Your brand’s digital presence is more important now than ever before

“I want to be where the people are”

I think everybody can relate to The Little Mermaid these days; we all want to be where the people are. Thankfully, conversations surrounding COVID-19 are finally turning toward recovery. However, even as the world reopens, the effects of the quarantine will be lasting and businesses need to adapt to how consumer digital behaviors have shifted. The bottom line: to be where the people are, you need to update your digital strategy. Doing so will benefit your business both in the short- and long-term.

Improve your website

One simple way to invest in your website is to regularly update your content to ensure its relevancy, something that will be especially important post-coronavirus. For example, adding video content can increase time on site. Likewise, virtual experiences allow your customers to take your product for a spin from the comfort of their home. We recently developed a new website for Camelot Homes, a luxury homebuilder in Arizona, which included more imagery, video content, interactive floor plans and their professionally-shot virtual home tours that maintained buyer interest when in-person tours weren’t available.

Streamlining the design of your website can guide consumers more naturally through your site and increase conversions. Staying on top of your site’s SEO will help consumers find you through search engines. If you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend a website audit, which is the foundational service we offer our web clients. An audit will reveal what’s going well with your website and what needs improving, providing you with clear direction and actionable next steps.

Email is low-risk, high-reward

Maintaining open communication is crucial in gaining trust with your consumers. In a time of crisis, transparency is even more important. Newsletters are great digital tools that offer direct lines to your brand’s biggest fans: people who voluntarily opted to receive updates from you. So, give the people what they want.

The economic landscape is shifting constantly in reaction to the coronavirus. With recovery around the corner, it’s imperative to keep your consumers informed with updates to your business, like shifts in offerings, changes in hours of operation or new content. Whatever the messaging, make it consistent, relevant and timely.

An email campaign also is a relatively inexpensive marketing channel with a historically high ROI. According to Litmus, for every dollar spent on email, marketers saw a $42 return. With so many advantages to email, creating a newsletter strategy is essential.

Create content constantly

When stay-at-home orders were declared, streaming services and social media apps experienced a rise in traffic and usage. According to The Next Web, 29 percent of internet users reported they were streaming significantly more movies and shows, while 23 percent said they were spending significantly more time on social media platforms. People quarantined to their homes crave content, presenting an opportunity for businesses to bolster their organic social media.

When compared to the last quarter of 2019, Instagram saw a 22 percent increase in campaign impressions in the first quarter of 2020. Even as the world eases back into a normal cadence, and people once again can meet in-person, we anticipate the high rate of social media use will continue. Undoubtedly, consumers will feel compelled to share their first experiences out in public. Preparing and scheduling timely and visually engaging content maintains your relevancy and increases brand awareness.

Earn trust and impressions

Right now, news sites are seeing big increases in readership as even more people want to stay informed. The New York Times reported in March that news site page visits increased 57 percent, and subscriptions to U.S. news sites were 57.5 percent higher on Sunday, March 15 compared to an average Sunday.

Submitting bylined articles or expert commentary on how trends or current events are affecting your industry can lead to earned media coverage in online news sites, increasing your business’s exposure and strengthening your expert positioning. Providing insight and thought leadership in news outlets also garners trust with readers, deepening your brand awareness. Partnering with experts like The James Agency can not only help you create an effective PR strategy, but also execute on that strategy and prepare you for the inevitable media opportunities. 

Be prepared

We’re all experiencing a harrowing moment in our history, and the full effects are yet to be seen. One thing for certain has changed: the customer journey. The brands that will continue to win have a few things in common, one of which being a strong digital presence that allowed them to stay in contact with their customers throughout the days of quarantine. At The James Agency, we leverage 15 years of experience and a wealth of data to evolve our clients’ digital assets, ensuring they are prepared for anything. Drop us a line to determine how we can do the same for you.

Considerations for collaborations: How to make unique brands work together.

Marketing is a group activity.

However, branding is often created and deployed in a silo. There are some external considerations of course—industry trends, competitor sets, etc.—but beyond that, brand development is not a decision that necessarily needs to be “coordinated” with anything outside of the company. Even nested organizations or those under the same ownership tend to be visually independent of each other.

