5 Key Inbox Placement Factors

Iinbox2 have been building and managing email delivery systems for over 11 years, and have worked on everything from CRM, acquisition marketing, to re-engagement systems. The one client question that I field all the time is, “How can we improve our inbox placement”?

The top 5 factors to consistent inbox placement are

  • Truly Opt-In Email Lists
  • List Hygiene and On-going Email Verification
  • Authenticated Email Delivery Infrastructure
  • Well targeted list segments
  • Relevant content with compelling call to actions

To achieve and sustain strong inbox placement, marketers must obtain a high level of recipient engagement. Marketers must make sure to pay special attention to the 5 factors stated above. First and foremost marketers must ensure that they have permission to communicate to their recipients. However there is a difference between “request” and “concede” opt-in. When a user signs up to receive a newsletter or fills out a form to request additional information about a company and its products, then they are “request” opt-in. On the other hand, when a user makes a purchase or registers on a site, they may not necessarily want to be inundated with marketing promotions from the site and or its third party affiliates. This is what is called “concede” opt-in. Request opt-in will rarely yield any spam complaints, and thus protect your sender reputation.

Another factor of significant importance is the quality of your list. I am not just referring to the email address, but to all the details of your customer or prospect. Ensure that you are performing on-going data hygiene and verification of your lists. When applicable, this includes but is not limited to email address verification, postal address validation (CASS certification, national change of address “NCOA”, and DPV validation), contact name completeness, gender, and age. A clean, complete, accurate and up to date list will ensure that you are targeting the appropriate geographic and demographic segment desired. Additionally, a verified email list will reduce the risk of your domain and IP reputation being penalized due to excessive hard bounces.

To ensure that the major free email providers accept your emails, your delivery infrastructure must conform to all current email authentication guidelines. Your email delivery system must be properly configured with rDNS “reverse DNS”, sender policy framework “SPF”, DomainKeys Identified Mail “DKIM”, and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance “DMARC”. These authentication methods let the world know that you are who you say you are.

By taking care of the first 3 factors listed above, you will significantly increase your chances of getting your emails into the inbox. These factors are critical to maintaining a good sender reputation. However, the next two factors are critical to engagement and sustaining good inbox placement.

Well targeted list segmentation will help identify the best possible audience within your list. When you reach the correct audience you normally see higher open and click rates. This engagement is what will allow you to sustain strong inbox placement.

Last but not least, relevant content with a strong call to action will normally yield consistent engagement. Special attention must be placed to key words that should be used, and to spam flag words that shouldn’t be used.

In conclusion, permission, list hygiene, proper email infrastructure, good list segmentation, or relevant content alone, will not ensure consistent inbox placement. However, if you pay attention to these key factors, and follow email marketing best practices, you should be able to achieve and sustain good inbox placement.

 

5 Alternative Email Calls-to-Action

5 Alternative Email Calls-to-Action

Alternative Email Calls-to-Action

An email marketing message usually has a call to action linking to some kind of landing page. But it doesn’t have to be that way if there’s a better way. In fact, it could be offering a different way to “respond” to your email marketing message might deliver better results. Below are six possible destinations your CTA can take your customers too, one tried-and-true and five outside-the-box…

