noun - the action of delaying or postponing something.
We all do it. Psychologists study it. There's even a National Procrastinators week! I usually procrastinate about sending invoices. It's not that I don't like to get paid for my work, it's that I don't ENJOY the task. I put the chore in the same category as filing or shredding paper.
I've asked many small business owners what they liked least about running a business and often I'm told, "Marketing. I don't feel comfortable doing it and I don't know what to say, so I put it off." Sometimes we procrastinate when things feel out of balance, or when we don't have an efficient system in place.
The problem with putting off your marketing is that you are missing opportunities to grow your business by creating strong, lasting relationships with your customers.
Start with your mailing list.
You have people who already want to hear from you and you've promised them that you'd stay in touch regularly. There ARE ways to help avoid procrastination. Here are just a few tips to help you get past the urge to put off doing what feels hard.
Recently, Facebook announced that its algorithm is changing -- again. What does this mean for small businesses who devote hours every week to their business pages?
It's no secret that organic reach for business pages has been steadily declining over the last three years. Prior to the latest algorithm change, only about 5% of what you post is ever seen by people who have liked your page. Let's put that in perspective. If you have 100 people who have liked your page, you are posting for an audience of five.
It gets worse.
On June 29th Facebook announced the newest change to their algorithm and it's not good news for small businesses. Facebook will now begin to prioritize posts from user's friends and family in their newsfeeds (hey, it's what users want, right?). At the same time, content produced by businesses will decrease. Your 5% reach may now be 2%. Is that acceptable?
What's the answer?
It may be time to take a step back from your Facebook strategy, certainly re-prioritizing time spent on content creation and frequency of posting. In order to increase reach, Facebook is making it clear that you will need to advertise. The entry fee is likely to increase due to this new demand, so be prepared to pay more for that option.
What else can we do?
You might want to rethink your "list", you know, the list of email addresses you have been gathering from people who have asked to stay in touch. Devote your time to really learning how to engage with your customers, fans and supporters. The average open rate for email is 21% and if you use Constant Contact as your email marketing provider, you will enjoy a deliverability rate above 99%.
One last thought . . . . remember, you have no control over social media platforms. It's rented space. Go with what you own -- your website and your mailing list. That's where you can focus your marketing efforts for better results.
You just finished composing your first email marketing campaign and are ready to hit the send button.
WAIT. Hold on a minute. Are you SURE you have permission to email these contacts?
What's the big deal, anyway. If they don't want to keep getting your emails, they'll just unsubscribe, right? WRONG. You may be a SPAMMER.
A spammer is defined as anyone who sends unsolicited email. If you didn't get permission to email that contact, (we're not talking about one-to-one messages here, we're talking about sending bulk messages) you are a spammer. It has nothing to do with the content of your message, it only applies to whether that person gave you permission. So, let's break it down further.
If you bulk email using your ISP (Internet Service Provider, ie. Gmail, AOL, MSN, etc.) and send your commercial message to a bunch of contacts through BCC who have not given you permission, you are a spammer.
If you bulk email using your ESP (Email Service Provider, ie. Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, Vertical Response) who have not given you permission, you are a spammer.
Spam costs society over $20 Billion dollars a year (Source: 2012 research by Hotmail & Google researchers
What goes on behind the scenes?
When you hit the "send" button, your message travels through your ESP's servers on it's way to your recipient's inbox. Their ISP is constantly monitoring ESPs to make sure they are not sending spam. They monitor complaints, non-existent addresses, spam traps, engagement metrics (did the recipient open the mail? How long did it sit in the inbox?) They look at content and subject lines often associated with spam.
They also look at the sender's reputation.
If you send unsolicited email, or spam, your recipient's ISP (Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) may block your ESP (Constant Contact, iContact, etc.) and can report the abuse to a 3rd party Block Listing Agency and share results with other ISPs. Getting unblocked takes time and costs money.
Companies like Constant Contact who have a very good reputation as an ESP, invest a lot of money making sure we all "play nice" and follow the rules. New customers with large lists and certain industries who are often responsible for spam may have their lists vetted. Customer support may ask your email collection practices. If you come to an educational workshop, you will receive "best practices" in how to grow a great mailing list. After all, we're all in this together.
So, how can you NOT be a spammer?
I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday when my eyes wandered to the magazine rack. Glancing at the various article headlines as I moved my shopping cart along, it reminded me how short a window each publication had to grab my attention and help me decide to put that magazine in my cart.
Magazine headlines are similar to email subject lines, blog post titles or social media posts/tweets/statuses in that they must have a hook to get readers to pay attention quickly.
