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Keeping it Simple: Emarketing for 2015

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new year clockSo here we are: the beginning of the new year. It’s a good time to assess whether your emails are really doing what you want them to. And here’s the message for 2015: keep it simple!

We all know that marketing emails should include a clear call to action, something for the consumer to do in response to the newsletter. But this month we’d like you to think about something so obvious, you may have overlooked it: the value of simplicity.

Take a look at your current email campaign, and at the landing pages on your website to which the campaign directs customers. Is the call to action clear? Is doing what you want them to do the easiest thing for customers to do?

If you want to make somebody buy something in an email marketing campaign, the process must be as easy as possible.

In addition:

  • Link directly to the landing page of the product offered in the email. Make it easy for consumers to find what you just advertised.
  • email iconMake sure the design of the landing page that the email message links to matches the design of the email message itself. People like a sense of continuity, and this reassures them that they have indeed reached the correct page.
  • Use information that you have about your customers to make purchasing a clear and easy transaction (pre-fill forms with names, shipping addresses, and any other information that you already have on hand).
  • Remember that shorter subject lines yield greater open and click-through rates, and keep your subject lines short and simple.
  • Make sure that your creative doesn’t overwhelm your message. Copy and creative should go hand-in-hand. When you want to add something, think it through carefully. Will it clutter the email? Make it more complex and more difficult to read? Consider saving the addition for an email of its own.

 

Keep it simple, and you’ll keep it effective!

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Finding Valuable New Customers

shoppingIf you do digital B2C marketing, then you know that the best ROI ever comes from email marketing, and you probably have a reasonably good email marketing solution in place. But how do you find customers to feed into your email-marketing cascades?

Finding valuable new customers and keeping them is an engagement that starts from your very first contact with the prospect. No one wants to receive emails that they didn’t sign on for, but getting that first signup can be tricky, and sometimes it’s difficult to set up and maintain the constant testing that’s required to sanitize email lists.

And yet data, and learning from that data, may be one of the most critical jobs of any B2C marketer today.

Performing list hygiene after the fact can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. A far better idea is to pay more attention to how those lists are obtained at the onset.

Excellent list-acquisition is a process that begins by automatically evaluating each and every individual lead source, rather than lead quality and performance in the aggregate. Aggressive acquisition practices will harm your inbox delivery rates and may even get you listed on email reputation sites; so proceeding with traditional acquisition processes is not only risky, it also tells potential customers that they are of little value to your company.

question markBut if your customer-acquisition solution performs this evaluation at the source, 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, but isn’t it time that we went beyond auto-responders? Why shouldn’t marketers use a system that immediately nurtures leads?

That system would deliver a cascade of behavior-based promotional emails, so that the same cascade would not be delivered to every single lead that comes into the system. Instead, the cascades will respond in near-real time to prospect actions. What cascade is received depends on what the person did, requested, commented on, or filled out. And that continues once the prospect has become a customer and begins to watch for your emails: once they become customers, people get cascades that react to the actions they take.

Combining the best list hygiene with the use of live data is the best way to grow your email lists, convert prospects to customers, and maintain high customer lifetime value.

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Adding New Customers Through Diversification

42213300-resize-380x300In customer acquisition, diversification isn’t just a good thing, it’s the only thing. Using one channel only for acquisition is like reading one book: it gives you something, but not everything. Your customers probably come in all shapes and sizes, with differing needs and interests: why confine them to only one method of approach?

Diversification in customer acquisition is necessary because:

  1. It reduces risk—you’re not leaving anybody out
  2. It provides data for analytics
  3. It allows you to leverage every possible avenue

shutterstock_76696936Customer acquisition management sets up an overall strategy for your acquisition methods and can create a synergy among them. Social media can bring prospects to a landing page that in turn can feed them into an email marketing cascade. Thinking creatively about how one channel can complement the others will help you save resources and plan an effective overall campaign strategy.

Remember to consider, if not include, the following channels:

  • Public relations
  • Organic and paid search
  • Content marketing
  • Lead generation lists & programs
  • Affiliate programs
  • Social media marketing
  • Direct mail marketing
  • In-store specials
  • Events
  • Mobile
  • Direct sales
  • Referral programs
  • Traditional advertising
  • Add-ons for existing customers

 

Whatever channels you decide on, make sure that they’re part of an overall customer acquisition marketing strategy and that at all times you keep your ideal customer in mind.

