Archive for the ‘Email Marketing’ category

Email and Direct Mail: Bringing the Two Worlds Together

October 7th, 2014

When we think about multi-channel or cross-channel Marketing as a strategy to engage customers and generate revenue for a business, it’s usually difficult to consider offline channels as part of that strategy.

But for that Marketing strategy to be successful, it’s important that our message remains not only consistent throughout every single interaction that each customer has with our brand, but that is also that is highly personalized based on different aspects of data that we have collected for each customer.

Email and Direct Mail are, among others, critical pieces of a marketing strategy and if layered correctly, they can provide a lot of value to your customer.

In this article I will enumerate the five key components to a successful integration between these two worlds:

1.     Strategy

Sounds obvious, right? The first step is establishing a strategy. Set up the goals for your marketing strategy and determine the different interactions and touch points that each customer will have with your business.  Asking yourself the following questions will help you draft this strategy:

        • Are we collecting data about the interactions that the customer has with our brand? (purchases, email behavior, website visits, etc).
        • Are we able to execute a personalized Direct mail campaign with our current Direct Mail Vendor?
        • Are we able to consolidate data from past Email and Direct Mail campaigns to decide the next best course of action?

2.     Data

If you truly want to deploy 1:1 communications, you need to be capturing customer data. If you’re not doing so already, you need a strategy in place to collect customer data. When it comes to email, you should have a preference center website that enables recipients to update communication preferences. Always remember to follow CAN-SPAM rules and offer users the opportunity to opt-in and out of communications. Remember, with this approach, you’re not blasting everyone on your list – you’re selecting recipients based on preferences or triggers that you’re establishing.

3.     Delivery

An advanced platform such as ExactTarget will help you house customer data, deliver email messages and create personalized journeys based on the data you are capturing. Here at Precision Dialogue we specialize in connecting platforms like ExactTarget with our Direct Mail Digital Variable Printing engines, to allow Marketers to trigger Direct Mail communications based on real time triggers and vice versa. For this component, you don’t need to focus only on the technology but also on the team that will execute your Marketing campaigns. This process could be a full time job for several people. It’s best to leverage a campaign management team or an agency to handle the entire coordination and execution of the campaigns.

4.     DAM (Digital Asset Management)

You have your strategy, you have your Delivery mechanism. Now the question is, where do you store all assets for Direct Mail campaigns? And can these assets be also on the same location as my email assets? A DAM such as Widen, enables companies to house all digital assets such as imagery, logos, videos and more to create, manage, share and analyze digital content. If you have a complex approval process, a tool like Widen will allow you to simplify this process with out-of-the-box and easy to use feedback functionality.

5.     Reporting

It’s imperative to track the performance of your campaigns to see how they were received by your targeted audiences. You can acquire basic reporting from your email platform that will provide basic metrics including open rates and click through rates and you can get simple tracking via coupons on direct mail pieces. However, the process of compiling all measurements into one document takes time. Combining this information in a single reporting tool will allow you to spend more time analyzing the information instead of trying to collect it from multiple sources. After you analyze the results from your campaign, it’s best to revisit the strategy and adjust the campaign if needed to achieve better results.

Conclusion

If cross-channel marketing is one of your goals for 2015, be sure to keep in mind that A) direct mail should definitely be included and B) email can be integrated with direct mail to optimize 1:1 customer communications.

Need help integrating these channels into your marketing mix? Please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn how we can help brainstorm a plan to meet your goals!

Precision Dialogue Awarded Partner of the Year at ExactTarget Marketing Cloud’s 2014 Connections Conference

September 25th, 2014
Partner of the Year for Channel Program

Partner of the Year for Channel Program

We are proud to announce that we have been awarded the 2014 Channel Partner of the Year by ExactTarget Marketing Cloud at their annual Connections conference. The Partner of the Year award recognized Precision Dialogue as a company with high customer satisfaction that is committed to ongoing team growth while exceeding revenue generation goals. Precision Dialogue previously won this award in 2010 and is now one of only two partners to have won this award twice.

Precision Dialogue has been an ExactTarget Platinum Reseller Partner for more than 10 years. Leveraging the digital marketing platform, the Forrester® recognized customer engagement firm has achieved several accolades warranting the award’s distinction, including:

  • Partner of the Year in 2010
  • ExactTarget Consulting Partner since 2011
  • ExactTarget Referral Partner since 2012
  • ExactTarget Services 2012 Program Team of the Year
  • Dedicated ExactTarget team of more than 30 professionals with over 250 ExactTarget certifications
  • 4 certified Solutions Consultants on staff
  • ExactTarget Gold Certified in Scalable Data Strategies
  • Creators of Magento-ExactTarget integration, CONNECT and Code in Color HubExchange app, simplifying the creation and editing of HTML and Ampscript code
  • Architects of dynamic messaging solutions that deliver a unified customer experience through the email and direct mail channels
  • Comprehensive ad-hoc analytics and business intelligence services to support acquisition, growth, and retention strategies
  • Precision Experience LabSM offering usability testing, focus groups, eye tracking analysis, and optimization solutions
  • Award-winning creative team that designs and optimizes responsive mobile, web and landing pages

“Our team has, and continues to work hard to exceed our client’s expectations,” said Jonathan Hill, EVP/Chief Technology Officer, Precision Dialogue. “The ExactTarget Marketing Cloud provides a market leading platform to support customer engagement marketing and our team is proud to be named Partner of the Year for a second time.”

Precision Dialogue applies a scientific and measurable approach to their full service email marketing services. The agency has served over 75 clients and manages the deployment of more than 240 million emails on a monthly basis. Some of Precision Dialogue’s more notable clients include, Office Max, Regions Bank, Midas, Estee Lauder and Sherwin Williams.

Connections is the premier digital marketing industry conference, bringing together the most brilliant pioneers and entrepreneurs in the digital sphere, offering three-days of education, inspiration and networking with speakers from DonorsChoose.org, LinkedIn, will.i.am and more. To learn more about Connections, visit www.exacttarget.com/connections.

Power Your Journey: ExactTarget Connections is the Event for Endurance Marketers

September 18th, 2014

Are your marketing communications relevant, personalized, and behavior driven? Is your marketing program driven by critical data? Do you have a single view of your customer? Are you maximizing all channels?

While these are goals that all marketers aspire to, the answers for most marketers are “no.” (Or for the ultra-sophisticated, the answers might be, “not as much as I would like.”)

If we all know that’s where we want to go, why aren’t we there yet? There are many different practical reasons, but a big, less practical reason is this: As busy marketers, we rarely allow ourselves to take a step back, evaluate our programs, and strategize real-world ways to make these improvements. We may take the time to read an industry article here and there, but do we really take the time to get inspired about what is possible with data paired with the right platforms? And more importantly, how we can apply those concepts to programs we execute? (Or programs that are so amazing, we haven’t even dreamed them up yet?)

Connections LogoExactTarget Connections is a digital marketing event that allows you to do just that. It’s the premier event from the Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud. The theme for this year is Power Your Journey, and the idea here is that Connections is designed to be the perfect mix of inspiration and enablement.

Connections is unlike most industry conferences. It is not a sales pitch. It is not a big party. It features sessions for all levels of experience and for varying areas of interest (with tracks including Email, Social, Mobile, and B2B). Most importantly, each session will give you practical advice and creative strategies for how to improve your program.

Just because it’s practical doesn’t mean it isn’t also a lot of fun! There are many opportunities to socialize and enjoy entertainment. This year’s entertainment line-up includes will.i.am, The Script, and DJ Casey Connor.

Connections is also known for powerful and engaging keynote speakers, and featured speakers this year include Marc Benioff (Chairman & CEO, Salesforce), will.i.am (entertainer), John Green (author), Beth Comstock, (SVP & CMO, General Electric), Gabriel Stricker (Chief Communications Officer, Twitter), and many others.