  1. Send them to a landing page
    Don’t ditch the landing page! It’s still a viable option for your call to action destination, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. I’m only saying don’t use that as your default time and time again until you’ve tried alternative CTAs to see if another option works better. So I kept it on the list, just to be on the safe side.
  1. Ask them to call a phone number
    As old school as it sounds, people do still make phone calls, perhaps more so when viewing your email on a mobile phone that lends itself more to clicking on a phone number than clicking through to a website. Besides, Google claims phone calls have a higher value, stating calls to businesses are worth 3X more than clicks to websites. That’s something to consider when planning out your CTA! If you’re thinking people don’t make calls any more, the opposite is true. Consumers still like to make calls, especially when searching on their smartphones. One statistic says smartphone users are 9X more likely to place a call from the search engine results page on their mobile devices than when on a desktop computer.
  1. Promise a Pinterest board
    If you’re a B2C business, Pinterest needs to be in your marketing toolbox, and especially now as the holidays approach: 67% of Pinners say Pinterest is important for planning holiday purchases. And if they’re using Pinterest when shopping for the holidays, whether for gifts, entertaining or décor, they are using Pinterest the rest of the year too. How about a call to action that takes your customer to a Pinterest board? A Pinterest board can function like an interactive online catalog, and each pin can link to a webpage.
  1. Drive traffic to a brick-and-mortar location
    Yes, even in this digital age, online marketing can drive offline traffic. Think email coupons—and how many people sign up to get email coupons they use offline. In fact, they might have subscribed to your emails in the first place just to get coupons they can use in your physical stores. The call to action might link to a store finder or to coupons they can redeem in person, or perhaps the call to action is to attend an exclusive at the store.
  1. Speaking of coupons…
    A coupon is a viable call to action destination. And coupons are still extremely popular in this digital age! Check out this ultimate list of coupon statistics for proof. Even Millennials are using coupons. Coupons can be used in a brick-and-mortar store or when shopping online. They can be printed on paper or used on a mobile device. In fact, the redemption rate for mobile coupons is sometimes 10X that of a paper coupon.
  1. Suggest they engage in dialog
    A call to action doesn’t have to lead directly to a sale. It can lead to deeper engagement instead—which ultimately increases the likelihood of a sale. You can do this by using your call to action to drive people to Facebook, Twitter or another popular social media platform to join in a dialog or at least follow it. Asking subscribers to share photos on Instagram or Flickr is another way to engage.

Which Alt-CTA might work for your business? Only testing will tell. It could be it’s a mix that generates the highest level of response (and ROI). Be careful with including too many calls to action in one email, however, as there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. One resource says emails with only one call to action performed better with increased clicks 371% and sales 1671%. But maybe a link to a landing page combined with a phone number works, or perhaps your email messages alternate their alternative CTAs. Testing will tell you what works and then you’ll have no alternative but to increase your ROI!

scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark,  BlackBox, and other nifty email marketing products.
5 Alternative Email Calls-to-Action

Ignoring Usability When Selecting an Email Service Provider is a Giant Waste of Money

Ignoring Usability When Selecting an Email Service Provider is a Giant Waste of Money

Ignoring Usability When Selecting an Email Service Provider is a Giant Waste of Money

Email Service provder Usability

In my years in the email marketing industry, I have seen and used a lot of different ESP interfaces, and I’ve watched them evolve over time into ever more capable technologies as email marketing has grown more sophisticated, but that hasn’t necessarily meant that they’ve grown easier to use.

In fact, the opposite seems to be true, that the more advanced the features, the more challenging the interface should be—or so people seem to think. They tend to think getting more advanced functionality means accepting poor usability, as a kind of trade-off.

Usability matters more than you think

Marketers want ESPs to be usable. In one study, nearly 80% of respondents rated “an interface that requires very little training” as a “must have” in an ESP.

Yet usability is often overlooked when choosing a new email service provider–usually by those who want fancy features and authorize the purchase but don’t actually use the product. However, usability is every bit as important as the price and features when evaluating an ESP.

Just what do we mean by usable?

There are five characteristics that are required in order for that ESP’s platform to be usable:

  1. Effective: Whether you’re running a mom-and-pop operation or an enterprise-size one, you’re making an investment in this email technology and you want it to work, by golly! And it only works when you or your employees can do what they set out to when using the platform.
  1. Efficient: That said, you don’t want it to take forever for you or an employee to accomplish a task, so you need the platform interface to be efficient too, enabling a quick template build, for example, or almost instant reporting.
  1. Engaging: Yes, usability includes an aspect of “enjoyable,” shall we say? If given the choice between doing a task using a technology that’s unpleasant vs. using a technology that’s actually kind of fun to use, wouldn’t you choose the latter? And that quality makes a platform more usable.
  1. Error-tolerant: This is kind of a fancy way to say “make it hard to make mistakes,” because if it’s easy for you or an employee to err, you will.
  1. Easy to learn: This characteristic could go to the top of the list because really, it all starts there, with learning the ESP interface and adapting to it quickly.

