Scott and Chris have joined since our last newsletter.
Scott works with Tikhon in the email marketing side of the business. Scott comes from a background in IT, education, knowledgebases and analyst work. He has previous experience in email campaigns for fundraising, along with databases and web development.
Chris works with Abby in our web optimisation operation. He is Google Certified in both Google Analytics and Google AdWords and is working across a range of accounts already.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – By Greg McKeown
I loaded this book up on my Kindle two hours before stepping onto NZ 245 for a nine-hour flight to Bali. Little did I know that my 15 year old daughter would fall ill during the flight so Claire and I would spend most of the flight helping her. Not a lot was read until we were settled in our villa in Ubud.
Heading away on leave is never easy for me. It takes me a good three to four days to start to relax. Thankfully, this book was a real help in speeding things up. Here are a few points that stood out for me.
The lie that “you can do it all”.
The book starts by shattering the illusion that what you believe you can do is actually possible. “You can do it all” is the first that gets a serve. You can’t – and thinking you can is a trap that many, me included, fall into.
Greg expands on this with theory about the “trivial many” compared to the “vital few”. I think we all live in a world where it’s hard to determine which task fits in what group. It’s not helped with a task list that grows each day, every task seemingly as important as the next. Finding your “vital few” is a key message of the book.
This concept hit home for me while I was stressing about what was happening back at base. There I was, away from work in a timezone that didn’t make it easy for the team to contact me while a large volume of work was going through the studio.
So what was the tradeoff for my stress? Well, Claire and my two teenage daughters were experiencing a new culture following a challenging home renovation project that pushed us all to the max. When I was a kid, my father took our family on regular holidays, and a lot of my fondest memories are linked to these experiences.
When I looked at it this way, the tradeoff was well worth it.
If you don’t set your priorities, someone else will.
So who has priorities? I guarantee all who read this newsletter do – but who sets them? If you are not actively setting them then someone else is. Perhaps this is not necessarily the right way for you?
Sleep – protect the asset
I left Auckland absolutely knackered and with a chest infection that was starting to gain an edge. We were all tired and slept a lot over the next few days. By day six I was coming right and I felt fresher than I had in a while. I read a lot. The Kindle got a serious workout and the ideas started to flow again; ideas that would never have arrived if we had not taken the break.
I finished the book with my personal list of the vital few and some strategies to manage the rest. For me it was the right book arriving at the right time. Funny how this happens sometimes.
Each year we pick a charity for Christmas and make a sizable donation on behalf of our customers. This year we asked our customers for their help and based on their feedback we will be sending these three charities a donation of $500 each.
The Salvation Army
Cancer Research through the Cancer Society
Our offices close Friday 20th December at 4.00pm and will re-open January 6th at 9.00am.
Have a safe and relaxing Christmas
All the best
The team at Permission
In May this year, Google updated the Maps desktop version to make it easier to use. It also allows you to solve new problems like – which cafes are near my client’s office for a quick catch up? Or which of my friends has reviewed a Japanese restaurant in Auckland that will make my decision to pick one so much easier?
This is all good news for the “directionally challenged” like me. As I’m possibly one of the world’s worst navigators, Google Maps has been one of my all-time favourite applications.
The desktop addition of Google Maps was the precursor of all things mobile. It launched a whopping eight years ago, which is an eternity in Internet time when you realise that Facebook started the year prior. The “Street View” option found here is a particular favourite. Knowing what the outside of an office looks like can save precious time when struggling with Auckland’s cryptic street numbering system.
The mobile version is also a winner. I used to find it within the native mapping app on my iPhone until Apple replaced it with its own. Remember the disaster that was? (I just checked again and still Apple Maps tells me that Bondi Beach is just on the edge of Cornwall Park in Auckland.) Needless to say it was a quick rush back to Google when they launched their own iPhone app.
Changes to the desktop version
The core desktop part of Google Maps received a complete refresh in May. Thankfully what remained of the old version was the super-simple way to find where you want to go. However, Google tells us this is now achieved by using a mapping environment that’s more personalised than ever before. As you click, apparently Google learns.
As I write this, access to the new Google Maps is by invitation only. By the time this is published I expect everyone should be allowed in. Once you have access, the first obvious difference is the way in which it looks on the screen. Here’s a snapshot to follow:
Notice how the search box sits in the top left of the screen. It’s a place that works well. Just type away and see the map move before your eyes as it hones in on the location you are looking for.
Or, if you don’t know where you want to go BUT do know what you want, then you can use the map to help as it suggests a range of options nearby. For instance, type in “cafes near Jervois Road, Auckland” and ba-boom – cafes and their location are shown directly on the map.