The conference will be held in Indianapolis on September 23-25. It’s not too late to register! Learn more here.

Email Marketing Case Study: Accelerating Tria Beauty’s Campaigns on a Global Scale Leveraging ExactTarget

August 13th, 2014
Tria Email Example

Tria Email Example

Managing an email marketing campaign on a global scale can be daunting. However, when you blend a team of email marketing experts with a robust platform such as ExactTarget, a wave of encouragement ensues. Learn how we helped our client Tria Beauty, a global retailer of FDA approved laser hair removal and skincare products, elevate their current email marketing campaign to a global scale. Together, we worked to solidify over 130 post purchase streamed emails that targeted customers on an international level.

 

In this webinar, you will learn how we implemented and maintained a full service email campaign with examples of the campaign process, which was comprised of audience selection, creative and HTML production, email quality assurance and campaign deployment.

Register Now

Lessons Learned from Shutterfly’s Recent Email Error

May 16th, 2014
Shutterfly's email mistake

Shutterfly’s email mistake

“Congratulations on your new arrival”

A very thoughtful subject line, but one that I wasn’t prepared to see in my inbox Wednesday.  I found myself thinking back to my morning and taking a mental headcount of the breakfast table.  My husband had already headed out for the day so there was me, my kindergartener and my (technically) newest arrival who will turn 3 years old in July.

We’re all human, and let’s face it, we make mistakes every now and then.  However, taking important steps to mitigate as many errors as possible in an email marketing campaign will pay-off, and also alleviate potentially public apologies down the road.

Unfortunately, Shutterfly  received a lot of negative attention for their email error, but there are ways to ensure your email campaigns are developed and deployed correctly, if you review each of these checkpoints:

  1. Data Accuracy – Data driven campaigns can only be valuable if you have the right data attached to your customers.
  2. Email Content – Copy and images should reflect the original email design and a thorough spell-check should be completed.
  3. Coding Accuracy – A well-designed email with compelling call-to-actions won’t get you very far if your links are broken or your email isn’t rendering properly on a mobile device.
  4. Deployment Details – Sender profiles, subscriber lists, exclusion lists, …..every detail of the send should be thoroughly reviewed against the specifications for the deployment or you can risk sending to an incorrect audience or having the right audience receive the wrong message.

Documenting each step in your review process and creating checklists will also help alleviate potential errors and help build confidence in your team to press that “send” button to thousands or even millions of subscribers.

Need help in reviewing your email quality testing processes, but don’t know where to start? Check out our Slideshare presentation on “Email Quality Testing Best Practices” as we expand on the key items you should review in your email campaign before deploying to a live audience:

 

And not to brag, but as for me and my “new arrival,” we are happily sleeping through the night.

 

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

February 25th, 2014

Starting this week, Gmail is introducing a new unsubscribe mechanism that will allow a subscriber to be removed from email communications by clicking on a link that will be located next to the sender’s email address.

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

The Gmail Unsubscribe Tool Explained Simply

 

When you click on this link, you will be prompted to confirm if you want to unsubscribe from all emails sent from this sender.

How does this work?

When you click on this particular unsubscribe link, Gmail will contact the email sender engine to request you are removed from all email communications. Note that this request might take up to 3 days to be processed, as it will be the responsibility of the email sender to unsubscribe you.

This link doesn’t really replace the Unsubscribe link that you would usually find in the footer of an email, but it provides a different way to accomplish the same action without having to dig into the email to find this link.

Why is Google doing this?

The Google team explains that this mechanism will help subscribers to stop getting emails that they could be considered as SPAM – they realize that subscribers get buried with emails they really don’t want to receive anymore.

How does this feature impact Email Marketers?

If you are a good marketer, you shouldn’t be worried. As a marketer you will always want to send relevant messages to your subscribers in a timely manner. And, if your subscribers want to unsubscribe from your messages, you should provide them with an easy mechanism to do so. This new tool also helps with subscribers reporting your emails as SPAM. An additional mechanism that allows them to unsubscribe from your communications will help with your reputation as an email sender.

Top 5 Digital Marketing Trends for 2014

February 5th, 2014

The trend of increased customer engagement will continue to be top of mind in 2014. Just when companies feel they have achieved a holistic marketing approach, new technologies enter the marketplace that further transform the way we interact. It is imperative for brands to take advantage of emerging marketing strategies in order to create the most meaningful, results-driven dialogue. Below, we share our predictions of the top 5 digital marketing trends for 2014 and tips on how to align your marketing goals to meet the industry’s trajectory.

 

1. Content Marketing and the Need for Aggregation

With more social media sites, more retailers offering a variety of email messages, and sharable content, there is an overload of digital content everywhere on any device. There is a tremendous need from consumers to organize and aggregate this content so it’s easier to consume. A driving force behind breaking barriers is content! Just take a look at Gmail’s tabbed inbox, separating personal and promotional emails automatically in consumers’ inboxes. It’s just a friendly reminder to marketers that in order to get noticed in the inbox, messages must be personalized and relevant to each individual’s needs. Marketers have less time to make an impact. Be on the lookout for social media platforms such as Vine and Snapchat to rise in 2014. Vine gives users 6 seconds to make an impact whereas Snapchat gives you 10. How can you compete? Send shorter messages, offer quick promotional codes (such as free shipping), pick images over text and lastly, be authentic! Read how Wet Seal made an impact leveraging Snapchat.

 

Snapchat Case Study

16-year-old beauty vlogger, “MissMeghanMakeup” took over WetSeal’s Snapchat account for two days.

 

2. Mobile Marketing: From Wearables to Where to Shop

With mobile spending accounting for almost a quarter of 2013’s US eCommerce spend, it is safe to say it’s not going anywhere, in fact, it’s on the rise. Beacon technology, relatively fresh to the marketplace, offers the capability to function as a GPS for indoor locations.  Marketers are using Beacon to analyze foot traffic patterns, promote special offerings, guide customers specifically where they want to go and tailor marketing messages to their target audience’s taste and preference. For now, Apple seems to be leading the pack with their self-branded iBeacon, but other brands are utilizing identical capabilities through Beacon technology to implement location-based marketing. In addition to Beacon, we expect wearable devices will be an increasing trend in 2014 – not just owning them, but marketing through them as well.  For example, devices like Google Glass, the Nike Fuel Band and the combined cell phone-wristwatch may market to their users in an innovative way this year.

Brands Using iBeacon

Who’s using iBeacon?

 

Mobile-optimized sites and mobile/tablet apps remain to be most prevalent in the world of mobile, but these are just a few things to look out for.  Your site must be optimized for mobile. If you’re already optimized for mobile, maybe this is the year you consider developing an app

 

3. Getting to Know Social Advertising

Social advertising is one of the few tactics in social marketing that you can quantify and provide your boss with measurable results. ExactTarget reports that social ad spending will grow to $11 billion by 2017. Make it your marketing resolution to pick one social platform and execute an ad campaign. Keep in mind that there are changes and updates on the horizon to several platforms advertising offerings. For instance, Facebook plans to eliminate Sponsored Stories on April 9th and will continue to streamline their advertising offerings based on their users’ feedback. As for the other platforms, Twitter will be partnering with Epsilon to offer highly-targeted Promoted Tweet campaigns leveraging CRM data, while Instagram’s sponsored posts and Pinterest’s Promoted Pins are beginning to take flight. Need help measuring success? Look into social advertising platforms such as Marin Software, Social.com or Kenshoo which can help you manage, optimize and measure ad campaigns.

