For nearly 15 years, Janna has been one of Northern New England's most prolific and creative marketing minds. However, Janna is more than a designer or a marketer, she understands the nuts-and-bolts of the back-office.

While the design of a website is based on the goals of the business and strategic decisions to support those goals, it is also highly subjective. Certainly, there are “best practices” that inform a design. But when it comes down to fonts and colors and photos and graphics, we all have our personal preferences and will understandably interject those preferences during the design process.

However, it is important to remember that your website isn’t for you, and your preferences actually don’t matter.

When riding a motorcycle, accelerating, or increasing the throttle, can help a rider regain traction and recover control in a variety of situations, whether to correct a path of travel or to avoid potential disaster when things get squirrelly. Interestingly, we realized recently that the same could be said for your marketing efforts.

Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:27

Sales needs to be social

Buyers are researching companies and products before they even talk to sales person. Guess what? They’re  also researching salespeople.

Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:25

Social Media URLs and Your Brand

You spend a lot of time crafting messages and images for use on social media. But did you spend any time on your URLs?

Tuesday, 01 August 2017 18:11

It’s an addiction

Despite all the wonderful things social media has allowed people to do, it has a bit of a dark side.

Social media gives people and companies powerful tools to extend their reach, project their messages and engage with people far and wide. Through images and content, people use their social media platforms to promote and establish their personal or company brands. Many people focus on their posts, their profile image and their cover photo to accomplish their branding goals. But there is one oft-neglected piece of the social media branding puzzle: the URL.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 14:10

We Reinvented the Enewsletter

Here at Savoir Faire we spend a lot of time with our heads down doing great work for our clients. To the point, sometimes, that we forget to pick our heads up and tell you things. Interesting things. Important things. Like that time we completely reinvented the email newsletter and never bothered to tell anyone about it.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 12:34

Facebook Changes to Link Previews

As usual, Facebook has made changes which could be significant for social media marketers as well as website developers.

Much like Mark Twain himself, the rumors of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated. And, as statistics show, it continues to be a widespread and ever-growing method of communication.

There are more than 2.5 billion email users worldwide with more than 4.3 billion email accounts! That adds up to approximately 35% of the world’s population. And according to Constant Contact, by the end of 2019, these users will receive 246 billion messages.

At the top of many website home pages stands a hero.

You know what you need.

Or at least you think you do.

But when you ask your graphic designer for a logo, brochure, poster, presentation or any other visual aid to support your marketing efforts, you’re faced with a barrage of questions full of words and phrases you aren’t quite sure you understand, and you’re wishing you had a “Graphic Designer to English” pocket dictionary handy.

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 18:28

Combatting List Decay

Like filling a leaky bucket, you need to continually add contacts to your marketing database in order to counter it’s natural, inevitable and continued decay.

Marketers and salespeople work hard to earn email addresses from prospects and leads with whom they’d like to communicate in order to educate them and to stay connected with them through their buying journey.

Plus, it feels good to see a list grow and thrive, especially if it has been cultivated organically and through efforts designed to attract engaged readers. Unfortunately, not all the names in a contact database remain valid as time goes on.

First impressions count. Cliché? Maybe. But the truth is, they really do. 

Imagine this: you’re sitting in your immaculate, modern conference room waiting for the principal of what you think is reputable a marketing agency to arrive and to pitch you on a new strategy for your company in the coming quarter. You’ve never met but you have heard some good things about the agency and the services it delivers. The door opens and there she is, in her bathrobe, slippers and appearing to have just rolled out of bed. Turns out, she doesn’t think she needs to impress you by how she looks or to make a good first impression; her presentation is SURE to “wow” you.

Now consider this: it can be difficult (though not impossible) to overcome a bad first impression no matter what you do in in the future or how well you do it. In fact, according to Fast Company, when someone forms a negative opinion, despite subsequent positive actions, he  will purposefully avoid changing opinion. This is  because of an inability to resolve the dissonance the contradiction creates. 

Let’s apply this scenario to your website 

Buyers aren’t waiting for your phone call and your sales pitch. They are researching online, trying to find the best product or service provider to solve a problem. That means your website has to act as your first impression - like the receptionist at the front desk, it sets the tone for what people think about interacting with your company. You want that first impression to be positive if you have any hope of turning website visitors into leads and then being able to nurture leads through to sales.

Unfortunately, it only takes a few seconds for a visitor to decide to stay or to bounce. In fact, it takes no more than 50 milliseconds (or .05 seconds) for users to form any type of opinion about your website.

In that split second, your site’s design will have the most impact on whether your visitor has a good first impression. According to British researchers, who studied how design and content influence the trust of online health websites, 94% of website first impressions are design related, while only 6% was related to actual content. Further, research from Stanford shows that 75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on its web design.

Can you believe that? People will decide if they can trust you based on how nice your website looks.

How do you do that? Ruthlessly. First, simplify. Second, deliver on expectations.

Websites with less visual clutter that follow best practices or standard conventions for their particular industry are usually viewed more positively. In contrast, designs that contradict experiences or expectations can cause a first impression to be negative and result in a quick click on the back or X button.  

Beyond the initial first impression

Once a user decides to stay, good design becomes about much more than how the website looks. Good design is also about how the site functions, how it satisfies the needs of the user and how it persuades the user to take action.

People have become more wary of websites and more measured in their clicks especially with so many scams and hidden malware. Your website needs to convey trust and credibility to overcome any skepticism or suspicion and to assure users that your business is void of any impropriety.

Use authentic images and language. Try not to overuse stock photography, which can feel artificial and contrived. Everyone knows those aren’t your people in those photos. Consider showing your face. People like to do business with people and are more willing to trust a business that shows it’s face. However, make sure your photos are done professionally; no selfies (unless that represents your corporate culture; there’s an exception for every rule).

Include social proof. People are naturally drawn to making decisions based on others and the choices they make. Social proof can be included in the form of testimonials, star ratings, client or media logos, number of followers, number of subscribers, number of purchases, product reviews. Hubspot, for example, includes information about their number of agency partners, monthly blog visitors, certified professionals, social followers and customers. 

Hubspotscreenshot

Display badges. Security badges, SSL seals and trust seals can increase conversions by improving visitors’ confidence in the safety of your site, their information and their privacy as well as your ethical business practices. While studies show any type of seal, even your money-back-guarantee icon, will increase a user’s perception of security and credibility, trust seals (versus SSL seals) produce the highest levels of confidence

Securityseals Chart
Source: Baymard Institute, https://baymard.com/blog/site-seal-trust

Consider your colors. Colors can deeply impact the opinions people form and the feelings they have. Blue and green typically are more likely to convey trustworthiness and are reassuring. Reds and oranges can be seen as “warning” colors, thus why they are often used for these types of alerts and messages.

Include payment gateway icons or logos. Using reputable payment gateways such as Sage, Authorize.net and Paypal can encourage online purchases.

Display a clear method of contact. Don’t hide from your users. Make it easy for them to contact you by email, snail mail, phone and/or a form on your site.

Bonus Tip: DO NOT USE COMIC SANS…ever.

Second Bonus Tip: If you’re savvy enough not to use Comic Sans, ever, add Papyrus to your list of never-use fonts!

Conclusion

Think about how you choose to enter any brick-and-mortar business. Will you enter the establishment with the dirty facade, cracked sign and overflowing trash? Or do you prefer establishment that is clean, cared for and appears well kept?

Like these businesses, your website’s appearance is crucially important to your success online. 

Is it saying to visitors, “I really don’t care enough to put my best foot forward,” or is it proudly announcing, “I’m a professional who wants to earn your trust and your business?”

Don’t skimp on your website. A poorly designed site can be more costly in the long run. And, remember not everyone is necessarily ready to buy — make a good first impression but also make a memorable impression.

 

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 14:42

Accessibility and SEO

Some websites must be developed with accessibility in mind in order to be Section 508 compliant. However, every website should be accessible. It’s the right thing to do...and if that’s not good enough, it’s good for SEO.

Emails. So many emails, finding their way to our inboxes every day: updates from our favorite blogs, recommendations from an online store we purchased from, reminders about events we signed up for, tips and tricks from that website we downloaded a whitepaper from last year, notifications that we have a new follower on twitter (woohoo!) and, unfortunately, a lot of stuff we never wanted and didn’t sign up for.

But have you really thought about the different types of emails you receive and why businesses send them?

We have.  

Below are some of emails your business could be sending to keep customers informed, encourage sales or promote engagement.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 20:33

MailChimp’s Member Ratings

MailChimp provides a sophisticated way to rate your contacts and evaluate engagement.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 20:30

Secure ≠ Safe

A “Secure” site is not necessarily a “Safe” site.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 20:18

Social Image Sizes

Keeping up with all the social media channels, their image requirements and their layout changes can be daunting.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 20:12

Facebook’s Declining Organic Reach

Facebook’s algorithm changes over the past few years have made it more difficult for business pages to extend their reach organically. But there are things you can do without buying ads.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 20:01

Don’t Annoy Your Social Followers

Your social followers chose to click “like,” “follow” or “subscribe” because they wanted to know what your brand is doing, and to get access to relevant and useful information. Don’t screw it up!

Thursday, 16 March 2017 12:50

Content Marketing Ideas for Non-Writers

How to do “content marketing” if you’re not a writer.

Wednesday, 01 February 2017 13:27

Facebook Advertising Facts & Tips

Think you’ve got Facebook advertising figured out? Tomorrow everything could change.

Wednesday, 03 August 2016 19:31

Chamber Music and your Marketing Team

This is the season that the Apple Hill String Quartet performs its summer series. Read our blog post about how a string quartet is like a marketing team.

Like traditional, written business correspondences, business emails often finish with a closing word or phrase, the sender’s name and sender’s title. Additionally, where a business letter or letterhead might contain contact information at the top of a correspondence, an email may include a variety of other relevant contact information below the closing.

Known as an email signature, this block at the end of an email message can also contain company-related information such as the business name, mailing address, phone number or numbers, disclaimers or other contact information. When used correctly, email signatures can be an important part of your marketing strategy.

Email signatures allow recipients to easily add sender information to their contacts or address book with a few simple copy and paste commands.

While this block is basically utilitarian, senders often try to develop attention grabbing, memorable signatures either through word choice or content such as a quote or imagery.

Unfortunately, it becomes easy to go overboard with email signatures, including graphics, irrelevant or random quotes or simply far, far too much contact information.

 For example:

Giphy

Janna Hartley
Associate
Savoir Faire Marketing Communications

Web: www.savoirfaire-us.com
Blog: www.savoirfaire-us.com/blog
Email: janna@savoirfaire-us.com
Office: 603.867.5309
Home: 603.555.0100
Business Cell: 603.555.0145
Personal Cell: 603.555.0199

Office Address:
100 West Merrimack Street
Manchester
Merrimack County
New Hampshire
United States of America

Twitter: @monkeybutt
Facebook: @janna.r.hartley
Instagram: @jannahartley
LinkedIn: @janna
Ello: @jannahartley
Pinterest: @skigirl1369
MySpace: @jhartley
MapMyRun: @jannahartley 

Favorite Quote: "Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.
The most massive characters are seared with scars."
~ Kahlil Gibran

Not only is there irrelevant information above, it’s a lot of text to sift through to find important contact information, especially when viewing the email on a mobile device.

So what should you do (or not do) instead?

First, don’t include personal phone numbers in your business signature. Your phone number should be your office number and/or business cell phone only, unless of course you want to be contacted by colleagues, clients or your supervisor on nights, weekends and early mornings. Obviously, if you work for yourself, the distinction can be fuzzy, and you might in fact have one phone number for work and for personal use.

