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Reach Your Customers with Email and Social Media Marketing
Updated: 1 hour 22 min ago

VerticalResponse Now Integrates with Easy to Use Form Builder, JotForm

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 06:00

Whether you’re using online forms to collect leads, survey responses, or RSVPs for an upcoming event, JotForm makes it easy to build your VerticalResponse email lists. With this seamless integration, you can create your form in a matter of minutes, and choose the VerticalResponse list you’d like to send it to in just a few clicks.

Check out JotForm’s easy to use form builder. Here, you can customize the fields you need to match with VerticalResponse. 

Then choose whichever VerticalResponse list to send contacts to with a simple dropdown.

The whole set up takes less than a minute!

About JotForm
  • Incredibly easy to build customized web forms
  • Over 8,000 templates
  • Free for up to 100 monthly form submissions
  • Advanced payment collection capabilities

Setting up the integration is simple. Go here to get the app and start growing your email list!

© 2016, Linzi Breckenridge. All rights reserved.

The post VerticalResponse Now Integrates with Easy to Use Form Builder, JotForm appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Get Moving: How Mobile Marketing Can Help Your Restaurant

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 06:00

How can mobile change your business?

In today’s crowded marketplace, small factors can have a massive impact on your bottom line. Take your mobile phone for example. Over two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone – and that number keeps on growing. So it comes as no surprise that, arguably, one of the most significant factors to success is having a strong mobile presence for your business. Having a well-designed website is a great start, and having one that is mobile-friendly is even more important. You can even bolster your availability by adding a mobile app to the mix. By being discoverable on the mobile web and in mobile apps, you ensure that repeat customers and new diners alike can easily find your restaurant whether they’re at their computer or on the go.

Aren’t all websites “mobile?”

Not all websites are created equal. Many websites, especially those designed before this decade, were not coded to have responsive, or mobile-friendly HTML. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, 92 percent of consumers search for a restaurant on a mobile web browser, and 62 percent of consumers are less likely to select a restaurant if they can’t view the menu easily on their mobile device. Not only that, but 84 percent of consumers will make their decision off of more than one restaurant when looking online, so it’s essential for you to capture their attention quickly.

I want a great mobile site. What now?

How can you make sure your restaurant is set up for success on mobile? Your first step is to ensure that your website is mobile-optimized. Google now factors in whether or not your website is mobile-friendly in their search ranking process. To help check if your website will meet their search engine requirements, use their mobile-friendly website test.

Once you’ve confirmed that your restaurant will show up in search rankings, turn your focus to your website content. What are consumers looking for? You can sum this up with the classic five Ws:

  • Who (your restaurant name)

  • What (your menu & reservations)

  • When (hours of operation)

  • Where (business address and directions)

  • Why (any specials – ex. happy hour, Restaurant Week, seasonal offers)

Bonus if you can include your business’ mobile app and social media channels on your website, giving your restaurant multiple ways to stay top of mind with consumers and build a relationship and rapport. As more and more consumers are using their smartphones to keep up-to-date with everything from news, to pop culture, to their favorite brands, restaurants and businesses, now is the time to capture their loyalty on mobile and start a dialogue. An app can complement your mobile site, delivering push notifications and loyalty incentives. Interesting posts and photos on your social media are great ways to engage with your customers and share stories about your business.

Let’s master mobile!

With the majority of diners booking their reservations via mobile device, it’s never been more important to let your online presence shine.

Need help? We’ve launched a brand new service that makes building mobile apps scalable and affordable. If you’d like to learn more or get early access to our new mobile apps program, fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch shortly.

We also recommend a free web consultation with our parent company Deluxe Corporation. They have web design experts available to answer all your questions related to mobile websites.

© 2016, Tori Tsu. All rights reserved.

The post Get Moving: How Mobile Marketing Can Help Your Restaurant appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

The 411 on Mobile Apps

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 12:08

The world of mobile devices and the myriad of ways we use them is continually growing and evolving at a sometimes head-spinning rate. We’ve talked about mobile-friendly websites before, and the importance of responsive design for your business. But what about small business mobile apps? Are they really necessary given the myriad of marketing options that exist for small business? It only takes a handful of statistics to show the staggering opportunities that exist for businesses who invest in mobile marketing.

  • Mobile commerce is now 30 percent of all U.S. commerce, and mobile commerce sales are expected to reach $142B in 2016.
  • In 2015, the number of people in the U.S. who only use mobile devices to access the Internet exceeded the number of people who only use desktop computers to do the same.
  • Fifty-two percent of the U.S. population looks at its smartphones multiple times per hour.

It can be hard to know how to start building your mobile marketing strategy. Indeed, there are many directions your business might go, all with their own unique potential benefits. With the enormous growth of mobile and the opportunity for expansion in that space, today, we will focus on mobile apps.

Why apps? To begin, 89 percent of consumers spend their mobile media time in apps. Additionally, it’s much easier to stand out among the 26 apps that the average mobile user has on their smartphone, versus the millions of different websites that are accessible through a mobile browser. And, with new technology that’s available to businesses today, it can be quick and easy to develop and launch a mobile app.

We sat down with our own mobile marketing expert, Angie Murphy, to ask her a few common questions small business owners have about creating a mobile app.

Q: I have a mobile website. Isn’t a mobile app the same thing?

On the surface, it can seem like a mobile website and a mobile app would serve a similar purpose for a business, but, in fact, they have different – and complementary – uses. Mobile websites are informational, and an excellent way to help people to find out about your business. Mobile apps are functional. They are good at driving return business and cultivating loyalty among your customers.

Let’s say a new customer discovers your business by doing a Google search on their mobile phone. Your mobile website comes up, and they click on it to see where you’re located and your hours of operation. The customer makes a transaction and learns about your mobile app, which they download on their phone. You then use the app to deliver a coupon to your new customer. They open your app and enticed by the coupon you offered, they purchase with your business again. Now that they have your app, you award them loyalty points for each transaction they make. This motivates them to interact with your business again. And so on.

Q: How can my small business benefit from a mobile app?

There are a few major ways that your business may benefit from having a small business mobile app.

Reward loyal customers to encourage repeat business:

An app provides you with an easy way to recognize and reward your most valuable customers. For example, you could create a digital “punch card” that tracks purchases and rewards repeat business. Or, you could set up “check-in” functionality that unlocks special offers when a customer visits you. Everything is stored on the customer’s phone, which they probably have with them every time they visit your business.

Communicate with your customers anytime, any place:

An app gives you the opportunity to communicate with your customers 24/7. Need to send out a message about a sale? Confirm a reservation? Invite guests to a special event at your store? Use your app’s push notifications. Statistics show that up to 60 percent of people open push notifications and about 40 percent engage with the app immediately following the notification.

