Triggered emails – it’s never ‘set it and forget it’!

I’ve been reading the Litmus blog recently and there are some really interesting articles, all to do with email marketing. Analytics, triggered emails, display testing, subject line testing, designs of buttons, image blocking – if you can think of it, there’s probably a post about it!

I came across this article which is all about triggered emails and their reputation of being ‘set it and forget it’ programs. Some people have even gone so far as to say that once the emails are set up, just quietly run in the background, bringing in revenue and you don’t have to touch them again.

This just isn’t true.

Triggered emails should be called ‘review and renew’ programs, because you should always be keeping an inventory of your triggered email programs to regularly fine-tune them. Make sure you check your emails at least once every quarter to ensure images, links, display rendering and other functionality (such as the View Online link) remains intact.

The team at Litmus came up with two great reasons why you should constantly check your triggered emails: quality assurance and optimisation.

Quality assurance is such a big part of email marketing, because your emails connect your customers to your website, product or service, are an expression of your brand identity, tie into your other marketing strategies and are delivered to a variety of email clients across various browsers and devices. If you don’t check these programs on a regular basis, you could find that they have:

  • Broken links/redirects and old navigation links
  • Out-of-date branding or messaging
  • Faulty trigger logic
  • Broken rendering and functionality because of code support changes at ISPs

If you’re not sure how old the content of your email is, looking at copyright notices is a cheat’s way to confirm. There are ESPs available that let you make automatic updates to these programs, but it’s recommended that you do manual updates, as it forces you to physically view the email and to make other necessary updates.

Take the example below – a lot of subscribers missed the primary message from this cart abandonment email because data about the specific product didn’t populate correctly.

Cart abandonment issue

One major thing to test with all emails – I will do a blog post on this over the coming weeks – is rendering. This is how the eDM will display across multiple browsers and email clients. HTML and CSS is always changing for different Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and there are no standards of support. The example below is a classic example – the alignment of the background is misaligned when the text was added:

Display rendering

Optimisation is key when it comes to reviewing triggered emails. With more businesses adopting a welcome triggered program (consisting of more than one email), there are so many more opportunities for things to be incorrect UNLESS you are constantly reviewing them. Think about that. If you have a triggered email program that has a welcome email with a sign-up link, a birthday email and a cart abandonment email, that is at least three emails to review, renew and retest. Things to consider include:

  • The conditions in which the next email in the series will be/won’t be sent
  • Timing of all emails
  • The messaging across the program and how they interact with one another

Do you have any tips or guidelines when it comes to reviewing your triggered email content? If you do, leave a comment below!

Need some tips to improve your Social Media marketing strategy?

Following up from my previous post, I wanted to do another article on Social Media Marketing and how you can improve your strategy. So when this blog post landed in my Inbox, it was the perfect opportunity to share it around.

The team at GetAmbassador.com have come up with 10 easy Social Media marketing tips to consider when creating your strategy. Here we go!

1) Have a plan!
This should go without saying, but the first rule of creating a Social Media strategy is to have a plan of attack. The plan should have measurable goals that can be analysed once complete to determine whether the plan was executed successfully. Just because it’s ‘social’ doesn’t mean it’s any different to any other marketing initiative. Set yourself specific objectives that can be tracked.

2) Produce valuable content
The customers who view your Facebook business page have particular needs, so the most effective way to keep them coming back is to provide content that addresses those needs. That’s also the best way to encourage social sharing, which will ultimately increase your following and have a greater impact on your business. The more content your produce, the more your customers will take it in and keep coming back.

3) Keep your brand identity consistent
To ensure your customers come to know and trust your brand, you must provide them with the same experience however they interact with you. Whether it’s through social media, via the contact centre on in-store, your message and tone should be consistent across the board. There is nothing more satisfying that hearing a customer say they know your brand and want to engage with you on a personal level.

4) K.I.S.S. – Keep It Super Simple
Just because your competitors are on every social network available, doesn’t mean you have to be! The key to a successful social media marketing strategy is to determine which channels will provide the best access to your target audience and focusing your efforts there. There is no point in having a blog linked to your Facebook or Twitter pages if you’re not going to consistently populate it with relevant content.

5) Quality over quantity
Every business on social media would love to have millions of fans and followers, but this can’t be all you aim for. Social media marketing is only valuable if it helps grow your business. If you have a huge following but those people haven’t been converted to customers or refer your brand to others, it’s not as good as having a smaller group of highly targeted individuals. Make sure you identify your key target audience and keep them engaged with your content.

