Tips and Tricks for Increasing Email Effectiveness

Posted by on August 29th, 2014

Email EngagementHarland Clarke Digital recently published an email engagement infographic that more than caught my attention. In particular, one takeaway was the fact that more commercial emails are deployed on Wednesday than any other day of the week and conversely, the fewest number are sent on Saturday. However, it also indicated that open rates were much higher among Saturday emails than Wednesday emails, which led me to conclude that sending emails on Saturday might be a great way to break though the clutter without increasing spend.

As we head into Fall and the already stretched holiday buying season (Target is already displaying its holiday items and it’s not even Labor Day), there will be more and more messages in everyone’s inbox. What that means is we’ll have to do more than we ever have in the past to get our messages opened and links clicked if we’re going to compete and win. So how do we do that?

One way is to get back to email basics and keep the messages brief and to the point. Three paragraphs or fewer without extraneous content is recommended. Be concise, use personalization appropriately and be sure to include your key sales words and phrases such as: “limited-time,” “special,” “non-transferable” and/or “free.” Your audience will appreciate it and reward you with greater click through rates.

The same holds true for subject lines. Shorter subject lines of less than 30 characters coupled with snippet text to highlight your offer and your call-to-action should be your standard, especially during the holiday season.

Testing these strategies early will help point you in the right direction and increase your odds of creating a winning campaign during the holiday season.


Lead Nurturing Strategies For Post Campaign Success

Posted by on August 28th, 2014

Email EngagementFor most people, you have to be living under a rock the last couple of weeks to not see at least one ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video pop up in your social media newsfeed. The extremely successful grassroots campaign to raise awareness for ALS has received almost $80 million in donations from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors.1 Although the Ice Bucket Challenge is an extreme example of a winning campaign, brands, big or small, can relate. The scale of success might be slightly different, but most brands have experienced it. So, the question remains – how can you continue to gain momentum once the hype has worn off?

The first step is to make sure no leads are lost regardless of the channel they came in through – website, social media pages, newsletter opt-ins etc. You will learn quickly from these leads what part of your campaign was the most successful and be able to build off that data in the future. From there, you can remain in contact with these leads through useful and well-timed follow up messages and retargeting campaigns.

Just because someone engages on your campaign, that doesn’t mean that he/she is ready to commit to whatever you are offering in the long run. You must take the time to nurture him/her by offering something of value, which will vary depending on your target audience. This could be in the form of helpful content like whitepapers, webinars, and infographics or offering helpful product advice such as alternative uses and ways to enhance the customer experience.

By offering this type of useful content, you are building trust and proving your knowledge not only on your product or service, but specific subjects relating to them. If a lead expresses interest in a particular topic by downloading a whitepaper or clicking on a link that takes him/her to a blog showing new and interesting ways to use your product, you have the opportunity to keep the conversation going by sending them another communication that specifically addresses what call to action was completed. This could be a survey to ask how useful or helpful a piece of content was, cross-sell messaging or a promotion tied directly to the link that was clicked.

The timeliness of your emails is of the utmost importance. You don’t want to overwhelm leads with information every day, but you also don’t want to wait too long to follow up. Take a close look at your sales cycle and choose the best intervals to send out email messages. It’s a thin line to walk, because leads might easily feel pressured or forgotten depending on the timeline you choose.

After the smoke has settled from your campaign, you still want to remain top of mind with your current and potential customers. As for the ALS Foundation, it has all the ammunition it needs to keep riding this wave – a boatload of donation money and a sizeable database of new and current donors. Successful campaigns are relative to the brand and its objectives, but there is always something to learn and somewhere to go moving forward to keep the momentum going. The key is to follow-up and keep people engaged and nurtured.



Email Engagement: Playing The Long Game

Posted by on August 20th, 2014

Email EngagementFor some time now, a trend among webmail providers has been to offer “intelligent inbox” features that automate the process of sorting email. For example, Gmail® has released its Tabs feature much to the consternation of email marketers. At the same time, the filtering techniques of many internet service providers has gotten more sophisticated by pulling in excess amounts of data points about the sender.

As a result, long-term subscriber engagement has emerged as an important metric influencing inbox placement. For email marketers, this implies that success involves monitoring more than opens, clicks and conversions. These additional metrics may now influence program success to some extent:

  • Reply and forward rate
  • Junk mail placement rate
  • Rate at which subscribers move messages from junk to the inbox and then take an action
  • Percentage of subscribers are inactive without unsubscribing

Here are some suggestions for long-term email program success:

  • Segment your list and send content / offers appropriate to each segment: Among Harland Clarke Digital’s clients, email deployments sent to lists of less than 100 contacts show a 51% improvement in unique confirmed open rates over deployments sent to lists of over 10,000 contacts.This tells us that narrowcasting can be a powerful tactic.
  • Increase relevancy by sending automated email campaigns triggered by subscriber’s actions: Experience tells us that when someone does something online and immediately gets an email, he/she is more likely to read it.
  • Add content marketing to your repertoire: Providing useful, free information to your subscribers without directly selling to them sets your organization up as a thought leader. Through this process, you communicate your organization’s values to current and prospective customers.
  • Keep track of mobile engagement and use “mobile friendly” design: According to a recent HCD study on email engagement, nearly 50% of your readership may be reading messages on mobile devices.2
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes: For example, if you suspect your mailings are going into the spam folder, don’t only focus on your subject line or content. Consider what might make certain subscribers mark your message as spam. Do you need to improve the sign up process so readers aren’t taken by surprise when they see you in their inbox? You should also try sending welcome / subscription confirmation messages when someone is added to the list.
  • Send periodic surveys to your subscribers soliciting feedback on your email program: Ask them to rate your emails or request feedback on what content they would like to see.
  • Analyze your message layout: Find and optimize “hot spots” for clicks and use the information to see what types of words and content are attracting more readers.
  • Keep track of inactive subscribers: Segment your list and try different tactics to get through to them. You might consider a reengagement email campaign or targeting contacts via social media.

All of these tactics can improve long-term subscriber engagement with your emails. Increased engagement can help land your messages in the inbox at a higher rate leading to further engagement.

Harland Clarke Digital’s SubscriberMail platform includes valuable tools to segment your list, automate email campaigns and track statistics on mobile and general engagement. Get in touch with us for a demo today.

1. Harland Clarke Digital Financial Email Marketing Benchmark Report (2014)
2. Harland Clarke Digital Infographic: Getting Digital: Engagement Habits of Today’s Email Recipient (2014)


Virtual Reality – The Next Big Marketing Star?

Posted by on August 19th, 2014

Virtual RealityAs Shark Week wraps up its 27th year of fascinating audiences with real-life stories, complete with compelling, visually enticing facts and features of the unknown, many are already anxious for Shark Week’s 28th year. The Discovery Channel® had its very own ocean of digital opportunities that brought about endless waves of promotional potential for Shark Week. Through real-time tweeting, shared links on Facebook®, interactive blogging, and more, the network was able to showcase, attract, and appeal to audiences around the world. What if there was technology available for the network to take viewers one step further? Imagine entering your very own shark-infested virtual waters, right from your couch? With Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR®, one of the leader’s in virtual reality technology, this could very well be a possibility.

Oculus Rift®, developed by Oculus VR, is a virtual reality headset that offers video gamers the ability to step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds. Oculus VR, was initially crowdfunded before being acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in March, 2014.1 This acquisition also brought attention to the idea of virtual reality itself, catching the eyes of industry giants like Google® and Sony®.2 While Oculus Rift was initially built for players, the cutting-edge technology now offers limitless potential for all industries.

Several ad agencies are already exploring ways to enhance their brand through virtual reality. Coca-cola® offered World Cup attendees the experience of walking into a replicated locker room, and moving from the locker room to the actual field without leaving their seats. HBO® constructed a virtual 700-foot ice wall for fans of the hit series Game of Thrones. Viewable in select cities throughout the world, participants can enter a virtual elevator, and, for 90 seconds, see the wall, hear sounds emitting from it, and watch it actually shake from reproduced wind.

As we see more and more companies using virtual reality in their advertising and marketing efforts, it becomes clear that this phenomenon is not only here to stay but has the potential to be more than just the next big wave. Virtual reality’s groundbreaking technology and innovativeness exhibits the potential to be the latest marketing tsunami and next year’s Shark Week could very well be the next big star.




Marketing to the Tech-Savvy World

Posted by on August 14th, 2014

Tech-Savvy WorldThe concept of personalized marketing communications has been around for a long time, but the definition of what it actually means is ever changing. To many, personalization has been — and remains — limited to the use of a recipient’s name in the subject line of an email or the salutation in the body of a message. Others take things much further by creating personalized web images, referencing previous purchase behaviors or directing traffic to website landing pages featuring personalized/dynamic content.

These strategies, while enjoying a well-earned reputation for having a positive impact on campaign performance, face the same obstacle as other time-honored digital marketing strategies; the rapidly expanding knowledge and increased savviness of the average web user.

The almost constant exposure to technology has made the general public extremely aware of its digital surroundings. This isn’t to say that the aforementioned knowledge is a bad thing, quite the opposite, really. The more empowered the average web user is to identify phishing emails, avoid dangerous websites and take steps to protect his/her personal information online, the less success cyber-criminals will have.

With that in mind, it’s a delicate balance that must be struck between providing relevant marketing communications and over-personalizing to a point that is uncomfortable or alarming to your audience. Visit a product page on a website, then immediately receive an email or a text message with additional information — one person’s targeted marketing campaign becomes another’s “big brother is watching” moment. Reactions to different levels of personalization will, of course, vary from audience to audience, because not everyone is terribly worried about their data being used for marketing purposes.

If feedback from your audience indicates any level of discomfort, or you simply want to be cautious, segmentation strategies can provide a more subtle method of personalization that still allows for targeted, data-driven content. Here are just a few examples:

It’s an approach of targeting, without giving the impression of targeting. Traditional methods of personalization can still play a role in your communications, but the use of more subtle methods can be an effective alternative in a world where customers demand relevance while at the same time being wary of how their information is being used.