Create Revenue Channels:

In-app features such as online shopping carts, product catalogs, food ordering, and mobile reservations provide additional opportunities for your customers to interact with your business.

Gain Valuable Insights:

App metrics give you relevant details about how your customers are interacting with your business. For example, while social media or online advertising might give you a number of impressions, an app gives you visits, check outs, purchases, search data, and more.

Q: How would my customers find out about my mobile app?

There are many ways you can let your customers know about your mobile app. A few suggestions:

  • Promote it on your website
  • Send out an email campaign
  • Post about it on social media
  • Put up signs or hand out flyers
  • Give your customers a special offer to motivate them to download it

Q: Isn’t it really expensive to develop a mobile app?

Five years ago, the answer to that question would have been a resounding “yes.” At that time, the average price tag to build a custom app was $100K or more. But technology has advanced.

We’re excited to release a brand new service to our customers that makes building apps scalable and affordable. If you’d like to learn more or get early access to our new mobile apps program, fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch shortly.

© 2016, Angie Murphy. All rights reserved.

The post The 411 on Mobile Apps appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Play Nice in the Inbox: 7 Tips for a Well-Designed Newsletter

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 06:00

A big-shot marketing pro and hefty budget aren’t required to successfully market your small business. In fact, businesses everywhere use email marketing as a powerful tool to build customer relationships and attract and retain new clients. No matter your business, email marketing can work for you.

If you’re not already leveraging the benefits of an email newsletter, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Successful businesses work to ensure their newsletter designs are visually appealing and engaging to keep customers from immediately clicking the delete button.

Create a well-designed email newsletter with these helpful guidelines for newbies:

1. Define your goals

Before you even think about your design, you’ll need to decide on a purpose for your newsletter. Are you trying to drive traffic to your website, talk about new products, educate and inform your readers, or all of the above? Your goals will be the force behind the design and distribution of your content.

2. Don’t neglect the subject line

Just because someone signs up for your email list doesn’t mean he or she is actually going to open every email. This is where the subject line comes into play. The key is to give your readers a reason or incentive to click on the email right away. Get creative with a new, out-of-the-box subject line for each email you send.

3. Start with a header

A header should include the title of your newspaper, your company name and logo. There’s no need to find someone with graphic design experience, because you can easily create your own header using online DIY tools like Share As Image and Pixlr. Let your logo inspire the color scheme, using your company’s colors for borders and fonts to create a cohesive layout.

4. Stick with traditional fonts

A newsletter is not the time to start experimenting with fancy fonts. Pick one basic font, like Arial or Times New Roman, and use it consistently throughout the entire email.

5. Keep it organized

Don’t intimidate your readers with one giant chunk of content. Instead, break it down into short sections with subheadings so it looks and reads more like a newspaper. If possible, use a template through an email service provider. This allows you to simply select a template, upload your photos and start writing.

6. Harmonize with social media

Take your email marketing efforts even further by linking with your social media accounts. Include links to each social account where current and potential customers can click to follow you on the channel of their choice.

7. Balance your content

Your email subscribers want to know: What’s in it for them? They didn’t join your mailing list just to read about your products or your latest promotional offer. As a rule of thumb, your newsletter should be 90 percent educational and only 10 percent promotional. Stay away from self-promotion and focus instead on creating a relationship with your customers by providing them with educational and relevant content.

Get ready to launch your email newsletter and watch it thrive. Grab the attention of your audience with a clean design and digestible content. With these tips, you’ll increase readability and customer engagement in no time at all.

Hungry for more newsletter tips? Join our upcoming live webinar Building a Newsletter that Keeps Customers Talking – Weds. March 2, 11AM PST, brought to you by VerticalResponse and its parent company, Deluxe Corporation.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published on the Deluxe blog on January 21, 2016.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post Play Nice in the Inbox: 7 Tips for a Well-Designed Newsletter appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Test Post for Kapost

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:21

© 2016, Derek Overbey. All rights reserved.

The post Test Post for Kapost appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

15 Must-Haves for a Solid Email Marketing Program

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:12

You’ve heard how a targeted email campaign can transform your marketing communications into a thing of beauty, bringing in new leads, increasing your revenue and creating customer loyalty.

Now, a month into the New Year and your 2016 planning, you have a chance to make a fresh start by launching a new campaign or even beefing up your old one in a medium that continues to be extremely effective. 

Email marketing is both your entry point, leading new customers to your business – and your anchor, connecting all your other marketing together. Says Jayson DeMers in Forbes, “You can draw people to your blog by offering snippets of content, or you can drive up your following numbers by inviting people to share deals on social media. You can also use your other marketing channels to invite people to sign up for your email list, resulting in a closed, cohesive system that nurtures your overall customer base as one unit.”

Here are 15 ambitious steps you can take to transform your email marketing:

1. Vow to grow your email list to expand your marketing capabilities. The number of ways to do that boggles the imagination (check out these 50 and these 24). Some ideas include website and social media opt-in forms, collecting addresses at point of sale and incentivizing employees to gather them for you. Also, consider the use of a lightbox (an online data-storage function) to create pop-up invitations to enroll as the user scrolls to a browser or reaches a certain scroll depth.

2. To prevent falling behind on your campaign mid-year, create an email marketing plan that projects multiple messages, anticipating holidays and special events through 2016. Work backward from preferred launch dates to set deadlines for writing content. Shooting for three to five emails monthly is a good idea, as is creating how-to videos and tutorials about your business or website.

3. Ensure your emails are mobile-friendly in design and content, since nearly 60% are now read via mobile device. Analysts predict in the next five years marketing via smartphone will become even more sophisticated, with responsive design increasingly boosting smartphone conversion rates. 

4. Segment your list, fine tuning which kinds of messages you’ll send to targeted groups. Thirty-nine percent of email marketers realize better open rates through segmentation, says research by eMarketer, while 28 percent see lower opt-out and unsubscribe rates, and 24 percent see better email deliverability along with increased sales leads and greater revenue. 

5. Offer as much personalization as possible, using data-gathering tools and customer surveys to your advantage by recognizing birthdays and anniversaries, referring to previous purchases and shopping patterns, and otherwise making readers feel valued. Location demographics, for example, allow you to mention events, landmarks, or stores near the reader. In a 2016 study of marketing firms by Emailmonday.com, 76 percent of respondents predicted email communication will be completely personalized in the next five years. In the future, analysts expect even more highly optimized 1:1 emails that allow for customized communication for each recipient within a single email broadcast.

6. Develop a welcome program, a series of follow-up emails to new subscribers introducing them to your company, products, and website. The emails can be automated by interval or triggered by customer action. Let readers know they’re coming, differentiate them from other kinds of emails in the subject line, and avoid hard-sell techniques. The first email should contain a warm welcome and thank you for subscribing, while subsequent messages might include a reinforcement of the benefits of subscribing, a special thank you offer, helpful information about your products or services, or links to your social media sites. Clear calls to action and appealing images are recommended.

