Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Email Tip - How to Improve Open Rates

If you send out email regularly, getting a few extra opens is always a good thing. I had read a good case study a while back at Marketing Sherpa that mentioned that you may want to try writing emails that contain some good information at the top of the email as this will seen in the AutoPreview in Outlook. Marketing Sherpa left out a few key items:

a. How the hell do I add something at the top of the email that will display in the AutoPreview but not in the actual message.
b. AutoPreview is not the only place that this text is displayed. If you use Outlook 2003, you also have this message that shows up (typically in the lower right hand corner) with a quick snippet on who the email is from and the first few lines (see below). I don't know about you but I quickly scan this and delete any emails that are junk or that I could care less about. I don't need any more junk stinking up my inbox.

Outlook AutoPreview Defined

This is what I mean by the Outlook AutoPreview:
Outlook auto-preview
As you can see, the "From address" appears, the subject line appears and the first few lines of the email appears. Google's Gmail also does something similar. This feature is something that a user can turn on and off.

There is also that cool little pop-up message in Outlook that appears when a new email lands in your inbox. This was probably the best feature of Outlook 2003 as you can quickly scan emails as they come in. For those of us addicted to email this was either a great thing or a huge distraction. In any case, unlike the AutoPreview, I would say that most Outlook users have this feature turned on. Here is what it looks like:
As you can see, I make mine a bit transparent. Notice how important the AutoPreview information is. For a brief moment, you have the recipients attention - you need to make the most of it.

Why is the AutoPreview Important to Marketers?

If your a marketer, you know all about trying to increase the wallet share of your clients and prospects. When it comes to sending email, your immediate goal is to increase the "inbox share" or at least grab the intended recipient's attention. Typically, the "from" address and the email subject line are the biggest determinants in getting an email opened. The AutoPreview can also determine if an email will get opened. For example, take a look at this AutoPreview:
Notice the HTML code that appears. This is not the most appealing as compared to the AutoPreview examples above.

How do I Code for Outlook AutoPreview?

This is what had stumped me until I found Jeanne Jennings article over at ClickZ called: Optimizing for Snippets. Thank you, thank you Jeanne!! To add a message that will only appear in the AutoPreview but not when the email is viewed, add in code to your email that will display a tiny blank image. In this IMG code (you need to know some HTML here people), use the ALT tags. It's really brilliant and it works.

How can I use the AutoPreview to my Advantage

Subject lines have sometimes been used for more then just factual information. For example, instead of having "Join YourCompany at the Miami User Event" you may have an intriguing subject line like "Wouldn't it be great to go to Miami in the Winter?". This may get some people (especially Canadians in the dead of winter) to open the email but most may see this as junk and delete it. It's a best practice to get back to subject lines that are short and get right to the point. With the AutoPreview, you can get more creative. As an idea, try adding:
  • Persuading information such as the email offer (Now offering a 2 for 1 special! Open this email and find out how.)
  • A thought provoking question (Did you know that 82% of people who have been sent this email have opened it? Here's a better one "Did you know that right now you could increase the amount of qualified leads that your sales team gets by 100%?)
  • An intriguing statement such as an important statistic that cuts off in mid-sentence so you have to open the email to see the rest of it (82% of people who have opened this email have received...).
Test out different ideas just as you would do with other parts of your email marketing campaigns and good luck!

Chad H.

PS - Let me know if you have tried this or had any luck
PPS - Here are some other posts on email marketing:

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Worried About Email Deliverability and Being Blacklisted?

Stefan Pollard over at EmailLabs continues to write great articles on email marketing. In his recent article over at ClickZ called Get Over Being Blocked, he outlines how you can check if your IP address that your emails are being sent from has been blacklisted and how you can get yourself "clean". Your email provider will let you know what your IP address is if you don't know it or check out these IP look-up services: SURBL and DNSstuff.

Not sure if you have been blacklisted? You can check out the following: Blacklist Monitor, Return Path's Sender Score, and Habeas' RepCheck. Some of the blacklists are small and don't really matter. Stefan states that you should be concerned if you find yourself on any of the following lists: Spamhaus, SURBL, or SpamCop. The important item to keep in mind is to find why you are being blocked and to cut out whatever is causing it.