You lose money when ESP usability is poor

I sometimes think the bigger companies prefer the clunky, difficult-to-use ESP and marketing automation platforms because I see them making huge investments in these vendors without questioning the usability. Or is it because they’ve bought into the idea that fancy features must equal a challenging interface?

It doesn’t have to be that way, and putting up with poor usability is like throwing money away. Here’s why:

  • It takes time to learn it: When a company invests in a new ESP, time is of the essence! The faster the migration and implementation are complete, the better, and that includes getting employees trained and working with the platform independently. The longer that takes, the more money lost.
  • Errors are more likely: When an interface is hard to navigate and not usable, it can be easier to make mistakes. And mistakes almost always cost money!
  • The platform is not used to its full extent: Even if employees have been trained and they aren’t making mistakes, it could be that they are only using a few of the basic features of the platform. That means wasted money because that vendor is charging you for a full suite of features and if you’re only using A, B and C, you’re throwing money away.
  • People won’t like using it…and won’t: You can train people to your heart’s content, but if they don’t like using the interface, they are going to avoid doing so, which means more money down the drain.
  • You won’t get your money’s worth. Finally, and this is essentially the culmination of the four above, you just simply won’t get your money’s worth out of the ESP if the platform isn’t usable. You just won’t.

If you’re investing in an ESP, you’re spending money you hope to make back. Usability can play a big role in that return on investment. So consider it carefully. Don’t consider it a “would be nice to have.” Make usability a “must have,” even if you’re buying into a vendor with sophisticated and fancy features—because chances are you won’t end up using those features if they are a pain in the butt to figure out and master!

scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark,  BlackBox, and other nifty email-centric goodies.

Copywriting Tricks Every Email Marketer Should Know

Copywriting Tricks Every Email Marketer Should Know

Copywriting Tricks Every Email Marketer Should Know

Technology is growing so fast in our little email marketing world that it’s easy to forget what an email is really about. Beyond the segmentation, timing, deliverability and design, an email is simply a collection of words. A message from you or your company to other human beings who have put their hands up and say ‘hey, what you do might just matter to me. Tell me more about it.’

Words are the heart and soul of every email message that you send. It makes sense to spend the time to get them right. Here are some ‘tricks of the trade’ that will help you write emails that hit home and get people to take action.

Get To Know Who They Really Are

As an email marketing professional you probably know the demographics of your list. You know their age, where they’re from, heck maybe even what breakfast cereal they eat. But I’m not talking about data here. I’m talking about them as a 3 dimensional human. Spend some time in the real world to meet, network and connect with the type of people who are on your list. Sure, you can’t meet with all 100,000, but even just a handful will be enough.

Once you have a real, human being in your mind who represents your list to you, you’ll be able to write to them with more authenticity. Marketers that want to appeal to multiple groups of real people to help them the best way they can, might even create what we would call buyer persona’s. But first start with some real world one-on-one.  You’ll be writing to a person, not just a number, and this difference will shine through in every single word you write.

Prove That You’re a Human Being Too

It’s OK to show personality when you write. People will love you for it and respond to it as one human being to another. Of course, your ‘persona’ should not only be authentic to you, it should also fit the tone of your brand and your target audience. Write to them in their language by highlighting  the side of your personality which fits  with your brand message. Remember that email marketing can be a strong branding tool. If you’re writing from your name, throw in some human details from your life. Sign off by saying ‘Ok, that’s all for today. I’m off to catch the Mets game, wish ‘em luck!’ Be genuine, human and real, and people will respond by trusting you more.

Write About Them, Not About You

You spend your whole life focused on your product, so when you sit down to write to your list telling them to go buy it, what are you going to talk about? Most people talk about their product. What you should be talking about is them. Enter into their world using the real human knowledge you’ve gained about them. Address the reader personally and directly, using ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘I.’

