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Tricks for increasing your click-through and conversion rates

09/21/2010 Leave a comment

If you’re finding that your click-through or conversion rates are below industry standards, or below your own expectations, below is seven strategies you can use to give them a boost.

  1. Links. The more links you include in your emails, the more likely it is your subscribers will find something of interest to click on to bring them to your website. Make your headlines, images, and calls-to-action clickable.
  2. Alt Tags. Instead of a boring alt tag like “Company Logo” that will get ignored, try something like “Learn more about [insert company name]” and link it to your website. That way the alt tags will function as effective calls-to-action even if the images are blocked.
  3. Placement. Make sure one or several links and calls-to-action are “above the fold,” that is, the part of the screen that’s visible without scrolling down.
  4. Graphics. Studies show that images improve response.
  5. Increase delivery. The more frequently you communicate with your subscribers the higher your response will be. However, this can be a double-edged sword, so be careful not to over-saturate your audience with your message.
  6. Segmentation. The more tailored your messages are to your subscribers, the more likely they will engage with you. Segment your mailing list and customize your message in a way that’s appropriate for each group.
  7. Focused landing pages. Ensure that each of your links directs the subscriber to a page on your website that is specifically relevant to the link and is useful. If all your links point to your homepage, for example, it will discourage users from clicking on additional links.

Improving your campaign’s click-through and conversion rate will improve the overall effectiveness of your campaign. Experiment with various techniques and observe how your audience responds.

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Developing Your Email Marketing Strategy

09/08/2010 Leave a comment

An effective email marketing campaign requires some serious thought, planning, and tweaking. Whether you’re just beginning or already have a campaign underway, take some time to look ahead and develop an email marketing plan to keep you focused and on track to meet your goals. Below are 5 things to consider when developing a strategy.

Goals. Are your goals new customer acquisition, customer retention, or producing repeat sales? Is your intention to provide helpful information to your customers, or are you trying to prompt a particular response? If your answer is all of the above, you should have separate plans to help you reach each goal, simply because your audience and your message will be different for each one.

Audience. Define who are your most important customers or clients. What motivates them and what do they want or expect from your business? Who are your most important prospects, and why? What is important to them? Make sure you know and understand each audience.

Message. What are you trying to say to your audience and how do you want them to perceive you? Defining your message will help you determine what type of campaign will be most effective, such as e-newsletters, holiday or seasonal promotions, preferred customer coupons, new product or service announcements, press releases, general business communications and more.

Define success. How will you know that your campaign is successful? Perhaps it’s a specific number of sales or leads, or maybe an increase in visits to your retail store, phone calls to your office, or new subscribers to your newsletter. Define the percentage increase you would like to achieve within a certain time period.

Resources. Evaluate your resources to determine who will be managing the campaign and developing content. Will you be able to give your campaign a unique design that’s customized to your audience’s tastes? You may need to hire a graphic designer or someone to develop content for your campaign. Hiring professional email marketers who are current on trends and tools can save you time and give your campaign a competitive edge.

Develop a strategy and stick to it for a few months. If you find that it’s not achieving your desired results, perhaps your plan needs a little tweaking. Examine the results of the emails you’ve delivered so far to see whether you notice a pattern or trend. What you learn about the interests of your audience may alter your strategy.

Test your e-newsletter’s readability

08/31/2010 Leave a comment

How do your subscribers read your e-newsletter? They don’t–they scan it. You can improve the effectiveness of your newsletter by increasing its readability, and scanability. If you’re unsure how your content measures up, use the Flesch–Kincaid tool in Microsoft Word.

The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score indicates how easy a text is to read. A high score implies an easy text. To give you a point of reference, here are some examples of readability scores: Read more…

TL;DR: When good emails go bad.

08/17/2010 Leave a comment

We’ve all done it. Once in a while we get a little carried away and write an email that’s just too long. If the recipient is as dedicated to your message as you are then she or he may actually read every word. If not, then you might get this as a response: “tldr”. Translation: “too long; didn’t read.” Ouch.

Your customers are busy people and so are their inboxes. When they receive an email from you most will do a quick scan of the content to assess if it’s worth a thorough read.

Nielsen Norman Group’s research found that the average time allocated to a newsletter after opening it is only 51 seconds. 35% of the time, recipients only skim a small part of the newsletter or glance at the content. Read more…

Categories: Email content

Feed Me: Turn your blog into an automated email newslettern

08/10/2010 Leave a comment

Developing content for your email newsletter can sometimes be a challenge. If you already maintain a blog to promote your business, however, you can easily leverage it to produce an automated email newsletter that will help attract new fans, create repeat customers, and drive traffic back to your blog or website.

Here are some of the benefits to delivering your blog updates as an email newsletter:

New subscribers. When you publish useful and interesting content on your blog your readers will be motivated to share it. Receiving your blog post in an email form could encourage them to forward it to others who may be interested, and you could gain new readers.  (Make sure to insert links in your email that track back to both your blog and your website.)

