Newsletter Design: Change is Good

The first quarter of “Twenty-Eleven” is off to a great start here at Hart-Conklin Marketing.  We’ve survived a holiday shopping season filled with retail businesses cashing in (literally) using FourSquare.  We’ve also survived the first major Skype outage in a long while that actually ended up getting them into some hot water when their inner-workings were exposed during the down time.

Best business practice: Always do things the right way.  Sure, it might work the wrong way, but when something goes awry, all the defects are exposed and you’ll end up having to spend that much  more time making corrections.  Time is money, people.

In that same vein, you owe your audience the due dilligence of doing your newsletter the right way by giving them what they want.  This is a very exciting time for us as we help a client prepare all of their marketing, media, and press for their biggest event of the year.  A busy time, but never too busy to learn new things.  We designed an entirely new e-mail campaign to promote this event for them and saw record-breaking results from the exposure this tactic got them.  Newsletter design is tricky.  It’s just as important to put valuable content in your campaign, as it is to have aesthetically pleasing graphics/layout.

Sending a newsletter to your clients or customers can be tricky.  It’s a constant game of staying on the front of the information tidal wave- and keeping the content relevant to a fairly diverse audience.  It’s necessary to cater to what many people want in one marketing piece.  Here are some things I learned with this most recent e-mail newsletter campaign:

1) Change is good.  A new design periodically keeps your audience from growing tired of the same thing every time.  While it’s important to make sure your newsletter is cohesive with your branding strategy, it’s also important to keep the readers stimulated with a fresh look.

2) Pictures are good.  Make sure all of your pictures, when clicked, go to a relevant website.  People love clicking pictures so give them a place to do it!

3) Use “learn more” buttons with directs to your company e-mail.  I recommend setting up a catch-all e-mail address on your company’s server to collect the incoming e-mail and info requests from your newsletters.  People like using these because it’s convenient and just pops open your outlook right then and there.

4) We changed our clients subject heading to be a little more specific- and introduce a new product.  This client saw the highest open and click-through rates of any campaign yet.  Very exciting.  What’s good about this is you can then populate a list of e-mail addresses you need to follow-up with and strike while “iron is hot” so to speak.  This is a very good tool in sales and marketing: the ability to reach out to your customers and build the relationships by following up while you are still on the top of their minds.

5) Pay attention to your click map on newsletter interface- where are people clicking, and how many times?  If people are clicking on certain content blocks a lot, you  might want to consider putting more of what they like in the next newsletter.

6) Be patient.  This is not over night.  It takes time to see results, but in the process you will be establishing yourself as a master of your craft, and someone who always puts forth the gold standard of customer service.

All in all, this campaign was a huge success.  These strategies will help you improve how effective your marketing campaign is.  What other strategies do you implement to enhance the newsletter experience for your audience?  What have you found to not work?

ReTweets: Followers, Semantics, Timing, and Virtual Snowballs

Who would have ever thought that such an innocuous little feature on Twitter could have turned into such a ground-breaking concept for SEO and viral marketing?  Certainly not myself.  I’ve had a Twitter account since I heard Barack Obama had one back in 2009.  I also heard on that same day that he was making tourney picks for the NCAA Championship.  This inspired me so I jumped on my computer and started tweeting about how cool I thought it was that THE PRESIDENT had a Twitter account and that HE ALSO PICKED HOOPS.  So obviously, being a very astute and like-minded constituent, I hoped he would see my Tweets.

No such luck.  I got frustrated and bored and ignored Twitter for a while.  THEN a little bird (how ironic) told me about the re-tweet feature.  So I decided to research the phenomena.  According to Dan Zarella, viral marketing scientist, and author of “The Science of ReTweets”- there are “four factors that make certain Tweets more viral than others.”  I’ll break it down for you along with my analytical drivel.  I’ll try to make this concise.

1) Followers do matter.  Zarrella states that although more followers might mean the likelihood of possible ReTweets increases, the correlation is weak and other factors may play a larger role.  He breaks it down using a mathematical formula:

Dan Zarellas ReTweetability Metric

Once looking at those numbers, Zarrella states that based on the trends he sees, he finds the content is actually more important.  The quality of the Tweet is much more important than the number of followers a user has.  This makes sense to me.  Quality matters.  Obvious.

2)Semantics and your Tweets: Zarrella suggests that while analyzing the semantic content of Tweets, several trends become obvious such as key language that gets the most ReTweets.

  • Include a call to action such as “please ReTweet“- although you think it sounds a bit elementary, it works.  Please refer to the K.I.S.S. theory.
  • Regular timely updates on Twitter get more ReTweets also.
  • Freebies are popular (I don’t necessarily think that I would strongly push advertising freebies for all types of business, typically retail does better in this aspect)
  • Self referencing (Tweeting about Twitter)
  • Lists are major
  • Blog posts are very popular among ReTweets

For further information on key words that are ReTweeted the most, please see Dan Zarrella’s article.  He also notes that polite calls to action (where the word “please” is used) have higher rates of being ReTweeted.