Don’t include your email address. It’s already visible in the user’s inbox and is completely redundant. People have become very computer savvy since the birth of email in 1971 and know they can find your email address simply by adding you to their contacts or by simply hitting “reply.”

Include links to your social media accounts. But only link to those accounts where you share business-related information or to personal accounts which help build your personal brand in a professional manner, such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Avoid trying to include every single social media account you have. Cap your social media sites to no more than six and choose the ones that are most relevant to your company or brand and with which you are actively engaged. Utilize social media icons if possible. These images are more easily recognized and can more likely to be clicked.

Use images sparingly, such as a logo or headshot. Avoid adding frivolous images of sunsets or inspirational quotes or gifs you found funny. When including an image, use color. Color images are more memorable than black and white and are processed by our brains more quickly.

Never put your entire signature in an image. When you embed all your contact information in an image, it’s difficult for recipients to copy and paste your contact information to an address book. Additionally, images might arrive as attachments rather than as part of the message - or they may require user permission to load - defeating the purpose of using a signature to begin with.

Avoid long disclaimers. If necessary, include a link to an online version of your email disclaimer. Remember, more people are reading email on their mobile devices and disclaimers, often inserted at smaller font sizes could be difficult to read.

Don’t use full hyperlinks. For example, you might link the website in your signature to http://www.mycompany.com, but you should only display www.mycompany.com, or even better, mycompany.com. A user can paste either of these variations in a browser address bar and the browser will append the http and www as needed. Pro tip: if you link your URL using UTM tracking. you can see how many visits your website gets from your email signature using Google Analytics.

Create a mobile version of your signature for emails sent from your mobile device. Consider using only the bare minimum contact information and including a “sent from my iPhone” or “sent from my smartphone” disclaimer. (Mine currently states: “Sent from my phone. Please excuse any typos and errant autocorrects.”). This short disclaimer can help your credibility when an email gets a little sloppy. However, beware there are some recipients who will see this disclaimer as a preemptive excuse for lazy proofreading and will not forgive your typos.

Don’t try to combine too many fonts or colors. While technology has come a long way and email clients such as Outlook are providing more support for CSS, fonts and colors, it’s unlikely your company’s proprietary font or even a web-based font will property display on your recipient’s device. Outlook most notability ignores many of these directives and will fall back to using Times New Roman. The best bet is to play it safe and use system-based fonts for contact information. However, you can use color to help tie your email to your brand and try a couple font sizes to create a visual hierarchy information.

 

 

Beyond your contact information

While the goal of an email signature is to provide contact information, this block is also a great way to market yourself and your company. According to Hubspot, the average office worker sends 40 emails per day. Each one of these emails is a touch point with a client or prospect and can impact your business.

Consider using your email signature to include a targeted strategic marketing messaging or offers, rather than your favorite quote and reminder to “think before printing this email.” Choose one, however. Just like with contact details, you don’t want to clutter your signature with lots of different and competing messages.

  • Use a call to action to highlight an event, share recent content or promote a special offer. Create a banner image and place it below your contact information or use a text link which is emphasized through font style or color.

  • Try linking to a company video. In email clients like Gmail, a video thumbnail will show up for YouTube hosted videos.

  • Link to your calendar and allow clients and prospects to easily book meetings with you.

  • Include statistics or link to any research you have conducted and published.

  • Offer a free product demo or consultation. Try targeting the various stages of the funnel with higher commitment offers in your signature.

Your email signature is probably one of the most often-seen pieces of company branding. Yet marketers typically overlook its importance and potential to influence readers and drive additional website traffic and revenue. Whatever information you include, make sure you test your signature in a variety of email clients, such as Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail and Yahoo, to ensure you are putting your best foot forward and that the vast majority of recipients are seeing your signature as intended.

Resolve to Make Your Marketing Matter in 2015

Transactional emails, also called triggered emails, are emails sent to an individual based on some action he/she has taken. Often, these are associated with e-commerce sites and purchases, but they also include any automated follow-up emails that are triggered by any website action, such as signing up for a newsletter or completing a form to gain access to an offer or download.

In fact, there are a lot of actions that can initiate a transactional email including:

  • Email confirmations

  • Password resets

  • Username reminders

  • Purchase receipts and invoices

  • Abandoned cart emails

  • Sign up confirmations

  • Welcome emails

  • Shipping/tracking update emails

Unfortunately, marketers often think little, if at all, about transactional emails, beyond delivering the necessary facts to the recipient. Worse, they are often plain text emails that were pre-written as part of an e-commerce solution or written by the IT or development department.

Alternatively, we invest a lot of time in crafting the perfect bulk email messages to nurture segmented leads, seeking ways to further engagement and conversion as well as relationships. We A/B test, we measure, and we refine in an attempt to improve performance and grow click and open rates.

But don’t our transactional emails deserve the same love, attention and measurement?

Good open rates for bulk emails range between 15% and 20%. But transactional emails can have “8x the open and engagement rate of traditional marketing emails,” according to Campaign Monitor. These emails contain information that a user is expecting and very interested in. Recipients may even interact with the email several times and save it to reference at a later date.

Transactional emails are a great opportunity to build trust and create more engagement and drive additional purchases.

Blend transaction-related content and marketing-related content

Transactional emails naturally contain highly personalized information based on a user’s action and contain useful information the user needs or wants. But they can also contain relevant links to other products, website pages or useful information based on the trigger action, driving the user right back to the website to complete more actions.

Transactional emails are also a great place for a call-to-action which might invite the user to share with friends or on social media or might ask the user to review a product purchased or customer service interaction.

These emails can also include cross-sell or upsell products based on previous purchases or include a coupon or offer toward another purchase or encourage a user to return to an abandoned cart.

However, as Hubspot cautions, when blending email content in transactional emails, consideration should be given to legislation in different countries. What might pass the American CAN-SPAM laws might not pass standards used to define an email as transactional.

Sending via an ESP

Transactional emails, unlike promotional emails, are typically sent via an e-commerce system or website, whereas promotional emails are likely delivered via an Email Service Provider (ESP) to improve deliverability and avoid any potential blacklisting issues.

Given the critical information contained in a transactional email, deliverability is of utmost importance. To improve deliverability and protect your domain reputation, transactional emails should also be sent via an ESP.

ESPs also offer email tracking and reporting tools. These will allow you to test the messaging and promotional content in an email but also monitor open rates on critical transactional emails and follow-up if necessary. Utilizing an ESP also gives more control to marketers, allowing them to more easily update the emails and massage the messaging instead of relying on an IT department or web development company to manage transactional emails sent via the website or other internal system.

Branding and User Experience

Transactional should use the same fonts, colors, imagery and voice as other marketing emails as well as  the website from which they originated  rather than plain text, generic, downright blah emails. Using the same templates as other promotional emails and digital assets allows you to deliver a consistent brand experience to users, which according to Forrester, is a prime contributor to establishing trust, which in turn drives loyalty and revenue.

Conclusion

Transactional emails should be given as much consideration as other promotional emails. With high open rates, these emails are a great opportunity to increase trust, engagement and conversions. As with all digital marketing tactics, they should be measured, tested and refined to produce the best results and work harder for your business. Contact Savoir Faire for an evaluation of your email marketing program today!

Not long ago, emails resembling printed newsletters were prevalent. They had two or three columns, a number of articles, a table of contents, a “published” date and a lot of content that was best read on a desktop device.

We’ve come a long way since then.

First Impressions

You’ve managed, with your compelling subject line, to convince an email recipient to open your email.

But did they read your email? Or did they “bounce?”

What your open rate (and click rate) doesn’t tell you is if they actually read your email after opening. That’s where email open time comes in.

According to emailmonday, a large percent of readers on various devices spend less than 15 seconds reading an email. This could indicate they quickly clicked a link but it could also mean they quickly closed or even deleted the email.

 

Movable Ink US Consumer Device Preference Report Q2 2014
Credit: emailmonday

 

Your email needs to engage the reader quickly and to encourage the reader to scroll and to click regardless of the email type.

Layout Design

Though statistics vary for different industries, on average, 66% of emails are now opened on mobile devices (Constant Contact) and 54% are opened on mobile first (Cynthia Price), making it very likely your readers are viewing your email on a smartphone rather than desktop device.

However, it is still important to design your emails for all devices, using responsive layouts to increase the likelihood your email will be read and clicked rather than abandoned.

  • If you use a multicolumn format, make sure it reformats to a single column when viewed on a mobile device, making it easy to read on a narrow screen.

  • Design your email to be no more than 650 pixels wide to ensure that when viewed in a browser-based email application such as Yahoo or Gmail, the entire width is visible.

  • Use a simple layout that is clean and uncluttered with visual cues to indicate headlines and calls to action as well as to create information hierarchy.

  • Use spacing and dividing lines to split content sections

  • Keep paragraphs short for easy scannability and readability.

  • Use your company’s colors and fonts. However, make sure your email works with a system font as well.

  • Watch your use of background images. Some email clients such as Outlook, will not display them.

  • Include a pre-header or preview text if your email uses a header image or logo which would take up a large portion of a mobile screen.

  • Try to keep your header less than 150 pixels high so that your main content is more likely to display on smaller devices.

  • Break up large chunks of text with images and consider linking to longer content hosted on your website. Remember to include “alt text” on your email images just as you would on a website to help identify images that might not be downloaded or displayed.

  • Balance your images and text. An email that is overly image-heavy can be flagged as spam.


Our internet savvy audience has matured rapidly and mobile technology continues to evolve. As such, it’s long past time to drop emails that look like old, printed newsletters, and to instead focus on mobile-friendly emails that are easy to read regardless of device. Rather than using email as a way to deliver every detail of every story in a given time period, consider the specific purpose of each email and use it as a gateway to information located elsewhere on your website where users can convert.

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 12:35

(So-called) Email Best Practices

Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a prescribed set of steps or parameters that would guarantee success or some sort of black and white, concrete solution to achieve results? Devoid any such magic insight or secret formula, we turn instead to “best practices.”

In email marketing, we can find a lot of data about click rates and open rates and how the structure of the email, the subject or the content affects these rates.

Companies like Mailchimp analyze hundreds of thousands of messages to tell us what time of day is best for sending, how to compose an email message that gets opened and which elements an email must have to improve clicks and conversions.

This data allows us to construct rules to guide us when building our emails and email campaigns. However, just because it is a “best” practice doesn’t mean it is best for you.

Pre-headers and “view online” links

Pre-headers allow you to include preview text that a user will see when viewing a list of emails in their inbox. It can give valuable information about the email’s primary content in order to entice the recipient to open. It is also where the The “View Online” link is usually located. This link gives users the ability to view an HTML version online if it is not displaying correctly on their computer or device. Obviously, it’s nice to give users an option. However, on mobile devices, this text takes up valuable real estate at the top of the email. The pre-header and preview text can be hidden in the email view via CSS and still appear in the inbox preview. However, what will hiding the “view online” link do?  To decide if this should be hidden or included, you can look at how many of your users click the link or how many people view the email online or in their email client.

Day and time

We’ve seen reports that state Thursday at 3pm is the best time of day while websites mention morning hours when people are just starting to go through their inboxes. We’ve also seen it suggested that it is best to send early in the week when subscribers have not already been bombarded with and become tired of emails. But the truth is, there is no exact day and time that will work for every industry and every business. Think about  your audience and when  your messages might best resonate with them. For example, if you are emailing about a weekend event, you might aim for Wednesday when people are making weekend plans. Consider your audience’s routines: when are they online, when are they thinking about your product or service, when are they making decisions?

