Deliverability is an ever-changing and important piece of a strong email marketing strategy. In fact, according to Return Path’s recently released Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, email deliverability has become increasingly more challenging. A 6% drop in the second half of 2011 brought inbox rates to 76.5% globally, compared to 81% in the first half of 2011. In other words, only 76.5% of commercial emails sent reached recipients’ inboxes. Furthermore, email blocked and flagged as spam increased 24%. Eek!
Read entire article here.
During our last blog, we discussed how to build a quality marketing list through organic means. Some businesses will still opt to purchase a marketing list to ramp up their efforts. If you are considering such a route, we would like to share a few tips with you to help increase your chances for success. When acquiring potential customer lists, insist on these key things:
Ask for exclusive rights to the list. This will prevent a competitor from acquiring the same list.
Insist on a quality guarantee. While the company who provides you with a marketing list can do nothing to assure customers will purchase your product or service, it can guarantee that you will find the list to be authentic—meaning the names, addresses and phone numbers on the list are eligible for contact based on the CAN-SPAM Act and the Do-Not-Call Registry, and that the contact information is current and legitimate, save for a small percentage that may be obsolete due to business closure, moves, and natural attrition.
Follow the trail. Some companies piece together contact lists without gaining the proper permission from the recipients, which can ultimately land you in hot water if you use the list. Ask for documentation about how the list was obtained, including the IP address where each contact was acquired. Most reputable marketing firms will partner with corporations and offer their contacts select offers that align with their proclivities …and care what you are offering their contacts so they don’t opt out of other affiliated mailings as well.
Join us in our next blog where we’ll discuss how to write a welcome letter for new opt-ins.
It’s easy to understand the temptation to ramp up your database numbers with a quick infusion to catch up with your competitors and make your brand look hot. The truth of the matter is, false inflation does little to propel small businesses forward and may actually cost you more money in the long run.
We had a client recently purchase a localized database list from a data service company. At first glance, several contacts jumped out at us because we knew of the businesses—past tense. They had dissolved several years earlier. Upon further inspection, our client was able to determine that almost 50% of the list was obsolete and that of the remaining contacts, few were viable as potential customers.
While the database firm would not refund the client’s money for the bunk list, our client did halt all efforts to contact the businesses on that list, saving on postage, man-hours, phone calls, and electronic efforts that would have all been essentially flushed down the toilet.
Of course it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, but how long have we known that quantity does not trump quality? What good does it do for a local restaurant to have 7,000 Twitter followers if the majority of them live outside of the state, or even out of the country?
For local, small businesses that provide a localized service, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to building an online reputation. For larger, nationwide businesses or those that ship products or provide services globally, large infusions may provide strong results.
So what’s a small business to do? To build a quality marketing list:
|1. Capture existing customers by verifying or collecting information at check-out.|
|2. Create a refer-a-friend program to reward customers for referring new customers to your business.|
|3. Display your business at local events, community samplings, and festivals to capture local interest. td>|
|4. Join a networking group and grow your reach through select partners.|
|5. Tag-team with local vendors to cross-promote your products or services through “select third party” offers.|
All of these things will help you collect a database of potential customers. Unlike wide-open grow-your-numbers programs on the web, these tips account for proximity and interest in your product or service when collecting database information.
So your company is off and running. Congratulations! If your dream company is finally off the ground and you’ve collected email addresses that have the makings of an excellent customer base, it may be time to graduate to managed email services.
We realize how daunting it can be to manage so many aspects of your company and that when you are in this critical stage of development, you’d like to keep expenditures low. That’s why when you are just crossing over into managed services, we think you should be able to do so FREE until your company reaches that next growth milestone.
How can we do this? Easy. We pride ourselves in support and care and want to be an integral part in your success. We hope that after we partner with you during this phase of your development, be it several months or several years, our help will have served as an introduction and “get-to-know-you,” and that you’ll consider us for future services as you grow.
