Archive for the ‘email marketing’ Category

Top 10 Best Practices for QR Codes

Friday, December 12th, 2014

I have recently updated my brandable white paper “Best Practices for QR and Other 2D Barcodes.” From watching implementation of these codes (the good, the bad, and the ugly) over the years, this is my Top 10 list. Do you agree with it? What might you add or delete?

1. Create marketing campaigns, not QR Code campaigns.

QR Codes are a response mechanism, not an end unto themselves.

2. Have a strategy.

Slapping a QR Code on something is not a strategy. Using a QR Code on a product display to show the product in use, provide a coupon, or link to customer video testimonials? That’s a strategy.

3. Make it serve a purpose.

Know why the code is being used. Don’t just add a QR Code to “go mobile.” Know the purpose it’s intended to serve and then make it happen.

4. Make the QR Code worth decoding.

What’s the value for the person scanning? We all know the value for the client. But what about the target audience? What’s in it for them?

5. Optimize for mobile devices.

Don’t assume that because 69% of U.S. consumers own smartphones that content doesn’t have to be mobile-optimized. It does.

6. Optimize for mobile lifestyles.

For example, if you’re going to send people to a survey, don’t ask them to input lots of information by hand. That’s hard to do on a mobile phone.

7. Follow best practices for (technical) implementation.

Certain steps will make QR Codes more scannable than others. Know what they are and use them.

8. Test, test, test.

Just like any other campaign, test the links, test on different phones, test on different browsers. What’s the end user experience?

9. Include multiple paths for response.

 QR Codes are great tools, but not everyone will want to use a QR Code. Provide other ways to respond to the CTA, as well.

10. Include brief instructions for using the code.

Some day, this won’t be necessary. For right now (with the exception of select audiences), it is.

Do you agree with this list? What might you change? Please chime in!

For more information on the white paper, which includes greatly expanded discussions on this Top 10 list, you can find it here.

 

Personalized URLs Grow Up

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

I just released my update to “State of Personalized URLs,” my nutshell observations and analysis of the usage and best practices of personalized URLs. What do I see has changed in the past year?

  • Deep integration with multichannel campaigns that include email, direct mail, and social media (particularly Facebook).
  • Integration with broader campaigns. We still see mailings with a focus on using personalized URLs to send people to mini-sites to fill out surveys, but this is shrinking as an overall percentage of the whole. We are seeing personalized URLs being integrated into broader, more comprehensive campaigns in which the personalized mini-site may be just a small component of the overall strategy.
  • Software vendors differentiating, not software functionality, but on their training and business development support. Each solution still has its own personality and features, but overall, the solutions are converging. As they do, differentiation comes in each vendor’s approach to support.
  • Stronger focus on the use of this software for lead scoring. Yes, lead gen and direct sales are important, but we’re seeing a lot more focus on targeting, segmentation, and lead scoring.
  • Focus on consistency in personalization across channels. Personalized URL software has great functionality for surveys and data appends, but its value is just as great for maintaining personalization across channels, even if a survey isn’t part of the mix. The relevance that was begun in the personalized email or direct mail piece is carried over to the web experience, as well.

Personalized URLs are growing up.

What changes do YOU see in the adoption and use of this technology? Please share your thoughts.

(For more info on the report, click here. )

You Might Be Sick of QR Codes, But Are Your Customers?

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Several times this week, I have heard people comment that QR Codes are so yesterday. They are old, outdated technology and nobody wants to hear about them anymore.

That’s funny, because I’ve seen QR Codes on several new places in the last few weeks.

  • Back of one of our Christmas catalogs.
  • My USPS receipt.
  • Poster in the school lobby encouraging people to fill out a customer service survey.

For a technology that is so yesterday, it’s interesting how I’m seeing it more and more places. This suggests that, while QR Codes may be old news to printers these days, more and more schools, businesses, and brands —  your customers — are just starting to use them.