Personalization

Personalization became a best practice to boost open rates; however, when spammers realized this, they began using personalization in every email. Soon, recipients could easily identify a spam email based on the presence of their first name in the subject line. Personalization has become impersonal and emails with names in the subject lines are often delivered as junk mail. Should you ditch personalization because of this? Not necessarily. But consider it in terms of your list segmentation and what content or offers you are delivering to members of your audience. Be personal without being spammy.

Messaging and your subject lines

We posted recently on some considerations when crafting your subject lines such as keeping them short, avoiding overly spammy words, using targeted keywords and creating a sense of urgency. However, while these are “best practices,” it is worth noting that utilizing words such as Free won’t necessarily flag your email as spam or cause a user to automatically delete it. Spam filters will look at the email in general as well as the overall reputation of the sender to calculate your spam score. So feel free to use some of those “spam trigger” words in your testing. They might just compel your audience to click.

Your unsubscribe link

It’s been a fairly common practice to hide the unsubscribe link in small type in the footer simply to satisfy CAN-SPAM requirements in an attempt to avoid the loss of subscribers or contacts. But if people really want to leave, they will find a way. If you make it too difficult to unsubscribe, users might simply report your email as spam, which, if you have enough complaints, can affect your email deliverability. Make it easy for users to unsubscribe or manage their email preferences. Test different options including ways to “opt-down” or select different email frequencies or email types.

Frequency

Once a day, once a week, once a month? How often should you send emails to your subscribers. Finding that sweet spot where recipients remain engaged and informed and have not experienced email ‘fatigue’ from over mailing can be difficult. Research from the DMA (the UK-based Direct Marketing Association)  shows the highest percent of companies send 4 to 5 emails per month to their contacts. Does that mean this is the magic number to elicit response? Again, the answer is not necessarily. While you want to avoid sending too few as well as too many emails, the number of emails depends on the types of emails you send as well as your audience. For example, your company might send a larger number of emails particularly if transactional emails are a part of the purchase or sales process. If the emails are relevant, the quantity becomes less important.

Remember, as with anything, best practices might not be best for you. Consider these to be common practices or even average practices. Use them as the basis on which to build but don’t allow best practices to be the reason you do less or stop experimenting. With a little imagination, trial and error and A/B testing, you can develop better best practices for your business.

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when describing your subscriber count. Of course, you want to be actively growing your email list; but you also want to be sure your list encompasses people who are interested in your email content and are engaged with you rather than “dead” subscribers, names on your list who have not engaged with (opened, responded or clicked) any of your emails in at least six months.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 20:37

Blogging for SEO

People are looking for answers. Google is delivering them.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 13:18

Why is LinkedIn Important?

Many business owners, managers and other decision makers know about several social media channels currently utilized  —  at least to the degree they use them personally.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 20:24

Creating a Brand

Brand development can be hard. There are a lot of things to think about besides your logo.

Monday, 04 January 2016 21:22

Brand Names

A rose by any other name would...cause great confusion.

Monday, 04 January 2016 21:20

Limiting WordPress Admin Access

WordPress allows developers to limit the availability of plugin, theme and configuration access for backend users in two ways; via the theme functions file or via user roles. Both have pros/cons.

Monday, 04 January 2016 21:19

LinkedIn Groups Overhauled

Recently, LinkedIn made major changes to its groups interface, making the desktop and mobile app versions the same.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 19:53

Domains and Google

Many new domain extensions, such as .academy, .guru, .attorney, have been made available  recently with new extensions still being released. These new extensions allow website owners to create more personalized and memorable website domains, but how does Google rank them compared to traditional .com, .org and .edu extensions?

Sunday, 20 December 2015 19:34

Brand Guidelines

Consistent communication of a company’s brand is vital to brand awareness and brand engagement.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 19:20

Agency Review

Over time, relationships can stagnate, each person offering less of themselves and communication breaking down. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault; sometimes, it just happens. The same holds true in a company-agency relationship.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 19:16

Post-holiday Marketing Opportunities

Many business put a lot of time, energy and money into their marketing leading up to Thanksgiving and through the holiday shopping season. Post-holiday marketing can help businesses capitalize on holiday sales, increase post-holiday sales and establish long-term relationships with customers.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 19:11

Analyzing Your Email Marketing

Email plays an important role in marketing automation strategies. How do you determine whether your emails are successful?

Monday, 14 December 2015 09:37

Measurement Monday: Email Marketing Analysis

Welcome to measurement Mondays, our opportunity to share some best practices, educational information and talk about all things related to measurement to start your week. In this week’s measurement Monday post, we will be reviewing some of the different metrics used when analyzing email campaigns.

Email is an integral part of today’s content marketing and marketing automation strategies, and contributes greatly to the success of each by maintaining customer relationships, nurturing leads and even attracting new contacts through sharing.

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 22:09

Meet the New Google+

Google has always evolved their various products in response to user feedback and usage data in order to improve the user experience and provide the right solutions, sometimes completely revamping or retiring products. Google+ is the most recent project to get a bit of an overhaul.

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 21:56

Is Google the Right Search Engine?

Google has become widely accepted as the search engine of choice. We talk about “Googling” something. We don’t tell people to “Bing it” and we aren’t “Yahooing” for anything. But is Google the right search engine to optimize for?

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 21:53

Pillars of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)  consists of a number of factors or activities that occur both on and off your site. These are the pillars of SEO.

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 21:46

Personalizing at Scale

Personalization can improve conversions and ROI, but some marketing efforts fail when personalization crosses the line to intrusive - or even creepy.

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 21:37

Content Publishing Platforms

Content has become a major part of most marketing strategies. But where should you host your content?

Friday, 20 November 2015 20:20

Mobile Surpasses Desktop

In early October, Google announced that over 50% of all Google queries worldwide are now coming from mobile devices.

Friday, 20 November 2015 20:19

Content Marketing Misconceptions

Content marketing, while certainly en vogue and quite popular as a strategy, is not a new concept.

Friday, 20 November 2015 20:18

Website Analyzers

Getting a quick diagnosis of the health of your site can help you figure out where you need to focus your efforts in order to improve your online presence.

Friday, 20 November 2015 20:17

SEO Tools

While you can spend time analyzing the results of your SEO efforts in Google Analytics or other reporting software, sometimes, you need a tool that will will analyze your site in a more specific manner and reveal new areas for improvement.

Monday, 23 November 2015 06:01

Measurement Mondays

You must effectively measure your marketing efforts; but what should you be measuring?

Welcome to measurement Mondays, our opportunity to share some best practices, educational information and talk about all things related to measurement to start your week. In this week’s measurement Monday post, we will be taking a look at social media.

Social media can be hard to measure and difficult for CMOs to understand the value of.

Monday, 16 November 2015 07:08

Measurement Mondays: Analyzing Your Blog

Welcome to measurement Mondays, our opportunity to share some best practices, educational information and talk about all things related to measurement to start your week. In this week’s measurement Monday post, we will be reviewing some of the different metrics used when evaluating your blog and blogging strategy.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 18:06

Customer Search Behavior

The way people are searching for information has changed.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 17:59

Budget Shift to Digital

It wasn’t long ago that people thought the Internet, email or social media were fads and wouldn’t merit much use beyond being a toy for the well-to-do population that could afford to have these at their disposal. But we’ve seen how wrong these types of predictions were and that digital marketing has grown exponentially in recent years with more businesses investing larger portions of their marketing budgets in digital.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 17:55

Mobile Influence

In the past year, more people are conducting shopping-related searches on their mobile devices.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 16:17

Strong Passwords

From banking to social media accounts to shopping to any other number of online activities, chances are you have needed to create a password. You know “password” isn’t a good idea and neither is “passw0rd” even with the clever little zero snuck in there. But did you know none of the clever little password tricks protect you.

Welcome to measurement Mondays, our opportunity to share some best practices, educational information and talk about all things related to measurement to start your week. In this week’s measurement Monday post, we will be reviewing some of the different metrics used when evaluating a website’s analytics. 

Thursday, 05 November 2015 09:12

How To Grow Your Email List

Social media messages and email messages both stream into our view whether it be via a news feed or your inbox. The difference is email is far less fleeting than social media.

Social media updates fly by quickly, and it’s not likely we scroll back to the previous day(s) to read posts. But with email, we take our time in our inbox. In 2012, McKinley Global Institute found that people spend up to 25% of their workday in their inbox. Email can hold our attention and demand response.

Welcome to measurement Mondays. Our opportunity to share some best practices, educational information and talk about all things related to measurement to start your week. In this week’s measurement Monday post, we will be reviewing some of the different metrics used when evaluating a website’s performance.

Performance Measurements

Website performance is important to both your users who want fast and easy-to-use websites and to search engines that use performance metrics as part of their algorithm for ranking websites organically. It has been posited that 4 seconds is the benchmark against which sites are measured and even less for mobile load times. With increasing data speeds, improved wireless connections and higher performing devices, the desire for instant gratification has grown. We no longer wait for modems to “dial up” and won’t stay on web pages that take a long time to load regardless of our connection.

There are a number of things you can do to improve your site performance. First, submit your website to a performance analyzer such as Google’s PageSpeed Tools. Google will tell you exactly where you can improve your performance for both Mobile and Desktop versions and outline what elements are blocking or hindering your performance. While some performance issues can be related to your website hosting environment and server, others are directly related to how your website is built.

The greatest drain on performance and load time is linked resources. Style sheets are utilized to make  websites visually attractive and readable while scripts can make website more fun, interesting and useful. However, each time a browser encounters a script or stylesheet tag, it must look up the file, open the script engine, read the content, compile the code, report back to the browser and display the results. This may only take milliseconds but it can add up and that equates to page load delay and performance issues. As such, it is a good idea to utilize as few linked resources as possible to reduce the number of “requests” as well as “minify” or compact the resources to save bytes of data thus speeding up the download, parsing and execution process.

Images can also severely affect website performance. We want our sites to be visually engaging and beautiful and have high-quality, colorful images. But these images can slow a site down considerably. The key is to find balance between visual loss and file size using different file formats, sizes, and compressions. While Photoshop can do a lot of image optimization via its “Save for Web” interface, we have found that Kraken.io offers a great free web tool for further compressing images. For resizing and scaling images, especially if Photoshop is unavailable, we’d also recommend BeFunky.com’s photo editor.

A way to reduce the number of images used is to employ image “sprites.” An image sprite is a set of images combined in one image file to reduce the number of server requests the website needs to make. Displaying the desired parts of the sprite is then achieved using CSS positioning.

Below are the web performance grades for Mashable.com according to QuickSprout’s analyzer as well as the load times, files sizes and requests for linked resources. As you can see, even large, popular sites like Mashable can suffer from poor performance and page structure.

Mashable Performancescore

Websites can also improve performance using caching. By leveraging browser caching, resources that are commonly used can be stored on your visitors’ browsers which can reduce page load times for repeat visitors. Each resource should have a caching policy defined via Cache-Control headers, which outline whether the resource can be cached, for how long and if the caching expires and any ETags (Entity Tags), which web servers and browsers use to determine if a cache matches the server version of a file.