Chad H.


A/B Testing E-Marketing Tips

Does the word "test" still make you tense up and think of your high school math teacher with the bad comb over? When it comes to e-marketing, testing takes on a whole new meaning. If you read Anne Holland's weekly email newsletter, you will typically hear her preaching to e-marketers to TEST, TEST, TEST... at least a few hundred times. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration but if you read her stuff, you know what I mean. Just for fun I went to the home page and saw the article: How to Test Email Landing Pages (More Easily). :)

Testing in e-marketing is definitely important in terms of getting the most bang for your buck. You want to make sure that your message will resonate with those that see it and that it has been fully optimized. This can mean testing a new landing page to see what the overall conversion rate is or testing a webinar invite email to determine the open rate. There are some mistakes in A/B testing though that you need to look out for. Matt Beslkin over at the Ominiture blog points out a few of these in his recent post: The Dark Side of A/B Testing: Don't Make These Two Mistakes!.

A/B Testing Mistake #1: Only Test One Element at a Time

If you're sending out an email it's easy to say: "Let's test a different subject line and a different opening paragraph" as compared to the original email. This is a no-no. In A/B testing you can only provide accurate results if you test one element at a time. As Mark explains it "Changing more than one element in an A/B test makes it impossible to determine which change drove better performance and which did not." If you want to test multiple elements at the same time, you need to conduct multivariate (multivariable) testing. While this can be more difficult, it can save you time in trying to determine what is the key element that will help you reach your e-marketing goals.

A/B Testing Mistake #2: Not Going Deep Enough

Matt then goes on to explain that you may not be delving deep enough into your web stats to determine how well your tests are doing (this is completely understandable coming from an Omniture blog). He is correct that you really need to dive deeper into who is responding to your email newsletter or whitepaper download. Ask yourself the following question when determining the success and failure an A/B test: Who is actually responding to the test email or landing page? Once you ask the question, ask some more questions like the following (geared to B2B):
  • Is it someone in your marketing database that you already know?
  • What type of industry are they in?
  • Which business groups are they? - in B2B it could be engineering, accounting etc..
  • What business titles are responding? C-level executives, managers, Joe Schmo with a hotmail account looking for a free ipod.
  • Are the people who are responding more qualified?
In some cases, the response rate may be better with one test group but the quality of responses may be better in another test group in terms of bringing in more qualified leads that are in your sweet spot. In order to determine the true success of an A/B test, it's best to look beyond your open rates and pageviews. However, if you're just getting started in A/B testing, slow down a bit and read the following.

A/B Testing: Getting Started

If your just getting your feet wet, what I recommend for testing emails is to first test the subject line. It's the subject line that will along with the "from address" that will determine if your email get opened. You can test a longer vs. shorter subject line, test using your company name, add personalization, etc... Typically testing consists of a smaller number of your email list (say 10%) so you can first test these results and send the most successful email out to the majority of the group.

For landing pages, typically the offer and number of fields are the elements that I would test. For example, if you're running a PPC campaign, find out which whitepapers or case studies are getting the higher conversion rates.

While Anne Holland, is all over the need for testing, we all know that this can be time-consuming. It's best to start slowly and look for small wins and then convince others that testing really does improve performance and is worth the resources.


PS - Do you have any testing stories? nightmares? successes?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Good Year Gets Bad Press

I reviewed a business blog in my last post so I thought I would check out and see how Easton was doing in his project to see which of the Fortune 500 were blogging. For fun I checked out Goodyear Tire & Rubber to see what they were up to on the blogging front and have contributed the following to this project.

Cutting Through the PR Crap - Blogs Can Help

While Goodyear may be saying that it set a sales record in Q4 2006, it's obvious that a 3 month strike that ended on December 28, 2006 really hurt the company in Q4 2006 and continues to do damage in the first quarter of 2007. This of course didn't make their PR page.