Sure, we don’t need to talk about what QR Codes are or how to make them or insert them into print or email documents. But we certainly need to be talking about how they are used and what the most effective implementations are. That’s part of being good marketing partners, right?

(Click here for more info on a brandable white paper you can use to share QR Code best practices with your customers.)

Thoughts on QR Codes Designers Need to Hear

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

I recently posted a response to a discussion that is raging in one of the LinkedIn graphic designer discussion groups about QR Codes. I might more accurately describe it as a bash session. There were a handful of posts in support of QR Codes, but most of those were mine.

Designers were railing against QR Codes because they are deemed to be ugly, they disrupt the beauty of their designs, and there are newer, more innovative technologies available.

One of the designers was particularly certain about his position on QR Codes because he had recently graduated from design school. Here is his comment, followed by mine. Please chime in with your own thoughts.

Designer: As someone who just recently graduated from college with a degree in the media field, I can confirm that QR Codes are dead. It is sort of like still having an aol.com email address — just shows that you aren’t keep up with the current trends in technology. We kind of snicker at those people still trying to use them.

Me: Good marketing isn’t about design only. It’s about creating marketing pieces, whether online or print, that achieve the marketing goal. Part of achieving a goal is generating response, and when it comes to generating response, smart, results-oriented marketers use multiple response mechanisms because they know that not everyone wants to respond the same way. One of the ways certain people respond (not all, but certain ones) is QR Code.

I can vouch for the fact that there are plenty of marketing communications that I would not have responded to if it hadn’t been for the QR Code.

I would love to know what percent of people actually use 800 numbers anymore. Yet no one questions their value. People love to kick around QR Codes, but I see them everywhere, I see their use becoming more focused on end user functionality.

Are there more sophisticated technologies out there? NFC, for example? Of course, but they require a lot more capital investment than QR Codes. They are more expensive to produce. They require more third-party coordination, supplier vetting, experimentation, design, and testing. The sales cycle is longer, and so on. No every marketer can afford that. MOST marketers cannot afford that. Consequently, technologies like NFC, AR, etc., while offering definitely value for certain applications, are accessible only by a limited number of marketers.

By contrast, QR Codes are free to produce and add to print pieces, and with the number of websites automatically optimizing pages for mobile, the barrier to entry is low. QR Codes are a reasonable, practical option for the broad base of marketers.

As a designer, your goal should be to produce the most results for your clients, not restrict their options because you, personally, don’t care for them.

Designers can scorn QR Codes all they want, but here are a few facts to remember:

  • It’s not about what YOU like, it’s about what achieves the end result for the marketer.
  • Your CLIENTS don’t care whether there is an “ugly box” on the marketing collateral, direct mail piece, or packaging. They want results, and those marketers pay your salary.
  • Digital snobbery doesn’t produce results. Smart marketing focused on the ultimate user of the product does.

When QR Codes stop producing results, I’ll ditch them. But from the case studies I read, from the marketing surveys I am up to my eyeballs in, and from my own experience, QR Codes serve a practical, functional purpose. For the right audience, they draw more eyeballs than the marketer would otherwise get without them, and marketers are getting better at using them every day.

This is spoken by someone who has watched this industry for 20 years. Things don’t become so snobbish and black-and-white when you’ve been around for awhile.

By the way, I’ve had an AOL address for 20+ years. I keep it because I like the interface and because everyone in the industry has my email address, even from 20 years ago. I’m practical that way. It works for me, and for someone who cares about results, that’s what matters.

The same should go for designers and QR Codes. When people snicker at them, it suggests to me that they 1) don’t really understand when and how to use them; or 2) are more focused on their own preferences than on the true, grassroots functionality for their clients and the people who would be using them.

Survey: 23% of Retailers See 11% Cumulative Lift Using Personalization

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

If you want to know how your customers and prospects expect to be marketed to (what they set as their norms), look at retailing. To this end, the study “Personalization Comes of Age: 2014 Retailing and Consumer Insights” from the e-tailing group, is very enlightening.