 

4. True 1:1 Marketing Will Soon Be the Only Way

With today’s technology, it is remarkable to see brands who continue to settle by marketing to the masses. We keep hearing how data-informed, targeted messaging increases engagement, response and conversion with your prospectives and customers. A few takeaways to consider? Start with customizing your email program. Believe in the power of the Abandoned Cart Email – and if you’re already doing that, use the insights on your customer base to segment and deliver unique, relevant offerings. Incorporate this strategy in an omni-channel approach.

Ulta's abandoned cart email.

Ulta’s abandoned cart email.

 

Another way to personalize content is with the digital variable print capability: a technique which elements like text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process, through using information from a database or external file. See how we have helped clients do this within their direct mail programs.

Digital Variable Print example

Precision Dialogue leverages Data Variable Print for Chevy and GM.

 

 

5. Digital’s Role in Omni-Channel

Omni-channel is the hottest buzzword in the marketing world and everyone seems to have various definitions. We are defining omni-channel as “multiple channels of customer contact, but managed in an integrated manner.” With mobile and tablet penetrating the marketplace like never before, consumers are always connected and always on. Therefore, it’s imperative for marketers to deliver consistent brand experiences across channels. We recommend that marketers invest in customer journey mapping to understand the steps customers take when engaging with your brand. Also, don’t be afraid to drive consumers in-store with location based marketing with mapping technology such as iBeacon.

 

So, there you have it! If you would like to learn more about our top trends, please watch our webinar recording on-demand. We’d love to hear your predictions for digital marketing in 2014, please write them in the comments section below.

ExactTarget Distributed Sending: Managing Multiple Voices to Deliver a Constant Message

January 10th, 2014

Organizations that are built with dealers, branches, or franchises are uniquely challenged in delivering a relevant message to regional subscribers, while maintaining a consistent corporate brand. With ExactTarget Distributed Sending, organizations can now create and deploy targeted, local email marketing campaigns that still meet corporate’s brand standards.

Benefits

Here’s how it works: ExactTarget sets the client’s account allowing corporate to control the email templates, the images, the subscriber lists, etc. for the dealers, branches or franchisees to use. Individual rep or franchise access can be controlled by either default user roles* or custom roles built off the marketer’s requests.

DistribututedSendingBlog_Image

Applying these simple features can let corporate give their local reps the ability to deliver professional level marketing campaigns, while avoiding spending the time and resources training them.

Why This Feature Works

Distributed Sending allows those who are delivering messages to do so in the way they see fit for their audience. Account users have the ability to deliver their messages the way their region wants to receive them, which is not always possible when messages are delivered at the corporate level.

For example, if a franchisee has a carnival going on near a certain store and sees the chance to increase business with a coupon, they can create the message in ExactTarget and send it out when and to whom they want. They also have the opportunity to deliver monthly messages with updates on product prices.

Distributed Sending empowers marketers to take their email marketing to the level they see fit; allowing for weekly, monthly or even yearly emails to be distributed at a regional level. The best part about a controlled environment is that it’s completely customizable and can be configured to fit any business structure.

Want to know if Distributed Sending is right for you? Contact us for a demo, or more information please contact info@precisiondialogue.com or 887.332.9222.

What Would Jean Claude Van Damme Do?

January 6th, 2014

If you are an email marketer, you know that throughout the year you have to live different types of experiences (good ones and, not so good ones) and sometimes it’s hard to find a good way to cope with them.

For the new year, I’ve compiled a list of things that happen in the everyday life of an email marketer and answered them with a simple question: What Would Jean Claude Van Damme Do? Or, like I like to say, WWJCVDD?

 

When you hear that someone bought a list of subscribers, breaking all the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act, ask yourself WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-1

Click here to learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act.

When your team deploys a very complex email marketing campaign successfully and you feel like celebrating, ask yourself… WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-2

Watch this video to learn what we do and why we do it so well.

When you are concerned about being able to balance creative direction with email design best practices, simply ask yourself WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-3

Read our three-part blog series on some of the most common and dangerous mistakes Email Marketers can make in their campaigns.

When your QA specialist stays up late to do the last round of tests for a deployment early in the morning and you can’t help but feel love for them, just ask yourself…. WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-4
Watch our Email Quality Testing Best Practices webinar to learn more about thorough QA best practices.

When you have to click the SEND button because your deployment specialist is gone for the day and you just don’t want to look, ask yourself: WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-5

When you clicked that SEND button and you feel so proud of yourself you just want to celebrate again, just say it… WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-6

And lastly, when your client calls you to tell you that your team is doing such a great job and they feel they can count on you, just ask yourself the question: WWJCVDD?

Jean-Claude-Van-Damme-7

 

Learn more about how our Email Marketing team applies their expertise and JCVD philosophy to drive clients to success: http://www.precisiondialogue.com/services/digital/email-marketing

Happy New Year!

 

Part 3: Five Common and Dangerous Email HTML Coding Mistakes

November 21st, 2013

Note:This is the last of a three-part blog series on some of the most common and dangerous mistakes Email Marketers can make in their campaigns. Part 1 dealt with common pitfalls when conceiving and planning an email campaign, Part 2 demonstrated some common mistakes made in designing emails. In this third article, we get down into the nitty-gritty with our list of production best practices and thoughts on common snares for email coders.

When developing HTML emails it is very easy to try and get too fancy and complicated with your code. You have to remember your code has to work with more than 35 common email clients with varying support for modern HTML features. Things you rely on for web sites—JavaScript; div tags; background graphics; CSS cascade to name a few—don’t necessarily work when coding your emails.

The goal of an email is to deliver a clear and concise message to every one of your subscribers. In order to ensure this, it is important to use some of the following coding best practices; incorporate a text version, be aware of the ever-growing percentage of mobile users, abide by the CAN-SPAM Act (or equivalent in your recipient’s country), and last, but not least, check your work through a thorough Quality Assurance (QA) process. Following these steps will help ensure that you will have a good base when coding your next email for a client or your company.

  1. Not Following HTML Email Coding Best Practices
  2. One of the most common problems we see are marketers who fail to learn and follow email coding best practices. Failing to do so can leave them with emails that either look strange or even fail in many email clients. Subscribers that receive emails that look poorly made in their own email clients will be less likely to trust your message. Poorly crafted HTML will dramatically raise your spam score, making it less likely that your email will reach your intended targets.

    To get you started I will touch on some of Precision Dialogue’s suggested best practices.

    • Use Tables Instead of div:Yes, this is the opposite of best practices for web pages but remember that many email readers, including some of the most popular ones, parse HTML as if it was 1998. To make life easy it is going to be best to use tables when creating your email. Most email clients do not support CSS positioning, floats and clears. Make sure you properly nest tables and close all open tags.
    • Don’t Use External CSS:You do not want to use external style sheets and you’re going to want to keep all of your CSS inline. I personally try to avoid using any padding left and right, p tags, ordered list or breaks if at all possible.
    • Use Tables instead of Lists:Lists align in widely differing ways across email clients. Instead, use a nested table with rows to build out an ordered or unordered list.
    • Image Styling:Always remember to style an image with no border and set display to block or you will get very strange results in many common email clients. It is a good idea to specify your image’s pixel height and width but never try to specify a different size than the actual image size. Outlook and other readers will ignore your specs and show the image at its native size, often messing up your layout.
    • Capture

  3. Failing To Include or Properly Format a Text-Only Version
  4. Many people view emails in text-only versions, either by choice or because they have to. Reliable statistics are hard to come by because you cannot track text-only. While most, but not all, subscribers can view HTML emails, many prefer text-only versions for privacy reasons. Actual percentages depend on your subscriber demographics. You should also know that absence of a text version will up your spam score significantly in most spam filters.

    With smart phones becoming more and more popular, a lot of developers overlook the importance of creating a text version of the email. Just because you have the latest and greatest phone doesn’t mean everyone does and losing out on any potential click through can end up costing the client or your company money.