Tell Them Why They Should Care

So you’ve got the best product in the world. So what? People, fundamentally, at their simplest level, care about themselves. You already know this, of course, but it’s easy to forget. Constantly explain how your product benefits them, and you’ll find it easier to motivate your subscribers to buy. You’ll make more sales, have more money, and live forever. Ok, you can do it more subtly than that. But don’t be afraid to be obvious. An old copywriting trick tells you to imagine that everyone you are writing to is constantly asking “So why do I care?” to every sentence you say. So answer it. Tell them exactly why your product makes their life better.

sephora-email

Instead of dwelling on the features or the product this email from Sephora immediately states the benefits that you get when you buy, clearly answering the ‘Why Do I Care” question:

”This bevy of hair bestsellers gives you instant, effortless style that lasts up to 2x longer.”

Focus on both Pleasure and Pain

As a marketer you should know both what your subscribers want more of in their life, and what they want less of. If your product genuinely solves a problem for your audience then to make sales you need to briefly remind them of that problem, before offering them relief. Why do you think there are so many marketing automation tools out there? Many of your prospective clients will not be at the stage of awareness or consideration just yet. These platforms help you with lead scoring, timing the message and tailoring it to the best segment, but it all starts with knowing which Pleasure and Pain buttons to push.

Make Them Take Action Now

People are horrendous procrastinators. If you don’t give them a compelling reason to take action now, then they ain’t gonna – ever. Use real scarcity in your marketing messages to make your calls to action irresistible. Run a special offer that ends in 3 days, not one month. Create a special edition of your product that has only 1000 copies available. Offer a high value bonus or discount for only the first hundred customers. Make it real, just be sure to do it (before it’s too late!).

A well written, authentic email will make your subscribers think “wow, this company understands me” and then rush to find their credit card. No matter how beautiful your design or how precise your segmentation, however, a carelessly written email will not generate the results you want because people will not be sufficiently motivated or inspired to take action. Follow these tips to get the words right, and remember that at the end of the day, the email replaced the letter, and every letter is about the words.

 

About the Author:

Nathan’s first online business came out of a hobby and paid his way through university, growing a newsletter of over 20,000 subscribers and earning a mention in the New York Times. Since then Nathan has worked as a copywriter and digital marketing strategist for mission driven educators, authors and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and China. Read his thoughts on email marketing at NewsletterMarketing.io

Marketing Technology Stack 101

By Ray Estevez

You have probably heard of various technology stacks (OSI seven layer model, TCP/IP model, W3C web architecture model). With the advent of so many marketing technology solutions, it was inevitable that marketing technology stacks would evolve. So what exactly is a marketing technology stack? It is a collection of technologies, services and people to manage a company’s customer data and marketing efforts. The set of tool harnesses massages and analyzes the data to allow marketers to create personalized marketing campaigns that are automated and measurable.

Companies have been collecting a lot of customer data, but until recently they didn’t have the right tools to easily harness that data. A marketing technology stack consists of several layers of tools that sit on top of a “Big Data” layer. The other layers include information management, and campaign management tools. The layers may include:

  • CRM – Customer Relationship Management (CRM)— technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, and assisting in customer retention.
  • CMS Content Management System — technologies that allow publishing, editing and modifying content, organizing, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment.
  • Outbound Marketing—email marketing systems, digital advertising serving platforms, social media network monitoring and response solutions.
  • Marketing Automation / Campaign Management— technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, mobile, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.
  • Inbound Marketing—technologies that use a data driven approach to marketing that attracts individuals to your content/brand in hopes of converting them into long term customers.
  • Event Management Systems—applications of project management to the creation and development of large scale events
  • Digital Asset Management Tools – software for managing tasks and decisions surrounding the ingestion, annotation, cataloguing, storage, retrieval and distribution of digital assets
  • TMS Tag Management System—a technology for managing, marketing, and tracking tags on your website. What are tags? Tags are snippets of code (usually JavaScript) which are placed in the HTML pages which enable tracking, analysis, and reporting by external 3rd party systems.
  • Business Intelligence & Analytics—technologies that analyze, summarize and report via dashboards the results of the various tools that stack is producing.