According to the study, the top seven things on marketers’ “to do” lists are as follows:

  1. Mobile (including tablet)
  2. Marketing
  3. Personalization
  4.  Omni-channel
  5. Platform
  6. Conversion Optimization
  7. Analytics, Reporting, Big Data

So personalization comes in behind mobile and marketing. This isn’t any surprise since most of us expect (or even rely) on personalized product recommendations when we shop online. What may be a surprise is that retailers have actually quantified the reasons why.

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of retailers responding to the survey see a 11% cumulative lift using personalization. This is up from only 19% of retailers giving this answer one year ago.  More retailers are also seeing greater value in longer-term lifecycle personalization, up from 15% one year ago.

These are encouraging numbers. While there will be differences in retail that do not exist in print (such as focus on online activities such as shopping cart abandonment and real-time personalization online), people are still people. Done right, personalization isn’t going to be effective online and not in print. People’s internal wiring doesn’t work that way.

Personalization still has to be done right, but the increase in the percentage of retailers who see benefits from personalization, including long-term lifecycle personalization, suggests that as they get better at it, the benefits increase, too. Jumps in the numbers from 2013 -to 2014 mean that retailers are getting better at it — and your clients can too.

If retailers are improving their personalization efforts and reaping the benefits, your customers can do the same.

 

Survey: Data Collection on the Rise

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Don’t let your customers fool you — they may have more data than you think. According to polling conducted by Digiday and Neustar in June 2014, 76% of U.S. digital media and marketing professionals are collecting data on current and potential customers and 77% have increased their data collection over the past year.

The number one reason? To get a better understanding of their customers, with 57% giving this answer.  Marketers indicated that they are expanding the volume and type of data they are collecting — demographic, psychographic, location, and social.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.31.34 PMThis is good news for 1:1 print providers, since data availability has been one of the Achilles heels of this process. But the challenges of data silos and data integration remain. In fact, according to the research, half of respondents say they are still unable to link data to create individual customer profiles.

Still, on the whole, this is good news. The more customers focus on data collection, integration, and profiling, the more natural the pathway to discussions about how you can help. So these data represent ongoing challenges, but they present opportunities, too.

 

How Do You Handle Gut-Driven Marketers?

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

According to a new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), senior managers and executives are most likely to say their marketing decisions are driven by data, but when it comes right down to it, they are more likely to trust their own intuition.

When asked to characterize their individual decision-making style, 42% of respondents say they are data-driven (“I collect and analyze data as much as possible before making a decision”), more than cited any other option. However, 73% also say that, when it comes to decision-making, they trust their own intuition.

Kind of like overriding your Garmin when you think you know the better way to go.

Furthermore, if their gut contradicts the data, only 10% of respondents said they’d follow the data. More than half (57%) said they’d re-analyze the data instead (until they could make it agree with their intuition perhaps?)

One of the benefits of data-driven campaigns is, well, the data. Finding trends, developing customer profiles, and understanding customer preferences and behavior are foundational to the value of personalization in print and multi-channel marketing. These results suggest challenges for MSPs relying on data to prove value or help their clients increase the value of their campaigns.

What would you do if you ran into a key decision-maker unwilling to trust the company’s own data? What would you do?

To download a PDF of the survey, click here.

Saying “Sorry” Feels Better in Print

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Speaking of the benefits and value of print (see Tuesday’s post), this morning I bear a tale of two apologies.

Several weeks ago, Shutterfly mistakenly sent a promotion to thousands of customers congratulating them on new parenthood and encouraging them to preserve their memories with a photo book. Unfortunately, many of the recipients were not new parents. I was one of the recipients of that apology.

Shutterfly has since corrected its email mistake with a follow up apology. “We mistakenly sent an email that was intended only for new parents who recently made baby-related purchases at Shutterfly,” reads the email. “We’re truly sorry if you received this email in error. We realize this is a very sensitive issue and we did not mean to upset you in any way.”

It happens. Ho, hum.

