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Six ways to make your email marketing messages go viral

February 28, 2011 by Georgia Christian

A viral email marketing campaign uses word-of-mouth to increase awareness of a product, service or concept. The value of such a campaign lies in connecting with the right people and offering relevant content that motivates them to take action. This is done by grabbing their attention through social media channels and prompting them to forward your message.

According to EmailStatCenter: “20 per cent of Facebook, MySpace and/or Twitter users have posted or shared something from permission email to their social account(s) via a "share" option.”

Like a real virus, a campaign starts out as a single entity and uses its host and their resources to grow, replicate and double with each interaction. An individual will receive a message, which they then pass on to friends using relevant sharing tools prominently displayed in the email. These friends trust the person that sent the email so it’s more likely to get opened. They in turn do the same thing and so forth. Before you know it, the message has gone viral!

So what can you do to ensure a successful campaign?

1. Make it unique. What makes you respond to an email and take action? Is it because it’s unique, makes you laugh or inspires you? You want your campaign to have a similar effect, so try applying these reactions to your message.

2. Send to a select audience. Don’t email your campaign to everyone; you’ll look like a spammer. Rather, target those who generally respond positively to your regular campaigns. Also remember that the only way you can effectively track your email is if they use the “share” tools in the body of the message to forward it, so let them know this is how they need to go about it.

3. Offer a valuable reward. Think along the lines of a free report, white paper or even a coupon. Just ensure you’re able to deliver on your promise in good time, or you run the risk of your company getting bad-mouthed — virally.

4. Optimise your message format. It’s a good idea to have an HTML and text option that’s optimised for people who open their email on a mobile device. An eConsultancy article states that more than 20 per cent of people now do this.

5. Corporate identity. Make sure your branding, logo, website and contact details are all clearly visible. Without this, no one can identify who started the campaign, so what’s the point?

6. A call to action. This is a vital feature. Tell your customers explicitly what they need to do and how to do it. It could be along the lines of “forward to a friend now”, or “share on your social network”. Many campaigns fail because they don’t include a call to action. Don’t be one of them.


Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.


What have the criminals ever done for us?

February 24, 2011 by Alex Pratt

How do you market the unmarketable?

Take crime. Ever wondered how important crime is to the economy and your livelihood? How would you market the benefits of crime? Think it can’t be done?

Consider this.

Imagine a world without theft, criminal damage, murder, or student riots. We'd have no need for the courts, police, lawyers, security guards, prisons, prison vans, the probation service, graffiti removers or witness protection. Think of the job losses. The insurance industry would be decimated, we'd have much less use for our hospitals, window and door locks, or car trackers, and you wouldn't want to be in the house alarm or CCTV game would you?

Whole industries like speed cameras and nightclub bouncers would disappear overnight. The knock-on impacts would include major drops in the demand for vehicles, petrol, handcuffs and keys. Less petrol means less tax raised, which might mean even higher VAT. The lack of available bad news would render much of Fleet Street redundant and newspapers would almost certainly go to the wall. No Scotland Yard, no MI5, and no MI6. Not even car clampers or tax inspectors would be needed. No part of society would be left unscathed by the lack of crime.

Think about it this way and you realise how poor the criminal fraternity is at marketing the benefits their industry offers. There’s no equivalent to the Banking Association’s Angela Knight out there combating the bad press by talking up the wider benefit of crimes. Criminals don’t make the most of the positive promotion they receive on film and television through the endless detective stories from Sherlock to CSI.

So how would you market the positives of crime? How about a ticking clock on the fourth pillar in Trafalgar Square which counts its positive contribution to GDP every second? What about highlighting what would otherwise be truly horrendous crime-free unemployment statistics by sponsoring the sides of police cars? What about sponsoring the news….after all most of it is about crime anyway- “Tonight’s news is brought to you by you al-Qaeda, global sponsors of hospital and construction jobs”

The point here is that every business has a positive impact somewhere for someone, and in truth we are all guilty of assuming customers will realise it without it being made clear to them. So many benefits are hidden from the customer because of lazy marketing. In promoting your message it’s important to dig deep into what’s special about what you do and tell people about it.

This is so much more the case in these austere competitive times, times for which marketing was really made. So, rather than cut spend back to save cash, you should be investing in interesting dialogue with your customers who are, after all, the font of all of your profits. Business only really has two functions, innovation and marketing, the rest is supporting detail.


