Things you need to consider when developing your email marketing strategy

Email Marketing is not dead – just hard to get right. Here are some things to consider when developing your email marketing strategy – which should be an integral part of your wider social media, communications and marketing goals.

Set measurable goals for your emails

What do you want? Clicks through to your webpage? Entries to your competition? Increased social media buzz of your promotion? Be really clear about what you want to achieve with your email blast, because this will determine the type of content that you will feature in the email and in the subject line.

Your email needs to be targeted towards specific consumer acquisition and retention goals, and these goals need to be measurable so that you can determine the effectiveness of your content in achieving those goals.

The 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report (Sign-Up.to) which compiled data of over 900 million emails found that approximately:

  • 18.35% of emails that are sent are opened
  • Of those that are opened, 15.42% people clicked on a link within the email

Set goals for your emails and track their success on an ongoing basis.

Target Market and Segmentation

In your wider email marketing strategy, you also need to set goals regarding your email list, such as increasing the number of contacts that meet the target audience of your product or service. Analyse where your email contacts come from, what motivated them to sign up, and what strategies you can employ to boost your number of contacts.

When you acquire a new email contact, get them to fill in a form that identifies their demographics, behaviour, interests and concerns (relevant to your products and services). Here are six ways online retailers segment their online markets. These strategies will provide you with valuable information about each and every contact, and you can tailor targeted email communications that are relevant to your consumer.

Competitive Analysis

Identify your competitors and sign up for their email lists. You need to know what your competitors are offering and how they are presenting their content. What will give you a point of difference and set you apart from your competitor? Ongoing competitor analysis will help you drive your email marketing in the right direction.

Frequency of emails

Obviously you don’t want to bombard your customers with email marketing, but by the same token you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to keep your customer informed. Remember that your customer signed up for your email service because they are interested in the products and services of your brand. Once you have segmented your market and determined their specific interests and concerns, you can target communications that will be meaningful and more likely to be clicked on and consumed by your customer – and less likely to irritate them. To measure how targeted your content is, try an A/B Split test to determine which email subjects are most effective to each customer group.

Subject Line Strategy

If your customer receives a lot of emails in their inbox, it is likely that your email could be the proverbial baby that gets thrown out with the bath water. To increase the likelihood of your email getting opened, you need to capture your customer’s attention with an appealing subject.

The Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com suggests seven strategies to improve your email subject lines,  and I also did a little evaluation of current email marketing practices.

In an analysis of subject key words in 200 marketing emails I received in my own inbox in the past month, I found that:

  • 42.5% of the subjects relayed a sense of urgency, eg. Last chance, Last day, Hurry, Only a few days left, final call, don’t miss out, ends tonight etc.
  • 41.5% of the emails were about a current promotion, offer, sale, special or deal
  • 60% included a number – 27% of the key words were a dollar value, and 33% offered a percentage off value
  • 16.5% of the emails addressed me directly using words such as “Ashleigh” and “You”
  • 13.5% of the email subjects contained the word “free”

While it is important to stand out from the hundreds of other emails in your customer’s inbox, you also want to use a formula that works. Finding this formula involves constant trial and error, and ongoing review and evaluation of email marketing objectives and achievements.

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Online collaborative tools your team can use to improve project communication

Effective communication is an essential element of great teamwork, and maintaining a system that allows team members to reference the latest developments and decisions online will ensure everybody is kept in the loop and can get on with their work.

For the past three months, I have been working with a small team to develop and launch a new website for recent Arts and Humanities graduates in Melbourne, the Humanities Career Hub. A lot of discussions and new decisions have been made in this preliminary development stage (and will continue to be made as we review and re-calibrate our approach and strategy), and it has been essential that our team can contribute to and understand the website’s direction.

These are the collaborative online tools that we have used and how they helped streamline and improve team communications:

Facebook Group

Facebook is where the bulk of our group communication occurs, and deliberately so – because lets face it – we knew we would all be on it at least once a day.

