June 30, 2013

Being Opened vs. Being Read

Does a high open rate mean anything if nobody is reading and acting?

Your open rate is an indication of brand recognition. Your click rate is one indication of whether your newsletter actually gets read. (How many newsletters do you open without reading?) Getting read is what raises your reputation and prompts interaction.

Did you know that you can actually increase one at the expense of the other? That’s why, when you shoot for one goal, you have to be aware of what else you’re impacting.

Being opened, being read, and being clicked – that’s being 'read deeply'. Want to know how to ensure that your newsletter gets read more deeply? Send it at an off-peak time. When there is less available to read, people are more likely to read more deeply.

You might be thinking, “That’s nuts! My open rate would drop.” And you’d be exactly right. But the amount of reading in relation to your open rate would increase. Go figure.

Email marketing stats show that open rates are (slightly) lower on weekends. But they also show that click rates are (slightly) higher on weekends. (I caution you that these are industry-wide stats and may not represent your situation.)

Likewise sending at peak times may increase your open rate, but possibly at the expense of not being read as much. Obviously the trick is to find the point when both are optimized - quite a trick if you can do it.

Would you rather be opened or read? It really can be a trade-off.

(OK, so I used a cute animal photo. You caught me.)

June 28, 2013

The Crunch

Number crunching has always been a hobby of mine. For a few months our Klout score has been stuck at 55. Being a numbers person, I’d like to see it increase. It doesn't seem to matter how often I post, how much I interact, how much my content gets shared – stuck fast at 55.

To clarify, our Twitter strategy has never been about quantity but rather quality. I've worked hard to improve the quality but that darn Klout score won’t budge. It really bugs me! It seems the only way I can increase it is to up the number of followers. While our followers are constantly growing, apparently not by enough to change that Klout score.

I can’t keep up with the 900 people I’m already following. I’m able to interact with only a small percentage of them. Maybe I feel that following someone is more of a commitment than it really is? I've been fighting the temptation to turn Twitter into a numbers game.

While I’m a numbers person, I realize there’s an inherent danger in fixating on one number. Often we can increase one number but must sacrifice something else in return. For example, an easy way to increase your order fulfillment metric is to increase your inventory, but that will have dire consequences in other areas, like cash flow.

In this case, our Klout score is butting up against my philosophy to keep social media ‘social’ and not turn it into a numbers game. Numbers are great – it’s what we do in reaction to them that has the impact. A strategy to increase or decrease any measurement needs to be considered thoroughly.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 27, 2012

June 21, 2013

4 Tips for Summer Newsletter Success

photo by Linda Daley

It might be tempting to take a vacation from your newsletter over the summer. What excuse are you telling yourself to justify this?

You can take vacation without putting your email marketing on hiatus too. Tweet this

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Prepare in advance and use scheduling functionality. If you're using a bulk email service provider (ESP), you likely have the ability to schedule your newsletters. That means you have no excuse - you can prepare several issues in advance and stick to your regular schedule. (You might even find that this is better time management!)
  2. Send out a brief issue instead of your usual format. Cut back on the quantity of content, but not the value. Half a newsletter is better than no newsletter.
  3. Solicit guest articles. Ask your clients and colleagues to write articles - or scan their blogs for appropriate content that you can 'borrow'. Ensure you request permission and give proper credit.
  4. Re-purpose content. Summarize and collate using wrap-up articles. Create 'Best of...' or 'Top 5...' lists. Curate others' content.
Wait! Before you take off for the beach, add a link to your newsletter sign-up and archive to your out-of-office email notification. Build your list while you work on your tan.

And just one more thing. Try to have your out-of-office notification turned off at the time your newsletter goes out. If you don't, your out-of-office notifications will respond to the ones generated by your subscribers who are on vacation - and they'll respond, and so on. I know this from experience. It's not pretty.

Now you have no excuse not to keep your newsletter going all summer!

June 18, 2013

This Deserves Your Attention

photo by :::Derek:::

Now that I have your attention, I’d better earn it, right? We've all heard it said that advertising is buying people’s attention. Content marketing is all about earning that attention by providing value to readers.

There are a lot of different types of content that can mean value to readers. You have to really determine what your target market wants. And that requires gathering intelligence and strategic thinking. Not just doing it once either, but continuing to stay attuned to your readers’ preferences. Once you earn attention, you need to continue to deserve it.

Past success doesn't guarantee future success. Don't let your content strategy get stale.

How do you continue to deserve attention?
  1. Watch your statistics. If your readership dips, be curious and investigate.
  2. Pay attention to unsolicited feedback and also seek out feedback. If you want to do better, people are generally willing to give advice and opinions. As with any feedback, don’t react without investigating further.
  3. Stay current. If your information is outdated, it won’t take long for your reputation to become so too.
  4. Be accurate. Everyone’s an expert these days. Make sure you differentiate between fact, opinion and hearsay.
  5. Have a polished presentation. That means no spelling errors, no broken links, and easy to read.
  6. Seek out inspiration. Learn new things. Have an open mind. Be inquisitive. Read lots. Ask questions.

June 15, 2013

An Adventure in List Cleaning

photo by perthclotheslines

It felt like doing laundry. Throw in the dusty email addresses and out come clean ones, with all the grime left behind.

List cleaning involves 2 basic steps:
  1. identifying email addresses in your database that no longer exist or have been spelled wrong
  2. removing non-existent email addresses and correcting obvious typos

List cleaning was a new experience for us. We had anticipated it might be needed at some point so had done some research – enough to know that there were many options available online. We figured it should be easy to do when the need arose.