7. The truth can set you free, so it’s wise to monitor response rates so you can adjust future marketing plans. Track open and click rates, revenue and conversion, unsubscribes and bounces, and use your website’s analytics tools to gauge reader behavior after click through. Industry-wide, email marketing is increasingly providing data for the analytics that drive other marketing efforts.

8. Following up with automated emails when recipients don’t open initial emails can increase your open rates by 30 to 40 percent. They all should include different subject lines. The first should come three days after the original, be shorter than 500 words and reinstate the benefits of your product or service. Subsequent messages could mention why your product is necessary and how it’s used, offer testimonials or reviews, solicit questions, and/or include an FAQ section.

9. Continually test your campaign and use the results to tweak further strategy. Consider a schedule for the testing of one campaign variable each month; those could include copy length and content, time and day of the week, frequency, call to action, and/or design. Also consider a heat map test of your website, a graphic display showing which areas are most frequently scanned by visitors so you can strategize where to place calls to action.

10. Pay more attention to creating effective subject lines, since they’re the primary factor influencing whether your audience will actually open the email. In general, the subject copy should be short (40 to 50 characters) and as straightforward as possible; it should change each time; leave out all capital letters and exclamation points, and avoid words like “free” or “percent off” to keep from being weeded out by spam filters. What works best? A question, a call to action, a sense of urgency, the mention of a benefit to customers, and/or a mention of the recipient’s name or city. Don’t use the space to mention your company, since that’s apparent in the “from” line. Consider studying popular click-bait sites like Buzzfeed that lure readers in with fun, short and punchy subject lines and preview text. How might you incorporate some of those techniques into your own campaign?

11. Listen closely to customer feedback. Survey subscribers about likes and dislikes, using the data to create more effective content and up-front value propositions. Use preference centers on your website to allow customers to dictate their druthers when it comes to content, format, and frequency. Be gracious and quick with those who ask to unsubscribe, since the last thing you want is to be perceived as a spammer (perhaps ask them if you can decrease email frequency or limit the content to certain categories).

12. Include opt-in forms as well as forwarding options on all social media networks, including LinkedIn. You might even email those who mention your business on social media, inviting them to opt in.

13. Sign up for other email campaigns and newsletters to compare what your competitors and industry leaders are doing. Consider whether to adopt their ideas and techniques.

14. Pay attention to industry trends. For example, some marketers are beginning to use modular templates for email campaigns that allow for faster switching out and editing. Others are moving away from coded emails toward tools that put more design control in their hands, while some are trending toward kinetic email that includes more videos and sophisticated animation. A relatively new method known as “double opt in” allows a reader to simply send a company a blank email to receive an opt-in email in return.

15. Take a hard look at whether your content is offering enough value to recipients. Instead of a constant sales push, think in terms of “sticky” content — bits of useful, fun, and/or humorous information in small, easy-to-digest portions that might capture readers’ attention and keep them coming back for more. Messages that are less sales-oriented work to develop brand awareness and customer relationships, paving the way for possible purchases.Other tips: Strive for original content, not just a recap of what everyone else is already saying. Tie your content into holidays, pop-culture happenings, and current events when applicable. Don’t go overboard with too many links. And gifs and videos can be powerful additions, too, since visuals are processed by the human brain in about a tenth of a second.

Other tips: Here’s how to make content marketing, email, and social media work together in harmony.

“Modern email marketing isn’t about making a sales pitch or attracting as many clicks as possible — it’s about providing value to your users,” adds Demers. “It isn’t enough to send a simple promotional email or a short list of new content on your site. Serve them well with better designs, more appealing copy and better offers. Free giveaways, discounts, and special deals are all winners.”

Hungry for more email marketing savvy? Join our upcoming live webinar Creating a Successful Email Weds. Feb 3, 11AM PST, brought to you by VerticalResponse and its parent company, Deluxe Corporation.

Send your next email for free using VerticalResponse.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post 15 Must-Haves for a Solid Email Marketing Program appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Take Your Website to the Next Level – Messaging [Infographic]

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 07:49

From downloadable brochures to tweets, and every website landing page in between, the consensus is clear: messaging matters. And the clearer and more concise you can make it, the better. In Part 1 of this series, we showed you the basic steps to follow when designing a website, including the key aspects of visual appeal and easy-to-use navigation from page to page. 

Remember though, without strong messaging and the ability to capture the audience with your content, they’re unlikely to stick around just for the high quality images and shiny CTA buttons. 

In Part 2, we cover all the messaging touchpoints you’ll need to put in place to bridge the gap between customers clicking on your site and interacting, engaging, and taking the necessary steps to convert with your brand. 

Similar to the broader branding of your business, action-driven website messaging helps to guide customers along in the conversion process and increases their likeliness to bookmark, download, and purchase. Implement these tips and set yourself up for success with a site designed to keep visitors interested and willing to spread the word about your captivating online space. 

© 2016, James Hummel. All rights reserved.

The post Take Your Website to the Next Level – Messaging [Infographic] appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Nominate Your Favorite Small Town to Receive a Main Street Revival Worth $500,000

Thu, 01/14/2016 - 06:00

What’s your favorite small town? Surely you have one – a nostalgic place where the local coffee shop, antique store, and farmer’s market feel like a setting in a Nicholas Sparks novel.

In response to the shrinking economic growth and decline in quality of life in small towns, a renewed energy has been building around helping ‘Main Street’ flourish. Simultaneously, our country is enjoying a resurgence in the number of small businesses operating today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 27 million small businesses that account for 54% of all U.S. sales, and 55% of all jobs.

Last year, to celebrate it’s 100th anniversary, Deluxe Corporation created the Small Business Revolution. This movement showcased 100 small business across the country, many of which are owned and operated in smaller communities.

For 2016, Deluxe just introduced the “Small Business Revolution on Main Street,” which will award a $500,000 makeover to one small town and showcase the revitalization through an eight-part web series featuring marketing experts from Deluxe and dynamic entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, star of Shark Tank.

We want your help! Now through January 28th, nominate a small town needing an investment in its main street, and then help us decide who wins. Three finalists will be announced and put to vote during National Small Business Week, May 1-7.

Help make a big impact on small business and a small town!

Join the movement on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and support the people who are powering our communities, our economy, and our Small Business Revolution.

VerticalResponse was acquired by Deluxe Corporation in 2013. Email marketing is now an offering in a suite of small business marketing services and products provided by Deluxe.

© 2016, Linzi Breckenridge. All rights reserved.