During the three month strike do you think it may have helped if Goodyear explained why 15,000 union members went on strike? Most likely! It would have been the perfect time to have created a blog to perhaps reach out to customers and the striking workers to show that they cared and that they wanted to reach a quick resolution. Instead of Goodyear having it's own blog, the USW union members created a blog called the Solidarity at Goodyear that covered the union members struggles against the "big, bad" Goodyear that included commentary and pictures. Which side was right in this battle? I'm not quite sure in the long run but it was great to read the heroic stories on the union blog about their fight to keep the Tyler plant open to help it's members keep putting food on the table for their families. It's this direct message that blogs can create that wins the PR wars. The other interesting item was to see the internal struggle between the members that played out in the comments. The fact that this was allowed was fantastic and made this blog even more realistic. Check out this blog conversation.

Goodyear Continues to Have a Bad Year: Jeffrey Katzenberg's Legal Victory

When you bring Hollywood into the mix, you know you have trouble. Goodyear just lost a legal battle to Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg to the tune of $2.71 million for damages to his Utah pad due to faulty Goodyear rubber hoses. Why did that happen? What could have prevented this? Know one will ever really know.

How is Goodyear combating this bad press? By flying away - literally with its new "Get there" campaign which focuses on 2 idiots in a blimp. Are they kidding? It's time to get real and get your head out of the clouds. Let go of the stupid blimp - there's a new thing on Earth called the Internet.

So What? Why Should You Care? You Use Bridgestone Right?

Your competition, customers, and employees are all starting to have blogs out there. They all have something to say and it's so easy to say it with blogs. You're able to control how your brand is discussed and portrayed less and less. What you can do is instead of being reactive and firing off press releases and emails, go on the offense and create a new story that is compelling and brings the focus back to your core objectives and values. Creating a blog is another weapon to help you do this. If you're not convinced, read my last post on how Bill Marriott is doing just this.

Chad H.

PS - I did a search on "Goodyear blog" and this crazy blog appeared. Is that how they are protecting their brand? Do you want to see beer shit associated with your company?


Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm a CEO - I Don't Have Time to Blog! Think Again

If you're waiting for another kick in the ass to get out there and start a corporate blog, check out the CEO of Marriott, Bill Marriott's blog. I love it! Check out his latest on Marriott's decision to ban smoking at all Marriott hotels - this guy sounds like a Texas gun slinger who cracks a mean whip and runs a tight ship. He basically says "If you don't like it, stay somewhere else". Only a blog can you get this personal with your audience.

Why this Corporate Blog works: Authenticity

To show you how sincere Bill Marriott is trying to be, he even records each blog post as podcasts! This adds to the authenticity of the blog because you can have people write for you but it would look really stupid if they had a voice over as well (I wouldn't put it past some companies).

Lastly, you can add comments to this blog- both good and bad (although they do moderate them). When I had a look at this blog, I remembered a few stories about hotels that I stayed at in Austin (which is a beautiful city). I had this terrible experience at a Holiday Inn that stuck me on a smoking floor even after my most heart-felt protests (the old mechanical lung that I received in 'Nam bit didn't work). I vowed never to go back. During my last visit I had a great experience when I just so happened to have stayed at a Marriott hotel downtown on 4th street. On my last afternoon there I felt like &*^# and stayed in bed to try and rest up. I called down to room service and the gentleman on the other end realized I sounded sick and sent up a plate of freshly cut up oranges with my soup order. It's this type of service that you remember and with a blog, you can easily leave comments that you know others will see (I tried to forget that afternoon but Bill's stories jogged my memory). You see that's just it with comments - people add them so they can have their say and have others see that they have written something and then tell others their story.

In any case Bill, keep up the good work and the great service.


PS - Here's an oldie but a goodie:My Top 10 List on the Positives of Corporate Blogging
PPS - In the post Drive Web Traffic or Drive Loyalty? I discussed the idea of making your customers feel special. Giving people a place to tell their story and provide their opinion is similar to this concept in many ways. That's one of the reasons that corporate blogs can succeed. How else can you get closer to a brand that you really love and show your appreciation other then purchasing or experiencing it in person?