Right, so what’s the issue?

We are operating in a collaborative age: companies, influencers, popups and celebrities are mixing and mingling their brands. With all this crossover, it takes real work to keep all those logos, color palettes and keywords from turning into a puddle of melted crayons. When brands collaborate, talented designers—like the ones we’re fortunate to have here at TJA—are responsible for keeping aesthetics consistent but complementary, without muddling or diluting the impact of the organizations involved.

Join us as we share our top tips for keeping cooperative branding from becoming a mess.

Don’t just smoosh them together and hope for the best.

You have the logos for both organizations, so why not just paste them in the same area? You have pictures of both products, so why not just collage them together? No. Please don’t. Trust us; we know whereof we speak. You could probably get away with asset dumping, but that doesn’t mean you should. For the sake of brand (and visual) integrity, we encourage you to explore some of these alternative strategies before you Salt Bae logos and photos all over the place.

  • Cut to the core.
    A great place to start is with why these entities are collaborating in the first place. Did they come together to support a cause? Are they selling complementary products? By looking at the end goal, you’ll be able to create a narrative for the partnership as a whole.
  • Symmetry is your friend.
    Sometimes it’s impossible to work with perfectly coordinated colors, logos, assets, fonts and voice. Strive to find equivalent content, and then mirror it in layout. I.e. do you have two photos of people having fun? Two illustrations of buildings? Using subject material that’s as similar as possible can show how well the two brands go together.
  • Have the elements converse with each other.
    Try a call-and-respond methodology when you’re selecting which photos to use. If one has a couple at breakfast, pick another that has someone walking through a street during midday. End with a photo of a family at night. There’s a way to create a continuous theme throughout the piece even when you’re working with seemingly unrelated content.

Respect the integrity and individuality of each brand.

It’s a good idea to unify the palette and marry the messaging of the players involved to a certain extent. It becomes an issue if your audience isn’t able to tell that you’re portraying more than one brand if you took the names of the organizations involved out of the equation. Be sure to pay homage to what makes each brand unique.

  • Play up the contrast.
    There’s harmony in opposition; allow the brands to become foils for each other. It creates an interesting dynamic when the distinct traits of each brand play off each other. Execute this well, and the entities will appear more complimentary than ever.
  • Give the brands a platform.
    Even if brands are working toward a goal that is separate from self-promotion, the secondary goal of any collaboration for the brands involved is to expose themselves to a new audience that shares traits with current loyal fans. Always keep in mind what will pique the interest of the individuals who may not have encountered the organizations before, displaying what qualities align with the audience’s affinities.

Speaking from personal experience.

Mountain Shadows and Hotel Valley Ho—two of our long-held clients—run an annual, cooperative 3-Day Sale in the springtime. While both properties have histories that begin in the midcentury, they have unique brands, looks, voices and personalities. Both hotels appear together on the collateral, billboards, emails, social posts and more during the lead-up and duration of the 3-Day Sale.

In previous years, the 3-Day Sale was hosted simultaneously but separately: each hotel used its own branding and promoted the sale through their specific channels. This year, the hospitality concepts came together to maximize exposure and broadcast the event to a broader audience than ever.

The properties are distinct, but the creative team utilized the similarities the hotels share to create symmetry for visuals and narrative. We also pulled out and highlighted the differences, which allowed each concept to shine where they specialize. For example, Hotel Valley Ho has a lighter, brighter, mid-century-mod vibe, whereas Mountain Shadows has an elevated, secluded, contemporary aesthetic. By choosing colors from the brand standards that are complementary, photography that created the narrative we knew would be appealing to both audiences and crafting copy that conveyed the urgency of the sale, the collateral came together and made the brands look like they always belonged together. 

How does GDPR affect Arizona businesses?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed a swell of, “We’ve made updates to our privacy policy” emails and in-app notifications.

These emails are businesses attempting to become compliant with the updated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which went into effect across the European Union on May 25, 2018.

Due to an overwhelming amount of massive data breaches and the misuse of collected data (thanks, Cambridge Analytica), the European Union has created a legal framework that sets guidelines for collecting and processing personal information of individuals within the EU.

