Had the same newsletter template/design for 12 or more months? It is a good time for a facelift. Here are a few reasons why.
- It’s a good opportunity to do some in-depth analysis on what is working and what is not. If a section of your newsletter is not performing, yank it or change it up in the template. If anything, your readers will appreciate a fresh look.
- It goes without saying from best practices point of view you should always be adapting your emails to contend with image rendering issues etc.
- From a design stand point, try and keep it simple but aesthetically pleasing, and don’t be afraid of white space. It will clearly define your content.
Once you have your new template, now is the time to optimize your newsletter. I think all e-marketers struggle with how much is too much, or too little! Each month I suggest selecting a section of the newsletter and do an A – B test, example, if you have top 10 tips:
1) Version A- Feature 1 tip with a CTA to all 10 tips
2) Version B- Feature 3 tips with a CTA to all 10 tips
This is a great exercise, depending on the content I found anything from a 20% lift in click-through to a 20% decline.
Change is good – here is the header image layout for Gallery Exposure, that was tested well over 4 years:
Just want to welcome Gavin Handley, my former colleague and prize
-winning email marketer. I had the delight to work with him for approximately 3 years at my client, his employer, Kodak Gallery. Gavin’s got a keen awareness of client needs and great creative flair. We were talking yesterday about activity in the email space, and we both realized that it’d be great to open up the discussion on this blog. So I am really excited that he’s able, and interested, to contribute!
Gavin’s started off with his first post, “Engaging Newsletters.” Check it out!
I was thinking of this metaphor today- almost everyone in my family drives stick shift. They buy a new car, and it’s manual transmission. I have never really questioned this until I borrowed my Mom’s Element up in Tahoe. I wanted a few friends to drive it on the way back so I could nap, and none of them knew how to drive stick. In asking around- why do you buy a new car with stick, if automatic is an innovation, I hear the following:
“It’s less maintenance down the road if it’s manual transmission.”
“It’s less expensive.”
“You have more control.”
Funny, those things could be said of email marketing, in relationship to social media marketing, or other new technical innovations in the marketing field. The bells and whistles of new adoption- iPhone apps, Facebook Apps, Twitter – all include methods, somewhere of getting on an email list, or at least email notification. Even FarmVille leverages an opportunity to get your email address. So email, if it is the low-tech solution to many, is still sticking around as a kind of underlying layer of customer contact. And, it’s preferred by many marketers who want to build relationships that were started in other channels.
For all those new channels acquiring email addresses- I wonder if they’re going to use them in a way that maximizes the worth of the email’s value. But hey, you get a car, and if you don’t change the oil once in a while it doesn’t matter if it’s stick or automatic!
One thing about driving stick, it’s great for rapid acceleration while merging onto freeways, and downshifting for grades and conditions.
Email is excellent for release statements, ways of controlling the time and ways that customers come back to your site or recognize your brand/store. The timing aspect, maneuverability and flexibility is there when you’re choosing when and how to contact your customers.
No benefits of driving stick are really there if you don’t know the basics. And that’s of course, very true with email. The big four aspects of email contact must be there:
- courteous and ethical subscription processes
- similar processes for unsubscription
- targeted and meaningful messaging
- acceptable frequency
The reality is that it’s a very cheap campaign. Basically, take your email, and send it again a few days later. Heck, send it a third time.
You can see that list fatigue sets in pretty quickly. For this, you have some options:
- change subject line
- suppress openers and clickers, or those that act on the email contents
- change header text on top of creative (the text right before the main message, called different things now, by various folks.)
Some demographics will support this more than others. I’ve heard from B2Bs that rarely have any negative feedback, but they re-pitch only with conference registrations, and other once-a-year or twice-a-year notifications.
For consumer and retail, it’s been spotty. Basically consumers really need the slightest excuse to unsubscribe, and once that happens you don’t get them back. Some of my clients use this rule- only do the re-engage campaign occasionally. Then, a significant portion of your base won’t consider this as a regular technique. You don’t want them to say “stop hammering me,” essentially. But the occasional re-issue is tolerated.
It’s a great way to increase response and repurpose creative. There are also other more effective ways without the negatives:
- lifecycle campaigns. Make one creative and email according to the consumer’s lifecycle, not your marketing calendar.
- re-activation campaigns. Re-use the most popular creative to bring back lapsed viewer/engagers. Send this out after no contact in 3/6/9 months, for example.
Their head of new media, Stephen Greer, responded to an apt question in his talk in December, at the Email Marketing Summit. Someone in the audience asked about the abusive frequency of Obama campaign emails. He replied, “You voted, right. Then we’re not emailing too frequently.”
