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B2B Email Marketing Best Practices

Effective Email Marketing CampaignsAccording to Pardot, only about 30% of B2B marketers are using email marketing as a primary lead generation tactic. That’s not entirely surprising given the breadth of other channels available to businesses in general and through their own industry channels. What is surprising is that there is a good chunk ONLY relying on this method. What do they know that you don’t?

Best Days and Times to Send Your Messaging

For B2C email marketing, the time of day consumers receive emails is a huge factor for the success of a campaign. It’s the same way for B2B email marketing best practices, as well, except the days and times vary from the consumer model.

Data from Pardot suggests that Tuesdays are better for sending email messages in terms of open rates. This makes sense because people are more likely to extend their weekends rather than take a day off in-between. If you are in a testing mood, I would venture a guess that Wednesday and Thursday would be good email days, as well.

As for time of day, data from Experian Marketing  showed that optimal open rates occurred between 8am and 12pm for B2B marketers. Everyone has their routine, but I know I like to get into the office and clear out my inbox from the evening or weekend before. There is nothing worse than a bunch of piled up emails that people are waiting for responses to.

So does that mean that we should all be sending out B2B marketing related emails on Tuesdays at 9am? Of course, you can follow the data that the reports linked to this post offer, but is that really the best strategy? If everyone starts doing what is published online, it won’t be the best strategy anymore because people will start avoiding their inboxes at those days and times.

Your best bet is to use this data as a guide and do your own testing. Use a third party email marketing provider like iContact or Constant Contact. Keep track of when you send out your email messages and what your response, open and bounce rates were for those times. The truth is your market is going to reveal the most telling data about how you should be communicating with them.

Converting ProspectsNurture Your Prospects to Buy

An interesting trend is that many B2B marketers are using email as a method to drip nurture their prospects. In other words, they are sending carefully configured messages bumping prospects closer and closer to the end result of buying something from their company.

For example, say you have started a campaign to generate leads using an ebook that your company has produced. Perhaps it contains really helpful information that your prospects will find useful. You get 130 downloads, which means you have 130 emails to work with.

Initially, these prospects have received no correspondence from you or your company. Let’s also assume they haven’t bought anything yet, either. You take their email and enter it into a program whereby they receive 5 unique email messages from your company over the course of the next several weeks.

Email 1 – Maybe this is some sort of recommendation email related to the ebook they downloaded. Something along the lines of, “we saw you downloaded X; we thought you would also like Y.”

Email 2 – Maybe you have other content besides ebooks that would be of interest to your prospect. This message would be very similar to the first one; however, it would nudge the prospect in a different direction.

Email 3 – Perhaps you have other areas of your company where the prospect could become more involved or give more information. Maybe a newsletter or some sort of account signup. This message would encourage them to take advantage of those features of your company.

Email 4 – This message would be the actual push to buy with a value proposition and whatever you are offering. They’ve gotten to know you a little by now, they haven’t unsubscribed from your list and they probably know what you are all about.

Email 5 – The cycle can start over again here with recommendations for other products or services that they may be interested in buying.

This is meant to be an example and is not a set formula. You may have fewer steps depending on what phase your prospects are in, the type of industry you operate in, and what it is you are offering. The basic concept remains the same, though. Nurture the prospect over time to make a conversion using email.

Picture of increasing business with a Google Profile

Segmenting Your Lists

This is one of my favorite best practices to talk about because people don’t really see the value in it (and I like explaining the value). Segmenting is tedious work, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s especially important if you sell a broad range of products and services, or if what you are selling appeals in different ways to different people.

For example, say a company is selling red, yellow and blue widgets. Even though they are all widgets, the people who buy red ones are a completely different sort than those who buy the yellow ones. Still more different are the people who buy the blue ones.

If you build up a contact list with emails of all the people in your town who are interested in buying widgets, it makes sense on the surface that you could just have one marketing message to send to all of them. After all, a widget is a widget, right?

As it turns out, people who buy red widgets want nothing to do with the yellow widgets, so receiving marketing messages about the yellow sort drives them crazy and they unsubscribe from your list. Likewise, people who buy the yellow ones would never consider buying blue, so when they see an ad that contains blue widgets, they are dumbfounded as to why you would send that to them.

Obviously that is a very black and white (or yellow, blue and red) example. Take a car company, for example, or even a car dealership. All cars do the same thing; they get you from point A to point B on four wheels.

With that being true, it would be a waste of time for dealerships to be sending emails advertising two-seater sports cars to everyone in their contact list even if the majority of those emails belong to people who have 4 kids in the market for a minivan. Your lists should be separated so that you are sending the right messaging to the right people.