The post Nominate Your Favorite Small Town to Receive a Main Street Revival Worth $500,000 appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

How to Give Your Website Rock Star Status [Webinar]

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 09:29
Make Your Website a Rock Star Before You Start the Tour

In today’s digital business environment, the importance of your website is growing all the time. The best websites create a memorable experience for all of their visiting customers. They make it easy to see what services or products you offer, for example, and they allow customers to compare prices and find unique deals. They’re also top performers in search and show up prominently on directories and social media. If your website does all these things, it’s a rock star. But if it doesn’t, here are three ways you can boost your website to drive the results your company needs from Deluxe’s webinar “How to Give Your Website Rock Star Status.” Register today to join us Thursday, January 14th at 10am PST / 12pm CST.

It starts with design

When looking to make a purchase, research shows that 89.3 percent of customers go directly to the company’s website. Now it’s up to you make sure your website makes the best impression possible. A clear, clean design is essential. Your website should have a uniform look across all its pages and feature content layouts that are easy to scan and read. And don’t forget to include your contact information in as many places as possible so customers don’t have to hunt when they’re ready to buy.

Make sure it appears online

The Internet is a big place and simply having a website isn’t enough to drive traffic. You have to make your site easy to find as well. Start by claiming your local directory on Google and then move on to do the same thing on other search engines as well. As you are adding your information, make sure all of your data is consistent across these directories; this will make your company appear like a legitimate business to the search engines and get you higher placement on organic search pages.

Attract more customers with less effort

Your website alone isn’t enough to guarantee sales, unfortunately. For the best results, you have to market it just as you would a brick and mortar store. Improving your appearance on search engines will help, but you also need to focus on other marketing channels. Email marketing is a must because it pairs well with social media, helps you create customer lists and can generate a return of $40 for every $1 spent. Finally, don’t discount the importance of social media marketing. Start pages on the social media sites that make sense for your business and use them to interact with your customers through promotions and offers; you’ll be amazed at the results. These are just a few of the ideas you can find in Deluxe’s webinar “How to Give Your Website Rock Star Status.”

To learn more about each of these ideas and to learn other new strategies not discussed in this blog, register for the live webinar. Join us – Thursday, January 14th at 10am PST / 12pm CST.

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published on January 11, 2015 at Deluxe.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post How to Give Your Website Rock Star Status [Webinar] appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Email amassing? 24 more great ideas + 18 content tips

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 09:49

In our last blog, we helped brainstorm 50 actions you can take to build up a viable list of email addresses for marketing purposes. Here’s another installment with 42 more tips, including pointers that focus on creating relevant and appealing content that will attract and retain subscribers to your email campaigns.

  1. Instead of implementing one-off ideas, develop an overall campaign strategy and timeline for accomplishing your goals.
  2. Include room in your plan to experiment with new methods to find out what’s effective. If a certain approach is successful, maximize it (be aware that you are never done testing).
  3. Let subscribers know from the get-go what kind of content to expect and how often you’ll be emailing them. Consider including frequency in the opt-in call-to-action so subscribers know it is a “weekly newsletter” or “daily update”. 
  4. Understand not everyone is familiar with email newsletters; sometimes you must explain the value in simple terms to your audience.
  5. Don’t be surprised if methods you borrow from others don’t work for you; many factors may be involved across industries and business types.
  6. Stage sweepstakes drawings for new subscribers, perhaps requiring they also follow or post about you on social media to enter.
  7. Experiment with sidebars, headers, footers or pop-up boxes as opt-in requests. Options include floating forms that move with the user as they scroll down, slide-ins that move over about halfway down a page, or “sticky” forms that follow the user the whole time they scroll.
  8. Consider a heat map test of your site using an online tool. The graphic displays show which areas of your site are most frequently scanned by visitors so you can strategize where to place call-to-action buttons.
  9. Experiment with the timing of pop-ups. Some experts recommend waiting until a visitor has been on your page at least 60 seconds.
  10. Make sign-ups easy by limiting the form to just one call-to-action: the email address itself.
  11. Pay affiliates commission for finding interested subscribers (know your cost per lead to make that work).
  12. Appeal to local customers by placing paid opt-in invitations in local publications and on websites they’re likely to frequent.
  13. Take advantage of free publicity opportunities in local newspapers by pitching feature stories, sending press releases and/or writing letters to the editor that end with opt-in invitations.
  14. Find complementary businesses with which you don’t compete, and cross-promote one another’s email lists.
  15. Start a program in which customers can earn free or discounted products for referring friends.
  16. Create or find a compelling image to post on Instagram along with an opt-in invitation.
  17. Implement content upgrades or link magnets on your website that upgrade an information offer if the user provides email.
  18. Fine-tune your controls so they vary the opt-in requests shown to the same customer in a 30-day span.
  19. Offer opt-in to anyone who has commented on your blog or social media. Be sure to have your opt-in on the homepage of all your social media channels.
  20. Take advantage of the bandwagon effect to promote impressive aspects of your business or newsletter in your opt-in offer. Options include subscriber counts, testimonials, endorsements, awards, certifications, social media follower numbers and/or media coverage.
  21. Place an opt-in option on your website’s 404 page.
  22. Maximize online sales receipts to offer a credit to those who refer subscribers to your list.
  23. Have a real person respond by name to new subscribers, offering to answer questions.
  24. Be gracious and quick with those who ask to unsubscribe. Include an option before the unsubscribe confirmation to decrease the frequency of emails or limit the content shared in an effort to keep them subscribed.

Finally, adding impressive numbers to your list is pointless if customers unsubscribe because your content doesn’t seem valuable enough. Here are 18 more tips for making sure that doesn’t happen:

  1. Strive to offer different content from competitors so your brand stands out.
  2. Build a calendar and strategy for offering discounts. Studies show a majority of users sign up to receive offers and sales.
  3. Present content in a likable and friendly way so customers think of your brand the same way.
    Keep the tone conversational and avoid sounding like a telemarketing script.
  4. Offer white papers or free downloads that offer helpful insight to your target market.
  5. Give your newsletter a clever name instead of just “the newsletter.”
  6. Keep the subject line of your emails as snappy and to the point as a tweet.
  7. Make the design elements of your newsletter as appealing as your copy. Color, font and copy placement are important psychologically.
  8. Add a WordPress plug-in that addresses visitors differently based on how they were referred and whether they’re new.
  9. Avoid overly technical industry jargon that might scare away the uninitiated.
  10. Strive for wording that’s emotional or sensory.
  11. Include content from other sites and sources to establish yourself as a provider of unbiased info and build rapport. Don’t hesitate to refer subscribers to others.  
  12. Study your current followers for insight into how to gain new ones. Track what they’re clicking on and customize opt-in invitations accordingly.
  13. Provide subscribers useful video tutorials.
  14. Offer subscribers educational courses sent to them in installments.
  15. Create appealing desktop wallpapers or customizable business card templates for subscribers.
  16. Use graphics and cultural references that will appeal to your target audience.
  17. Study popular click-bait sites like Buzzfeed that lure you in with fun, short and punchy subject lines and preview text. How might you incorporate some of these techniques into your own campaign?
  18. In general, do subscribers a favor by helping them solve a problem, providing them inspiration, giving them direction toward a goal and/or quickly expanding their knowledge,

Be patient. Building a strong list of interested customers is a complex and timely process, but a viable email campaign can be an invaluable addition to your marketing arsenal.