Some features of a Facebook group include:

  • It can be private, and you can choose to only have administrators able to post in the group
  • It has all the interactivity features of Facebook, so (pretty much) everyone is familiar with how to post on the page
  • You can even upload editable documents to the page (although, we used Google Docs for this feature)

Pros: The latest communication is easy to find at the top of the page, and you can search within the group.

Cons: Doesn’t promote a work-life balance because you can’t leave your work at work, and the document editing feature isn’t as advanced as Google Docs.

Favourite feature: The ability to “ask a question” so you can find out what your team members think about a new idea, development or plan.

Facebook Group Question

A question to the team about whether to use the “light” or “dark” version of the Facebook Widget in the Humanities Career Hub website side bar.

Google Docs (Drive)

Google Docs (which will soon become Google Drive with increased usability) is great for collaborating on documents and presentations, and puts an end to an era of individual document editing and too many different versions of the same document trailing on email chains.

Some features of the new Google Drive include:

  • The ability to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, and live participation as collaborators contribute to and edit the document.
  • Interactivity with Google+ circles (we used a Facebook group for this feature, because we knew we would frequent it more often than Google+)
  • The ability to view a wide range of file types, including adobe creative suite files even if you don’t have the program installed on your computer.

Pros: You can choose how you want to share your documents, including administering who can edit, comment on and view the files. You can also revert to every older saved version of the document in the past 30 days.

Cons: The Docs don’t have all the features of the actual desktop programs such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Google would be the ultimate powerhouse of online collaboration if more people used Google+ regularly. For the purposes of our website, we found group discussions were more active and frequented on Facebook because we all used it actively.

Favourite Feature: The ability to start a discussion, ask questions and comment on changes within the document.

Our team used the comment feature in Google Docs to discuss the style of our collaborative document.

Google Calendar

When we proposed the website, we created a list of dates and deadlines to keep the project on track. These deadlines were uploaded to a new Google Calendar which was only accessible to the team, and includes the option to copy the deadlines and meetings to their own personal Google Calendars.

Here is the agenda of our Google Calendar:

Project Management

There are heaps of free web-based Gantt Chart and project management tools available online that will help keep your project team on track. One that I have used before is the free open source groupware program, Collabtive, which features:

  • ability to track projects, milestones and tasks
  • unlimited members and language choice (great for global teams)
  • ability to synchronise calendars and monitor user activity (in timetracker reports)

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Online tools to get to know your customers and help you create engaging content

If you’re working in a marketing, advertising or communication role in any business, you will know that understanding your consumers is essential to driving your strategies in the right direction.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great tool that your business can use to quantitatively and qualitatively define and understand your online customers.

Google Analytics can help you understand your visitors, including:

  • Who they are
  • How they use and interact with your online content
  • Where they came from
  • What makes them stay
  • Why they would want to come back

There’s an entire range of data you can uncover with Google Analytics, including detailed analysis of your website content, social media accounts, mobile applications and advertising campaigns.

And the best thing is that anyone can learn how to use Google Analytics for their business for free with the online Google Analytics IQ Lessons.

Once you have proceeded through the lessons, you will be prepared to take the online test (70 minutes, 90 questions, 80% to pass) at the Google Testing Centre and become Google Analytics Certified (and beef up your resume) for US $50.

And if that goes well, you might even want to take on the Google AdWords Certification Program.

Social Media Tools

While Google Analytics is probably the most comprehensive online measurement tool for your business, there are other social-media specific tools that can help you measure your performance online, including:

Crowdbooster

Crowdbooster is a social media dashboard that measures your most successful tweets and posts, lets you know who your most influential social media followers are and helps you discover what factors help your online community to grow.

#KnowYourFollowers

#KnowYour Followers is an in depth analysis of who your Twitter followers are, including location, gender, family status, likes & interests, profession, employment status, family status, religion, ethnicity, age, favourite places to eat/drink/shop, the clothes they wear, other social media that they use, first languages, number of followers, twitter activity and much more.