All of this relies on businesses having previously registered their location with Google. This is not an obvious process to follow for most business owners – which is probably why I only see four cafes suggested for the full length of the latte-rich area of Ponsonby’s Jervois Road.
Anyway, once you find the place you want to visit it’s a piece of cake to learn how best to get there. Just pick where you are leaving from, “home” or “work” (both are configured settings) and Google will plot the best route for your pick of transport options – walking, driving or taking public transport.
The opportunity for business
The new opportunity for business owners is to advertise to a new set of potential customers – i.e. those who know what they want, but not where to find it. In this new version you now have two options available to achieve this task. The first involves placing your paid advertisement below the search box AND on the location of your business directly on the map – as bold as brass. Below is a snapshot of a business doing both.
The second option is a relatively plain alternative where your ad sits just below the search result. However, it isn’t that much more complex to do the first, so that’s our suggestion for those of you wanting to give it a try.
I’m picking that the “search within the map” interface is one that will catch on with many. It just seems to work well. This will drive traffic, which drives clicks, which should drive conversions.
The only thing that could spoil all this fun is the content that people see when they find the location they want and click to read more about it. Think of this as a mini Google website that you populate describing your business. Google calls it your Google Plus Local page. Born of Google’s social media tool, Google Plus, this naturally includes a space for people to place reviews. You cannot disable this feature, so it pays to regularly monitor what people are saying.
Other benefits for personal use
If you are a Google Plus user with a bunch of Google Plus friends, then these reviews become even more relevant. Now you can filter the results you see on the map by those reviewed by people in your “circles”. Or you can pick a rather nebulous category, “Top Reviewers”. See the screenshot below which shows how I can filter my options when searching for a Japanese Restaurant in Auckland.
Tips for getting started
If you’d like help with any of this, then give us a call at the office and one of our team will help you move forward. Happy Mapping!
Last month’s article on email marketing and the conference call on the same subject area achieved the desired result.Afew more customers have launched their first email marketing campaign and are now starting to reap some of the many rewards this strategy can produce.All good news.
Nevertheless, there are a few customers out there – we know who you are 🙂 – who are stubbornly refusing to move forward into the land of email.So for them I present these six online marketing myths all busted with an explanation on how an effective email marketing strategy can come to their aid.
Myth #1: Everyone visiting your website is ready to buy
A good e-commerce website will covert at 5% – leaving 95% able to visit and leave, hopefully to return at some time in the near future.Hope is nice but how about you replace this with a persuasive email subscription form to cajole them into joining your email newsletter list? A credible 15% may take you up on this option, moving your total conversion rate up to a very respectable 20%.But, more importantly, you can message them on a friendly frequency in the hope that this time they are more likely to buy than they were when they subscribed.
Myth #2: All prospects will say yes to your proposal
Similar to Myth #1 but more suited to those who sell face-to-face.Now I must admit that some timeshare salespeople of old may have come close to a 100% conversion rate but legislation has now sorted out that way of selling.So normal people selling normal products may close 25-50% and even 75% of sales but there will still be those that need to be nurtured after the presentation.That’s where a permission-compliant email newsletter can work its magic to move people along the buying process, gradually nudging them closer towards the line of commitment.
Myth #3: Your customers will remember you and your company
They won’t.There’s too much going on in their lives to make what you do that important for them.Somehow you need to drop effortlessly into their Inbox life every month or so and share something of interest.Email is easy for them to “consume”, simple for you to construct and a short click away from something that can sell. (Yes, that’s your “salesperson” website.)
Myth #4: Offers are only to be sent to those who are focused on buying a bargain
Walk around any Warehouse store and look at the people filling the aisles.There’s every demographic you can imagine.And all are there because they want to be where “Everyone gets a bargain”.So take care before dismissing that offers always bring in the wrong type of customer.Many a retail fortune has been made by those who understood the value of an offer to bring in the right type of customer, who then decides to purchase the right high-margin product.
Myth #5: People will bookmark your website URL
When was the last time you bookmarked a supplier’s website?Probably a long time ago.Your customers and prospects are the same.So you need to actively work on strategies to bring them back again and again.Yes, you can support Google’s growing fleet of jets by using the AdWords system but email marketing is a much more cost-effective strategy to bring them back.
Myth #6: Customers will decide when they are ready to buy and NOTHING you can do will influence when this occurs
Customers need convincing.And yes, it could start with deciding that it is time to buy something in your category and then work its way all the way down to the finer details of the sale such as the colour of the seat leather. Short, direct messages of persuasion sent via email can add some strength to your argument that moves them closer to you and not your competitors.