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Acquire: The Best Customer Acquisition Solution

people shoppingAs marketers, we need to constantly be tuning and retuning our online customer acquisition strategies. There are more and more channels open to online marketers than ever before, and competition is high to find and convert high-level qualified prospects.

And the reality is that customer acquisition is moving from the mystical to the scientific. Once upon a time, marketers used a scattered approach: do some of this, some of that, and see what comes in. Oddly enough, those same marketers tended to be very good at analyzing their email marketing campaigns, but didn’t bring the same focus to online acquisition.

Now that we have a clearer sense of what customer acquisition channels are available to us, we also needs to find means of analyzing exactly what we’re doing in each of those channels, and what results we’re getting. In other words, we need to approach B2C customer acquisition with the same rigor we would apply to any other marketing strategy.

Marketers need a solution that delivers clear analytics on customer-acquisition costs and returns before they can articulate a scenario that will take advantage of the data received through these analytics. Data includes number of customers acquired, the acquisition rate, the cost of acquiring a customer, the total new-customer investment, and the total new-customer investment as a percentage of sales and profits.

red emailLet’s face it: your business survives or falls on your ability to acquire new customers, and to approach acquisition with any less scientific precision than you conduct any other strategy or campaign is a little like shooting yourself in the foot. You may still eventually get there, but the journey’s going to be painful!

Our customer-acquisition solution, CertainSource Acquire, provides marketers with all the data and analysis they need to track what is working and tweak what isn’t.

Practicing Online Acquisition: 3 Tips

abstract-world-health-day-concept-with-illustration-of-doctor_zkjB8cP_Marketers are like doctors and lawyers: we’re always practicing! Sometimes we call it testing, yet we know the truth—it truly is the practice of marketing.

And because we are “practicing” marketing, I’m always surprised by how many marketers ignore best practices—that well-defined marketing roadmap that marries what is best for the target audience while meeting success metrics determined for a specific campaign. Why would anyone overlook the very things that drive the best results?

Online acquisition is a great case in point as to best practices that should never be ignored, but are rarely followed. Most people don’t realize that there are a few clear steps in the online acquisition process:

  • getting someone to raise their hand and show interest in your company (lead generation)
  • nurturing that lead to help people establish the beginning of a relationship (prospect qualification)
  • closing the deal by providing relevant content and offers that meets the prospect’s needs.

 

digital documentsTo successfully accomplish this, and get a positive ROI, is another matter entirely. There are three simple best-practices that are straightforward and must be followed:

Best-practice number one: Freewill opt-in

This is not only what consumers want, it’s also what you should want: to build your pipeline and customer base with consumers who are the right fit for your company. Whatever you do, you do not want to damage the reputation of your company by ignoring freewill opt-in.

Best-practice number two: Make-a-promise, keep-a-promise

From advertisement right through customer lifetime value, you need to promote a consistent message flow. Your first email should refer to the ad that caused the prospect to raise his or her hand and provide information consistent with the ad message. This should be standard email practice for your company.

Best-practice number three: Use email to immediately respond to consumer actions (live data)

Actions taken by consumers show they are ready to do something, whether it’s to learn more about your products and services, make a purchase, or disassociate from your company. Responding in real time to these actions increases conversions and often brings people back in the fold who were ready to leave.

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B2C Customer Acquisition Through Content Marketing

Many marketers believe that content marketing is best done in the B2B arena, and we won’t argue that it’s an important component; but the truth is that it’s equally important for B2C marketers.

Blog Map Displaying International or Worldwide BloggingFor many people, the term “content marketing” is roughly equivalent to the term “blog.” Right? The reality is that blogs are only part of content marketing. In fact, content marketing refers to any digital communication: a well-written email is content, a video is content, a great landing page is content, and social media posts are content.

So what kind of content marketing will help you with B2C customer acquisition? There are five pieces of content that can be particularly useful in promoting your brand and attracting followers, visitors, and prospects… and then turning them into customers.