6) Produce different types of content
My previous post spoke on this very point, that Facebook posts with images have a much higher rate of engagement than text alone. Plus, if you’re into creating video content on new products, almost 3/4 of customers are more likely to visit your website if they watch it. You can’t simply write blog posts and link them to all your social networks – this won’t get you very far and you could lose a lot of customers.

7) Engage with your followers!
This one might also seem a bit obvious, but you would be surprised how many business make the mistake of neglecting the social aspect of Social Media Marketing. You need to engage with your customers and prospects on a personal level – but not just to market your products. Actively engaging with your fans and followers rather than focusing on marketing to them will help them gain your trust and see you as the go-to brand for their needs. Start a discussion, or put up a tweet with an open-ended question so customers can converse with you. Show customers the personality behind your brand.

8) Make it easy to connect
To be successful, you need fans and followers – that’s a given. But you need to make it easy for them to connect with you. Why not include social buttons to all your networks on every page of your website (usually in the footer), so customers can easily join and follow you. You should also include a sign-up link in your email marketing and blog.

9) Tackle negative comments head-on
It’s becoming more and more common for customers these days to take to social media to voice their opinions and share bad experiences they’ve had with a brand. But you should never ignore or delete these negative comments. Make sure you’re responding to them in a timely and positive manner and more often than not, you will get the customer who posted a negative comment turn about face and say something extremely positive.

From experience, it is absolutely crucial that you respond to every negative comment within at least 24 hours, so the customer knows you’re not just forgetting about them. If you let them know you’re looking into why they had a bad experience, they will be happy someone is taking the time to listen and help them out. Sometimes things can spiral out of control on social media, because it is such a public forum. If you need to, take it offline, but post the positive result at the end so everyone else can see the issue was resolved.

10) Measure your results
You need to check your social media marketing results from time to time to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Unfortunately this is not a simple ‘set and forget’ type business – you could end up wasting money and not reaching as many customers as you should. Work out a list of objectives to achieve and a schedule of content – if you stick to your schedule and review your performance against your objectives, you will ensure that your networks will continue to grow.

Social Media can be the main source for learning about new brands, products and services and is undoubtedly one of the most powerful marketing tools for businesses today. These 10 tips are just a snapshot of things you could do to help you reach a higher rate of success and growing your business through social media marketing.

Don’t be afraid to fail

I found this on Facebook this morning and thought it was a great sentiment to share. There are lots of things about life that scare us, and I know for me, putting up my thoughts on this blog about the Digital Marketing space was a huge – and quite scary – step, as I wasn’t sure if people would read it, if they would comment or like it.

But I have come to realise that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, at least you gave it your best shot.

Don't be afraid to fail - be afraid not to try

So my advice to you all is this – do something today that scares you, even if it’s just a little bit. Put up a new blog post. Write your first article on LinkedIn. Ask your colleagues for advice on subjects you’re not confident in. You will grow immensely.

7 ways to drive engagement with Facebook image posts

I have done a lot of Social Media Marketing in my career, so when I stumbled across this post from ClickZ.com, I just had to share it!

It’s widely known that images can increase engagement on social platforms, but have you thought about how you can connect even more with your customers? You know the feeling, you post up a great photo on your Facebook business page and watch intently as the likes start climbing.

Images on Facebook receive over 50% more likes than the average post and a whopping 84% more clicks! The reason behind this? Visual content is transmitted to the brain some 60,000 times fast than text, but there are so many reports and stats showing the value of visual content. But not all images are created equal, and not all images perform equally well, either. The team at ClickZ.com have pulled together some tips to help drive engagement with Facebook image posts.

Share real people
Facebook is the ultimate photo album – a fantastic to instantly share with your friends, family and customers. So then it would make sense that images of real people in real situations perform better than stock photos and staged models.As a brand, who are these real people that you should include in your images? It could be staff members, depending on the situation (at a staff function or trying out a brand new product) but more often it should be your customers and influencers, the true voice of your brand.

Example: Chinese Laundry, sharing images of their fans w wearing their shoes, and recently captured shots of people sporting Chinese Laundry at Coachella.

