Saturday, May 26, 2007

How to Improve Your Email Newsletter

Do you have an email newsletter? Many B2B and B2C companies produce a newsletter or newsletters that are geared to a specific audience or audiences. There is no question that newsletters are a great way of keeping your company top of mind to your customers and prospects and increasing brand awareness as well the perception that your organization is the industry expert. Here's the issue: How can you distinguish your newsletter from your competitors and take it to the next level? How can you improve your email opens and click-throughs?

Email Newsletter 2.0

Taking your newsletter to the next level really isn't that difficult. In the "new world" of web 2.0, your target audience no longer just wants to receive information from you but they want the ability to respond and have their say. How do you do this? You allow people to comment on your newsletter articles. A while back I wrote about the concept of a "blogletter" that combines a newsletter and a blog. We see this concept more and more. In fact, many newsletters will display the number of comments that an article has right in the email (you can see the example I provided from the Globe & Mail)!

Why Should I Allow Comments on my Email Newsletter

Here are the benefits:
  • New metrics to measure success: With many email software providers you can see who has opened and clicked through from your email newsletter. Allowing comments takes this further as you can better gauge the uptake of your newsletter. A new email newsletter metric could be number of comments per newsletter or average amount of comments per article

  • Receive valuable feedback: Email communication is typically one way. Your organization writes articles and you blast them to your list. Comments allow your readers to have their say. They can tell you what they like and what they don't like about your newsletter.

  • Lead qualification: There are two benefits here. In order to leave comments, you could add some additional lead qualification questions to the registration process. Typically you would probably only request the basic information for someone to receive your newsletter (name, email, company for B2B). When someone wants to leave a comment, it provides an opportunity to request additional information to help your marketing and sales team have a better understanding of the customer/prospect.

    In addition, if your organization gets its share of leads, you can use newsletter comments to help in the lead qualification process. For example, how about metrics such as the number of comments that contact has written and the recency of the last comment? These stats could be used as part of an automated lead qualification process and be displayed on the contact record of the CRM (Customer Relationship Management like that you use.

  • Better insight into your customers and prospects: Positive, negative or indifferent most comments are important. If you were able to include these comments in the contact record of your CRM, your sales and customer support team can get a better sense of the contact, their business and any issues/opportunities that exist. When you leave a comment on my blog, I get an email that tells me what you wrote about. What if you were able to have comments go right to the customer/lead owner as defined by your CRM (If you are doing this right now then I am thoroughly impressed - this can be done)? If the comment is negative, have that person contacted right away! If the person has a question about your industry, product or service have that person contacted right away!
  • Newsletter readers become newsletter contributors: Your email recipients are no longer just contacts that make up a list. They become real people who have opinions. Your newsletter may even create a community of loyal readers and contributors (like an online "Cheers" where everybody knows your name and they may or may not be glad you came). You'll get your regular "commenters" who will express their opinions. You may even want to let one of them write an article. The great part of this is that they will give you ideas about what you can write about in the future. When no comments are provided, this speaks volumes as well as your newsletter article may not appeal to your target audience or it may be over their heads.

  • Your newsletter gets better results: The more you allow people to participate in the conversation, the more you engage them and the better results you will get. If you don't believe me, I urge you to test out this concept for a month and see how it goes. If your results improve, I will expect a cheque.
Here are drawbacks:
  • You need to monitor the comments: Typically, you will want to approve comments before they are added. In addition, you will want to have someone that can quickly respond to negative comments. This can take time and cost money. There are systems that automate this process though.

  • The comments can be negative or just plain stupid: You may have some disgruntled people out there that don't like you or what you have to say. That's OK actually. Having some negative comments shows that you're company is human - hey everyone makes mistakes. The important point is how you respond to those mistakes and turn negatives into positives. As mentioned in my first point, you need to respond to these fairly quickly. You also get the idiots out there who have nothing to contribute except for wanting to advertise their product or service. These just waste your time and there are ways to automatically filter them out.

What do I do to get this moving?

This really isn't too difficult. Most email newsletter articles are posted on web pages. There are a number of software packages out there that will allow you to add comments to your newsletter web pages or to merge a blogging software (like Wordpress) into your website template. Your IT team can assist here or there many consultants out there. I know MarketingSherpa does this and I'm sure they would let you know how they did this. Some of the ideas around lead qualification and capturing metrics in your CRM still need to be flushed out. This was me thinking out loud. To add the number of comments to your email newsletter, why not either publish your newsletter to your site a day before you send out the email so you get some initial comments and then add in the code on your email newsletter. Some software packages out there may allow for this to be dynamically generated - I don't know enough about this (that's not the case for the Globe & Mail example above).

Good luck with this and I hope that it improves your results. If you have tried this already, please let me know.

Chad H.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Get Rid of Your Marketing Database Deadbeats

If you have a marketing database you probably have something in there that is like a cancerous tumor. It's what I call the "database deadbeats". Database deadbeats are what I refer to those contacts who are in your database but are really useless - they don't return to your website, open your emails, register for webinars or buy your products anymore. They take up room and bring your response rates down.