Facebook Insights

As soon as your Facebook page has 30 likes, you can use this application to obtain a massive amount of data about who your friends are and how they interact with your content.

Setting Goals

Once you are comfortable with these online metric tools, make sure you set measurable qualitative and quantitative goals for each of your online platforms, so that you can use these tools to measure performance, improve content and strategies, and ultimately grow your online influence and your business.

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Free online SEO tools to help your website rank on page 1 of Google

In an era where having your website on page one of a Google search is a key performance indicator for your business, you need to know how to use SEO to make the most of your online content.

When you search something in Google, it is not just the most visited websites that are given importance – it is also the most relevant information to your search. While search engines do not share the specific algorithms on how web pages are ranked, there are free online tools you can use to ensure you are search engine optimising your online presence with the most relevant and consumer-friendly content.

Choosing the right SEO key words, terms and phrases

When you are writing online copy for your business, it is important that you use targeted terms that search engines will use to deliver traffic to your website. The key terms that you use in your content, as well as your content itself, needs to target a unique and specialised consumer need. Web CEO lets you join and get keyword suggestions for your website. Simply sign up for a free Web CEO account, add the URL of your website or blog to your account, and from the dashboard you can access a “keyword basket”.  Here you can get suggestions by typing in your key words, terms and phrases used on your website (or that you plan to use on your website and accurately defines your content), and the keyword tool will search for other relevant keywords that may bring visitors to your site, which you can then integrate into your copy.

Another way to choose the right keywords for your website is to do an analysis of your competitors. To identify who your (online) competitors are, you can start by doing a Google search using the keywords you have chosen for your own website’s content. If one particular website keeps popping up each time that you search the keywords of your content, they are your competitors. After identifying and analysing the source code of your competitors, you need to decide how your content will be better, more innovative, or offer a distinct point of difference from your competitors.

The main thing to remember when choosing SEO keywords for your website is that you really need to think about your potential visitor – what they want, what they are searching for, and how you can meet their needs. Make sure you are not misleading your visitors by ensuring your website navigation and headings use keywords that are relevant to the content of each web page.

How Search Engines Read your online content

If you are in charge of online communication for your business you generally aren’t required to know how to write code, but you should have a basic understanding of how search engines read your online content.

Search engines crawl your website, bring back information to be indexed, and then rank that information to be served to their customer. The language that Search Engines use to rank these websites is HTML, or HyperText Markup Language. There are lots of online references you can use to self-teach yourself HTML (I recommend w3 Schools) but the main thing to consider is how your headings and titles are represented on your website.

While a bold heading in a large font might be aesthetically appropriate for a human, a search engine won’t identify this text as a heading unless it has been marked as a heading using HTML. For example:

Heading

looks like

<h1>Heading</h1>

in HTML.

To make sure your headings are read as headings in HTML, you can check the source code (right click on your webpage and click “View Page Source”) or use Seo-Browser to view your website as a website sees it. Simply go to the Seo-Browser website and enter the URL of your webpage and click Simple. This will display more important information in larger, heading text.

If you don’t have any larger text then this means that you don’t have any headings in HTML. If the headings that are displayed don’t accurately describe the content contained in the rest of the page, then that is also a problem, because it means your information won’t be relevant to your visitors (and could also be a problem for Google who won’t display irrelevant information to their users).

Ten tips for optimising your online content:

  1. Name the images and photos used on your website as accurately and descriptively as possible. This gives Google more information about the content on your website.
  2. Ensure that the navigation isn’t hidden behind photos and images, because Google won’t be able to read this information and rank your website contents accordingly. Your website navigation should be readable by search engines, but also be appropriate to human use of your website.
  3. Ensure that the key words and terms that you have identified as the most likely to search engine optimise your content feature prominently on your webpage, that is in the headings and in the first few paragraphs of your content.
  4. Use longer, more descriptive headings
  5. Think like your visitors- what would they search?
  6. Look at your competitors source code to see what terms they use to optimise their content
  7. Use 2-3 word terms/phrases instead of just key words.
  8. Include image alt-text (a description when you hover over images) to make your website accessible to visitors who have switched off images
  9. Edit out superfluous code so your website downloads faster
  10. Reinforce your brand with the company title in page headings

Do you know any other free online tools that can be used to help Search Engine Optimise online content? Share your tips and tools below!

