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Want E-mail Marketing Success? Here Are Some Basics

E-mail is a key part of most omnichannel marketing strategies, and AccuList USA supplies data and support for a growing list of e-mail marketing clients. Yet dodging spam filters and reeling in responses from crowded inboxes is an ongoing challenge. A recent Direct Marketing News article laid out some basic tips on how to get the most out of e-mail marketing:

Data Is Key to Deliverability, Targeting

As a data broker, AccuList USA naturally stresses that data matters. The DM News article listed data last among its tips, but we’ll put it first. Even the most well-crafted e-mail will end up in spam folders if delivered to an e-mail list with too many duplicates, outdated addresses, missing permission hygiene, spam traps, etc. Quality e-mail data is essential to deliverability, which means regular cleaning and updating of house lists, or carefully vetted rental lists (sponsored e-mails) for prospecting. Quality data is also key to the targeting that maximizes response, using segmentation and personalization to tailor offers and messaging to specific audiences and individuals.

Make Good First and Last Impressions

Once an e-mail lands in the inbox, the subject line, a brand’s first impression, impacts open rates.  While there are few absolute guidelines, be aware that 50-70 characters in length is the “sweet spot” for readability, per the article. In those few characters, the subject line needs to quickly convey an offer/value and tone that intrigue the audience. Beyond avoiding words and symbols likely to trigger spam filters, A/B testing is usually the best way to find which subject line leads to higher open and click rates, as the article advises. While focusing on a first impression, too many e-mail marketers forget the importance of a closing impression. For example, after gaining response and conversion, marketers can use transactional e-mails (e-mails acknowledging a purchase, donation, sign-up, etc.) to expand customer/donor value by offering a reward (discount on next purchase as an example), a loyalty program, a newsletter, social links and more.

Design With Mobile in Mind

When it comes to design, the key to success today is the ability to translate across desktop, tablet and mobile devices. Remember, research shows that more than two-thirds of consumers access e-mail through their smartphones! Other common general guidelines include formatting within standard dimensions and fonts, creating a layout with quick-scan logic and clear call to action, optimally sized images with alt text in case of blocking, and personalized or even dynamic content.

Embrace Social Media and Sociability

E-mail isn’t usually the only method for connecting with an audience, or necessarily the channel preference of all recipients. That’s why e-mails also should highlight social media buttons, invite readers to share content, or urge them to visit appropriate social pages and profiles, notes the article. Meanwhile, with personalization, humanization and authenticity as benchmarks of today’s marketing, e-mail marketers should avoid generic messaging and deliver content in a tone that speaks to the target audience yet remains in line with a consistent brand voice across channels.

For more detail, see the complete article at https://www.dmnews.com/channel-marketing/email/article/13034539/6-email-marketing-tips-to-stand-out-in-the-inbox

Publisher Mistakes Undermine Online Subscription Efforts

Subscription marketing is a goal for most of our B2B and B2C publishing clients, so we wanted to pass along a recent Publishing Executive (PE) magazine article warning of some common online errors by publishers that are undermining circulation marketing investments.

Use Premium Content to Lure Subscribers

Access to premium content should be online but limited to subscribers, urges PE author Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of eMedia Strategist. After all, why subscribe if you can go to the website and see all content for free? Unfortunately, some publishers are so baffled by the technology of locking down content as subscriber-only that they don’t even put their premium content online–losing a big selling point with digital traffic. Others are worried about reducing Google search traffic or ad impression dollars by limiting content access, but they are not factoring in the cost of lost subscribers, argues Shanfelt. Of course, for success with subscriber-only premium content, the website must then prominently promote that premium content and its subscriber-only status via clear incentives and calls-to-action, he adds.

