Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ensuring Email Marketing Success

Email marketing is one of the most commonly used forms of reaching out to potential or existing customers. However, most of the times, this is the activity which yields the least results. Not because it does not work, it’s because it is not done properly. 

This article shares some very high level tips for making your email marketing initiative a success.

First of all, identify the objective of your email campaign. This is very important because all the below mentioned aspects will need to align with that. 

Email Design
Email design is one of the most crucial factors for the campaign success. Here are some of the easy to follow and easy to implement guidelines.
  • Call to Action: Identify one or two clear call to action items. The Call to Action items should be placed in the upper portion of the email. Don’t bury it way down because in many cases, people will never scroll down the preview pane to read your complete message.
  • Images: Be careful with the usage of images. While images make the emails look beautiful and better, you need to ensure that you do not use very heavy images. That tends to make the email go in spam. Also, do remember that you check the creative common license and refrain yourself from just picking and using images from search engines.  
  • Length of Message:  You might have lot of things to communicate. But restrain yourself from writing lengthy text. Keep it simple and short. Bullet lists work better than long paragraphs. Use appropriate font styles to drive attention to important items. 
  • Plain Text or HTML: I suggest prepare both the versions (Plain Text as well as HTML). All email programs allow you to setup both versions. Based on the setting at the receiver’s end, appropriate format is delivered.
Content is another most important aspect which you need to pay attention to. As said, ‘content is king’

  • Mind the keywords: Make sure you use appropriate words in your campaign. Keywords such as free, offer and discounts etc could get your email in spam. So watch for these.
  • Caps/ Exclamations: Definitely don’t use all capital letters in your emails. Watch the exclamation marks. Don’t use unnecessary punctuation  This is not your causal Facebook update. This is a formal email communication, so definitely proof read the email and watch out for grammatical mistakes.
List Management
Once your campaign design and content is ready, you are ready to send across the email to your list. Do note that List Management is a very important factor which you should definitely not ignore. You need to have a very well maintained, well cleaned up list.

  • Manage Opt-in: Make sure that you do not spam the people who have not opted in to your list. Sending emails to non opt-in list is spam and can get your email server blocked. So even if you have a ‘researched’ list or have ‘purchased a database’, do not send emails to those without their explicit permission.
  • Unsubscribe Option: Always remember to include an ‘Unsubscribe’ option in your email campaign. The receiver should always have the flexibility to unsubscribe from your emails. Make sure you remove the unsubscribed members from your lists. Respect their choice and ensure that no communication goes out from you to them.
  • Forward Option: You can choose to include an option to let receivers forward the email to their friends. This will help you spread your message to those members who may not have subscribed to your campaign.
Best Practices:
On closing notes, here are some best practices for subject lines, timing and frequency of your campaigns. 
  • Subject Line: Short and simple yet impactful subject lines (maximum 8 words) can significantly increase the open and read rate of your campaign. Spend considerable time in deciding the subject line of your campaign. Watch the keywords too (read point above about the keywords to avoid)
  • Time: You just can’t schedule the campaign and forget about it. Understand and study your audience, their reading habits and then schedule your campaign. No point in sending the campaign when your audience is in no mood to read your email or does not have time.
  • Frequency: Here is the Rule of Thumb: Never ever send too many email campaigns. Just because you are excited about some news, does not mean that you have to broadcast it through an email campaign. Be selective about what you share and how often you share. Then only it will have an impact. Make people look forward to email from you.
Have more tips to share? Share those as comments for fellow blog readers. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

13 Point Digital Marketing Checklist as You Enter Year 2013

Wish you all a Very happy New Year!

As we enter year 2013, here comes a handy list of 13 points which you can have a look at while preparing your Digital Marketing strategy and plan.

Is your website up to date to deliver the right message and converse with the audience? Website is the most crucial factor of your online marketing. All your efforts can fail if your website does not deliver the right message, is not consistent with your brand or does not align with other messaging. Remember, the website is not a stone. You can and should change it frequently. Make sure you plan for frequent website updates and conversations. Another most important point is to make sure that your website is mobile compatible. In 2013 you just can’t afford to not have your website visible on mobile

Online Marketing Plan
Start with making a plan. Plan making is not about sitting with a pen and paper. An impactful plan requires a thorough study and research aabout your target audience, their buying behaviors  their purchase cycles etc. Make sure you identify and plan the right mix of PPC, CPM, PR, Email Campaigns and social media to reach out to your target audience, connect and engage with them.

