email marketing

How to build a marketing database that keeps prospects engaged

JobCannon for Job Search
It sounded like the perfect market:

        

  • A large and growing marketplace
  •     

  • A need so critical that it strikes at the very foundations of the family
  •     

  • Increasing competition for scarce supply
  •     

  • A marketplace actively using the Internet to solve the problem

Add to these the fact that existing solutions were failing miserably, and you’ve got a market ready for an effective online solution.
I’m describing the unemployed job seeker marketplace. Few marketplaces have the natural alignment of trends that this marketplace does. JobCannon (formerly CardboardResume)sought to create an online job search solution that actually worked, and build a business in the bargain.
First, let me disclose that JobCannon is a client of Conversion Sciences.
You might have thought that this would be an easy sell. We knew it wouldn’t be. We needed to keep skeptical, frugal job seekers engaged and informed. Here’s how we did it.

Before you read any further…

If you’re on Twitter, please visit and play along.

Building the Battery with Informational Marketing

Since no tag line was going to help JobCannon rise above the noise, and since new job seekers needed advice as much as the software, we lead with an informational approach.
JobCannon commissioned an eBook to help break job seekers of their job board habit. It turns out that spending hours a day on Monster and CareerBuilder was the least effective way to find work, especially in a crowded job market.
I wrote the eBook for them. My primary qualification was my fundamental inability to hold a job. Get your copy of The Market for Me.
A book blog was setup to catch job seekers searching the Internet. I began speaking at job clubs on to help seed the marketplace promoting the book heavily.

Charging the Battery

To receive the book, prospects provided a name and email address, and asked the prospect why they wanted to read the book. About 10% of the attendees to a live presentation requested a free copy.
Of the people who visited the book request page 30% completed the form. This is a relatively high conversion rate.
The presentation model was not easy to scale, as I could only speak so many times. But the pipeline proved that we could engage and educate an audience with informational marketing.
The book/blog strategy was proven when one of my presentations was featured on applicant.com, an influential blog. It was subsequently picked up by Slideshare as a featured presentation. Over the space of three weeks, almost 30,000 people viewed the presentation. A link to the free eBook in the description drew viewers to our educational content.
This one presentation doubled the size of our email database. It charged our battery.
This is proof that high conversion rates amplify all of your online marketing efforts.

Tapping the Battery’s Energy

Informational posts generated for the blog became email newsletters that were sent to the book database.
This was an efficient battery. When we sent educational emails to the list, open rates were astronomical, between 77% and 98%. I’m usually ecstatic at 30% open rates. Click-through rates were as high as 22% and unsubscribe rates were near zero.
Because this market was bombarded by solutions to help them find work, we were dealing with a skeptical group. We found out it took as many as seven relevant contacts to generate a JobCannon trial: One reference from a friend, one presentation, one free eBook, and four informational emails.
Without our marketing battery, we would never have been able to generate the number of “touches” necessary to make prospects feel comfortable trying the software.

Like batteries marketing databases “lose charge” over time

As a rule of thumb, we assume that 25% of the contacts become invalid over the course of a year.

        

  • Prospects become customers
  •     

  • Email addresses change
  •     

  • Prospects choose to stop receiving email (opt-out)
  •     

  • Prospects choose alternative solutions
  •     

  • Prospects just stop paying attention to your emails

Many marketers drain their battery by sending promotional content. Discounts, feature-oriented posts and irrelevant information drain the battery very quickly.
In our case, many of our prospects find work, even though they’re not using JobCannon. Hopefully, they’ll continue to network and search for new opportunities even though they have found work.

Build your own battery with informational content

You may not have an eBook available, but your business generates informational content every month. Press releases, product descriptions, old blog posts, and sales presentations all can be transformed to charge your marketing batteries.
Join us on December 10 in Austin for BYOContent: The Extreme Conversion Makeover Workshop.
We’re going to transform a blog, a white paper, some video and an email newsletter into lead-generating and sales-generating tools.
Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist
P. S. Get more conversion tips by subscribing to The Conversion Scientist.

Would you believe that e-mail marketing is still in its infancy?

A couple of graphs from MarketingSherpa drive an important point home about the use of e-mail for marketing. It works, it has always worked, and it will continue to work. You just have to know how to use it.

House list email continues to outperform third-party email in 2009

House list email continues to outperform third-party email in 2009.

In this graph, “Emailing to house lists” falls behind “Pay-per-click search ads.” However, since fewer marketers are reducing the use of house list email, it should be #1.

I’ll go so far as to state this:

If you don’t have your email marketing efforts nailed, you have no business investing in social marketing.

Social marketing has its place, and is not a fad. But, we know so much about good, permission-based email marketing, that it is criminal to ignore it. Don’t let superstitions drive your marketing strategy.

The more sophisticated a marketer you are, the more likely you are to use house list email marketing.

