Around the world in 43 days

Hi everyone!

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last 6 weeks – my husband and I have just returned from an amazing six-week trip through Europe and the United States. Over the past 43 days, we visited 12 cities in seven different countries – Leicester and London, United Kingdom; Paris; Bad Homburg and Frankfurt, Germany; Prague; Venice; Rome; Athens; Santorini; Honolulu and Maui.

While we were enjoying the sights and sounds of the world, I received hundreds of newsletters that I had previously subscribed to, which gave me thousands of ideas for new posts. Now that I am back to reality, I will be continuing my writing on all things digital media.

If you have any questions or you would like information on any aspect of this industry, please do let me know!

Amanda

Why you should ALWAYS test your emails

One of the most important lessons I have learned while working in the digital media industry is test. Test, test and test again.

For example, say you are a busy marketer and a client has asked you to deploy an email using a brand new template. The template has been coded and initially tested. But then something more urgent crops up and you don’t have time to test it as thoroughly as you should have. The email is scheduled and it turns out one of the links goes to a 404 Error message page. Then the feedback from customers starts coming in and you wonder why this wasn’t picked up.

Every single email you work on should be 100% accurate and thoroughly tested, as even one broken link could affect opens and clickthrough rates, conversions, or even your reputation.

It is so important to test all features of any project, whether it be an email campaign, a brand new website or a video ad. This article on the Litmus.com blog gives some classic examples of why you should be continuously testing with eDMs.

Email clients drop support without notice
This is crucial especially when it comes to inbox testing. Sometimes different email clients can drop support for HTML and CSS. It doesn’t matter if you have the most beautiful email in the world that will exponentially grow your database and clickthrough rate. If the HTML and CSS is not rendering correctly, it won’t matter in the slightest. Make sure you set up test accounts in different email clients and test them across different browsers – including earlier versions as some of your customers may not have upgraded their software.

Broken or incorrect links
Because most URLs are added to a CTA button or an image, from a design point of view, it’s hard to confirm whether the link is correct unless you test them first. Make sure every link goes to the correct page (whether it be to a new product, your About Us page or a mailto link for an RSVP list).

Spelling and grammar errors

Always check for spelling errors

Unfortunately, once you’ve hit the Send button on your campaign, there is no way to recall it if you suddenly spot a spelling mistake. You know the feeling – you’ve checked the copy and all the links, you send it out, and you immediately recognise that your subject line should say ‘Get it NOW!’ when it actually says ‘Get it NOT!’. If you find yourself in this position, the best thing to do is to send out – as quickly as possible – an apology email to your database.

BUT to make sure you don’t have to resend your email, you should always proof-read your email – multiple times! But then also get a colleague (or three) to check it as well. An extra pair of eyes could spot a spelling mistake that you may have overlooked because you’ve read the copy too many times. Also, how about putting your copy into Word which will detect if any words are incorrectly spelt?

Broken images and missing/incorrect alt text
The alt text is crucial for email marketing – it is the text that customers see before they download the images (this could be their email client’s default setting or just a personal preference), so this needs to make an impact. When you add in new images to replace placeholder images, make sure you insert alt text. When you get a colleague to check your email before it’s deployed, get them to check the alt text on their machine and amend if need be.

Missing or no plain text
Plain text is critical for email marketing, and you need to be aware of how many customers from your database have signed up to just receive this version, rather than the HTML email. This plain text version needs to always include a link to view the HTML online in a browser, so they can see and click on the links. With plain text, you need to ensure that any characters you have (including $, !, ‘ or ” etc…) are typed out, rather that copied and pasted from a secondary source – these will not be supported otherwise.

As with your HTML version, send yourself a copy of the plain text to check all the links and any personalisation you might have (like a first name).

Broken dynamic content
Dynamic content is a great tool to use as you are able to personalise your emails by segmenting your database and providing different pieces of content for various customers. For example, if you’re a pet store, you could send out an email to all your customers, but include an additional section to all customers who have dogs, to let them know dog food is on special. Make sure you do multiple tests with different blocks to check the right customer gets the right section. There is nothing worse than finding out once your email has gone out that some criteria has changed and you didn’t test it properly.

These are just some of the things you should look for when you are testing your emails, but there are, of course, so many more. What specific things do you test for? Do you have a checklist of things to tick off before the email can be scheduled to deploy? I would love to hear from you!