What CBS Sportsline did it to its Database Deadbeats

CBS realized that these database fungi were doing nothing for their email success rates and it gave them one opportunity to confirm if they wanted to receive emails from Sportsline and then deleted them from if no response was provided. As reported by MarketingVOX "The move was made to create a more engaged and active recipient pool after discovering that the high volume of emails was diluting its brand instead of building equity."

While you may not want to be as cut throat (you may want to give people 2-3 chances to opt back in), you need to take a good look at your database and create segments that are not solely based on say vertical or demographic information but also based on activity. Consider sending different call to actions to those who have not expressed any interest in any of your recent email campaigns or visited your website in the last few months. This can include a survey in which you ask them what they want to receive or if you should just remove them all together.

Why do I Need to do Anything? They'll just Unsubscribe if They are not Interested

You may be saying "if these are not interested in receiving our emails, they will probably just unsubscribe ". However, that's not the case as some email recipients are scared to unsubscribe as it may be used against them (it confirms they exist) while others can't be bothered and will just delete your email. Even worse, some may report you as spam. It may be time to say adios to your database deadbeats before your database becomes a mess of data that no one has any faith in.

The cleaner your database, the better response you will receive and the more your confidence your marketing and sales teams will have with it.

Chad H.


Don't Use "Click Here" in Emails", Use This Instead...

Stefan Pollard over at EmailLabs has provided some good tips for creating call to actions for your emails in his article called: "8 Tips for a Stronger Call to Action". Here are the main points that I took away from it:

  • Stop using "Click here" in your emails! Enough already!! You should add links to action words like "Learn more", "Download this white paper now" "Register for this webinar before it's too late" . Click here is old, boring and something your grandma might say. It's like web -10.0 (ok, I added that last stuff for effect).
  • Bold your call to actions to make sure they stand out. This means not bolding too much of your other text
  • Add links for the same call to action on images, links, headers throughout the email. Don't just add one link and pray that the recipient will find it.
  • The call to action answers the question of the recipient 'What's in it for me?". Make sure that this is the case.
  • Make sure you add the call to action high up in the email.
Have fun with your emails and good luck!

Chad H.

Check out my Email Marketing 101: Tips and Best Practices for more information on email marketing.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Elect Susie! Here is Some Creative Viral Marketing

10 year old Susie Flynn has just announced her intention to run for the US presidency and if I was American, I just might consider her. She is trying to raise awareness for children in America without health insurance. There is in fact 9 million children in America without health insurance! Check out her site at I want to applaud her for her great campaign so far and her use of all of the web 2.0 tools such as Youtube, facebook, and myspace.

Ok, so Susie is not her real name and this poor little girl is being used by the Children's Defense Fund but you must applaud their efforts - let's hope that they let "Susie" eat and sleep!

In any case, the campaign is smart, funny and should raise some buzz for the cause of children in America. Good luck Susie!!

Chad H.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

How do I Generate More Leads from my Website?

Many B2B marketers ask these questions daily: We have this great website, we use email, we use search - what else can we do? How can we further optimize our practices to increase the amount of leads we generate?

A recent study by MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm provides some additional insights that marketers should be aware of. They surveyed both vendors and users (people who actually fill out registration forms) to better understand what and why they fill out forms on websites. Here is a summary of the key points:

  • While both marketers and users agree that registering for white papers, analyst reports and demos is acceptable, 45% of users are OK with registering to download product information. This item didn't even crack the top 5 for vendors! What does this mean? It means that you should experiment with putting this information into a PDF and placing a form in front of it. Think about it, a prospective buyer is evaluating your product and wants to read more about you. Most likely, they'll fill out a form (if it's simple) to get a PDF on your product.

  • 72% of users said that a detailed summary of the white paper will encourage registration. What does this mean? Don't just put the title of the webinar on your landing page with a "Download now!" link beside it. Web visitors want a sneak peak at the white paper to ensure that it's worth their time to go through the registration process. You can read about best practices on this area from my post: Improve how you use White Papers for Lead Generation - Part II

  • While most people provide their real name and email address, most don't provide their real phone number or answer custom questions accurately. This means that many registrants really don't want to be called and don't really care to answer such questions as "When do you plan to buy a product like ours?". Besides name and email, choose your registrations carefully! In addition, don't discount leads based on the lead qualification questions you've asked on a web form. Many just choose the default answers so they can get through the process and download the webinar or webcast that they want.

  • 56% of users use business email addresses but 46% use non-business email
    addresses. Just because someone has signed up using a hotmail or yahoo address doesn't mean they should be treated any differently then someone from IBM or Goldman Sachs.

What does this mean for marketers and online lead generation?

  • Try creating product summaries that require registration
  • Ask for basic information only - the more you ask, the less accurate it will most likely be
  • If you want people to register for something, ensure that you provide a good amount of detail on the landing page that will encourage registrations
  • Since the lead qualification data that is provided may not be accurate, build processes that measure activity (email opens, form submissions, web activity) to gauge the interest of a particular prospect and assist in lead qualification. In addition, you may need to use data from third party sources (such as D&B) to verify how qualified a company is rather then relying on what the web visitor provided.
I hope these tips serve you well and good luck in your lead generation campaigns!

