5 Essentials For An Effective Email Campaign

ImageCustomers Still Want To Be Emailed

There are so many channels marketers can use to communicate a company’s message. Some may argue that email marketing is becoming outdated and will soon fall by the wayside. However, forecasts from the Radicati Group show that email marketing is going to continue to grow, with the number of worldwide email users predicted to reach over 2.7 billion by the end of 2017, and email market revenue to reach $20.4 billion.

Email is still the preferred marketing channel for users as well.  Research from Host Papa and ExactTarget has shown approximately 75% of users prefer email marketing over other methods of marketing.  Also, according to Salesforce blog contributor Chad White, return on investment is much higher for email marketing than for search, social media, mobile and many other marketing channels.

As the preferred method of customers and with high return on investment, it’s obvious that email is still a relevant marketing tool that companies should be taking advantage of. Here are five tips on to optimize your email marketing campaigns for customer engagement, conversions, and positive ROI:

1) Segmentation Is Key

Unlike social media where your message is widely broadcasted, email marketing offers the opportunity to share personalized content meant for a specific group. According to the Grasshopper marketing blog,  segmenting your email messages can lead to about 15% more clicks on links than non-segmented emails. There are many ways to segment your contact lists. For example, if you’re an ecommerce company, you can segment by frequent purchasers vs. customers who only purchase once in awhile. Then you’ll be able to customize your offers to better satisfy each group. For example, you could send frequent purchasers an email highlighting new products or offering free shipping. Then you could send less frequent customers a discount code to encourage them to come back to your site.

2) Shine In The Subject Line

Use the subject line to your advantage by creating something that will compel the customer to open your email and read on. Writing a spectacular subject line is something that will take time and effort, but the effort will pay off significantly. MailChimp reported open rates up to 93% when their clients really put in the effort to make a subject line that would appeal to their customers. Analytics and A/B testing can be your friends when determining what subject lines your audience responds to most. There are also lots of studies that can help you determine what words may send your email to the spam filter or what could lead to more or less opens. MailChimp conducted a study that broke down subject lines by words and determined the effects these words had on open rates overall and by industry. Read it here.

3) Be Purposeful, Consistent and Error-Free

We hate pointless emails at work and in life, so we definitely don’t want to receive an email with no clear purpose or intent from the brands we subscribe to either. A great email tip from The NextWeb contributor Abhimanyu Ghoshal is to always have a clear message and help the users accomplish some kind of goal, such as providing access to new features or details about an upcoming event. It’s also important to maintain consistency with all your communications so users will easily be able to associate your emails with your brand. Errors can have a negative impact on your brand, so don’t negate the importance of passing your email onto multiple sets of proof-reading eyes before you hit send. Always check for typos, incorrect dates, broken links or anything else that could hinder user experience or potentially communicate the incorrect information or message to users.

4) Optimize The Design

People are suffering from email overload every day. Therefore, email design is more important than ever. Effective design techniques and best practices should be used to highlight the most relevant information and so the call-to-action clearly stands out. Also, it’s no secret that most people check email on mobile devices now, so it’s no longer optional to design your emails for mobile. Use responsive design on your emails to be optimized for any screen size. Users should be able to perform any desired action from your email easily from a phone or tablet as well as a laptop. Luckily, most email marketing software products offer responsive email templates. Use them to your advantage!

5) Leverage Email Analytics

One of my favorite companies I receive emails from is HauteLook, a fashion flash-sale site. Their sales begin every day at 11 AM, and I receive their email at about 10:55 AM. It is a great reminder that the sale is about to start. Even if your company doesn’t have a time-specific offer, it is still a great practice to create a regular distribution schedule for your emails.  You can use email analytics to determine the day of the month, week, or even specific time of day when your customers are most likely to open your emails. MailChimp has also compiled data about the best times to schedule your emails. You can read the report here.

Analytics can also help you determine what works best for your email campaigns as well as which offers or subjects didn’t receive as much traction. This in-depth knowledge will help you make better-informed decisions about future campaigns and allow you to effectively measure each email campaign’s success. Email analytics can also help you to further segment your customers and create campaigns that are truly tailored to your customer’s specific wants and needs.

Summary

While marketers have an arsenal of communication channels to choose from when attempting to engage and interact with customers, email is still the channel most customers prefer. When creating an email campaign, it is important to follow a strategy for each communication. Every email should have a clear purpose and benefit for the customer, as well as provide a fantastic user experience. The high level of data available for each email campaign can also make it much easier for marketers to understand what kinds of emails provide the most value for customers. Use email marketing to the fullest by going back to the data to measure each email’s success.

What is your strategy for a successful email campaign? Leave your comments below.

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Do I Really Need to Bid on Branded Keywords?

brandedkeywordIf someone is already searching for your brand online, do you really need to bid on your branded keywords?  I did some research on this question and found the answer to be a resounding, “yes.”  In this post I share why you need to bid on your branded keywords and how you can measure the effectiveness of your branded PPC campaigns. And I also share a little news about Google currently testing branded banner ads for search. Here we go!