So there you have it.If you don’t already have email marketing as part of your online marketing mix then please write down the answer to these questions.
Send your answers to email@example.com and let’s get this thing started.
With the interest in this month’s coaching call, here’s an article on email marketing I wrote earlier that may help those looking to improve their efforts.
Another twelve months of email marketing lie ahead but should you carry on in January just as you ended in December? Planning for the year ahead is a great time to take stock of the last 12 months of email marketing statistics to determine what trends, if any, signify the need for an email marketing strategy review.
To start this process I suggest you tabulate the key email messaging statistics for last year’s campaigns including invalids, bounces, opens, clicks and unsubscribes. Firstly, let’s start with invalids and opens. Any trends you see in these two values should match any changes you have made in your data collection and management methods.
For instance, if you collected a large number of new email addresses through a trade show in June by asking prospects to write their details onto a card then, when you emailed them with July’s newsletter, both invalid and bounce percentages should have risen due to this quick but notoriously unreliable method of data collection. Likewise, if you started to collect permission for your email newsletter online by asking subscribers to fill in a form on which they confirmed their email address twice then your invalid and bounce rates should have been seen to slowly fall.
If the values of both invalids and bounces have remained relatively flat, with your bounce rate being below 2.5% and your invalid rate below 2% then all is fine. Your work here may be on finding new methods to re-activate those already in these two groups.
Managing the re-activation of bounced email addresses is not the easiest of tasks in which to achieve and as such is frequently missed. Perhaps this is the year that you instigate a process that helps to find these lost subscribers?
When tracking your open rates you may see a slow decline. Don’t be too concerned – as I mentioned on our coaching call this month, this is due to an increasing percentage of subscribers using email clients that suppress images by default. (The open rate statistic is gathered by tracking a subscriber’s ability to download an image that is specific to them but otherwise hidden in the email content.)
However, if the last 12 months’ figures show a falling open rate that is greater than a 5% change then your issues may lie with your content rather than any industry-wide issue and further investigation will be required. For those with a relatively consistent email list, e.g. a monthly newsletter, I would advise reviewing each email send with a view to splitting subscribers who have opened the message into two groups – new and existing subscribers. (New being those who see this month’s edition as their first.)
The data may show a disproportionate number of new subscribers opening the message compared with those already on the list. This reveals content that appeals the first few times it is received but then quickly wanes as editions continue to roll out. If there is no conclusive evidence based on splitting the open rate by the recency of subscription, try to look further into the make up of those opening across multiple editions to see if there is some sort of common ‘opener subscriber’ profile.
Conversely, for those not opening – are there any specific characteristics in this group, e.g. high value customers, low value customers? For some reason the communication is not continuing to resonate with a specific audience segment(s). If one of the common components of your ‘non-opener profile’ is the ISP they are using to collect their email through then you could be having issues with successful deliverability to this audience.
Check to ensure that you have a number of seed addresses for this ISP and run some of your own tests using the content of prior editions to see if this is the problem. For those newsletters that rely on a website to hold most of their content, click-through rates are strong gauges of content comprehension. These statistics are not artificially deflated by any outside technology trends and as such can be viewed as a true reflection on the success of your email communication methods.
A twelve-month review of what content generates the most click throughs will help to further cement your understanding of the content your email audience finds the most appealing. Likewise, the converse statistic will guide you on what not to include in your next edition. Falling click-through rates are a concern. As for falling open rates, it helps to find any common subscriber profiles among those doing more or less clicking.
To help you, some email dispatch tools automatically show the percentage of existing and new clickers as individual tools for each campaign. In this case editions that show an even split between new and old clickers reveal content that is appealing to both subscriber groups. Other tools just bundle your clickers into the one aggregate group for you to split out yourself.
I see the unsubscribe action as being somewhat like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff of inattention. Falling open and click-through rates are the precursor to people taking up this option. A high proportion of those not opening or clicking will have mentally unsubscribed to your communications well before they choose to click on your link to confirm their status.
That said, after plotting your twelve-month unsubscribe trend you should see a relatively steady set of unsubscribe figures – any sharp increases are strong cause for concern.
So there you go – just a few quick ways to ensure your email marketing efforts for 2012 are built on your learning from 2011 allowing for any tweaks, where required, to your overall communication strategy.
Google AdWords – Speed isn’t always your Friend
Google makes starting a new AdWords campaign a very easy task indeed. Within minutes you can gather together a selection of keywords, write an small text ad, load up your credit card details, and “baboom” – start sending them money and your website traffic. Most should achieve this in 30 minutes or less. At first this seems like good news for the time-starved executive. You are now advertising online on the country’s most visited search engine. Time to sit back, relax and just wait for the phone to ring or the email inbox to fill up with contact requests. Ideally both.
