Email isn’t dead! – Inbound Sales and Email Marketing

emailsend

Emails are still very much alive. Maybe that’s because almost every site expects you to sign up with an email address or connect with a social media account. Maybe that’s because MailChimp and Constant Contact are keeping it alive. Or maybe it’s because it’s cheap, legal, and provide excellent returns.

MailChimp and Constant Contact help guide you through the laws surrounding email marketing, but the Federal Trade Commission has a page explaining the CAN-SPAM Act; the law you need to know before entering into email marketing.

91% of Consumers check their email account(s) on a daily basis. 

71% of consumers prefer to get Marketing material via email versus other communications media.

Anyone viewing these stats should be fairly convinced that email marketing is still very much alive.

Email Marketing can be defined as a targeted message that is sent to potential, current, or previous customers with the intention of awareness and engagement, which ideally manifests into a conversion (whether that be a sale, sign-up, or other form)

Here are some key reasons why Email Marketing matters:

  • Email marketing is relatively inexpensive
  • High Exposure Rates lead to Inbound Sales
  • Easy to Measure
  • Easy to segment by relevant information (Demographics, Psychographics, etc.)

Writing our your emails for your Email Marketing campaigns can be time consuming and draining, but unsurprisingly there are businesses that will help you help yourself. Whether you are looking for complete outsourcing, stock design templates, or email list management, here are three resources that don’t require a coding background (In no particular order):

  1. Mail Chimp
  2. SquareUp
  3. Constant Contact

Several things are important to remember when implementing your Email Marketing Campaign:

  • If you have the time and resources, use A/B testing to ensure your best email is sent out.
  • Use strong Email subject lines. This directly translate to your email open rates an important metric in evaluating the effectiveness of your campaign. Here are 18 of the best Email Subject lines according to Hubspot.
  • Write for your intended audience. Segment your messages and content based on your Buyer Personas.
  • Personalize whenever possible. Adding a name or business name in relevant spots can forge a relationship between sender and recipient. DO NOT MESS THIS UP. “Hello User” instead of the actual name of the person or business makes you look ridiculous.
  • Measure 4 key metrics: Delivery Rate, Open Rate, Click Rate, and Link Rate. More information on these metrics can be found here.
  • Optimize for Mobile readers.
  • Define a clear goal for the email.

Email Marketing is still a powerful means of marketing and is critical to Inbound Sales. It is also has one of the highest ROI at 4,300%. This simply means that every $1 spent can provide $43 in return. Remember that Email Marketing is about building relationships that will lead to a transaction. Emails might be designed by the Marketing Team, but your goal is connect the recipient with your Sales team. Hubspot refers to this as ‘Smarketing’, and ‘Smarketing’ is definitely something you will want to keep an eye on.

Your Guide to UX, UI, and Landing Pages

What you need to know


UX = User Experience: How the product feels. The overall navigation of the website.

  • Attempts to identify who the user is and satisfy what the user wants.
  • Ensures that the product flows and flows logically.
  • There is never only one right answer. UX Professionals may try several ideas before deciding.

UI = User Interface: How the product is laid out. The overall look of the pages.

  • UI professionals are often responsible for design consistency.
  • UI professionals ensurer that the interface effectively communicates, through visuals, the path that the UX designer put in place.
  • Make no mistake. You can be both a UI and UX professional.

SoundCloud, Spotify, and Pandora provide excellent examples of landing pages aimed at signing people up for a new account. Contrasting colors help draw the attention of the potential users to the signup menus. SoundCloud may be the least appealing of these landing pages because the white background doesn’t allow the signup menu to pop. Pandora most closely follows the tips I recommend for creating Landing Pages, but Spotify has its reasons (such as promoting a sale).

When deciding what you want your landing page to look like, or which landing page you choose from your designer. keep in mind some of these tips.

Start with the basics:

  1. Apply consistent design schemes.
    • Fonts and colors should match your other pages unless you have a really good reason to stray.
  2. Make the design attractive.
    • Remember that your opinion isn’t the only one that matters. You want it to be attractive to your users and potential users.
  3. Use high-quality images that match your offerings.
    • No stock photos.
  4. Add your Call-To-Action and make it the obvious next step for your visitors.
    • Visitors who are unsure of what to do next are more likely to drop out.
  5. Remove the clutter.
  6. Ensure the information you are trying to convey is above the fold.
    • Visitors shouldn’t have to scroll down to find what they’re looking for or what you’re trying to show them.