You’ll find a lot of best practices for B2B email campaigns, but keep in mind that your own primary research can yield the best results. You can use the data in this post as well as information connected to it as a guide, but ensure you are also observing how your own database of people are responding to your messaging.

What B2B email best practices do you have? Join the conversation by commenting below.

How To Email Market

At symbol and TabletIf you’ve read other posts on this blog, you’ve probably noticed that we get pretty detailed with our posts. If you are looking for a bare-bones guide on how to email market effectively, this post is for you. I’ll give you a broad overview of what steps you should be taking when reaching prospects through email. This is how you email market.

You Need Contacts

You can’t push out messaging and you definitely can’t sell anything to anyone if you don’t have contact information. If you want to market through email and you have a limited amount of contacts, get more. Get them through newsletter signups, ebook downloads, buying them, ecommerce transactions or any number of other places.

If you are out in person meeting with people, get their names and emails. Anywhere you see potential customers or clients is an opportunity to get their contact information. Focus on getting high value contacts, the ones you think will bring you the most business or help you accomplish your goals.

Advanced Segments in Google AnalyticsSegment Your Lists

Odds are that you communicate with prospects about different things. If you sell multiple products or offer multiple services or even if your offerings change throughout the year, you need to have different messaging to cater to different markets.

Segment your email lists into different groups so that it is easy to design messaging and send it out. Organizing your prospects in this way helps you to deliver more targeted messaging and be more effective each time you reach out. Your prospects will also thank you for getting messaging that is relevant to them. If you don’t use a third-party email marketing program to organize your contact lists use something like an Excel spreadsheet.

MessagingDesign Your Messaging

Based on how you have your lists segmented, you should develop separate messaging for your different market groups. It helps to develop different templates that you use for different purposes. Maybe you have general messaging that applies to a broad range of your contact lists and more specific messaging that only applies to some of them.

Make your messaging actionable by having some kind of task for your recipients to perform. This could be calling a number, clicking a link, watching a video or something of that nature. Your messages should have a goal and shouldn’t be the only step in the process for communicating.

Set up Tracking

You  should have a method for measuring your success. If you are sending out emails with a regular email account (which isn’t recommended), you should at least have Funnel Visualizationcustomized URLs if you are driving people to your website.

If you aren’t driving people to a website, you should seriously consider using a third-party email marketing program that will provide metrics on opens, bounces, opt-outs and other actions. Tracking in marketing is a huge part of success. You can never truly know how much of an impact your messaging has but you can get a pretty darn good idea.

If you are looking for more detailed information on email marketing you can check out some of our other posts. If you just want to get started quickly, the steps above comprise the birds-eye view of what you should be doing.

What are the basic steps of your email marketing program? Is there anything you would add to ours? Join the conversation by commenting below. 

Inbound Marketing: Keyword Research

google keyword toolKeywords play an important role in an inbound marketing strategy. SEO has played a very visible and consistent role when it comes to inbound, as well. Even though search engines (namely Google) have made leaps and bounds in semantics and historical search, keywords are still a factor. In that same vein, the research marketers perform to find out what keywords they should use is very important. Choosing the right keywords means the difference between making sales and being irrelevant to searchers. Words and phrases can help us understand searcher intent and market demand for both content and the products and services we sell.

Types of Strategies

There are two common keyword strategies that most businesses should be thinking about. Those are branding and conversion strategies. Businesses could use one or the other or both of these. They can also be used on the same website, and may even contain words from either. The goals of these strategies, however, are entirely different, and the KPIs (key performance indicators) for a campaign are also very different.

Building an Online BrandBranding Strategies

A banding strategy involves getting exposure for a business. Selling something or getting people to engage in some way may also be involved, but for the most part, conversions are not the goal. Common KPIs for a branding strategy could include:

  • Number of visits to a website
  • Number of visits to some other web property
  • Rank in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)
  • Video views

Most branding strategies are geared only to get more exposure for the company or its products and/or services. If that is the goal, then an increase in visits, a high rank in SERPs or any other uptick in exposure online counts as a success (if it can be tied to keywords somehow).

Keywords in Branding Strategies

The keywords that are used in branding strategies don’t necessarily have to contain the brand name. For example a business may want to show up first in search results for the keyword “buy apple headphones.”

Using non-branded keywords in a branding keyword strategy can be much more difficult to rank for in search, or may cost more in PPC advertising than branded words because they are broader and more people are using them. By contrast, only you and perhaps a handful of others have your same brand name.

Conversion FunnelConversion Strategies

Conversion strategies are both more common and much more difficult to achieve. They also have a much broader range of KPIs because success in a conversion strategy means something different to every company.