“Don’t overlook the value that email offers for strengthening your brand’s relationship with customers and prospects,” advises Jodi Harris on Contentmarketinginstitute.com. “Email may no longer be a shiny new tactic on the content marketing scene, but with the right strategy and a little upkeep, it can still pack a pretty powerful punch.”

For more inspiration and tips to market your business, join the weekly VerticalResponse newsletter.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post Email amassing? 24 more great ideas + 18 content tips appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Google Analytics 101: What Every Small Business Owner Should Know about the Powerful Website Analysis Tool

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 06:00

Understanding your customers well enough to ensure you’re giving them what they want and need — that’s the key to success for any small business in any industry. It’s easy enough to learn about the customers and prospects who actually walk into your store or office, but what about those who visit your digital storefront? They’re every bit as important as the customers you deal with face-to-face. How do you get to know them?

Google Analytics is one powerful — and free — website analysis tool that can help you better understand your current and potential customers. It can also help you understand how people are interacting with your company website, where they’re coming from and how often they visit, what parts of your site are capturing their attention and what parts aren’t sparking interest.  

It’s easy to see why Google Analytics is one of the most popular website analysis tools — it’s easy to use. You don’t need to be a digital genius to work with this most useful of Google’s website tools. But if you do find yourself with questions, Google offers a plethora of ways to get answers, from its own Google Analytics YouTube channel to an active blog and detailed help pages.

If you’re going to use Google Analytics, it’s well worth your time to read through as much of the information as possible. We’ve put together a Google Analytics 101 to help you get a quick start:

Setting up your website to be tracked

Head over to google.com/analytics to sign up for a free account, or simply log in if you already have an account. Over the years, Google has substantially streamlined the process of setting up a website to be tracked. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, you’ll need to tell the tool what websites or mobile apps you want to track. Google calls this “setting up a property.”

Here are the steps Google outlines for setting up your website as a property to be tracked:

  • Sign in to your Google Analytics account.
  • Click on the Admin tab.
  • Choose the account to which you want to add the property. Use the dropdown menu in the Account column to do this.
  • Once you’ve chosen the account, in the Property column, click on “Create new property” from the dropdown menu.
  • Select “website.”
  • Enter the site’s name.
  • Enter the website URL.
  • Choose an industry category and reporting time zone.
  • Click “Get Tracking ID.”

After you’ve added your website as a property, you need to set up the tracking code in order for Google to begin collecting data on your website.

Setting up the tracking code

Google Analytics needs some help from you in order to know what site to track and how to collect data. Once you’ve established your website as a property, you need to set up the tracking code for it. Google says you can do this in two ways:

  • Use Google Tag Manager to add Google Analytics tags. This route makes it easier to incorporate tags from other sources like AdWords Conversion Tracking.
  • Or, if you only want to add the basic Google Analytics tracking code, you can add the tracking code into the HTML of every page on your website.

If you think you want to set up Google Tag Manager, Google provides comprehensive information on how to do that, and they suggest you start by reading their About Google Tag Manager page. Since we’re focusing on Google Analytics for beginners, let’s talk about the second option, which is incorporating the tracking code into your website’s HTML.

If you have access to your website’s source code and are comfortable editing HTML, you can do this step yourself. Or, if you work with a webmaster or developer, he or she can help you. Google outlines these steps:

  • Sign into your Google Analytics account, select the Admin tab, and choose the property you’re working on from the Account and Property columns.
  • Next, click “tracking info > tracking code.”
  • Your tracking code snippet will appear in a box with several lines of JavaScript in it, and will begin with <script> and conclude with </script>.
  • Don’t do anything to change the snipped portion. Just copy and paste it into the HTML for every web page you want to track. Be sure to place it right before the closing </head> tag in the page code.

We strongly encourage you to read the Google Analytics help pages on these topics; this blog is merely a summary, and we couldn’t begin to explain the process half as well as Google does! Armed with the primer we’ve provided, dive into Google’s more detailed information and you’ll soon develop a better understanding of just how powerful a website analysis tool Google Analytics is.

Dashboard basics

Google has created an intuitive, versatile and robust dashboard that allows you to crunch numbers in a multitude of ways. Learning how to use the dashboard is easy, and it can help you really understand how well your website is performing, what’s working, what’s not, and where you can improve.

Starting on the home page, click on the account you want to analyze. The dashboard will generate graphs, percentages and pie charts with a wealth of information from the last 30 days, including:

  • Number of visitors, percentage of first-time visitors and percentage of repeat visitors.
  • Average length of time visitors stayed on the page.
  • Where visitors were from and what language they speak.
  • Conversions.
  • Site speed.
  • Traffic source.

If you want to see stats for a different time period, it’s easy to change the date range. You can also narrow the reporting time frame to month, day, week or even hour. Moreover, you can compare two sets of date ranges to see how your results have changed over time.

Reports you should know and use

Google Analytics makes it easy to put the raw performance data of your website into meaningful perspective. The tool can generate a multitude of reports that you can customize in many ways. You may find the following reports particularly valuable:

  • The Audience Overview can tell you how many people visit your page, what time of day they’re visiting, where they’re from, what browser they’re using to access your site, and even what size monitor each visitor is using.

  • Acquisition allows you to view a traffic report that shows where the majority of your traffic comes from — search engines, referrals from other sites or different pages within your own site.
  • If you’re wondering where visitors are entering your site, the landing page report can tell you that. Data showing visitors entering from your site’s index page may mean they’re finding you through a search engine or may have bookmarked your site. If one particular page gets a lot of traffic, however, it may mean the content is a popular topic. You can also track ad campaigns using landing pages.
  • Want to know how many people are actively using your site? The Active User Report lets you choose a date and see how many people have actively used your site within the past seven, 14 and 30 days of that date. The data can help you understand if your website is holding users’ interest, or if you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing.
  • You may have 1,000 visitors a day and still wonder what they’re really worth to your business. Google has an answer for that in its Lifetime Value Reporting tool. Google says the report “lets you understand how valuable different users are to your business based on lifetime performance across multiple sessions. For example, you can see lifetime value for users you acquired through email or paid search. With that information in hand, you can determine a profitable allocation of marketing resources to the acquisition of those users.”
  • The keywords report shows you keyword terms visitors searched for on a search engine, such as Google or Bing, before visiting your site, and how long they stayed (on average) on a particular page after searching for a keyword.
  • Driving traffic to your website is important, but you also want those visits to convert into potential or actual customers. The conversions report allows you to track how many visitors signed up for your newsletter, who clicked on your shopping page and more.
  • It’s important to understand how you’re acquiring new customers, and the Treemaps report can help you do that. The report graphically interprets incoming traffic across different channels, so you can quickly understand traffic trends.
  • Segmentation is key to the success of your marketing trends, and the Cohort Analysis report can help you identify like-minded groups of visitors. You can group users through a range of parameters, such as the date they first visited your site, then track their behavior over time.