Imagine scrolling through your inbox this morning, scanning down the list of emails, trying to decide what needs attention. Should I open it now, later . . . or never? The important factors are: Who is it from? What's it about? If the subject line isn't compelling, you may decide to save opening the message until later and we all know what happens to messages left in the "later" category.
How to write a good subject line.
Writing a compelling subject line is an art. Publication companies have teams of copy editors whose job is to make you stop and read their covers and hopefully pick up the magazine and put it in your shopping cart. The next time you're standing in line at the grocery store, scan a few article titles to see what makes you want to learn more, then come back to your office and compose a killer subject line for your next campaign.
You just hit the "send" button and your email campaign is launched. Then what happens? At this point, your ESP (ie. Email Service Provider-Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp, etc.) takes over. Hopefully, you've followed best practices for email marketing and have done the following:
You'll also find emails that didn't quite make it where they were supposed to go. An email bounces for several reasons. It can be blocked by a server, your recipients could be on vacation (lucky them), or some glitch occurred during transmission.
Any "non-existent" addresses should be reviewed for obvious typos (extra spaces, .com vs. .net, etc.). Remove these. Repeated attempts to email non-existent addresses will hurt your deliverability rates. They remain a subscriber and may affect your account status.
Source: Constant Contact
If you have a large list, consider exporting your bounces on a regular basis and cleaning up any recommended for removal. The "mailbox full" category generally means these are on the way to being non-existent. The "suspended" category, (used by Constant Contact), is a safety mechanism which lets you know that you've attempted to email a non-existent address more than once and will be placed on hold so that your deliverability rates are not affected.
Remember, a well-maintained list will provide more accurate results, and results are what will help determine your next campaign.
Email marketing is the #1 way to keep people engaged with your products and services. It is an extremely cost-effective method to build relationships and keep your business "top of the mind" with prospective customers. How do you know if you're doing it right? Here are some common ways where you may be hurting your efforts:
The holidays are here, and the marketing push is on. Major retailers are pulling out all the stops, enticing us with Hallmark-laden messages, countless promotions and last minute gift giving ideas. Locally, hundreds of non-profit organizations will count on us to think of them on December 10th during the 3rd Annual Valley Gives Day.
Small Business Saturday reminds us to "shop small" every day of the year, helping our local businesses survive and thrive.
If you haven't put your holiday marketing plan in action yet, there's still time. Here are some last minutes ideas that you can do today just by using your mailing list:
You've spent time and energy making sure your website reflects your professionalism and your brand. But, is it pulling its weight to bring visitors to your "hub" -- your website AND mailing list? Here are five easy ways to make your website work harder.
You may already be using some of these tips, but maybe you're not paying attention and monitoring your progress.
Here are 5 tips to make sure your website is helping you:
Your mailing list is made up of a group of subscribers with at least one thing in common. -- they've all given you permission to send them periodic email!
Beyond that commonality, many mailing lists remain one long list of contacts. While it's OK to send an email to your entire list, try to think of ways to divide your list into more meaningful segments. The positive results you will receive (higher open and click through rates) are worth the effort of taking the time to segment your list effectively.
Brand new to email marketing?
Now is a great time to think about using segmentation as you begin to develop your list. One easy way to bring a little segmentation to your marketing efforts is to let people sign up for your list based upon their interests. Letting subscribers know the frequency of your mailings can also encourage sign up. For example, if you intend to send daily motivational quotes, and fail to tell prospective subscribers that you'll be hitting their inbox every morning, you may set yourself up for failure. If, however, you give them a choice of receiving this kind of email, you may find loyal followers who welcome your daily contact.
Wondering what kind of list segmentation could work for your business? Here are some examples:
In addition to a general information list,
One way to start the segmenting process is to divide clients / customers from your general list. This provides an easy way to offer your customers special loyalty incentives and rewards, thank them for purchasing a product or service, or to ask for referrals.
If you've been using email marketing for a while, you can start the segmenting process by adding interest lists to your website sign up button and any manual sign up sheets you use. Begin going through your contacts and divide clients and customers from the main list. Consider sending your entire list an Update Your Interests email and let them choose what mail they'd like to receive from you.
A mailing list is always a work in progress. Maintaining a healthy mailing list takes a little work, but the rewards are great. If you need help getting started, fee free to call or email me.
If you've attended one of my workshops, you have heard me talk a lot about today's relationship building marketing tools. I'm often asked.,"Which is better....email marketing or social media?" The tendency to view social media as being FREE can make it pretty alluring, especially for budget-conscious businesses.
So, what's my answer?
Creating a compelling email marketing plan integrated with the right social media platform(s) keeps you connected with your customers/clients and potential users of your products and services. Although it's not a contest, if you still are struggling with where to spend your time and marketing dollars, check out this infographic. It does a pretty good job of comparing both email and social media.
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Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.