Conclusion

Overall, when evaluating your site performance, look at the load time for your scripts, images and CSS files as well as the size of each and the number of requests made. Consider where you can combine files and minify them. If your site is still having performance issues, check your server response time and consider gzip compression or talk to your web host about your server and its resources. Run page load testing once a month and continually make improvements. Your users and the search engines will thank you for it.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the key metrics for measuring user behavior and website analytics. In the meantime, please let us know in the comments what metrics you are tracking on your site and how you have adjusted to maximize your site’s performance.

New Call-to-action
Monday, 26 October 2015 06:15

What is Omni-channel?

Have you seen the ad where a number of celebrities discuss ordering pizza from Dominos via whatever method they prefer, text, tweet, smart TV, or smart watch?

Monday, 26 October 2015 06:15

3 New Inbound Stats

New research and big data are continually providing insights on changes in the marketing industry, buyer behavior and the way we conduct business. But with the speed of change, the most up-to-date statistics can be elusive.

Monday, 26 October 2015 06:15

Even the Print Industry Loves Content

Logically, it would seem printers would abhor digital publishing as a less costly alternative to traditional publishing, their meat and potato. But, contrary to this assumption, printers actually embrace and espouse the benefits of online content and content marketing.

Monday, 26 October 2015 06:15

SEO + Content

In the early years of the internet, many businesses built websites that functioned as online versions of their company brochures. As people began to search for those brochures online, we saw the birth of SEO.

Monday, 26 October 2015 15:18

Trends CMOs Need to Know

While knowing what has happened allows a CMO to report on performance results, trends allow CMOs to adjust and adapt to the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Monday, 26 October 2015 15:16

Why Sell Online?

Learn how to stay ahead of your customers’ purchasing needs by selling online.

In every marketing program, whether traditional or digital, you must effectively measure the results of your efforts in order to identify and build on success or know which adjustments to make when it fails. So the looming questions is, what exactly should you be measuring?

Traditional measurement efforts used costly research techniques to learn more about market trends, market size, brand awareness and customer satisfaction. They also required companies’ utilize time-consuming data gathering techniques like customer feedback surveys or response cards that depended on a person’s willingness to offer information or participate in the information gathering.  

In traditional efforts, you may have measured the response rate of a direct mail postcard or of a newspaper ad; you may have gathered insights about a PR campaign using “clipping services;” or you may have measured the expense of a trade show exhibit against inquiries or resulting sales.

All this information then needed to be tracked, attributed and measured, facilitated by complex databases or CRM systems.

The digital world has changed the game and has made data gathering far easier for marketing practitioners.

With so many transactions conducted online, businesses and research firms are able to collect data about leads and prospects without needing to make specific feedback requests. The data can be tracked and organized automatically using reporting and analytics software, requiring little or no manual data entry.

The problem online measurement has caused is that it creates an incredible amount of data; so vast that sifting through it for valuable, key metrics can be cumbersome and overwhelming.

Let’s face it, big data is...big...and complex

According to IBM, “Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.”

As a result, many marketers get hung up on vanity metrics like Facebook “Likes” and website sessions. But metrics such as these don’t actually provide insight into how effectively a marketing program creates awareness, engagement and conversion. According to an article by Hubspot, vanity metrics often have no benchmarking for performance. The focus instead is in comparing one company’s performance against another at a moment in time versus measuring a company’s own improvements or declines as a result of their own actions.

So what should you measure?

There are numerous metrics at all levels that can be evaluated and analyzed for every aspect of a marketing program or campaign. Dividing these into key segments can simplify and focus your reporting and lead to data-driven decisions to improve performance. While reporting and analysis can be overwhelming, remember, as Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets improved.”

Our measurement Monday series will guide you through some important metrics you should evaluate to better understand the performance of your blog, your website, your social media and your email marketing. We’ll also reveal some interesting ways to look at the data to help you dig deeper into the valuable insights it provides that can help achieve greater business success.

 

GA Assessment Cta

There are a number of factors that can impact your email open rate. Some of these; who the email is sent from, the cleanliness of your list, and the day/time the email was sent, can be manipulated and controlled to a degree. There are however, external factors and limitations sometimes imposed by the email send provider that limit your control..

On the other hand, you have complete control over your subject line and it can make the biggest impact on the success or failure of your campaign. You can choose the general format, the words, length and the inclusion of personalization as appropriate.

Monday, 12 October 2015 19:44

Effective Email Subject Lines

Just because your email was delivered, doesn’t mean it will be read. Your email subject line is often your only chance to persuade a recipient that you have sent valuable, interesting or important information relevant to them.

Monday, 12 October 2015 19:29

Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is growing in popularity. But executing effectively still seems elusive.

Monday, 12 October 2015 19:17

WordPress and SEO

Google loves WordPress. But even more so with customization.

Monday, 12 October 2015 18:54

Visual Consistency

The human brain relies heavily on visual cues, so providing consistency is a must for your website.

Monday, 12 October 2015 18:43

Avoid Blog Writing Burnout

Many marketers agree that in order to improve SEO and gain traction, you must blog consistently. But continual blogging can become tedious and tiresome.

Monday, 12 October 2015 18:24

Announcing Leadin

Hubpot announced a new website plugin to gather visitor insights.

The buyer’s decision-making process has changed dramatically in recent years. Buyers are conducting extensive research online before ever speaking to a sales person. Buyers are also making more direct purchases online and via their smartphone, never stepping foot into traditional brick-and-mortar locations.

According to eMarketer, ecommerce sales rose 16.4% in 2013 over the previous year to 262.3 billion dollars and is estimated to climb to 440 billion dollars by 2017. However, the percentage of online sales to all retail sales is still relatively small. Consider this: only 11% of Macy’s sales are online. But, that meager 11% represents 3.1 billion dollars per year. (eConsultancy)

To capture a piece of the pie, brick-and-mortar stores need to adapt as their customers are. Shoppers are more than happy to stay home and research and complete their purchase online as long as the barriers to online shopping have been subverted, i.e. security risks, paying for shipping, etc. Many don’t want to drive to a store, wander around in search of what they need and then interact with a cashier to finish the purchase process. In fact, according to an eConsultancy survey, 60% of Americans like knowing they don’t have to shop in a crowded mall or store and 51% prefer to shop from the comfort of home. Consider this; Black Friday, perhaps the biggest shopping day of the year, saw about 6 million fewer shoppers at retail locations in 2014 than 2013. This is a decline that is expected to continue in 2015.

And people don’t just shop from home; they are making purchases anywhere they have wifi or phone service. Consider that sixty-two percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last six months. (KeCommerce)

The good news is you don’t have to compete with Amazon or other retail giants. The internet enables even small companies to sell online and compete adequately with the retail giants via cloud based platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Amazon Webstore as well as other solutions like Magento, ZenCart, Abante Cart or using WordPress plugins.

Compared to setting up a brick-and-mortar location, getting started online is very manageable and affordable with many vendors and distributors making it even easier by including services like drop shipping until sales justify investing in having your own inventory. And payment processors making it even easier to take payment with multiple options and lower fees.

Benefits

Selling direct online increases your reach. With an online store, your profits are no longer limited by the number of customers that can physically visit your brick and mortar location. You can sell across towns, states, and even across borders, removing all geographical limitations.

Your online store also allows you to cater to shoppers who find it more convenient to browse and buy at times when retail locations are not traditionally open. Online shopping can save time for both the buyer and retailer, reducing phone calls about availability, specifications, hours of operation or other information easily found on company and product pages.

An ecommerce system provides real time data and analytics about your products and your customers. You can see how people interact with the site, what products interest them, what they left in their cart and how much the average purchase was. Valuable metrics that allow you to make adjustments to meet your customer’s needs.

Even if your product(s) don’t appear ideal for online sales, an ecommerce presence will help buyers discover your business. Shoppers are spending more time researching online than ever before. Sixty-four percent of buyers spend 10 minutes or more researching before buying. They are online searching for products your business might sell. By having your items listed online in an ecommerce system you improve your chances of appearing in search engine results pages.That research could draw local buyers to your brick-and-mortar location or entice them to call. And best of all, your website is always selling. An ecommerce site is open  24/7/365 with virtually none of the overhead of a brick-and-mortar location.

Considerations when building your ecommerce presence

  • Create a user focused experience. Provide product details and information in a clear and concise manner. It’s important to help users through the online buying experience where they are unable to touch or try-on the products.

  • Use reviews and trust seals. According to KissMetrics, 5% of shoppers say that online reviews influence their buying decision.

  • Make sure information is readily available and there are no surprises, such as unexpected shipping cost. Twenty-eight percent of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if presented with unexpected shipping costs.

  • Allow guest checkout and ensure checkout is secure. Many shoppers will abandon a cart if they are required to create a new user account or have payment security concerns.

  • Make customers feel good about their purchase. Be helpful and personalize the experience. Just as with in-person interactions, online first impressions matter.

  • Gather feedback and data that will help you constantly improve the customer experience.

  • Make sure your ecommerce is mobile friendly. According to Brad Frost, “Mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way.”

  • Be fluid and evolve. This applies to both your ecommerce site but also the logistics of meeting demand.

Your brick-and-mortar isn’t dead.

While more people are enjoying a complete end-to-end online shopping experience, click and collect is also a popular model. Nextopia reveals 44% of shoppers are more likely to purchase online if they are able to pick up in-store, and that 62% are more likely to shop online if they can return an item in-store. The key to success is the effective and appropriate use of both online and offline channels to create a solution that better satisfies your buyers’ needs and shopping methods.

Look for the next post in our ecommerce series where we take a deeper dive into reviewing the different types of eCommerce software solutions available to sell online. Have a favorite platform? Let us know using the comments below.

Images are an important part of creating engaging content. In fact, according to Jeff Bullas, posts or articles with images get 94% more views! But finding great stock photos can either be costly or time consuming.

Websites like Getty Images® have beautifully composed photos for sale. However, these rights-managed images can be very expensive depending on your usage needs. Getty does offer some royalty-free images for embedding on a blog or website or social media using their “embedded viewer” provided your site and site content conforms to their terms and conditions.

Stock photo site 123rf.com has similarly allowed certain images to be downloaded for free for use on blogs and in PowerPoint presentations. Essentially the site asks contributors to “donate’ their images for increased exposure; the images are available for a period of time and eventually expire.The quality of images on 123rf can be hit or miss with contributors whose photography and videography skills vary.

For the last several years, we have been compiling a list of stock photo sites containing free, high resolution images available for personal and commercial use, many of which are offered under a new Creative Commons Zero license. CC0 indicates all copyrights have been waived by the owner. This is not the same as public domain mark, however, where an image has been released, to the public, often due to the passage of time.