Chinese Laundry

Focus on faces – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be people’s faces!
We’re hardwired to recognize faces – it’s the ability for us to recognise people from a distance to determine if we know them. This ability is so ingrained that it causes us to see faces in places that they do not really exist, such as fruit, vegetables, rock formations, architecture and other places, a psychological phenomenon is known as “pareidolia.”

Take the example below – can you see the smiling face in the end of the handbag?

Can you see the smiling face?

This is huge for use on social media, as it proves just how powerful the human face is – it’s instantly recognisable are inherently drawn to it. Rather than posting large group shots where you can barely make out each person’s facial features, use close-ups instead.

Use lifestyle imagery
This works really well for the same reasons using real people does – it’s more genuine and, quite frankly, it can be more interesting! But remember, it needs to stand out. Using a close-up of a product on a plain white background is quite dull. Think of Facebook as a lookbook or lifestyle catalog, and use it tell your brand story and share ideas of how to use your products through compelling photos.

Take Ikea as a classic example:

Use lifestyle imagery

Be brief
Short and sweet posts are often the best:

Short and sweet

Encourage short responses
When posting a photo or album up on Facebook, remember that most of your customers probably don’t have much time to provide length responses to questions (unless they are posting about a negative experience…) If they can comment in just a few short seconds, there’s a higher likelihood that they will. By asking questions that require a simple one or two-word answer, you are sure to increase engagement.

Take 1-800-Flowers as an example – what do you think of the arrangement below?

Be brief

Create image galleries
Creating an album in one Facebook post pulls through smaller thumbnails that are just begging for your customers to click through to enlarge the image, thus increasing your engagement from a single post. See if you can be a bit creative as well, like by framing out a key piece of the image, users have to click to see what has been cropped out. This can make the photos even more fascinating – ModCloth is a great example.

Create image galleries

Why not try some of the tips above and see if your engagement levels on Facebook increase? I would love to hear how things go!

Why do customers unsubscribe from your emails?

I recently came across a great article from GetResponse.com around some of the reasons why customers unsubscribe from your emails.

Every single company will lose customers from their mailing list, it is inevitable. This is one of the facts of email marketing, that no matter how hard we try, people will unsubscribe from your emails. With regards to what is an “acceptable” unsubscribe rate, this post confirmed that as long as your unsubscribe rate stays below about half a percent, you’re not doing too bad. I have been told that if yotur Unsubscribe rate if 1% or under, you’re doing pretty well, so don’t get despondent if your customers are unsubscribing!

You have worked hard to get those people on your list and you would like like to keep them. Below are a few of the most common reasons people unsubscribe, along with what you can do to counteract each one.

1) Information Overload
They simply get too many emails from you.

In email marketing research studies of why people unsubscribe, the #1 reason is usually “too many emails”. Sending emails too often is a sure way to drive people off your list, so send frequency is definitely something to consider when trying to grow your email database.But how often is too often? This actually all depends on the size of your list, but there is some general data available. MarketingSherpa recently asked 2,000 U.S. adults about their email frequency preferences (I will do a separate blog post on this over the coming weeks) by asking them this question: How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with? The graph below shows the responses:

Graph on how often you would like to receive emails

The general concensus of the study was that customers want to hear from companies via email roughly once a week or once a month – email marketing best practice recommends emailing your database at least once a month and here’s why: any less and people will forget who you are.It can be hard to say how often is too often to send, but here are a couple of points to remember:

  • Twice a day is way too much – this is a sure-fire way to drive your unsubscribe rate up.
  • Once a day is probably too much. If you’re a B2C company, selling products to customers, and you pitch something for people to buy, do it no more than once or twice a week. There are, of course, obvious exceptions to the rule – you should do some testing on send times, days and frequencies to find out the optimal send frequency for your particular database.

You could also do a dedicated opt-down email when you send out an eDM to your entire database giving them options, like the example below:

Fewer emails

This is an excellent way to maintain some of your customers.

They get too many emails in general.

Some of your subscribers may have chosen to opt out simply because they get too many emails. While this may sound like a legitimate reason for customers to unsubscribe, it’s really just a surface cause. If you lose a subscriber because they’re getting too many emails overall, you’re actually losing them because your emails aren’t good enough to make their list of enewsletters they want to receive. They won’t unsubscribe from every email they receive, they’re just cleaning up their Inbox, thinning out the herd a little bit. Unfortunately, your emails are one of the messages to be cut.