For a visual walkthrough of some of the above mentioned features, click on the video below.

You have to set goals

All the analytics and data are aimless if you don’t have goals in mind. Goals can help you measure your site’s performance to see if it’s achieving what you want and need it to do. Google classifies a “goal” as an activity that’s completed, like a conversion, that contributes to your overall business success. For example, e-retailers might count a purchase as a goal.

“Having properly configured goals allows Google Analytics to provide you with critical information, such as the number of conversions and the conversion rate for your site or app,” Google says. “Without this information, it’s almost impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your online business and marketing campaigns.”

To establish goals, log into your Google Analytics account and click on the Admin tab. Next, choose the account and property you want to view. Once there, select “goals.” As you might guess, clicking “new goal” lets you generate a completely new goal, or you can click on an existing goal to edit it. To create a new goal, you can use a template provided by Google, create a custom goal or create “smart goals.”

Be sure to visit Google’s page on creating and editing goals for a full rundown on how to create goals using each different approach. Meanwhile, it’s worthwhile to note there are multiple types of goals and each delivers different data:

  • Destination goals let you designate a pageview or screenview as a conversion.
  • Duration goals look at the time a user spends on a page and treats that duration as a conversion to measure engagement.
  • Event goals consider how a user interacts with your site and counts specific behaviors as a conversion.
  • Page/screens per session goals evaluate the number of pages or screens a user sees per session, with a specified number counting as a conversion.

Once you create a goal and save it, Google Analytics begins collecting that data immediately and will continue to do so until you turn off the goal. Once you have your goals set up, you can analyze these conversion rates in the Goal Reports. Other reports also track goal conversions, including Visitor Reports, Traffic Reports, Site Search Reports, and Events Reports.

A final word

Of course, like any website analysis tool, Google Analytics has a paid premium version that offers additional functionality. However, the basic, free account has enough versatile tools to satisfy most small businesses.

Google never rests on its laurels, so we can expect to see more changes and new developments for Google Analytics in 2016. Following the blog, taking advantage of the YouTube channel and read through help pages to keep abreast of updates and to understand how to leverage the power of Google Analytics to benefit your small business.

© 2016, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post Google Analytics 101: What Every Small Business Owner Should Know about the Powerful Website Analysis Tool appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

The 30 Most Viewed, Shared, and Savored Blog Posts of 2015

Wed, 12/30/2015 - 06:00
222!

That’s the number of blog posts we published for you this year – excluding this one.

Here are the top 30 based on views, shares, likes, retweets, claps, cartwheels, and uncomfortably long hugs. In case you missed any, enjoy!

Email Social Media Non-Profit Retail Customers First Event Marketing More Marketing Tips

Our team is focused on offering you more great articles to help your business grow in the new year. Thank you to our customers, hundreds of thousands of newsletter subscribers, and millions of blog visitors.

We wish you all the best and much success in 2016!

© 2015, Linzi Breckenridge. All rights reserved.

The post The 30 Most Viewed, Shared, and Savored Blog Posts of 2015 appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

New Features & Updates: Free Images, Quicker List Building, and Faster Delivery

Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:43

We’ve added new features, made some enhancements and bug fixes. Check out the highlights of the December 9th, 2015 release:

Editor

Finding the right, high-quality image for your email is important, and also challenging. A nice visual can help you communicate your message and get your reader to engage more. The quality of the image can affect how subscribers perceive your email – whether it is professional or not. This is why in our latest release, we’ve integrated Pixabay free, high-quality image search into the VerticalResponse email editor. Now you can:

  • Browse by category and search over 530,000 royalty free images
  • Automatically insert images into your email without copying and pasting, or downloading and uploading

Contacts

List growth is a major component of successful email marketing. Our new quick ‘add contact’ widget allows you to type or paste contacts in seconds. You can enter names and email addresses up to three at a time, or cut and paste (up to 50 email addresses at once). This is great if you used to send your newsletter from your own email client but have since “upgraded” to sending from VerticalResponse.

Signup Forms

Signup forms on the web are another great way to grow your email list. The best practice is to clearly explain why the visitor should join your list and then ask permission to collect whatever data is necessary (email address, name, location, etc.). With our new update, you can choose, right up front, if you want to publish your signup web page on Verticalresponse.com, or if you would rather indicate the data you want to collect during signup and generate the HTML code that can then be embedded on your own website. The choice is now yours.

Billing

New credit card? No problem! It happens, your credit card expires, and you get a new one. Or perhaps as a marketing consultant you want to charge VerticalResponse account fees to a client’s credit card. Now you can log in and update your billing info: add, update, and delete cards from your account.

Chrome Browser

Google recently updated the Chrome web browser, and some customers had difficulty with the email editor. We’ve resolved these issues by improving compatibility with the Chrome web browser. Creating emails is now back to smooth sailing.

Delivery

Customers with large audiences (greater than 50,000 contacts) can now get campaigns out faster – twice as fast in fact! Contact us to learn more about our high-volume pricing plans!

All product updates can be found here.

© 2015, Linzi Breckenridge. All rights reserved.

The post New Features & Updates: Free Images, Quicker List Building, and Faster Delivery appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

List with a Twist: 50 Creative Tips for Gathering Customer Emails

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 06:00

If you don’t have a strong email list for your customer base, you’re missing out on a great marketing tool that’s both reliable and free.

Compiled correctly, your list should represent a significant captive audience that’s already interested in your offerings.

 “It gives you the opportunity to contact your prospects at any point in the future with any kind of messaging you want — and you’re not bound by search engine rankings or social media algorithms,” notes Jayson DeMers in Forbes.

Building up your list can seem difficult and time-consuming, but it’s worthwhile to include only those who have chosen to engage. Buying lists from another vendor is a bad idea, since emailing anonymous contacts can come across as invasive and often results in complaints, bounced addresses and unsubscribes. Your list will be most effective if you gain trust by not sharing subscribers’ info with other firms and creating emails with useful or exclusive information and valuable offers — not just sales pitches.

Your content needs to be amazing if you want people to stay subscribed and forward your emails to their friends, family and colleagues (not) already on your email list,” notes Andy Pitre on HubSpot.

Consider the following list of email list-generating ideas.

1)      Add an email signup offer to the back of your business cards.