The more sophisticated a marketer you are, the more likely you are to use house list email marketing.

MarketingSherpa has some choice interpretations of this graph:

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. They have higher open, click and conversion rates. In addition, they are much more likely to have a metrics-based grasp of how email works for them. Those with the “email is free” view, on the other hand, are more likely to fall into the group that doesn’t track conversion.

It is so easy to measure email’s effectiveness, that I would argue that you can’t call yourself a marketer if you’re not watching your results. We call you a spammer.

You’re not marketing if your not measuring.

Essential for any Considered Purchase

If all of your customers buy spontaneously on their first visit and never buy again, then you may not need to invest in email marketing. I don’t know of any business like this.

If your customers take weeks or months to come to a purchase decision, you cannot ignore email. Email is the biggest social network on the planet. Even retirees use email.

Your House List is the list of people who have given you permission to enter their inbox. This means they want what you have, and should be given every opportunity to opt out.

Email Isn’t Promotional, It’s Social

Don’t use email purely to promote sales and discounts. Use it to educate, inform and entertain. If you have a blog, send your most interesting posts via email. Most of us aren’t using RSS. Email is your ticket to growing your blog readership.

Then simply advertise in your own emails.

It’s Time to Get Your Email On: Get Started Now

It does take time to build your house list, so start now. Email can be fun if you’re sending content that reflects your passion for your company, your industry and your brand.

Then you can start investing in the smaller, less intimate social networks out there.

Six mistakes that you can turn into opportunities

In a post on the American Marketing Association blog, I’ve presented my list of best practices for notification and clarification emails. These are golden opportunities to continue the conversation with an engaged prospect and move them closer to becoming a customer or a user of what you offer.
Notifications are sent when someone requests something from your web site. They can be triggered by a download, registration, demo, webinar, signup, contact inquiry, service request, or customer support call.
Each one should move your conversation with this person further along.
We see these as simply informational, but they should also provide additional value.

The Top 6 Mistakes

Mistake #1: Not sending notifications and confirmations
Mistake #2: Not sending enough notifications
Mistake #3: Not helping new users get started
Mistake #4: Not tracking the performance of your notification and confirmation e-mails
Mistake #5: Not sending quickly
Mistake #6: Not offering that next piece of information

Get the details on the AMA blog.
Photo courtesy http://www.sxc.hu/profile/k_vohsen

It’s 130 words long, and can build your practice or get you more interviews

Email is the biggest social network on the planet. Even 80-year-olds have been on email long before giving Facebook a try. Because of this, it is the most effective tool for building a network that will connect you with the people that can give you work — whether you are a freelancer or a The Market for Me Book Blog.

The problem is that email is a very personal medium. If we send unsolicited email, we feel we’re invading someone’s personal space. After all, we’ve all had spammers invade our space.

The Magic Email

The Magic Email gives you polite, respectful access to your email network. It contains the following components:

  • It is specific about it’s purpose: to get permission to contact someone by email
  • It states exactly what the recipient can expect from future emails
  • It states specifically how the recipient can help
  • It offers to reciprocate, making you a resource for them
  • It tells the recipient how to remove themselves from your list

As a bonus, it should offer something of value; a link to something of broad interest.

The Magic Email creates an email network that has given you permission to contact them. It is through these contacts that you will win more freelance opportunities, and have your resume and cover letter delivered directly to hiring managers.

The Details of the Strategy

If you want to turn email into a work-generating network, listen to my presentation at Freelance Austin. Furthermore, Austin-based CardboardResume.com™ has sponsored a free copy of my book The Market for Me: Surviving Job Loss and Building Your Lifetime Career Network.

Download Audio
The Job Song courtesy of Industrial Jazz Group via Music Alley.

Are Bassett’s products as bad as their e-mail?

Six E-mail Mistakes that Bassett Furniture Used to Piss Me Off

Six E-mail Mistakes that Bassett Furniture Used to Piss Me Off

I’ve gotten three e-mails from Bassett Furniture this week. I did not opt-in for this communication. And, to top it off, the e-mail address they sent to is used in one place: my kids’ elementary school. It’s the address I expect to get information from my kids’ school. This sort of thing disgusts me enough to blog about it.

Will you vote for this on Digg and Sphinn? They need to get the message. You can do so at the bottom of this post by clicking on “Share.”

We Know How this Happened

This is probably more common in the tough market that retailers are currently facing. Some executive says, “We’ve got to get more sales. Use e-mail.” The underlings say, “But, we don’t have a database of e-mails because you didn’t approve that program last year.”

The execs don’t want to hear it. They’ve got a bonus to worry about. So, the underlings go out and buy a list from a list broker. This list was probably presented to them as a list of opt-in email addresses. List providers lie knowing that they can always hide behind the “we were told it was opt-in” excuse.