Generally, KPIs could include:

  • Sales or products
  • Sales of services
  • Contact form signups
  • Downloads
  • Lead form completions
  • Quote form generations

There could be many different scenarios that mean dollars to a business. Keyword conversion strategies are those geared toward making money for a business. A caveat to this strategy is that it is much more dependent on marketers interpreting searcher intent based on what words they are using, as well as how they combine those with other words.

Searcher Intent

This refers to what a person means when they are typing a search query. Searcher intent is very important because if they don’t find your web page or ad relevant to their query, they will leave your site or not click on the ad.

It can be very difficult to predict searcher intent. For instance, when someone types in the word “headphones,” they could be looking to buy headphones, they may want to see pictures of headphones or maybe they want to know how to spell the word headphones.

Even with very specific queries, it can still be hard to guage searcher intent. For instance, “buy apple headphones” seems pretty straightforward; however, a marketer may still see low conversion rates (no one buying) on a web page optimized for this word because people are only looking for prices before moving on.

Choosing Your Keywords

For a conversion strategy, it is far better to go after more specific keyword phrases that have lower search volume and moderate competition (more on how to determine that later). This is because it is simply too difficult to gauge human intent from a broad keyword.

market-segmentFor example, if you have a business selling shoes online, it would be very foolish to try and rank dozens of product pages for the keyword “shoes.” It is foolish for two reasons. First, the keyword “shoes” is too broad. The user of the search engine could be thinking any number of different kinds of information related to shoes, all of which may have nothing to do with buying them. The second reason is that there is far too much competition using the word “shoes” in their copy. Not only are all the pages that contain phrases with the word “shoes” counted, but so are the ones only using the word “shoes.”

Even using slightly more specific words like “mens shoes” or “mens running shoes” is not ideal. In general, each business’ keyword strategy should be specifically tailored to what it is that they do. For a shoe company, they should select an array of keywords that are very specific to the product line that they sell and that have some volume of searches in a search engine.

Choosing very specific keyword phrases for your web pages will not only help you determine user intent, it will also help generate more conversions because people will have found exactly what they were looking for.

Third-Party Tools

There are various manual techniques that we’ve talked about in other posts. Those can often be tedious and time-consuming, but also free. If you are doing keyword research on a limited basis, then this should work for you.

If you are doing research on a regular basis, it is wise to invest in some tools that could help you speed up the process. Many third-party software programs take their own approach to keyword research, and also offer free versions of their platform. Check them out before you commit. Below is a short list of software you could try:

Keywords are still a fundamental part of SEO, and the way that people discover content that they find useful and engaging. Your keyword strategy and research methods should reflect your goals for marketing products and services online.

 

Do you have a particular keyword research strategy that you use? Share it in the comments below.

7 Tips on How to Build Your Email List

With all the technology out there, it’s easy to forget about what the bread and butter of any marketing campaign is. Prospects are the most important element of any marketing arsenal. Having a list of real people to whom you can send personalized messaging is incredibly powerful. If you are just starting out with online marketing, you should take steps to build a very detailed email list. You’ll find that it’s a tedious and time consuming process, but you will thank yourself once you have a good one going. Check out these seven ideas on how to build your email list, along with some examples of companies that are implementing these ideas amazingly well.

eBooks

Build Email List With EbooksThis kind of content is very effective at getting people to trade their info.  A well-crafted eBook that contains useful information is a tangible piece of material that not only establishes your brand as an authority in your niche; it also enables you to deliver calls to action to other content, products and services that you have to offer. If you are a good writer and a halfway decent designer, these are also pretty cheap to make.

Who’s doing it right?

HubSpot
We often highlight HubSpot on this blog, and we have even been inspired by them. That’s because they have the inbound process down right. They have tons of eBooks, guides and other tantalizing content that users can get for free just by entering an email address.

Free Products and/or Services

The most obvious item of value that you can use to trade for contact information is free stuff or free services from your business. For example, offering a coupon for free services in exchange for contact information is a good way to collect names and emails. Make sure the giveaway appeals to your target market.

Who’s being innovative?

NYMag
New York Magazine knows that the quickest way to their prospects’ inboxes is through their stomachs. The publication is offering a free cupcake to those who sign up for its New York Deals email list.

NYMags daily deal

Ecommerce Transactions

Obviously, you need to have some sort of ecommerce system set up already, but if you do, you can leverage this tactic. When users check out through shopping cart software, this is a prime opportunity to ask if they would like to receive updates on new products or services that they may be interested in. In these scenarios, you have a lot of information already such as products or services that they like to buy, as well as information related to shipping and billing. As long as you have permission from the visitor to use it, you can add them to your contact list.

Who’s doing it?