If this regulation only impacts individuals living within the EU, Arizona-based businesses with no direct operation in the EU have nothing to worry about, right?

Well, not exactly.

Geographical scope
There are a few parts of the updated regulations that could land U.S. businesses in hot water and has EU lawyers salivating at the potential lawsuits.

For example, Article 3 of the GDPR says that if a business collects personal data or behavioral information from someone in an EU country, the business is subject to the requirements of the GDPR.

The second piece that has U.S. businesses on their toes is that a financial transaction does not need to take place for the GDPR regulation to kick in. If a business simply collects data on a user for any type of marketing or survey data, then the data is protected under GDPR regulations.

For example, if a person in the EU performs a Google search and hits the website of a U.S. business—even if that business has no operations in the EU—then any information the business captures such as a name, email address, delivery address or credit card information is now protected under the new GDPR regulations. The business will be culpable if that person’s data is breached or misused.

And the fine if a business is found misusing their data? Up to $12,000,000 or 2% of your annual revenue of the prior financial year, whichever is higher.

How to protect your Arizona business
Complying with the updated GDPR regulation isn’t as hard as it might sound.

First off, consent is the main consideration. In the language of the GDPR, consent must be “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.”

Meaning, unless someone has given a business explicit consent (note: not implied consent) to email them directly, the business cannot send that person emails. How many businesses take email addresses from contact form submissions or their point of sale and automatically drop them into their email marketing newsletters? That is against GDPR.

The first step for businesses is to review all of their online data capture points to figure out if they’re being explicit with the website visitor about how that information will be used, shared and potentially marketed to. Review what systems these capture points are feeding into and align those with what the business is telling visitors.

The next step is allowing customers to see and delete any data a business has for them. This should include name, address, phone number, email address—anything. The easiest approach is to make all of this information available in a “Your Profile” section.

Lastly, in the event that the data a business is holding about website visitors or customers is accessed by an unauthorized entity (i.e., a data breach), businesses have only 72-hours to notify their users that their data was compromised.

What data shouldn’t businesses worry about?
It’s also important to understand what data your business can collect without fear of GDPR compliance.

Any data necessary for your service to be rendered can be requested without an explicit explanation of how you’ll use it. Implied consent passes here.

A basic example would be if you sell personalized birthday cakes. If the purchaser were to request, “Happy 6th birthday, David.” Well, the purchaser of that cake would need to provide David’s name and birthdate to get the cake. This is considered implied consent to use that data.

Now if you, a custom-cake baker, asks for David’s social media accounts or email address, you would need to provide a “specific, informed, and unambiguous” explanation about what you’re going to do with those two pieces of data. You must allow that person to say no to providing that information.

Another example: if you’re a home security company, it’s implied that the customer will need to provide their name, home address, contact and billing information for your services to work.

If you want to send them follow up direct mailers, marketing emails to upgrade their services or pull usage data from their devices to better inform your marketing, the customer must provide explicit consent before you can do any of these things.

Simple enough, right?
While it’s true this is an EU regulation, if your U.S. business has a strong web presence or you engage in any kind of marketing, you should be paying attention to and changing your data collection practices right now. There is no shortcut to get past GDPR compliance. It’s not a check-the-box, 5-minute compliance routine. It will require time, effort and education to become compliant and stay compliant.

But with common sense and being diligent with where your data is coming from, how it’s being captured, stored and utilized, through compliance and good faith your business is likely to avoid any major fines from greedy EU lawyers.

Our Strategy to Win Over Your Customers

Email marketing is the most effective and profitable way to connect with your audience.

There, we said it.

WHY?
According to Marketo, checking email is the #1 activity on the internet. Using a search engine is #2. People are constantly scanning their inboxes, looking for the most relevant items to read. Email has grown and changed with the rise of social media marketing, pushing it to be even more dynamic. Studies have shown that thoughtful email campaigns produce an average 3800% return on investment (ROI) and average conversion rates are 3x higher than social media campaigns.

