Email Optimization

Email Autoresponders: The Lazy Marketer’s Best Friend

We found this great post on Copyblogger.com, which was written by Sonia Simone. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

No one loves blogs more than I do. They’re a great way to build your authority, attract an engaged audience, develop trust and rapport, attract links, and stake your claim in search engines.

I love blogs. But like babies and kittens, two other things I love, they’re also a lot of responsibility.

Blogs take time. You’ve got to write terrific content that stands out from the general noise, promote it intelligently, and cultivate reader relationships. And that’s in addition to everything else you do in your business, from producing your product to getting your taxes filed.

That’s why there’s another content marketing tool that I always recommend having in place — ideally before you write your first blog post.

It’s the email autoresponder.

What is an email autoresponder and why do I want one?

An autoresponder is just a sequence of email marketing messages that gets sent to subscribers in the order and frequency that you decide.

Let’s say you have a seven-part autoresponder that delivers a great tutorial for your potential customers — something that they’ll find beneficial and valuable, and that lays the groundwork for you to make a sale.

That autoresponder creates a great experience for your first subscriber. And it creates the same great experience for your 100,000th subscriber.

It never gets tired. It never needs the weekend off for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day (or Email Autoresponder’s Day).

It never gets bored with your marketing message. It never gets snarky. It never gets sick of newbies.

It delivers your best content, in the best possible order and frequency, to every new reader who finds you. Forever.

That’s why I say it’s the lazy marketer’s friend. Whether you want a day off to head to the beach or a month off for a life-changing adventure, your autoresponder is back home taking care of business.

What goes into a really good autoresponder?

Most autoresponder sequences aren’t all that good, because most of them are about the marketer.

Your autoresponder needs to be about the reader.

The autoresponder’s most important function is to take people who are curious about what you do and turn them into raving fans.

That means an autoresponder needs your best content — the kind of content that makes readers glad every time they click through.

It doesn’t have to be funny, witty, charming, or poetically written.

It has to be damned useful.

It has to solve problems your readers need to solve. It has to give them small, quick wins toward what they want to achieve. And if it can show you’re a nice, relatable, trustworthy person — not just an expert but a likable expert — that’s even better.

Autoresponders make your case for you

You can use autoresponders for anything you need to educate prospects about before they buy.

Explore the pain and problems they’re facing today. Paint the picture of what their life will look like with that problem solved. Address and overcome objections, build trust, outline features and benefits, and create intense desire for what you have to offer.

And if your prospect isn’t ready to buy right now, great email content will keep her “parked” until she is ready … whether that takes her six months, a year, or ten years. As long as you keep adding to the sequence, you can keep prospects engaged and interested until the time is right for them.

Build it first

There’s no such thing as free traffic.

You either pay for web traffic with money — with advertising or affiliate commissions — or you pay with time and creativity.

Blogging is particularly demanding of that time and creativity. So you want to make sure you capture each and every true fan you attract, from the very first days of your blog.

That’s why if you’re starting from zero in a new topic, I recommend you build your autoresponder first, before you start blogging or doing any other social media marketing.

And if you already have a blog going, the second best time to build your autoresponder is today.

How about it?

  • Do you have an autoresponder in place right now?
  • If so, does it have the kind of content that’s going to turn your readers into raving fans?
  • Are you happy with the number of messages in your sequence, or do you think you could extend it a little and deliver even more value?

If the answer to any of these is No, let us know in the comments when you’re going to fix that. You have my permission to be as lazy as you like after you get it done. :)

About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on twitter. See the original post here.

What Email Marketers Can Learn from E.T.

The world was captivated by the 80’s hit ET; the story of a boy who forms a symbiotic relationship with a visitor from another world. Sound familiar? As marketers, how can we capture some of that movie magic and turn your prospects and customers from an ET (email terrestrial) into an EC (engaged customer)?