Starbucks
This isn’t really a revolutionary thing. A lot of businesses do this on their ecommerce transactions. Starbucks just happens to be one of the less annoying ones. They don’t have their opt-in clicked by default. It’s nice not to be tricked into opting in.

build-email-list

Prospecting

Many businesses have sales teams that do prospecting; maybe you do it yourself. During these calls, it is not uncommon to get emails and other contact info. You can also ask if it’s ok to send the person more information about your company, and also save their name and email for your email list.

Another method of prospecting is simply looking for information already out there on the web. Go to the websites of your target audience. Many times you can find emails, addresses and phone numbers already listed.

Newsletters

This is perhaps the most basic and traditional form of content used to get emails and other contact info. This generally only works well if your company is established and has something interesting to say. Otherwise, no one will care. Don’t take this approach unless you have someone dedicated to producing good content on a regular basis.

If you are able to develop a solid following, your network can grow exponentially. People who are loyal to a publication often stick with it, are heavily influenced by what it says and recommend it to friends.

The Fish Bowl

You have undoubtedly seen the fish bowls at various establishments that ask people to put in a business card in order to win something. You didn’t think these businesses were doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, did you? This a way to collect information from the people that frequent an establishment.

Whitepapers

Maybe you don’t have the time, knowledge or inclination to write a whole ebook. You could do a shorter version called a whitepaper. These are similar to the eBook idea; however, they are shorter and even less costly to produce. Like an eBook, you should offer useful information in a whitepaper. These are basically just PDF files hosted on a website or a social media account that people can gain access to by first leaving contact information.

Building an email list is a crucial sales and prospecting task. Without potential contacts to market your business to, growth is slowed and you can’t personalize your message.

 

How do you build email lists? Do you use any tactics that aren’t listed here? Share them in the comments below.

Tips On How To Use Email Marketing

EmailThere is no shortage of posts on the web and on our blog for email marketing tools, strategies and methods for measurement. The one thing that’s often hard to find are practical real-world examples of how to use email marketing for business. When are the best times to send emails? What sort of content should be placed in your emails? What are you trying to get your recipients to do? These are all important questions answered by the practical examples below.

A ClockThe Best Time to Send Your Emails

Like a lot of things in the marketing world, your actions should necessarily be based on your own observations and/or data that you have gathered. For example, if you see that you get more opens when sending your emails at 9am on a Tuesday than at 5pm on a Friday, by all means, go with it.

There are some well-established stats out there though showing (in general) good times to send emails. Data compiled by Marketing Profs reveals some interesting stuff. For instance, 44% of surveyed B2B marketers say that sending emails on Tuesdays results in better open rates, 53% said Friday was the worst day to send emails and 53% had the most success sending emails between 8am and 12pm.

Then again, a report from Experian Marketing showed that mail recipients are bombarded by messaging in the 8-noon time slot making it even more unlikely that your message will be seen (or tolerated).

So what are you to do? You should choose the best available time for your target market. Start off by sending emails every Tuesday between 8 and noon and keep track of your success. Measure open rates, and then start testing to see if you can find a more relevant time frame for your market.

The Content in Your Email

When businesses start out with email marketing, it’s hard to know what to put in there. They know it has to be something about their business, but they aren’t sure what. If no one has good ideas, they typically put a bunch of things in there that confuse people or don’t accomplish a goal.

This isn’t rocket science. The content in your emails should be designed to accomplish the goals you have for your campaign. There are some basic themes you should follow in accomplishing your goals.

  • Reduce distractions from the main goal of the email message
  • Make it easy and obvious for people to complete the action
  • Make your message consistent with the place your recipient will arrive after leaving the email (if applicable).

An example of a company that follows this concept very well is Groupon. While I get annoyed with the frequency at which I receive Groupon offers, their emails are very well designed and easy to use. Take this one that features vacation deals around the U.S. You can easily spot the goal of the email by the way it’s laid out.

They want you to purchase these coupons from their site so they have a huge image of what you get that serves as the value proposition along with some marketing text. Next there is the price and then a huge button for you to take advantage of the offer. Very simple, no distractions, I just click on the deal that I want and that’s it.

a groupon email

General emails with newsletters or links to blog posts are always fine, but for the most part, your email campaigns should have a specific goal. When you do have a goal in mind, cut out most everything in your messaging that does not help you achieve that goal.

Tracking Your Success

In almost all of our posts, we include something about tracking. That’s because much of what you do in marketing a business online requires testing and tweaking. If you don’t have enough data to show you where you went wrong, it will take you longer to get things right.

Try and find an email marketing provider that will give you tracking features. Many leading programs will show you open rates, bounce rates, click throughs and the number of people who unsubscribed. If you are sending traffic to a website, you should also implement tracking there. For example, Google provides link tagging and a URL builder for tracking campaigns that occur off your site but end up there.