This week, my father also received an apology. This time, it was for messing up his name. This apology, however, came by mail. It was printed on an oversized glossy postcard.

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The subject line of his email was, “Doing things right.” In it, my father wrote:

The message came on a glossy, full-color, heavy-weight card, 8 1/2 by  5 1/2 inches, not just a little postcard. Pretty nice gesture. It  cost a little send it, I’m sure.

It costs more to send direct mail than email, but it sure sends a different impression. Direct mail costs more, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons its impact is greater, too. It is a much more credible way to say “I’m sorry” than an email that costs little or nothing to send.

Are You Missing an Opportunity to Help Clients with Data?

Friday, June 13th, 2014

According to a recent study from NetProspex (“State of Marketing Data: 2014″), B2B marketers are missing basic and easily accessible information to help with their personalization and targeting efforts.  Twenty-six percent do not even know the contact’s industry and 20% don’t know their revenues or number of employees.

What’s notable here is that this type of information is readily accessible from data houses and relatively inexpensive to acquire, yet it can make a tremendous difference in the ability to segment and target communications.

I often hear marketers talking about how easy to is to lose sales simply because you forgot to ask. You laid out the information, but there was no call to action. The same principle applies here. If your clients could be doing more segmentation and targeting but aren’t, have you simply asked them what fields they have in their marketing database and offered to fill in ones that are missing? This is a basic data append that any PSP should be able to handle working with one of the major list companies.

Which clients could you approach today with an ask?

Percentage of Records with the Fields Completed

First name 77.5%
Last name 76.0%
Title 62.9%
Street 54.6%
City 59.6%
Phone 36.2%
Email 89.2%
State 58.5%
Company 77.2%
Industry 25.9%
Revenue 18.2%
Employees 19.5%

Source: State of Marketing Data: NetProspex (2014)

Utilizing Multi-Channel Marketing, the Right Way

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

What is Multi-Channel?

Multi-channel marketing is the use of many different channels, such as direct mail, print, digital, and social media platforms, to spread one consistent, comprehensive, and effective marketing campaign. As a marketing or print service provider, it is important to promote the solutions that enhance the life of your brand as well as your printing services throughout a variety of channels.

If your business is still around in 2014, chances are you have realized that multi-channel marketing is not the secret formula to success, but rather a necessary component to the continual transformation of your print-centric business. In fact, you’re probably reading this and thinking, well… duh! So the real question now has become, what is the secret to successfully establishing a printer’s role as a marketing service provider (MSP) in this rapidly changing industry?

The Success in the Solutions

When thinking about marketing your business and the services you provide, remember that with Internet at every professional’s fingertips, finding a service they need is as easy as the click of a mouse or touch of a finger. That’s why your marketing message needs to reach prospects on a variety of channels while promoting what your services can do for each individual prospect. Knowing your target audience means knowing what they need, even if they do not. Make your marketing customer-centric. Try to stay away from promoting what your service is, and focus on what it does for your customers. Keep in mind that in order to sell solutions in a multi-channel market, developing a plan and strategy is paramount.

Planning for Multi-Channel

So we’ve established the need for marketing your solutions as well as your customers’ solutions on multiple channels. The roadblock now is managing the time and effort that this kind of inbound approach requires. A lot of MSPs that I work with or consult for are not struggling to wrap their heads around what must be done, but rather how to possibly accomplish such layered campaigns, without running their marketing into the ground.

The most important component, and I cannot stress this enough, is developing a multi-channel strategy that incorporates both marketing and sales. Have your teams work together to establish the bottom line of your multi-channel efforts, define:

  • Who you want to reach; the target audience you want to stay in front of.
  • What you want to say; what makes your company the best choice? Why are you different from your competitors?
  • When will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Where will your multi-channel efforts be most effective?
  • Why are the tactics you have chosen the best path for success?
  • How can you establish an execution strategy to market not only your brand and solutions, but also your customers’?

