Every year we make them, but only occasionally do we keep them. New year’s resolutions often represent our best intentions, which somehow get sidetracked as “real” life takes over and our time becomes filled with ticking items off “to do” lists and trying to keep our heads above water.
If you’re an email marketer, the same often holds true for the more strategic items on your list, which can be overlooked in an effort to get the next email out the door. However, as one of Return Path’s executives is known for saying, hope is not a strategy. Just wanting something to change doesn’t make it so. When thinking about the New Year’s resolutions you’d make for your email program in 2012, I recommend creating a realistic plan for sticking to these:
1. I will make time to test. This is a fundamental and essential best practice for any email marketer to follow. Without a testing plan, you simply won’t know the levers to pull to positively impact your email program’s performance. Instead, you’re just guessing as to what works, what doesn’t, what resonates and what misses the mark. Start by regularly testing the most basic email program elements with an A/B split test, like subject lines, and work your way up to multivariate testing of creative elements, like images, calls-to-action and landing pages.
2. I will define (and track) metrics to measure performance. What metrics are most important for measuring email program success? For most marketers this includes some combination of deliverability, open, click-through and conversion rates, but depending on your business model, your subscriber base and the desired responses you’re looking to generate from the email channel (i.e., purchases, leads, downloads, web traffic, etc.), creating a customized list of KPIs is essential for measuring trends over time. I continue to be amazed by the number of companies I come in contact with that are blindly sending email without any capabilities for tracking response rates.
3. I will be more focused on engagement. An email’s primary purpose is to drive an action. This can be anything from getting a subscriber to read what’s in an email, take a survey or walk them through a multi-step purchase process. But what about inactivity? Chances are you have a reasonably high percentage of subscribers who were once engaged and interacting with your messages, but have lost interest over time. These subscribers are likely to be deleting your messages without reading them or have set up rules to automatically route your messages to an “unimportant” folder, like in Gmail’s priority inbox. So what changed, when did it happen and, most importantly, why? Understanding what keeps your subscribers engaged over the long-term will be increasingly important for getting delivered to the inbox, staying there and maintaining high levels of activity.
4. I will reengage with my inactives. This is the next logical step. Stop focusing on list quantity and concern yourself with its quality. The health of your email program depends on it. Inactives can represent everything from true spam traps, recycled email addresses and unknown users to subscribers who once found your emails relevant and no longer do. Take action and remove the less than clean segments of your list that represent bad data or old data and create a strategy for reengaging with existing subscribers who are still valuable to your business.
5. I will monitor the competition. Standing out from the inbox clutter will continue to be a challenge as the volume of email increases, and this includes differentiating your brand and value proposition from your competitors. If your competition is incorporating features like geo-targeting, real-time inventory updates, offer count-downs in real-time, customized content and personalization elements into their email messages, what effect will that have on revenue and engagement, and how can you stay one step ahead? These insights are key as brands compete for subscriber mind-share in a crowded and increasingly mobile inbox.
As the saying goes, “even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” However, committing to at least some of these New Year’s resolutions will ensure your email program is set up for success in 2012 and beyond. So, let’s toast to that!
This post originally appeared on the DMA UK Email Marketing Council blog.
Margaret Farmakis is senior director, professional services at Return Path.
Read more about email marketing: Here are a few examples showcasing why you should check that everything is in order before you hit the send button! Plus, read about how new viewing habits (desktop vs. smart phone) do have an impact on email design, however the basics for email creative don't change.
Want to know more about email strategy? — read about improving your email open rates.
Surrounded by the brightest and best of the UK’s entrepreneurs, business minister Mark Prisk MP launched rather a useful tool for the UK’s small businesses at BIS HQ this week – a definitive calendar of events to help small business throughout Britain for every month in 2012.
Targeted at pre start ups as well as established and new businesses, the calendar marks the first time all Britain’s best business events feature on the same site in a searchable format. There are 600-plus events listed already – and Mark Prisk is aiming to get 1,000 online in the near future. He said:
“We want 2012 to be the year of enterprise, where entrepreneurs can unlock their business potential. Enterprise events don’t just take place on one day, or during one week, but they appear throughout the year and across the country.
“We need to make sure people know that there is support and advice available, that it is easy to get, and it is often on their doorstep.”