Follow up with these:

  1. Add endorsements and testimonials.
    • If you’re going to use testimonials make sure they are relevant to your current offering.
  2. Tweak your design with eye tracking in mind (infographic below)

101 on eye tracking

How to Sell Bad Video Games – The Strength of Social Media

How do you sell a bad video game? In a word – hype. Hype is the reason games like Fable 3 and Final Fantasy XIII, which were decent games but not the best in their respective franchises, sold well. Hype is the reason why the Wii’s Just Dance and Xbox’s Kinect Adventures, which were only bearable when played with a friend, sold well. Hype is just as powerful as it ever was, but it cannot save a bad video game the same way it used to.

To sell a bad video game, and the next bad video game after it, you need to be a massive company or you need social media.

Nintendo, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, and Square Enix are considered some of the top major video game publishers in the current market. As some of the largest publishers these companies face some heavy criticism around their games. EA was voted Worst Company in America two years in a row (2012 and 2013). The disappointing ending of Mass Effect 3 played a huge part in their 2012 win. EA responded with a press statement and that response was parodied.

c5817d6dc2d8866146dac2ccc7cab713-eas-reponse-to-being-named-the-worst-company-in-americaThe parody is poignant and points out a key factor that separates EA’s approach to social media from a successful approach; engagement. EA is well known for cashing in on big titles while ignoring the feedback on customers.

But lets say you’re Valve. Smaller than EA with a sizable social media presence, followers of Valve and it’s video game purchasing service, Steam, have been waiting on Half Life 3 for since Half Life 2 released in 2007. Some people are following Valve on Twitter in the hope of seeing that announcement alone. Social media has come too far to be ignored or simply plugged in last minute to a marketing campaign. Social listening allows you to find out what people are saying and feeling about your brand or product and your competitor’s brand or product.

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VideoGameTimeline

Video games have come a long way since the first documented video game was created in 1952. PBS has put together an informative interactive timeline for those of you interested in learning more about the history.

Content Marketing – To blog or not to blog

More content is being created in 48 hours than what was produced from the beginning of time until 2003.” – Eric Schmidt

To blog or not to blog is not even a reasonable question. You should be blogging. Before reading the rest of this post I would highly recommend opening up the 5 Pillars of Successful Content Marketing for a later viewing. Content marketing, and this blog post, are broken up in to five main categories.

  1. Audience
  2. Mapping
  3. Creation
  4. Promotion
  5. Analyzing

But what does it really take to make your content a dominating force that helps drive your company mission? Well, 89% of companies that use content marketing say that following these steps will get you there.

Hubspot explains, just how important blogging is. Each new post or page is a new opportunity to be discovered. The more content you create, the more likely someone will stumble upon it and find it useful. Seems simple, doesn’t it? They continue to give a lot of basic suggestions that seem self explanatory, but I’m sure they are constantly looked over.

  • Keep your buyer persona in mind
  • Address one topic per blog post
  • Blog consistently and frequently
  • Don’t forget about great formatting and imagery
  • Or miss out on lead conversion opportunities

Don’t they seem simple? That’s what I thought about when I looked over the list for the first time. I think thought about it. I forget these all the time when I’m blogging. The hardest one I’ve noticed from personal experience is the third one, blogging consistently and frequently. Luckily with these marketing posts we have deadlines and if I want to succeed in my marketing class I’ll meet those, but with my personal blog it’s all up to my discretion. This week has been unreasonably busy for me, so my personal blog has gone to the side of my priorities list. This is time spent missing out on potential followers and readers!

Finally, you’ve written your post, followed all these rules and steps, how do you promote it?

  1. Leverage your website
  2. Use your social media presence
  3. Include in email marketing
  4. Connect with your network

If you haven’t realized this by now, marketing is way more important than the actual sales in a sales cycle. The buyers journey can actually be broken down into three main parts: awareness, consideration, decision. Hubspot goes on to explain that you can’t have inbound marketing without content. Think about it…

They take it one step further, and similar to the blog post above, they break it down into five main steps.

  1. Plan
  2. Produce
  3. Distribute
  4. Analyze
  5. Repeat

This report by Kane Jamison is basically stating the do’s and don’t’s of content marketing trends. I could list everything he stated, but it’s in a really cool format and you should definitely check it out. However, one of his slides (#15) is about e-mail marketing.

A/B Testing – Takeaways from Obama, Optimizely, and Others

I have been toying with the design of my own website for some time now. It’s by no means the finished website and it started out as a pet project more than anything else. Because of that I have allowed many of my own personal tastes to influence the design, but that has not kept my from thinking about how to optimize the page.

One obvious improvement would be to upgrade my website from a wix.com address to my own domain name. For the website design itself I would ask friends and family to give me their feedback. That approach would have left me vulnerable to a large array of personal preferences and shoddy suggestions without ensuring that I was actual optimizing my website to suit my goals.