Quick, Easy Subscription Pages Need to SELL

A website or mobile subscription page should not be just an order form, Shanfelt advises. Remember that most people who visit a subscription page are just considering subscribing. They need to be sold. Visitors should clearly see the benefits of subscribing and what they get (deliverables). Plus the page should generate a sense of urgency to sign up and use FOMO (fear of missing out) to push orders. Equally important, the subscription process should be quick and easy.  Make the subscription link easy to see and navigation simple by putting an obvious menu item and widget on every website page, with a link directly to a single-page subscription form, not a multi-step process. And finally, make sure the subscription page is not only secure but loads quickly on desktop or mobile. If it doesn’t load in 2-3 seconds, up to 50% of potential subscribers could be lost, warns Shanfelt.

Invest in Data Tracking and Integration

In order to test and adjust marketing tactics, online subscription and confirmation pages should use Google Analytics for e-commerce conversion tracking and cross-domain tracking to see how people get to subscription pages and how well they convert from different sources. Subscription/confirmation pages should also use tracking pixels from Facebook, Google, Bing and other digital sources, as well as from customer data platforms and e-mail systems.  More important, circulation data needs to be integrated with the website subscription pages and any e-mail or marketing automation systems. For effectiveness, that circulation data should be updated automatically in real-time or, at a minimum, manually once a month. If the website is synchronized with the circulation system, people can log into the site by authenticating against subscriber data to get access to premium content, for example. Integration also allows for conditional content blocks in follow-up e-mails to upsell non-subscriber leads, for sending of automatic renewal reminders, and even for a sync of subscriber lists with programmatic ad networks.

For more tips, see the full article.

Arts Marketers Need Digital CTAs That Drive Subscriptions

While direct mail continues to be a sturdy workhorse for AccuList USA’s performing arts marketing clients, digital campaigns–via online display ads, e-mail and social media–are required in a multi-channel world. Digital subscription drives offer cost-effectiveness, off-season branding, audience segment targeting, and synergy with direct mail. (Check out our Digital2Direct program to see we help mate mail with e-mail and social media ads.)  But with more competition for attention in the crowded digital space and with less room for persuasion than “snail mail,” digital promotion success is especially dependent on a well-designed and targeted call-to-action, as pointed out in a recent blog post by strategists at MogoARTS, a digital marketing agency for arts and cultural organizations.

Customizing CTA by Audience

An effective call-to-action will differ by targeting, the post points out. With renewals, the targets are lists of current season subscribers, so the CTA messaging can be direct and should highlight an incentive like a discount or savings for renewing early or by a deadline. For acquiring new members or reactivating lapsed subscribers, targeting includes lists of previous season ticket buyers and e-mail opt-in prospects, who need to be shown the benefits of subscription (or reminded). The CTA messaging for lapsed subscribers and multi-ticket buyers should give a reason to come back or upgrade to a subscription by promoting package savings or special benefits, such as free parking or early access to add-ons. CTAs to entice new members will need to spell out subscriber benefits, either across ad units or on a landing page, and showcase varied package options.

Tips on CTA Creative

The blog post also lists some CTA creative suggestions for arts marketers, whether the decision is to leverage programning/events or benefits to drive action. In pushing benefits in digital ads, listing one benefit per banner maximizes message impact and avoids overcrowding with too much text; patrons will see multiple banners over the life of the campaign after all. If the decision is to push programming, then other formats such as video or Facebook/Instagram News Feed Carousel ads may spark greater engagement than a static ad.

General CTA Best Practices

MogoARTS cites three best practices for any CTA: 1) customization for the different audience types, meaning renewing, lapsed or new members; 2) emphasis on the benefits of a subscription package over a single ticket purchase; and 3) highlighting of the savings/special rewards available for subscribing now. For CTA examples, see https://www.mogoartsmarketing.com/blog/subscription-campaign-best-practices-2018

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282 

Demographic Trends Drive Growth in Pet-Owner Spending

Direct mail and e-mail lists and data services targeting pet owners are one of AccuList USA’s high-demand markets, and we expect trends in pet ownership to grow that marketing interest–and the competition that makes quality data and targeting even more essential.