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How to Improve Your Website and Engage Customers

Having a website that is useable, easy to navigate and functional will draw customers to your business and keep them engaged with your products and services.

Follow these tips for improving the useability of your business website, and keep your customers engaged:

1. Make navigation easy

Make sure global navigation bars are consistent across all pages of your website; otherwise people will be confused, think they have been sent to another website and switch off. And whatever you do, don’t forget a search field. Your customers should not have to click through various pages and links to find what they want. Make sure you have a search function on your website for customers who know exactly what they are looking for.

2. Use social media to your advantage

Your website and social media pages should all work together, and promote a consistent message. While the types of information you promote through different platforms will vary, it is essential that there is sufficient cross promotion with your social media platforms on your website. Your website should link to all your social media sites, while they in turn should all link to each other as well as your website. This will ensure that participation across your entire online presence can be easily navigated.

And it’s no use just getting customers to ‘like’ your business on Facebook, or ‘follow’ you on twitter. While this is a great tool that you can use to directly reach your customers – it cuts out an entire facet of the marketing opportunity that social media offers – word of mouth advertising. Make sure your customers can “share” the products and services that they engage with or are interested in on your website with their friends.

3. Remember your customer

If you own a business, there are generally two types of people visiting your website: repeat customers who want to quickly and easily navigate around your website to get what they want; and new customers who want to access accurate and comprehensive information about your products and services. Make sure that you focus on both new and repeat customers, and what they might be looking for when they visit your website.

Case Study: Telstra

The Telstra website is a great example of functional navigation because the whole home page is dedicated to giving their customers the tools to find what they are looking for.

This is a good example because:

  • All navigation options above the fold
  • Links are reinforced with images
  • Tools for regular customers (such as logging in to their accounts) are easily accessible.
  • The global navigation panel is consistent across all pages
  • Social media platforms are cross promoted

Remember, in an ever increasing culture of time-poor consumers, useability is important to your customers. Your website needs to cater to different needs, and your customer has to be able to find what they are looking for easily, otherwise they will go elsewhere.

Have you ever been on a website that was hard to navigate? How did it make you feel, and how long did you last on the website?

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Australian Women’s Weekly iPad App


New technology is constantly changing the way consumers access and share information.

The ability of the World Wide Web to facilitate the quick and easy exchange of information has been a challenging predicament for the publishing industry, especially in regard to copyright laws. In addition to the legal ramifications of new technology, magazines also face a new competitor – in an era when anyone can be a journalist online through websites and blogs, magazines must produce high-quality captivating editorial content that consumers will be willing to pay for, even though they can access online content for free. Furthermore, with the rise of new tablet technology such as the Kindle and the iPad, consumers are changing the way they access information, and these changes need to be catered for by the publishing industry.

The Australian Women’s Weekly is at the forefront of technological advancements in publishing in Australia, and have embraced the shift from analogue to digital by providing digital copies of their magazine on an iPad application that can be downloaded from the iTunes store, and each issue can be purchased for $5.99.

In the April issue of the magazine there is an advertisement for the application opposite the skite box on page 20. The ad says “Out now on iPad” and also promotes the website, saying “visit us at aww.com.au”. Aside from this, no other reference is made to the application, and it is not promoted on the website either. Of the application, which was launched in October 2010, AWW Editor-in-chief Helen McCabe told The Australian (25/10/2010), “The iPad is one of the fastest-selling pieces of technology since the DVD player was introduced and it’s vitally important for ACP to be in the game and offer this to our readers and our advertisers.. We’ve been modest in November for the launch but we have lots of plans”. She concedes that they want to smooth out any technical glitches before going full speed ahead with the promotion of the application.