Why You Should Bid on Branded Keywords

According to Ben Lloyd of Amplify Interactive, click through rates are higher for brands that have both an organic and a paid presence on the web. Putting effort into your organic SEO and your PPC will help your brand own more space on the search engine results page, which is extremely helpful in getting more clicks and traffic for your site. Conversion rates for keywords that show both an organic and paid result are higher as well. Lloyd suggests that the dual results can create more credibility for your brand in the eyes of the user.

It’s also important to control what shows on the search engine results page for your branded keywords because you want to make sure the searcher is receiving the right message and the right link for a given keyword. You can use your PPC campaign to better direct traffic for those keywords because you can target your ad copy and use ad extensions to provide even more information if needed. It’s simply not possible to have this level of control over your search results by using organic SEO alone.

Another important factor to think about with regards to the search engine results page is browser size. If you don’t own the top ad slot for your branded keywords, your competitors will end up pushing your organic result way down the page. Lloyd gives great visual examples of this on his blog post. He has also published some extremely useful graphs that show the differences in conversions and click through rates between PPC & organic vs. organic only campaigns. You can see the full post here:  http://www.amplify-interactive.com/blog/ppc/6-reasons-to-bid-on-branded-ppc-keywords/

Measuring the Effectiveness of Branded Campaigns

It might be a good strategy to separate the goals you have for your branded vs. non-branded campaigns. Branded keywords and non-branded keywords most likely have different objectives, so you may have different ways of measuring whether or not they are successful. For example, you may use branded keywords to encourage specific action from users, such as clicks and conversions, so you’d want to measure those. On the other hand, you may use non-branded keywords to try to get your company in front of users searching for those terms to generate brand awareness. In this case, you’d want to measure the number of impressions instead of clicks and conversions.

A great way to find out if your branded PPC campaign is effective or not is to do a before and after test and then compare the total traffic. According to Craig Galyon of SwellPath, you should choose a period of time to run your PPC campaigns without the branded keywords and again with branded keywords. Of course, there will be some variance because your test will be over two different date ranges, so you will want to make sure that you have chosen a time period for your business that has the lowest amount of fluctuation (no major events or seasonality factors involved).  Galyon also created an excellent step-by-step guide of how to measure the effectiveness of your branded keywords. You can find it here: http://www.swellpath.com/2013/10/ppc-cannibalization/

New Branded Banner Ads Test on Google

Bidding on your branded keywords may become even more important in the future. Search Engine Land reported that Google is experimenting with branded banner ads attached to branded keywords. It’s being called “the brand image experiment” and approximately 30 advertisers are participating, including Crate & Barrel and Virgin America. @SynrgyHQ provided Search Engine Land a screenshot of Virgin’s banner ad. Have a look at it here: http://searchengineland.com/faq-all-about-the-banner-ad-test-in-googles-search-results-175045.

The banner ad is paired with organic search results for Virgin, making it appear to be one large ad. If these new branded display ads are fully rolled out, branded keywords will become even more important for any business. If your competitor has a branded banner ad, it will take up the majority of the real estate on the first page of search results, and therefore, the majority of clicks and traffic. Since we can already see Google putting more emphasis on branded search, it’s probably a good strategy to keep up your efforts regarding your own branded search.

Conclusion

Branded keywords are highly relevant to the searcher. If someone is searching directly for your brand, they know exactly what they’re looking for. In turn, your branded keywords will also end up being your highest-converting keywords because of how relevant they are to the user. However, don’t fall into the trap that customers who search for your brand will find you whether or not you bid on your branded keywords. If you aren’t bidding on your branded keywords, you will become an open target for your competitors. Don’t forget, relevant keywords cost less so it will be less expensive for you to take the top paid spot for your brand. And now with Google testing large branded banner ads,  it is probably a good time to take control of your brand and make sure that you are in the top paid spot for all your branded search terms.

How To Analyze Your Competition’s Social Media

SocialMediaCompetitive analysis is a necessary component of any marketing plan. If your brand has a presence on social media, which it most likely does, you can benefit from analyzing your competitors on social media as well. Gaining insight into your competitors’ social media strategies can help you create benchmarks to guide and measure your social media strategy. This knowledge will allow you to do a number of things, such as choose the right social networks for your audience and use social media more effectively to enhance your brand. Also, a social media competitive analysis can help you find opportunities your competitors may have missed which will enable you to create a loyal community for your brand online.

Here’s how you can conduct a social media competitive analysis in six steps:

1. Identify competitors

As you probably already know, the first step of your competitive analysis is to identify who your competitors are. At this point, compile a list of your competitors but don’t start searching for their social pages yet. You’ll want complete Step 2 before you delve into the details of their social media strategies

2. Determine what you want to find out

Before you begin, you should first determine a specific objective or question you want answered for your competitive analysis. Some examples of objectives are:

  • Should our company use Pinterest?
  • Do we need to grow our social following?
  • How are we performing compared to our competitors on our social media sites?