The First Encounter
Your visitor arrives; through the galaxy of search, past the constellation of social and the WOM nebula to land on your website. The visitor looks around, is this the planet they were searching for? He has some trepidation about your intentions and offerings; spook him and he may take off in one click. To maximize the possibility of communication, or ensure return visits, make sure that your “welcome to our planet” sign-up proposition is prominently displayed and quickly communicates the value of getting to know you better.

The Personal and Human Touch
Although they might look a bit strange at first. Your new friend is more than just an email address. Once you get to know them better, these ‘email terrestrials’ are more human than you might think. So be sure you get to know them in order to effectively communicate with them. The sign-up process can capture the essential information needed. But as time goes by, you can ask for further preferences and use behavioral data to go from a general messaging to ones that are more relevant and targeted.

Using Special Effects
Special effects can give your messages the pop needed in today’s crowded inbox. Email marketing special effects might include discounts, incentives, extremely personalized messages and mixing it up with great design. But they should support the story. A solid story trumps special effects every time. Without a (brand) story to tell, special effects just seem silly. You might as well be watching the Syfy movie of the week.  So make sure your messaging is has a heart and wow your audience with great effects.

Bad Guys and Bikes That Fly on Their Own
In the movie our friend ET was protected from the evil “task force”. While most of us will not be hiding customers in our closet, there is always the possibility that they will walk into the hands of the competition. So make sure you monitor your foes and have everything in place to be there when the subscriber is ready to fly, such as cart abandonment, sales cycle, and other triggered emails.

Creating a Blockbuster
With a great story and timely personalized communications, you can make your prospects feel at home, begin to build a relationship, and reduce opt-outs. Turning the ETs (Email terrestrials) into ECs (engaged customers) and maybe even make $ 792 million at the box office.

7 Ways to Lift Email Marketing Response Rates

1) FACE FORWARD
Mention Facebook in the subject line (e.g. “Favorites of Facebook Fans”).

2) KEEP IT SUPER SHORT
Use bullets and slash your copy like a serial killer.

3) SUBJUGATION
Spend 50% of your time on the subject and preview text, other 50% on everything else (including design).

4) MIRROR IMAGE
A landing page that features the same primary image of the email that links to it will generate a higher response rate than one that does not use the image.

5) STUTTER STEP
Repeat yourself on landing pages. It’s redundant, but it gives the recipient the much needed confirmation that they are at the right place.

6) GO ALL-IN
Create “All in” emails, in which every link except the opt-out goes to the same landing page, rather than multiple calls to action.

7) ALL ROADS LEAD TO REV
Use multiple links and links styles, to the same destination/offer.

How-to Take Your Email Marketing to the Next Level

Email Marketing How-to GuideIt’s hard to argue with the ROI email marketing can bring to marketers, yet many businesses aren’t getting nearly enough out of their programs. It’s not because they don’t see the value, it’s because achieving a strong ROI with email is harder than it looks.

This  leaves smart marketers with a decision to make. Hire outside email marketing experts (shameless plug), in-house talent, or a combination thereof? The answer of course depends on their unique needs.

If you’re one of those marketers (who knows they could be doing so much with your email marketing), this guide will help you to assess your current efforts, and most importantly, plot a course for Resultsburg.

Step 1: Define the Scope

A successful email marketing program requires a lot of planning and thoughtful consideration, including:

  • Best Practices and Frequency Strategy
  • Editorial & Promotional Content Planning
  • List Growth & Win-back Strategy
  • Up Sale, Cross Sale, and Referral Strategy
  • List Segmentation (via customer profiles and behavior)
  • Flexible Design (on-brand, actionable, and in the inbox)
  • Trigger-based Emails (using customer behaviors or events)
  • Customer Engagement Measurement (One of the biggest factors in deliverability)
  • Social Integration (It’s a two-way street)
  • Testing & Optimization (Need I say more)
  • Email Service Provider (ESP) or Mailing Solution Evaluations

Does the list above encompasses more than you’re doing? You may be under-utilizing this lucrative channel and missing out of profits. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh marketing partner or maybe you need to reallocate budgets or provide your in-house team with more training? Now move on to steps 2 and 3, but be honest with yourself and go with your gut.