Demographics Fuel Pet-Owner Spending

A recent post for The Marketing Insider highlights the demographic trends that are making pet owners such attractive targets: “Americans now own 305 million cats and dogs, an increase of 85 million over the past 10 years. The  50+ demographic is responsible for 60% of that growth. With 50+ population expected to grow twice as rapidly as the 18-49 segment over the next 10 years, brands that include 50+ pet owners in their marketing strategies will improve their odds of maximizing revenue growth,” asserts columnist Mark Bradbury.

Older Pet Owners Offer Big Opportunities

Bradbury makes the point that marketers hoping to cash in on the older pet-owning market will need to adjust their buyer profiles given that 50+ pet owners are mainly empty-nesters (80%), retired (one-in-three), and three times more likely than younger pet owners to be divorced, widowed or separated–leaving more time and disposable income to devote to pet members of the family. Bradbury points to statistical proof that older owners are on a pet-spending splurge: People 50+ spent over $15.6 billion on their pets in the last year, more than all of the other generations combined, according to PetBusinessProfessor.com.

Growing Market Also Draws Big Competition

The opportunity to market pet-pampering products is expanding, but so is the competition for slices of the pet-owner pie. Using marketing tactics of the past may either miss the mark with the older generation of pet owners, or get lost in the crowd vying for their attention. Bradbury suggests several tactics that put the focus squarely on the growing Baby Boomer pet market, including messaging that celebrates a pet-centric Boomer life stage. Multi-channel campaigning is a must for this market as well. In addition to digital marketing via online, social and e-mail, Boomers are also still heavy users, and responders, of direct mail, magazines and television, Bradbury points out. “Synergistic cross-media marketing plans” are required to maximize reach at every stage in the purchase funnel, he advises. Plus, though Boomers like to spend to dote on their pets, they also want to spend wisely and are attracted to savings opportunities. Direct marketers will want to include discounts or loyalty reward programs to win brand fans.

For more of Bradbury’s pet marketing suggestions, see https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/314521/the-inside-track-on-the-booming-pet-market.html

Focus on E-mail Data for 2018 Insurance Marketing Success

Success with e-mail in 2018 insurance marketing boils down to using quality, targeted data–something that AccuList USA is committed to delivering. Data provider V12Data summed it up well in a recent post offering basic insurance e-mail data tips.

Start With Clean, Up-to-Date Data

With an estimated 30% of e-mail subscribers changing their addresses each year, make sure all e-mail lists are up-to-date, with addresses validated and verified, including any e-mail addresses that have been matched and appended to a postal list. Good list hygiene should include removing duplicates; correcting formatting errors; identifying addresses known to be associated with spam traps; and eliminating hard bounces, invalid e-mails/domains, and e-mails associated with complaints.

Profile, Segment and Personalize

There’s no point to all that quality e-mail data if it’s not used to understand and target your audience. That means looking at both actionable internal data, such as customer service records, transactions, credit card purchases or e-mail responses as well as relevant demographic data, either from first-party collection or appended via third-party data aggregators. Consumer demographics could include date of birth, home ownership, occupation, gender, estimated income, age, presence of children, investments and more. Then segment your lists in order to offer the right product to the right audience segment. Plus use data to personalize offers and creative, and that means going beyond a Dear FirstName. Today’s e-mail audience expects and demands personalized offers.

Pay Attention to Buying Cycle and Life Cycle

Smart e-mail campaigns nurture customers and prospects through the buying cycle. Because those who request general information and those who fill out a request for quote form may be at different stages of the buying cycle, they need different messaging. Website signups can be sent a personalized welcome message, while subscribers who have not taken further action can get a follow-up nurturing message about products and services, with a call-to-action promoting a free quote or agent call. When a prospect makes a quote request, e-mail messaging can focus on getting to a policy sale, with more policy information and a specific offer or promotion. Note that life cycle counts as much as buying cycle. Consumers are more likely to buy insurance during major life-event changes, such as marriage, divorce, moving, home purchase, a new baby, retirement, etc.  Leveraging that data in targeting sends the right offer at the right time for maximum response.