With shows, talks, workshops, schemes and local networking events listed, the calendar does just that. And the country’s diverse business support organisations – ranging from teachers who inspire primary school children to mentors of hi-tech start ups - are showcasing their event offers on the site too. Rajeeb Dey, one of the founders of the Government’s StartUp Britain campaign, said:
“The Enterprise Calendar is about helping businesses go for it. It will shine a spotlight on the broad range of plentiful resources that exist for people wanting to start or grow a business in 2012.”
The most up-to-date version of the calendar is online to search or download – and even upload your own event. Many events are free, so the calendar could well become an invaluable tool for you – and at the very least should benefit you with a couple of days of advice, inspiration and a range of handy new contacts.
Are you all fired up and ready for the new year? I have to tell you, I am just bursting with creative energy right now and optimism for the year ahead. I think it’s going to be a really exciting year and I can’t wait to see what the future unfolds.
We all had a lot to deal with as businesses last year: snow (we really don’t deal well with snow do we?), riots (and the stress and disruption they caused on a commercial and personal level), the Royal Wedding/ extended holiday that had such an impact on so many businesses, serious tightening of belts domestically thanks to the VAT and price increases and so on. I certainly let the doom and gloom get in my way at a couple of points last year.
I suspect this year won’t be much different in that sense: the Olympics, the Silver Jubilee (thank goodness falling in a much more productive manner after the May bank holiday) and all the “economic climate” has in store for us. For me the difference is I’m not going to just ride along with things this time. I have a lot of plans up my sleeve to be a lot more productive and proactive this year and I’m genuinely excited.
I’m not prepared to just go on doing what I’ve always done in the hope that it’ll be enough. I know I have an incredibly strong brand, a great business and some very happy customers. But the fact is, we’re in a difficult economy and we all need to fight a bit harder. And whilst that thought might have exhausted me six months ago, all I can say now is bring it on.
I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions. I think they encourage us to create unrealistic targets for ourselves that we all secretly know we’re going to break. So there will be no resolutions for me this (or any other) year. But December/ January is a natural time for us to think and set goals.
What do you want to achieve this year? Think about this on both a personal level and also in terms of your business. How do those two elements flow together?
Once you know where you want to be, think about the steps you need to take to get there. Don't overwhelm yourself with unrealistic targets. Just set yourself things that stretch, excite and inspire you and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve!
All too many products or services are seen by the marketplace as being very similar to one another and as a consequence they’re treated as commodities.
Most people, for example, consider one motor insurance policy to be much like many others, one brand of petrol or diesel to be much like the others, one Windows computer as much like many others, one accountant, lawyer, banker, IFA, web designer, printer or utility supplier to be much like many others, one hotel much like many others, one airline much like many others and so on.
Even in the best of times nobody wants to pay more than they have to for a product or service. So whenever your customers believe that they can get products or services that are similar to yours from other sources, your product or service becomes a commodity and your prospects and customers will always tend to shop around for the best price. And in today’s world of online search tools and web-connected mobile devices anyone can easily compare your prices with others in a matter of seconds, wherever they are.
In a commoditised marketplace whoever charges the best price for a given product or service tends to win. And if you don’t want to lose out, you have to be prepared to match prices.
But if you manage to set your product or service apart from all the others out there, you can charge what your product or service is really worth. Differentiation, as in so many things, is the key.
The question then becomes “what will the market bear?”
And in many cases it’s a lot.
You can buy an entry-level Lexus car for around £23,000 and they go up to £90,000 for the LS 600, without extras. Then Lexus introduced the LF-A supercar at £330,000. That’s around 50 per cent more expensive than the most expensive Ferrari or Lamborghini, and on a par with the most expensive Rolls Royce Phantom.
If you think of a Lexus LF-A as “just” another Lexus, £330,000 seems like a ridiculous price. But that’s before you see how it’s made; what it can do; the astounding attention to detail; and above all how it does what it does so well. To hear one is to want one. And to drive one is to want one even more. So can it really be worth £330,000? Let’s just say that the entire planned production run completely sold out within two weeks. And I’d have one in a heartbeat, given the chance, in preference to any Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche. It is SO astounding that anyone who is truly passionate about cars, and can afford it, will likely part very happily with the value of a suburban house to own a Lexus LF-A.
