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Great Content = Great New Customers!

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Creativity Core Principles as a Concept AbstractThere’s finally consensus that content creation is here to stay as an important tool in customer acquisition. Statistics suggest that 92 percent of companies that blog multiple times a day gain more customers through their blogs. Companies have been increasingly engaging with consumers, gaining their trust and establishing their brands by generating valuable marketing content and disseminating it through various forms of media.

This involves relevant industry information provided at regular intervals, and content that’s interesting and genuinely useful or informative. This allows the company to build a strong relationship with the consumer and also ensure loyalty to the brand.

Blogging, newsletters, case studies and educational videos are other popular tools. By developing consistent, positive content, a company is able to build a steady reputation and perception within the industry. In addition, online content gives a better targeted reach to the marketer (compared to TV or radio, which are not only more expensive but also less effective).

Hand writing Content, context and design word with chalkEmail marketing—and especially mobile marketing—depends heavily on content; and as we’ve said in this space before, it’s essential to integrate other channels with your email marketing for best results. Social media marketing has a role to play … as long as it’s a supportive role, an ancillary to email marketing, the central pillar of any online marketing strategy.

And central to all of your marketing efforts—email, chatter, search, social, mobile, advertising—is the creation of content that your prospects and customers want to read. How you “do” that content is up to you—webpages, newsletters, blogs, videos, webinars, articles, bylines and more are all available, and at a fraction of the cost of other online marketing activities.

Spend as much time on your content creation strategy as you would on any other marketing strategy. Discover the channels that are most effective for your customers and prospects, and use them. Content is, after all … king.

benchmarking wordcloud

Testing is Your Customer-Acquisition Friend

testingHow often do you compare your acquisition strategies? Is one email marketing campaign better than another? How are your PPC ads standing up? Nothing in the business world can beat careful planning, proper testing, and benchmarking. Checking every aspect and detail to see how ads, emails, and your landing pages are set up is an efficient way of making conversions happen.

A/B Testing
The easiest and most time-efficient way of determining the best path of action is A/B testing , which compares slight adjustments to ads you’ve built.

Take an example from Tim Ferris and The Four Hour WorkweekBefore releasing ads for his book and one of his first ventures selling herbal medicines online, Tim built ads around a very small set of keywords. As the ads built up clicks (to a blank page), he saw which lead to the most click-throughs and adjusted his ads for the final product release catered to those more specific words. At the same time, he was running ads with entirely different sets of keywords, color of text and images, and types of images. He obviously got different sets of results, later combining them to achieve the most optimal ad.

Running ads can cost you less than $200 for a successful testing campaign, letting you dig into the budget once you find your optimal ad. This change of testing goes the same for email marketing, and even direct mailings. Give it a slight change, and see how it performs.

Benchmarking
measuring tapeBenchmarking is neither fun nor particularly enticing work, but it is necessary. The time consumption of statistical analysis and comparison to an external competitor is exactly what your company needs to get a competitive boost and inspiration to keep changing and adapting to new ideas.

Using social mention as one way for benchmarking is a free and quick way of understanding where you stand as part of your competitors’ network. Also, take advantage of Google Analytics‘ benchmarking features and be sure to interpret the data in a way that not only is based on the number, but what they mean as part of your company, and more importantly your culture.

How are you testing your current customer acquisition endeavors? Leave us a comment and let us know!

 

Vintage bomb with a lit fuse

How to Sabotage Your Online Strategy

Self-sabotage. A depressed man sawing off a tree brunch he is sitting onLet’s start the week right by getting back to some email marketing basics. Marketers sometimes get carried away with elaborate strategies to get and keep customers, when the fundamentals are simple.

It’s equally simple to sabotage your email marketing efforts. You know how a great meal can be ruined by one bad piece of meat or a poorly cooked side dish? Pretend that email marketing is the meal. If you do the following, you can spoil all your hard work. Here are 10 ways you can easily ruin your email marketing efforts.

1. Buy Email Lists Randomly

Start as you mean to go on. By partnering with an acquisitions provider that triple-qualifies leads before allowing them into the sales funnel, you’ll get the prospects most likely to become customers. Buying lists randomly? Not so much. Every subscriber should willingly sign up and have the obvious option to leave should they want to.

2. Clam Up

While you may not think about it this way, email is a social platform. You want your emails to have options for subscribers to share your content with their friends, especially if it’s a newsletter. For example: there’s a great funny daily newsletter called the Toilet Paper. It organizes its funnies in a way that you can shoot off snippets via Twitter directly from the email. When all is said and done, make sure your email marketing campaigns are able to go beyond just that first person’s inbox.