 

How do you use email marketing campaigns? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Marketing Your Blog: A BASIC Guide

We’ve hit the most exciting part of running a blog – it’s time to start blogging. As you create your first batches of content, it becomes time for you to figure out exactly how you’re going to get people to read it. If you’re like most bloggers, you probably have a friend or two who is interested in what you’re writing. While that’s fine for some, I truly believe that you can expand your readership to greater heights. That’s why we’re going to go ahead and talk about marketing your blog. Below is my BASIC guide to spinning up your inbound marketing plan as your start blogging.

Be Ready to Generate ContentBe Ready to Generate Content

When we talk about inbound marketing for your blog, we’re really talking about getting eyes on your site. Everything else on this list can help you to bring in visitors, but this is the part of the plan that keeps people coming back every time. We’ve talked a lot about how to put together your website, but this is what separates a blog from an advertisement – you have to have great content to keep moving forward. We’re going to talk a great deal about how to keep content evergreen, but just remember that you always have to keep your eye on this part of the equation.

Always Use RSS

If you’ve worked to create great content, your visitors are going to want to come back again. Unfortunately, most visitors will forget about a new website if they are not given the tools to make sure that they come back again. In today’s age of easy smartphone access, the best thing that you can give a reader is the ability to be reminded of the existence of new content. Setting up an RSS feed is relatively easy (WordPress, as always, has tutorials available), but it makes it easier for followers to remember that your website exists. Think of RSS as a simple way to keep your regular readers updated.

Social Media Matters

Social media is a huge deal. If you’re like most people, you have at least one social media account. And if you’ve got one account, I’d even wager that you’re a fan of a blog, business or website. The ability to connect your blog to social media is important not only because it helps readers feel like they are participating, but because it helps you turn each sharing visitor into an advertisement for your site. It is very easy to add the ability to share your blog on social media platforms (we’ve already discussed plug-ins for just that purpose), and preparing yourself for that aspect of your marketing plan is a great way to get ahead of the game.

Introduce SEO StrategiesIntroduce SEO Strategies

Search engine optimization is something that you are going to hear quite a bit about when it comes to attracting readers to your blog. While the term might sound scary, it’s really quite simple – it is the process of making your blog attractive to readers and webcrawlers so that it ranks higher on a user’s search. Today’s SEO is all about the things we’ve talked about so far – great content, usability and solid formatting. We’ll go in-depth about SEO later, but it’s important to consider what you’re going to do to attract new visitors to your blog. Start thinking about keywords early on, as well as the relationships that you can form to better position your blog.

Communicate with Readers

Communication is key to any strategy for marketing your blog. When you start the process of bringing visitors to your site, you want to make sure that you have a way to stay in contact with them. Something as simple as a comments section on your blog can help you to engage loyal visitors and bring in new readers, all with relatively little work on your part. Other forms of communication, like setting up a usable email address for the site or creating a newsletter, can help you with your overall numbers. These basic structures can help you to stay in contact with established readers while still helping you to build a search engine profile that attracts new visitors.

Those BASIC steps towards creating an inbound marketing plan are just that – the basics. We’re going to spend quite a bit of time tearing those steps down and learning how each one works to create a blog that will really stand out from the crowd. There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but that’s fine – blogging is more than worth the effort when you do it right. If you’ve got any tips or tricks for starting your blog or putting it on the path for success, I’d love to hear from you – after all, one of the most important ways to keep a blog successful is to keep learning.

 

What do you think about the BASIC plan for marketing your blog? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

How to Develop an Email Marketing Strategy

Effective Email Marketing CampaignsYou probably send out hundreds of emails every day, but when you are doing it all at once and to market your business, some careful planning is required. How will you build the list of people you are emailing? What messaging will you present to them? How will you get them to take action? All of these questions can be answered when you create an email marketing strategy.

Building Your List

If you already have a list, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, this should be the first task in your overall marketing strategy. There are many creative ways to build lists. You can tap databases that you, your company or colleagues may already have, you can offer content, and if you are in a hurry or all else fails, you can buy a list.

Offer Valuable Content

A great way to build an email list is to offer content that your target market will want to download. For example, an eBook or how-to guide that people can gain access to if they provide an email is perfect. Keep in mind that the content should be targeted at people whose email would be valuable to have for your business purposes. Another possible source of content could be newsletters or blogs produced by you or your company.

Collect Emails from Other Sources

You may have contact forms on your website or on other web properties. Having a simple check box on these forms (assuming you get a decent amount of traffic) is a good way to get form submitters to opt into receiving other communications from you.