Five months later, and how much progress has been made? On the iTunes store, there are 154 reviews for the application, and is rated as 2 out of 5 stars. However, most of the negative reviews are based on technological issues such as downloading the magazines (up to 400MB each) onto their iPads, and it seems the AWW have tried to rectify this by updating the software on 11 March, which provides improved video handling, improved downloading over 3G and Wi-Fi networks, background downloading and faster page loading and opening. Here we can see that they are really listening to customer feedback, and trying to perfect the application before a massive launch.

Aside from technological issues, there are many positive reviews that comment on the ease of accessing the content, and extras such as the interactive features that allow users to navigate to stories from the contents page, and the exclusive iPad-only content such as cooking demonstration videos, photo slide shows and behind-the-scenes footage. Unfortunately, digital copies of the AWW are not available on any other platform such as the kindle or android tablets yet.

My main concern with the digital copies of their magazine is the price point. By providing digital copies of the AWW, the costs associated with the traditional printing and distribution the magazine can be saved, with those savings being imparted on to the consumer. But despite the elimination of these traditional costs, and with receiving 70% of the profits (Apple takes 30%), the digital copy of the AWW is only 91 cents cheaper than the hard copy – and that is disappointing for consumers.

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Invitation Etiquette: Online vs Traditional

The potential father of my future offspring is turning 21 next month (Yes, I’m a cougar… Hear me roar).

After weeks of persistent ball breaking, he finally let me go in to his Facebook account to make an event invite for his party.. and subsequently made myself an administrator.

I suppose he let me after reading my blog that said I didn’t attend any events that weren’t on Facebook. Either that, or he was afraid that his self-acknowledged lack of respect and passion for social media (opposites really do attract!) could have resulted in a ‘Corey‘ situation.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that hosting a (in this instance, private) Facebook event is absolutely necessary for any event you are planning, but one question remains unanswered:

Do we send out real invitations too?

Lets first take a look at Facebook events, that really do make invitations easy. Why are they so great?

  • You can invite people before you confirm the finer details. Getting the word out that you are planning an event and asking friends to keep the date free, as well as being able to keep them updated will ensure people are kept up to date if things don’t go to plan. Its less easy to recall invitations that you posted, or post out more.
  • You can receive accurate RSVP statistics. Most venues need to know how many people are attending in advance, but how do you know if you haven’t sent out the invitations and gotten RSVPs yet? This isn’t an issue for Facebook Events. Plus the added bonus of not having to worry about sending paper invitations to the people who have already said no.
  • You can mass message attendees. You can remind people of the time of the event, what to bring, if any plans have changed due to unforeseen circumstances. You can specifically message people who have said Maybe Attending. I suggest sending the following:

“Maybe?! Do or do not, there is no try!”

This is great.. so why would I send a real invitation?

  • So you can invite the Cave People. All of your friends on Facebook probably already use Facebook Events. I’m sure they use the post too, but in a fast-paced, real-time world, Facebook events are totally acceptable forms of inviting friends. For those cave people that don’t, you can always text them. Oh wait, they probably don’t use phones either. Personally, I would tell them that if they don’t use Facebook that they can’t come to my party. You don’t have to be that extreme, but then again, why should you learn Morse Code so you can send them a telegram? Nevertheless, if you want to invite the cave people, you’re going to have to send a real invitation.
  • So you still get a present. Okay this applies mainly to events like weddings and other religious ceremonies, because if you send a Facebook invite to these it is rude. Sure, you can send out a Facebook invite telling guests to “keep the date free because an invite is on the way”, but special events require special attention. So unless you want a Farmville Barn for a wedding present, send a real invite.

My verdict? For important events such as milestone birthdays (such as our upcoming 21st), weddings and religious events, send out both. For everything else, a Facebook event invite will suffice.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Vote now:

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