Using email is also a direct line to your customers. Making assumptions here, but your email list is probably full of people who requested more information about your company. In general, they are interested in and have opened the door for communication. This means you have a way to directly connect with your biggest fans. We’re talking about a group of people who asked you to send them information! This is a big deal, and there is a responsibility to maintain their trust by sending them relevant and timely communication.

Now that we’ve gotten the braggy statistics and the touchy-feely stuff out of the way, let’s talk about how to handle an email marketing campaign from start to finish.

HOW?
Generally speaking, those outrageous ROI statistics don’t come by slapping together some graphics and copy before sending it off to your entire list of email addresses. Creating a clear strategy from the start will keep your communication on track and will likely serve your customers better.

For all of your emails, there are a few very important steps to work through before hitting “send.” We recommend going through this list for every email campaign.

Step 1
Get your message straight. Are you reaching out to build a community with your subscribers? Are you trying to sell something? Maybe a little of both? Whatever it is, make sure the goal is clearly defined and written down so you can reference it throughout this process.

Step 2
With your goal in mind, start gathering the necessary items. At minimum, you will need compelling copy and images. Remember that your email needs to look great on desktop and mobile. Start by sketching the layout to give yourself a roadmap. It doesn’t have to mention the specifics; just some boxes that indicate where you will put everything. Once the design is set and we have our copy ready, we get to start coding the email.

Wait a second—did you say code? Yes. Yes, we did. Learning how to code will absolutely help the email creation process and provide more flexibility. Coding allows our team to use more engaging elements and options in our email campaigns. If that’s not your jam, there are quite a few email marketing platforms out there that provide drag and drop functionality or companies (like us) with email marketing services.

Step 3
Once your email is set up, take a moment to look at it from a zoomed-out view. Does it make sense? Does it support your original goal from Step 1? Would you be excited to get an email that looks like this? Now, try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask those same questions. If it doesn’t line up, make adjustments.

Once your design is set, you’ll need to create an engaging subject line. This is one of the most important parts of an email because it will either inspire your customers to open the email or simply ignore it. It’s so essential and close to our hearts that we wrote a whole blog about how to write the perfect subject line.

Step 4
Test. Make adjustments. Retest.

It is very important to test your email before hitting send. Your customers use a variety of email clients (Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook, Samsung Mail, etc.) on an ever-changing number of devices (mobile phones, computers, tablets, etc.) and every email client has different quirks that can make your carefully constructed email look like an absolute disaster. We use a third-party service to make sure our emails look great across all platforms. At minimum, test your email by sending it to as many different clients and devices as possible. This step helps to greatly reinforce the trust you have been building all along.

LONG-TERM
Email marketing platforms generally offer data tracking, which is extremely useful to ensure you are reaching your customers in a meaningful way. The specifics of the data will vary among platforms, but they will include things like open rate, click rate, unsubscribes, bounces (when the email is undeliverable) and much more. Use this data to track what works and what doesn’t. As you learn more about your customers, you can make small adjustments to improve your emails. List segmentation is also incredibly helpful to create different channels within one large list. With a little extra information, you can send more relevant emails to your customers.

Taking this into consideration, create a strategy that will keep your fans engaged and happy while driving the metrics that are important to your company. Your strategy should include some general emails that show your customers you care about them. A little extra work goes a long way to deepen the relationship. The good news is that most email marketing platforms allow you to set up these types of emails to send automatically.

We recommend including these automated emails in your repertoire:

Welcome. Say thank you for joining the list. This is probably the most excited that they will be about your emails. Sending a quick “thanks” will go a long way in keeping them engaged until the next scheduled send.

Happy birthday. If you are selling a product or service, say Happy Birthday and offer a small discount or free item. It doesn’t need to be grand, it’s actually the thought that counts. Even if you don’t have anything to offer, sending a quick note can still create a deeper bond.

Confirmation. If a service or product has been purchased, a confirmation note is key. Make sure they have all the necessary details before they have to ask. Bonus points if you add a thank you note to show your gratitude.