Step 2: Look in Your Own Backyard

If you prefer to utilize in-house talent, consider this:

  1. You (meaning you or your team) know your business; are you also well-versed in email marketing?
  2. If yes, do you have time and energy to be effective?
  3. Is your program founded on data and subscriber behavior?
  4. How frequently do you test and then optimize your efforts?
  5. Does your email marketing drive sales AND reduce marketing costs?
  6. What’s your attrition rate?
  7. Could your in-house team use some guidance, recommendations or training?
  8. Is your email ROI above $40 for every $1 spent?

Step 3: Working With Experts

If you already have a marketing agency or other outside help, ask yourself:

  1. Do they understand our target market and business processes?
  2. Do they specialize in email?
  3. Do they generate an ROI that’s in-line with the findings above?
  4. Do they think about your email marketing without being prodded?
  5. Have they monetized all the options?
  6. Is their work for fresh and reflective of best practices?

If you’ve determined that you need help, check out How to Hire Email Marketing Experts. It will help you evaluate qualified talent that fits your most needs, including a tight budget.

– Scott Hardigree | Indiemark

The Power of Personalization in Email Marketing

Don't be that guy.I recently took my 9 year old daughter to Justice, a children’s apparel retailer. From the onset the manager bombarded me, at 5 minute intervals, with product recommendations and promotions. This continued for 30 minutes until I was forced to school her on customer insight and preferences.

A bad email program is much like an ineffective sales person. Instead of having to read the disinterest on the faces of your customers, feel the negative impact on sales, or in my case, hear the harshness of their words; email marketing can tell you almost everything you need to know about your customers and help you to sell more.

Going Beyond “Hi FNAME”

The insight required to make your email program more profitable is already at your finger tips and it’s inexpensive. It comes to you in the form of data. I don’t mean open and click data, although that will tell you a lot, I’m talking about data that will allow you to personalize the experience for each of your customers.

Sure, personalized greetings are often well-received but as I mentioned in a recent Chief Marketer article, this year’s standout Valentine’s Day campaigns were those that used deeper data, such as purchase history and customer profiles, to make their offers more personal and therefore more relevant. In the article, I was speaking largely about retailers but service companies too have a slew of easily accessible data to track (or even predict) the purchase intent of their customers as well as identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

What Do You Have to Work With?

The sources of actionable data are seemingly endless, but here are few categories and specific examples:

Profile: Imagine you run a travel agency and I’m your 65 y/o prospect, do you think I’d respond better to an offer that reflected the most popular senior destinations? Now imagine that the images in the offer were those of the silver-haired persuasion. Or perhaps I’m on west coast time and your webinar is schedule for 1pm eastern, would I be more likely to reserve my seat if the email read 11am pacific?

Purchase History: If I bought gifts in or around today’s date, two years in a row, might I want to buy another again this year? What if the new gift recommendations were in line with my previous purchases of those of other gift buyers? Conversely, what if I’ve already purchased your primary product, do you think that I want to hear about how much money I could have saved, if only I’d waited? Instead, wouldn’t I rather know about your secondary offerings?

Activity: Maybe I’ve downloaded three sequential white papers in 30 days, but I’ve yet to make a purchase, would it be a good idea to invite me into a discussion about my specific needs? Or maybe I haven’t responded to your offers in some time, am I perfect for a reactivation offer or satisfaction survey?

Preferences: Imagine that you have 10 different products but I’m a reseller that’s only interested on products 1-5. Shouldn’t I be put into a segment with other resellers? What if I’m a direct user but I only want to receive educational information, as opposed to promotional, I’m more likely to remain an enthusiast and share your information if I only get what I really want?

It’s Easy and Inexpensive To Execute

I’m always surprised when SMB marketers say that using data at this level is only for the big boys. That may have been true in the years past, but today any ESP that’s worth their salt integrates easily with your CRM or E-commerce solutions and web analytics. All you have to do is integrate it and most importantly test it.