Buying Lists

If you can’t generate your own lists or don’t have the time, you can always buy lists from sources online. There are a variety of companies that sell leads for various markets. Typically, these can be purchased at a relatively low cost and (depending on the business you buy from) can be very credible leads.

goalDetermine Your Goals

Once you have your list squared away, figure out what your goals are for your campaign. You can fall flat on your face with any marketing campaign if you don’t set good goals up front. I am a fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals myself. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Here are some examples of common goals to get you started:

  • Buying a product
  • Buying a service
  • Using a coupon code to purchase something
  • Starting and completing a longer conversion funnel on a website
  • Interacting with a social media account
  • Watch a video

Your Target Market

Target MarketKnowing your target market is arguably one of the most important aspects of any marketing campaign. Marketing is messaging and communication. If form follows function, then the target market is the function and your message is the form that is shaped by it. As you plan your campaign, look for information that will help you with your specific market. Below is a list of broad markets that should be approached differently:

  • B2B vs B2C
  • Young adults vs older demographics
  • Women vs men
  • Consumers vs professionals

This list is meant to give you an idea of where to start and is by no means a comprehensive collection. If your audience is not receptive to your message because it doesn’t apply to them, you will never sell anything through email marketing. You should take your audience into account in virtually every step of the process from buying or building your email list to crafting your message to building your conversion funnel. For example, if you are selling Viagra, you don’t want to buy or construct an email list full of 20-somethings who won’t even give your email subject line a second look.

Scheduling

Scheduling

Timing is everything and email is no different. As part of your planning process, you should determine when you are going to send messaging to your target market. Perhaps you are planning a holiday promotion, or maybe you have a time-sensitive sale going on. Whatever the case may be, sending your email any old time won’t cut it. A report from Experian Marketing Services highlights the following data pertaining to when messages are sent:

  • People tend to respond more to marketer’s emails on the weekends when volume is low
  • The next highest response rate (response meaning clicks or other actions) was a Tuesday
  • Response rates are highest in the early morning and the late night

So when you go to send out your messaging, think about when your target market will be most likely to see your message amongst all the other emails they get as well. You might find that you get a better result when you send during a time when they aren’t getting a ton of messages.

Choose Your Tools

These days, the best way to perform email marketing campaigns is with third-party software. Many leading programs allow you to easily upload contacts, create HTML email templates, insert links, include social features and provide excellent tracking features. Some common email programs include:

 

What other tips do you have for making a good email marketing strategy?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

One Marketer’s Take on Inbound Marketing

Much of the content we write here on the TCA blog falls under the category of inbound marketing. A quick search on the web yields dozens of definitions and guides to inbound marketing. This post will kick off a series of posts showcasing our own unique take on what inbound marketing is and why it has been so successful for businesses. We’ll explore the tools used by the experts, and these posts can serve as a guide to inbound marketing for anyone that wants to use them.

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing and Why do You Need It?Like I said, there is no shortage of definitions for inbound marketing. I have yet another one for you. After studying and writing about online marketing, development and usability for a number of years, I’ve come to understand inbound like this: as it relates to marketing a business, it is the practice of developing quality content that a target market finds useful, and that positions a brand as a helpful authority in its field.

Components of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing isn’t just one tool, but an amalgamation of strategies and tools that businesses can use to market themselves online. There is really no limit to which tools can be used or in what way, and many different ones can fall in the realm of inbound marketing. These may include but are not limited to:

  • other social networksSocial media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, Foursquare, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, and others
  • Blogs
  • Article marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Video marketing/advertising
  • Search marketing/advertising
  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization
  • Forum Marketing
  • Article directories
  • Bookmarking websites
  • Crowd sourcing websites
  • A business’s own website

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Inbound marketing is a relatively new phenomenon and is constantly evolving. Marketers are finding new ways every day to reach out to their target audiences and delight them with content.

Developing Your Strategy

strategy for inbound marketingJust like traditional marketing strategies, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all with inbound. Businesses must assess their strengths and develop tactics that are complemented by those strengths. Below are some things to consider when developing an inbound marketing strategy.

  • S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound)
  • Buyer personas: characteristics of your target market
  • Content strategy and development: What will your content be and who will make it?
  • Having a well-developed website
  • Promotion: How will you spread the content that you generate?

Measuring Your Success

The M in S.M.A.R.T. goals is perhaps one of the most important. The proliferation of online marketing in the past 10 years has shown businesses that they can more closely track the results of the dollars they spend online.

Analytics

Google AnalyticsTracking code provided by third-party companies is the most common way to gather data on your website. Note that these types of businesses only collect data on your site and not other properties that you may have a presence on unless you own and administer them (and have installed tracking, of course).