    When marketers fail to optimize their email for both versions, subscribers can see a broken design and an ineffective email. When setting up your text version, try keeping the lines shorter so subscribers don’t have to move their eyes so far across the page and back to read the email, making scanning faster and easier. Also make sure to add space between paragraphs and headlines to allow a nice and easy flow for the recipient.

  5. Failing To Use Mobile-Friendly or Responsive Design
  6. Nearly 50% (according to Litmus.com) of all emails today are opened on a mobile device. It is going to be important moving forward to make sure your emails look good on mobile devices and moving to responsive designs is going to become more and more popular. When coding your mobile email it is important to take into account how the email will scale down to fit the different screen resolutions. This can be accomplished by using media queries which tell the email client what criteria needs to be met before it uses the styles therein. Also by using attribute selectors you can avoid glitches that can be found in several email clients. Also it is a best practice to add “!important” to the mobile specific styles to ensure they take precedence over other styles.

  7. Ignoring CAN-SPAM Laws
  8. With all emails and email lists the subscriber rules and in order to get your message to the people that want it the most, it is best to use a permission-based email send. To ensure that this happens, it is important to follow the CAN-SPAM laws by having an opt-out link. This allows people to state whether or not they really want to receive your emails. Also including a legitimate physical address gives the email receipt confidence that the email they received is from a reputable source. Setting up accurate from lines gives the email a great first impression.

  9. QA process
  10. Probably the most important and biggest mistake marketers make coding emails is not testing your code through a QA process. Things render differently in every email client and just because it looks okay in one client doesn’t mean that it does in another. Also typos, grammatical errors, improperly targeted content and broken links erode your credibility and can jeopardize the success of your campaign. A solid proofing and quality assurance process is critical to making sure that your email marketing is perceived in the best way to help with creating a brand that can be trusted.

We hope this listing of some of the most common problems we’ve run across over the years will help you avoid making the same mistakes others have made. We welcome your comments and stories of mistakes you may want to share. Learn more our email solutions and how we can help your email marketing campaigns.

Part 2: Five Common and Dangerous Email Design Mistakes

November 13th, 2013

Note: This is the second part of a three-part series on some of the most common and most dangerous mistakes of Email Marketing Campaigns. In our last article Part 1: Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes, we took a look at the big picture with some of the most common conceptual and overall campaign mistakes email marketers make in conceiving their campaigns. In this article, we look a little closer at some common email design mistakes.   Dangerous Email Design Mistakes

By design, we’re not talking about how “pretty” or avant-garde your email is. That’s between you and your graphic designers though, surprisingly enough, if you test, test, test as we mentioned in the previous article, you may find that sometime, the prettiest and sexiest emails don’t always convert as well as plain-Jane emails. But there are structural design issues that always seem to hold true and failure to follow these rules can be damaging or fatal to the effectiveness of your emails.

  1. Poor Subject and Pre-Header The handful of words you choose for your subject line and pre-header text may be the most important words in your email. People decide whether or not to open the email by the subject line and in some readers, the pre-header text. If they don’t open the email, it doesn’t matter how snazzy your design and message is.By testing, again and again, you need to determine what words and which presentations get the most opens. Do you personalize it or not, do you say “free gift” or “super opportunity”—depends on your product and your audience. The only way to know is to test but it is of the utmost importance you get this right.

    And, you have to balance your enticement to open against the words and phrases most likely to get you blocked by spam filters or blocked by subscribers who think you are coming on too strong.

  2. Overcomplicating Your Call To Action So let’s assume you read our previous blog post and now you have a Call To Action. It does you no good if your user can’t find it. The design of your email should be such that the user can clearly see how to take the action you want. If it is a button or link, make sure it is prominent and that it looks like a button or a link. That may sound obvious but many cool and avant-garde designs hide the standard underline and ugly blue link color for esthetic reasons or make buttons that don’t look like buttons to a standard subscriber. Steve Krug entitled his classic book on Web Usability Don’t Make Me Think (Berkeley, 2006) and his advice is as good for emails as web pages. People don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth to spend searching your artful but confusing email to figure out how to do your action. If they don’t know where your CTA is, they can easily delete your email.Another common mistake is to have too many CTAs. Think of the email as your opening lines in the conversation with your user, not the entire discussion. You need them to take the next step, to click on the link to your landing page where you can then entice them to buy or act. Don’t expect them to click on the “buy now” button from an email (in most cases). Don’t expect them to hang around your email if there are lots of little CTAs and it is unclear which CTA is the important one. Your email, like your web pages should be more like a funnel than a whack-a-mole game.

  3. Too Much Text How many emails do you get a day: 50, 100, 200? Are you going to read an email that looks like a WSJ article? Maybe if you are already really, really, interested in the subject. Emails are the first step in your conversation with your customer. In most cases, the only real purpose of an email is to get the user to click a link for more information. They should be short, sweet, enticing and to the point. Give the user enough information to get them say “yes” by following your CTA. If they need more information, give it to them on your landing page.

  4. Putting Too Much Text in Graphics Designing emails that look the same in all email readers is a frustrating experience at best and a nightmare when you expect emails to act like web pages. Designers who get frustrated and decide to send everything as one big image or one big sliced up image run into another set of problems.

    • All-graphic emails are more likely to be marked as spam by the spam filters.
    • If your user views emails with all graphics off, you’ve sent him or her a blank email. Many users do this to avoid tracking or to keep their download sizes small.
    • This violates generally accepted accessibility standards, meaning that if your subscribers use a screen reader for need or convenience, you may have well just sent a blank email.
  5. Not Considering Email Size Web designers have settled upon 1024 pixels as the general minimum screen size for web pages so many go ahead and design emails the same way. For many reasons, this is a very bad idea. First, most people do not view web pages in full screen, most people, even on their desktops, view email within a much narrower column.Things get even tighter when you consider that almost half of all emails are now opened on a mobile device (according to Litmus.com). If you’ve designed your email at 900 pixels wide, they will either see the whole page with teeny-tiny fonts and pictures or they will see it 100% and have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll to try to read your message. They won’t do that, delete is much easier.

    We recommend an email be no wider than 600 pixels and no longer than it needs to be.

    If you really want the best experience for your subscriber, use responsive design. In responsive design, the graphics, layout and font sizes of your email will adapt to whatever size screen your subscribers is viewing it within. Your subscribers get the maximum experience and will be more likely to read and process your message properly.

Next: In the next article in this series, we will go into the real nuts and bolts of email development and show you production best practices and how to avoid some of the most common HTML and production mistakes.

Part 1: Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes

November 4th, 2013

emails

Email Marketing. I remember thinking “It’s just sending emails, how hard can it be?” I’ve since learned, as I’m sure you have too, that there are lots of ways to go wrong. Murphy’s Law—whatever can go wrong, will go wrong—is one of the fundamental laws of human experience. With our unique perspectives and the combined knowledge of all the experts here at Precision Dialogue, we came up with what we hope is a good primer for circumventing Murphy’s Law.

As we see it, there are three major categories of email mistakes and each post will handle one category from the very broad Conceptual/Campaign level, through Email Design and finally into Details of Production. So, we have written a 3-part series that highlights some of the most common mistakes we see when we help clients evaluate their overall email strategy and SOP. The first part of the series are “Five Common and Dangerous Email Conceptual/Campaign Mistakes.”

  1. Using Bad Email Lists

    You’ve heard this before but we can’t emphasize it enough. Don’t buy email lists and blithely send emails out to people who haven’t asked to be contacted by you. The risk here is far more than wasting your time and money with uninterested customers, the real risk could come to losing your email reputation and being severely crippled in future sends.