Once you have answered these questions, map out your marketing campaigns with visual charts and calendars. Keep in mind that multi-channel marketing is not a sprint, but rather a carefully executed relay race between sales and marketing, which requires orchestrated and practiced handoffs, that when done right will drive your prospects down the funnel.

Fortunately for MSPs struggling to handle the volume of multi-channel marketing and communications, several technological advances in customer communications management have emerged.

Objects in the Mirror

If you drive a car, even if you don’t, chances are you know the classic warning, “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” These words, which we see daily, are a prevalent theme in the problems that printers and MSPs are presently facing. The classic predicament of knowing that something was coming, but not realizing it would approach so quickly, has left many businesses stuck in the dust of the industry leaders racing by.

My advice to you is to dedicate your time to developing a plan that will accomplish maintaining the standard of multi-channel marketing, which has pushed your top competitors to the head of the pack. Once you’ve mapped out your goals, tactics and execution strategy, stay tuned to my blog for insight and advice on the tools and best practices your business can implement to achieve positive recognition and grow your business in this multi-channel era.

To learn more about multi-channel marketing strategies, see my previous post, The Dos and Don’ts of Multi-Channel Marketing!

Are Your Customers Targeting Consumers Aged 65+? Check Their Channel Mix!

Friday, April 18th, 2014

According to just-released data from Pew Research Center, 41% of all adults 65+ still have no Internet access at home. This changes for more educated, affluent adults, but particularly for those who are older, less affluent, and who have physical or health conditions, print is still a critical part of the mix.

However, this is not a homogenous group. Within this demographic, the differences are striking. Among younger, affluent, and more educated 65+ consumers, the percentage going online and having broadband access at home is higher than the U.S. adult population overall. But among those with lower household incomes, particularly those with physical or health conditions, the percentages are much lower.

Digital enablement also varies significantly between younger and older adults in this group. As reported by MediaPost:

  • Among U.S. adults overall, 86% go online and 70% have broadband at home.
  • Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home. For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39% go online and 25% have broadband at home.
  • 87% of seniors with a college degree go online, and 76% are broadband adopters. Among seniors who have not attended college, 40% go online and just 27% have broadband at home.
  • 68% of Americans in their early 70s go online, and 55% have broadband at home. By contrast, Internet adoption falls to 47% and broadband adoption falls to 34% among 75-79 year olds. [1]

If you have clients selling products into the 65+ demographic, this article is a must read for channel mix. It impacts the channel mix in terms of print vs. email, and if they are doing email, the type of email sent (text only vs. HTML for non-broadband users).

These results also mean that if your clients aren’t tracking their customers by household income, education, and more detailed age brackets, you need to be working with them to get this done.  The difference between great response and dismal response hangs in the balance.

Great Infographic to Share with Clients

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Looking to convince clients that they need to make a greater investment in updating their databases? Here is a great infographic that makes the point in a powerful (but sometimes funny) way. The infographic relates to business data (such as changing address or phone numbers) more than it does consumers, but the point is made regardless.

For example,

  • In the 30 minutes you spent checking your mail, 127 companies changed phone numbers.
  • In the 25 minutes you spent commuting to work, 40 businesses changed locations.
  • In the 15 minutes you spent eating breakfast, 27 business changed names.

It also claims that bad data costs businesses $600 billion annually and up to 20% of revenue. It’s a great attention grabber . . . and a great excuse for your customers to let you help them update their marketing databases!

The infographic was created by Infogroup Targeting Solutions and shared by Marketing Profs.

Day Worth of Data

Why Your Clients Should Be Offering Email Couponing

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

If you’re a printer, you want clients to spend more money on print. So why should you encourage them to offer email coupons? Because email coupons are trackable, and they tell your clients what their customers are buying. That tells your clients a lot about those customers they can use for higher value print personalization later.