3. Don’t Use An Email Service Provider

There are some great companies out there who can help you set up, manage, monitor and improve your campaigns—we happen to be one of them. With help from an email service provider, you’ll have access to best practices, efficient tracking and ways to get the most out of your email. By having an email managing platform, you can analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of your campaigns and monitor opens, clicks, deliverability metrics, and revenue from your email campaigns.

unsubscribe sign4. Don’t Give a Simple Unsubscribe

While it might seem counter-intuitive to do this, being able to unsubscribe from your email campaigns may not necessarily be a bad thing. A while back, there was a company who kept sending, and sending, and sending, no matter how much I clicked unsubscribe. I keep using their product, and I still do. I just don’t want the emails. I eventually had to call to figure out why I kept getting emails, and it was because, aside from the email unsubscribe, I also had to go through their webpage. Don’t do that! Give me one button, that says “Unsubscribe” and a confirmation page. That’s it … no more. Companies that don’t offer a simple, visible unsubscribe will likely have more of their emails marked as spam, which can hurt deliverability.

5. Act Like a Robot

While this changes depending on the type of approach you take to your email marketing, remember this: you’re emailing human beings, not just numbers. Personalize things as much as it makes sense (as with everything, test and retest!), and give people content they’ll be interested in. Don’t just sit back and expect to have a reaction from anti-social content.

6. Don’t Address The Problem

If you screw up, acknowledge it. Everyone knows it happens, and we would prefer it didn’t (I’m sure your boss would too). But the thing is, being able to address a problem with your email quickly, efficiently and most of all effectively is key. If you made a mistake, fix it, and tell people that you fixed it. Don’t ignore it, even if you don’t think it’s a huge deal. Honesty is the best policy.

7. Don’t Give Options

In some cases, it makes sense to offer different levels and types of subscriptions options as part of your email campaigns. Maybe someone doesn’t want an email from you every day, but would appreciate a weekly update. Maybe some people would rather receive only offers and sales, while others want an informational newsletter, too. As with anything, work with your ESP/email marketing manager and test to see what works.

8. Have a Vague Subject Line

Your subject line (and content, really) is the major factor in whether someone decides to take action when they see they have a new message waiting for them. We all know that you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure that first confirmation email has a good subject line too. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, test and retest! emailresponsibly.com has a great primer on subject line testing.

9. No Clear Call To Action

These can be obvious images (buttons are great), text, or a subtle nudge in the right direction with the right wording. Just as we saw with The Toilet Paper, if you want people to share your message, let them know; make a snippet and allow it to be easily transmitted with a Tweet button or a Facebook share. If you want people to take advantage of a limited-time sale or offer, design your creative so that it drives them to click. Without a clear call to action, your email campaigns won’t perform.

no money concept illustration over white background10. Assume Something Works

Assuming some particular aspect of your email marketing campaigns will work is a quick way to drain budget into a failed campaign. You should be doing enough testing and collecting enough data to show what is working and what isn’t. Assuming that tag line over tag line will work is poor judgment and an inefficient allocation of resources if you don’t have the proof for it. Assuming that image over image will work is not wise if the color scheme is off or is a poor design. Use available resources, thoroughly test everything and monitor your results; you will be a lot better off and save money while you’re at it.

Hopefully, you are avoiding the above tactics in your campaigns. Want to share other ways companies can ruin their email marketing efforts? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

tissue box

Lead Hygiene: Your Best Risk-Management Tool

All marketers know that you have to check out where you’re sending your emails. Most ESPs have someone who does that—watches bounces and hard bounces, sanitizes lists, that sort of thing.

But what about the leads coming into your email campaigns?

people sharing riskMany companies use paid lead generation. Yours may be one of them. It’s a viable and valid method of acquiring new prospects. But who is guaranteeing that the addresses you’re receiving aren’t invented, stolen, nonconforming, or otherwise inappropriate for use in your campaign?

Acquisition accounts for the biggest portion of nearly every company’s budget. It’s therefore essential that your lead generation work for you, not against you, and so the most important thing you can do is weed out lead sources that are not producing quality leads for you.

There are tools used by some companies—CertainSource is one of them—that will segment your lead generation by source and provide analytics that help you see just how valuable that lead generation source is … or isn’t. This is crucial, not only for CAN-SPAM compliance, but also to ensure that you’re not spending your money on a lead source that consistently gives you nothing in return.