I have often thought about the possible impact the shape or color of a button, menu, link, or picture frame might have on those viewing the site. A/B Testing makes testing the impact of slight changes much easier to mange. The concept is simple. Take two things, in this case two webpages, that are almost exactly the same save for one variation (such as the color of a button) and see if there is a significant difference in a user’s behavior (such as the number of people who clicked on it).

Optimizely offers their explanation of A/B Testing, and their services, to those with their own websites. Along with providing A/B Testing Optimizely also provides the ability to run multivariate tests, though these tests do require much more traffic in order to provide results and can become difficult to manage depending on the number of variables being changed. If you have the time and the traffic it can certainly prevent you from testing multiple variations one at a time before finding out the last one was the most effective for reaching your goal.

An effective A/B Testing goal should be simple. Increasing revenue is more effective than setting a specific amount or percentage because you can’t possibly know what the impact of a change might be. If you think you know the impact that a possible change will have before testing occurs then you may be making a mistake. A common mistake is believing all A/B test results will be the same or are directly transferable. Optimizely employee Grigoriy Kogan wrote an excellent blog post on the problems with A/B Testing Success Stories.

Many of the problems, and takeaways, of Grigoriy’s blog post can be applied to the success of President Obama’s reelection campaign. It’s an A/B testing success story regardless of your politics, and Obama isn’t afraid to tell you that.

When examining the success of Obama’s campaigns it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt. In a nice summation from BusinessWeek, In the article Amelia Showalter, Obama’s director of digital analytics, was quoted as saying this:

“Every time something really ugly won, it would shock me: giant-size fonts for links, plain-text links vs. pretty ‘Donate’ buttons. Eventually we got to thinking, ‘How could we make things even less attractive?’ That’s how we arrived at the ugly yellow highlighting on the sections we wanted to draw people’s eye to.”

If someone was just to scan over this article they might think that what she is saying is make everything as ugly as possible to get the attention of your customers and users. Somehow I think most people would disagree with that assessment off of instinct alone.

 As the title of another feature from TechPresient suggests, the key takeaways are to experiment and analyze. I would disagree with the title that you should analyze everything. I don’t believe even Amelia did that especially since she only had an hour to run her tests and decide what to send out on a given day.

The successes of one A/B test does not ensure that the outcomes would be the same for another business. This is even more true when trying to transfer a campaign’s discoveries to a business. Businesses persist from year to year while a campaign is fleeting. Assuming that customers/supporters recognize that fact it makes sense that they might behave differently to the same strategy being implemented by both groups.

So what about business success stories? Hubspot provided some good examples of A/B Testing successes in their blog from EA, Upworthy, and ComScore. I would encourage you to read about those successes while remembering to be critical of any of these stories. What works for one company may not work for everyone.

This assertion stands true for many reasons, but one of them is the product a business might be selling. I would not take the method that I used for selling an EA video game and apply it the same way for lingerie or vice versa. Even lingerie sales can benefit from A/B Testing. While Victoria’s Secret might utilize A/B Testing it was Adore Me that was featured in Fast Company for its testing practices.

From “My Goodness My Guinness” to “Made of More”: Guinness and Inbound Marketing

My Goodness My Guinness

The Guinness ad on the left first turned up in 1935. According to the Guinness Storehouse, several members of the public wrote to Guinness to point out what they saw as a flaw in the poster’s design. The glass would be stuck the other way if the ostrich had been trying to drink the beer. John Gilroy, the artist responsible for the “My Goodness My Guinness” advertisements, responded by stating that the ostrich had been trying to copy the act of one of his earlier advertisements, a sea lion balancing a glass on its nose, when it slipped. Whether intentional or not, this was one of the first times that Guinness’ content resulted in an engagement with their potential customers outside of a product review.

Many beer ads attempt to be humorous, sexy, or some combination of the two. Guinness had (mostly) kept itself on the humorous side with ads such as “6-Pack.” In 2013 Guinness released a commercial that attempted to change the game. I can’t say with absolute certainty that Guinness was the first large-scale beer to buck that trend, but when they did it certainly grabbed my attention.

This commercial garnered massive attention for Guinness. Business InsiderUSA Today, Daily Mail, AdWeekVisible Measures, and Huffington Post all featured the ad on their websites. Where as some people shared the ad directly from YouTube many others found the ad through these sources.

Guinness didn’t stop with one emotionally powerful ad. Released in July 2014, Empty Chair had over 3.8K views at the time of this post.

The wheelchair basketball commercial received views from a combination of interruptive marketing (being featured on the YouTube homepage) and people intentionally searching for the commercial. With the latter Guinness started making themselves something similar to, but not quite, inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is content that a viewer wants to see rather than content that is trying to interrupt the viewer and get them to do stop and do something.