This must happen for a few. Otherwise, those happy images of satisfied customers Google portrays on its AdWords home page would be false. Nevertheless, the Google advertisers who walk through our doors for the first time rarely share stories of drowning under a torrent of leads as a result of their 20 minutes of campaign set-up.
A few turned up at Permission with different stories last month. Well established and successful business people who were spending hundreds of dollars a day with Google and were a) not seeing much benefit from it, and b) not sure if this was typical of the experience of others.
Fortunately, each of them had agreed to complete our initial online marketing review process and because of this we had the necessary time to take them through their AdWords account, pointing out the good and not so good parts. The bits that were great for them and Google and likewise the bits that were not so friendly to their wallet.
Now, I firmly believe that Google has the interests of the advertiser at heart when they designed their account set-up process. They had to allow for a time-starved user with limited attention and, based on the complexity involved, the process does a great job. So all the big things – like keywords, budgets and ads – decisions the advertiser HAS TO INCLUDE to get going are covered in an easy to understand way. Meanwhile, what seem to be relatively small things – like keyword match types, choice of advertising networks and optimal account structure – well, Gooogle decided that these are best done AFTER the account was live.
Unfortunately, it’s these AFTER bits that can make all the difference. Which was why I found myself and my client peering into a web browser at an AdWords campaign, picking over a campaign that had been removing thousands of dollars from his bank account each week and providing very, very little in return. Fortunately, we had this under control after a days work, but still, the money that was already spent was wasted.
So, in the interests of ensuring readers of this newsletter avoid such a situation, here are some of the fundamental AdWords Campaign Set-Up basics that apply to any campaign that is successful (for both Google and the advertiser).
Fundamental basic #1: Take control of your keywords
The underlying resource of any AdWords campaign is the keywords you chose to bid on. The Google Keyword tool is a free resource (just Google it) that will help you see which keywords attract the highest search volume for the regions you want to advertise within. So if you are an Auckland-based mortgage broker, after you have used this tool you may find that “Mortgage Brokers Auckland” is a keyword worth bidding on.
Google enables you to bid on this keyword in four different ways. These are called match types. There is broad match, modified broad match, phrase match and exact match. (For the sake of accuracy there’s a fifth type called negative match that I’ll cover later on.)
When you set up your account for the first time, broad match is the default option. Remember the set-up process is all about speed. So the time taken to educate you on the other match options and then let you pick which suits is put in the AFTER bucket. This is a shame because the default option can cause a lot of problems.
You see, broad match allows Google to present your ad for terms like these:
Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Home Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Refinance Brokers
Reviews Mortgage Brokers Auckland
Mortgage Brokers Auckland Business Set Up
Some of these are good, a few not so. The other three match types help you refine the way in which your keywords match against what the searcher types in. It starts with the highly refined exact match. Then it gradually becomes more flexible – as each match type is used – until you arrive at the last option, the broad match choice, which opens your keyword up to a mass of terms that may or may not suit your business.
To follow is an image from Google that helps to show you all this in a friendly graphic for the search term formal shoes.
Fundamental basic #2: Know your negatives
The fifth keyword match type is a negative match. This is for keywords that people may use within the phrases you want to bid on but by doing so automatically discount them from being valid search terms. So in the previous graphic from Google, perhaps you didn’t sell any black shoes, or your shoes were just for men. In these cases, the terms “black” and “women” would be in your list of negative keywords.
These types of keywords can be applied to your whole campaign or to just one Ad Group. So when we see a campaign that only uses broad match terms and has no negative keywords then there are problems ahead.
Fundamental basic #3: Don’t mix networks or regions
Google can place your advertising next to their search results and also on websites that host their advertising. One key difference between the two is that one audience is actively searching for what you offer, while the other is passively reading about it. These are two very different environments to advertise within.
Nevertheless, when setting up your account (again, in the interests of time) your Google AdWords campaign is set up to run in both. This is usually not the best option for those starting. Our recommendation is to always focus on searchers first and then, once you have figured out how to make this traffic stream work, begin work on convincing passive readers to click your ads. Trying to do both will muddy your results and make what is already a hard task even harder.
Fundamental basic #4: Carry on the conversation, deliver people to the optimal page
This brings me nicely into how the underlying structure of your account can either work for or against you. Think of it like the commonly used “house foundation” analogy – build on solid foundations and you improve your chances of future success. The foundation for an AdWords campaign is the ease with which it allows you to carry on the question raised by the searcher.