Lead hygiene is just as important as list hygiene. It’s the best way to make every lead count!

woman shopping bags

Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse!

sign up signEvery customer acquisition source requires different messaging, and messaging is the key to customer acquisition. But messaging isn’t one-size-fits-all, and the best way to see which customer acquisition offers work, which ones don’t, and when they work or don’t work, is to use multivariate offer testing.

Look at your various customer acquisition channels—banners, co-reg., email, trade publication ads, PPC, third-party-sponsored emails, and others. Each of these channels needs a different offer, since it’s addressing different prospects, and as you’ll probably be wanting to segment each of them still more, you may end up with sub-lists of appropriate offers. The more you can segment, the more your offers will target the most likely group of consumers for your services or products.

Here are a few more considerations when you make customer acquisition offers:

Test, but what do you test? There are myriad options and you need to nail down a strategy for testing. Do you want to try different subject lines? How about the offer itself—should it comprise free shipping, special offers, discounts? What about timing: are you getting more leads midweek? In the evening? Determine what you want to test, watch your analytics, and tweak as necessary; but be sure that you have a plan behind it and aren’t just throwing out random changes. Strategy is everything. Figure out ahead of time what it is you want to learn from your testing, and keep to the plan.

It’s important that you don’t stick to only one testing method: multivariate testing will yield the most information. Remember, the more knowledge you have about what works and what doesn’t, the better position you’ll be in to secure targeted prospects who will actually make a purchase. Following your strategy, try out A/B splits, try out different times, and try out different content.

service trayWhatever you test, there are a few constants, whether you’re looking at banners or emails: keep the copy light, and keep the call to action large. No matter what customer acquisition tool you’re using, you still have only a few seconds to catch and hold a prospect’s attention: make those seconds count for you by presenting something irresistible.

In all of this, make sure that you’re adhering to best customer acquisition practices. Don’t say one thing and do something else. Make sure that prospects know they’ll be receiving offers from you… and make sure that they tell you it’s okay to send them.

Make the best offers for segmented, targeted prospects—and see where it takes you!

 

Rear view of business person in ready position on start line to compete

Start The Way You Plan To Go On

Highland cow with her long horns doing a moo callThere’s an expression that goes, “start the way that you plan to go on.” The way that companies handle their acquisition process tells you a lot about the way they will handle their customers right down the line. You can implement an acquisition process that makes prospects and possible customers feel like they’re part of a cattle-call, or you can give them the sense from the beginning that they will be valued and respected by your company. The choice is clear.

What is a responsible, efficient, and “good” acquisition process?

It’s a process that begins by automatically evaluating each individual lead source, rather than lead quality and performance in the aggregate. Aggressive acquisition practices can harm a company’s inbox delivery rates and even get it listed on email reputation sites; so proceeding with traditional acquisition processes not only makes your company assume a good deal of risk, but also tells potential customers that they are of little value to your company.

Risk uncertainty and planning a new journey as a businessman walking on a tight rope shaped as a question markWhat happens if you implement this process is that you will automatically identify the sources of any risky leads and eliminate those sources, as well as identifying your best-performing lead sources and subsequently increasing budget to those sources. How? By turning off lead sources that provide a disproportionate number of high-risk leads before they injure your ISP reputation, and automatically throttling to receive more leads from your best-performing, clean, low-risk lead sources.

Many acquisition processes implement auto-responders for new-customer signups. That’s all well and good, but it’s time that we went beyond auto-responders. What that means is setting up a system to immediately nurture leads, and that system includes a cascade of behavior-based promotional emails. In other words, not every lead gets the same cascade—it depends on what the person did, requested, commented on, or filled out, just as once they become customers, people get cascades that react to the actions they take.

From that initial cascade you can move your customers neatly into a series of transition marketing cascades; but, again, it’s essential to go beyond the obvious. While you want to begin with the traditional mailings that introduce customers to your brand, this is the best time to incorporate live data into the mix. We used to think of transition marketing as introducing the company to the customer, but now it’s also about introducing the customer to the company, as you keep track of where and what your customer is doing, saying, clicking, sharing … and respond to all that data immediately.

What this CRM-oriented acquisition process does is treat leads as valued customers even before they become customers. Which may be the biggest value of all.

Helpful tips on wall

Customer Acquisition Budget Tips

measure to ROIB2C marketers have more choices than ever when it comes to spending their lead-generation dollars, and that means that it’s really easy to spend your budget haphazardly. But you can spend your customer-acquisition budget wisely and effectively if you follow four simple steps:

Measure to ROI. Most marketers get caught up in the nonessentials of customer acquisition: clicks, impressions, even opens are less important than the money that you are making—or not making—from that prospect. You are investing dollars in your customer-acquisition program, so you need to measure its effectiveness in dollars too.