Every email list is different, so what works for one list might not work for another. Keep tabs on the activity generated from your emails. With all of the data available for email behavior, it’s tempting to throw everything out the window if one email performs poorly. The best thing to do is analyze the email that bombed and see what could have been improved.

Now get out there and create great emails!

You’ve seen everything that goes into an email campaign and are primed to create your email. When you are ready to go deeper, we offer a variety of services from recommendations on strategic direction to comprehensive email campaigns. If you would like to partner with us, send us an email or drop us a line.

How to Write the Perfect Subject Line

Email.

It takes up so much real estate in our professional lives. There are even podcasts dedicated to it, teaching us how to wrangle it, tame it, understand it. As a marketing agency, we’re both senders and receivers of a massive amount of email—personal and promotional. We have developed a nose for what makes an email good and what makes one…well, stink.

Today, we’re focusing on the most crucial part of the entire email: The Subject Line.

Let’s begin with in-agency one-word associations:

“I say subject line, you say what?”

Creative Director: “Meaning.”
Senior Copywriter: “Inspiring.”
Junior Interactive Copywriter: “Difficult.”
Junior Web Developer: “Pivotal.”
Director of Web Strategy: “Catchy.”
Art Director: “Catchy.”

Subject lines are tricky S.O.Bs.

We’re all searching for a “Best Practice” that will increase all measurable signs that our emails are a hit, something that will get open rates up 50%, conversion rates up 40% and profits up 30%.

But what happens when there seems to be no playbook with a winning streak?

Director of Web Strategy: “One brand we worked with threw all convention and acceptable practice out the window. All they put in their subject line was the name of the recipient. I received this ominous email with just my name. I opened it and apparently much of their listerv did, too. The open rates haven’t been seen before or since. It was such an anomaly.”

(Stay tuned for why this was actually a bad strategy.)

Before you get frustrated and quit your day job as a semi-professional email crafter to pursue your daydream of being a quasi-professional kayaker, rest assured that beyond these anomalies there are guidelines that generate reliable (not the sexiest of buzzwords, we know) results for emails.

1. The subject line matters most, so spend more than a minute on it.

You’ve poured your heart and soul into this email. Never has there been such witty, informative, life-changing content. You kiss your computer screen. You pat yourself on the back. You release your creation into the world with a two-cent subject line.

“The work will speak for itself,” you’re sure.

A few days later, you check the open rates.

They’re abysmal.

This lesson is hard learned, so take it from us: your effort is worth bupkis if the subject line is not motivating someone to click on it. That’s a phenomenal email down the drain.

It may seem unjustifiable to spend as much time on one sentence (or sentence fragment, or single word), as you do on some paragraphs, but first impressions matter. A lot.

2. Click bait is quickly becoming click turn-offs.

It may rile you (or tempt you) when you see companies getting higher open rates with nothing but emojis, OR ALL CAPS, or ominous one-word subject lines (like just the recipient’s name).

Here’s why that strategy was penny-smart and dollar-stupid: you want to foster a history of healthy communication with your customer base. Trying to get them to open an email by being sly is going to hurt your brand’s reputation. No one is going to support an organization if they feel it is trying to sneak in through the back door.

Besides, the majority of internet users are savvy enough to see through someone trying to get opens with gimmicks. Often, they will intentionally refuse to indulge that.

Remember: an association with integrity never hurt anyone. Respect the intelligence of your consumers and they’ll respect you. Failing to do so will damage trust, increase unsubscribe rates and get bad word-of-mouth flowing. And really, if you need to trick your customers into looking at what you have to offer, there may be a larger issue at hand.

3. Keep it relevant.

TJAers have an endless list for why they don’t open some emails. But when asked what makes them open one, there’s a resounding answer: Relevancy.  People want to spend time doing and consuming things that directly benefit them.

The easiest thing in the world for a business to do is write about themselves. The smartest thing a business can do is write to improve the lives of those who are reading. Advice, references, anecdotes, lessons and resources that are written in a way that speaks directly to the needs of your readers will deliver results.

The subject line needs to demonstrate that direct benefit. It needs to answer the “Why should I read this?” question before it’s been asked.

The best subject lines are yet to come.