Check out AccuList USA’s insurance marketing data expertise and clients on our website.

 

2018 Digital Marketing Trends: Technology, Targeting, Tactics

Digital marketing continues to experience rapid changes. AccuList USA will be helping clients navigate this year via quality data, data services and other support efforts that take into account 2018 digital marketing trends recently outlined by Forbes magazine’s Forbes Agency Council.

Technology Drivers: AR, Conversational Interfaces, Video

The first of the article’s 15 trend predictions is continued growth in the use of Augmented Reality (AR), per Chris Carter of Rep Interactive, as mobile devices become more powerful, social apps improve AR integration, and, we would add, traditional print, from direct mail to ads to labels, also embraces AR. Meanwhile, the popularity of  conversational interactions will offer new opportunities and challenges, per a couple of council members—such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, chatbots and more. Now that Google says 20% of its mobile queries are voice searches and usage set to climb further, marketers will need to create content targeting these types of searches and ads for non-traditional venues (such as sponsored smart-fridge recommendations), predicts Brett Farmiloe of Markitors. Video was a big story in 2017 and is now seen as a basic of success for 2018 marketers, per several Forbes council members. It also means that marketers will face a higher bar in terms of quality. As social media platforms jump into live video and add features, “the shaky, holding-a-phone-in-your-hand live video won’t be acceptable anymore,” warns Thomas Brodbeck of Site Strategics.

Targeting Goes Hyper: Personalized & Contextual

Most marketers agree that the days of impersonal e-mail blasts are done. So what’s ahead in 2018? Marketers will be focused on hyper-targeting and personalizing every interaction, forecast several experts. Watch for personalized landing pages connected to each advertising campaign, for example. The need for unbiased targeting, predictive analytics and budgeting at every step of the customer journey also will increase use of application programming interfaces for machine-learning algorithms, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, opines Douglas Karr of DK New Media. And as data protection regulation increases, ad tech vendors will need to go beyond tracking behavior with cookies to contextual targeting strategies based on page content, adds Julien Verdier of Adyoulike.

Some Tactics Keep Their Buzz, and Some Fade

“Influencer marketing” had marketing buzz in 2017, but Craig Greiwe of Rogers & Cowan predicts that 2018 will see a collapse of interest because brands that spent big on influencers haven’t seen measurable results. He expects brands instead to “zero in on a few select individuals who drive results or move to organic grassroots promotion, and away from high-cost, middle-tier influencers who drive awareness but little ROI.” Content marketing, meanwhile, will remain a key part of the marketing tool box—but with some changes. New formats, video, and voice search are ending the focus on blog posts and listicles and pushing marketers toward featured snippets, interactive spoken tutorials and integration with User Interface features, says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. In the crowded online grab for engagement, native advertising will retain appeal, too, per Timothy Nichols of ExactDrive, Inc., helping marketers to expand viral sharing and develop a more involved relationship with target markets.

For more trend predictions, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2017/12/18/how-digital-marketing-will-change-in-2018-15-top-trends/#464141092d9a

2018 Digital Marketing Spend to Rise; High Hopes for Social

AccuList USA’s digital marketing clients are already looking ahead to 2018 results, with many planning to increase digital spending. They’re following the trend reported in a recent survey by Ascend2, which found that 93% of firms expect to boost digital marketing budgets in 2018.

Boosted Digital Spend Planned in 2018

The survey, conducted in December 2017, tapped 217 marketing influencers, with 43% working for B2B firms, 35% for B2C firms, and 22% for hybrid firms. The combined 52% planning marginal increases and 41% planning significant boosts in 2018 digital marketing budgets dwarfed the 7% who intend to decrease digital spending. But the more interesting data involves where the marketers foresee the biggest bang for digital bucks in the year ahead.