Have a hard look at your collateral items (the brochures, flyers, corporate PPT etc). Is it high time that the collateral is looking ancient, mentioning incorrect or old facts and not consistent with your brand image? Your collateral should not merely work as a backup. It should be comprehensive, precise, clear and appealing enough to sell on its own.  Plan for phase-wise revision of that to keep it up-to-date.

Search Engine Optimization
Get together with experts and understand what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means – what it means for you. Don’t go for it just because everyone is doing it. If your business depending on ‘being found’ on search engines on first page, then you should definitely start the SEO efforts. 

Email Marketing
Undoubtedly, email marketing is one of the effective ways to connect with your target audience (if done in a right way). Formulate your email marketing strategy – whom do you want to reach out through email, what message you send across to them and how often would you reach them. Prepare an email campaign calendar and appropriately execute the same. Identify which means are you going to use to design and develop, send and track your email campaigns because all these factors are very important for successful email marketing. 

Social Media Plan
As Erik Qualman said “We don't have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.” So don’t join the social media bandwagon unless you strategize and have a solid social media plan. Know your social media objective, identify the platforms you want to leverage, formulate the message you want to send across on social media channels and have a rock solid execution plan. The worst situation you can be in is to have a plan, start your social media efforts and not sustain those because of faulty execution. Have a look at these 10 most commonly asked social media questions to get started.

Social Media Platform Selection and Strategy
Social media is not about creating a page on Facebook or creating a Twitter account. It is much more than that. You don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter just because everyone is out there. There are hundreds of social media platforms out there. Identify the one most appropriate for you. Decide what is your communication strategy on those platforms because each platform requires a different tone and theme and you should adopt the right one.

Company Blog
Have you created blogging strategy for your business? Decide which blogging platform to use, which kind articles you would be posting, who will create the content, how often will you post, how will you ensure readership for your blog and how will you promote those. 

LinkedIn is one of the most important platforms for professional networking and yet the most wrongly used on. LinkedIn usage in most cases is limited to business development teams or to recruitment teams. But do you know that LinkedIn offers Company Pages? You have a very good opportunity of creating company profile on LinkedIn, mention your products and services and also to engage with the audience through frequent relevant updates. Go ahead and explore that in 2013.

Thought Leadership
Do you think you know your area of business really well? Establish your though leadership in online space. Let the world know what you know really well. Establish a company blog, write guest articles on well-known websites, speak at conferences, conduct webinars or hold local events. All these are opportunities for you to share your knowledge and also to learn in the process.

Technology has made it possible to connect with worldwide audience. Explore the world of webinars/ web demos. You can use webinars to let people know about your products/ services, share your knowledge on a particular topic or requesting your customers to speak about their experiences in interacting with you. Webinars are easy to organize and conduct, are relatively very cheap and very effective. Here is a checklist for you to conduct successful webinars.

Press Releases
Have you identified your press release strategy? Explore the exciting world of online press releases. Press release writing requires committed time and energy. Writing an effective and impressive press release requires business understanding, understanding of online space and knowledge of how search engine works so that the press release helps in enhancing the online brand. Prepare a calendar for your company PR, get well-written PRs out and enhance your online brand.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Campaigns
Various prominent search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN and also other platforms like LinkedIn etc provide paid advertising programs also called as PPC. Under these programs, one needs to bid for competitive key phrases and keywords and substantiate those with a compelling ‘ad copy’ to drive high traffic to your websites. PPC program helps you generate instant traffic on demand while having full control on how much you want to spend almost daily. It’s a quick and effective way to generate right kind of traffic to your website and you need to pay only for the performance. If you think you are ready for paid promotion, you can choose to explore PPC campaigns and prepare plan of action for those. Make sure you regularly monitor the performance and tweak the campaigns for maximum ROI.

What is on your checklist for this year?