You are now armed and ready to reenter the highly competitive world of subject lines. Make sure all the work you put into the actual content is justified by getting it opened. Respect your readers by giving their intelligence more credit than your competitors and they’ll return the favor. Lastly, stay humble: it’s not all about you. Your customers are the reason you thrive, so cater to them and their needs while demonstrating why you continue to serve them best.

Now, go get read. 

Google Introduces AMP for Email

This month, Google announced a revolutionary step forward in email marketing. They are bringing their Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP) to email. With the announcement, they released AMP for email examples created by several of their preferred partners and general documentation. There are still many questions on this new form of email, but we have gathered information on what is known and what we would like to know before this new type of email is rolled out later this year.

What is AMP for Email?

Google launched AMP in 2015 to improve the mobile web experience. Basically, it is a simplified lightweight webpage that loads quickly on mobile devices. AMP for email brings the lightweight interactive AMP code to Google’s Gmail platform.

Google’s Goals

Google released the video above on AMP for email explaining its uses and their goals to modernize email. The main takeaways are Google is trying to reduce friction for simple tasks by allowing the user to RSVP, fill out a form or browse a gallery without needing to click to a landing page. They created AMP for email open-spec with the hope others will integrate it into their platforms to push the “email ecosystem” forward.

How Can Marketers Use it?

The AMP for email documentation has the code sectioned into three main sections. Those sections are media, presentation and dynamic content.

The dynamic content is what Google focused on during the announcement, showing how people can fill out a form or answer a question directly in an email.

Examples

Doodle created a stunning example of how users can answer a survey directly in one of their emails. Getting users to take surveys can be a tricky task. Allowing them to quickly respond in an email may lead to more participation.

Booking.com created an email showing off the new website carousels, allowing a hotel to show off multiple images without increasing the length of the email.

Drawbacks

To utilize AMP, marketers will now need to design and code three versions of an email. This includes AMP code for Gmail users, HTML for the majority of other email users and plain text. This is an extra step that will take time to execute and may not be cost-effective for smaller email lists. Current email statistics show that currently 26% of emails(1) are opened in Gmail or the Gmail app. For a list of 1,000, only 260 recipients would have the possibility of seeing the AMP version.

Practical Ecommerce reviewed the different transactional uses of AMP for email and pointed out a potential flaw. “If recipients do not realize the email will be dynamically updated, they could delete it and thus miss subsequent vital information.” We currently have no way of tracking when or if a customer deletes an email. If they delete, “AMP-delivered transactional emails, such as order confirmations and shipping statuses, presume that the recipient does not delete the original version.” (2)

Our Burning Questions

Email marketing enhancements have been moving at a much slower pace than other fields. Only recently has more user-focused interactions, such as rollovers and animations started being integrated into the majority of email platforms. This new proposed code is a huge step for email marketing. We have several questions about how it works and what this means for the future. As more information is released, we will update this post with answers received.

  1. What email clients support AMP now? Who is working on integrating it?
    Currently, we know it will be released in Gmail later in 2018. No others have committed to adding it to their platform at this time.
  2. Does this cause any legal issues? Email is currently used as a record in legal cases. AMP for Email can be dynamic and content changed after a person has received and read the email. AMP for email is designed for marketing and transactional emails, not personal, but this could still be an issue.
  3. How are interactions tracked? Currently, marketers are able to track clicks and interactions through different sending software. Will AMP for email allow more elaborate tracking?

Community Reaction

Overall there has a been a split reaction to this announcement. Some of the most vocal feedback providers have been very negative. TechCrunch has concerns about changing the fundamentals of email. “Email is designed and overwhelmingly used to say things, while websites and apps are overwhelmingly designed and used to interact with things.” Others are concerned this is a step by Google to try and take over email by forcing others to utilize their code. (3)

TJA’s Take

We are excited to see AMP for email in action. We feel there will be many uses for it in the coming years. Once the community has had a chance to really work with it, many great user experiences will be created. User experience design is all about reducing the friction and making a task as easy as possible for the user. Eliminating the need for a landing page for simple tasks will allow for a better customer interaction. Customers that have a great experience are more likely to interact with the brand again and become a brand advocate, recommending your business to their friends and family.