For instance, say they type in the keyword “black formal shoes male”. Just by chance they see your text ad that includes text like their keyword term. And, when they click on it, they are taken to the page on your website that presents them with your full range of black formal shoes for guys. So easy for them – a bit of work for you.
To achieve this experience your campaign needs to contain a lot of Ad Groups. An Ad Group is a Google term for a distinct collection of keywords and the text ads that work for them. Most new campaigns set up at speed have just the one. This will be filled with lots of keywords and perhaps only one or, if we are lucky, maybe two ads. When clicked, these will most likely take you to the home page.
If you run this type of campaign and the searcher types in “black formal shoes male” or even “brown formal shoes female” or possibly “white formal dance shoes male”, they are shown the one ad that talks generically about formal shoes. If they click this ad they will arrive on the home page of the website and have to find the right shoes for themselves. People rarely do.
Fundamental basic #5: Track how well your money is being spent
My final fundamental basic. The online marketing space is littered with opportunities to track and measure. The problem is usually the vast amount of data available, not the lack of it. The Google AdWords system is no different. And while, once again, setting up “conversion tracking” is something missing during the speedy sign-up process, it’s in your account waiting to be turned on.
Once engaged you will be able to see how much money you spent to achieve whatever conversion you want to measure. This could be newsletter sign-ups, e-commerce sales or contact requests – they can all be counted. Some of the data may make you smile, others may not – but at least you will know what does and doesn’t work.
So there you have it. Five fundamentals that are missed during any super speedy new account set-up. Yes, it will take you time to do all five BUT, once done, your account will work so much harder for you. Speed isn’t always your friend. Look here for more on our Google AdWords Campaign Management Services.
Practical Email Marketing – August 2011
For the last five years I have been involved as co-tutor for the Practical Email Marketing Course put on by the Marketing Association and the University of Auckland Shortcourses department. It’s always a fun two days. Fitting it all in is always a challenge. Amanda and I start the day with a proposed agenda packed full of content and what is really just a guide to how long each session should take.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t take us long to get out of control and by our first coffee break we are always behind. How much behind depends on the amount and type of questions we get asked. This month’s session was no different. Most in the group were already email marketing and had come eager to find an edge in their market. So from the first 15 minutes onwards we were both peppered with a myriad of really smart questions.
As luck would have it we managed to cover all the content. And, based on the workshop presentations we had to judge, the large bulk of what was covered was quickly applied by each group. So what were some of the “edge sharpening” points for those who read this newsletter to also use in their email marketing?
Well here’s five. These comprise just a smidgen of the content covered in the full two-day course. (Contact the Marketing Association for a schedule to get the whole serving by joining us next time.)
Two factors that work in partnership – increasing message relevance and growing production difficulty.
“So what’s the one part of email marketing that has the greatest effect on the success of the campaign?” I asked the group at the start of day two when reviewing what we had covered during day one.
“Relevance” was the reply – followed by the clarifying statement “Being as relevant as you can”.
This is correct – email marketing that is relevant gets opened, gets clicked and gets results. The only issue is that achieving this comes at a cost – the most relevant campaigns are usually the hardest to build and take the longest to implement.
For example, say you are a men’s clothing retailer with a 10,000 customer email marketing list and within this you have three very different segments of buyers based on their spending amounts and product choices. The ideal option would be to run three alternative promotions with different creatives and offer types – each ideally matched to its customer segment. That’s the most relevant option. However, what happens in the majority of cases is that one offer is cast across the whole list. Frequently, the easy option is taken because it saves time, costs less and is easier to manage. But what some people fail to realise is that all this time-saving work at the campaign build end translates into more work later on.
Less relevant campaigns result in reduced conversion rates and therefore additional marketing is required to ensure future sales targets are met. Sorry, there are no short cuts to producing highly relevant email campaigns – they take hard work.
There is a fixed and limited amount of subscriber attention you have to work with.
Everyone would love their subscribers to pore over their email newsletters, having them read every word, click on every link and generally devour it with the same level of care that was taken preparing it. Well sorry – this just ain’t going to happen.
Firstly, people will skim over your copy, picking out the bits that capture their eye and convince them to read more. I always imagine them having a ticking stopwatch counting down while this is happening. For some that could be 5 seconds, others may spare you 15 seconds – but it’s not going to be minutes.
Design and create your campaigns with this in mind so your subscribers can read the main parts of your messages with or without the images turned on. Forcing them to take the time to open the images to replace red crosses with something of meaning just burns through valuable message-reading attention.
Make it easy to do the easy tasks.