Move quickly. Amassing lists of prospects won’t help you if you are not prepared to move quickly to convert them into customers. This is what will distance you from the competition. Remember that lost time always equates to lost money in lead generation. Launch, optimize … and do it quickly.

garbage canToss garbage data. No marketer likes to throw anything away, but there are email addresses in your database that will never make a purchase. You are looking for opportunities that will move you forward, not useless data that will hold you back. Nate Silver says that “the signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.” In this case, you can equate the “signal” to your best prospects, while the “noise” is the tracked behavior of the other 90% that you’re holding onto.

Follow up. Studies have shown a 45% improvement in lead-generation ROI for companies that nurture leads. With that in mind, make sure that your followup uses the best segmentation available so that you can zero in on your prospects. Remember that personalized emails deliver six times higher revenue per email than non-personalized emails, so segmenting your followup is just as important than the segmentation you’ll be doing once these prospects become customers.

In addition, automating this process is the fastest and most reliable way to spend acquisition budgets efficiently. The B2C ecosystem of customer acquisition is complex, so make sure that the leads you pay for are the ones that will bring you the best possible ROI.

At CertainSource, we automate the system while making sure that the best lead sources are used and poorly performing ones throttled. Isn’t it time you found out how we can help you?

The word Listen in many speech bubbles spoken by people who are gathered to make their voices heard and get you to pay attention and hear their demands

Great Calls to Action Increase Customer Acquisition

Flat design style modern vector illustration concept of copywriting. pensive man writes.Millions of emails are trying to entice people to purchase something, but none of these emails are going to do a marketer any good if they can’t be backed up with a clear and compelling call to action. That call, along with myriad other communication issues, is the domain of the copywriter. A good copywriter has a flair for writing content that’s inviting to share and link to. She needs to have top-notch writing skills for her content to be clear and optimized and convert readers to buyers. That’s why a copywriter is a vital member of any serious marketing team.

You’ve probably received emails about so-called “copywriting secrets,” and you may have been tempted by some of them. But are there really secrets to knowing how to create an email that gets results?

There definitely are components to good emails, but the secret part usually has to do with someone telling you how to do something that they don’t themselves do very well. (Let’s face it, if they actually made millions, why are they trying to get your money to teach you their secret? Why aren’t they by a pool somewhere, sipping a drink with little umbrellas in it?)

If there’s a secret at all, it’s about constantly improving your marketing efforts. Let’s face it, I look back at copy I wrote years ago (and sometimes even months ago) and I cringe, because I could write it so much better now. And if you look at past copy and don’t cringe, then that tells you something about yourself – that you’re not learning and changing and getting better at your craft. The online marketing space is constantly changing, and we need to be able to be flexible to speak to today’s customer needs.

blog-image-11-18-13-007Consumers are far more sophisticated than ever before. The snake-oil salesman could count on the incredulity of his audience; our audience is online, uses Google and Facebook and Twitter, talks to others in social networks, reads blogs and compares prices. Selling is selling is selling … but the way we sell has to adapt to new contexts and new environments. I will say that some things stay the same, and the fundamental one is the call to action.

And that starts with a great subject line, because these 50 characters can make or break sales! Here are some suggestions for constantly improving your email subject lines.

  • Reading newspaper headlines will help you see how to encapsulate a lot of story into a very few words. Just like a headline, an email message should clearly state what is in fact in the email.
  • Secondly, there’s no secret formula: email subject lines are all about campaigns, and should be targeting that campaign and no other. Make sure that your “from” line is your company name, but you may want to use that name, or the name of the newsletter, in the subject line as well to make it stand out.
  • Always personalize your emails; I’ve never understood why this works, but it does.
  • Put in a little urgency – remember those TV infomercials? Call in the next two minutes and you’ll receive? Works here too.
  • List key information first, and test. Mailchimp did a study of best and worst subject lines; you might want to check them out!

 

Okay, so now I have a great campaign-specific, personalized email subject line. What does the email itself need to do?

AIDA is an acronym used as shorthand for:

  1. Attention – Get them to open the email
  2. Interest – Introduce the email well. Give them something interesting to read so they don’t hit delete right away
  3. Desire – Build motivation in the body of the email
  4. Action – Drive the reader to click your link

 

So Attention is your email subject line. Let’s look at Interest and Desire. You need to make this sales pitch be about them, not you. It’s not what you have on offer, but what need they have that you can fulfill.

