Category Archives: E-Marketing

Five Must Consider Marketing Strategies for 2011

Whether your organization is “flying high” or “getting by,” it is unquestionably in your best interest to always evaluate minimum-investment, maximum-return marketing strategies as key components of your marketing plan. Following are Sweeney’s Top 5 “Must Consider” strategies for 2011 – strategies we believe cannot be overlooked and whose value should not be underestimated:

Publicity & Media Relations. Though a standard in the world of public relations, publicity and media relations have never held more potential for organizations seeking to increase awareness through traditional and online media outlets. Publicity and media relations 2.0 allow you to secure print, broadcast and online media coverage to reach target audiences with both company and product information in a cost-efficient manner. In the process you are also creating valuable content that can be used to enhance your web site and enhance your search ranking.

Online Advertising. As an addition or alternative to traditional print and broadcast advertising, online advertising (both display and PPC) can help you will build awareness while also driving traffic to your web site – traffic that you can monitor and evaluate. You can control costs, messaging and placement in both a test and campaign environment.

E-mail Marketing. The regular distribution of email to existing or rented databases is an effective, fast and efficient strategy for staying in front of and engaging target audiences (customers, prospects, distributors, retailers, etc.). E-mail marketing allows you to monitor, measure, evaluate and respond to recipient actions almost immediately.

Social Media Marketing. The use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online collaborative media – allows you to produce and share content, generate and participate in conversations and establish a trusted presence among target audiences. As with the other strategies, you can manage your involvement and costs while achieving desired results.

Creative. The difference between a good and great campaign is often determined by the creative. The ad that gets responses, the brochure that gets read, the business card that elicits calls, the e-mail that gets opened and clicked… they all have one thing in common – an impactful creative design and compelling creative message. This is one corner you don’t want to cut.

Need help implementing these marketing and public relations strategies or others?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

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Avoid Common Email Marketing Pitfalls

We are starting an email marketing campaign.  What are the common pitfalls we should be aware of prior to beginning our campaign?

Jennifer Manocchio

Email marketing is a very cost effective and measurable marketing strategy that can immediately boost web site traffic and sales. According to the DMA, email marketing generates an ROI of $43 for every dollar spent, but you must avoid the common email marketing pitfalls to achieve that type of return.

There are three major challenges to email marketing that must be met in order to achieve a desired level of success:

1. Getting your email into your audience’s inbox
2. Getting the recipient to open your email
3. Getting the recipient to act on your email

In the process of overcoming each of these challenges, you must be aware of potential hazards… and avoid the inevitable pitfalls.

Purchasing Email Lists: Because of spam laws, most reputable sources – including magazines and trade associations – do not sell their lists; instead, they “rent” them. This is a common arrangement in which you produce your own emails and submit them to the list owner for distribution from its server. You will never actually see the names on the list, but you will be able to track open rates and click through rates.

Of course, you can also buy a list, but we suggest extreme caution. There is no way to know for certain how a purchased list was generated and whether or not the people on the list voluntarily opted-in. Yet, you are liable for potentially spamming the contacts on that list. And should email recipients mark the email as spam – or worse, call and complain – your IT department will spend hours getting your IP address off black lists. Also, the email distribution service you are using (e.g., iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail) will freeze distributions.

The ideal approach is to build your own email list internally. You can do this in many ways. For example, develop a sign-up form on your web site, create advertising campaign landing pages, gather contact information at trade shows, hold contests and add an opt-in for email communication in your checkout process.

In the meantime, “rent” lists from reputable sources. Ensure they are quality lists and that the supplier is following the CAN-SPAM Act. Ask the supplier how the list is developed, if all the recipients have opted-in, how often the list is updated and how often the list receives email messages. Also, ask if it is possible to test the list with a small group of contacts before committing to renting the entire list. This will help you gauge the expected response rate.
Distributing From Your Company Email: Unless you know virtually everyone on your email list (e.g. outside sales reps, customers, associates) and the list is fairly small, do not use your own company’s email system to distribute emails. If recipients start marking the email as spam or call and complain, your IT department will spend hours – if not days – getting your IP address off black lists.

Instead, invest in a professional email distribution service. There are many reputable email distribution companies to choose from depending on your needs and budgets. If you are looking for a simple, easy to use system there are many affordable options like Constant Contact, iContact and JangoMail.

Junk Mail: Depending on each recipient’s email settings, there are numerous reasons an email message can appear in a junk mail folder. The first one is the subject line. Don’t use all capital letters and avoid characters like explanation points. You can use “free” in the subject line, just ensure it isn’t the first word, in all caps or followed by explanation points.

A second and very common mistake is designing the email as one big image. Spam filters look for a balance of text and images. If you have too many images and not enough text, your message can end up in the junk folder.

To be sure your email hasn’t crossed over into the junk category, run it through a spam test. Most of the email distribution services have a program available that will evaluate your email. If not, there are a few free programs available online, including ContentChecker by Lyris that will score your emails.