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Old Spice, New Marketing Strategy

While Old Spice is still trying to make itself look like the cool, "in" brand to appeal to a younger demographic, it's recently launched a new campaign that embraces that old, stuffy, "that's the type of stuff that my dad used in the dark ages" feeling that we all know. How are they doing it?

The Old Spice Experience

Old Spice has created a few sites to take note of. The first site is a microsite called Experience Old Spice (a nice play on words). What do you see when you first get there? An older, stuffy, Mr. Powell like "gentleman" that could pose as one of your dad's divorced buddies who wants to teach you the ways of the force. The message is one that uses humour to make the visitor (which is target ting males in their 20's I assume) take heed of the older generation for their wisdom and experience. Old Spice is basically saying "Yeah, we've been around for a long time but we must be doing something right and we can teach you a thing or two about being a man". Whether or not this works is another thing but the site works as its entertaining, interactive and may hit those males who have a poor self-esteem problems.

Old Spice continues this "experience" theme with a blog written by a number of so called experts. They have experts like NASCAR driver Tony Stewart who provides traffic tips like "The Left Lane is For Passing". Thanks Professor Stewart. Is your next post going to be "Green Means Go?". I'm just poking fun at you Tony - I actually liked your post (did you really write it?).

Old Spice: Blogs at Their Best

Here's what I liked about this blog:
  1. It's a real blog because I could leave a comment which made me happy. This follows the interactive philosophy of blogs which allows people to post information and others to respond. It's not like a normal site that just displays information. If Professor Stewart answers my comment, I'll donate some $50 to a charity of his choice (let's see if blogs really work!!). What I found really interesting is that my post was published right away without being reviewed! Old Spice is taking some blogging risks! I like it!
  2. Whether Tony wrote this post or not, I liked his attitude. It reflected my own except I try and be a bit more profound. I loved his description of the left hand land "You don’t ride in it. You don’t coast in it. You don’t set up shop and sell trinkets out of the trunk of your car."
  3. There was no overt selling of Old Spice. Tony didn't try and tell me that Old Spice has helped his car win NASCAR races. Old Spice is trying to brand itself as being the product that knows how to make a man a man (whatever) that means and Old Spice products are pat of that mix but there is no overt call to action.
  4. Email addresses are required when you leave a comment. Guess who is building their house list and look at how easy it is!
  5. It's simple. There are articles. There are writers. There are pictures. Any company can make a blog like this. Yes, they have some experts that they've hired but how difficult was it really for these guys? Hey Nike - I would love to see Tiger Woods provide a monthly golf tip or post an experience from a hole that gave him a bit of trouble and what he did to persevere.

Make the Experience Real

Above all, the most important part of this blog is that it's real and believable. The content is factual, it's informative and it keeps changing. This will entice me to keep tuning in and see what "experience" I can gather from these experts and each time that enormous, red "Old Spice" logo at the top of the page will take over my screen and remind me which brand is delivering this value. Any marketer who is considering a blog should take a look at this one - whether you are B2B or B2C. Think about what you are trying to convey with your brand and use a blog to build on that.

Chad H.

PS - I also liked that Old Spice was not trying to change the perceived worldview (a Seth Godin reference) that people have of it's products. Yes, "old spice" does conjure up images of a retirement home and formaldehyde (at least it does for me) but hey, if it's been around this long, it has to be doing something good, right? Well, at least they have a good grasp on how people perceive them.
PPS - Do you have any other blogs that stick out that other companies have done that you really liked?


Monday, February 05, 2007

Feed Icons Library Part II for Blogs

I wanted to do a follow up post from my original Feed Icon Library post as there are so many new icons out there that you can add to your blog!

Be Original with Your Blog

Why use a different feed subscribe icon? Why not just use the regular orange feed icon that you typically see?
While it's easy to keep the standard icon (as it's recommended), why should you? Blogging is about being unique and as long as your blog feed icon resembles the similar look and feel of the regular orange icon people should who recognize the symbol won't have a problem subscribing to your blog. Blogging is all about being different so enjoy these icons below and make your blog stand out.

Thanks to all of the sites that have provided these icons.

Chad H.

PS - If you have some feed icons to add to the library, please let me know.




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