What about professional services? There are plenty of reports in the press of top lawyers with specialist expertise and high profile clients earning millions of pounds a year. Top PR consultants like Max Clifford make millions looking after clients such as Simon Cowell, Kerry Katona, Freddie Starr and Rebecca Loos. The market will happily pay a fortune for anyone who can demonstrate that they’re not a mere commodity like so many others in their field.
Those are great questions. But before you answer them, consider this story about Pablo Picasso.
A woman was strolling along a street in Paris some years ago when she spotted the world famous painter Pablo Picasso sketching at a sidewalk cafe. She plucked up the courage to approach him and asked him if he could do a sketch of her and charge her accordingly.
Picasso obliged, and minutes later she was the owner of an original Picasso.
She then asked what she owed him.
“Five thousand francs” he replied.
“But it only took you three minutes,” she politely reminded him.
“No,” said Picasso, “It took me my entire life.”
The point is, if you’re not just seen as another commodity you really don’t have to charge by the hour like everyone else does. You can often charge by the years. And if you’re good enough, plenty of people will happily pay a premium for your special expertise, because like an original Picasso for FR5,000, it is still represents amazing value.
It’s like the man who suffered from a persistently squeaky floor in his house. He finally called in a carpenter who had been recommended to him as a true craftsman.
The craftsman found the squeak, set his toolbox down on the floor and got out a hammer and nail. Then he pounded the nail into the floor with three blows. It took all of 30 seconds. But it fixed the squeak forever.
He wrote out an invoice for £95, which itemised what the invoice was for:
The moral of the story: charge for knowing where.
If you’re a B2B marketer planning to use social media to target prospects, here’s a cautionary tale about how not to do it.
Last week, I was followed on Twitter by someone whose bio said they owned a digital marketing agency and a recruitment consultancy.
As usual I said “Hi” to my new follower (I never use tools that send auto-DMs to each to each new follower – they are so obviously automated and impersonal) and asked what caused them to follow me.
In reply I received an odd response that didn’t answer my question: “@markbower Are you on LinkedIn?”
Curious about where this was leading I replied “Yes, wouldn’t be without it.”
A couple of hours later I received a LinkedIn invite from the self-same person. Rather than ignore the invite I declined explaining that I only accept LinkedIn invites from people I’ve met in person.
The next day I got a spam DM advertising a job opening that was in no way relevant to me. Needless to say I unfollowed and blocked the offending account.
Social media accelerates the “know-like-trust-buy-advocate” cycle of purchasing. That’s one reason social media is so great.
But it only accelerates that cycle — it doesn’t go away entirely!
What this person did wrong was to jump straight from “Hello” to “trust”, without working through the “know” and “like” stages first.
Don’t be in too much of a rush to close the deal. Just as you wouldn’t immediately (ever?) ask for the address book of a person you had just been introduced to at a cocktail party, you shouldn’t try to do the same in the virtual world.
Instead, use a social CRM product that will help you get to know your new contacts better. These kind of tools can automatically discover social media profiles for your contacts. It then only takes a couple of seconds to scan your contact’s profiles to find something you can chat to them about. Within minutes you can move through the know and like stages without fear of coming across as spammy.
If marketing is one of the things you want to improve this year, here are a few ideas to help you:
1. Start blogging in earnest – write articles regularly that help your customers do business better and you’ll be amazed at the results – wider awareness, increased trust, easier referrals, more sales.
2. Keep in touch by email. Don’t forget your current contacts in 2012 – if you want to make your life easier, devote time and attention to keeping in touch with those that know you. Communicate with them regularly in ways they appreciate and find useful and they’ll reward you with referrals and new business when the time is right.
3. Produce something really valuable. Take it further in 2012. Produce a piece of high quality stock content with a shelf life – the really strong, valuable stuff – a useful downloadable guide, ebook, whitepaper, research or king of them all – a book. Up the value for greater return.
4. Stop flirting with social media and get stuck in. It’s no longer on the fringes, it’s how many of your customers and clients research, connect and communicate today. Get involved!
5. Make your website a resource, not a brochure. Turn it into a valuable resource for your clients, not just a promotional tool for you. Stop shouting, start helping: put your clients first.
At the heart of each of these ideas is valuable content. Make your marketing all about creating and sharing information that is genuinely valuable to your particular buyers and watch your business grow.
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