The second reason why your emails might not be good enough for subscribers, is actually also the second most common reason people unsubscribe.

2) Your emails are just not relevant

Customers will cull your emails if they are not what they want or are interested in. But the most effective way to get around this is segmentation. Here are some ideas of data segmenting:

  • interests people select when they sign up
  • which links people have clicked in your emails
  • online resources (such as ebooks, on-demand webinars or whitepapers)
  • participation in online events (like a webinar)
  • how often people click on your emails (aka frequency of interaction)
  • geography
  • overlay data (like income level, psychographics, etc)

Data segmentation can help you to deliver more relevant content to your customers but bear in mind that sometimes people just gotta go, because their interests change.

So, what about you – what is the main reason that you’ll unsubscribe from emails? Have you done any unsusbcribe testing? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Do you use emojis in your subject line?

A recent report published by MailChimp wanted to find out what the most popular emojis were to use within your subject lines. So which emojis – those small small icons used to convey emotions, things, and ideas – do you think email markets are employing most in their subject lines?

MailChimp set out to find the answer.

After examining 214,000 email campaigns, they came up with a list of the top 15 emojis used most often. These ranks are based on the number of subject line appearances made by each emoji. Probably not surprisingly, the registered trademark emoji took the number one spot, followed by the big-eyed happy emoji, then a smiley with heart eyes. An actual heart and a more standard smiley round out the top 5.

What are the top emojis used within subject lines?

What were the most popular combinations?
Having one emoji within a subject line is great to help drive opens but have you tried using different combinations? From the report, 31% of campaigns with emojis used more than one. The image below was created by MailChimp to map the network of which emojis are used together. In the map, emojis that are closer together are used together more frequently, and emojis that are larger are more popular pairing partners. After removing emojis and pairs that are infrequently used, this chart enables us to learn a lot about how people combine emojis.

Emojis map

What you can see from the above map is that emojis from the same category are often used together (food, faces, animals, weather, etc.). Also, certain emojis connect other small groups. The plane connects earth, travel, and transportation. The heart connects love, fashion, and exclamations.

Using emojis in subject lines is a great way to convey meaning rather than being used as a gimmick. With the subject line being the first thing customers see before they even open the email, it needs to make an impact. Why not try a variety of emojis the next time you send out an email.

Comparing A/B split testing and MVT

Working in an email marketing environment, I have been exposed to two distinct sides of testing – the traditional A/B testing and Multi-Variate Testing (or MVT). Personally, I like them both, as they each have both advantages and limitations as to what they can. This post (source) will take a look at the two and how they can help you achieve some amazing results – we’ll be looking at these from an email marketing point-of-view.

A/B Testing
A/B testing, also known as ‘split testing’, is a method of email optimization in which the conversion rates of two email campaigns are compared to one another using live traffic, with customers being bucketed into one version or the other. By tracking the unique confirmed opens and unique clickthroughs, you are able to determine which version of your email generated the better level of engagement, and thus, was more successful.

What are some of the common uses?
One of the main things I have tested using A/B testing is trying out two different subject lines. For example, one subject line could be a direct line to the customer, while the other one could be phrased as a question. Subject line A could have personalisation (the customer’s first name), while subject line B could be very generic. Using A/B testing to determine which subject line is better at driving open rates is great.

A/B split testing - common uses
You can also test elements within the email itself, for example two different header banners. As an example, a campaign has two emails, both identical in terms of content, but the head banner was different – in version A, the header banner was a combination of copy and products from the email. Version B was simply copy. After doing the initial test, results showed that the banner with both copy and images (version A) was more well-received that the banner with copy alone. It is important to note that while the email is the same, it’s the email as a whole that is tracked, now individual elements.

When doing an A/B test to your customers, I would recommend to send to 10% of your database. This is a small enough segment size that you are able to gauge which version will do better, but there are still enough subscribers in the remainder of your database that the impact will be great.

Advantages
A/B testing is a powerful and widely used testing method. Ensuring that only two or three variables are tracked at any one time means that tests can deliver accurate data quickly. Also, because you’re only sending to a small sub-set of customers to begin with, it doesn’t require too long to produce a winning result.

Limitations
The main limitation around A/B testing is summed up by the name. A/B testing is best used to measure the impact of between two and four variables with your email campaign. Tests with more variables take longer to run and if you have a small database, you won’t receive accurate results from the split test.