– Scott Hardigree | Indiemark

You Might Need an Email Marketing Agency If…

This post is intended to be a resource for those who, admittedly, know that they could be deriving more value from the email channel. No matter if decide to hire outside professionals, such as an email marketing agency, or in-house talent; this guide will help you to assess and reevaluate your current email marketing efforts.

Let’s Look at the Numbers

Email has been the marketing workhorse for a decade, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future.  It allows targeting because it’s data driven. It drives direct sales. It builds relationships, loyalty and trust. It also supports sales through other direct channels:

  • According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2008, that’s twice that of the first runner-up.
  • A recent summary by MarketingSherpa states, “Those that see the effectiveness of their email programs diminishing are much more likely to have short-sighted organizational attitudes toward the tactic. Organizations with investment-oriented views of email reap the rewards.”
  • The CMO Council’s Marketing Outlook ’08 Report reviewed the plans and opinions of 650 marketers. Email marketing was the top target area for investment.
  • In a 2008 survey of retailers, Shop.org stated that “E-mail is the most mentioned successful tactic overall”.

Handle Email Marketing In-house?

If you don’t have an existing agency relationship or do have sufficient in-house talent, consider this:

  1. You (meaning you or your team) know your business; are you also well-versed in email marketing?
  2. If yes, do you have time and energy to optimize the effort?
  3. How does your integrated marketing and CRM compare against your competitors?
  4. Does your email marketing drive sales, build loyalty, and reduce marketing costs?
  5. Is your email program founded on research and/or historical data?
  6. Does your in-house work save or cost you money?

Already Have an Expert?

If you already have a marketing agency or other outside help, ask yourself:

  1. Do they specialize in email or are they “full service”?
  2. Do they generate an ROI that’s in-line with the findings above?
  3. Do they think about us without being prodded?
  4. Do they understand our target market and business processes?
  5. Have they explored and monetized all the options?
  6. Is their work for fresh, exciting, and reflective of best practices?

Pieces of the Email Marketing Equation

Email marketing can involve customer acquisition, lead nurturing, client reactivation and retention, and of course direct sales, which means that a host of processes and services are potentially involved, including:

  • Strategy & Research
  • Editorial & Promotional Planning
  • Copy Writing & Content Development
  • Design & Coding
  • List Growth & Community Building
  • List Segmentation & List Enhancement
  • Behavioral & Customer Profiling
  • Message Delivery & Deliverability Monitoring
  • Cross-channel Integration
  • Email Service Provider (ESP) or In-house Mailing Solution Evaluations
  • Lead Nurturing & Direct/Up/Cross Sales
  • Multivariate Testing & Program Optimization

If the list above encompasses more than you’re doing, this may be a strong indicator that you’re under-utilizing this lucrative channel. Perhaps it’s time for a fresh marketing partner or maybe you need to reallocate budgets and/or provide your in-house team with more training?

If you’ve (officially) determined that you need help, stay tuned. In the second and last installment we’ll discuss HOW to find and evaluate qualified talent that fits your unique needs and meets your budgetary restrictions.

Email is the Preferred Method of Receiving Communication from Marketers

Eric Kirby, an email marketing veteran, delivered a keynote address Monday at MediaPost‘s Email Insider Summit, where he dismissed suggestions  that email marketing may be losing steam while urging marketers to carpe diem and capitalize on social media networks.

Email has been the marketing workhorse for a decade, and that’s unlikely to subside, he said. This endorsement, which is supported with hard data, comes as the industry has dealt with suggestions in 2009 that its long-held, top-tier role is fading.

However companies are using some inventive programs with mobile and social media to grow enhance their email efforts that marketers could learn from, he indicated. Outback Steakhouse, for example, offered a free Bloomin’ Onion to the first 500,000 people who became its fans on Facebook. And its list grew by 125,000 between Nov. 16 and 24.

This and other relieving statistics  (including Tiger Woods’ preferred media channel usage) are outlined is this well-delivered and insightful presentation.