That truism can’t work anymore, can it, now that core, grass roots activists *have voted* and are still getting, dare I say, spammed. I heard it on NPR, I watched it on TV, dare I say my twitterflock are also complaining. They’re glad he’s elected, but they don’t want to be “asked for money every day.”
Sadly, they’re going to lose that political capital quickly if they don’t listen to the folks that do this for a living, that have tested it out. No more than 3 a week, sir. As we know in the industry, once someone has unsubscribed, it’s very, very hard to get them back.
Questions from the overflowing mailbag…
Changes in requests from different people in our team means different database structure (and this tidbit: Salesforce doesn’t allow outer joins!).- friend at dinner tonight
That sucks. Beyond a redesign (on MySql) and an ad-hoc query software, I don’t know what to tell you but this is the 4th non-profit I’ve heard of who has taken advantage of Salesforce’s 10K free-to-non-profits deal, and subsequently been bitten somewhere in the a$$ by restrictions. Note, negotiating is not dead with some of the smaller end ESPs, and it’s never too late to relocate your mail services.
Why doesn’t anyone write about trigger/transactional emails anymore? – Ben at MailChimp
Personally, I’ve never understood those fickle bloggers. Is it not discussed because it’s not sexy? Because its old news? Because nobody asks (I really don’t think most marketing departments use them- prove me wrong). I think, for the audience, this is a battle in their workplace they are just tired of fighting (promotional vs. lifecycle). So, in arguing for more at your place of work, make the conversation about ‘lowering costs’ versus ‘revenue’ and you will win that argument.
How can I share this cool article about fundraising with email marketers…
From this twitter, started a covnersation with Tyler of Involver about how their tool works- you embed a little image of the video- but more importantly, there is a follow-up call to action after it plays, and deep links to the video for sharing, plus a little chiclet to share it out. Case study by a client at Stanford regarding its relevance to non-profit spheres, too. He saw a 23% lift in fundraising over the year, and 51% of it was online. Interesting (if long- scroll to end) post.
A colleague of mine recently was very excited because they were going to get a lot more hits on their blog. They were promoting it in an email newsletter. They had actually gotten the marketing department to agree to the first paragraph of the email and the subject line, for an advertisement of the blog. This was their third announcement of the blog, to lukewarm results. Initially a hundred or so hits on the blog (from 100K or so email list). And very few stuck around.
The problem, I see, is that beyond the initial announcement, and frequent mention saying “check out our blog,” there is no reason to have a goal of moving an email list to a blog reader list, or seeming to communicate that to your readers.
For example, your sister likes you to call her when you have news, your aunt likes a nice note card, while your grandmother would be perfectly happy if you saved it up for the monthly tea party. It’s the same news- that you’re imparting- but they all want to know in different ways. If you want the best results, you’ll cater to their preferences. The blog is just one way of communicating. It’s more like the tea party (than the notecard, or the phone call) to carry this metaphor out.
So, why are people not really sticking around on the blog, from the email list? Assume the blog is fine- the main problem I see, is that those people really like emails, not blogs. They’re getting invited to tea parties, when they’d rather just get a notecard in the mail.
What you want to do is get NEW people to the tea party that are ALREADY into tea parties. Viral, social marketing – what I call “community work” – attracts those who are already into that method of communication. What you need to do is read other blogs, bring content to the attention of other readers (already into blogs), and promote on communities, thread discussions, social networks, etc., the cool content of this company. It’s a lot harder work than simply sending a note to your email list, over and over again, that there’s a blog. But the potential payoff is huge- a segment of new, interested prospects.
I see this on a larger scale- new technologies coming out, like Twitter- and marketing groups thinking they have to change or educate their existing mailing list. Mostly, because they had to train themselves. So, assume there is already a large segment of potential users who already understand this medium. Don’t take my word on it, check: http://search.twitter.com) and search for your brand.
Blogs can be simply another marketing channel, and the effort shouldn’t be to convert people to social media, but to find new customer segments, using social media.
A continuation of a post I wrote last week, “Getting Beyond Your Data Set” I describe the additional data you can use to juice up your campaigns. Now, let’s talk about how this happens.
1) Export from source
2) Transfer to local system
3) Load to email database
4) Use data to segment
Most platforms have schedulers (Unix/Linux: chronjob, Windows: windows scheduler) that can trigger a script (written in a combination of either SQL batch exporter, or Perl, or even Windows MS/SQL packages) to export the data. Then, once the export file has been created, transfer the file to the email marketing platform- internally, or hosted at your ESP. They will then have either a triggered job to load the export, or a timed operation that loads the data. Once it is in your campaign database, you can use the data for segmenting.