Instead of chatting on about your products and all the fantastic things you can sell, write about your list members’ problems and how to solve them. Your products and services can be introduced as part of that solution.

Just as the subject line is there to get the email open, your intro needs to do one job; get them to read the rest of the email The introduction is a landing strip that leads to the body of the email. Tell a story, capture some interest, build a mystery, whatever it takes to make your reader stop thinking about what is for lunch and take notice of what you have to say. It doesn’t need to be pushy; in fact, conversational works best.

And then on to Action— again, don’t be pushy. Make the call to action clear: click here, fill this out, press this button; but also make sure that it answers the problem you’ve set up in your email.

Consider what your most wanted response will be, create a compelling subject line that invites opening, write your email content to build up motivation. Make your call to action clear and easy. And test—track your responses to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  That’s the best way to great emails … and great sales!

email deliverability

Deliverability Revisited

shutterstock_136613396Yeah—deliverability. Back to that. No matter what else is going on in the marketing world, inevitably we’ll need to circle back to deliverability, because it’s the only way that you will ever reach your prospects’ and customers’ smartphone, tablet, or computer inboxes.

And when it comes to email deliverability, the more information you have, the greater your ability to get your mail to the inboxes of your recipients.

Deliverability is an ongoing process in an ever-changing environment. It relies on best practices on the parts of both the marketer and the ESP. We know about all the technical things you need to do; we know about authentication, about building true free-will opt-in lists, and about managing your lists to optimize performance. But accounting for all of this doesn’t guarantee great deliverability, or even make it very likely. There are always new challenges.

So you need to track your campaigns frequently and consistently. You need to know which ISPs are accepting your mail and which ones are rejecting it, know where it is going into inboxes and where it is going into bulk folders, and, yes, where it is being dropped (most ESPs report dropped mail as delivered!). It is likely that these deliverability factors will change on a week-to-week and on a month-to-month basis. Even being whitelisted doesn’t ensure inbox delivery.

shutterstock_124987325If you don’t know what is going on with your mail at the individual ISP level, there’s nothing you can do to improve performance. But when you do know, you can test creatives, change content, and work with the ISPs to eliminate factors that hinder your deliverability.

You need all the information you can get from your ESP, especially inbox, bulk, and dropped mail percentages at the individual ISP level. That’s when you can make the best decisions.

Young woman shopping online by using digital tablet

Email: The New Instant Messenger

woman using smartphone on park benchOne of the reasons people speculate that email will soon be dead is because it can’t deliver as well as other applications on the need for instant gratification. Instant messengers, texting, and smartphone and tablet apps all provide people with information they request more expediently than email.

Well, maybe.

Emails triggered by customer actions provide incredibly fast access to relevant content, and often to a company’s best up-to-the-minute offers. Information delivered between thought and action. Information that can arrive faster then anything search engines can deliver, faster then product intelligence sites, faster then cell phone connections, and importantly the information is intuitively on target.

Click on a travel banner and flight information appears instantly in your email box, visit a specific page on a website and the best offers involving products on that page appear in your inbox, or you might receive more in-depth information about the products on that page along with great offers. But why is that important if I can just click through the web pages and get all the information I need?

The answer is that while consumers are looking for instant information, they are probably not looking to make instant buying decisions. They frequently travel from one website to then next doing their research, and in the process forget which of the websites they visited that provided the most valuable information.

They get information from brand websites, product review sites, deal sites and auction sites. And they may visit five or ten of each of these kinds of websites simply reviewing information and pricing.

The winner is the company that sent the IMM—Instant Information Message—to their inbox. That company wins because it was not only there during the research process, it was also right where it needed to be when the customer was ready to pull the trigger.

Business woman shopping online by using mobile phoneThe customer never asked for a single thing! She gave the company permission to send her email, but the company figured out the content to send by listening to what the customer was doing on the website, which pages she was visiting, which links she was clicking on, how long she stayed on specific pages, which pages she visited multiple times, and so on.

The company accomplished this magic using keyword tracking, tying keywords to every page and every link, and every image on its website and on its social network pages, and to its banners and videos. And each time a visitor “hit” a keyword, it told the company which content to send, instantly.

And there, at the end of the day is all the good stuff, the in-depth content and the relevant offers, sitting in the customer’s inbox, ready to be perused at her leisure, and acted on at her convenience.