Most analytics programs are paid software packages. Some provide free service, but it is highly limited until you sign up for their paid versions. By far one of the most popular free analytics programs is Google Analytics. It is a powerful out-of-the-box analytics solution and also highly customizable. In addition to that, there are loads of free documentation, training, tutorials and no shortage of other free resources to learn how to use it. I highly recommend it for the beginner.

Here are some other programs you can investigate:

  • Click Tale
  • Get Clicky
  • Crazy Egg
  • Piwik
  • Fire Stats
  • Woopra
  • AWStats

Some solutions will allow you to use enough of their interface for free so you can get a feel for how they operate, and to see if you like them. The short list above is not all-inclusive, and there are many other mainstream and startup analytics platforms out there.

This post just scratches the surface of inbound marketing. There are literally hundreds of ways to market a business online, build brand awareness and track success.

 

What’s your take on inbound marketing? Do you have your own unique definition? Let us know by dropping a line or leaving a comment below.

A Brief History Of Email Marketing

The @ symbolEmail is one of the first – and still one of the most popular – forms of communication on the web. Aside from social media, no form of computerized communication has had such an impact on businesses reaching their target audience. We see a lot of questions about what email marketing is, so this post is dedicated to explaining it.

We don’t just want to talk about what email marketing is today, though. We thought it would be fun to explore a little history of email marketing and how it came to be one of the most ubiquitous, well-known and abused forms of marketing of the information age.

Who Would Have Thought?

The first electronic messages that could be considered as emails were being sent among terminals back in the early 60s. It wouldn’t be until 1983 when email would become a practical form of written communication between people.

MCI provided one of the first consumer email services. Although this was groundbreaking technology, it remained a novelty of sorts. No one really wanted to use email. It was slow (remember dial up?), it was far more cumbersome to fire up that old PC to send an email instead of just picking up the  phone to make a call, and computers were shadows of what they are today.

As a result, email wasn’t immediately a target for businesses because not that many people were using it. All the really cool metrics that are available today were also nonexistent because there were no email marketing companies.

You’ve Got Mail

During the 90s is when email started to gain the most traction as a mainstream form of communication. During the early 90s is when spam email started to become prevalent. After the turn of the millennium, email slowly become the primary communications strategy of many large corporations and remains so today.

The late 90s also saw the rise of the first email marketing companies such as Constant Contact. After the turn of the millennium, many more companies would sprout, and email marketing would become a primary tool for promoting businesses online.

What is Email Marketing?

 

A definition of email marketing

 

Email became one of the first forms of direct text-based communication over the Internet. It was one of the first technologies to replace the written letter and allowed people over vast distances to communicate quickly through the written word.

For businesses, it opened up a new era of marketing. Before email, direct mail had been one of the primary ways to reach consumers at home and in a very personal way. Direct mail, however, was extremely expensive, time consuming and hard to track. After paying for design and printing of direct mail pieces, postage and time to disseminate them all, the returns were minimal.

The Cost Savings of Email Marketing

Cost savings of email marketingDirect mail is still a popular method of exposure, but email is so much cheaper and easier to measure. Reaching 3,000 people via an email campaign costs you no more than the 30 dollar monthly fee a marketing company will charge. In contrast, sending out 3,000 direct mail pieces today would cost you $1,200 in bulk postage alone.

Tracking for direct mail marketing is also much more expensive the traditional way. One method is to call up all of the people that you sent a marketing piece to and ask them if they received it. Calling 3,000 people takes a lot of time that you have to pay someone every hour for, not to mention your phone bill. Conversely, looking at metrics in any leading email marketing program will show you how many people opened your email, forwarded it, clicked on links to your web page or social accounts, etc. You can view all of this data and make decisions on what worked and what didn’t in about an hour.

When Ray Tomlinson sent the first email across a network back in 1971, he probably had little idea of what his work would evolve into. Not only has email become a primary means of communication over the web for both personal and business activities, it has also become a powerful direct marketing tool.

 

How do you use email for your business? Do you have any interesting history facts about email? Let us know by dropping a line or leaving a comment below.

What You Should Know About Becoming a Social Media Strategist

Social media is here to stay and with it is the need for the social media strategist. While you may encounter varied opinions about the title, role, responsibilities, competencies, and personality traits of individuals choosing this career path, the reality is that social campaigns will always need someone to develop, implement, lead, and measure them.

If you’re an aspiring social media strategist, follow along as we look at this career path, as well as the key things you need to know about it.

What It Takes To Become a Social Media Strategist

What It Takes To Become a Social Media Strategist

With so many social media related job titles swirling around the web, you may be wondering about the particular function of the strategist.

In a nutshell, the social media strategist cultivates and manages consumer-business relationships online. While it may sound simple, the role is far more complicated than that. Before we get into the details though, let’s explore the characteristics of a typical candidate.