Check out Online Outbox to customize, send, and track 1,000 emails per month FREE with no strings attached! What does come attached are all of these great features for, did we mention, FREE!
|- Personalized email builder|
|- Customizable templates|
|- Account manager|
|- Email response tracker|
|- Tips and tricks to maximize your success|
|- Guidelines to keep your e-communications legally compliant|
Go ahead, get your feet wet. Check out the FREE offer that never expires. When you are ready to increase your campaign’s reach, you can upgrade to any of Online Outbox’s other featured services. We can assist you in launching split or test campaigns, help you refine your messages, and tie your campaign into your other online efforts so customers will be able to find you in every corner of the web.
So go on and take the monster task of email management off your plate and use our services FREE. You’ve made it this far, and it’s time to focus your efforts on your future growth.
Next up, we’ll share strategies that will help you build up a quality database of customer contacts.
Brrr! It’s cooled down in a hurry this week. We’ve seen people in offices around Atlanta sneaking over to fiddle with the thermometer and much to their chagrin, the master control trumped their wishes to fire up the heater.
We love automated features that make our lives easier but hate it when they backfire on us. At Online Outbox, we get a lot of clients who like to program a campaign to run long term. They dub it “set it and forget it” and choose to rely on our site’s convenient automation. The feature is very reliable, just as a thermostat is when you program it to self-regulate. But what happens when the weather changes? You need to revisit your programming and adjust it for new conditions. Can you see where we’re going with this?
It is important to adjust your advertising matrix based on the levels and types of responses your former campaigns generate. Our automated send-outs and reporting tools are time-saving features, but should not be used as a substitute for the human touch. Take for instance, timing your messages. We can suggest to you the best time to send an email to your clients based on industry standards and our experiences, but those guidelines are no substitute for what you know about your business.
What do we mean? Let’s take three individual clients and consider their best send out times. General industry guidelines suggest the best time to send an email is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday during the 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. hour.
What if that time slot isn’t working well for these three clients? How would you tweak their delivery schedule?
|- A nightclub advertising featured bands|
|- A natural, herbal sleep-aid|
|- A doughnut shop|
Right. You would look at when their audience is most likely to be actively engaged in their product line. For the nightclub, we’d look at after-hours toward the end of the week when people are making their weekend plans. The sleep aid company might do substantially better by reaching out to people in the middle of the night—when potential customers are suffering from the problem and likely to be idling on the computer. And the doughnut shop? Generally they’ll do their best business in the morning, so it’s important to strike when the iron is hot. They could look at early morning hours to encourage their clients to pick up a box of goodies for the office meeting or use the drive-thru for a treat on the way to work.
Sending effective campaigns isn’t about following the formula other companies use. It isn’t about when it’s convenient for you to hit the send button during a hectic day. It’s about understanding your customer base and providing relevant content to them when they need it. Pairing our tools with your business savvy is just one more way you can maximize your results with Online Outbox.
One of the most difficult hurdles for small businesses to overcome when communicating with customers is brand identity. The Internet is laden with competitors who appear to have an edge in some aspect of the business you share. So how can you really make yourself stand out in a crowd while staying true to who you are and what you do?
Focus on Your Assets
Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it! This means if you’ve just received another award for that scrumptious apple cobbler in your bakery, put it front and center in your advertising efforts and allow it to “transfer credibility” to your other products. If coffee is an ancillary product and you don’t do it as well as Starbucks, don’t pretend. Instead, mention you have a seating area for people to meet and relax and that you serve a house blend of roasted coffee alongside your fabulous baked goods. It’s hard to keep yourself from “overselling” something you believe in, but if your coffee is just coffee, don’t set your customers up to believe they are going to receive custom-ordered gourmet drinks if they’re not. You’ll gain credibility for being honest.
Draw the Lines
Tout your specialties, but if there is a related area of business that your customers ask for and you don’t deliver, make that clear or offer alternate solutions. Perhaps you are a seamstress who creates fabulous drapes but you don’t have installers on staff. In this case, provide information about do-it-yourself window treatment installation or have a list of reputable referrals that you can provide to your customers.
Small businesses don’t grow big overnight. There may be some areas where your company cannot compete with a national company that delivers the same type of product or service. Figure out what gives you the competitive edge over them, and drive it to the bank. Perhaps you have guaranteed appointment times, a product selection that is regionally unique, or you only hire certified professionals to handle your contracts. Whatever it is that makes your company unique is what you should pour into your brand identity.