Erratic Frequency: There is a fine line between “just enough” and “too much” email. Once you find the perfect balance for your target audiences – whether it is once a week or once a month – maintain a consistent delivery schedule.

Subject Line: Write enticing subject lines that will get your recipients to open the email. The right few words can make the difference between your email getting opened or trashed. Provocative can be good, but do not include a subject line that is misleading. You will lose credibility with the recipient and risk being reported as spam.

Link Errors: Double and triple check your emails prior to hitting “send”. A broken link can equal a loss in potential conversions.

Call to Action: Every email communication needs to include a very clear call to action. If it doesn’t exist or it is buried too far in the email, you will lose out on potential conversions. People tend to scan emails; you need to ensure your call to action is clear and prominent.

Link to the Right Page: Unless you are driving recipients to specific content on the home page, avoid sending them there at all. Instead direct recipients to a page that coincides with the email. This does not mean you have to create a new landing page. For example, if you are promoting a product, send them to that product information page. However, if it is within your budget, create a page that is specific to the email content; this will help increase the conversion rate.

Want to start or need support with your email marketing campaign?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688 to discuss how we can increase your ROI.

Purchasing Email Databases

We don’t have a database available internally to communicate with our prospects. Where do you recommend we purchase an email database?

By Jennifer Manocchio

We highly recommend not purchasing an email list. Most reputable companies like magazines and trade associations do not sell their lists because of spam laws. Be leery of any company that does sell lists because you have no idea where that list came from and if the people on it opted-in.

In the end, you will still be liable for potentially spamming the contacts on that list. Additionally, it could create a major issue with the email system you are using. If recipients mark the email as spam or even worse, call and complain, your IT department will spend hours getting your IP address off black lists, or the email distribution service you are using (like iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail, etc.) will not allow you to send any more emails.

The best approach is to begin building your own email list internally. You can do this many ways. For example, develop a sign-up form on your web site and advertising/campaign landing pages, gather contact information at trade/consumer shows, hold contests and if you sell product online, add an opt-in for email communication in your checkout process.

In the meantime, “rent” lists from reputable companies like magazines and associations. When you “rent” a list, you send your email message to the company and it distributes the email communication from its server. You will never actually see the names on the list.

When renting lists ensure it is a quality list and that the supplier is following CAN-SPAM Act. Ask the supplier how the list is developed, if all the recipients have opted-in, how often it updates the list and how often the list receives email messages from their company/clients. Also, ask if it is possible to test the list with a small group of contacts prior to committing to renting the list. This will help you gauge the expected response rate.

Finally, when sending email communication to rented lists focus on driving recipients to a landing page on your web site to sign up for special offers, a newsletter, etc. This will help you build your own list. Be sure that process includes an opt-in and that the person signing up has a clear understanding of how often and what you will be emailing them. This process will certainly take time, but it will create a healthy list, be more cost-effective and should produce better response rates in the end.

Need support with your email marketing campaign, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Email Distribution Companies a Must

We are planning to launch an e-newletter.  Do I really need to invest in a 3rdparty email distribution company?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

There are many 3rd party email distribution companies (iContact, Jango Mail, Constant Contact… just to name a few) available to help you quickly and legally deploy email campaigns.  No matter if you are sending to a list of 100 or 100,000, it is definitely beneficial to invest in a 3rd party distributor and here’s why.

1.  Protect Your ISP: One of the most important benefits of a 3rd party distributor is the email will not be distributed through your ISP.  Therefore, if recipients start marking your email as spam or, worse case scenario, they file a complaint (which should not happen if your recipients have opted-in), your ISP will not be blacklisted.  It can be a nightmare for your IT department to get your company’s ISP back on whitelists.

2.  Tracking Capabilities: Distributing through a 3rd party will allow you to track the results.  Distribution companies will track open rates, click through rates, bounce rates and unsubscribe rates.  This will enable you to identify what e-newsletter articles, promotions, etc. are most successful and adjust your editorial calendar appropriately.

3.  Deliverability: Most email distribution companies work with popular ISPs to ensure their company is on as many whitelists as possible.  The benefit for you is high deliverability rates.

4.  CAN-SPAM Compliance: Email distribution companies ensure your email is CAN-SPAM compliant by providing opt-out features, your address and company name.  This allows you to be completely confident that you are following the law.

Not all email distribution companies are created equal.  Determine what features and level of customer support you will need, and conduct research to identify the best email distribution partner.

Launching an email marketing campaign and need help developing a strategy and executing the campaign?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Successful E-newsletter Components

I see a lot of emails and newsletters. Some are done well and others not so well. What do successful online newsletters look like, what’s best way to design them and what is the ideal frequency?

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By Jim Sweeney

E-mails and e-newsletters are different animals under the e-mail marketing umbrella, so let’s just focus on e-newsletters. Whether you are making the transition from an existing print newsletter or introducing a new communications vehicle, a successful e-newsletter is a lot like a successful businessperson – it could look like anything.

It could be text or html.  It could be plain or fancy. It could be short and sweet or it could be long and detailed. Ultimately success is determined by the content and its appropriateness to your target recipient (assuming it is received… but this is another topic altogether).