When the need did arise recently, I clicked my way to those apps we'd flagged as promising. I quickly discovered that it wasn't going to be as straightforward as I had imagined (and hoped). The first 2 apps I tried left me scratching my head in puzzlement.

With no time to waste on a big learning curve, I did a new search and decided to try ListWiseHQ. What a pleasant surprise! It was easy to see what my options were and the applicable prices.

The reason for the list cleaning is that a client had old contact lists and wasn't sure how valid some of the email addresses would be anymore. It turned out to be a useful process because only about 70% turned out to be clean email addresses. The application also corrected about 5% more. If we had sent his first newsletter to the ‘dirty’ lists, our client would have had a high enough bounce rate to flag his bulk email account. This has a variety of negative results and can lead to blacklisting.

When in doubt, clean. My recommendation for a list cleaning application is ListWiseHQ.

June 11, 2013

Thinking of Skipping the Summer?

It’s already started: people are asking if they should continue to send out their newsletter  over the summer. My reply is a definite YES.

I want to convince you to stay the course... and not just with your newsletter. If you're considering taking a break from any of your online marketing over the summer, here are some things to consider.

If everyone else thinks the same way and takes the summer off, isn't that your chance to stand out in your reader’s inbox and social media feeds? OK, so you might say there will also be fewer readers, what with everyone taking vacation. Yes, you might see a small reduction in readership. But with less content available, people are more likely to open your email and read your posts, and more likely to click – they read more deeply.

Consistency is important to online marketing success. People may not notice that you’re missing over the summer but they’ll realize it when they see you show up in the fall. Being consistent sends its own message. Momentum also comes into play... both for you and your fans.

Finally, if you plan to stop marketing now, do you also plan to stop selling in the fall? Summer is a great time to start new marketing initiatives. Summer marketing sets you up for fall success.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 11, 2013
photo by lindadaley / Flickr

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June 8, 2013

Content Creation (Wrap-up #2)

Keeping your readers engaged requires content that is interesting and useful... and fresh. This article is a follow up to our previous Content Creation (Wrap-up), capturing our newer articles about content creation from June 2012 to May 2013. If you're stuck for content, you've found the right post to give you inspiration and ideas. You'll also find some thought provoking strategies to consider.

Keeping to a consistent content creation routine has big benefits. Just because you can't think of something great to write about when facing a deadline, doesn't mean you can't Plan to Give Your Best next time.

Introducing Your Very First Issue can be a little stressful. Here are some things you might want to include, as well as some examples to get you started.

Take some time to search for images that are not overused on the internet. This article provides links to a few Graphic Solutions to help get you started.

Finding an idea that inspires you can sometimes be the hardest part of getting started when sitting down to write. Scott Stratten provided some Awesome Inspiration! for this article.

Here are 9 Ways to Personalize Your Newsletter that will help you express your unique personality and make personal connections with your readers.

Advice delivered as a 'fable' appeals to both our emotions and our intellect. The Moral of the Story should be a lesson your readers can relate to.

One of our clients is achieving Amazing Statistics by incorporating Pinterest into their content strategy. Might it work for you too?

The Outrageously Simple Formula for eNewsletter Success is GOALS + VALUE = SUCCESS. Whatever your GOALS are, you won’t reach them if you don’t seriously consider the other side of the equation: giving VALUE to your subscribers.

If you have two distinct target markets, you need to find content that will appeal to both. Don't Dilute Your Message. Your newsletter needs to WOW your readers and it will not do that if your message and style are watered down.

This is worth getting excited about - the best kind of content possible. That’s because Content That Saves Time also helps you meet so many other goals.

Don't be frivolous or silly. And Please, No Cute Animal Pictures.

If Building your Reputation is one of your goals for your newsletter (blog, social media), here are some suggestions for content that will achieve that.

Content Strategies: Curating vs. Creating explains the differences between these two strategies and suggests that a combination will likely suit your needs.

Your newsletter has to be both useful and interesting to be successful. If one of your goals is to be seen as an expert, consider that Creating Content that is Useful can have a big impact.

photo by BrianPirie/Flickr

June 5, 2013

Customer Service in a Box

photo by Gertrud K.

You know when you land on a website and, before you've had a chance to take a breath, a box pops up over top of the text you were just reading? “Can I help you?”

How does that make you feel? Startled? Annoyed? A little creeped out?

I’m a fan of pop-up boxes, but only when I’m the one that can push the button to make them pop up. I've used them lots to solve all kinds of online problems fast.

When they pop-up unexpectedly, it makes me feel like someone’s been watching me. And it’s always too soon... before I've even formed my first question.

Recently I was searching for a list cleaning application and didn't have time for a long learning curve. After trying a couple of other sites, I went to ListWiseHQ. I was impressed to find all my options and the applicable prices laid out clearly on the home page. I was thinking, “This might be the one.” Then Gladys popped up.

Gladys was in one of those pop-up boxes. Not in front of what I was reading but down in the corner. She was friendly, quickly answered a couple of questions, and confirmed some details. I told her I was impressed.

That’s when she suggested I ask her supervisor to buy her a chocolate fish. Now of course that intrigued me enough that I emailed and told him.

Away I go, sign up and run my first list. Then I had another question and Gladys helped me again. A few minutes later the phone rang and it was Gladys checking in with me... on a Sunday afternoon, no less.

While this customer service experience had the potential to be a bit intrusive, it wasn't at all. It was, in fact, just the right blend of friendliness and helpfulness and professionalism. I was up and running fast. Kudos to ListWiseHQ for excelling in a potentially off-putting situation.

I never did find out why Gladys wanted a chocolate fish but I sure hope it was yummy.