However, if other platforms do not pick up AMP for email, we will be selective on what emails and clients we recommend it for. Since only Gmail users will see this new code, the ROI on coding a separate email just for Gmail may not be cost effective for most cases. Outlook has committed to improving the email experience by partnering with Litmus and the email community, but they may not be willing to work with Google on this.

Marketers will also need to be smart on when it is important to send the user to their website. While reducing friction is important. Sending them to your website is also important for some companies.

Let us know what you think about the update or ask how this could apply to you in the comments.

Sources
1. http://emailclientmarketshare.com/
2. https://www.practicalecommerce.com/does-amp-for-email-impact-ecommerce
3. https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/13/amp-for-email-is-a-terrible-idea/
4. https://www.blog.google/products/g-suite/bringing-power-amp-gmail/

The Current State of Email Marketing

It’s almost 2018. Should I still be focusing on Email Marketing?

With the prominence of social media, pay-per-click advertising and websites, is email marketing still a thing? The increase of social media caused many to predict the end of email marketing; however, that has not been the case. Email marketing is stronger than ever with roughly 5 billion active emails worldwide and roughly 269 billion emails sent and received each day in 2017.

How to create successful email campaign?

Step 1: Review historical data

It is essential to analyze all available data before creating a new email strategy. If you have existing email data, review your campaign results and pay close attention to open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe rates. This will give you a good idea of the overall list health and provide you a benchmark to compare future emails against. If you don’t have prior campaign data or don’t know if your data shows a healthy or unhealthy list, use the resources below as a reference.

Resources:

Email Benchmarks by Industry

How to Interrupt Your Email Reports

Step 2: Define your audience

This step is a combination of determining your current audience (if you have an existing list) and your ideal target audience. Utilize your customer demographics and interests to research what else they may be doing online. For example, if you are selling bowling balls, check out other blogs on bowling and sporting website where people who buy bowling equipment frequent. See what messaging is on those sites to help determine the right way to talk to your customer.

Step 3: Develop a strategy

After reviewing the past data, and determining your audience, the next step is to develop a strategic approach to email. Your strategy should not be a stand-alone plan that is separate from all marketing efforts. Instead, it should be one piece of your full online marketing puzzle. Start with determining your email goals. What do you want your emails to do? Some emails can be general to create brand awareness, announce new products, sell your company’s services or invite people to events. If you have multiple goals you may need to separate your emails to each accomplish different goals. After you have defined your goals, ensure your company objectives align with what the email recipients are interested. An email will not be successful if it is sent to accomplish a company mission and does not align with what your customers want to hear. Make sure you are providing content your email audience finds valuable and engaging. If you send the wrong message to your audience or appear too self-serving, they are likely to leave your list.

Step 4: Plan your content

Now that you’ve determined who your customer is and have a comprehensive email strategy in place, it’s time to figure out how to speak to them. Each type of email can have a different content strategy. For example, if you have a conversion goal like to “buy this bowling ball”, having one focused call to action will help increase the chances of them purchasing the bowling ball. With conversion emails and high intent customers, avoid having multiple messages and calls to action. Don’t have a lot of copy and links to other webpages and sites when you just want them to click the purchase button. Not all emails are conversion emails though. It is a valid content strategy to have a goal of educating your customers on your bowling ball foundation and want the customer to go to the website or social media channels to learn more. Every email should have a measurable digital action. That way you can monitor your email analytics to you know what’s working and what’s not.

Step 5: Write a compelling subject line and preheader text

An email subject line is the main determining factor on whether or not an email will be opened. It is important to have an enticing subject line. Avoid common SPAM phrases and characters to ensure your email makes it to your customer’s inbox. And never forget the preheader text. The preheader text is the first line of copy that shows in your inbox with the subject line. This can help convince your customer to open the email and provide more context about what they’ll find inside.