It’s free. You can avoid paying fees to an email service provider by taking advantage of free blog-to-email applications (more on that in a sec).

You own the email list and can export it at any time. If in the future you decide to produce a more elaborate email marketing campaign using an email service provider, you’ll have a list of readers’ email addresses at your fingertips to re-launch your campaign.

Email drives people back to your blog. Readers can explore other posts, visit your website and engage with you.

Effortless: With a blog-to-newsletter conversion application, you only have to write your blog (as you already do) and the RSS feed automatically populates a professionally designed and permanent email template. No additional work on your end.

How does this work? First, a little background: With the creation of blogs came the evolution of RSS, which allows followers to receive immediate updates to their RSS readers (e.g. GoogleReader, iGoogle, Bloglines, MyYahoo!, FeedDemon, iTunes, etc.) without having to physically visit the blog. RSS has been around since 2006, but it hasn’t really caught on in a major way and most internet users still prefer email communication. According to HubSpot, business blogs average 12 times more subscribers via email than by RSS and other industries reflect similar user preference.

So how can you create your own automated email newsletter? Here are two tools that will convert your blog posts into emails and automatically deliver them:
Feedburner: FeedBurner email is a service that allows publishers to deliver their feed content to subscribers via email for free. Visit this page for more information.

FeedBlitz: FeedBlitz is similar to Feedburner but offers a few extra features to enhance delivery and tracking. You don’t have to have a blog to use FeedBlitz and sending out emails is not all it does; it also lets you use automatic email marketing with RSS feeds and social media. Note: Feedblitz isn’t free. The fee for 100 to 499 subscribers is currently listed as $9.98 USD per month.

WordPress – WordPress has its own email subscription tool, called Subscribe2, that’s built-in to the system. If you have a WordPress blog all you have to do is implement this plugin.  If you want to send HTML emails then you’ll need to upgrade to Subscribe2 HTML which costs $40 USD.

MailChimp – Unlike Feedburner and Feedblitz, with MailChimp’s RSS-to-email tool you can use your own customized HTML email templates. Open rate and click tracking, bounce management, list cleaning, and spam filter check are also included.

Do you use an RSS-to-email tool? How is it affecting your marketing efforts?

Step one: open this email

08/03/2010 Leave a comment

When your subscribers receive an email from you, there are three actions they can take: open it, delete it, or, the dreaded non-action: allow it to languish in their inboxes for near-eternity. Your goal is to encourage them to open every email you send.

There are only two opportunities to encourage subscribers to open the email: the “From” line and the “Subject” line. It’s within these two fields where you can show subscribers that the email you’re sending them is valuable.

From line: If subscribers don’t recognize who the email is coming from, their suspicions are instantly raised. Ensure instant recognition by choosing a “From” name that is simple and familiar—this could be your company name, brand, or the name of someone associated with your business and easily recognized by your customers.

Subject line: Here’s your chance to be unique, useful, urgent, and user-specific. To be user-specific your list must be segmented properly. Instead of sending the same message to everyone on your list, try dividing it up by gender, age, location, date since last purchase, or by another category that is relevant to your business. Sending messages that are customized for certain categories will make the message itself more relevant, as well as allow you to write a more targeted subject line. Doing both of these things will increase the likelihood that your subscribers will open (and read) the email you send.

Here are 6 techniques to improve your subject line:

  1. Start strong: Since space is limited, focus on the first 45-50 characters. Brevity isn’t as important as putting the most important words first.
  2. Prioritize: People scan subject lines from left to right, so put your key offering right at the start. For example “Buy a new blender and save 50%” won’t be as effective as “50% off blenders”.
  3. Recognizable name: Include brand, product or newsletter name (if not used in the “From” line).
  4. Value: State a benefit from the reader’s point of view.
  5. Spark: Intrigue the reader and stimulate curiosity. For example “Top 5 Hotel Horror Stories” can be an effective way to drive traffic to your travel website.
  6. Call-to-action: Include a time-sensitive incentive to encourage subscribers to open the email and take an action.

Test these techniques by randomly dividing your list in half and sending a different subject line to both groups. You will learn about what motivates your audience with each test and your communications will improve.

For more on this topic, here’s a recent post featuring some fun, attention-grabbing subject lines. This article compares the best and worst subject lines produced by MailChimp users.

A little design inspiration . . .

07/16/2010 Leave a comment

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to get started. If you’re attempting to design your email campaign yourself or want to offer art direction to your designer, it may help to see what the pros are doing and what the current trends are. Email Design Gallery showcases the design work of professional email marketing designers. You can also glean some ideas about what kind of content to put in your email campaigns.

Here are some other places on the web to find design inspiration:

  • eROI’s The Email Wars blog often posts screenshots and analysis of good and bad campaign examples. See the best of email and worst of email categories.
  • The EEC’s Chad White monitors retailer emails and includes numerous screenshots and analysis as part of his Retail Email Blog.