Setting an objective will help guide your competitive analysis and keep you focused as you gather information.

3. Start a spreadsheet and identify networks

Take your list of competitors and place them on a spreadsheet. For a comprehensive analysis, go through each competitor one by one and find all of their social media profiles. Or if only one or a few social media sites are relevant to your objective, search for your competitors only on those sites. Indicate on your spreadsheet whether or not your competitors have a presence on each of the sites you want to analyze.

4. Determine what you will analyze and for how long

Once you have your objective set and have found where your competitors have profiles, you can determine what aspects you want to analyze for each specific site. Also, you will save yourself a lot of headaches by determining the length of time you’ll use as you perform your analysis. For example, instead of just tracking posts, you’ll want to track posts per week or posts per month.

5. Gather data

The specific data you track will vary from site to site. It will also depend on the objectives you’ve set. Included below are some areas you’ll most likely want to focus on, but this is not a comprehensive list. I have broken down the type of data you’ll be looking at into two parts: Followers/engagement and Content.

Followers/engagement:

Track followers

One of the first aspects you’ll most likely want to find out is the number of fans and followers your competitors have for each network. Finding the number of fans and followers is a quick way to see an overall snapshot of your competitors’ popularity on social media. Remember to also track their fan to follower ratios (# of people they follow/# of people who follow them).

Track engagement

To get an idea of how engaged your competition’s followers are, see how many reposts, shares, likes and comments each of their posts receive. Again, you should use the timeframe you’ve determined to compile this data. Divide the number of posts by the number of shares, etc. for that timeframe to determine the average engagement per post for that specific timeframe.

Track growth

If possible, gather data on your competitors for the previous timeframe. For example, if you’re analyzing comments/shares per month, look at the previous month’s data. Then find the percentage change month over month to determine the growth rate of your competitors. This will help you create a benchmark for your own social media campaigns.

Content:

Track posts

Find out how active your competitors are on social media by tracking the number of posts they make in your specified timeframe. Be sure to break the posts down into categories. For example, on Twitter you would want to separately track tweets, retweets, replies and favorites. It’s also important to record what types of content they are posting. Are they using a lot of photo or video content? Do they ask lots of questions? Do they do contents and giveaways?

Analyze blog & website

Remember that blogs and websites are also pieces of overall social media strategy. You’ll want to find out if your competitors have blogs. You should also take a deeper look into their blogs to see if they’re using Google Authorship on their posts. Are your competitors using FASS (fast action social sharing) Buttons in their posts? How many comments do their posts receive on average in your given timeframe and how many posts are made? Do your competitors link to their social media profiles from their website? How many of their web pages have links to their social media profiles? As you can see, there is a ton of information you can learn about your competitors’ social media efforts from their website and blog, so don’t skip this step.

Analyze paid media

Even though you most likely won’t be able to find out how much your competitors are paying for social media ads, you should include paid social media efforts in your analysis. Finding out whether or not your competitors are using paid advertisements on social media will give you a good understanding on whether or not paying for social media would be a good fit for your brand.

Analyze brand

Have a look at the images and logos used across each of your competitors’ social media profiles. How are they branding themselves? Is the look and feel of each site consistent? Can you see differences in each site that hint at how it is being used by the brand? What is the voice of the brand? Is it the company’s voice or a specific person?

6. Analyze overall efforts

Now that you’ve thoroughly analyzed your competitors’ followers, engagement, content and brand on social media, you should add a component to your spreadsheet where you can reflect on your findings of each competitor’s overall efforts on social media. What do they do really well? What are they doing differently? Or what are they doing really poorly? You should also determine how your brand compares to your competition on each individual component and overall. Once you’ve completed all of these steps, you should be able to go back to your original objective and reevaluate your own social media strategy.

Conclusion

Understanding how your competition is utilizing social media is an extremely effective way for you to position your brand to stand out. You won’t attract a loyal following by simply maintaining the status quo on social media and following along with what everyone else is doing. Having a thorough understanding of your competition will enable you to brainstorm new ideas to improve on the things they are doing well and to keep your fans engaged. You’ll also be able to more accurately benchmark and measure your campaigns. If you continually follow up on your competitive analysis about once a month, you’ll be able to stay ahead of your competition and make the most of your social media efforts.

Read more

I used these articles as references to write this post. Give them a read to learn more about how you can conduct a social media competitive analysis.

Step-By-Step: How to Do a Competitive Analysis on Social Media – Christopher Tompkins

How to Conduct a Social Media Competitive Analysis – Ashley Stuart

How to Do a Social Media Competitive Analysis – John Cade

Do you have any tips on how to conduct a social media competitive analysis?  Leave your comments below.