Experian Marketing Services’ 2013 4th Quarter email trends and analysis found a 50% year-over-year increase in the number of email campaigns offering coupons. As reported by MediaPost, whether the coupons were redeemable in-store, online, or both, email blasts with coupons outperformed other promotional mailings on open, click, and transaction rates. They also had 48% higher revenue per email ($0.10 for coupon mailings compared to $0.07 for other promotional mailings) in Q4 2013.

That’s a very active, engaged audience that can feed you a lot of information. Let’s say your customer is a specialty retailer offering a variety of pet products. It doesn’t have a loyalty program and isn’t large enough to track data at the point of sale. But you start sending email campaigns with coupons. The coupons that get printed, clicked through, or downloaded tell that customer which households have what types of pets. This allows you to help the store craft targeted campaigns directed at their specific pet needs.

Over time, it can alert the store to changes in pet ownership, too. Suddenly, the Smith, Jones, and Gordon families are downloading coupons for puppy chow. It’s a pretty good bet they just purchased a puppy. This can prompt mailings for grooming services, puppy beds, crates, and a variety of other products they are likely to need. In six to eight months, puppies grow into nearly full sized dogs, and those families will need larger beds, larger crates, training classes, flea and tick control for larger dogs, and so on.

One of the big hurdles to detailed targeting for small and mid-sized businesses is the lack of tracking at the point of sale. It’s great to talk about targeting and personalizing based on past purchase behavior, but most small and mid-sized marketers don’t know what their customers are buying. Email couponing gives insight into those behaviors in a way that’s realistic and affordable even for small businesses.

Increase the Value of Your Email Marketing Efforts

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Would you like to give your customers the marketing messages they want, the way they want them? Of course you would. That’s why you need to make the most of your email marketing. With up to 77% of customers preferring to get their marketing messages via email, it’s time to make sure you are getting the most out of this valuable resource.

Why Email Marketing Matters

Email marketing offers a lot of advantages. Email is:

  • Customizable – you can customize everything from your email content to what triggers an email to be sent. It’s a versatile medium, so use that to your advantage.
  • Affordable – setting up an email campaign is cost effective. Crafting a good email takes time, but emails are still relatively quick to put together compared to other marketing materials.
  • Relationship focused – email brings you into direct relationships with your customers, encouraging them to take action on your messages.
  • Measurable – email metrics tell you everything from open rates to click through rates and unsubscribe rates. All this tells you what you are doing well and where you could do better.

How To Make The Most Of Email

Email is a great ally for your business, but how do you make the most of it? Your aim is to send timely relevant emails that will be opened and acted upon. Start by:

  • Keeping it personal – you’re not sending email to “your list”, you’re sending it to the individual customer who is going to read it. Keep them in mind and address them directly.
  • Keeping it snappy – customers get a lot of marketing messages. Make yours stand out with an attention-grabbing headline and content that lets your brand’s personality shine through.
  • Keeping it customer focused – make the time spent reading worth their while. Instead of opening with why they need to buy your product or service, offer information that will be useful to them. Inform and entertain first, sell second.
  • Keeping it actionable – email is a great medium for encouraging action. Make it clear what the next step is, whether that’s getting in touch, placing an order, or looking out for the next eye-catching missive.

Email is a marketing mainstay that offers a welcome boost to your business. Give plenty of love to your email list and give them tantalizing content that will establish your business as worth paying attention to.

Have you had success with email marketing? I’d love to hear. Share your tips and best practices below!

The Dos and Don’ts of Multi-Channel Marketing

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Building a successful multi-channel marketing campaign is a bit like making a cake. For the recipe to be a success, you need to add all of the right ingredients.

In order to help you do so, let’s take a look at some quick dos and don’ts for executing multi-channel campaigns that will keep your clients and their customers happy.

Learn how you can execute a successful multi-channel marketing campaign by downloading, “The Dos and Don’ts of Multi-Channel Marketing,” free for The Digital Nirvana readers!

Take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilnk.me/DoDontMMC! Do you have any additional tips for executing successful multi-channel marketing campaigns? I’d appreciate your feedback below!