To help you find images, we’ve shared our ten favorites:

Stocknsap.io.
This site has a search feature and all photos are free from copyright restrictions and no attribution is required. However, photos are curated by StockSnap from around the web and can often be found on other stock sites such as PicJumbo. https://stocksnap.io/

Startup Stock.
Startup Stock offers a limited collection of hi-resolution photos which depict possible scenes from fictional start-up companies. The images are licensed under the CC0 license. http://startupstockphotos.com/

Life of Pix.
Life of Pix has beautiful photos and an onsite search to help you find the perfect image. There are no copyright restrictions and new photos are added weekly. The photos are offered by an agency in Montreal and are donated by their network of photographers. http://www.lifeofpix.com/

Pexels.
Pexels has a nice online search and a good size library. Images are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license and are free for personal and commercial use. Their one restriction is that identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or way that they may find offensive. https://www.pexels.com/

Gratisography.
This site offers free, high-resolution pictures for any project. The photos are all by Ryan McGuire. Many of these images are more conceptual or whimsical and may not be suited to every business. However, they are certainly different than what is found on other sites and could make your blog stand out. http://www.gratisography.com/

Unsplash.
Unsplash is the project of Arthur Weill and has been a resource for bloggers for awhile. The original site, https://unsplash.com/, has no search available. You can subscribe to receive 10 new photos each day delivered to your email; this doesn’t necessarily give you the photos you need when you need them. There is a search in beta which utilizes tags or combinations of tags to help you find relevant images which makes this site more useful. http://www.arthurweill.fr/Unsplash/en

Vecteezy.
Vecteezy offers vector art such as illustrations, icons and patterns. Artist’s share their free art and resources on Vecteezy to gain exposure or to get feedback. Artists can license work with various Creative Commons licenses. Make sure you read the rights associated with any item downloaded from this site. http://www.vecteezy.com/

FoodiesFeed.
This site offers high resolution food and beverage imagery. The images are provided free of use for personal and commercial purposes and no attribution is required though the artist does appreciate it. In additional to the free photos, the artist does offer Premium photo packages as well. https://foodiesfeed.com

The Amazing Pattern Library.
This project by Tim Holman and Claudio Guglieri compiles patterns shared by designers to use freely in designs. http://thepatternlibrary.com/

Morgue File. 
We’ve been using this one for a long time, mostly because in the beginning, it was one of the few sites offering free images for commercial use. Though the images on this site are generally less professional, it provides much greater variety than other stock photo sites which curate from the same sources. As such, mor becomes our fall-back resource. http://morguefile.com

The question that is often asked; “Can’t I just a use a Google image search to find what I’m looking for?” Sure. But chances are the images are copyrighted. Just because something is posted online or makes it into a search engine result does not mean it isn’t still copyright protected. And simply adding an attribution doesn’t necessarily protect you from legal action. The author/artist must give you permission to share or distribute the work.

For more on finding images, CC licenses, copyright and proper attribution, download Finding and Using Images, our resource to help you find images for your content marketing needs.

Have a favorite stock photo site to share? Please add it to the comments below.

Last week, I attended the Inbound 2015 conference session, “Using Analytics to Create Content.”

Jeremy Goldman had a a lot of of interesting things to say about using analytics to predict what types of content will interest or be popular with audiences.

A number of people I spoke with later in the conference were interested in the session as well.  [Shout out to Ben and Andreas!] Therefore, I’d like to present an overview of the key methods Jeremy outlined for finding insights to inform content development and make the you create exceptionally relevant for your audience.

Lead Forensics

Lead Forensics uses reverse IP lookup to help you understand your audience. Similar to the prospects tool in Hubspot, Lead Forensics shows you which companies are viewing  your site, how often, and how many pages were viewed. This allows  you to see what types of companies in which industries are interested in your services/products, allowing you to create super-targeted content specifically for these verticals.

Hubspot Prospects
Hubspot Prospects

Google Analytics

Even though Google Analytics doesn’t give you the keyword data that it used to, you can look at which pages of your site are doing well and generating the most interest. From there, you can create new content and downloadables based upon similar subject matter.

You can also look at demographics. Using age and gender information, you can create content written for the age group mostly likely to view your site or the gender interested in your product/service.

Jeremy brought up an interesting case during the session: He said a beauty brand had previously targeted content specifically to women. However, analytics showed that they had 12% male visitors. Understanding this allowed the company to create “grooming tips for men” content  to attract male users.

Google Analytics BitlinksAnother element of Google Analytics that can be helpful are referral URLs which can aid in discovering the interests of visitors based on what sites they came from. However, sometimes, it’s hard to to figure out where a user came from due to URL shorteners.

Knowing which bitlinks belong to which sites can help. Jeremy pointed out that t.co is for Twitter and recommended using Google to find the tweet that drove traffic to the site, uncovering the topic that was of interest and building new content for a similar topic.

We also recommend looking at the categories and segments of your audience in Google Analytics. Knowing specific affinities can help you write targeted content for each segment.

Google Segments

Google Trends

Google Trends is a great way of uncovering what topics people are interested in right now and developing content around those topics.

That doesn’t mean you need to write specifically about the top topics. Instead, look for a twist or alternative angle you can take that would be of interest to your audience.

When Jeremy was preparing his presentation, Burning Man was trending. He suggested that as an Inbound Marketer, the audience might not write about the art or music of Burning Man but might instead write about “What a Social Media Marketer Should Bring to Burning Man.”

One fantastic tip from the presentation: Create widgets in Google Trends that can be embedded on a website.This probably shouldn’t be a public page, but it gives you an opportunity to create a Google Trends dashboard that is easily accessible from your own website, versus logging into Google to review it. The more accessible this information is, the more likely you are to utilize it.

Google Widget

RadUrls

Similar to Google Trends, Jeremy recommended Rad URLs, “for when Google Trends isn’t real-time enough.” Rad URLs lists the trending URLs on social networks and is updated every 15 minutes.

Radurls

Feedly

Feedly helps you identify what’s being shared most so you can create your content accordingly.

YouTube trends

YouTube allows you to search for trending videos using the YouTube Trends dashboard.Set a location, age group and other demographic information  to uncover the most viewed or most shared videos relevant to your audience.  

Youtube Trends

Facebook Trends

Facebook offers a list of trending stories in the right column of your newsfeed. The links will display a set of posts based on the trending topic. This is another great place to find what’s popular right now and to create content that is affiliated with it.

Other places to look

A number of websites offer tools to help users gauge what’s hot right now:

  • Bing Trends
  • Job Trends
  • Yelp Trends

Real time content creation

Not only is it important to discover what is relevant to your audience and what is resonating in general, it is important to know when to “zig and zag,” according to Jeremy. Sometimes you can take more time developing content, such as when you are writing for demographics or industries specific to your website analytics. But when writing about trending topics, you should be a little quicker.

Jeremy suggested the following guidelines:

  • Don’t over think it.
  • Limit your time to write.
  • Be relevant to your audience. Don’t jump on an irrelevant topic just to grow the vanity metrics.
  • Don’t plagiarize. Grow your network by citing people.
Tuesday, 22 September 2015 11:06

Email Marketing Solutions & Strategy

Among so many new communication channels, email might seem a bit old fashioned. The first emails were sent in 1971; the first email from space came 20 years later; and the movie “You’ve Got Mail” is 17 years old. Compared to Facebook which is about 11 years old, Instagram which is only 5 years old and the nascent live-streaming app Meerkat which is less than a year old, email is the great-grandfather of online communication.

No wonder there are some people who have claimed email is dead, or at least sounded its death knell.

However, according to a 2015 survey by Marketing Sherpa, 70% of respondents indicted they prefer companies communicate with them via email, while less than 20% chose social media, text messages or phone calls as a preference. Not only was email preferred overall, email was also the most popular channel across all demographics surveyed, regardless of age group.

Combined with the surge in content marketing, inbound marketing and marketing automation, email has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it is a critical marketing tool to communicate with and nurture leads as well as to retain and educate customers.

However, with the noise, incredible volume of spam and more advanced email filters, creating messages that reach a recipient’s inbox - and are read - is becoming more difficult. Successful email marketing strategies must be carefully planned, executed and measured.

At its most basic, an email marketing strategy considers your target audience and their preferences and their needs and attempts to persuade recipients to take action to help you achieve your overall marketing and business goals.

Your audience and their needs

There are a number of reasons why you might want to reach out to a lead or to a customer based on their persona, their position in the buying journey or their behaviors and actions. For example, a visitor to  your website submits a form on a landing page to download your most recent e-book. You could send an automated email thanking the visitor and providing a link to the online e-book as well as a complementary offer for another piece of content. Or, you might want to send an email to announce a new offer or promotion which is of interest to a particular group or segment of your list based on their previous interactions and purchases.

When creating emails and email programs keep this in mind:

  • Who are you sending to?
  • Why are you emailing (what value are you providing to the recipient)?
  • What do you want the recipient to do (make it specific)?
  • When do they need to receive the email?
  • Where do you want them to go (as a result of what you want them to do)?

Drip/Timed emails

Drip or timed emails are a series of messages sent or “dripped” in a specific order and at a specific interval. These drip campaigns are often used to nurture leads, build relationships and even improve customer retention and foster repeat sales. Each drip campaign should have a goal. For example, your email could convert a lead to a customer, reconvert a lead to gather insights about the lead, or reconvert a customer.

Once you have established the goal, the emails should be constructed to  guide the recipient toward the goal, building on each previous message. The emails should be short and provide enough information to help the recipient take action. Drip emails should not be sent to your entire database. Rather they should be sent to segments of your list and tailored  to the specific needs and wants of members of the segment.

Transactional emails

Transactional emails are less about marketing and convincing a user to take an action and more about providing a favorable experience to the user. Transactional emails are sent to an individual as a result of an action. Some common transactional emails are order confirmations, payment receipts, shipping notices or password reminders. The messages are personal and general at the same time, meaning they contain very user-specific information but the format and support language is not tailored for specific contact segments. These emails play an important role in establishing trust and giving users peace of mind.

Newsletters/Subscription

Newsletter and subscription emails are sent to individuals who opt-in to receive periodic updates about your business, industry news, blog articles or other published content. These emails might be sent weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on your bandwidth and the subscriber's preferences.

Newsletters can be used to increase brand awareness with the recipient through regular communications as well as spread brand awareness via sharing. Newsletters may include multiple articles, each with their own pathway for the reader to pursue. Be thoughtful of the pathways you create, where they lead, and what you want the reader to do once they get there.

Offers/Promotional emails

Offer and promotional emails occur on a less regular basis. These emails aim to get the recipients to take an action and further convert or purchase on a subsequent offer. These emails should be used sparingly since they are often seen as spammy;  in Gmail they could even end up on the “promotional” tab of the user’s inbox. Additionally, the emails should be sent to segmented or targeted lists of contacts likely to be interested in the offer, based on what you know of them, what actions they’ve taken on your website, or what they’ve purchased in the past. There should be a real value in the offer that is clearly explained and supported by well defined benefits. Don’t try to mislead your readers with bogus offers - they’re smarter than you think and they’re not above using the unsubscribe button!

Re-engagement emails

Re-engagement emails are used to wake up or nudge subscribers or contacts who are still interested in your company but who haven’t taken an action recently. They may have missed your recent messages, subscribed to a one-time offer, lost interest in your emails or maybe they intend to unsubscribe but simply have not yet.

If the subscribers are inactive due to either of the latter three reasons, your re-engagement email will give them an opportunity to unsubscribe before marking your subsequent emails as spam, which can hurt your reputation as a sender. Identify inactive users and segment them based on time inactive. You can even segment further based on persona or other criteria to create more targeted emails and improve campaign success. You can also use these emails to gather feedback or entice users to update email preferences without unsubscribing entirely.

Welcome/Autoresponders emails

Welcome emails and other auto responders are, like transactional emails, sent when a user takes a particular action.

The welcome email sets the tone for future communications and is your first opportunity to start building brand awareness, trust and engagement. This email welcomes subscribers or users and outlines what recipients can expect from your company in the future.

Autoresponder emails are usually sent after a form submission. These emails might simply let the user know their request was received. Or, they can deliver on an offer, providing a download link or attachment. These emails also provide you an opportunity to present a secondary offer and reconvert your user, allowing you to gain additional insights about their position in the buying journey or their interests.

Conclusion

People have been sending emails for more than 40 years, and yet businesses still struggle to get it right. Don’t bomb your contacts database with information of little value, sent at the wrong time relevant to their decision making process, and with unclear or actionable requests. Your contact database is a valuable resource; don’t give people good reasons to unsubscribe.