    Here’s the reason: spam is a huge problem for everyone. About 70% of all emails sent are spam and the vast majority of this pile of crap is blocked by spam filters before it ever reaches the subscriber. The people blocking spam use a variety of techniques to cull the good email from the much bigger pile of bad emails including “honeypots” and sender reputation. A honeypot is a bait email address that never agrees to receive commercial emails. If an email is sent to these addresses, it is considered spam.

    Your sender reputation is determined by many factors including volume, bounce and rejection rates, number of complaints, number of unknown users, and much more. Reputation can follow both the IP address you are sending from and from your domain.

    If you buy lists, even from “reputable” list sellers, you are likely to run afoul of honeypots and to harm or possibly destroy your sender reputation. Recovering from this is expensive and time consuming. And don’t forget the damage you do to your reputation among subscribers who do get your commercial emails and don’t want them and peg you as a sender they don’t want to do business with.

    Even if you don’t buy lists, you can run into similar problems if you don’t maintain your own list of subscribers. Subscribers who haven’t responded to you in a long time, email addresses that are bouncing, unsubscribes who are never properly removed—All of these can damage your reputation as well.

  2. Not Knowing Your Audience and Not Targeting Your Message

    Emails are meant to sell or persuade. Ultimately, you are trying to get a human being to do something: buy your product, vote for your candidate, donate to your charity or volunteer their time with you. You need to have a conversation with them and this requires you knowing what will motivate them and just as importantly, knowing what would keep them from performing the action you want. Tailor your email campaign to both satisfy their wants AND address their questions. Your message, your tone, your design must be created and directed specifically to the people you are trying to reach and this means putting both a lot of thought and a lot of research into your campaign.

    Once you know why people are inclined to listen to your pitch as a whole, you want to start segmenting them into smaller groups and honing your message to their individual needs. The more relevant to their wants and needs they find the message, the more likely they are to click through and ultimately convert to a sale or action. Conversely, you also want to avoid sending the wrong incentives to people. If you sell food, you don’t want to send a list of meat specials to vegetarians…

    Simply put, tailoring your message and properly segmenting your audience will improve your click-through and conversion rates, sometimes dramatically.

  3. Not Continually Measuring Your Effectiveness

    How do you know what effect your targeting and segmenting is having on your bottom line? You have to measure it now and keep measuring it in the future. You must review the campaign statistics every time you do a send. This allows you to see what works and what doesn’t work, give you warning when things may be going wrong and gives you the statistics to gloat when you are doing things right.

    Email campaign software can offer a whole host of statistics, all of which are important. These include:

    • Bounce Rates and Delivery Rates: Find out wow many of the emails you send reach the inbox. This can tell you about the health of your email reputation and your mailing list.

    • Open Rates: Find out how many people open your emails when they reach the inbox. This can tell you about your reputation with subscribers and give you insight into your subject lines and pre-header text.

    • Unsubscribes and Abuse Complaints: Even if people signed up for your emails in the past, they may unsubscribe or worse even complain if your email doesn’t match their needs.

    • Click-Through and Conversion Rates: These will tell you how effective your messages and call to actions are.

    All of these statistics will change over time and email sends; some cyclically, some as you try out new segmentation, new messages, new design and new incentives. It is vitally important that you watch your statistics to get to know your audience better and better over time.

  4. Not Integrating Your Emails with Your Brand and Website

    The look, feel and branding of your message should be consistent throughout the customer’s experience. It is jarring to have an email that looks different from your website when a subscriber clicks through. If the brand looks and feels different or the message on the landing page does not match the message of the email, the user will often stop the process right then and there.

    Make sure your branding and identity is clear in the email; people don’t respond well to emails that don’t look reputable or look like they’re from senders they don’t know. A well branded email can also reinforce your brand with the user.

  5. Not Having a Clear Call to Action

    If you’re going to the trouble of sending out an email, you want the audience to do something, feel something or know something. First, you have to be aware of what that is and make it clear to the user what it is you are asking them to do, preferably something you can measure like a click through. Just providing information like your price list or current offerings isn’t enough and certainly isn’t measurable. Get the user to do something such as click for more information, buy something, fill out a survey, or somehow communicate their interest to you.

What’s Next? Check back next week as we get into the nitty-gritty of the email process by discussing five common and dangerous design mistakes. We’ll also post a third installment the following week regarding five common and dangerous production mistakes.

Making Email Part of the Consumer’s Every Day Process

September 30th, 2013

checking_emailMany of us are used to a common routine – we wake up in the morning, plug-in the coffee pot, pour ourselves that eye-opening cup of brew, shower, get the kids ready and off to school and then we are off to begin a new day. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, some of us try to squeeze in a moment to check our emails. Whether it’s work, personal, on our mobile devices, or our desktops, emails have quickly become part of our everyday process.

So what is it that we want to see when we check these emails? What catches our eye? Are we skimming & deleting or are we really spending time reading these messages? Within the short amount of time that we have to focus, we need to determine which emails are worth our while.

Below I’ve outlined a few things that I personally look at once I see that email hit my inbox on those busy mornings and what marketers can do to help improve email open rates:

    • Subject Line – The first thing you read. Is it an eye-catching message? Did it encourage me to click through to continue?
      → Tip: Email subject lines are the gatekeepers. The subject alone tells me if it’s worth my time to open. So, keep it simple and to the point.

 

    • Email Content – Ok, so you got past the subject line. Now, what are you looking at?
        • Personalization – Do they know me? Have I engaged with them before? Are they showing me products that I’ve purchased before or a service that I’ve used in the past? If yes, I’m probably more likely to continue reading the message. If not, my attention has already shifted back to my next sip of coffee.
          → Tip:Make your personalization efforts more conversational – for instance, “Hi there, Jen!” or “We miss you, Jen.”

       

        • Relevance (in both body content & audience) – Does the message apply to someone like me? Have I ever shown an interest in this company, service, or organization before? I’m an avid fitness buff, so I would expect to see messages based on nutrition tips or maybe showcasing a new set of workout DVD’s.
          → Tip: Evaluate and apply the data in your database to make your messages more relevant to your audience. Simple demographics such as age and gender can be an easy starting point for marketers to generate more relevant marketing messages.

       

        • Call to Action – What are they asking me to do? If I click here, will it take me to another page full of too much detailed information that I don’t have time to read in my morning? Will I be required to fill out a lot of information? Even if the marketer already knows my information? If yes, they’ve lost me.
          → Tip: Make the CTA simple, make it brief, make it easy for someone to engage in the little time they have in their daily process.

       

        • Images & Copy – Ok, so the subject line and overall content has me interested, but what does the email actually look like? In everyone’s busy morning, we don’t have time to read a bunch of text. We don’t have time to sift through paragraph upon paragraph of detail that really doesn’t directly apply to the CTA or intended message. What images do I see? Do I have to download images in order to make sense of the message? I don’t want to see an extensive amount of copy, or a ton of images that take over my page.
          → Tip: Email marketers should focus on balance. Emails should have an even balance of copy versus images. Want to get it just right? Try usability testing with eye tracking to actually see and hear what your users are saying when they interact with your emails.

       

    • What’s Next? – So, say they got me. The marketer has me engaged. My coffee is getting colder and my husband is screaming for me to get in the car. What can I expect from the marketer next? Will I get another email tomorrow morning? Will it be as relevant and will I want to engage again?
      → Tip: Email marketers need to understand that in order for people to continue wanting their product or service, the stream of messaging must be consistent and relevant. But don’t go overboard and send messages every day for the rest of the year. Make your email part of your consumers’ daily routine. Establish that trust factor, by encouraging them to visit your preference center and letting them determine when and how often they want to receive their emails. ExactTarget has great advice on what to include in your email preference center.