5 skills a Marketing Manager needs to master

This article came across my Inbox this week, posted on the Marketing Association blog. The reason I wanted to post and share about it is I get asked a particular question quite often:

What is your dream job?

That is the million dollar question, isn’t it?! I’ve often thought about what I would absolutely love to do every day for the rest of my life, and there are several factors that contribute to this. I would love to be hands-on with anything to do with digital marketing, but I would also love to be a senior manager and lead/mentor a small team to be the best that they can be.

Which is why this post, the 5 skills a marketing manager needs to master, is crucial for success in upper management.

1. Project Management
Mastering a management role is probably one of the hardest parts of being a Marketing Manager. You need to be an integral part of every marketing manager job you have. You also need to have a team who are reliable and who you can count on, so you have an overview of their day-to-day tasks to ensure everything they are doing lines up with the project brief you’ve been handed.

As well as internal relationships, you also need to manage the client. Ask yourself – what would I want to know if I was the client? If there are any issues, queries, anomalies or other potential pitfalls, you need to constantly be in contact with them to keep them updated as to how everything is going. If you go more than a few days without contact, especially if it is on a massive, technical brief, you could risk having an upset client.

2. Strategic thinking
As the Marketing Manager of any business, it is vital to be able to think about and approach problems with a completely unique perspective – this is the strategic viewpoint that you need to master. You need to be able to think about things a little bit differently to everyone else. After all, you are the senior manager!

When you’re making decisions, these can’t be done hastily or on short-term thinking, if you’re going into a meeting about the 5 or 10-year vision of the company. You need to understand how to manage the unique needs of every individual involved in the project. Will this help the client achieve their internal goals and deliver on budget?

How can you think about things in a way that will excite and motivate your team, so they – and your client – can succeed with this project? You need to be able to execute the strategy you have put forward – if you can’t, rethink it.

I love this quote I found by Albert Einstein:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

3. Problem solving and critical thinking
No doubt your job will be riddled with issues and challenges – but it’s how you handle these and push forward that will really test you as the Marketing Manager. Remember this: your team will need you. Your clients will need you. And your direct manager (perhaps the CEO or Marketing Director) needs you to show results – and more often than not, the needs of these people will clash and you’ll need to find an answer for them all, while keeping them happy with the direction of the project.

To achieve this, you must have strong decision-making skills and the conviction to stand by that decision. Don’t ever sweep issues under the rug – it will come back to bite you if you do.

4. Technical and analytical skills
I know from many years of experience working with SEO and CMS systems that I have more of a technical and analytical mind that a creative mind. I am much happier working behind the scenes and with HTML than designing outstanding creative. This goes for Marketing Managers too – they have an analytical mind and are capable of understanding and sorting through the incredible amounts of data available today. But all this goes far beyond simply knowing how data can affect things like consumer behaviour and segmentation – this is what will lead to far more effective marketing strategies for your clients. 

As well as this, Marketing Managers needs to be savvy when it comes to technology – this will greatly influence a marketer’s role. This means you constantly need to be aware of new tools, apps, widgets, programmes and software that can help you build and sustain client relationships and to deliver effective information and services.

5. Interpersonal Communication
I did a paper on Interpersonal Communication while I was studying at AUT and I found in fascinating how you’re able to hone in and develop your communication skills. This is key to being a Marketing Manager – how you listen to, embrace, understand, empathise and respond to your team, your bosses and your clients.

You must become an expert communicator on both an internal and external level: this will be tested on a regular basis! But it is your job to make communication is open, honest and operating at all times, for the benefit of everyone involved.

Just take one step at a time

One of the most important things I have learned while working in this industry is this.

There will always be big projects that can spiral out of your control. There will always be clients who need something yesterday and you need to work through certain processes to deliver. There will always be something more important that crops up and you have to work your tail off in order to deliver.

But remember this:

Your speed doesn't matter - forward is forward!

Slow and steady progress – with lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of testing – is more important, than rushing through a project to find there are many holes along the way.

Your speed doesn’t matter: forward is forward. One day you might be the hare, racing through jobs like nobody’s business. Other days you might be the tortoise, slowly and methodically working through your tasks.

Keep thinking about the next step. Keep testing. Keep clients informed of your progress and the horizon will be ever-so-slightly closer.

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.

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!

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!