  1. Blog posts: Yes, of course, you probably could have guessed that we’d begin with blog posts, since they are indeed what first comes to mind when most people think content. What blog posts can become customer-acquisition tools? Posts that are helpful, useful, informative, posts that show your brand to be aware of what’s going on in their world and has prepared a thoughtful response to it, these are blog posts that people will read, think about, and eventually act upon.
  2. Micro-content: Tweets, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts can’t go into the same detail that blog posts do, but they can point new audiences to your blog, your website, and other longer content that you have on offer. On their own, your micro-content can intrigue, engage, and interest potential customers.
  3.  RSS button- subscribeWhite papers: Blogs and micro-content pieces are conversational in tone, easy to read, and generally pull prospects in. Once at your site, however, you have to deliver the goods—that is, some more serious and useful information. White papers written on the subjects that are important to your prospects and customers deliver in-depth information that clearly shows you as a thought leader.
  4. Industry articles: Speaking of being perceived as a thought leader, writing articles that are placed in industry publications also indicates that prospects can trust your knowledge—and your generosity in sharing it for free. Make sure that your bio points them to a landing page where they can sign up for your email list.
  5. Sales page: The the most important of all the content marketing that you do is your sales page: presenting exactly the right content after your prospect has read all your other content is what finally will make the sale.

 

Content marketing is as important for B2C marketers as it is for B2B marketing firms, and will lift your customer acquisition significantly when used as part of an overall marketing strategy.

Car wash

Get New Customers With This Small Trick

car wash imageHere’s an interesting story:

Two researchers, Joseph Nunes and Xavier Drèze, conducted a customer loyalty experiment with a car wash and they found that “artificial advancement” increases customer loyalty by 82%. On two consecutive Saturdays, they gave out loyalty cards to car wash patrons. Half of the cards required eight car washes to earn a free car wash. The other half required 10, but instead of requiring the full 10, the car wash gave a two-car wash head-start as a free bonus. This bonus is known as artificial advancement.

During the next nine months, 28 out of 150 people earned a free car wash when they didn’t receive artificial advancement. However, 51 out of 150 people earned a free car wash when they received artificial advancement.

Why does it work? People are more likely to complete tasks when they’re closer to the finish line. When you start with a loyalty card, and you only have one car wash punched, that means you’re 12.5% complete.

vector-thank-you-notecard_fyejzXKOBut when you start with a loyalty card that has three car washes to start, you’re 30% complete.

Even though the patrons need the same eight car washes, in one instance they’re 70% away from the finish line… whereas in the other case they’re 87.5% away.

So you can do a lot with that concept in customer acquisition for email marketing. Make an offer to your current subscribers that will earn them something free, then give them some artificial advancement toward that goal—and watch subscribers turn into customers!

 

2015

What’s New for 2015?

gypsy with crystal ballAt the end of every year, analysts spend their time trying to figure out what trends they’re leaving behind… and which ones they’re looking forward to. The new year will see more of this, less of that … Some of it feels a little like gazing into a gypsy’ crystal ball at a fair: “I see a dark, handsome new customer in your future…” And of course, some will be spot-on and some will miss the mark entirely.

We’ve found a few predictions that we feel may be in the former category, so this is a good time to share them with you.

Forbes CRM analyst Shep Hyken gives three predictions:

  1. Self-service: Customers are open to self-service solutions. In some instances, they even prefer it, such as easily finding solutions to problems. You can provide instructional and informative videos on YouTube and a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website. Customers appreciate being able to find information easily and solve their problems quickly.
  1. Social media: Customers are increasingly using social channels like Twitter and Facebook to ask for help. Considering the steady growth, what is surprising is that there are still so many companies that have yet to establish a social media presence.
  1. Higher expectations: Customers are smarter than ever – they know what good customer service is, and they expect it. They may be comparing your service not only to that of your competitor, but also to great customer service they received anywhere – at a restaurant, hotel or any other company, in any industry.

 

Forrester Research, predictably, has a number of—well, predictions. Among them of interest to digital marketers:

  • shutterstock_165303233mobile will go composable, contextual, and cross-touchpoint
  • modern apps will mean new technologies, processes, and skills
  • the data economy will go mainstream
  • marketing leaders will mix data, content, and insight to craft brand experiences
  • social media will “grow up”
  • most brands will underinvest in mobile

 

And the blog Client Heartbeat weighs in with these predictions for 2015:

  1. Customers will expect more: “Customers feel like they have the power in today’s business world. They aren’t afraid to switch to a competitor and they aren’t scared of voicing their opinions via social media.”
  2. Companies will increase their investment in customer experience: “Companies will look to hire experienced professionals that can lead a customer experience strategy. According to Google Trends, searches for the phrase ”customer experience jobs” has increased 40% from July 2013 to July 2014. Investment in customer experience technology will also increase.”
  3. Tracking and measurement will become even more important.
  4. Customer experience technologies will integrate with existing market technology.
  5. cmo-spend-gartnerCompanies will strive to create a one-to-one, cross-channel experience: “The companies that can bring all this data together and treat customers like individuals will be the ones that quickly create customer advocates, see growth in revenue and create sticky, strong competitive advantages.”
  6. Companies will move to a mobile-first customer experience. “Although most companies now have their websites and digital assets optimized for mobile devices, it’s still more or less an add-on feature. In 2015, we’ll see the progressive customer-centric companies moving towards a mobile-first policy. So instead of thinking about the mobile experience as an add-on to the customer experience, think of it as the priority.”