 

Like most people, I am definitely a person of routine. I enjoy process and I thrive on structure. But when it comes to opening and reading my emails, marketers must make it worth my time. They must capture my attention so that their emails remain part of my ‘process.’ Remember, process is hard to break but easy to maintain. Make sure you keep your users in mind to become part of their routine.

Are you ready for some Connections?

September 16th, 2013

Every fall we look forward to participating in the industry’s premier digital marketing conference – ExactTarget Connections! This year, we have not just one, but two of our employees; Patricio Sapir, Director Interactive Development and Marvin Cal, Implementation Consultant, speaking during the breakout sessions, at the conference taking place in ExactTarget’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana September 17-19.

Patricio  Sapir, Director Interactive Development

Patricio Sapir, Director Interactive Development

Patricio Sapir, Director Interactive Development will educate attendees on how to build Hub apps and take them to market in HubExchange, the Hub’s integrated app marketplace, on Wednesday September 18 at 2:30pm EDT. Patricio will explain how he created Precision Dialogue’s Code in Color app which allows users to edit HTML and AMPscript code for emails without having to use separate text editor software.

Patricio Sapir is the Director for the Interactive Development Practice for Precision Dialogue, in charge of developing robust, scalable front end and backend technology that enables products and platforms, bringing together the best of cutting edge software engineering. Patricio has over 10 years of expertise as a Mobile and Web applications developer, architect and Project Manager with a focus on Agile Methodologies.  He is a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Marvin Cal, Implementation Consultant

Marvin Cal, Implementation Consultant

Marvin Cal, Implementation Consultant will discuss flexible framework designs on Wednesday September 18 at 4:45pm EDT. Learn how flexible frameworks can improve your brand with consistent visuals, production efficiencies and campaign performance.

In  a combined role of Senior Graphic Designer and Production Specialist, Marvin has produced many successful email campaigns for our top email marketing clients. He has been working in the interactive field for more than 10 years and his expertise extends beyond email best practices into web design and development, flash animation, banner ad development and interactive applications.

Are you going to Connections? Follow the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #ET13.

Precision Dialogue Launches New App for ExactTarget HubExchange to Edit HTML, AMPscript for Email

August 5th, 2013

CodeInColor_logo

Precision Dialogue, an analytics-driven, omni-channel, customer engagement firm, launched its new Code in Color app for ExactTarget HubExchange today, bringing marketers a new solution to edit HTML and AMPscript code for email within ExactTarget’s Interactive Marketing Hub.

Code in Color highlights words in the code such as AMPscript function names, variables, etc., as well as HTML code, allowing developers to easily identify the code they want to update. Updates are saved directly to the email; therefore the developer does not have to leave the application to make any changes.

Additional features of Code in Color give marketers the ability to:

  •  Open existing paste HTML emails, created in the ExactTarget Email application
  •  Highlight HTML and AMPscript based on what you want to edit
  •  Search within code for specific text
  •  Access to a library of AMPscript code snippets
  •  Update email properties such as name, subject line or encoding

“Code in Color was built to help marketers edit code directly through the ExactTarget email application, eliminating the possibility of overwriting code.” Patricio Sapir, Director of Interactive Development and developer of Code in Color. “Our app is intuitive, easy-to-use and ensures that users are writing emails correctly and efficiently.”

Code in Color is the latest innovation from Precision Dialogue. Precision Dialogue’s cross-channel solutions utilize customer intelligence and insights to deliver informed business strategies focused on maximizing and optimizing customer experiences. Precision Dialogue serves a diverse customer base from a broad range of markets including retail, financial services, insurance, telecommunications, pharmaceutical and entertainment. The company is focused on delivering the promise of customer engagement to drive mutually beneficial relationships between brands and the customers they serve. Precision Dialogue embraces emerging technologies and platforms, aggressively seeking strategic acquisitions and partnerships to position the company among the industry’s foremost customer-focused marketing firms.

“We are pleased to welcome Precision Dialogue’s Code in Color to ExactTarget HubExchange,” said Ian Murdock, ExactTarget’s vice president, platform and developer community. “Together with companies like Precision Dialogue, ExactTarget is transforming digital marketing, providing marketers around the world with a powerful platform and ecosystem of integrated applications to create customer experiences that build loyalty and drive results.”

HubExchange is ExactTarget’s app marketplace that enables technology providers to build and deliver integrated applications within ExactTarget’s Interactive Marketing Hub. Much like a consumer purchases and downloads apps on a smartphone, HubExchange enables marketers to access and install ExactTarget and third-party developed digital marketing apps, making it easy to integrate new features or marketing solutions to power marketing campaigns from within ExactTarget.

For a free 10-Day trial of Code in Color or to learn more visit HubExchange

Introducing Code in Color by Precision Dialogue!

July 16th, 2013

Yesterday Scott McCorkle, President of Technology and Strategy at ExactTarget, officially announced the commencement of HubExchange Week, which celebrates the launch of HubExchange, an app marketplace located in ExactTarget’s Interactive Marketing Hub that allows marketers to leverage the ExactTarget platform to create and offer their own applications to ExactTarget users.

Precision Dialogue was lucky enough to be invited to the party, being carefully selected by ExactTarget to help launch HubExchange with our new app, Code in Color!

Code in Color allows users to edit HTML and AMPscript (ExactTarget’s proprietary scripting language) for emails within the Interactive Marketing Hub. If you are already an ExactTarget user, you may be thinking: how is this different from ExactTarget’s Email application?

Basic Application Features

  • Text tab allows the formatting of a text-only version of your email
  • Properties tab allows users to update basic email properties such as Email Name, Subject Line and language encoding
  • Preview tab allows you to preview your changes

Where Code in Color differs greatly from the ExactTarget Email application’s content creation tools is on the HTML tab.

Nerd Alert! Why We’re Excited

Besides giggling over the opportunity to build applications on a new and robust platform, the initial launch of this application is a true app made for developers, by developers! This means that we’ve taken your coding challenges to heart when creating this app, because let’s face it – we’ve been there!

The HTML tab provides multiple color schemes for code display, which can toggle between highlighting AMPscript and HTML for easy editing. A code snippet dropdown includes basic AMPscript code snippets available for insert. A search field allows users to search for specific content or code within the HTML, and line numbering allows users to quickly find the area of the email they need to edit. Finally, there is a full screen option that allows users to make the HTML tab larger.

HTMLtab_550px

Code in Color Roadmap

What sorts of goodies come with future enhancements to Code in Color? Right now, the functionality allows the easy editing of existing emails only. Here’s what we’re adding:

  • Email creation / copy functionality
  • WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Editor
  • Template support
  • Content area support
  • AMPscript validation
  • AMPscript function library

For a 10-Day free trial of Code in Color, visit your account’s HubExchange today and look for our app!

logo_CodeInColor-PD

For more information on HubExchange Week’s festivities, check out ExactTarget’s 40+ Events!

Who Has Time for Content Marketing? You Do.

May 30th, 2013

Content Marketing – the art of delivering timely, targeted, useful content to customers – is getting more attention these days. With consumers being inundated every minute by countless advertisements, emails, SMS alerts, and more, delivering valuable content is an excellent way to stand out and differentiate your brand. And by endearing customers to your brand, you boost brand loyalty and trust, and ultimately earn more conversions.

While most marketers are well aware of the benefits of content marketing, many feel overwhelmed by the sheer workload involved in producing so much content. After all, not only do you want your content to be timely and useful, but you also want it to be fresh.

Also, don’t forget that you need fresh content across all channels – websites, emails, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, events, and more.

It’s a good thing you have a full staff of dedicated content marketers… right?