One of the group commented on something that I thought was interesting. She had recently changed jobs so during her last few days of work she had to go through and update her email address in the newsletters she was subscribed to.
Some made this relatively straightforward task easy to achieve, others made it a nightmare – so hard in fact that, rather than change her details, she chose to unsubscribe and be done with them. Moving jobs is not an uncommon action, so how hard do you make updating an email address for your subscribers? Is there an “Update Your Details” link at the top of your message that takes people to a form where they can quickly advise you of the change?
Capitalise on those messages that are more expected than others.
There are very few email newsletters I expect to receive on a certain day at a certain time. The vast majority arrive with a surprise – some welcome, others not so. Nevertheless, there is one email campaign that every subscriber does expect to receive – the “welcome campaign”.
These are messages sent to you as a direct result of you subscribing. Perhaps you opted in by completing a form or by checking a box during the order process. Whatever the action, what you usually expect next is a response of sorts just so you know something did actually happen after you clicked “submit”.
It doesn’t have to be wordy to put you at ease. Just a short “Thanks for registering“ could be enough to reassure you that everything ended up in the right spot. Now, the smart email marketers will capitalise on this heightened attention and will not squander this with a short message. Oh no, they would supply a steady series of well written email messages that not only welcome the person onto the list but also introduce them “around” the website they have subscribed to and the places where the most juicy bits of content are found.
Behaviour-based email sequences or “triggers” like these welcome messages can produce some amazing uplifts in open and click-through rates when compared with normal campaigns. If you are on any North American email lists you would have recently experienced a definite increase in these types of messages coming your way. Yes, they take a bit longer to develop and deploy – but like my earlier note on improving your relevance being something that comes with increased workload – all this extra effort has some subsequent rewards.
Extract your email traffic from your normal direct and referring domain website traffic.
Knowing how big any email marketing rewards will be depends on your ability to identify and measure the effectiveness of all this extra website traffic. So where does your email traffic show up in your web analytics reports?
For those who don’t properly “tag” their links it can either be found in the “direct traffic” or “referring domains” area. Both of these contain lots of other bits of traffic, which really makes it impossible to isolate which visits are from your last email campaign.
Fortunately, Google has a tool that makes it relatively easy to fix this and edit all your website links contained in your email messages so that when they are clicked they are tracked and shown as separate campaigns in your reports. Visit http://bit.ly/oQlqG7 to find out more.
Yes, it takes some extra time to add the extra parts to each link but once it is done you have a reliable way to see how much better or poorer your email traffic is when compared with the other streams of traffic that your website gets.
It should be better – conversion rates on their own should be at least 1.5 or 2 times better. Otherwise, your email messaging is doing a very poor job of “warming up” your prospects.
So there you have it. Just five simple points that could be worth reviewing with your own email marketing during the months ahead. When used properly it can be a powerful part of any online marketing strategy.
I have a friend who has been going through a rough patch these last few months. Nothing financial, nothing tragic, just a general and overriding feeling of not being the happy type of guy he once was. Fortunately, by sharing this change with a few close friends, he found himself referred to an elderly, grey-haired guy at a beachside residence just out of Auckland.
Anyway, last week, over a few beers, my mate shared with me a recent insight the “greyer one” had proffered during his latest session. It would seem life comes with the biggest illusion of them all –namely the belief that we can affect some control over the experiences that come our way. So our health changes, with little regard for our plans; family members do what they want; and then, for those in business, there’s more lack of control than many of us are willing to accept.
But it’s not all bad news. Well, not totally. You see, the grey-haired man from the sea told my mate that all is not totally lost – there was one thing he could control and that was the way he reacted to everything that came his way. Now this person is a bit of a control freak anyway, so being told this news didn’t go down too well. But after some solid debating between himself and his aged advisor he gradually accepted the logic supporting it. And once he had, he admitted to feeling that he had moved one step further away from where he was and, consequently, one step closer to where he wanted to get back to.
All this is good news for him but not so good news for those of us tasked with managing a business. Knowing that we will never really have complete control over our operation is not something most of us want to accept. The appeal of achieving this state of total control sounds so inviting. Just imagine what it would be like. Revenue lines would climb upwards, perfectly mirroring the inclines of our budget graphs, staff would do exactly as their job description said they should and, last but not least, customers would send us a steady stream of the exact type of work we wrote about receiving 12 months prior in the marketing section of our business plans.
But of course it doesn’t work like this. It could be said that all these documents, when viewed in the wrong light, just support the fallacy that they can on their own magically control the business. The true reality is that all they represent are guide posts to help us steer our resources in the correct direction to help us better manage the uncontrolled nature of business. But they are not alone. There are other tactics we can employ to help us along the way.