 

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s ahead of us: a better customer experience (including going where they are—i.e., to mobile and social networks) and better measurement of all your marketing efforts.

We can hep with your customer acquisition in 2015 in all of these areas. Why not ask us how today?

 

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Should You Change … Just to Change?

shutterstock_129341612Marketers are always testing new campaigns to try and find better ways to inspire their prospects and customers to convert — as they should be. But what should they do when the campaigns they are testing don’t seem to perform significantly better than the tried-and-true campaigns they are currently running? Should they change things up just for the sake of change?

Absolutely! Here’s why.

One of the reasons is normalization. What happens when you create changes in your campaigns, or even in the strategy you use to develop campaigns, is that there is a boost to performance because you really have found a more productive way to communicate. The problem is that the effectiveness of these new campaigns, or this new strategy, wanes over time back to the norm.

In some cases the reason may be obvious. For example, your team sits down and creates great new subject lines, which boost email open rates. No one is surprised when after a short period of time the open rates go back to the norm, since people have seen the subject lines multiple times or have already responded to them. It’s time for more new subject lines.

shutterstock_107479076But what about when you decide to segment your list to better target customers? You execute the strategy and get a nice boost to performance. Yet over time you see your responses slowly moving back to the norm, to where they were prior to launching your segmentation strategy.

It really doesn’t make sense for the effectiveness of segmentation to wear off, yet it does. This is normalization. Believe it or not, it’s unclear why it happens. Possibly boredom sets in with the new strategy, or marketers don’t maintain a high level of energy to not only execute the strategy, but also to create great campaigns within the strategy. Maybe they think the strategy is the answer by itself.

Other examples of normalization for marketers occur when new products are launched, when companies change advertising agencies, or when there is a significant change in the makeup of the marketing team. Each of these cases typically will generate a short- or moderately longer-term boost in performance, but inevitably results work their way back to the norm.

window shoppingChange for the sake of change is a way to counteract normalization without having to go the extreme of switching agencies, changing the team, or blowing up what has worked successfully in the past. Build change for the sake of change into your company’s marketing strategy. Have one team member responsible for coming up with an “out-of-the-box” campaign or strategy every month and build it into the plan. Make a list of the really new and different things you want to try in the coming year and be sure to execute against them on a regular basis, even when the things you are doing are working just fine.

And always make a series of significant changes just prior to your busiest season, as you really don’t want buyer fatigue or normalization to set in just at the point you are counting on to make your year.

Another trick to use is that when you find campaigns, strategies, or tactics that work especially well, use them multiple times; but do it randomly when possible. Don’t run the same successful campaign every three months on the dot, as each time you run the results will end up closer to the norm than to the great success you had the first time you took it to market. If you randomly launch the campaign, six months later, then after a single month, then in a season you never used it before with tweaks to the creative, you can slow down the normalization process and boost the reiterative performance. Note that you can slow it down, but you can’t prevent it from happening entirely.

Normalization isn’t your fault, and some great minds are baffled by why it happens, but all agree that it does. Consider it and build your strategy around making changes for the sake of change, before results suffer.

 

(This is a reprint from a MediaPost column written by the CEO of CertainSource.)

 

businessman holding social media concept

Happy Boxing Day!

Boxing Day Dec. 26Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box,” from their bosses or employers.

Many marketers are breathing a sigh of relief right now: the holiday buying season’s run-up and major wave is over; now it’s about returns and after-Christmas sales.

But let’s take a moment to remember, on this Boxing Day, who made it possible. Take some time today to thank those who support your efforts. If you outsource any of your essential services—web development, copywriting, IT, and so on—then it’s a good time to drop a note, send a bonus of some kind, make a telephone call that will be the “Christmas box” for the people you couldn’t do without.

Not a bad way to end one year and begin the next! Happy Boxing Day from everyone here at CertainSource!