3) Timing is everything- Tweets posted during business hours – Eastern Time– are more likely to be ReTweeted.  The best time to Tweet would be hypothetically at the beginning of the work day.  According to Zarrella’s research, there is a marked increase in ReTweets during business hours and from then on throughout the day and into the night.  He suggests Tweeting at the beginning of the day to capture the most ReTweetability.  I agree with this.  Research that I have done on social media shows that the best time for new blog articles to be posted is also during EST business hours.  One could hypothesize this is because more people are surfing the web at work…. I believe this could be one of the factors as to why these hours are the best times to see ReTweets.

4)”ReTweet Cascading” is the theory that people will ReTweet content that they have already seen posted as a ReTweet.  I can say without any doubts, this is true.  At least for myself it is.  I cannot imagine my thinking is too far off from everyone else using Twitter- I am more likely to ReTweet something that I see my friends ReTweet.  For the same reason that people form friendships outside of Cyberland, they also form virtual friendships with like-minded people.  Chances are, if I like something enough to ReTweet it for my followers to see, it’s something I think they would like.  Ipso ergo, they are probably going to ReTweet it as well, thus causing a chain-reaction, a virtual snowball effect.  Zarrella also shows through his reasearch that the  more times content is ReTweeted, “the more likely it is to be further spread.”

Hopefully this information can lend some perspective when you are considering what your next Tweets will be.  For more information on Dan Zarrella’s research, you can see the link referenced above, and you should also take a look at another article he authored on some key words and phrases that will get you the  most ReTweets. 

Inbound Marketing Tip: White Papers Demonstrate Expertise

I like this term.  A white paper is jargon for “research paper.”  White papers are typically based on a topic in your industry that warrants further research or discussion.  Why would a white paper help you in a business sense?  In several ways, first, if you are on the receiving end of a white paper, it’s usually going to be something you are interested to know more about.  If you are on the giving end of a white paper, it shows your audience your “marketing muscle.”   How does this show marketing muscle?  It shows you know a LOT about your industry.  Who wouldn’t pay for a good/service from someone who is a true craftsman?  Hands down, when all things considered are equal, I’d much rather give my business to someone who cares to continually learn and educate people on important matters that they are passionate about.

Here is how I need your help.  What (in your opinion) is the more accepted standard for writing research papers?  There are two widely used formats: MLA Format (Modern Language Association) – I used this format throughout high school and college.  Then there is the APA Format (American Psychological Association).  I’ve personally never used APA, I can easily become acquainted with it, so there is no issue there.

My friend, Jill, said that “English uses MLA and science uses APA.”  So that’s why I’m stuck.  I can see that marketing is an art form, a very intricate art form.  I also see that in marketing, the use of quantifiable data and statistical analysis is prevalent to get your marketing to where it needs to be from a numbers standpoint.  My first thought is to write papers with less data using MLA and papers with more data using APA.  I do not want to come across as a research paper format basketcase.

What are your thoughts?  APA or MLA?  What is your reasoning behind this?  Here is a handy poll to help me figure out what is best.  I’ve included an “other” category for your thoughts as well.  Or feel free to comment.  Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter.

Effective Advertising and the White Noise of the Web…

There is a lot of noise out there, especially when it comes to the world wide web and advertising.  There are millions of people with important things to say.  How do you set yourself apart from your competitors in a meaningful way?  How do you get your very important message out there to the right people?  Social media is the answer, if its being implemented correctly.

So, let’s say you’ve decided to venture into the world of social media… you’ve set up a few accounts, perhaps even uploaded some pictures.  You’ve very astutely filled in all of the pertinent information fields, and probably have even found some “friends” or “fans” depending which network you’re on.  Then… you come to a screeching halt.  It’s ok.  It’s totally easy to do when you don’t really know what to say.

The best way out of this debacle is to become opinionated.  Drink lots of coffee and find a soapbox to stand on.  In order to throw you a nugget of wisdom in regards to your soapbox derbies- here are some things you should consider when it comes to being opinionated about your business:

1) DO NOT rant about the person who cut you off in traffic today.  DO rave about a product or service that has helped better your business in some way.

2)DO NOT take strong political positions on your social media, unless you are a politician, or unless legislation directly effects your business and you can back it up with factual information.  Although you may have many people who agree with you, your business facebook page is not the proper platform.  DO take strong positions on industry-relevant matters.

3)DO NOT post about anything on your blog other than work related content.  If it is not directly tied into your industry, find some way to make it relevant.

4)Get involved in other discussions surrounding your industry.  Join a forum, post on message boards, find out what people want to know about.  This helps your content to be relevant.

5)Resist the urge to “moderate” your comments on your company blog.  I mean- completely disable the “approve comment” feature on your blog.  If people see that their comments have to be “approved”, this will further discourage them from speaking their mind.  Even if a comment is negative to you or your business in any way- this is the platform to show your customers that you want to make it right.  This is the platform where you stand up for your product/service.  It shows you care about giving the gold standard of customer service without “censoring” what people write.

