All posts in ‘Articles’

Monday, 14 February 2011

Welcome! Or?

A welcome email is one of the most ”open” letters of all. So what is important to think about to build a good relationship?

Well, how many times have you been wondering about what first impression you make? Or what to say? Or what to wear? Whatever the circumstances are we think a lot about what other people think about us when we first meet. And it is equally important concerning email marketing.

When people give us their email addresses it is an expression of trust. As we have mentioned before our inbox is under pressure and nowadays we are usually more restrictive about giving away our email address.

Well then, how do you act when you get a new subscriber on your email list? Does the new reader at all notice that you appreciate his trusting you? Does he/she feel welcome?

According to several American studies – among others one study from MarketingSherpa – the first mail of welcoming is the most frequently opened letter. This is in line with other transactional messages – with an opening rate of more than 70%! Consequently here you have an excellent opportunity to make a good foundation for a successful relationship in the future. This first welcoming email might very well play an important role in how loyal the subscribers on your emailing list will be later on.

An example:
My sister registered for a newsletter from a big grocery store. The cause of her sudden interest in shopping food wasn’t really because of their products or in the store itself. No, she was promised a reduction in price at her next buy … Thats’s why she accepted to register for their newsletter.

In the registration process she told that she was interested in a certain type of recipes and that she preferred organic food. So the first mail they sent her showed that they had ”listened” to her and wanted the letter to be attractive to her. It contained recipes that suited her, she was also able to read earlier newsletters accordning to her preferences and she was given a voucher check for organic vegetables.

Consequently, her first contact with the store via email was successful. Although my sister is a busy woman and seems to have several ”panic project” every day she always opens their newsletters when they land in her inbox. Though the store hasn’t managed to offer her another as fantastic content again she remembers that sweet love at first contact and she is afraid of missing a good offer again.

So what is important in order to succeed with the welcome email?

First of all: When someone has just given you his/her email address you are fresh in their memory and they will listen to what you have to say. Don’t wait too long, send a nice and welcoming email right away! It’s not very effective to let a new subscriber wait a week or so.

Use this first email to get some more information about your new subscriber – in a nice and simple way. Don’t try to have them fill in long answers to several questions; that might discourage them from answering at all. Just ask them to check off boxes and give them very few questions – if any – where they are asked to write a ”free” text. The registration as well as the personal information must be as simple as possible.

Secondly: Focus on the information in the subject line. If the very first contact – after they have given you their email address – is a ”shop more” mail, it will probably be negatively perceived. Let the subject line and the content focus on a welcoming of the new subscriber and give him/her something of value in order to form a good foundation for further communication.

Be personal. Remember that this is a letter and a lot of customers like a more personal response. Maybe your manager signs the letter or maybe the customer’s personal contact in your business does that. Michael Katz, Blue Penguin Development, feels that the language of the newsletters should be closer to the spoken language. He even suggests that you should record what you want to say in your letter and then write it down. Maybe a little stretched, but you understand the thought behind it.

Send a fine HTML-letter. The subscriber should be able to recognize the design also in the first letter of welcome. The new subscriber has probably registered to his/her newsletter on the web. But presumably they have already been in contact with you in some other way, in a shop, through advertisements a.s.o. Do your subscribers recognize your graphic design? If you send a letter with nothing but text in it, it might signal to the readers that you’re not so interested in them now that they have registered to our newsletter. If they cannot open an HTML-version of your letter, of course then you send them a text version of it.

If it’s at all possible tell your customers what your next letter will contain, how often you intend to send the letters and give them an example of how a newsletter might look like. Try to make them look forward to the following letters.

Examples of good and personal newsletters that also give added value:

  • Send your customers a quick reward saying ”thank you”.
  • Ask your recipients to add your email address to their address book.
  • Show them some personal interest, use a few moments to think about how to do this.
  • Build a link to a review where you explain your policy – tell them that you keep their personal data to yourself.
  • Send a fine letter according to your graphic profile.
  • Head your customers back to your web site or to pages that might be of interest for a new customer.
  • Remind them about the value of being a member and what advantages that might bring.
  • Mention how often you will send your newsletters and create expectations.
  • Build a good foundation for further communication and awareness. Take the opportunity to make a good first impression!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Subscriber Hunting? Start from the Inside

We’re all looking for more subscribers. Every company that uses email marketing wants as many eyes to fall on their message as possible. There are plenty of good tactics to find more readers, but many times two important steps are missed when it comes to optimizing the chances of getting more subscribers to a newsletter.