OK I went over that kind of fast.
Identify new data–> export file (flat, simple) –> timed scheduler to export –> transfer via FTP to local system –> timed job to pick up file –> import script to load data
- Use encryption for transferring files. Losing personal information on your customer is probably the worst thing that can happen in email marketing. Zip with encryption (password) is the lowest security, PGP is one of the more secure methods. In organizing the transfer of files with your vendor, don’t send the password in an email.
- For that reason above, I don’t recommend ever transferring email addresses, via excel spreadsheets, data files, or really any method. Create a customer key and use that to represent the unique user. You can do this in Excel, and of course in all database flavors.
- Having worked with a lot of ESPs to add data to their systems, they’re more than willing to help out and will mostly do all of the work once given an export file.
- Data files come in a few variations, commonly CSV (comma separated values) and fixed format. Data files also have a definition file that outlines the columns and data formats for each element.
At sushi with two email marketers last week, I found myself answering the question “How do you follow 500 people?” and realizing it’d be a good blog post!
Tweetdeck. It’s one of the Twitter add-on tools, clients, that helps you organize your feeds. So I separate a few high frequency twitterers (@jowyang, @mashable, @MackCollier, @karllong) into that pane. Then, I create a group of people I know face-to-face, and then I have a group of email marketers- folks I’ve met at conferences, blogs I read, etc. in the world of online and especially email marketing- and then there’s the freeforall category.
- Other people use Twhirl, too.
FriendFeed. It’s a feed aggregator, one of an ilk that’s getting more and more popular. You can create groups, like Tweetdeck, and follow those, or simply watch the main flow of your friends. It’s hard to explain- in written terms- but I’ll give it a try. You can have as many feeds go into your “stream” as you want. I have Flickr, Twitter, Disqus, etc. I also follow a bunch of people, adn see their streems. OK so my main stream consists of 400 or so people and their feeds. There is an algorithm that determines the top of the dogpile on my main stream. So highly commented, popular, or recent feed items will pop up there first. What makes it different than Facebook’s “status” page is: I also see friends of friends. If their content is deemed worthy enough by the all mighty algorithm, their stuff will pop into my feed, making my social circle (potentially) a little wider.
But remember, it’s not a numbers game! As an editor told me last week, quality > quantity.
Geographic email programs are very, very successful. They are difficult to get, as email marketers, since we can’t determine locale from email address. I’ve had discussions on discussions about matching an email list with ISP and there fore region, but the false-positives outweight the real positives. The old saw is, the massive amount of Vienna, Virginia folks who are AOL subscribers (and do not reside in Vienna). First, though, why is it worth the trouble, and lastly, how to determine geographical location.
What rocks about regional campaigns
As usual, don’t believe me, do your own test. Take a randomly selected control group, and then a targeted local group, and serve local content, and serve diffuse general content. You will see the response rate- opens, clicks, purchases- skyrocket in regional campaigns. Lately the Obama campaign has been regionally SMS’ing and emailing, anything from “call undecided states,” to “meet-up at Temple bar for the debates.” Past clients have further created regional relationships with other businesses to bring potential customers in the door with discounts, or invitationals.
I think regional works so much better than non-regional campaigns because, as consumers, we already have a host of relationships, impressions, and brand recognition with those regional businesses and locations. So when a new brand makes an association they can leverage off of all of those positive feelings, and one major feeling is trust. As all CRM customers know, if you can bring more trust into the relationship you are farther towards a successful one.
How to get Region?
This is tough data to get for an email marketer. Various methods of receiving region:
- Phone number is regionally located (see Obama SMS campaign for getting mine)
- Positive activity on regionally focused emails – you can provide an email campaign with a list of regions, and whoever clicks on X region can generally be considered interested in that region. Note, your email system has to be sophisticated enough to segment on clicked links.
- Asking for zip code (generally considered by consumers as less identifiable and easier to get) in a contest or just outright, for regional email messages
- Changing the online sign-up or registration information to get this initially
Last tip: Please put the region in the subject line. Show off that you know it, and that this email is tailored to the recipient!
Williams-Sonoma. They have targeted me as San Francisco Bay Area, but they neglected to put it in the subject line, which have really pushed me to open it.
Of course regional campaigns are a travel company’s baileywick, but even here they do a kind of silly goof: