Email Marketing: Measure Once . . . Then Measure Again

shutterstock_257627848Increase conversion rates. Improve lead generation. Grow email list size. These are the top three email marketing objectives in the coming year for the small and mid-sized businesses we polled in a recent research study. Just 12% of respondents called themselves “very successful” with achieving their important objectives, and 21% admitted to being “somewhat unsuccessful.”

How these organizations measure success may vary. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s 2015 Response Rate Report, email has the lowest cost-per-acquisition of all the media in the study when house lists of current customers are used . . . however it also suffers from one of the lowest response rates.

Click rates were lowest for lead generation emails sent to prospect lists (3-4%) and highest for B-to-B emails sent to house lists (17-18%) in the DMA study. For 36% of respondents, the primary purpose of emails sent to house lists was to make a direct sale. For emails sent to prospect lists, 62% say the main purpose was lead generation.

Like any marketing channel, email marketing follows a “test, measure, refine” improvement process that gets marketers closer to reaching their goals. What can you do in enhance your results?

  • Keep your list clean. Before removing anyone from your list who isn’t opening your emails, try to re-engage. A subject line like, “Because We Miss You,” personalizes your message that can include a special offer to encourage interaction. With multiple consecutive “un-opens,” you should remove them from your list, along with any undeliverable addresses.
  • Commit to split testing. Take a small percentage of your total list, and send half of the test group one email version while the other half gets another. Pick one variable: subject line, content, image or offer, for example. Then send the version that gets the most opens or clicks to your remaining subscriber list.
  • Now test some more. Identifying the best times and days of the week to send your emails starts with understanding the needs and expectations of your subscribers. You learn more by varying your deployments and analyzing performance. Also consider a short survey to ask subscribers about frequency and subject matter preferences.
  • Embrace a multi-channel strategy. Email can be a fast, affordable and effective channel for most marketers . . . and is best when part of an integrated engagement strategy. According to the DMA study, 44% of their survey respondents use three or more channels for their marketing efforts. In these instances, the most popular channels tend to be email, direct mail and social media.

Ask us for a free copy of Email List Growth from the Small to Medium-sized Business Perspective for more tips and important insights.



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Email List Growth: It’s as Hard as It Seems

shutterstock_172545941Email remains attractive to marketers for its affordability, immediacy and effectiveness. Best of all, you know your subscribers have given you permission to contact them which means there is implied interest in what you’re offering.

“Growing your list is tough but so worthwhile,” says Brian Neufeld, CMO and co-founder of ActiveDEMAND, a Canadian-based marketing automation software company. “You need to treat contact lists as a valuable asset. It costs time and money to acquire contacts. For example, collecting business cards and badge scans from a trade show where you paid to be, only to have those contacts end up at the bottom of a desk draw is a complete waste. If your average cost to obtain a contact is $10 and your list is 1,000 strong, you have a $10,000 asset you can leverage to earn a return.”

According to our recent study, SMBs rank content downloads (43%) and access to value-added website pages (43%) as the two most effective tactics for building contacts; they also score among the easiest to execute. About one-third say they value events for list-building.

Most email list growth tactics require a registration form to capture new subscriber information – an essential piece to information downloads and “premium” website content like case studies, informational guides, tip sheets or videos. The number of fields in the form may vary, but the optimization principles remain the same: fewer fields generate more, less qualified subscribers. More fields generate fewer, more qualified subscribers.

What to capture? MarketingSherpa says nine of 10 marketers agree the most important data to collect is an email address followed by name, phone number and lead source. Additional information to capture in a long form would be company name, address and postal code.

Want to learn more? Ask us for a free copy of Email List Growth from the Small to Medium-sized Business Perspective for more insights into how SMBs will overcome new challenges to email list growth.

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Content Marketing: 5 Tactics That Educate and Engage

shutterstock_231340918Chances are, your chief competitors are doing their share of content marketing. About half of small and medium-sized business marketers (SMBs) we recently surveyed in partnership with an independent research firm are increasing content marketing budgets; just 7% scaling back.

Creating engaging content is job #1. Here are five tactical ways to deliver it to your key audiences:

1. Offer proof through case studies. Identified as the most effective tactic by more than half (55%) of our survey respondents, articles and case studies are readily distributed through blogs, emails and websites. Among survey subjects, they’re also considered one of the easiest tactics to execute.

2. Capture leads with videos. Considered by three out of five SMBs to be the most difficult type of content to create, videos are also evaluated as most effective by 45% in our study. To simplify video production, find ways to maximize your time and effort. One shoot, with the right editing, can yield multiple videos.

3. Increase interest with infographics. Think integration when using infographics, rated the third most effective type of content by our survey takers. Share yours via your blog, direct mail or email campaigns. And pull out specific statistics as Facebook posts, linking back to the full infographic on your website.

4. Educate with white papers. Used primarily by business-to-business marketers, white papers or educational guides are best when presenting ideas in depth or delivering a point-of-view on relevant and timely issues. It also helps to know your target audience’s format preference: Some may prefer a printed copy, while others may opt for an electronic download.

5. Gather intelligence with webinars. The devil is in the details with webinars and is most likely why they rank just behind videos as the most difficult type of content to produce, according to our survey respondents. On the plus side? Event registration forms capture prospect and customer data on the front end, whether registrants actually attend or not.

Need assistance with creating or distributing your valuable content through print and digital channels? Let us know; we can help. And contact us for a free copy of our 2015 research report, Content Marketing Trends from the Small and Medium-sized Business Perspective.

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Case Study: Using Cross-Media to Gain New Business

shutterstock target groups

Eager to test the power of cross-media marketing, a small professional services company launched a multi-channel marketing campaign to specific vertical markets that were largely untapped.

Two primary goals were set: 1) Create awareness of the company’s capabilities, and 2) Generate sales leads.

The audience was a house list of clients and prospects. Both decision makers and decision influencers were targeted.

The campaign was developed around the theme, “Grow your Business During the Upcoming Spring/Summer Months.”  The incentive to experience the campaign was a free gift — the choice of a t-shirt also designed with the growth theme.

An email was sent to drive prospects to a personalized URL (PURL) to claim the free gift. Non-responders were sent a personalized “reminder” postcard via mail. The PURL was used for both tracking and audience segmentation.

Once on the site, respondents could choose a t-shirt and were asked to provide information on their biggest business challenge and to supply or validate their email address.

An automated thank you email was sent, and contacts were prioritized for sales follow-up. Company sales personnel then made follow-up phone calls to verify the business challenge and make a sales appointment.

Results? Within the first 60 days, $37,600 in business closed with $15,500 additional pipeline activity. The PURL helped the company learn more about its prospects. PURL visit rates totaled 11.9% of decision makers and 10.4% of decision influencers. Online survey completion boasted an impressive 52.7% of decision makers and 31.89% decision influencers.

Overall, the firm also confirmed two important “best practices” to continue in future campaigns:

  • Use PURLs to effectively track and segment an audience.
  • Include a compelling offer to drive engagement.

Let us know how we can help you reach your business goals through strategic marketing campaigns.

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Print Communications: Smart Ways to Reduce Waste

shutterstock nuture plantHappy Earth Day! April 22 marks the 45th anniversary of what the Earth Day Network calls “the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.” Each year, it brings into focus issues of the day, builds community activism around the world and causes us to think about the impact of our own habits.

As a business communicator, you have many marketing channels available to you and important goals to reach. You can choose print communications to be part of your mix . . . and feel good about it.

What can you do to make a difference? Here are three quick ideas:

1. Cleanse your mailing list. Save money and eliminate waste by managing your mailing list carefully, deleting duplicates (John A. Jones and Mr. John Jones) and the non-deliverables. Track and measure your response rates to trim lists even more.

2. Be a smart prospector. Today’s small and mid-sized business marketers can easily and affordably leverage the power of highly-targeted data to reach a very specific audience. Using one of the premier list sources, there are 25,000 business-to-business buyer lists and more than 38,000 business-to-consumer lists – many highly targeted by demographic and lifestyle characteristics. Why spend money mailing to people who will not be receptive to your message, or worse – those who may want to hear your message but who have moved and won’t receive your mail?

3. Print on demand. On-demand digital printing uses computer-generated text and images instead of traditional printing plates. Turnaround is 50 to 70% faster than traditional printing and offers an economical way to produce quantities as low as 50 without sacrificing quality. The ability of digital printing to produce small batches of reports, newsletters, brochures and other printed materials not only reduces waste due to obsolescence  but also limits inventories.

Want more ideas to help you reduce, reuse and recycle your print communications? Let us know!

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The Case for Case Studies

shutterstock_231340918When you’re ready to make a purchase, especially when it’s a big one, you don’t jump in without doing some research first.

Today, most of us ask the opinions of others and spend some quality screen time researching our options. In our connected world, nine out of 10 people look for product information, including reviews, social posts and comparative product information, before making a purchase decision.

And while buyers are looking for opinions, they aren’t looking for your opinion of your product or service. Instead, they want to hear from people who’ve used what you offer. They want to know that someone who is similar to them had a positive experience and felt their time and money were well spent.

Case studies, when done well, are a great way to provide this information. They illustrate the real-world results that customers want to see in a compelling and engaging way.

The challenge is creating a case study that gets and keeps people’s attention by telling a powerful story.  As you get started, here are some important case study to-dos:

  1. Understand your goals and audience. What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your message? Who are you trying to share it with? And what do you want them to do once they’ve read it?
  2. Have a strong story to tell. Is your customer’s story relatable? Is it realistic? Do you have strong facts and figures? Will readers see themselves in the story you’re telling?
  3. Secure customer participation. Make sure the potential subject for your case study is all in. Are they comfortable sharing ROI facts and figures? And is their legal department? If they can’t share the full story, then it probably isn’t the right story to tell.
  4. Write from the customer’s perspective. Focus on the customer’s success story instead of your marketing message. This is about them, not you.
  5. Think: action and engagement. Make the story readable and relatable. Address the customer’s challenges. Talk about the solutions provided and how they met the customer’s need. Then show off their results.
  6. Share, share, share. Publicize your case study’s availability. Post it on your website. Share it on social channels. Include it in your email marketing efforts and newsletters. Blog about it. Create videos from your case studies. And share the stories with your sales team.

Need help with your case studies or other content marketing tactics? Let us know.

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Survey Says: 5 Key Findings Impact Nonprofit Marketing

Nearly 17,000 charitable donors in the U.S. responded to a recent survey conducted by Cygnus Applied Research and compiled by Penelope Burk. Among its findings, the research revealed:

  1. Donors plan to maintain level of giving. While the majority (55%) expected to give about the same over the previous year, the ratio is 4:1 for donors who planned to give more than less. Among those intending to give more, 67% cited personal financial ability while 31% referenced satisfaction with the organization they support.
  2. Givers are changing the ways in which they donate. Sponsoring participants in athletic-type fundraising events, like walk-a-thons, is increasing in popularity, as are online, monthly and social media giving. Direct mail remains the favorite form of gift transaction, although longer-term trends show it to be decreasing in popularity.
  3. Contributors are becoming more selective. More than half (57%) of respondents said they spend more time researching nonprofits before they give for the first time or renew their support. Their main source of information by far? Websites. Donors also value measurable results; 69% said they are likely to favor organizations that report on what is being achieved with donor gifts.
  4. Donor recognition garners greater results. Contributors were asked if they would give again and more generously the next time to a nonprofit that acknowledged their first gift promptly and reported their progress in measurable terms before asking for another gift. Nearly seven out 10 said they would definitely or probably renew, half would make a larger gift, and 67% would continue to give indefinitely – assuming they received these considerations on each occasion.
  5. Many have more to give. Fully 40% of survey participants said they still could have contributed more – including half of donors under the age of 35.

Need help in applying these and other research findings to marketing your nonprofit? Let us know.

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5 Dos and Don’ts of Donor Recognition

Donors According to the 2014 Burk Donor Survey by Cygnus Applied Research, donor recognition can be a tricky thing. A carefully considered gift or event invitation can strengthen a relationship, while something frivolous or connected to yet another appeal for cash can be alienating. Here are five tips on what – and what not – to do:

1. Don’t publish the names of your contributors. Nine out of 10 donors say this form of recognition neither influences them to stay loyal longer nor inspires them to give more generously, according to the Cygnus survey.

2. Do hold donor recognition events… and be sure to offer attendees the opportunity to learn, first-hand, what their gifts are achieving. Most donors (87%) who attended a recognition event say it positively influenced their decision to give again.

3. Don’t present plaques or certificates. Or at least think twice before you do. More than half of survey respondents are unhappy when nonprofits defer a portion of their gifts to recognition that they don’t want. An additional 14% say certificates and plaques are simply unappealing.

4. Do recognize donors with thoughtful gifts. People say they like to receive poems or paintings from participants in educational or artistically oriented nonprofits; cards with a personal note of thanks; or photo albums of the good works a charity was able to accomplish thanks to contributions.

5. Do skip “token” gifts. Per the Cygnus data, some donors perceive them as evidence that fundraisers are unaware of what motivates them to give, and tokens may suggest unnecessary additional costs to fundraising.

One more “do?” If you need assistance in marketing your nonprofit, let us know.

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Face Time: How to Network With the Best of ‘Em

shutterstock_153117176Don’t we all know someone who is a natural networker? He walks into a crowded room, completely uninhibited. She puts every person she meets at ease with comfortable, effortless rapport.

For most, face-to-face networking presents a bit more of a personal challenge. Yet it’s so important – even in a day and age when we’ve all grown accustomed to counting (and monetizing!) our friends, fans or followers. How quickly we can forget the intrinsic value of looking someone in the eyes and shaking their hand.

No doubt about it; it’s an investment in energy and time. Professional conferences, company-sponsored events, expos and bona fide networking groups all provide fertile ground for making important business contacts that can result in new partnerships, new sales or new employment opportunities. Here are five ways to make the most of it:

1. Break the ice. If small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, a surefire way to spark conversation is to divert attention to someone else. Ask open-ended questions to take the focus off of you – and relieve your unease. (“What brings you here?” “What did you think about the last speaker?”)

2. Be prepared. When attention does turn to you, be ready with your 30-second “elevator” speech. It’s a brief synopsis of your company that you can tell quickly. For others to care, it should address a want, need or desire of your customers.

3. Pack your business cards. Digital world? Sure. And yet a tried-and-true staple like a business card remains an essential. Distribute them freely.

4. Go multi-channel. Go the next step with the business cards you collect, and reach via social networks, like LinkedIn. Skip the standard default message, and remind your contacts where and when you met in the invitation.

5. Have a follow-up plan. Just like your personal relationships, business connections grow and evolve over time . . . but not without effort. Reach out regularly and share relevant information – links to articles of interest, for example – with those whom you’d like to know better. And keep the conversation going.

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How to Reach Donors With Direct Mail: 6 Best Practices

shutterstock_communityWith all of the fundraising options available to charitable organizations today, direct mail remains the dominant channel for new donor acquisitions, reports The 2014 Burk Donor Survey by Cygnus Applied Research.

So, how best to make the most of your fundraising opportunities with direct marketing? Here are six quick tips:

  1. Make your appeals as compelling as possible. Be sure to note how contributions are making a positive difference by supporting your appeals with success stories, updates or photographs. In fact, 69% of the Cygnus survey respondents said they are more likely today than five years ago to support organizations that provide measurable results on what is being achieved with donors’ gifts.
  2. Match your gift requests to specific needs. Most donors like to know what their money is going toward.Nearly half said they would have given more if they had been asked to support a specific program.
  3. Mail as often as your audience allows. Granted, this may require judgment, experimentation or even research, but appeal as often as you can, since donors who most recently gave are the ones who are most likely to give again. A word of caution here: Irritation with over-solicitation continues to rise, as 64% of respondents said they now stop giving or give less to those that over-solicit, up from 41% when Cygnus first began asking the question over a decade ago.
  4. “Tier” your direct mail contributors. Give your top donors the VIP treatment – perhaps employing variable data printing to acknowledge past generosity, using finer stationery or even going so far as making hand-written appeals. Alternately, there may be some who wish to receive solicitations only once or twice a year. Honor their requests and, in your communications to them, be sure to note that you have done so.
  5. Give donors a choice on how to give. Sponsoring participants in athletic-type fundraising events like walk-a-thons or run-a-thons as well as other non-athletic events is increasing in popularity. Also on the rise are online giving, recurring (monthly) giving and social media.
  6. Grow your own mailing list. It’s acknowledged that 50% of a mail campaign’s success is dependent on the list of people to whom you make your appeal. And those on your “house list” are five to 10 times more likely to respond to your campaign than those on any other list you purchase or lease. So make the most of every opportunity to add to your internal database with names you’ve collected from information requests, website registrations, event sign-up forms and more.

Need help with direct mail marketing for your nonprofit? Let us know.


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