Email marketing can be a waste of time and resources if you’re not getting the highest delivery rate and response rate possible. While we at Online Outbox take care of the geeky aspect to facilitate your goals, there are still a couple things you can do that might help to increase the delivery rate of your campaigns:
1. Schedule your email campaigns. Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday work great.
Although you are able to send out campaigns immediately or anytime you wish, strategically scheduling campaigns can produce better results. For instance, if you are using our newsletter subscription form on your web site, advise each and every subscriber exactly when to expect your newsletter. This is also a good practice if you plan on sending out a series of emails. Your recipients will come to expect your email to hit their inbox on regular intervals making them more receptive to any special offers or promotions you may include.
2. Make it easier for readers to recognize your emails.
Like we said on Avoiding the Spam Filters and Other Email Marketing Tips – Consistency is King. Functional email templates are made available to all of our customers. You are free to customize them as you see fit. Already have an HTML email template from your old email service provider? That’s perfectly fine. You can import the HTML template file and use it on your Online Outbox campaigns. Incorporate a logo or tagline. Whatever you do, remain consistent to reduce the chances of readers reporting your email as spam.
3. Include the current date in the content.
Adding a correct date indicates when the campaign was sent. Spam filters sometimes assign spam score points if the date is not mentioned or provided incorrectly.
4. Don’t forget to pull the Text content from the HTML editor.
Before sending out an HTML email, make sure that the plain text version is attached. Messages sent in “Multipart” are delivered in a way that subscribers without active HTML-Viewer still get a decent looking e-mail. Make sure that the HTML and text version have the same or very similar content otherwise you’ll get more spam points.
5. Avoid excessive graphics and complex HTML.
Several spam rules involve issues related to HTML. If the newsletter has too many graphic elements, it gets just as many spam score points. Most email clients and webmail services automatically blocks images so if users don’t understand what the mail is about, your email is most likely headed towards being reported as spam. Try to keep it simple – the percentage of text should be higher than the percentage of HTML or images for maximum readability.
6. (Nicely) Ask your recipients to whitelist you.
One smart way to increase deliverability especially for future messages is to ask your readers to add you to whitelists or their address book.
7. Links must be clean.
If there’s a need to include link/s in your email campaigns, ensure that none of those are blacklisted URLs. Exert a little extra effort to verify the sites you are linking to and save your campaign from getting some more spam points. You can use online tools like MXToolbox.com or BlackListAlert.org for this purpose.
8. The Test.
We’ve said it before but we will remind you again – test, test, test BUT avoid using the word “test” in the subject line when sending live trial message to yourself or a personal test list. At this point, you probably know the reason – spam filters, again. Generic test messages are viewed as spam so when conducting your diagnosis, test using the actual email subject and content.
In our last blog, we discussed how to appear on potential customers’ radar. Each of your mass correspondences should contain at least one of the following:
2.Education for consumers
3.Special offers or discounts
4.Relevant and timely information
5.Clever tips and tricks
Now how can you tell which of those types of communication is right for your business? It’s a question we were asked so much at Your Design Online that what started as a small division became an entire company on its own, and so Online Outbox was born.
Some companies just throw their messages out into cyberspace and hope for the best, but we like to take an approach that’s a little more scientific. And so came one of our strongest features at Online Outbox: Split Email Testing. We developed easy-to-use tools that track your message’s reception and open rate.
With Split Testing, you take the same core message and craft it several different ways. You send half of your audience a message written one way (say humorously) and send the other half of your audience the message written another way (say educationally-driven). Online Outbox tracks its reception and delivers you the numbers so you can then make an unbiased decision about how to proceed with your messaging. Split Testing allows you to fine-tune your presentation style and hone in on exactly what will elicit the best response from your customers.
Split Testing is one of the most reliable ways to test your campaign’s efficacy. If people don’t open your emails or you have an unusually high opt-out rate, it’s a strong signal that you need to further refine your company’s message.
For specific advice on how to turn your company’s message into a winning message, please contact a representative at Online Outbox. We have writers and consultants who have a birds-eye view of what’s working and what isn’t, and we’d be happy to share our expertise to help you capture and keep a large share of your market!