6)Avoid schlepping your product/service all over the place.  The point of social media is to increase web presence- however you don’t want to come across as being annoying with your product schtick.  You want your audience to feel that you care about bettering them in the process.  Offer networking opportunities, best practices, webinars, etc.

You will without a doubt be seen as a master of your craft if you provide useful information.  What are some of your social media strategies?  What do you like to avoid when populating content?  What are you more prone to read when looking for information on your industry?

Social Media Tracking? Or Social Media Stalking?

I would say among all great things having to do with the Social Media Revolution, is the ability to track your viewers. Whether you are using an e-mail program, a newsletter design program, or are just moderating your blog, you can track visitors down to their e-mail address and street address. Creepy, right?

No. Not if you’re using it the right way. The reason why trackability is so important is so you can strike while the iron is hot. The moment someone opens your e-mail, you can follow up with a phone call. I’d advise against calling and saying “hey I just saw you opened your e-mail” because frankly, that sounds a bit stalkerish.  A better way to phrase your follow-up call is to wait an hour or so, then call and say something to the effect of “Hi! This is XYZ from ABC company.  I am just calling to see if I can answer any questions for you regarding (insert product or service here).”  This way, you’re reaching out to them while the content you’ve delivered is still fresh in their mind.

Another way tracking is beneficial is so you can populate content that is useful to people in different geographic regions.  What I like to read about here in Rochester, NY, may not be useful to someone- for example- in Niagara Falls, NY or Buffalo, NY.  Sometimes, when tracking your visitors/audience, you can even see their company name if they’re viewing your information from work.  Again, this gives great insight into what KIND of content you want to populate.  What a Marketing person would want to read, is usually a bit different from what a Lawyer or Doctor would want to read.

Thankfully, most e-mail newsletter programs give you the handy tool of being able to use merge tags and edit source code to make different pieces of content viewable to different groups of people on your e-mail list.  This way, you’re not creating fifteen different newsletters each month.

I am sure you know (as any business owner does) that there’s nothing more disheartening to follow up with “dead” leads that have gone cold since your initial contact.

The idea behind tracking your audience, is to give you the unique ability to foster your business relationships- to remain in contact with them for pertinent business reasons at all times.  It gives you insight into their thoughts so you can create relevant content that matters to them.  This sets you apart in the industry as a business with a social conscience who truly cares about bettering their clients, and industry as a whole.  Even if the prospect isn’t ready to purchase NOW, when they are ready, you will be the first person they call.

So… what’s your take on trackability?  How have you been successful by tracking your leads?  What tools have you found to be most helpful?

The Best Advice I Ever Got Regarding Marketing and Sales

I was going to change the title of this inaugural blog post to be catchy, sassy, marketable…. but I thought better of doing so.  Imagine that- a marketing person actively trying to NOT market something.  I just felt that I had to let everyone know that sometimes it’s just a better idea to keep things simple.  I would even go so far as to say that sometimes we become too pre-occupied with the nitty gritty- that we lose focus on our priorities.

We lose focus on what the goal really is.  Is our goal to make sure you have the prettiest and fanciest newsletters- OR is our goal to make sure the people you send newsletters to extract useful information and actually READ them?  While the former may be true to an extent- aesthetics are indeed important-the latter is the most important.  Not only do you want your target audience to read and find your newsletters useful, you want them to see you as a master of your craft- not solely concerned with the bottom line- but also with the health and vitality of your industry as well.

Long long ago, a wise former boss of mine (Al Casazza, CBS Radio) told me “Kristin- people buy from people they like” – ok so that’s a fairly simple concept, yes?  No.  Not in the way my brain works.  For once in my life-I was totally stumped.  The meaning of this profound tidbit totally escaped me.

Homeward bound I skulked, dejected and sad.  How would I find a way to get these people to LIKE me and not just see me as another person they had to pay?  How in the world would I ever do this?  I could bake my clients cookies.  I could bribe them like all of the other sales reps did with bottles of wine or platters of sandwiches.  I could do lots of nice things… if I were rich.  At this rate- I was doomed!

It took me years… but I finally found the answer.  People like people who care.  They want to do business with companies that have a social conscience.  Would you rather patronize a business that was solely concerned with profits- or a business that was passionate about what they did and passionate about bettering their customers in the process?

All things considered equal- I’d much rather get the product/service that I needed while also getting some useful information in the process.  Time is money and in this day and age you need to believe wholeheartedly in the power of two-fers.  Two-fer-one- marketing excellence AND a pearl of wisdom.  Genius.  Julie Cottineau does such a great job explaining what I am so poorly trying to say.  Read on…

In closing, I truly hope that Daly Marketing can fulfill all of your wildest marketing dreams. 🙂 I hope I can get everyone as excited about this as I am- and if I don’t- I’ll try to distract you with catchy slogans and sparkle-graphics. Totally kidding about the sparkle graphics!