One: You might be starting at the wrong end. Before you look for new subscribers, think about how well you’ve promoted the idea within your company. A lot of times the staff of the company doesn’t even know that there is a newsletter. If they do know, they still don’t know the positive effect it can have on their own job situation.

Two: The “layout” issue. The majority of people register themselves on a web site. Where to put the button and how to present it is usually a conundrum. When and if you find that sweet spot, it means a flood of new readers!

The two steps above – promoting the newsletter from the inside and how the registration button is designed and positioned – is something every company could improve. This is what will give you that high quality fast growing subscriber list you want.

Any other way is like building a really, really, really brilliant house…without a door.

Start in-house

Not everyone is going to jump on board with you at first, it may take time. When they are though, it’s a big step in the right direction. Here are some ideas to make your newsletter and sign up process far less terrifying and a lot more attractive.

  • Show everyone in-house what kind of information you get from sending just one newsletter. When your sales department or CEO see how many people opened the letter, what they clicked on and how many of them passed it on, then you will see the commitment to e-mail marketing.
  • Don’t be stingy. Share the reports with your departments and give them parts of the report. Then more swiftly than thought, your sales people, customer support, and everyone that handles your orders will be eager to talk to everyone about the newsletter, inside the company and out – watch the subscriber list swell.
  • Try to get more departments involved. Show them why email marketing is so important. Let them join the fun and throw some posts on the blog. Maybe even give them their own column…
  • Get the sales people involved. Show them statistics from their own contacts. Think about integrating your email tool with your sales support so they can keep up with their contacts easily. The more you develop your email marketing with transaction emails and messages, newsletters, information about education and training, the more departments you need to get involved. This makes the different departments want to hunt down new ways of finding new subscribers, and then to follow up with the interest they find.

You create a higher quality newsletter when more people inside your company are involved with it. The better the newsletter, the more it gets forwarded; and the more it gets forwarded, the more subscribers you have.

Simplicity is key

Your website is more than likely the best source of finding new subscribers. You can’t just throw up any old sign up button. Here are ten tips to help you make a simple, attractive and accessible registration button.

  1. Put the registration box in a place that’s easy to find, somewhere obvious. This point in itself may seem obvious, but I try challenge you, spend a few minutes hunting down the registration button on other websites, you’ll see. Tally up the number of sites where you have to scroll down the page to find the registration button or box. How about this…how many websites have the registration button on every page? Yes, I mean every page. You’ll find that they may be few and far between. Place a registration button at the top of your website, (some experts say that the top right is the best spot). Try different spots, change it up to see what works best at your website. Try different shapes and sizes for the registration button or box, find out which looks and feels the best. Remember, focus on the whole package, the whole experience, the big picture.
  2. Be transparent, show your policy on handling addresses to your customers. Nobody wants their email address to be out there and available for everything and everyone. As a new subscriber you want to know that your privacy will be respected, so you have to reassure your subscribers that you are more than aware of how important their email address is. Show off your ethical policy by having a very obvious link somewhere in the registration process.
  3. A subscriber shouldn’t have to wait for their first newsletter to know what the newsletter is about. It’s a good idea to make it clear to the customer what kind of newsletter you will be sending before they register, and it wouldn’t hurt to show an example of a previous newsletter. This way the recipients will know exactly what they registered for.
  4. Effective and well executed email marketing is all about meeting the expectations of the customers. Tell them how often you’re going to send the newsletter. You don’t have to put up an exact schedule, but is it a daily letter or one that comes every three months? If it’s possible, let them even choose how often they want the newsletter.
  5. Try your best to get the right address. Very few people have only one email address, you don’t want your letter to land in the neglected step child inbox that’s never checked. Ask for their primary address. You also want the address that your customer is going to use for a long time, not just the one that they use the most right now. Follow these steps and I promise, your email list will improve drastically.
  6. Avoid overly technical words, or words that are just used in the email marketing world. Your readers may not all be email marketers and web designers. Choose words that everyone can understand. Choose words that are simple yet significant.
  7. Don’t aim too high in the beginning, but look at people registering as a chance to get an email address. Maybe a name too, but nothing more. If you ask for too much information too soon, you’ll send your customer-to-be running. You can always ask for more info later with an explanation of why you want it and how you’re going to use it.
  8. Get a system that can tell if the address isn’t correct. You don’t want a pile of addresses that are misspelled or incomplete like this:

    Better yet, if your system detects a wrong or misspelled address right away and shows the customer what’s wrong, then you’re really doing good. Who wants a system full of useless addresses? Not possible to do this you say? Tell your customers to write their address twice. Solved.

  9. As always: Test it. Try these steps and keep what works for you. One good thing about email marketing is that it’s easy to measure. Even if you do see some fairly good early results, have a little patience. Some changes need some time to sprout.
  10. When you’ve come this far, it’s important to use an email tool that can handle information securely. Does your supplier handle your email lists confidentially? What happens if you cancel the contract with your supplier? If you ever decide to, can you take out information like demographic data and statistics? While you’re out there collecting subscribers, you should feel safe knowing that all of your data is being stored securely.

    Email marketing gives a lot fora relatively small amount of effort. When you think about just how much of an impact email marketing can have, it deserves a lot more time and energy to get the chance to develop. I know you want more subscribers, and I take it that you want to sell more, right?

Let’s take a trip, back to the parable about the house. When you walk into a house, entrance is everything. When someone walks into your site, entrance is everything. The first impression is a lasting one, whether it’s positive or negative.

Make sure that your new subscribers feel that signing up to your newsletter on your website is simple, clear, and positive.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Marketing, This Is Sales… Sales, This Is Marketing

Marketing is something that helps companies to grow in the long run. But sales is different, it’s about business happening today, and now. It is wholly possible to use email in both marketing, and sales – but… only as long as the two concepts aren’t mixed up. Here are some immensely helpful ideas about how to use email to create the long term results that we want. Here we go.

In many companies the marketing department is more or less responsible for finding potential customers for the sales department. This is tremendously important, here’s why: all companies need new customers to grow. But there’s a risk. A risk of losing the broader responsibility and goals for the marketing, and focusing too much on the immediate here and now sales. This is especially prevalent in email marketing.

One example is with emails where its sole purpose is to sell. There’s nothing wrong with emails or newsletters like this. But, if the only newsletter you send is saying: ”Buy From Us!” then you’re not dealing with email marketing. This is email sales.

What’s the alternative?

Make your email marketing excellent, it will strengthen your brand, it will build good relationships, and your contacts will care about you. It doesn’t just create sales and profit for today, but it will make it easier for you to reach your goals in the future. A long term email campaign is great in order to do the following:

  • Position yourself as a company that understands its customers and their needs
  • Share your what you know and everything you’ve learned to create something valuable for your customers
  • Keep your brand fresh in your customers memory, so when they’re ready to shop, they think of you

Is it possible to do this by using a snail-mail advertisement? Or a telephone campaign? Mmm… Possibly. But it would cost a Kings fortune. Email is a cheap way of reaching an enormous amount of people – and with a honed message.

So a good question would be; Why don’t more companies use long term email marketing? Well, the truth is, quite a few companies have invested time and money in real email marketing and are now reaping the rewards of their sweet labor. But there are as many – if not more – that don’t. Why?

One reason is that their focus is on short term sales. Or short term profit. In an organization, it’s difficult to plant the idea of spending more time and money on developing newsletters with a mixture of editorial (non-profitable) and selling content. Why hike up the expenses when you can just throw together another “Buy this from us” newsletter?

If we were to exercise our 20/100 nearsighted business vision, then a “Buy from us” newsletter would be best. But if we look at it with our “medium-term” glasses, the logic shifts. There’s a point where the response starts to drop off. So let’s say you send a profitable newsletter to your subscribers once a month, and that letter generates 100 sales – that does not mean that a similar letter once a week will create 400 sales in a month. And it’s really insane to think that a daily newsletter to same subscribers would generate 3,000 sales in one month.

Sales letters attract a limited group of humans: ones with cash in hand ready to buy now, or looking to buy soon. Relationship building, brand strengthening, or other types of newsletters that are not strictly focused on selling or to make a profit, appeal to a larger group of customers. And this gives you the chance to tailor the discussion. Success stories, will entice your readers to learn more about the solutions or products you provide. And very possibly, they didn’t even know they had a particular problem – which they now are able to solve, because of you, and with your product. Interviews with experts within the areas of interest for your subscribers will make them think of you as someone who truly understands their business; This will always attract new business partners. And sending out frequent suggestions and tips for your products, will more and likely produce a phone call to your sales folks one day.

The key to success is the quality of the content. To create a newsletter that’s not just trying to sell, demands a lot more effort than to create a newsletter where its sole purpose is to sell. Plenty of companies have a newsletter, but they don’t see it filling up their wallet or helping them reach any other goals. They send letters all the time, but they’re rarely opened, read, or clicked around in. Why? Quality. An absence of quality.

This is where the infinite number of attempts to do email marketing fail. Companies go through changes, but they either don’t have the resources, or they don’t have the knowledge to create an excellent, engaging newsletter; one that helps you reach those coveted goals.

A ton of people today are flooded with newsletters. And everyone is probably just as busy as you are. It’s not enough to just send a newsletter – you have to make sure that the content is convincing, compelling, and enthusing. Give your readers something back – you know, they did take some of their precious time to read your newsletter!

When you start putting some care into it, email marketing that’s not directly trying to sell, can pull in more sales, and a lot more profit than any newsletter that’s solely trying to sell. Email providers, like Apsis for instance, can see that companies that put some elbow grease into delivering something interesting to their customers, have a lot more hustle and bustle on their web sites. And remember: we are talking about value that doesn’t have to do with sales.

Work hard, put some care into it. Build trust in your company. Build long term customer relationships. Show your recipients that it’s never a waste of time to read what you have to say!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Get New Subscribers to Your Newsletter

I’m asked a lot: “How do we get people interested enough to subscribe to our newsletter?” We’ve talked about this before, but I think it´s worth talking about again!

One of the most common mistakes companies make when they want to start a newsletter is that they focus so much on getting people interested externally that they forget about everyone internally. Usually when I’m asked this, I ask them: “Does your marketing department, the people that take your orders, customer support etc, know about your newsletter?” Usually the answer is simply: “I don’t know.” And even if the people within the company do know that there is a newsletter, they don’t have a clue about the positive effects for themselves. Here are some tips to get your colleagues involved so you can get the subscribers you want:

  • Show your colleagues what kind of information you get back when you’ve sent a newsletter. When the CEO or marketing department is actually able to see the number of people who have opened the newsletter, what link they clicked on and when, their interest will skyrocket and they will very quickly see the advantages in newsletters. Bring printouts to your weekly meeting and show everyone how much they can learn about your subscribers through e-mail marketing. All of a sudden like magic, it´s fun for everyone to talk about the newsletter!
  • Make sure you point out that there are actually advantages for more departments to get involved in the newsletter. And maybe, if they dare, they can post to the blog or have their very own newsletter piece!
  • Show your sales people and support etc, that they can check all the statistics for every customer themselves! But you have to let them have access to all the information. When they have personal contact to your readers they are able to give out more personalized information. This is especially valuable for your sales people because now they can see if your customers have changed address, and what they like to read etc. This way they get to know their customers and will find a whole new way to see what they’re interested in. Plus, they can follow up with customers in a more efficient way. But, of course, use your good judgement!
  • Make a plan for your departments so that they can contribute to your e-marketing in the long run. The support department could send out educational letters that help your customers to use your system in a better way. Developers could send out updates about new features and functions or about plans for the future. The people who handle the orders could talk about any new procedures when customers order products. The marketing department could send out helpful tips and advice about the stuff they work with… Get all of the departments be part of the planning! And I’m sure you can come up with some more great ideas and strategies for your company!

Theres plenty more to be said about this, but maybe some of these hints can contribute to some new ideas in the endless hunt for new readers!

Good luck!