Bassett, this is not an opt-in list. It was scrapped from an elementary school Web site in Round Rock, Texas. You may get away with infringing on my privacy, but stay away from my kids.

Dear Bassett, in a down market, take market share away from your competitors, don’t give it away.

Poorly Executed to Boot

Once they’d found the list, the Bassett underlings asked, “what do we send?” Well, they didn’t spend much time on that question. They essentially scanned a print flyer and sent it on as one big image.

No introductory text

On my smart phone and in my email client, all you see is an email from Bassett Furniture and a URL.

This is what the email looks like in my e-mail preview pane.

This is what the email looks like in my e-mail preview pane.

With images turned off in my client, I got a big blank page. That’s their value proposition. “Big blank desperate spammer.”

There is no setup text to tell me why I would open it. Of course, I opened it because the address was scraped from the Web site of the school my elementary age kids attend.

No Value Proposition

Actually, “We’re Desperate” wouldn’t have been a bad value proposition. I would have responded to:

“We’re overstocked on the kind of furniture you’ve been wanting for your home, and we’re discounting to move it.”

No compelling call to action

If you allow your e-mail client to download the big stupid image, it says “Buy Online” at the top and bottom, and tells you when their sale ends. Most of the center is taken up with nine images of beds, tables and sofas with discounted prices. The never ask me to “Learn more” or “See more pictures.”

Not written in English

At the bottom of the page, below the big blank space you’ll find this lame — so lame — call to action: “Contact You Local Store for Details and other Special Offers. [sic]”

It makes you wonder what language this was translated from. “All your base are belong to us.”

The store finder is a nice feature and other retailers should steal this one shining feature of the site. Of course, Bassett fumbled the most important aspect of this effort: getting people to buy what they advertise.

Bad landing page

Given my horrid impression of Bassett from their e-mail, could they save themselves with an online experience that rocks? Nope.

The big graphic is a big link. No surprise. The page it takes me to has non of the products advertised in the email. In fact, it picks something at random  from their “CLEARANCE” tab. The featured item changes with each click.

So, the trail to a discounted item is lost within the first click, and I’m outta there.

The lawyers were consulted

To their credit, they did consult the lawyers. Their spam-mail is CAN SPAM compliant, with opt-out and mailing address.

What you should learn from this

  1. Don’t buy lists. It’s too easy to generate your own, pure, powerful opt-in house list from your own Web site. You just have to be willing to put in the time.
  2. Before you send an e-mail with a big image, consider plain text. It works better on phones and in e-mail clients where images are turned off (>50% by most accounts).
  3. Give me a reason to open and read. Each email has a value proposition that is part of your business’s value proposition. State it. Clearly.
  4. Take me to a page that has what you offer in your email. Whether it’s information or products, I have to see the same picture or the same text on the landing page. Never take me to your home page. Please.
  5. Have someone review your copy, someone who knows English.
  6. Follow the CAN SPAM rules. It’s the only reason I can’t report these idiots.

I’m not going to go into their subject line and From: address. It’s amazing that they even thought to include these.

I suspect Bassett’s marketing underlings will be fired for poor performance this Holiday Season. Maybe this post will save them.

For more rants and helpful tips on e-mail marketing, subscribe to The Conversion Optimization blog.

If you’re considering investing in a social marketing campaign, and you haven’t nailed your e-mail strategy, you may be investing in the wrong place.

 

The Superstitions That Keep You From E-mail Success

The Superstitions That Keep You From E-mail Success

I don’t think business owners and marketers are dumb. I think that they’re just superstitious. Like walking under a ladder, they fear that if they really step up their e-mail strategy, they’ll come to some sad end with only the pity of their loved ones to show for it.

Often, they’re afraid they’ll be punished by the god of “corporate image” and the unforgiving taskmaster, “brand.”

Here are the superstitions that keep us from making e-mail the effective, inexpensive marketing tool that it should be.

If I send e-mail, I’ll be seen as a Spammer

So, what is SPAM? It’s unsolicited or irrelevant e-mail.

Technically, irrelevant e-mail isn’t SPAM, but the reaction is the same, and usually involves words that I won’t publish here.

So, what isn’t SPAM?

  • It’s e-mail that I’ve specifically asked for.
  • It’s e-mail that I anticipate getting, even if I don’t read it all.
  • It’s e-mail that let’s me opt-out any time I feel it’s not relevant.
  • It’s information delivered to me in the way I want it if my inbox is my primary information source.

If you can satisfy these requirements, you are providing a valuable service. In fact, if you don’t send e-mail to someone who has opted into your newsletter or notification program, you’re breaking a contract with your prospects and customers. It’s dishonest to offer something and not follow through.

People get too much e-mail

No. People get too much unimportant e-mail. If you send valuable information to people who need it, you too can be important.

You may not be “I read every one of your e-mails immediately” important, but you can be.