Step 6: Design

Don’t underestimate the importance of good design. The color, layout and headline all play into the success of your campaign. To make the content easy to digest, keep the design simple. Ensure that the look of your design is on brand and consistent with the style of other marketing efforts for a cohesive marketing strategy. Each email should contain a clear call to action, such as a button or call tracking number, to monitor the overall success of the email. Lastly, engaging imagery often keeps the audience’s attention and increase clicks.

Step 7: Coding

Now, on to the technical side of things. The development of emails is extremely important when executing your strategy. Emails can look completely different depending on what program they’re opened in. For example, an email opened in Apple mail may have all the text be centered and the same email opened in Outlook 2016 may have all the text left aligned. It will also look different on your desktop versus your phone. Each coded email should be tested on multiple desktop and mobile email clients before sending. At TJA, we test all emails in more than 70 different programs to make sure everyone will receive the email in it’s intended form.

Step 8: Send it!

After your email has been fully tested and reviewed, it is time to hit send. With a new or old list, you should set up A/B tests. These are experimental campaigns to determine when the email has the best results. One effective way to do an A/B test is to try different sending days and times to find the optimal time for your customers. To find these peak times, send an email to half of your email list, and then send to the other half at a different time. Based on email reporting, you can tell which email had a higher click-through rate and if there is a time or day that performs better. Other common A/B tests include different subject lines, button text, images and messaging.

Step 9: Results

After an email is sent, it is important to look at campaign analytics to learn what was successful. After 72 hours, analytics give us a clear look at how the campaign was received. We review at open rate, click-through rate and unsubscribe rate. By doing this, you’ll gain a better idea of how to optimize future emails.

Email marketing in the future

The future of email marketing is bright. When executed correctly, email campaigns can be extremely beneficial for any company. There are many platforms that you can use to streamline this process such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Constant Contact, and Fishbowl.

Planning a Successful Email

Before writing an email, you should ask yourself five basic questions so your message can be used as a successful marketing tool. If any of these don’t have an answer, you are not ready to send an effective email that will benefit your business.

1. Why are you sending this?

The million dollar question. Why? Are you announcing a new service, offering a special or simply sending an email because you haven’t sent one in a while? You need to clearly define the reason for this email and come up with a goal you would like to reach.

Some industries support sending emails for brand awareness purposes, but recipients may quickly mark your generic emails as SPAM or unsubscribe from your list. Having a clear reason as to why you are sending an email helps focus the content and creates an interesting email.

2. Who are you talking to?

This is not who you WANT to talk to. It is – Who ARE you talking to? It’s important to know who your audience is to successfully capture their interest and complete your goals. If the audience in the list is not who you want to talk to, it is time to use different tactics to start growing your list specifically with your target audience. Studying the data from past campaigns can help you determine what content your audience is interested in and how to talk specifically to them. For example, if you have a 50% click through rate on an email about a monthly special and only a 4% click through on the email announcing a new hire, you can discern your audience is more interested in finding a deal.

3. What are you accomplishing?

What is the point of all this? Is the person who receives the email supposed to call and make a reservation? Are they clicking to a landing page where they will get more information from your website? Knowing what the endgame is will help create a clear call to action and define the content needed to support it.

4. When? (Why then?)

When is this email sending? Tuesday through Thursday between 8am and 10am? Why then? Did you hear that was the best time to send email, or did you test the highest open rate times? Every audience is different. It is important to know when your audience opens emails so you can be first in their inbox. With shifts in email marketing trends and smart phones being more prevalent, many companies are noticing a shift in their open times. We always recommend testing your audience to see what they respond to.

5. How?

How do you measure the success of an email? You need to clearly define your objectives. For example, “We would like to have 14 people book a room at this special promotional price.” This goal should coincide with the primary call to action and shape the email content.

Measuring Success

After every email is sent, research should be done. What was the open rate? What was the click-through rate? What was the percentage of unsubscribes? And, was your goal reached? We recommend strategically testing your audience by changing small things in your email campaigns. Measure the email results to see whether you can positively affect your email marketing and your business.

– Megan Leese, Web Developer

Source: Megan attended the 2014 Litmus conference where she learned email marketing trends and information. The concept of the 5 W’s is from the “Process This! How to be Successful by Design” session with Jay Juhn and Megan Merrifield.

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