It would be fair to say that marketing a business contains more ‘un-controllable’ aspects than most. Changing markets and fickle customer needs are just two big problems that should make only the very optimistic among us (some would say foolhardy) think they had complete control over their marketing outcomes. Nevertheless, there is a marketing task that, once completed, will help you capture a smidgen more control over the marketing outcomes you desire, and that’s running an active email marketing strategy.
From my 12 years’ experience in online marketing, I can confidently state that the vast majority of businesses would benefit from adding email marketing to their communications plans. However, of the prospects that come our way, it’s the minority that has something underway. And, I am sorry to say, that when I look through the list of our customers I only see a few who are actively using email in any part of their business.
So what’s wrong?
Well, to help me answer that big question I’ll call on an experience I had only the other week. I was meeting with a business owner who was an email marketing non-practitioner. Over coffee, she was doing a very good job of recounting each and every reason why she hadn’t begun email marketing – even after I had told her to do so a few months prior. Her list was a comprehensive one so I thought I would work through them here – with my answers included – just in case your situation is similar to hers (yes, Rebecca, John, Ray, Claire, Chris, Joanne and Sneha – this part is for you).
To start, she hit with me with the classic, “I don’t know what to write.” She had a consulting business so I told her to take a deep breath, calm down and write some simple stories of the work she had done – protecting people’s privacy along the way. Nothing too involved, nothing too complicated and probably less than 1000 words to start with. She could then finish this with either an offer or some call to action at the end to wrap things up. Short, simple and something that shouldn’t take her days to produce.
Next up I had, “But I don’t know when to send it.” I told her to keep clear of Monday at 9:00am and Friday at 4:30pm and between these to pick a time that best suited her. And yes, when she started out her list would probably be so small that she could possibly hand deliver each edition. But I told her not to worry about this, just to focus on getting that first edition out and about.
“But what should it look like? It needs to look professional.” Well yes, but it doesn’t need to be a work of art either. For instance, when I first started my own printed newsletter I bravely asked for feedback from a few close by clients and was told by one that it reminded him of something his local PTA would send him. Ouch!! For the next edition, I had our designer Ben take control of the look and layout and things improved markedly. But at least I was underway.
I also mentioned to her not to worry about the software she may need to make it all happen. There are more email marketing tools out there now for a list of her size than she would ever hope to imagine. And, fortunately, these tools don’t need a tech guru to drive them for low send volumes and so there was no need to worry about the costs – they are very affordable. Using an existing template with her logo and the finished content shouldn’t cause too much of a headache. It may be a bit minimalist in style but it would look OK to get going with.
“But who should I send it to?” My very short answer – anyone who has given you permission to. If you want to be really clever you could have two different sends, one for your customers and the other for your prospects. But please don’t let clever get in the way of you sending something out.
Take a leaf out of Google’s book and give yourself permission to put the development of your own email marketing strategy into a Beta stage of development. Google’s email client, Gmail, was in Beta for five years and now has over 193 million users monthly. Now personally, I think that five years is a bit long for most but do allow yourself at least the first year to be a work in progress. Try not to be too hard on yourself with those first few editions. Yes, you will look back and possibly cringe but at least you will be able to look back.
And while at this stage you can capitalize on your freshly learned insights by optimizing your efforts further. For example, you could improve your subscription rates – say, by asking more people to join and / or offering more benefits for membership. Or you could improve your production methods, which might include you scheduling one morning a month to sit down and write the darn thing in one go. Maybe use a small notebook (either electronic or physical) during the month to collect items of interest to make the production process even faster (my Evernote account does this for me).
All going well, after a few editions you will start to experience some positive changes to balance out all the extra work you’ve put in. Perhaps a client who hasn’t called for a while may do so after being prompted by reading a recent article. Or it could be that a prospect decides to buy sooner than you would expect – again because they have read and liked what you recently wrote. And perhaps even you will start to look at your business and the solutions you provide in a completely different light all because you have to write about it each month.
When you boil it all down to the underlying basics, email marketing is really just an easy way for you to communicate via email with your customers and prospects. It’s nothing more. And starting a short conversation with them each month, every month, on a subject that interests both you and them is quite handy, and a smart thing to control.
So once that first edition is out and about just do two more things. First – get a coffee, sit back and give yourself a “pat on the back” for a job well done. And secondly, send me a copy to have a look at – don’t worry I’ll be gentle – the fact that you have reached this first edition milestone is the real achievement.