Alex Pratt OBE is founder of and author of Austerity Business: 39 Tips for doing More with Less.

SlideShare: The YouTube of PowerPoint

February 23, 2011 by Simon Wicks

When we talk about the business use of social media, we tend to make a few distinctions. The first is that some social marketing channels are better for talking to consumers (Twitter and Facebook) and that others are better for networking with businesses (LinkedIn, Ecademy).

Then we talk about engagement (having conversations, basically) and broadcasting (pushing out a message). Social media types generally view broadcasting as a no-no. But there’s a place for it. YouTube straddles the divide between the two - it’s a broadcast that encourages interaction via comments, shares and simply embedding the video in your own site. YouTube is great and video works really well as a promotional tool. But we’re very aware that not so many small businesses have the confidence, the time or the technical skills to make a video.

So what other options are there? There’s podcasting, but the same caveats apply. This week I’ve been taking a look at something that does pretty much the same as YouTube, but using software that many business owners will already be familiar with. If you’ve ever used PowerPoint to create a sales presentation, you can use SlideShare to broadcast it to the world. SlideShare is basically the YouTube of PowerPoint. You create a presentation, download it and share the link. Other people can view it, comment on it, embed it in their own site.

Presentations may not necessarily be as immediate as videos, but think about it: how much more convenient is this than emailing a great big file to lots of people over and over? And what about the opportunity to pick up ‘floating’ prospects who just happen to be browsing in a related topic area?

So what can you use it for? Well, most people seem to use it to talk about the service they provide (there are a lot of consultants touting their expertise), particularly in social media; some people are using it to preview longer publications;  some people are using it to present statistics or arguments; yet others are using SlideShare as a basic product catalogue. Personally, I think simple step-by-step guides work well and can be helpful to businesses selling products that require a degree of technical skill (being a cyclist, I rather like this one on fitting a bike tyre).

Much like YouTube, the quality of presentations is variable and they range from the trivial to the profound. But it’s fun looking at things and you might just find a useful outlet here for your own business. If you do, the same rules apply as for a presentation to an audience: be clear, be simple, illustrate your point well and don’t use loads of text, like these guys.

Anyway, the reason I was looking at SlideShare is because I’ve been reviewing some content produced by one of our sponsors, business software company SAGE. I’ve been looking specifically for material that is of use to small business owners - ie, not pushing product, but sharing knowledge. Frankly, this is something not many FTSE 100 businesses do, but Sage are a bit more savvy with their social media use than a lot of other big firms. I came across this SlideShare presentation - I like the way it intersperses the more general observations with specific tips about using social media in your business. Equally smart is that when you think of Sage, you don’t think social media - but that’s how oblique modern marketing is.

I’d be keen to hear what you think about SlideShare and whether we should produce a guide to using it effectively. I’d also like to know what type of content you like to read generally - maybe you subscribe to an e-newsletter, read a blog or always click the links from a particular business Twitter account? Post your thoughts or a link to your favourite content and we’ll make sure we look at what’s interesting to you and your business.

Creating case studies that sell

February 22, 2011 by Sharon Tanton

Packing your site with valuable content is the best way to showcase your operation – and case studies are the kings of valuable content. Demonstrating how you add value, case studies bring your website to life, and will always be clicked on by prospective buyers.

There’s an art to creating good ones – here are my tips for writing case studies that sell.

Do your homework

Set aside proper time to interview the client at a time that suits them. Set the agenda. Have your questions ready. Record the conversation so you have time to listen properly without scribbling like a maniac. Give the client time to say other things that might not be on your agenda. Keep asking “why?”. This can be a hugely valuable process, and you can learn a lot about what it’s like to work with you.

If the idea of this makes you uncomfortable, ask someone else to conduct the interview for you. People often find it easier to talk to a third party, so this approach has other advantages too.

Headlines matter

Case studies are the heavy-weight proof of your expertise, but don’t treat them too reverentially. You want people to read them. So apply the usual rules of smart business writing and grab attention with a headline — don’t say “Monetizing the Web Operations of AN Company: A Case Study” — say “Profits doubled in three months — here’s how”.

Make the challenge clear

Your case study is your chance to show precisely how you add value, so explain it in lovely plain language.