2)      Include opt-in forms as well as forwarding options on every page of your website, blog and social media networks. Don’t forget “about you” sections.

3)      Include a link to your sign-up form in every personal email signature.

4)      Add your sign-up form link to all your printed receipts. Better yet, consider offering emailed receipts (vendors include Transaction Tree and yReceipts).

5)      Bring a sign-up book to tradeshows, Chamber of Commerce events and “lunch and learn” type gatherings in your local business community.

6)      Offer a birthday or anniversary club with a premium for those who sign up.

7)      Pay employees commission for valid addresses from willing subscribers.

8)      Gather addresses via a discount offer with Groupon or similar daily deal site.

9)      Solicit addresses when your business appears at fundraisers, festivals and artisan markets.

10)  Ask customers for new subscribers’ names in exchange for a discount.

11)  Retrieve bounced-back emails, sending postcards asking contacts to sign up again.  

12)  Place your opt-in link in another business’ newsletter, doing the same for them.  

13)  Optimize your website for your keywords, striving for the top of the organic search results for those seeking your products (see Google Adwords).

14)  Use your list of snail-mail addresses to request email opt-ins.

15)  Stage pop-up requests for those leaving your website or blog.

16)  Include forward-to-a-friend links in all emails to make them easier to share.

17)  Archive newsletters on your website so subscribers know what they’ll get.

18)  Consider a platform like BuddyPress for WordPress (and add opt-ins), creating a community that fosters interaction among customers.

19)  Ask every caller to your business if you can add them to your list.

20)  Invite customers to enter business cards into a counter fishbowl for a weekly prize drawing, logging their addresses and announcing winners in your email newsletter.

21)  At trade shows, collect business cards and (with permission) scan them for addresses.

22)  At retail locations, set out a sandwich board asking for emails.

23)  Ask for emails on the credit card receipts signed by customers.

24)  Stage a contest asking customers to produce one-minute videos about why they like your product. Others can vote for the winner on your social media pages, accessing opt-in invitations.

25)  Use your smartphone to add addresses on the go.

26)  Place opt-in invitations in product shipments.

27)  Add similar invitations to customers’ shopping bags.

28)  Nonprofits: Include an email-address line on donation envelopes/forms.

29)  Retailers: Ask customers for addresses during in-store promotional events.

30)  Solicit personal friends and business colleagues as subscribers.

31)  Send requests to other Chamber of Commerce members.

32)  Offer a free e-book or informational guide for signing up.

33)  When speaking at an event, offer listeners a free consultation with newsletter subscription.

34)  Conducting a survey? Include email sign-up info.

35)  Include an opt-in form on invoices.

36)  Place an opt-in on your WordPress site or blog.

37)  Give discounts when a customer buys from you and then mentions it on Foursquare via their mobile device. Get the address for the “mayor” and give them a big discount each month.

38)  Offer insightful comments on blogs or forums your prospects or customers would visit, adding links to your opt-in form.

39)  Make sure your website’s sign-up landing page is appealing, easy to use and outlines the value of signing up. Note that requesting too much information too soon discourages sign ups.  

40)  Create a video about your business, adding a URL to your opt-in form and posting it on YouTube. You can also add note boxes and speech bubbles using YouTube’s “Annotations” function, and/or link your video to another video, playlist, YouTube channel, or Google+ profile involving your business.

41)  Make sure even transactional emails (i.e. order information or shipping updates) include a link to your email sign-up. 

42)  Survey current email subscribers about likes and dislikes, using the data to create more effective email content and up-front value propositions.

43)  Online tool Rafflecopter runs Facebook giveaways that automatically glean email addresses from participants, starting at $13/month.

44)  Online tool Justuno automatically provides customers a coupon code for your products or services if they provide their email; price is up to $40/month for small businesses.

45)  Online tool Binkd gathers email addresses from participants who tweet a message about your brand, then you randomly select a prize winner. Price: Up to $2 per day.

46)  Online tool Woobox sets up Facebook quizzes participants can share on their timelines, then you gather emails and draw prize winners. Small businesses spend about $49 to $99 each month.

47)  On Pinterest, pin coupon codes, e-books, guides, video series, online training seminars, checklists and webinars, and include calls to action for your email list.

48)  While it may seem counterintuitive, weed out the disinterested parties by sending contacts a new opt-in promising to remove their name if they don’t respond.

49)  Publish links to your opt-in page on your LinkedIn company page and/or in relevant discussions on LinkedIn.

50)  Co-host a project like an e-book or webinar with an appropriate business partner, then cross-market it with both businesses to solicit emails.

Finally, understand that maintaining a viable email list is bound to be more a marathon than a sprint.

“Your email marketing database degrades by about 22.5 percent every year,” notes Pitre. “Your contacts’ email addresses change as they move from one company to another, opt-out of your email communication, or abandon that old AOL address they only use to fill out forms on websites. As a marketer, it’s your job to make sure you’re constantly adding fresh contacts to your email marketing campaigns so you can keep your numbers moving up and to the right.”

To get inspiration and more tips on how to market your business, join the weekly VerticalResponse newsletter.

© 2015, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

The post List with a Twist: 50 Creative Tips for Gathering Customer Emails appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Sign-Up Forms Can Be An Important Piece of Your Email Marketing Program

Fri, 12/18/2015 - 15:04

According to Wikipedia, email marketing is a ‘direct channel used to market commercial messages to groups of people through email.’ The key phrase says it all here: ‘Groups of People.’ Similar to other areas of marketing like social, mobile and even print, connecting with your core audience is essential for success, especially as you’re getting your business off the ground.

And in today’s digital age, if you want to build a following, a sign-up form is a must-have as part of your strategy for acquisition and retention.

Say Yes to Sign-up Forms

Sign-up forms allow customers to ‘sign up’ to receive more information about your business and stay up-to-date on your company’s latest products and services. A useful tool to build your email marketing list, sign-up forms can be used across a multitude of marketing channels including most popular social media platforms as well as your website or blog.

In the video below, we show you how easy it is to setup and customize a sign-up form in VerticalResponse to fit your specific business needs.

If you’d like to check out sign-up forms for yourself, sign up for a free account today!

© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Sign-Up Forms Can Be An Important Piece of Your Email Marketing Program appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Darth Vader or Anakin? Is Your Marketing a Force for Good or Evil?

Tue, 12/15/2015 - 07:50

Light sabers, the Millennium Falcon, Storm Troopers in high-tech bodysuits and some awesome special effects — that’s what Star Wars fans expect from the latest installment of one of the most successful franchises in film history. No one, however, goes to see a Star Wars flick for the technology alone. It’s the human element of the stories that has always drawn people in.

We go to a Star Wars movie to see how a handful of determined good guys can ultimately triumph over an evil empire and change the universe in the process. Technological tools assist the heroes in their struggles, but it’s the human spirit — not the technology — that wins the day.