In the real world, most marketers do not have staff members dedicated to producing content. So how can you get it all done? Here are some relatively painless ways to continually produce content that is fresh and relevant:

 

1. Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

“Go Green” with your content marketing! Reduce the amount of hours spent by recycling previous content and giving it a new spin, or just straight-out reusing it! If your content is still relevant to your customers, it’s worthy of reusing. You may consider it “old” because you are so close to your own content, but how many people actually read it the first time you published it? Or if they did, how many people remember it? Particularly if you give content a fresh spin, it’s absolutely fair game for recycling.

Here are few ideas for recycling or reusing content:

  • Do you have great articles on your corporate website? Give them a slightly different spin and post them on your blog. Or great blog articles? Same idea – repurpose the same content for your website.
  • Look to your Intranet, internal CRM system, and internal communications as a starting point for external marketing content. For example, perhaps you log customer issues and resolutions in your CRM system. These records can be written up as very helpful “How To” articles. Or perhaps your internal newsletter showcases employees who have been recognized for accomplishments. These recognitions may resonate with customers too; all it takes is a little re-writing.
  • Do your company’s top executives make speeches or give presentations? These can be repurposed as phenomenal marketing content. Take a few key quotes from your CEO’s latest speech and create a “state of the industry” type of article.
  • Events can be an excellent source of content. Trade shows, road shows, product showcases, and workplace events can tell interesting stories for your customers. Often, you can create this content with just a nice picture and a few lines of descriptive text.
  • Customer reviews, whether in the form of online product reviews or emails from customers, are a great source of marketing content. After all, who knows your products or services better than your customers? Good reviews can spark articles on product features or benefits, and even negative reviews can inspire content. For example, you could write an “open letter” back to a customer who provided negative feedback. This demonstrates honesty to your customer base and also affords you an excellent opportunity to defend your product or service.

 

2. Make It Fun

Reinventing content as an interactive quiz is an excellent way to engage customers while capturing valuable data.

Reinventing content as an interactive quiz is an excellent way to engage customers while capturing valuable data.

Repurposing content is great, but repurposing content while making it fun is even better! In our short-attention-span society, you’ll get more buzz from content that is presented in a fun or easy-to-digest format. Quizzes, FAQs, Q&As, Top Ten Lists, etc. tend to get read or scanned more often than long, text-heavy articles.

Here are few ideas for making content fun:

  • Perhaps you’ve published content on ideal uses for your service. Adapt that content by making it a Quiz! “How Do You Know if XYZ Service is Right for You? Take Our Quiz to Find Out?” Make your quiz online and interactive and you can also learn more about your customers and capture email addresses for future marketing.
  • Consumers like to read content in easy-to-understand formats. To that end, repurposing content in FAQ, How To, or Do’s and Don’ts can be extremely effective.
  • Have you received interesting responses on content that you have published in the past? Publicly responding to these comments can be a fantastic way to generate new content and endear consumers to your brand at the same time. It shows that you are listening to what your customers are saying, and gives you an opportunity to explain (and sell) your product or service.
  • Did you know that YouTube content scores extremely high in organic search results? What’s more, it is often fun and interesting. If you have published YouTube videos for your company, consider republishing this content (even if it’s a little dated – as long as it’s still relevant) across your marketing channels.

 

3. Make It Relevant

To take your Content Marketing efforts to the next level, think about ways to generate content that is fresh and relevant to your customers as individuals. This would apply to direct marketing efforts such as email or direct mail.

Sending relevant content is not easy, but it’s also not as hard as some marketers perceive it to be. With even basic demographic information about your customers, you should be able to fairly easily segment your database in order to send more targeted messages.

Here are few ideas for making content more relevant:

  • Can you segment your customer list by geography? If so, sending event alerts (for example, trade show announcements) to a geographically appropriate region is always a good idea. Or, perhaps certain product reviews resonate better with some geographies than others? Take advantage of this knowledge by sending targeted content to these regions.
  • Can you segment your customers by previous purchases? If so, you can take some of your preexisting product content and send it to customers who are most likely to purchase that product based on the previous purchases. It’s even better if you can be very explicit in why you are sending the message. “You purchased ABC product so we thought you’d be interested in hearing about XYZ product.” This reassures customers that you know something about them and are not mass-blasting the message to everyone.
  • Can you segment your customers by last date purchased? Armed with that information and knowing the standard life cycle of your product or service, you can automate a campaign that reminds customers to reorder around the time they should consider doing so. For example, if a manufacturer knows that their product lasts about nine months, an automated campaign can be set up to generate an email or direct mail to previous purchasers eight months after purchase. A follow-up reminder can even be sent a couple of weeks after that. Hitting customers with the right message at the right time can be extremely powerful – and drive outstanding ROI.

 

Content Marketing is very important and when approached the right way, it can be very manageable too. It just takes some dedication and, above all, creativity!

Need assistance with your content strategy, or with campaign automations? Precision Dialogue can help! Contact us at info@precisiondialogue.com or 887.332.9222. 

Protecting your Email Reputation with Unsubscribe and Reengagement

May 20th, 2013

I have a very common name and, as an early Gmail adopter, I was lucky enough to get my name as my email address.

The downside? I get literally hundreds of emails every month that don’t belong to me. Not only do these messages clog my inbox, but with all the newsletters and offers I receive each day, it’s extremely difficult to remember if a commercial message was something I wanted, or if I’m getting it by mistake.

According to Microsoft, 75% of email messages reported as spam are actually legitimate, requested communications. The subscriber entered the wrong email address, didn’t uncheck an opt-in box when they registered for a website, or simply forgot that they signed up. So, these messages are a gray area when it comes to deliverability – they’re legitimate, permission-based sends that are important to some people, but may be considered by others as spam.

To help fight legitimate spam and the inbox clutter caused by unwanted graymail, email providers are increasingly relying on personalized, relevancy-based filtering to determine which messages are important to individual subscribers. If your messages are reported as spam or even ignored, they won’t get priority placement in the inbox, and your subscribers may never see your message.  As an email sender, this means you need to protect your reputation as well as your position in the inbox through a clear unsubscribe mechanism and a reengagement strategy.

Senders are often wary of the unsubscribe option. You’ve spent a good amount of time and effort growing your list, so you don’t want your valuable subscribers to leave. However, if you don’t provide those who don’t want your message with a way to clearly remove themselves from your list, they generally respond in one of two ways:

  • Report your message as spam or junk, harming your reputation with not only that subscriber, but that email provider as well. If enough subscribers report you as sending spam, you risk your reputation even further by potentially ending up on a block list, which impacts multiple email providers.
  • Ignoring your future messages, which tells the email provider that your messages are either not wanted or relevant, pushing you out of the inbox.

Therefore, providing subscribers with a clear and prominent way to unsubscribe is in your best interest as an email sender. You may lose a few subscribers, but your reputation will be protected.

While many senders only place their unsubscribe link somewhere in the footer of the email, consider also putting it at the top, in the “preheader” area. Include a brief reason for the message, such as, “You are receiving this message because you registered on our website. If you no longer want emails from us…” Also, consider giving subscribers preference options other than receiving all messages and unsubscribing. Perhaps someone wants to receive offers from you, but not your newsletter (or vice versa). By allowing them to choose what messages they receive from you, they may be more likely to remain on your list instead of completely opting out.

Example of "Preheader" Unsubscribe Link

Example of “Preheader” Unsubscribe Link

Also consider implementing a reengagement email to keep your subscriber list fresh and filter out the subscribers who are no longer interested in receiving messages from you. A typical reengagement email is sent to subscribers who haven’t opened an email in a particular period of time. The messaging asks if the subscriber would still like to receive email messages from you, and requires an action – usually a click – to stay on the list. Subscribers who do not respond are removed from the email program, and you know the ones who do are still interested in hearing from you. While these campaigns do decrease your list size, the subscribers who remain are more likely to respond to your messages, which will further increase your relevancy in the eyes of the email providers.