To avoid common email marketing mistakes, your strategy should consider timing, audience, message and goals. Careful planning, execution and analysis is necessary to ensure your emails are delivered, opened and acted upon.

Often, when marketers talk about the lead process, they may lump lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring together under the term “lead nurturing.” However, each of these tactics is a distinct piece of the marketing automation puzzle and has a different role in filling the sales funnel with qualified leads.

Lead Generation

According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. Lead generation is the process of capturing the interest of those self-directed buyers, who are searching online for solutions to problems or who are in the early stages of the buying process.

Unlike older lead-generation methods where marketers simply found the names and contact information of prospects and then passed them on to the sales team for cold calls, this can be done with search-optimized landing pages and content, pay-per-click ads, or social media. The focus of these activities is on attracting visitors to your website by cutting through all the online noise with content deemed valuable and enticing to these visitors. The goal is to provide something that they will trade their contact information for  - resources or information such as an eBook or whitepaper.

Once lead data has been captured via a landing page, those leads can then be coaxed through the purchase process using lead nurturing.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing focuses on leads who have expressed some level of interest in your product or service but who are not ready to buy. They may have signed up for a newsletter or downloaded a top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) piece of content such as a tip sheet. These people are likely still in the awareness or early evaluation stage of the buying process.

Nurturing utilizes your content and triggered or automated emails and messages to further build brand awareness and grow trust while allowing your business to stay “top of mind” through ongoing  communications.

Lead nurturing using marketing automation systems such as Hubspot allows you to send timely, highly personalized information using a strategic flow of emails and offers to segmented lists. This information can inform your prospects about your expertise, products or services while providing valuable resources and information to them. The key is “valuable.”  This process draws leads through the stages of the buying process and allows your prospective customers to build a relationship  with your business during their buying journey.

Today’s lead nurturing is not the same as traditional drip marketing campaigns, which were a one-size-fits-all approach to lead follow-up and  which didn’t factor in the prospect’s activities or behaviors.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring allows you to fine tune your lead nurturing segmentation and strategy. Lead scoring, as part of a marketing automation solution, adds (or subtracts) point values based on actions the prospect takes online (clicks and opens of lead nurturing emails, how a lead found you, what pages they visit or what content they downloaded); demographic information (such as industry or company size); or both to help members of the marketing team determine when a lead is ready to pass on to the sales team.  

Because not all leads are created equal, you’ll want to use lead scoring to help focus your marketing and sales efforts on the prospects that matter most -those most likely and most ready to buy. Lead scoring provides a quick and easy way to prioritize leads and to send messages customized for particular stages of the buying journey rather than messages based solely on persona.

Together…

Together, lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring create a more efficient lead process, shorter sales cycles and lower cost of acquisition by allowing the sales team to focus on leads who have been qualified as “sales ready,” leaving less qualified leads to be nurtured by the marketing team until ready (or deemed completely unqualified). Lead scoring can also lead to a better relationship between sales and marketing, aligning goals and establishing a common definition of a sales-qualified lead.

 

Tuesday, 08 September 2015 19:50

Landing page best practices

Landing pages are an integral part of marketing automation for businesses. People sometimes think landing pages are any page a visitor might “land on” on a website. More specifically, they might think about the main page of each section of a site as a landing page (what we refer to as an “index page” to help differentiate it).

For inbound marketing and marketing automation, however, a landing page is a page which contains a form and exists principally to convert website visitors into leads by capturing some amount of personal information through a form in exchange for something - either a piece of content, or offer of a consultation, demo or assessment.

Avoid Clutter

Landing pages should be free of visual clutter. This could be images, ads, navigation or other items that can overwhelm visitors and cause confusion about what action you want them to take. Use only one call-to-action -  the form submission button. You don’t want to give the visitor too many choices and risk him or her leaving the page before completing the form.

In the below example, the button doesn’t stand out, the visitor has a number of other link choices and there is no clear headline or offer.

Landingpages 1

Use Action Words

Make the button text action-based but avoid using “submit.” Try words such as “download,” “sign up,” “register” or other verbs that generate a sense of urgency. Combine it with additional text to restate what the visitor receives by clicking the button. Letting the user know exactly will happen can reduce anxiety and increase conversion success.

Draw Attention through Color

Contrasting colors, which are complimentary on the color wheel (such as blue and orange), go together visually but also allow one color to stand out when used more sparingly - such as on the the call-to-action button.

Use the squint test to check contrast. While viewing a page, squint. What stands out?

In the previous image above, the landing page used complimentary colors. However, because the blue and the orange are used in equal parts, no one element truly stands out. Compare it to the blue and orange colors of the Unbounce landing page below. The single orange element, the call-to-action, stands out against the blue and draws the user’s attention.

Landingpages 2

Directional Cues

Try using directional cues to help visitors easily identify what you want him or  her to do. Using photos of people allows you to utilize line-of-sight to draw visitor attention to the form or form button. Notice in the example below that the woman’s eyes are looking right at the form.

You can also be more obvious and use directional images such as arrows and lines to indicate where you want a visitor’s eyes to travel on the page. Or, utilize images such as roads that  have a directional element which will lead visitor’s eyes to a point on the page.

Landingpages3

A Thousand Words...

Include an image or video. Sometimes words just aren't enough to explain the product or offer. Using a video or image can help further explain the offer, make the page design more engaging and draw people in toward the call-to-action or benefits.

Landingpages4

Don’t Ask for Too Much

Make sure your form is an appropriate length. Both long and short forms perform well depending on the goal of the form. If the goal is to create a large number of unqualified leads, use a shorter form. If the goal is to generate fewer high-quality leads, use additional fields to collect more information.

But remember that the quality of the offer can also dictate what users are willing to disclose in exchange. A checklist of tip sheet might not “be worth”as much information as a webinar or demo in your visitor’s mind.

The Proof is in the Reviews

Include social proof. Almost 63% of consumers indicate they're more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. Social proof can be customer testimonials, case studies, social shares or embedded social media posts or trust seals.

Messaging

Make sure your attention-grabbing headline matches the ad or call to action the visitor clicked to arrive at your landing page. A headline that is off-focus or topic can be confusing at best and considered click-bait at worse.

Keep the message singularly focused and emphasize the offer’s value. Simplify the copy but make it engaging. The page and information should be easy to comprehend with a quick glance. You can always include additional information below the fold and the form.

Personalization

Don’t try to use the same landing page and messaging for all audiences. Create different versions of the landing page with messaging specific for the specific traffic source.

Design your page for different devices. There is no denying the growth of mobile usage among internet users, so make sure your landing page is responsive or can serve up a mobile version that is visible on various screen sizes and is finger-friendly (no mouse needed to access things like navigation).

Follow up with a thank you page which makes good on the promise of your initial offer. This also allows you to present a second, complementary offer to further convert and qualify your lead.

Test, test, test

And test again. While we have discussed a number of “best practices” for optimizing landing pages, it is important to always be testing. You can test any number of elements such as the position of the form (left vs right), navigation or no navigation, button color, button text, images, form length, messaging, or headlines. Ultimately, your site visitors and leads determine what is a best practice for your landing pages and optimal conversion rates.

 

For more on landing pages, download our free guide, “Creating Landing Pages: An Overview.

 

Creating interesting and unique content for your blog can become tedious and challenging, especially if you think your industry or business is particularly “boring.” It’s common to feel  like there just isn’t enough to write about to sustain a consistent blog as part of your marketing automation strategy. However, according to Hubspot, “to grow a blog, you need to consistently publish content that your readers enjoy reading.” In a study conducted last year, they determined their best results were achieved by writing four posts a day with varied quality and comprehensiveness.We’re not saying you have to write that many posts to be successful; we’re saying that not every post has to be a college dissertation.

Here is a list of post types and ways to find new topics.

  1. Search Twitter for keywords related to your business and look for questions people are asking. Answer those questions in your blog posts.
  2. Look at what you share socially. Expand those short posts into longer blog posts or write about the articles you share. You can add context, opinion, analysis or insight to any industry or general news article.
  3. Look at your competition. What are they writing about or tweeting about?
  4. Write about challenges your business faced and the resulting solutions.
  5. Write about a customer success story, even if the customer isn’t named.
  6. Think about the questions your customers and prospects ask. Answer those questions on your blog.
  7. What are the biggest myths about  your industry? Create a post to dispel a myth.
  8. Look at how your product fits within other aspects of your buyer’s life. Write about those related products or services. For example, if you sell computer monitors, write about pros and cons of “standing desks.”
  9. Look at your data. Write about trends you see based on your own sales and customer information.
  10. Write a how-to post. Look at what you explain to customers and to others and write a short tutorial. Or try a how-to video! Different types of content resonate more with different people.
  11. Look at the performance of your blog posts. Expand on those that are most popular. Cover the same topic from a different angle.
  12. Take a look at Google Trends. Find what people are searching for and write a piece of content related to what people are currently interested in.
  13. Tell a story. Write about your business and what you have learned or what has changed.
  14. Conduct an interview with  your employees or customers. The challenge with this idea, however, is coming up with fantastically interesting questions.
  15. Create a list. Look at the top 10 questions customers ask, top five trends in your industry, or 15 business lessons you learned from your dog. List posts grab attention and  are easy to read and digest. Here’s a list post about why list posts work: “7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work.” (Very meta, we know.)
  16. Make a comparison. Choose two topics, services or products and write a side-by-side comparison.
  17. Write a review of a book related to your product or industry. Or, review a product your business uses.
  18. Look at industry news. Search for news about your industry and write a post about a current issue or topic.. Or do weekly “roundups” of what is happening as it pertains to your industry, audience or community.
  19. Look at Reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything). There are interviews of industry experts that can give you a lot of ideas based on the questions people ask.
  20. Look at the Twitter Chat Schedule and find chats related to your industry or business. Use the Twitter hashtag of the chat to find related tweets. Look at the questions, answers and opinions to create topic ideas.
  21. Use Quora. Quora is a Q&A site with a variety of questions and answers. Type in your keyword and Quora will list common topics. Search one to find open questions and use those as blog post topics.
  22. Use BuzzSumo to find the most shared content relevant to a keyword related to your business or industry. Select a post and write a reply post offering your opinion on the subject or expand on the information in the original post.
  23. Write about your opinion or thoughts on recent industry research.
  24. Repurpose content. Create a post from something you already developed such as a  recent presentation or case study or from an email you received.
  25. When all else fails, try the content generator or other topic idea generator. When we put the subject “blogging” in, it recommended we write about “Why blogging sucks more than the new Star Wars.”

The easiest thing to do is be helpful. Whenever you feel stuck for a topic or idea, find a way to answer questions either from your customers and prospects, or from people on the internet. Be patient and be persistent. Read a lot — not just blogs related to your business but everything. You never know what might spark an idea. And whenever you have ideas, write them down. You might not be ready to explore them deeper now but at least you’ll have an idea to work from when you sit down to write.

Content marketing, along with inbound marketing and marketing automation, is growing exponentially in importance. Gone are the days of brochure websites that occupy a dusty corner of the world wide web. Today, websites need to be dynamic and provide content relevant or useful to online searchers. Content is more than just blog posts. It can take the form of a meme or cartoon or product video; it can be a whitepaper, a top-ten list, or a song parody.