If you need information about how many different elements interact with one another, multivariate testing is the optimal approach!

Multi-Variate Testing
MVT uses the same core mechanism as A/B testing, but compares a higher number of variables, and reveals more information about how these variables interact with one another. The purpose of a multivariate test is to measure the effectiveness each design combination has on the ultimate goal. Once enough customers have opened the email to effectively run the test, the data from each variation is compared to find not only the most successful design, but also to potentially reveal which elements have the greatest positive or negative impact on a customer’s engagement.

Multi-Variate Testing
As an example, I have worked on a number of campaigns that used multi-variate testing, with the most successful one testing the call to action button in the email. The campaign had five different colours for the button and five different messages, both urgency driven and more informational messages.

What are some of the common uses?
Multi-Variate testing is most commonly used to test multiple elements in an email – for example, the call to action button, a product icon and a header banner. In order to test this properly, what you would need to do is to create all the elements you want to test (using the example above, you would need to create all 25 call to action buttons – with all colours and messages – as many product icons as required and the total number of header banners). You would then send your email out to your database to receive all possible combinations of these elements.

Depending on the platform you use to do your multi-variate test (8Seconds is a great platform I’ve used in the past) will depend on how long it takes for the winning elements to be determined. But what does emerge is a clear picture of which variable is best performing, and which elements are most responsible for this performance.

Advantages
Multi-variate testing is a powerful way to help you target redesign efforts to the elements of your email campaign. Unlike A/B testing, you are able to test multiple versions of many different variables and you can create as many elements as required.

Limitations
The single biggest limitation of multi-variate testing is the amount of traffic needed to complete the test. Essentially, the more elements you have to test, the more time it will take to set up and the more time it will take for a winner to be determined. Too many changing elements at once can quickly add up to a very large number of possible combinations that must be tested.

If you’re unsure if you should run A/B testing of multi-variate testing, ask yourself how they will fit into your cycle of testing and campaign as a whole. You might find you need to test using both options simultaneously.

A/B testing and MVT are two powerful optimization methods that complement one another. Pick one or the other, or use them both together to help you get the most out of your email campaign.

Please let me know if you’ve used MVT or if you prefer the more traditional testing method – leave a comment below.

Calls to action – some pointers you need to know

Source: studiod.com

Calls to action (or CTAs) are an essential part of email marketing. If you want your customers to take action (buying specific products, downloading a whitepaper, or signing up for an online webinar), the call to action needs to entice them in. They are the pivotal role of closing a deal.

There are a number of ways to present this call to action – in a button with bold text, a single line of copy underlined etc… – but the below are 3 different criteria or guidelines to ensure your calls to action are effective and will drive the required response:

  • Be specific
    In order to tell people exactly what you’d like them to do, it’s best to start your call to action with a strong verb. For example, Schedule your appointment now! is much more appealing that Now is time to contact us, and will more likely receive a response.Other great verb choices include Get, Download, Buy and Book. Whichever verb you choose, it needs to be strong and appropriate for the step you’re asking them to take. Also, ensure your call to action is directly linked to the URL or landing page you’ve created (such as the Contact Us form if you’re looking to get customers to schedule an appointment with you).
  • Be transparent
    Make sure your customers/subscribers know exactly what will happen once they have clicked the call to action button. For example, if your button says Click here, it needs to be a bit more descriptive so there is no question as to what the customer will receive in return. Just make sure it’s to the point – you don’t need to spell out the entire process.
  • Make your CTA inviting
    With your call to action, it needs to double as a call to value, or an offer to receive something that customers want. If you get some ideas on how it can be more exciting and inviting, just remember this simple rule of thumb: your call to action should be able to finish the sentence: I want to ___________. This will ensure you’re giving your customers the outcome they are after. What I’ve found with doing different tests across both colours and copy of various CTA buttons, that less urgency-driven propositions deliver better results – View Online received a much better level engagement that Buy Now. It also means you’re not pressuring your customers to purchase your product, but rather the choice to peruse your website.

These are just a few pointers to creating effective call to action buttons. The best thing to do with call to action buttons is to continue to test, refine and implement, then rinse and repeat! Sometimes, what customers see at 2pm on a Tuesday in February may not give the same level of engagement as first thing in the morning on a Friday in July.

Questions or comments? Please let me know!