Unfortunately, not everyone on your email list will want to receive your messages, even if you are collecting valid opt-ins. They may have changed their minds, forgot they registered, or entered the wrong email address! Luckily, with a clear unsubscribe method and a reengagement campaign, you can maintain a great sender reputation and focus on your most interested subscribers.

HTML5: Meet the new kid on the block

May 9th, 2013

You may have recently heard about HTML5 but it’s more than just a new online buzzword. As the name implies, it is still HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and it still works generally the same way HTML always has but, what you may not know is how it’s different or how it can be used.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) says HTML5 is the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities. What does this mean to developers and the future of the web? HTML5 adds features directly to HTML that previously required multiple technologies. It also includes features to improve organization of content, access of content for people with disabilities, Search Engine Optimization and functionality across devices.

What’s different about HTML5?

The new elements of HTML5

 HTML5 still uses the standard elements such as <div> and <p> but now includes many new elements such as:

•  <header>

•  <nav>

•  <menu>

•  <footer>

•  <article>

•  <section>

•  <aside>

How can these elements help?

These new elements serve multiple purposes that are helpful to developers, users and search engines.

Developers can use these new elements to better organize and label their code making it neater and easier to read. With multiple developers working on files, these elements standardize code allowing designers and developers to immediately understand the structure of a page. Developers can also make their code more efficient by using these elements with CSS to reduce the amount of classes and/or id’s in the document.

Web users with disabilities will have an improved experience with the use of these new elements. Using these elements, devices can better understand and interpret the content on the page, its purpose and its importance which makes it easier and faster for users with disabilities to access the information they need. Elements such as <figcaption> provide visually impaired users descriptions of supporting images using content hierarchy such as a title and paragraph.

Search engines use the improved organization of content to provide their users the relevant and up-to-date information they need. Search engine bots can use these elements to quickly outline the content of a website and more accurately decide if the content is relevant to the keywords of a search.

Interactivity is now easier and more capable

HTML elements have new attributes

HTML5 now includes built in interactivity by using simple element attributes. The type of interactivity that these attributes provide was previously accomplished using scripts. Now developers can save time and creatively use the built in functionality to create applications that function across various devices.

An example of this powerful added interactivity is the content editable attribute. Adding the attribute contenteditable=“true” to an element allows users to type and edit any text within the element. Another example of this added interactivity is found in online forms. Form fields are now able to understand the type of information they’re asking users for. Adding the attribute type=“email” to an input element gives it the ability to validate weather the text is in a valid email format or not.

Examples of HTML5 Elements

Examples of HTML5 Elements

 

The rock star power of HTML5

HTML5 now includes the new jaw-dropping element <canvas>. This simple element is capable of handling very powerful effects, graphics, animations and interactions. Designers and developers can now create complex and interactive online applications that are usable on computers, tablets and mobile devices.

Canvas uses built in functionality with outside technologies such as Javascript or WebGL to create anything from online video games, interactive graphs, applications, interactive animations and more. Although its uses can be complex and intricate, it can also be used to create subtle enhancements that add but do not overpower a site’s design. In the end it is up to designers and developers to decide how and when this powerful technology should be used.

Canvas is still new but its use is quickly growing. Its full potential is yet to be seen but as older browsers and devices are replaced by HTML5 supported technology, its place and capabilities will be realized.

HTML5: Canvas Element

HTML5: Canvas Element

 

Conclusion

HTML5 is packed full of new features that improve a user’s experience, save developer’s time, increase efficiency and enhance Search Engine Optimization.

Older websites can easily be updated with these new features as there is nothing to install or include. You simply start using its new elements and features. Inherently, the new features of HTML5 are not compatible with older browsers but there are tools that allow these browsers to understand most of the new features.

As always, it is important to understand your site’s technical needs and who will be using your site when deciding on which features to include. However, we can rest assured that HTML5 will prove be a powerful and beneficial tool as we move into the future of web design.

Nobody looking at your dashboard? Change the scenery!

May 3rd, 2013

Congratulations on your promotion with a window office!  You move into your office and just stand looking out the window at a beautiful park.  The flowers are in bloom and you are able to see the city skyscrapers in the distance.  Wow!

A couple months go by and you realize that you have not looked out the window since that first day.  So you take a moment to look out the window.  The flowers are still in bloom and you still are able to see the city skyscrapers in the distance.  You shrug and mumble,  “Well so much for the window office, the view hasn’t changed at all.  There is nothing new to see here.”

Ad-hoc analyses show views of the customer profile, product usage, predictive model performance, or customer proximity to stores.  These views are critical to understand at a point in time.  Like that first look out your office window.

But you do not refresh the ad-hoc views again until much time has passed or major changes in customer make-up or product offering occur.  These views are critical for a foundational understanding of a customer base or category performance but what is missing is how to make this actionable on a repeatable basis.

You want to give your dashboard users something new to see.  Avoid the “nothing new to see” reaction.  The consumers of your dashboards need to see changes and the context to those changes if they are going to regularly view your dashboards as a management tool.

Here are some key tips to remember as you are creating dashboards for consumption:

 

1.  Know your audience

Picture the primary user in your mind.  Focus on what their needs are.  Understand what their goals are.  Build the dashboard to answer their questions but also help them answer the questions of their boss. Give them a reason to anxiously anticipate the updated dashboards by providing context to how what they are seeing compares to the past or to different audiences.  Is the mix of products for this segment indexed higher or lower than the average customer?

Show how the information is changing and if that change is significant.  Should they worry or celebrate the change?

 

2.  Tell a story

Users of dashboards and reports get frustrated if all you are serving up are facts.  They want a tour of their business and how it is performing.  They want access to data that provides critical insights on how their customers are responding to marketing stimuli and a view into their entire business performance.

Part of knowing your audience is structuring your message in a way that they can quickly digest and tell others about.  The information needs to be actionable.

Think about how you would take your dashboard and present it to a business leader.  Is what you are displaying distracting from the story or enhancing it?  Is there a better way to articulate what is happening?

A former boss of mine used honor the late, Paul Harvey, by asking “what is the rest of the story?”  There is always more to the story.  Sometimes we do not realize what it is or sometimes we do not think it is relevant.  Challenge yourself to find what is not being displayed on your dashboard that could provide necessary context or background to the story your dashboard is telling.  Maybe this context just needs to be written in a couple paragraphs of background about that product launch or campaign strategy.

 

3.  Balance data with visuals

People process information differently.  Some users just want data tables and others want more visual information.  Create dashboards that address the needs of both of these cognitive styles.

You could create a summary bar of key stats like total sales, sales per customer, sales per visit, or average categories purchased with period over period changes.  This resonates with the data person, but it also is a quick snapshot of current performance -good for the elevator speech to the boss.  Graphs and data tables that best reflect the objective of the dashboard are also displayed.  Avoid unnecessary visualization.

Sample Email Performance Dashboard

Sample Email Performance Dashboard

 

4.  Allow for flexibility

Even if you are the best at understanding your audience and building your dashboard to tell the story, the user still needs some flexibility to explore different cuts of the data.  Some cuts of the data could be time, customer segments, customer geography, region-store hierarchy, department-category-product hierarchy, and marketing campaign hierarchy.

Anticipate what the most likely cuts are but refrain from opening up the flood gates of allowing the user to pick from dozens of cuts and even more measures.  Most consumers of your dashboards are not going to be a power user.  Even if they were, they likely will want to build their own dashboards and not rely on you to build it for them.

Sample Campaign Conversion Dashboard

Sample Campaign Conversion Dashboard

 

Stay tuned for more information regarding Precision Dialogue’s approach to business intelligence.