Have you given much thought lately to how the average American family spends its time? It’s quite a departure from how we lived our lives just ten short years ago.
One of our clients recently shared his epiphany with us. His family was sitting in the great room in front of the television. No one was talking but there were four conversations going on in the room around him. Why? You guessed it—everyone was chatting via social media-enabled devices—their laptop, iPad, or cell phone. His daughters were even forwarding web-links and sharing Facebook comments with each other while in the same room as each other, yet without exchanging a single word verbally. He figured this out when the girls broke out in laughter at the same time but he didn’t catch a joke—they’d texted it to each other.
As ludicrous as indirect-direct communications may seem to those of us who grew up a few decades earlier than this rising tech-enriched society—a new form of communication has arrived and society has embraced it in almost every commerce-related and social aspect of their lives.
How can you get into that inner circle? That is the question web development firms are clamoring to answer. People aren’t always going to search for you, and yet, you still have opportunities to appear in front of them. Getting invited into people’s Twitter feed is one way you can send out short message bursts to them on a frequent basis. Converting them to your inner circle where they’ll accept your newsletters and special offers is where the art of messaging and communicating comes in.
You may have heard that content is king, but so has everyone else. Instead of heeding the rush to shove content out the door, resist the urge and hold back. Insist that quality is present in every communication; otherwise you’ll quickly get blocked or dropped by potential customers. What makes your communication worthwhile? It should have one or more of these key components:
2.Education for consumers
3.Special offers or discounts
4.Relevant and timely information
5.Clever tips and tricks
The number one way to show up and stay in your customers’ inner circle is to give them something they perceive as valuable: a laugh, a breaking news update, special offers, education, or tips and tricks. Does your messaging contain one of more of those components?
Stay tuned for our next blog where we will discuss specific ways to discover which of these components is right for your specific company.
Everyone has their opinions, from food to music, to the best stores to shop and which cars to drive. There’s no shortage of other points of view—and that is especially important to remember when you are selecting your service providers on the Internet. Customers often discuss this point with us when considering our services.
Online Outbox gains a lot of transitioning customers, and it is always interesting for us to learn why someone is transitioning. Those who were with another provider before us found that they’d reached a crucial stopping point because they needed services their first company couldn’t provide, had an issue with price point, or simply outgrew the cookie-cutter setups and desired a more customized approach to their business’s online presence.
The main reason people went with these providers in the first place was usually that they knew someone else who used the service. In the world of the Internet, it’s especially hard to qualify providers based on referral alone because more often than not, your needs will be different than the next person’s.
Let’s start with how to define your criteria.
Your neighbor raves about his Cabriolet because he gets tremendous fuel efficiency while your co-worker loves his Mustang Convertible because it turns heads on the street. You need a vehicle that will seat a family of five and be able to carry a lot of cargo. Do you listen to your neighbor or co-worker (both of whom are thrilled with their vehicles) for advice?
Probably not, because, while you each need a vehicle, your needs vary vastly from one to another. Building your Internet presence can vary just as much. What works for one can be utterly pointless to another. The problem is, it’s hard to shop for solution providers amidst a sea of Internet advertising and non-qualified referrals. Where should you begin?
Our suggestion is to define what criteria are most important to your business and shop from that list. For instance, you may require an email campaign management service that will allow you to send PDF files. Most people don’t realize that the major e-contact companies don’t offer that service. Perhaps you’re just starting out and a trial offer doesn’t give you enough time to get to know the system or assess your results from using it. Look for a company who offers unlimited free service to those who are just getting their feet wet in the mass e-marketing arena. What’s important is that you find the system that is best for your needs.
We invite you to visit Online Outbox’s Features page to familiarize yourself with the language of Mass Online Communications and see what features we offer. Then go ahead and browse the competitors’ features to see what they can offer you. Once you start shopping and begin to understand what’s out there in terms of service, you can compare your needs with the companies you believe offer the best features, service, and value for your particular circumstances. We hope you’ll find that’s us.
Please let us know if we can assist you in any way. We’re a company driven by our customers’ needs and we appreciate your feedback.