Streamline the process

In the real world, projects can be fairly rambling affairs. The parameters change, people change roles, life happens. The project had a bit of a hiccup in the third month when Jane from HR went on maternity leave… But for the purposes of the case study, keep to the brief. Your aim is to show how you moved your client from A to B. Show your focus.

Use direct speech

Use your client’s words. Speech lifts a piece of writing and makes it much lighter to read. More importantly, it adds real credibility. It’s show not tell. An advantage of getting someone else to write your case studies is it makes that harvesting of this kind of valuable information much easier. Tell me again, how great am I?

Break it up

As well as using speech, use bullet points to highlight your points. Keep the busy web reader in mind and make it really easy for people to read.

Highlight the results

Make it clear and unambiguous. How your help raised the bottom line. It’s the most important bit. Don’t let your case study dribble away at the end. End on a high.

And finally…

Put your case studies up at the front of your website. Too often companies stack them at the back of their site, like dusty old volumes on the top shelf of a library. Make them grabby and appealing and stick them in the waiting room. Think glossy mag not the Encylopedia Brittanica.


Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

The fashion for keyword-rich domains - it will all end in tears

February 21, 2011 by Bruce Townsend

One or two clients have reported to me recently that some of their competitors are achieving good rankings on Google using sites with keyword-rich domains, like “”. URLs like this have been favoured for some time by Bing, and by its predecessor MSN. But more recently they also seem to be delivering good results on Google for some keywords, though by no means for all.

As a result, there seems to be a bit of a rush to buy up and populate such domains. Which is perfectly understandable given the pressure to achieve high rankings on Google, and the benefits of doing so. However, I predict that this latest Google gold rush will end in tears, and much time and effort will be wasted for a little short-term gain.

In the past, site owners have used all sorts of tricks to get sites to the top of Google without actually providing the quality content that Google craves. And Google has been equally proactive in blocking them. The meta keywords tag used to be very popular, until spammers started using it to cheat the search results. Today, Google completely ignores it. The search engine also acted to reduce the effect of so-called Google bombing – driving sites to the top of a search with numerous keyword-rich links. Domain spam is a trick of the same order, and it can be only a matter of time before the big G acts against it.

My daughter and son-in-law recently spent a few days in Naples. They were amazed by the sheer number of illegal street traders operating in the city. They all seemed to have spotters watching out for passing police, and as soon as the police appeared, the traders melted into the side streets.

Spammers are online traders of the same order — always having to move on when the search police turn up and change the game. These people invest huge efforts in a quick sell which works for a few months, after which all their investment goes down the pan, and they have to start again. No doubt some people enjoy this kind of life, living by their wits and constantly trying something new. But if you want to build an online business that delivers a dependable living, then invest in developing a site that has bona fide, worthwhile content, and relationships that lead to good quality links from good quality and reliable sites.

Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.

Jumping through hoops for public sector work

February 18, 2011 by Rachel Miller

Have you ever tried to bid for a public sector contract? If you have, I’ll bet you’ve never had to wade through so much red tape and jump through so many hoops in your entire life.

If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Nearly three-quarters of small firms rarely or never bid for public service contracts.

Just five to ten per cent of public sector business is awarded to small and medium-sized businesses - despite the fact that small businesses account for close to half the UK’s turnover. And that public sector business is worth billions.

But there’s good news for small firms this week.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to help more small businesses bid for and win public sector contracts. His aim is to see 25 per cent of all government contracts being awarded to small and medium-sized firms.

It has to be said that there is some confusion over whether he means 25 per cent of the value of all contracts or 25 per cent of the number of contracts. But who’s quibbling — the difference is only a few billion quid.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

So how’s he going to do it?

He’s pledging to break up large contracts into smaller chunks. And where that’s not possible, he’ll encourage large suppliers to increase opportunities for small firms in the supply chain.

Forgive my cynicism but I can’t see larger suppliers giving up a slice of the pie.

However, let’s focus on the positives. With this announcement comes the launch of a new online tool — Contracts Finder — that will show all central Government tender opportunities.

Best news of all is that the Government has removed the need for bidders to fill in a PQQ (pre-qualification questionnaire) for smaller contracts. In addition, David Cameron is promising much less red tape and more transparency.

Will it work? Let’s hope so. It could be a brilliant boost for small firms. And, with the Government promising to publish figures on the amount of contracts going to smaller businesses, we’ll be able to measure their success.

In the meantime, tell us about your experience bidding for public sector contracts and watch this space.

Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut

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