Within every Great Online Marketer there is a McDonald’s Restaurateur Waiting to Get Out
It still amazes me how a bunch of pimply adolescents can successfully run a bustling burger store whether it is in Tokyo, Los Angeles or Masterton. Orders are correctly filled, fries are properly cooked and only a small proportion of the patrons are poisoned in the process! It’s a testament to the strength of the business system that supports McDonalds’s, which ensures that all this happens while a maelstrom of hormones are rushing through the place as fast as cars arrive in the drive through.
Of course, burgers are not the only products that survive on the strength of a great system. Car manufacturing has its own wonder system. For instance, Toyota is a worldwide practitioner of Kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement). Each year tens of thousands of small improvements are made to their manufacturing process as a result of small changes being made under the Kaizen system. Some claim this is the main reason why they are the most profitable car manufacturer on the planet.
Great systems can produce great things, so how can we harness this theory for our own online marketing efforts?
Well, I think that Online Lead Generation is a sitter for a system or two. The obvious one would be the Kaizen approach to gradual improvement, but to make this work you need to have a complete system to start with. This is where a large proportion of lead-generation websites are lacking.
Each month we manage dozens of lead-generation websites on behalf of clients. Each site we look after has its own system of turning new website visitors into sales leads. Some of these lead-generation systems follow a path similar to one that others selling products of the same level of complexity have used before.
The rest use a process that is as unique to them as the markets they work within. Nevertheless, each has its own lead-generation methodology to follow that is built to attract, persuade and then nurture their online prospects.
Once a winning system such as this is established then our work follows the standard Kaizen formula of continuous improvement. Analytics tools tell us where any improvements can be found, while our testing tools allow us to deploy and monitor the success of any changes that are required. However, while any improvements to Toyota’s production line will be assessed in terms of reduced defects, the elimination of waste or the speeding up of production, our changes are aligned to just two goals – improving our customer’s lead quality and quantity.
This work of continuous improvement would fail miserably is there wasn’t a complete system to work with or, even worse, no system in place at all. Fortunately, not many new customers arrive at Permission with no system; however, most marketers have issues in developing a complete system. Yes, they will have a website and some idea of what they want it to do but, no, they haven’t fully documented the complete ‘system’ the website needs to follow to help them achieve their goals.
For instance, I had a call a few weeks ago from a business manager who wanted some advice on how to use their website to sell their mortgage broking services (currently not a market for the faint hearted.) But, while demand may be down, this is still a rather cluttered market of similar service offerings. Just Google “Mortgage Broker”, look at the AdWords ads and see what I mean – they all look very similar.
When I first spoke with them, they commented on how they saw their website’s role in their lead-generation system as taking just two steps. Step one involved it receiving paid traffic from Google AdWords, and step two encompassed the site accepting this traffic and convincing the prospect to pick up the phone and call them. From here the steps went offline – they accepted the call, booked an appointment and then visited the prospect to sell their services. A phone ringing was a sign that the website part of the system was working. Needless to say, things were quiet around the office.
We started optimizing the website process by breaking it down into more measureable and manageable steps. Installing Google Analytics on the website helped us here. Using this tool, we could see what AdWords keywords delivered website visitors who stayed long enough to read any content on the site (there was a reasonable proportion that left within 3 seconds – for the moment these were paused).
Then, from all those who stayed on the site long enough, we tracked those who visited the actual appointment request page. Finally, we looked at the behaviours of those who actually completed the form: where they looked on the page, how long they spent reading, and the problems they were experiencing in filling in their details.
By now our system was looking like this. Step one, attract people who are searching for certain keywords in Google; step two, entice them to a specific page on the website; step three, have them stay long enough to read the copy on the web page; and step four, convince them to fill in the form and request an appointment.
So, where there had been two steps we now had four, and we had a clearer understanding of what needed to be done at each step to achieve improvements. From here, the whole system will get better and better. From what we have seen, the more detail you can add to the steps your website needs to achieve, the easier it is to work on any changes you want to apply. For instance, some of our clients have over a dozen steps to their online lead-generation system, each of which we monitor and manage for them on their website.
And that’s why every part of your McDonald hamburger’s life is fully documented and learnt BEFORE anyone anywhere turns on a hob or fryer to create your next Big Mac. It’s not step one, turn on hob; step two, deliver finished burger. I would imagine there are probably twenty or more steps to be completed before the job is done and your hamburger is ready.
So why not spend some time today to break down your online lead-generation system into at least twice as many steps as you have now? Then you should begin to see how this makes your own Kaizen experience of continuous website improvement an easier job. Or failing that, call us on 09 929 9130 and we can talk you through some of our proven lead-generation systems that may suit your needs.