Don’t worry. If their needs change, if they lose interest, they’ll tell you by unsubscribing (since you make this so easy).

People don’t want e-mail

If not by e-mail, then how will your prospects learn to solve their problems? Do you think more of your prospects are reading blogs? Do you think more of your prospects are on social networks? Twitter?

That people are using social media to get their information is only true for very specific segments of our the population. Members of the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X love their inboxes. Millennials do to, they just won’t admit it.

Let your readers decide. If you don’t have a plan for helpful, engaging e-mail, you’re denying them one of their favorite avenues of communication.

E-mail is old technology

E-mail is in its infancy. It is not a mature medium destined to fade away soon at the feet of a social media god. We are just learning how to deliver effective communications via the inbox. New technologies are being brought to bear, enabling inbox jockeys to get only the e-mail that is important, urgent, or highly desirable.

You just have to be sure you’re delivering something that is important, urgent, or highly desirable.

It takes too much time to do a newsletter

Then don’t do a newsletter.

If you can write a blog, you can write an engaging e-mail. In fact, if you have a blog, services such as Feedburner and Mailchimp will automatically send an e-mail to your subscribers every time you post. With Mailchimp, for example, you can create a template that includes promotional offers that will go out with your blog-to-e-mail posts.

My boss is more interested in social marketing and video

E-mail has an amazing quality that so many social media don’t. It’s measurable. You know who opened, who read, who bounced, who clicked, what they clicked on and if they forwarded the e-mail to a friend.

Plus, if you believe my premise that e-mail is the largest social network on the planet, you know that there is no better way to expose your video and social properties than through a list of interested individuals who’ve said they want to receive it.

No social network grows without e-mail. Why would your offering spread without it?

The “I’m No SPAMmer” Recipe

Since it’s easy to send e-mail without being a SPAMmer, why not do the following things:

  • Add a way to subscribe to your helpful or entertaining e-mail communications on every page of your Web site. Add a checkbox to every form. If you want to be extra diligent, ask the recipient to verify their e-mail address before they’ll receive anything.
  • Take the time to generate content that is going to help your readers solve their problems, educate them, or entertain them. Write as a human to a human. You do it everyday when communicating with your colleagues. Worry less about the design and more about your reader.
  • Be sure to offer an unsubscribe with each e-mail. Be CAN SPAM compliant by putting your mailing address on the e-mail. Don’t send e-mail to people who unsubscribe.
  • Send as often as the quality of your content allows. I received five e-mails in one day from American Airlines. They were telling me about the status of the flights I was scheduled to board. This wasn’t too much. It was welcome. Certainly there’s something valuable enough to send once or twice a month.

Most of this functionality will be provided by any of a hundred E-mail Service Providers (ESPs) for about a penny an e-mail. Plus, they’ll manage your relationship with Internet Service Providers to ensure that more of your e-mail makes it to the inboxes it’s destined for.

We’re talking about all things related to online marketing strategy and conversion at The Conversion Scientist. Get every post
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Photo courtesy zettmedia via stock.xchng

AUSTIN, TX – Ray Tomlinson, the man responsible for putting the “@” in our email addresses has apparently gone on the warpath against MySpace, Facebook and other social networks who claim they have the largest memberships.

“Zuckerberg Schmuckerberg!” Tomlinson was overheard saying at a social gathering. “My social network has been around since the 70s. We support photos, videos — everything Facebook does.”

The social network to which that Tomlinson refers is the world-wide email system, a system that has been in use since 1971 when Tomlinson inserted the “@” character to “separate the user from their machine,” according to Wikipedia. The symbol, known as an “at” sign, “ampersand,” was reportedly taken from a rune used by secretive Freemason accountants signaling other Freemason brothers to “ask for a discount.” This has not been confirmed.

Ray Tomlinson

Ray Tomlinson

The global email system has been embraced by Viagra retailers, relatives of Nigerian government officials, and that guy who thinks any joke is funny enough to share.

But, the biggest social network on the planet has been overlooked by thousands of legitimate businesses.

Tomlinson has been largely out of the spotlight since a major cable company attempted to trademark the “@” in 1996, proposing that all email addresses take the form “name@domain.com”. Tomlinson successfully argued the disk space that servers would need to store the additional characters “TM” should be saved to fix the Y2K problem.

It is not known if Tomlinson is seeking some form of compensation for his work, or if he simply had too many Appletinis. For instance, when it was pointed out that email doesn’t offer social applications like those supported by the OpenSocial standard, he is reported to have said, “what do you think viruses are!”

Tomlinson was not asked to comment on this story.

If you’re considering investing in a social marketing campaign, and you haven’t nailed your email strategy, you may be investing in the wrong place. Don’t miss our next post on the myths that keep businesses from using email to its full potential.

Photo copyright BBN Technologies.