Chad H.

PS - please let me know if you have any examples that you would like to share.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Increase Attendence for Webinars and Webcasts

Here's two scenarios that you may have found yourself in:

1. Have you ever signed up for a webinar that your really wanted to go to but then when the day of the webinar came you said to yourself, "I don't have time for this ^&%#".

2. Have you ever created a webinar campaign that had a finally tuned list that was directed at a specific vertical, spent days getting the emails just right, deployed the emails on time, had a good amount of registrations but only had 2 people actually listen in?

How do you increase actual webinar attendance?

It's easy if you have a good topic and a well thought out campaign. This tip will help to ensure that those that registered will actually show up. Steve Girshik over at the The Innovative Marketer published a document I made for my clients that tells you how to create a Microsoft Outlook calendar item that webinar registrants can save into their own Outlook calendar. This ensures that they have booked off the appropriate time and don't skip off. It's only one page - it can't much easier.

As an added tip, why not engage registrants before the webinar by giving them a quick call and asking them what they expect from the webinar or have an automated telephone reminder? I've also had companies send me surveys prior to the webinar asking me what I feel is important in regards to the topic of the webinar and also provides some foreshadowing so I get excited about the webinar.

Hope this helps!



Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Web 2. Slowww - Low Adapatation by Corporations

The discussions around web 2.0. continue to peak my interest and a recent article from shows how little progress large corporations have made in this area.

I Plan to Increase my Lead Generation by 3 billion % in 30 days

Marketers make many promises and not all of them are based on facts (I know, you're saying "really??"). From the article Business Crawls onto Web 2.0, the path to large corporations adopting to Web 2.0. looks promising as it seems that over half of the companies surveyed either have a blog or plan to have one (internal or internal) and the same goes for RSS (Click here for the image). However, the key words here are "or plan to have". If you know marketers, they would like to do as much as possible (and will sometimes promise as much) but there is a little thing called resources and reality that pulls us all back to earth.

The other main issue has to do with the company policies that can can some of these ideas before they get off the ground. For example, podcasts require companies to buy into the idea of publishing regular interviews that can humanize a company. This may require dedicated or partially dedicated resources that seek out customers and industry experts for these podcasts. For many companies, this requires a fundamental shift in the way that marketing is seen as
typically B2B marketers are focused on advertising, events/trade shows, and direct marketing. Podcasts can be seen as a lot money for a lot of nothing. Marketers first need to convince management to trail this concept and then need to prove how podcasts (and other web 2.0. strategies) affect the bottom line.

Private Blogs Don't Count (Either Does Being on Facebook and Having 500 Friends That are Co-Workers)

Does your company have an internal blog? I've worked with companies that have started one and then they died along with other collaboration tools such as an internal wiki, forum and RSS feeds. Why did it fail? There wasn't global adaptation of these tools and we weren't forced to use them. In addition, management didn't review how they were used and paid little if any attention to what was being written. For example, I would write a post on the company blog directed to company executives and no one would respond - nothing, nada (you can tell that I wasn't to happy about this). It's for this reason that I don't even consider these real marketing "blogs" because if they fail it's no big deal considering that the public doesn't see them. These are internal communication devices that can assist a company on facilitating ideas as well as promoting a corporate community (especially for global companies). If you're on Facebook or Link-in along with some of your co-workers, you can't say that your company is web 2.0. savvy. Give me a break. Web 2.0. only really applies when the public is interacting with your company and the conversation is ongoing. Internal web 2.0. devices should be used to support the external ones. For example, an internal blog could be used by marketing to create public blog posts.

Web 2.0. the Reality - OK, my Reality

What I didn't really like about this study was how limiting it was in its definition of web 2.0. Is having a video on your site really web 2.0.? I don't think so. Putting that same video on YouTube and other PUBLIC video sharing platforms is. Allowing people to comment on your video and post their own videos is. I don't even consider a blog as being part of web 2.0. unless I can leave a comment. If I can't leave a comment that it's just a regular website that typically does well in the search engines. I'm not even going to touch areas such as allowing the public to "tag" or recommend content (for more of this, see my recent post on USA Today).

Part of the spirit of web 2.0. is the ability for people to interact with other people and not just have a site or feed where the conversation is flowing in one direction. It's the concept of a real two-way conversation that is causing large companies to shake in their boots. This is evident in the above chart that demonstrates how little the concept of public blogs have been adopted by the Fortune 500. While this is improving, it's evident that most companies only play lip service to the idea of really listening to their customers and prospects and providing the ability to join the conversation.

Yes, there are horror stories out there regarding user generated content but as I've said in the past, if you're already in the public, people are talking about you. It's best to help direct the conversation by providing the tools to do so. In this way, you can better monitor what is being said.

Do you agree with my definition of web 2.0.? How do you define it?

Chad H.




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