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!

SEO and SEM – what’s the difference?

What is the difference between SEO and SEO?

Something that used to stump me was the difference between SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), because they work side by side with each other. However – they are different services and perform different functions. I found the following article on webopedia.com which helped me greatly with this article.

SEO is described as the strategies and tactics to ensure websites are accessible to search engines (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc…). The aim of SEO is to gain a high-ranking placement within the search results page of a search engine. What has been identified is that internet users don’t actually click through from search result pages, so the higher the ranking for a website, the better – it means more traffic to the website.

When using SEO, there are some best practice techniques that should be adhered to, including, but not limited to:

  • Creating and publishing exceptional content
  • Using keywords and keyword analysis (for example, an online retailer would use keywords for their products to rank their pages higher when customers search for them)
  • Link building to help improve link popularity
  • Using social media! I didn’t actually know that using links on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter can help improve your SEO status
  • Improving your site’s navigation to provide the best experience for your users

While most people start with a great website and invest their time, money and effort into SEO, they may not necessarily follow through on another very important component – SEM.

SEM is used to encompass different options available to use a search engine’s technology, (this is where the ‘marketing’ in Search Engine Marketing’ comes into play) and is often used to describe acts associated with researching,submitting and positioning websites within search engines (for example, paid listings, SEO and other functions that will help increase exposure and traffic to your website.

Using SEM gives you the opportunity to pay based on clicks (meaning that you only pay for each click from an ad to your website. These ads are usually found at the top of, and down the side of search results pages). For a successful SEM campaign, ads will be shown to customers who are specifically looking for your particular products or services, which, in turn, results in a higher conversation rate.

But what is the difference?

While SEO aims to provide better organic search results for websites, SEM uses the search engines to advertise your business to internet users and send more targeted traffic to your website.

EXAMPLE: a customer goes to google.com and searches for “fashion handbags”. The organic search results are where SEO technologies can assist your website (which sells said handbags) in being more visible. The paid advertising that are displayed as a result of your keyword search is a product of SEM.

However, SEO and SEM do no compete with each other – SEO is considered a subset of SEM services. To be successful in this day and age and to conduct business online, you need to be visible in both organic and advertised links, which therefore means you need both SEO and SEM.

So there you go – I love SEO and SEM and all the different functions it can perform. Did you like this post? Let me know in the comments below!

15 stats that prove your emails need to be mobile-responsive

Thanks to HubSpot for this awesome post!

Working for an email marketing company, you see your fair share of mobile-responsive templates. Most emails nowadays are (that is, if the email is viewed on a mobile device, the email is optimised for the smaller screen size), but not always.

It can be quite frustrating when you get an email which hasn’t been designed as a mobile responsive template and you’re having to squint (or worse, zoom in) to see the content. More often than not, I’ll hit delete before I click on a link.

If you’ve yet to jump on the mobile-optimisation bandwagon, this is a must read. Here are 15 reasons why your emails should be mobile responsive:

  1. 74% of smartphone owners use their devices to check their email.
  2. Mobile now makes up the majority of email opens at 51%.
  3. 68% of Gmail and Yahoo opens are coming from mobile devices.
  4. By the end of 2018, worldwide mobile email users are expected to total over 2.2 billion. By this time, 80% of email users are expected to access their email accounts via a mobile device.
  5. Only 11.8% of newsletters use responsive design techniques to optimize their layouts for mobile devices.
  6. 24% of companies aren’t optimizing their email creative for mobile viewers in any way.
  7. 39% of marketers have no strategy for mobile email.
  8. Over 95% of emails are only opened on one device. Very few users open emails on mobile first and save for desktop later.
  9. 70% of consumers delete emails immediately that don’t render well on a mobile device.
  10. 56% of shoppers are likely to make a purchase via a mobile app in the next year.
  11. 69% of shoppers are influenced to make a purchase on mobile by company emails.
  12. 90% of consumers who have joined mobile loyalty programs feel they have gained value from them.
  13. Special offers (27%), vouchers (21%), and real-time tracking (21%) are most preferred email types to receive on mobile.
  14. Nearly two-thirds of consumers subscribed to mobile marketing indicate that they have made a purchase as a result of receiving a highly relevant mobile message.
  15. Mobile offers are redeemed 10X more frequently than print offers.

Do you have any tips for creating beautiful mobile-optimsed emails? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Digital Marketing space – what is it really?

I’ve been in the digital marketing space for the better part of the last decade, and I often think about what Digital Marketing actually is.

According to Wikipedia, “Digital marketing is a term for the targeted, measurable, and interactive marketing of products or services using digital technologies to reach consumers. The key objective is to promote brands through various forms of digital media. It is embodied by an extensive selection of service, product and brand marketing tactics, which mainly use the Internet as a core promotional medium, in addition to mobile and traditional TV and radio.”

“Digital marketing includes Internet marketing techniques, such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and link building. It also extends to non-Internet channels that provide digital media, such as mobile phones (both SMS and MMS), callback and on-hold mobile ring tones, social media marketing, display advertising, e-books, optical disks and games, and any other form of digital media.”

I’m always interested in reading up about new articles, new techniques within the digital marketing space, as it is an ever-changing and ever-growing industry.

My passion definitely lies within this space: SEO, SEM, email marketing, multi-channel marketing, social media, link building – you name it. I love understanding the technical aspects of things and how things work, grow, evolve. Being in this industry has really taught me so much, but there is still so much still to learn.

Welcome to The Thinking Booth

Background concept wordcloud illustration of electronic digital media

Many of us work in Digital Marketing, an industry that is constantly changing, and as such, there are a multitude of different aspects that I personally know very little about. So, with that being said – welcome to The Thinking Booth, a place where I will post up all my musings and thoughts on all things digital, marketing and email marketing. Some of the topics I’ll cover in future blog posts include:

  • ISPs (Google, Yahoo, and AOL are common examples of email ISPs)
  • Google Analytics
  • PHP and HTML – how is it structured / what’s the difference?
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Digital Media Planning/Buying
  • What is Programmatic Marketing?
  • What is brand engagement?
  • What is retargeting?
  • Customer Acquisition campaigns
  • What is contextual marketing?
  • Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing
  • Lead volume vs. opportunity volume / Lead conversion
  • API (Application Programming Interface)
  • What is CPC (cost-per-click) / CPE (cost-per-engagement)?
  • What is big data?
  • What is lifecycle automation?
  • What is Affiliate Marketing?

Watch out for my first post in the next week or so. Feel free to follow, comment, like and share with your friends!