Social & Content Marketing Dubbed Most Effective

Respondents expected the most effective digital marketing tactics in 2018 to be social media marketing (18%), followed by content marketing (17%). Search engine optimization was seen as most effective by 15%, e-mail marketing was seen as leading by 13%, and paid search and social ads was chosen by only 11%. The lower ranking of e-mail and search ads was not due to execution barriers; both were rated as among the least difficult to implement.

Execution Challenges for Data Management & Technology

In contrast, surveyed marketers reported the greatest execution difficulties for data management (18% rated as most difficult) and marketing technology (also 18%). Content marketing and search engine optimization tied for second place in terms of implementation challenges, with both selected by 16%.

Go to https://research.ascend2.com/2018-digital-marketing/ to download a full copy of the Ascend report.

Making the Case for Direct Mail Power in Multi-channel Marketing

As our multi-channel marketing clients polish their 2018 marketing plans, it’s a good time to remind them of the continued value of direct mail in this digital era. A recent infographic from direct marketing agency US Presort puts together data from The Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Social Media Examiner, Epsilon, Experian and Marketing Sherpa to make the case for a direct mail commitment.

Why Connect Digital & Direct Mail?

The majority of marketers (71%) say they believe in an integrated multi-channel approach. After all, a smart multi-channel strategy can combine the pervasive impact of digital (96% of consumers say they were influenced online in making a purchase decision) with the effectiveness of direct mail (digital can’t beat mail’s 80% open rate or its consumer trust rating  of 76% compared with 61% for Google search, 43% for social and 39% for online ads). And marketers who combine direct mail and e-mail in a single integrated campaign report better results than when running standalone efforts, with overall response increasing by 35% or more. So why are so few marketers (just 29%) actually implementing those integrated multi-channel campaigns?

Addressing Direct Mail Myths

Lingering misconceptions may cause some marketers to hesitate over integrating direct mail with digital. As the infographic points out, direct mail has a high perceived cost. Yet while direct mail costs more to produce and distribute, its response rates are also much higher than other channels, so its ROI remains competitive. For example, per the DMA’s 2016 data, direct mail response rates averaged 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% for prospect lists, compared with online display ads at 0.9%, e-mail at 0.6% for house files and 0.3% for prospects, social media with 0.6%, and paid search at 0.5%. As a result, median ROI for direct mail, while behind e-mail, is on par with social media at 29% and 30%, respectively, and ahead of other digital channels such as mobile, search and online ads. Others assume difficulties in connecting and tracking combined paper and digital promotions. But technology and U.S. Postal Service discounts are making direct mail easier and cheaper to integrate with digital via mobile device-scanned coupon links, QR codes, PURLs (Personalized URLs), and landing pages. Plus, direct mail is now much easier to track in real time thanks to the U.S. Postal Service Intelligent Mail Barcode that lets marketers follow every single piece from the postal DSCF unit to the prospect’s door.

Making Direct Mail Part of a Multi-channel Solution

Successfully leveraging the power of direct mail in a multi-channel strategy requires a few key steps. As suggested in the infographic, include the USPS Intelligent Mail Barcode on all mail to track delivery and coordinate with other channels, and then gather measurable response from multiple channels via tactics such as reply cards, 800-number call tracking, as well as mobile-scanned QR codes and PURLs. Create campaign-specific landing pages and make sure they are mobile-friendly. Integrate e-mail and direct mail messaging and lists, and coordinate e-mail blasts with mail delivery; plus create Facebook ad campaigns to target the same audience as your direct mail lists (see our Digital2Direct programs). Finally, consider IP Direct Mail or Web Direct Mail to target the same mail audience on Google with coordinated ad banners.

To share the full infographic, go to https://www.uspresort.com/posts/direct-mail-how-to-succeed-in-digital-era