It's easy to let the lure of summer let us kick back a little, slow down, unplug, maybe take a well deserved vacation. This is a good thing, assuming we've let our marketing continue on auto-pilot, as I wrote about in my last post.
September is right around the corner, which means that the last quarter of the year also looms on the horizon. What you do NOW to create and maintain your marketing strategy and campaign execution can make a profound difference in your end of year numbers.
So, what can you do in the middle of August to prepare to hit the ground running when it's "back to business" in September?
The first thing to do is create a visual roadmap for September - December. This calendar will allow you to map out everything that may affect your business and marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season.
Begin by adding special dates (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (if you sell online), Giving Tuesday (non-profit giving), etc. Look for special recognition days, weeks or months that are important to your industry and could be used in social media.
Will you be planning any special events, ie. customer appreciation day, a sales event, workshop, pop-up shopping day? If so, look at your calendar to strategize a date that is far enough in advance to be able to market sufficiently.
Once you know what event you will hold, break out the tasks that need to be done. You can do this on paper now and add it to a digital task list later, or an excel or Google sheet which can be shared with others. What is the task, who is responsible, when is it due? If you're depending on others to create print material, update your website or create a campaign online, be aware that they may be busier as well. Don't wait until the last minute to place the work order.
Your social media, email, and traditional marketing campaigns need to support your seasonal "offer". Timing is everything. Don't overlook the time needed to produce, print and ship marketing collateral. What can you pre-schedule and what must you do manually? Inboxes are inundated with offers at this time of year. Do you have a strategy for resending an email to your subscribers who did not open your offer?
It may feel a bit overwhelming now to think about fall and holiday marketing, but with a little planning now, you can reap the benefit of a fatter bottom line on December 31st. You can do this!!!
GDPR is a new European Union data privacy law (short for the General Data Protection Regulation) that goes into effect on May 25, 2018. Its purpose is to create a harmonized data privacy law across all the EU member states. As a small business owner, if you email EU subscribers, you must take steps to comply with the new regulations or face stiff fines.
If you use Constant Contact as your email service provider, rest assured, the company is certified under the EU-US and Swiss-US Privacy Shields and transfer and protect the personal data from the EU and Switzerland consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Shield program, governed by the Federal Trade Commission and approved by the EU Commission.
If you do not provide goods or services to EU there is nothing you need to do. This IS a good time to review how you obtain subscribers to your mailing list and how you communicate to your subscribers what information you collect.
Read more about steps recommended by Constant Contact and what they are doing to make sure you are compliant:
Have you ever received an email from a brand where you were greeted as "Dear valued subscriber", or "Dear friends and family"? How valued did it make you feel? You may wonder why this cute little guy is staring at you. Everyone loves guinea pigs, right? Maybe . . . maybe not. Let's talk about personalization.
75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from retailers that personalize their message (Accenture: Personalization Pulse Check Survey). The sender of that email may have forgotten about the importance of making the message personal to the recipient. Our job as marketers is to provide relevant content designed to create action - a phone call, visit to your website, sign up for an event or buy a product. When content is irrelevant, the subscriber is likely to unsubscribe from your mailing list, or worse, hit the spam button.
So, how can we make our emails more interesting for our readers? Here are 6 tips to get you started:
1) Segment your lists: Include an option on your sign up form to allow subscribers to self-select lists that are most valuable to them. A pet shop may include questions, "Love dogs?" and "Love cats?" to let the subscribers choose what kind of offers they'd like to receive based upon their interests. A yoga instructor may have a mailing list called "studio news/class updates" and another called "daily meditations".
2) Personalize your greeting: This one is easy. It starts by asking for a first name on your sign up form and making that a required field. Note: Only ask for information you truly need on your sign up form.
3) Personalize your subject line: Consider using your subscriber's first name in your subject line to spark interest. "Hey Liz, need a getaway?" This would get my attention, at least enough to open the email.
4) Send relevant, personalized content: I've got nothing against guinea pigs, but I probably don't want to read about how to care for them. Send me a message on how to get Riley to stop digging holes in my yard and I'm all over that. Talk to your customer using words like "you" and "your", and talk less about your business. Make it about them.
5) Personalize the sender: An email coming from Acme Lawn Care is less likely to be opened than one coming from a real person like Joe Brown, Acme Lawn Care. Unlike big corporations, as small businesses, we have the ability to connect with our customers on a more personal level.
6) Add some style: More than 50% of emails are opened on a mobile device and subject lines are getting shorter as a result. Emojis have gone way beyond multiple smiley faces in a Facebook post or a thumbs up in Messenger. They are also becoming more mainstream in email subject lines, used as a way to get the reader to stop scrolling and pay attention. Emojis also make people smile which is good. Here's what my subject line could look like: "Hey Liz,🏖️need a getaway?" The beach umbrella lets me know that the content of the email may take me to my favorite spot in the sand. Use emojis wisely and sparingly. Here's a good resource to find an emoji for anything: https://emojipedia.org . Emojipedia lives on my toolbar for easy access.
Remember my motto, "Marketing should be fun, not painful!". You can do this!
Earlier this month Easthampton held its 5th Annual WinterFest. As the chair of the event, one of my roles was to communicate with venues, performers, participants, vendors and volunteers. Using email marketing, online registration tools and social media, I worked with my committee to make sure the day ran smoothly. Of course, planning an outdoor event in February in New England often involves the possibility of weather interfering with activities -- too much snow, not enough snow, melting ice, cold and windy conditions -- it all happens and we've learned to plan for contingencies.
Luckily, we were fortunate to have perfect weather. As the day unfolded, I made my way to many of the 15+ venues, monitoring volunteers, resupplying programs, checking donations, All in all, everyone seemed to be having a great time, so our job was done, right?
While we could have relied on our observations during the event, did we really know how well we did?
The day after WinterFest I emailed surveys to attendees, volunteers and vendors at our craft fair to ask for feedback. By segmenting the surveys, I focused on specific content that was pertinent to the recipient. I also made the surveys anonymous to encourage participation. The responses we received will help our committee plan venues, signage, pricing, volunteer needs and more for next year.
Surveys can also help our small businesses and non-profit organizations. We can ask our customers, clients and donors how we're doing, gauge interest on new products or services, and get valuable feedback on fundraising events.
A big reason why businesses don't survey is often due to the fear of hearing negative comments, similar to fearing bad reviews on Yelp or Facebook. Please don't let that fear discourage you from using surveys. The information you receive is important and any negative feedback can help you make positive changes.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Ready to get started? Decide what kind of survey you want to send (customer satisfaction, event follow up, product survey, etc.). Choose a survey template. Hint: If you use Constant Contact for your email marketing you may already have surveys built into your product, or it can be added. If you don't have an account you can try it free here.
Other options include Survey Monkey, Zoho, Google Forms, and Survey Planet. Some offer free versions which have limited capabilities or export options. Happy surveying!
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:
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.