The truth is, content can really be anything. In an article from May of 2014, PR Daily listed 101 different types of content to help drive people to your website. But here’s the rub: The content must be strategically connected to your brand, provide value to visitors, and be appropriate to the buyer’s journey in order to attract, engage and convert users. This is what empowers marketers to nurture leads and better support sales efforts.

Monday, 17 August 2015 15:33

Hubspot Marketing Expertise

Hubspot is an inbound marketing software platform designed to help companies create and manage complex inbound marketing campaigns that attract buyers rather than interrupt them. Hubspot provides tools to create content, optimize it for search engines, share it via social media and email, and measure the results.

Hubspot says you can do it all with just one platform that includes tools for:

  • Email
  • Websites
  • SEO
  • Marketing Automation
  • Landing Pages
  • Analytics
  • Social Media
  • Blogging 

Sounds easy, right? 

Working with a partner

Hubspot makes it relatively easy for a marketer or content creator to gather insights, publish content and social media messages, send emails to segmented lists, and automate marketing. However, many businesses become overwhelmed with either how much there is to learn or how much time is needed to fully utilize the system, while simultaneously creating original content and resources.

To support businesses that use the platform, Hubspot created a Certified Partner Program. Hubspot partners possess Hubspot marketing expertise and work with businesses right in their Hubspot portals to get the most out of the tools and create inbound strategies that achieve business goals. Hubspot partners receive many hours of training and are continually exposed to new information, tools and the resources to be equipped to get things done more efficiently and in a shorter period of time both because of their expertise and because they’re in the system so regularly. Hubspot partners also have the opportunity to receive certifications (Inbound, Hubspot, Partner and Design) that take their skills to the next level and demonstrate their full commitment to Hubspot and to the inbound marketing methodology.

Hubspot tools and how a partner can help 

To utilize Hubspot, you must first understand inbound marketing and it’s methodology. Inbound marketing utilizes blog posts and various other types of online content to attract visitors who are looking for answers to specific questions. Landing pages are built to convert website visitors into leads by offering a piece of educational content and asking visitors to trade some personal information (name, company, email) for that content. Using information gathered through the landing page forms and lead-nurturing tactics, inbound marketers can nurture leads with targeted messages based on their actions or interactions with your website and content. Ultimately, the goal is to turn visitors into customers and, by “delighting” them, turn customers into evangelists.

While it’s goal is to be user-friendly, Hubspot is a complex content management system combined with a CRM,email and marketing automation tools.

It includes:

  • File management tools for storing images and files.
  • A template builder allowing users to create site-page, landing-page and email templates, ensuring a branded and consistent look and feel across all touchpoints.
  • Sitemap and URL tools to arrange and build an intuitive navigation and structure that is search engine friendly.
  • Landing page tools to create, optimize  and analyze landing pages to convert visitors into leads.
  • Drag-and-drop form builder to create powerful, custom forms to collect lead information.
  • Reporting tools to analyze data such as visits, leads and customers from various referral sources; page performance; competitors; keywords and conversion assists. This allows users to gauge what works and what might need refinement.
  • Email tools to create follow-up emails, newsletters, automated timed emails or offer emails, which are engaging and device responsive. Combined with templates, these emails can be customized depending on type, from simple text-based to image-rich emails.
  • A system to manage contacts, review contact properties and create segmented lists based on contact information or behavior. The contacts database also collects and reports on every touchpoint between your leads and your Hubspot assets, viewable in a chronological timeline.
  • A personas “wizard” to walk users through the creation of buyer personas for more targeted content mapping and list segmentation.
  • Social media monitoring, publishing and reporting tools allow users to link their business’s social media accounts and publish or schedule messages to each channel or to multiple channels at the same time. Users may also construct “streams” based on specific criteria in order to monitor keywords or Twitter users  and the associated activity on Twitter.
  • Campaign tools to  manage and easily monitor the performance of the various elements of a campaign at a glance.
  • Marketing automation tools to nurture leads efficiently utilizing sets of automated actions executed upon a trigger condition.
  • Third-party integrations for Salesforce, Wistia, GoToWebinar, SurveyMonkey and more.

As you can see, Hubspot has a lot to offer and the number of features can be overwhelming. But even small businesses can streamline and amplify their marketing efforts by leveraging just a few of the tools available. And by having all the information in one place -- rather than a cobbled-together system using a CMS such as Wordpress, an email marketing service, Google Analytics, Hootsuite and SEO research tools -- businesses can increase their efficiencies while generating more traffic and leads.

Hubspot offers a great deal of support and training to help you succeed using their software and inbound methodology. If you spend a little bit of time getting to know the features and participating in some of the training, you can achieve some success. If you spend a lot of time with the platform, you can learn to make it sing and dance. Unfortunately, many businesses find that time can be hard to come by among their other roles and responsibilities.

A partner agency can help.

Savoir Faire has been a Hubspot partner for several years and,  during that time has achieved and maintained a number of Hubspot certifications (Inbound Certified, Hubspot Certified, COS/Design Certified). We are now happy to report that we are also Partner Certified. As part of our ongoing efforts to remain current on best practices related to inbound marketing and on using the Hubspot software, Savoir Faire is proud to have achieved these certifications and proven our knowledge and proficiency to best support our Hubspot clients.

If you are a Hubspot customer or thinking about becoming one, contact us to learn more about working with Certified Partner Agency.

As we wrote previously, marketing automation refers to a combination of strategy, software and tactics to attract, engage and nurture leads through the purchase process and into customers. This post will look at the various tactics involved in creating marketing automation strategies for business and an integrated marketing approach.

While many marketing automation software solutions are centered on a CRM or around email marketing, with email being a key channel in automation, marketing automation relies on a number of tactics to create a successful program or campaign.

Creating Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are fictitious representations of your ideal customer created using market research and anecdotal information about your existing customers. Personas allow you to better understand your prospects in order tailor content and messaging to suit his or her needs and address his or her concerns. You will very likely have more than one persona as you likely have more than one “type” of person who either buys from you or is involved in the purchase decision. Your website and content should take the different personas - and their different requirements - into account. This allows you to personalize offers and information for specific segments of your audience when sending emails to contacts in your database. Combined with lead scoring and lifecycle stages, personas let you map content and offers that are relevant and timely.

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring assigns point values to actions leads take or to their professional information (such as position in a company, company size or industry), which can then be used to rank individual leads. This allows businesses to separate good, quality leads from people who are just kicking the tires. By utilizing lead scoring, you can separate leads to whom your sales team should be talking from those who need more nurturing via other content offers and automated emails - or those who are merely doing research. Once you begin to score leads you can define scores which trigger a lead to become “sales ready” versus a “marketing qualified” or “prospect.”

Content

Once you have defined personas, you can begin to define and map content to each persona at various buying stages (top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel). Content should address the needs of potential customers at each buying stage. Hubspot, an inbound marketing software platform, outlines types of content appropriate for different buying stages, with low-commitment offers at the top of the funnel and high-commitment offers at the bottom of the funnel.

Mapping Marketing Offers Resized 600

Content allows you to attract visitors,drawing them to the content you publish. It becomes a sustained effort to continually create or recreate content to attract visitors, convert leads and improve search rank. MOZ refers to this continuous effort as the content machine.

CTAs/Landing Pages/Thank-You Pages

Calls-to-Action, (CTAs), landing pages and thank-you pages are necessary to make your content available to users. CTAs are usually buttons or links which instruct a visitor to take a particular action (such as “learn more,” “download now,” “access the webinar”). They can be placed in blog posts or on website pages to help direct visitors to landing pages containing your content offer. Landing pages present the benefits of the offer and allow you to capture lead information using a form. When a user submits the form, he/she is then directed to a thank-you page where you can make good on the promise (the promise being the delivery of a valuable piece of content in exchange for some information).

These elements are written with specific messaging directed at the particular persona and buying stage of the visitor.

Social Media

Great content that can’t be found and shared is useless. Within a marketing automation program, it is important to integrate social media channels to maximize exposure and create a user feedback loop. Social media allows you to share blog posts and landing pages and attract targeted audience members to your website. Using social media to engage these people allows you to be helpful rather than pushy, and to gather feedback to improve content, marketing and, ultimately products or services.

Segmentation

Marketing automation allows you to segment your database of leads based on a variety of factors either individually or in combination in order to deliver targeted, personalized messages to groups of leads sharing certain characteristics, needs or behaviors. For example, using segmentation, you could send an email to “Vice Presidents of small businesses who have downloaded two or more content assets in the last year.” Segmenting contacts makes emails and campaigns more targeted and  effective and improves conversion rates.

According to Hubspot, “39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue.”

Lead Nurturing and Workflows

Lead nurturing is a critical part of managing your marketing automation strategy. According to Marketo, lead nurturing is “the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer's journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need.” Utilizing list segmentation and marketing automation, businesses can draw a lead through the buying process by delivering highly targeted messages and content to the right audience at the right time in order to inspire action.

Workflows take lead nurturing to an entirely new level by automating functions like sending an email or assigning a contact to a salesperson when they are  triggered by actions or information. Workflows are set up to follow a set of rules or specified flow to deliver highly personalized messages specific to the needs and interests of a contact at a given point in time. Workflows allow you to set up a series of emails with intervals relevant to action or even a lack of action. Workflow rules can also move contacts from one workflow to another based on specific conversions, resulting in greater segmentation and personalization.

Conclusion

There is some complexity involved in a fully-integrated marketing automation program for businesses and getting started can be overwhelming. Our advice: Start small. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run. You will realize benefits with each step you take. Utilize tactics like landing pages with lead nurturing. Focus on a single persona initially and build out a few pieces of content. Then, grow your strategy and content library as you become more comfortable with creating content and campaigns. As your contact database grows, you can begin to add segmentation to make your nurturing more personalized and effective. Plus, the data you collect along the way will make each step you take smarter and more effective.

Look at marketing automation solutions closely. Email marketing solutions such as Mailchimp offer some marketing automation and workflow solutions as well as list segmentation tools. Other software providers such as Hatchbuck take a CRM-focused approach to marketing automation strategies for business. Hubspot and other robust solutions combine an email focus and a CRM focus with workflow tools that allow exact control over segmentation, triggered emails and reporting tools to measure campaign success. In the hands of an agency with Hubspot marketing expertise, these tools can come together to create an efficient lead gathering, lead nurturing and lead converting machine.

Thursday, 06 August 2015 12:23

What is Marketing Automation?

What is marketing automation?

Despite the name, marketing automation is not a system put into place to send out generic messages to people en masse hoping that, by bombarding users with emails, some desired result will be achieved. The term marketing automation actually refers to the strategy, software and tactics used to attract, engage, segment and nurture prospects, leads and even customers. By utilizing software to connect social media, email and CRMs, and enabling multiple touch points, automation allows businesses to create a more efficient way to communicate with various audiences. This is especially important when communicating with a large number of potential customers - and using Outlook and Excel spreadsheets to manage your program becomes unwieldy.

Email marketing is a cost-effective way to send content, share promotions, make recommendations and stay in touch with leads and customers who are interested in what you have to say. Email allows you to cut through the clutter and give people the information they want when they want it. In fact, an eMarketer study found that email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses. 

Further, eMarketer also found that email was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States, and a separate study by BtoB Magazine found that 50% of B2B marketers consider email to be the most effective channel for generating revenue. There’s a big upside to using email strategically.

However, creating great email isn’t the only important step. Once you have crafted an email people want to read, you need a way to send it. If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, you might be aware of plugins and extensions that will add newsletter functionality to your site, some of which include jNews, Acymailing, RSMail, and SendPress. If you aren’t using a CMS, you might consider utilizing an open source system that uses your website’s PHP mail function.