This career path is ideal for someone who is:

A risk taker: If you’re scared to be a first adopter of new technologies or can’t advocate the use of unusual (but ethical) techniques, then the chances are this job isn’t for you. As communication methods mature, your role as a strategist will need to mature too.

Proactive: If you want to be successful, you can’t be passive. The role demands a social media decision maker—an individual who is always thinking two steps ahead of the game, and is continuously looking to improve relationships with consumers in innovative ways.

Social: It seems like an obvious one, right? The sad story is far too many social media managers don’t know how to engage and communicate with their audience. They don’t know how to stimulate conversation or drive it to a successful end.

Able to manage programs effectively: Social media programs are not only spanning across several departments, but they’re also becoming more complex in nature. Where the skill set once called for someone who is an evangelist, it now calls for someone who can integrate social into all parts of the business and buying cycle.

An achiever when it comes to stakeholder buy-in: Identifying the true decision makers and influencers within an organization and understanding what makes them tick is a huge part of obtaining the support you’ll need to run your social strategy.

Capable of driving a customer-centric vision: A huge part of driving and nurturing the relationships you form with your buying community lies in your ability to apply social media in a way that supports and improves customer experience.

Adept at wearing several hats: In this role, you’re not just the strategist. You’re the analytics expert, the writer, the team manager, the educator to business units, the networking genius, the budget manager, and the go-to person for everything social media related. You know how to organize your department for success, and you do it well.

Job Responsibilities

Duties of a social media strategist may include (but are not limited to):

Social media strategist responsibilities

  • Leading, developing, and executing a company’s social program
  • Setting up scalable community and advocacy programs

  • Managing and participating in social channels
  • Managing the social marketing budget
  • Monitoring, measuring, and reporting on ROI
  • Managing a team and working with stakeholders

  • Creating and implementing social media policies and processes
  • Collaborating with various agencies

  • Monitoring trends, conversations, and competitors

  • Developing training materials and educational tools

The Road to Becoming a Successful Social Media Strategist

The Road to Becoming a Successful Social Media StrategistStep #1: Educate Yourself

For an entry-level position, most employers will require you to have an undergraduate degree or certification in a relevant field. This may include education and training in the area of marketing, public relations, communications, digital marketing, journalism, or online technologies. You’ll also need to have a good grasp on writing for the web. Preferably, you’ll start gaining hands-on experience as early as possible, whether that’s through an internship or similar initiative.

Step #2: Build Your Online Portfolio

These days, building an online portfolio is just as necessary as anything you may collect on paper. After all, many recruiters use social media as their go-to source for potential employees.

Start compiling a professional and polished virtual version of your resume, references, cover letter, certifications, and samples of work. Don’t forget to add links to your engaging social media profiles so you can demonstrate to HR managers how you’ve already taken steps to establish and develop an online presence, as well as grow your list of valuable connections.

Step #3: Apply for Relevant Positions

Start looking for employment opportunities. That means scouring job sites, contacting the right decision makers on platforms like LinkedIn, and networking through your close connections. It may not be an easy job search journey, but a position at the right company will be worth the effort.

Be aware that job listings for a social media strategist may fall under a different title, so you’ll need to search using a variety of applicable keywords. You may find your potential employer has posted the job opening under digital content strategist or social marketing manager.

Resources to Support Your Journey

Online Social Media Training…

1. Syracuse University

2. SayItSocial

3. Social Media Marketing University

4. Society3 Academy

Reading…

With so many books and blogs on social media available today, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to educational reading materials. Consider starting with The Social Media Strategist by Christopher Barger and Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang (a leading authority in the industry). As you work your way from resource to resource, be sure to add the gems to your marketing arsenal.

A Final Thought…

You have to be versatile as a social media strategist if you want to survive this rapidly changing industry. Social media expenditure is usually a minuscule portion of the overall marketing budget, which means your work may not be a priority if things go downhill. In many cases, you’ll need to jump through hoops not only for that sliver of funding, but also to justify your role.

Realize now that social is only a part of the solution to the ongoing challenge of revenue generation. Therefore, you need to evolve your skill set to meet the demands of changing technology and become part of the broader, integrated marketing program within the business. That way, when the bosses from upstairs come knocking on your door, you can show them how your social program is contributing to goals of the organization – especially ROI. Establish a model that can prove your social media marketing efforts are driving customers to a compelling landing page where actual sales conversions are happening.

The bottom line is this: as social media continues to evolve, so will the role of the social media strategist. You may only be a small cog in a massive marketing machine, but if you question, observe, and experiment, you may just become the innovator who is able to guide your organization successfully through the maze that is social media.

Do you have any questions about becoming a social media strategist? Perhaps you are one and have some additional insight to share. Become part of the conversation by leaving a comment below.