: MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, and InTouch. It’s free and available online for anyone to read.

This issue includes 22 articles to help you optimize your marketing, including:

• Analysis of the latest site, search and email optimization research by the MarketingExperiments team
• Lead nurturing and lead management advice from Brian Carroll, CEO, InTouch
• Social Media research and advice from Sergio Balegno, Research Director, MarketingSherpa

Here’s the link to get your free copy now:
http://www.marketingexperiments.com/marketing-optimization/Q12010.html

Enjoy! And if something you learn there helps you improve your own marketing campaigns, I’d love to hear about it.

Call for Speakers: MarketingSherpa’s B2B Marketing Summit 2010

April 28th, 2010
Share

Want to share your B2B marketing expertise with hundreds of your marketing peers, or recount a particularly successful campaign?

We’re looking for speakers to take the stage at our 7th-annual B2B Marketing Summit this fall. This year’s event takes place Oct. 4-5 in San Francisco and Oct. 25-26 in Boston. During those two days, we’ll be featuring a mix of research, hands-on training, panel discussions, case studies and how-to presentations that will help you optimize your lead generation process.

To be considered for a spot on that agenda, share the details of your speaking proposal here.

We’re looking for presentations that provide practical, actionable advice for B2B marketers based on measurable results and real-world experiences. Think about your own success stories in the following areas:
o Lead generation
o Lead nurturing
o Lead scoring
o International demand generation
o Email marketing
o Paid search advertising and SEO
o Content development
o Social media marketing
o Metrics and analytics

Once again, please use this form to provide details of your proposed session.
(Deadline: Wednesday, May 12)

And stay tuned to this blog, the MarketingSherpa home page, and our B2B marketing newsletter for more details on the Summit as we develop the program.

Thanks!

‘Do Not Contact Us’ Forms

April 6th, 2010
Share

As a reporter, I will contact a company through any means necessary. I prefer using a phone number or an email address for a specific person — but sometimes I’m stuck filling out a ‘contact us’ form.

I’ve filled out more contact forms than I’d like to admit. I really dislike them. About a quarter of them do not work, and I’m never sure if my messages reach my intended audience: the marketing department.

Some common problems I’ve seen:
o Errors after clicking ‘submit’
o Tiny message length limits (such as 200 characters)
o Bounced emails in response
o Claims of ‘improper formatting’

Even worse is after receiving an error, you can lose your entire message. I learned long ago to write messages in a separate program and to copy-and-paste them into forms, in case I need to resubmit.

I’m just a reporter trying to get a marketer on the phone — can you imagine if I was a dissatisfied customer? My frustration level would skyrocket. If I was a potential business lead, I’d likely leave and never return.

‘Contact us’ forms are similar to social media in that they provide a way to receive customer feedback — which is very valuable. Broken ‘contact us’ forms send a clear message: “we don’t care about your feedback. Don’t contact us.”

But I’m sure that’s not true. You must care about your customers’ feedback. Their satisfaction keeps you in business.

So if you have a minute, check your website’s contact forms. Make sure they’re flexible, easy to use, and most importantly, that they work. A small effort can go a long way in preventing customers from walking away for good.

Wish Lists Lift Conversions

March 17th, 2010
Share

Personal travel arrangements often require coordination with other parties, whether it’s your spouse, friends or other family members. That’s why travel activity retailer Viator’s sharable wish lists are such a great idea.
Viator Product Page - add to wish list
Many ecommerce sites offer wish lists to visitors. They’re especially useful during the holiday season when families are figuring out what to buy one another. The impression I’ve gleaned from marketers is wish lists are useful, but they’re not a strong ongoing performance driver.

Online travel, on the other hand, has a more practical application for wishing. Friends and family members going on trips often coordinate what to do and send each other ideas. Viator’s wish lists make it easy for travelers to share ideas, and the team places “Add to my wish list” links prominently on their product pages.

I noticed these lists during a conversation with Kelly Gillease, Marketing Director, Viator. Visitors can view items on their wish lists directly on the homepage. From the homepage, with one click, they can view a form to send the list to up to three people with a personalized message.

“We do get a fair number of people creating wish lists, emailing them and sharing them,” Gillease says. “We’ve found it really does help boost our conversion rates.”

Gillease’s team plans to build on this success by creating account pages where site visitors can view all their lists, among other features.

Are there other effective applications for wish lists that you’re seeing? Are they helping lift your conversion rates? Let us know in the comments, and thank you.

Ask for Permission, Not Forgiveness

February 18th, 2010
Share

I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I admit I wasn’t paying much attention when Google added Buzz to my personal Gmail account last week. Then I started seeing blog posts and articles outlining some pretty serious privacy concerns about the new social networking feature — and they got my attention.

Sure enough, when I clicked on the Buzz icon in my account I saw that Google had manufactured a list of followers for me, and a list of people to follow, all based on names in my inbox. Some of those names represented friends of mine, who I didn’t mind sharing information with — but some certainly weren’t friends.

Then it hit me: I’d just been opted-in to a social network without my permission.

I wasn’t pleased, and spent a long time trying to figure out how to un-enroll in Buzz. Turns out, lots of people are mad – suing mad, as a matter of fact.

So, Google’s big misstep is a great reminder for other marketers: Social media and email work because they represent permission-based marketing channels. Prospects and customers have to proactively reach out and say, “Yes, I want to hear from you” by subscribing to your email newsletter, becoming a Facebook friend, following you on Twitter, and so on.

So if you’re launching new social media features or thinking about ways to get social media followers onto your email lists, don’t assume every name in your database is open for enrollment. For example, a lot of B2B vendors are launching branded, private social networks. Don’t be like Google and automatically create accounts for every prospect in your database.

Just ask them first. It’s so much easier than countering a firestorm of bad PR and potential lawsuits.