Warning

Newsletter add-ons such as these are attractive because they allow you to manage your newsletters and subscribers right within your CMS. But beware, using systems that leverage your website’s php mail function can affect your overall email deliverability and your website reputation.

Sending limitations

Your web host might have limitations on the number of emails which can be sent per hour. For example, HostGator limits you to 500 outgoing mail messages per hour per domain.  If your list is large, you could reach that limit quickly and your system might stop sending or the emails will bounce back with an deliverability error. For some hosts, mailing lists larger than 5,000 addresses will require a dedicated server or virtual private server hosting solution. Some newsletter systems have a queue or can use CRON to schedule bulk sends or to throttle mailing (pausing for a set number of seconds after each email is sent),  however, things can go wrong and your outgoing process could be terminated before completion. Additionally, a web host could see emails to large lists as an abuse of service, especially if mailing list rules are not followed.

Conversely, email service providers (such as Mailchimp, Aweber and Constant Contact) are built for bulk sending. Their servers are configured to allow massive numbers of emails to be sent in short periods of time.

Deliverability

There is also a good chance bulk email could be marked as SPAM when sent via your website. Email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo have a number of rules in place to protect users against spam. Not only does Gmail scan email headers, it also scans the content of email looking for “spammy” information and malware. Emails that are sent via a website in a shared hosting environment might have the same IP as emails from other websites on the shared server. The simple fact that the IP does not belong to the sending domain could cause an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to mark an email as spam.

Worse than simply sharing an IP address, you also share the reputation of other websites on a shared hosting plan. Many ISPs use the reputation of the server sending messages to determine whether an email is spam. As such, if a  website on the shared server has been flagged as an abuser, your site could also be penalized.

Email service providers such as Mailchimp work hard to ensure deliverability. They have engineers who constantly improve their email systems to ensure emails are compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements and improve deliverability rates. They also have relationships with ISPs, are approved as bulk mail delivery services, and provide strict guidelines to avoid being labeled as a server that sends spam.

Avoid being blacklisted

Malware ScreensAccording to inmotion hosting, it is estimated that between 80-95% of all email transmitted on the Internet is spam. To help weed through spam messages, there are public blacklists of mail servers that have been relaying spam. Mail servers such as Gmail can then check a message against the public blacklists before relaying messages to users.

Mail IP addresses can easily end up blacklisted, especially when they exist on a shared server where the shear volume of email might raise a red flag.

And, no matter how clean your email list is, eventually someone will report you as a spammer. If enough reports are made, you risk being blacklisted. Not only can this affect your ability to access email, but if you send using your website’s php mail function, your website could be blacklisted as well (resulting in the display of Google’s embarrassing red, blacklist screen. Note that different browsers display different messages but all should be similar).

Email service providers send from their servers so your email is never at risk of being blacklisted, which also protects your website from collateral damage and ensures that the routine email you do send from your domain makes it to the intended destination.

Conclusion

Plugins and solutions that utilize your website’s php mail function for bulk mailing can reduce the likelihood of delivery and can have negative consequences  your website as a whole.  Third-party systems protect your website and work to maintain the highest possible delivery rates. Additionally, they provide integrations for your CMS and website allowing you to display easy subscription and sign up forms for your visitors. These systems also offer robust reporting and analysis tools that are lacking in many of the plugins/extensions. For a comparison of some popular email service providers, please read our blog post, Email Marketing Services Comparison.

What are your thoughts on email service providers? Have any tips for how to avoid being classified as SPAM? Please share with our readers using the comments below.

We’ve said it before, technology is changing — rapidly — from the appliances in our homes to the communications methods we use to the cars we drive. And though our phones or computers or TVs still work, if they don’t have the fastest processor, newest integrations or highest pixel quality, we end up wanting to upgrade or update them as soon as we can.

And, if we aren’t upgrading, we are at least maintaining. Take your car for example. Every 5,000 miles, you bring your car to your dealer or trusted mechanic for regular maintenance. They change the oil and filter, check the tires, inspect the brake pads and top off the fluids. At other times, more in-depth maintenance is performed such as tire rotation or manufacturer-recommended software updates, recalls or repairs.  You take care of your car to make sure it works and continues to  perform at its best.

So why would you let your website stagnate for years?

A number of factors come into play when choosing a web host and hosting plan among the hundreds of thousands of providers available. A careful evaluation of your website requirements and hosting service features can help identify the best (though rarely perfect) host and hosting plan for your needs.

Server: Web servers are what “serve” your web pages to website visitors. This is the element that essentially “turns the lights on” and makes your site available online. Common application, operating system and database combinations can help you determine the right server for you.

  •      LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP
  •      WIMP: Windows, IIS, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  •      WAMP: Windows, Apache, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  •      LEMP: Linux, NGINX, MySQL and PHP

For example, if you have identified WordPress as the Content Management System for your site, you will need a web host that supports PHP 5.4 or greater, MySQL and includes the mod_rewrite Apache module. This gives you two options, LAMP or WAMP. However, unless you need a windows server to run ASP scripts, the Linux server will be less costly and complex to maintain.

In our previous blog post, The Importance of Website Planning, we talked about the questions a client might be asked during the discovery phase of a website build or redesign. These questions help the web development team select the right content management system, plan for necessary functionality and site expansion and guide the overall design and structure of the site.

Once the discovery phase has been completed and the design and development process has begun, there are a number of other items that the web development team will likely need, depending on the goals of the site and your answers to previous questions.

Where is your current site hosted?

Hosting companies are the entities that essentially “turn on the lights” of your website and make it available on the Internet. These companies offer various hosting solutions: Your site could reside on a shared server, a dedicated server, or a virtual dedicated server. The server could run a variety of  operating systems and software. Hosts sell packages based on server type and options such as bandwidth, disk space, domain options, and more. How a website is built, what it needs to do, and how much traffic it handles all go into the choice of the right host.

If you already have a host, your web development team will ask for your control panel login. This access allows them to assess your host’s resources; set up a development or testing area; create any necessary databases; and, manage files. Not all hosting plans include cpanel access. If you do not have a host, you’ll need to get one prior to any development, based on the needs uncovered during the discovery phase.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 13:39

Email Marketing Services Comparison

Among so many new social media channels, email marketing might seem a bit old-fashioned. But this tactic, the old tool in the marketing toolbox, plays an important part in building a strong content marketing or inbound marketing plan. Email allows you to nurture new leads as well as communicate in a timely manner with existing customers. And, in general, email marketing, compared to the cost of print and broadcast advertising is extremely cost effective.

According to eMarketer, email is also the preferred method of communicating with businesses, according to 69.7% of U.S. internet user. AND, people who receive product offers through emails spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers. (Source: Convince and Convert)

But even if users want your emails, you must still create emails they want to read.

Emails should be responsive. According to Forrester, 72% of U.S. online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone weekly. That means if you aren’t creating emails that can be easily read on mobile devices, your open rates could see a significant decline.

An important step in the website planning process is identifying how self-sufficient you want to be once the site launches versus having to rely on a developer or webmaster for updates, edits and maintenance. If you determine that you want to make edits, add events, write blog posts or other content but don’t know HTML/PHP/Javascript or other programming languages common in web development, then a Content Management System might be right for you.

What is a content management system?

A content management system (CMS) is a web-based application that allows non-technical users to manage online content from a web browser. This might include creating, editing, publishing, archiving and deleting content, files and data. Many CMS use a Graphical User Interface (GUI). This means that actions and functions will be represented by icons and visual cues versus command-line or code-based execution. Many of these systems will have content editors that are born from the Microsoft Word framework.

There are a variety of content management systems available, from free open-source systems to expensive enterprise and custom built systems. Choosing the right CMS starts with a clearly defined set of requirements and an evaluation of how each system can satisfy those requirements. For example, do you need a lot of customization or support? Do you need to be able to define multiple system roles and permission levels? Do you need an e-commerce system? Will you need to integrate your CMS with data from some other source? Will you need support for other languages?

The elements of an inbound marketing campaign differ from those of traditional campaigns. In the past, your campaign might have included print advertising, television/radio advertising, outdoor advertising, direct mail and maybe a bit of PR to generate media coverage in appropriate publications and outlets.

The evolution of marketing to include a variety of online channels has changed the traditional campaign, allowing marketers to augment their campaigns and to create inbound campaigns focused on earning the attention of customers and facilitating communication.

For an inbound campaign to be successful, there are a number of elements that must be included and designed to work in concert.

Thursday, 09 April 2015 19:41

The Time of My Life

I may not be able to tell you who the advertiser is, but this is currently my favorite ad on TV. “Wait! Stop here! This is the best ad ever!” I yell across the room at my other half. “You gotta watch this.”

Tuesday, 07 April 2015 13:16

What is "Responsive Design"

Traditionally, websites were designed and coded to take advantage of as much screen real-estate of the smallest, but still widely used, screen sizes. If there were enough users using a desktop or laptop with a screen resolution of 800 pixels wide, then a website was typically built to display at 750 pixels wide, for example. That width was static for all screens regardless of size. The website would look the same on a 13” laptop and a 19” desktop monitor, often leaving large amounts of unused space in the margins to the left and right of the site on larger screens.

That has changed dramatically in recent years and, today, good web design is responsive design.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 00:00

The importance of website planning

Consider building a website like building a house. You must begin with a solid foundation and architectural plans before you can apply paint or hang kitchen cabinets or the house will fall apart.

Creating even a basic website involves a great deal of planning and discovery before any design or development can begin. These initial planning and strategy phases allow the web team to uncover your needs, brand information, audience demographics and the core purpose of the site in order to build a solid foundation upon which the site’s “look and feel” (colors and fonts) can be applied. 

The discovery phase allows the website/marketing team to ask the client a myriad of questions to determine the needs the site addresses, the problems it solves and the functionality it must possess. These may include:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 00:00

Our top social sharing plugins

At this point, you probably know that creating content is an important part to getting found online and improving your search engine results. And having great content that is shareworthy is even better. But if it isn’t easy to share, then it won't go anywhere.

Posting your content on social media can help your business; adding plugins and widgets will help readers easily spread your content for you.

Did you know, according to Alicia Lawrence of Search Engine People, 50% of internet users are active on Facebook and 52% of Marketers have gained a customer through Facebook while 35% have done so through Twitter.

Here are some of our top picks to get started with.

In many small businesses, owners and employees often wear many hats, doing multiple jobs, for which the business simply cannot hire experts in each. For example, the administrative assistant might also be the marketing director; the office manager might also be the graphic designer.

In theory, this approach can save money on additional full-time employees. However, in many cases, keeping your marketing and graphic design in-house can be more costly than hiring an expert in the field.

Marketing and graphic design are much more technical than many people understand or assume. (“It’s not rocket science,” right?) However, lack of familiarity with design programs or best practices can result in projects that take more time than necessary, or easily go over budget.

If you’re doing your design in-house, we hope you’re at least using Adobe’s Creative Suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat (a $1,500 investment, or $50/month for the Creative Cloud) —the core programs every print-designer needs.

If you’re building your print projects in MS Word, MS PowerPoint or MS Publisher, then your printer isn’t going to be happy with you and, more importantly, you very likely won’t be happy with the end result. These simply are not industry-standard applications for designing marketing materials, and they can result in poor quality graphics. Remember that this reflects on both your business and your brand. Printers need to put in additional effort when dealing with these applications and that can increase production time and print costs.

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