Marketing Tehnology Stack

There can be many variations of a marketing technology stack. Some stacks have more tools than others. The latest trend is that of some large vendors offering a complete one-stop-shop bundle enterprise marketing technology stack. Some of these vendors include Clarabridge, Salesforce, Oracle-Eloqua, Adobe, IBM, and V12 Group.

If you are responsible for marketing then you should care about learning all you can about setting up a marketing technology stack. Why? Because when it is done right, it works well. Early adopters are maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing budgets.

The main purpose businesses are turning to marketing technology stacks is to focus on delivering the perfect customer experience. The challenge of reaching customers and leads and ensuring they have a consistent customer experience across all marketing channels is a daunting one.

There are currently 1,876 marketing technology vendors specializing in over 40 different categories. With so many marketing technologies to choose from, it can be hard to select the right technologies for your business. The products are more advanced than ever before.

The right marketing technology stack is one that helps create the kind of one-on-one experiences customers expect as they engage via all devices and channels. Today’s CMOs need to carefully establish the best technology to facilitate the level of engagement customers expect, and meeting that expectation requires a clear marketing roadmap.

Digital Marketing Insight

Digital Marketing Insight

The digital marketing landscape has gone through an incredible transformation and has evolved into the nucleus of the Internet ecosystem. The following insight breaks down the latest strategies, and offers key data that speaks to the transformation. From a technology facilitator’s standpoint, I am observing as more and more businesses adopt a wider array of marketing technology services.

Back in 2009 digital marketing was beginning to mature into a series of disparate digital technologies that enabled targeted, interactive and measurable marketing products. These varied marketing products include:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Email marketing (CRM)
  • Display advertising
  • Social Media
  • Content marketing & content automation
  • E-commerce marketing

This is just a partial list. In fact, digital marketing products extend to any other form of digital media.
Today’s digital marketing strategies leverage all the latest marketing technology innovations to manage and execute cross-channel campaigns that are optimized and driven by big data analytics. Marketing automation platforms now simplify the process of executing consistent multi-channel campaigns that drive performance and maximize return on investment (ROI). Below is a list of some of the larger marketing platforms on the market:

  • ORACLE Eloqua (now ORACLE Marketing Cloud)
  • Marketo
  • HubSpot
  • Unica Campaign (now IBM Campaign)
  • Pardot (now Salesforce Pardot)
  • Adobe Campaign
  • SILVERPOP (now IBM SILVERPOP)

Businesses of all sizes are starting to recognize and align the impact of each media channel on the other. These marketing technologies keep expanding to include as many media channels as possible. The next challenge is to determine the proper allocation of marketing budgets across channels.

  1. In 2015 businesses will spend 32% of total marketing budget on digital marketing
  2. By 2016 it is projected that 36% of marketing budgets will be allocated to digital marketing
  3. Search engine marketing will continue to see the largest spend at 47%
  4. Display advertising (banner ads, re-targeting) will enjoy 34% of spend
  5. Social media (Tweeter, Facebook, others) are estimated at 6%
  6. Mobile is now the fastest growing digital media channel. It will enjoy about 10% of spend
  7. 84% of top performing companies are using or plan to start using marketing automation
    (Sources: webstrategiesinc.com, cmosurvey.org, gleanster.com, gartner.com)

Technological innovation and competition is driving the shift to digital marketing. The Fortune 1000 companies have already adopted marketing automation to drive their digital marketing efforts. However, many small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) are struggling to figure out how best to implement a digital marketing strategy. SMBs need to learn from larger companies and adapt quickly or they will be left behind in this new digital era. Here are a few insights to consider:

  • Realize the importance of having a digital presence. This includes but is not limited to: website, popular social media (Tweeter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).
  • Provide your customers and prospects a consistent brand experience across all digital channels.
  • Research and select marketing technologies to manage and measure the results of all your digital marketing efforts.
  • Starting out you may want to outsource your digital marketing efforts to a respected digital marketing agency. Then learn and document everything before establishing your own in-house marketing team.
  • Stay aware of new digital marketing trends. The internet is full of great resources to keep you informed.

By Ray Estevez