Guinness’ online presence is notable. As of 9:41 AM (PST) on April 15th, 2015 the GuinnessUS’s Facebook page had 4,957,518 likes while the GuinnessUS’s Twitter Account had 191 Tweets and 6,657 followers. Keep in mind that these are just GuinnessUS. Guinness, being an Irish beer, has a GuinnessIreland Twitter Account that has 49.8K followers. Guinness also has a YouTube page with 5,606 subscribers and over 40 videos with month or two between video release dates. These subscribers and followers have decided that they want to receive the content that Guinness is putting out. When they decide to share that content, that means your viewers and customers are now acting as promoters.

Guinness is by no means a perfect example of successful inbound marketing strategies. In order to garner attention Guinness released a QR Code Campaign back in 2012. The code was printed on the glass and only able to be read when a dark liquid, namely Guinness, fills the glass. You would then use this code to share a picture of you enjoying a Guinness. While the campaign did get the attention of some, those glasses seem to have run their course.

Guinness has not just limited itself to YouTube videos. Guinness Gives Back aims to collect donations from Guinness followers to give to groups and individuals that are “Made of More.” The current slogan is meant to be vague. It’s a fill in the blank of sorts which allows the potential customer to decide whether or not they’re made of more and, if not, if they want to be by drinking Guinness.

Here’s something that might surprise you. I don’t drink beer, and yet here I am contributing to Guinness’ marketing.

But is it truly inbound marketing? If we limit inbound marketing to moments where Guinness collects the information of its customers and potential customers the answer is not really. It has succeeded in putting out content which people enjoy viewing, sharing, and writing about, but that content is published on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Email and mailing addresses are rarely collected except by online transactions with the Guinness Webstore.

Guinness has reached a point where the content being created by others is a bit more than a blog post. National Geographic made an documentary about Guinness and Conan O’Brien visited the Dublin Brewery.

I knew I took a bit of a risk picking any company that wasn’t HubSpot to talk about inbound marketing. There are companies who are utilizing inbound marketing but are not very good at it and there are companies who once used it but have since stopped.  For Guinness, they had their triumphs, but they’re failing to take full advantage of the benefits that inbound marketing has to offer.

Google Analytics Platform Principles

Let’s start things off with a little positive priming; the Google Analytics Certification Exam is manageable. Don’t let that fool you into being unprepared though. 70 questions in 90 minutes, or roughly 1.29 minutes for each question, means you will benefit from some studying and maybe a little insight from someone who has taken the exam.

That person, as of right now, is not me. I have not taken the exam just yet. That being said my preparation may still be helpful to you.

First and foremost in my prep work was accessing the Google Analytics Academy. You would hope that the designer of a system would know how to use the system. Fortunately Google has a reputation for making it’s services accessible. The Digital Analytics Fundamentals course and Google Analytics Platform Principles will serve you well, but don’t expect to do the bare minimum and pass. You need an 80% to pass and you won’t get that from only studying these courses. Still, here’s some of what I’ve learned from these courses so far (Along with a few things the course doesn’t tell you but is nice to know).

  • If you decide to take a filter out of your collection that will only give you that data for future recordings. Previous records that could have been taken when that filter was on never happened.
  • Raw, unfiltered data is not actionable.
  • Filtered data is not always actionable.
  • Filtered and reported data is only actionable if you understand what you’re looking at.
  • Campaign data can be analyzed during the campaign rather than at the end.
  • Google Analytics can do a lot, but some of it will require your insight or extra research. For example, a large influx of web traffic may be because of your campaign or it may be because something else is going on in the world.
  • Reports are your friends and then can be customized as you see fit.
  • Google analytics allows you to set the dates you would like to analyze, compare to a previous period (such as the previous month’s data against the month before that), and export the data into files that you can send to others.
  • Google Analytics sorts by Age, Gender, and Parental Status.
  • Google can also identify the languages that you use.
  • If something is connected to the web, Google is able to gather data from that.
  • Collection is how Google Analytics gets the data that it puts on your dashboard. In order to get data you must put the Javascript code on every page. Putting it only on the homepage means you’re only collecting data for that page.
  • Javascript can be used on all browsers. Mobile devices us SDK for their apps, but so long as they are using a browser you can still collect that data using the Javascript code.
  • When you get a hit on your website Google Analytics processes those hits based on your configuration. The most common configuration is your filter. This is where your dashboard report comes from.
  • GA goes by User to Session to Interactions:
    • Users are the people on your website.
    • Sessions are the periods of time those people spend on your website.
    • Interactions are the things people do on your website.

Just as a Google search won’t always give you the results you’re looking for you benefit from taking some time to dig deeper. Be sure to include the additional resources Avinash Kaushik and URL Builder in your studies.

But why should you care? Google Analytics is free and it is successful. While other large companies use Adobe, Google Analytics does have its share of success stories.