Assuming it is a true newsletter, it should contain relevant, timely, educational, interesting, insightful information. It can be your information or someone else’s. It can be self-contained in the emailing or each story can link to a landing page or dedicated web site. But every issue must contain relevant, timely, educational, interesting, insightful content.

This, in turn, affects your frequency.  How often can you churn out consistently relevant, timely, educational, interesting, insightful news? Once a week?  Twice a month? Once a month? In a perfect world, your e-newsletter should be distributed frequently enough to become routine and expected by the recipient. Once a week is good. Every other week is acceptable. Once a month is okay, but not ideal (consider that between your monthly e-mails, your readers probably receive 100 or more other e-mails). Be creative; if you have four stories every month, what about shifting to two stories twice a month?

Anyway, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  You need to set objectives and integrate both metrics and analytics to determine if you are meeting your goals.   You need to talk to your e-mail recipients to find out what they want.  You need to test varying content and looks to see which ones are most effective.

Call me, we’ll talk.  440.333.0001 ext. 101 or jim at sweeneypr.com.

Importance of Web Landing Pages

Why are web site landing pages important, and when do I need to create one?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

By definition, a landing page is a web site that a visitor “lands” on when he or she clicks on an online banner advertisement, a search-engine result, an email or a pay-per-click advertisement.  The purpose is threefold.

First, the landing page is logical content that is an extension of the ad, email or search-engine result that keeps the visitor engaged.  For example, if a person sees a banner ad for a new cookie and clicks it, he or she expects to see a page about that specific cookie and perhaps a coupon that encourages a purchase, not the manufacturer’s home page.

Second, a landing page allows a company or individual to track the results of a specific campaign.  This allows you to see how many people clicked through the ad or email and what they did when they arrived at the landing page.  Based on the traffic patterns, the landing page can be improved to enhance the results.  For example, if visitors are going to the landing page and immediately leaving or are not taking the desired action (e.g. completing a form, purchasing a product, downloading a coupon, etc.), there is a problem that must be addressed.

Finally, you can also create several landing pages for an advertising or email campaign to see which landing page achieves the best results.

Each time you conduct an online banner ad campaign, pay-per-click campaign, organic search engine optimization or email campaign, you should consider if a landing page needs to be created.  Sometimes a page on the existing web site might already be relevant, and there is no need to create a new landing page.

For example, if you are promoting a special Valentine’s Day cookie and there is a web page already created that provides information on this special cookie and allows visitors to order it, a landing page might not be a worthwhile investment.  However, if this is a seasonal cookie and your web site doesn’t include a specific page about it, a landing page will be necessary.  You never want to drive potential customer to a generic page, or even worse, your homepage.  You will likely achieve a high bounce rate if consumers have to search for information that should be immediately available.

Ask yourself this question:  Will a landing page help explain the content in the advertisement or email better, and does it have the potential to increase conversions?  If yes, then create a landing page.  If you are already investing in an advertising, search engine optimization or an email campaign, why fall short and risk below average results?

Need to create a landing page or want to learn more about the benefits, please contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.

Measuring Email Marketing Results

How can I effectively measure the results of a consumer product email marketing campaign?

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By Jennifer Manocchio

Prior to starting your email marketing campaign, set specific and measurable objectives. For most consumer packaged goods companies, email marketing objectives often include: increasing company/product awareness, increasing web site traffic, and increasing product trial and sales among current and prospective customers.

Once you set specific objectives, determine the most effective methods for tracking the results. Ideally, you want to accomplish this prior to beginning your campaign so measurement opportunities are not overlooked. Below are some key methods for tracking results.

1. Email distribution service: Using an email distribution service like iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail, etc. will not only help you follow spam laws and protect your ISP, but it will also help track results. Typically, email distribution services will track the delivery rate, open rate, bounce rate and click through rate.

2. Google Analytics or another web site tracking tool: While this might seem obvious, we find this measurement tool is often overlooked. Google Analytics is free and easy to use and install if you don’t already have it. It can help track the number of people who came to your web site directly from the email, as well as how long they stayed on the site, what pages they visited, where they exited the site, if they converted to a sale and how much money they spent.

3. Unique phone number: If you can accept phone orders, it is beneficial to use a unique toll-free number in the email. This will allow you can track the number of phone calls the email is generating. Be sure to contact your phone company to determine if they have an online system that tracks the number of incoming calls. Reviewing phone bills can be tedious.

4. Unique promotional code: If you are offering a promotion, use a unique promotional code for web and phone orders. This will help you track what sales were specifically generated from the email.

After you establish your measurement methods, create a master database to record all the results in one location, including: open rates, click through rates, bounce rates, web site traffic, number of sales and total revenue generated by the email. This will help you to evaluate each email distribution and the campaign collectively and make adjustments when necessary.

Have questions about tracking the results and increasing the ROI of your email marketing campaign or want to learn more about how to develop and execute an effective campaign, contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688.