Marketing should work the same way; tech tools should help you get the job done, but they should not be the driving force behind your efforts. Yet the power and dazzle of technology can be like the Dark Side of the Force. If you’re not careful — and true to your human self — you can find yourself drawn into the technology to the point that you forget the humans you’re ultimately marketing to.

Is your marketing in tune with the Force and focused on enriching the connections between your business and your customers? Or are you engaging in Darth Vader marketing that’s more machine than man? It’s vital to keep the soul of your business alive by not relying too much on technology to drive your marketing initiatives. Here are five examples of when marketing can stray to the dark side of technology, and how you can bring yours back to the light.

1. Keyword overkill

If you do any online marketing at all (and if you don’t, you should be), you’ve almost certainly heard of keywords. These are the words on a Web page that search engines like Google look for when searching the Internet for content that fits a user’s search terms. For example, a business that sells designer handbags would want to incorporate those keywords in their online content so the search engines would know to point to the company’s web pages when an online user searches for “designer handbags.” The process of incorporating keywords into copy is called “search engine optimization” — SEO for short.

So some keywords are good for SEO. Too much can be very bad. Google disdains the practice so much, they have a term and a web page for it — keyword stuffing. Google defines keyword stuffing as “the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search result.”

From a human viewpoint, keyword stuffing is bad because it leads to boring, uninformative and unengaging copy, whether you’re writing website copy, a blog or a Tweet. Remember, you’re writing for the people who use the search engine, not for the search engine itself. People, not algorithms, buy products so it’s important for your copy to engage consumers while still grabbing the attention of the search engines.

2. Mad blasting email campaigns

Remember when the rebel forces swarmed the Death Star and bombarded it with blaster fire in an attempt to blow it up? Their efforts were failing miserably, until Luke used his human instincts — and the Force — to fire one well-placed shot in just the right spot. Email campaigns should work in exactly the same way.

Unfortunately, the same technologies that make it easy to launch an email campaign, such as online email marketing software, make it too easy to take a barrage approach to email distribution. It can be tempting to skip segmenting your campaign and simply blast an email to everyone who’s ever provided you with their email address. That path leads to the dark side.

Instead, leverage your software’s capabilities to help you create a segmented approach. Tailoring your content, offer and message to a more targeted group of prospects increases your likelihood of hitting the mark — even if it’s as small as an exhaust port on a planet-sized machine.

3. Over-designing your visuals

Although those Storm Trooper uniforms sure look sleek and spiffy, it’s hard to miss the fact that they’ve not done much to protect Imperial soldiers in any Star Wars episode ever. A few well-placed blaster shots and troopers go down every time — still looking good as they fall.

Technology makes it easy to come up with some awesome special effects for your marketing, from emails embedded with video and moving graphics to animated web pages. Of course good design is essential for all your marketing materials, but when you let the technology of what you can do override the good sense of what you should do, you’ve put your marketing message in a Storm Trooper suit.

Stick with the basics of good design: visually appealing, easy-to-understand and use, engagingly colorful yet simple. Don’t do more than you absolutely need to in order to make your content look good.

4. Pushing people away with too many links

Who can forget that romantic dance Han and Leia did in Empire? They kept pushing each other away when what they really wanted was to draw closer together. It took the crisis of almost losing each other to bring them together. If you push customers away with too many links in your online marketing copy, you might not have a handy carbon freezer around to make them realize just what you mean to each other.

Links are useful to drive people to a specific page on your website. For example, if your email is promoting a new product, you would include a link to drive readers to that product page. If you’re a non-profit asking for a donation, your email should include a link to your donation page. Too many links, however, drive readers away — in more ways than one.

First, too many links can dilute the impact of your message and decrease the amount of time users spend on the pages where you most want them; they’ll be too busy clicking through on all those links to look at the most critical content. Or, too many links may be so visually overwhelming that they turn off readers completely, and the recipient of your email closes and deletes it without reading any further.

Include only the most important links in your email and other content. Google’s guidelines for web page creation say to keep links to “a reasonable number.” We’d advise to use your eyes — if there’s more blue type in your email than black, you definitely have too many links!

5. Forgetting the inner Anakin

Is it hard to wrap your head around the idea that the adorable, spunky kid from The Phantom Menace wound up being the evil Darth Vader who tortured his own kids in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes back? Yet Anakin Skywalker ultimately still existed beneath all the technology that kept Vader alive and made him such an intimidating villain. He re-emerged in Return of the Jedi, and it was Vader’s rediscovery of his humanity that saved Luke and led to the evil Emperor’s downfall.

It was easy to dehumanize Darth Vader when he was hidden behind that black mask and high-tech suit. But when the mask came off and you saw him as Anakin again, didn’t your heart soften toward him at least a little? Or maybe a lot?

Behind all the technology that moves your marketing efforts forward, you are trying to reach real, live people. Remember, it was the human suffering of his son that caused Vader to find his inner Anakin. From emails to in-store promotions, your marketing efforts are aimed at helping your customers understand how your products and services can help them solve a problem or achieve a goal.

In the end, Luke and his cohorts succeeded by balancing light (their humanity) and dark (technology). When your marketing campaigns successfully balance the power of technology with a warm human touch, you will be the marketing world’s equivalent of a Jedi master.

Want more marketing tips and advice? Get the VerticalResponse weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox.

© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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12 Months of Inspiration for Engaging with Your Email Subscribers

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 08:53

Even the most capable, expert-at-their-business small business owner can feel like a rube when it comes to getting creative with email marketing ideas. Yet great email ideas get clicks, engage customers and can boost sales — so you know you need to send out as many winners as possible in 2016.

So the next question you probably have is: How do I maximize the success of my marketing emails in the New Year? We’re glad you asked.

We have 12 months of inspiring and creative ideas to help you craft emails that will engage, entertain and motivate your subscribers:

January

  • January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day. Put a fun spin on your emails in honor of your furry best friends. Dress up pets of staff members, take their picture and add it to your announcements of sales, deals and special events. Or, better yet, stage a contest for customers asking them to submit photos of their own pets dressed up.
  • Who doesn’t love getting some cash back? Sweeten email deals by offering rebates. The returns could be immediate to encourage recipients to take a specific desired action, such as making an online purchase, liking you on Facebook, or coming into your store.

February

  • Valentine’s Day is the first big holiday of the year for many people. Leverage your subscriber’s attention to the day by making them feel especially loved in your email communications. Email personalization lets customers know just how much they mean to you.
  • If music is the language of love, video is the verse that creates excitement among email subscribers. Try creating a product video that helps viewers better understand how to optimize their use of your product. Email the video link to subscribers and offer an incentive for them to click-through and view the video.

March

  • This month, many of your customers are going to be thinking about basketball, so they’ll likely be more inclined to open an email tied into a theme that’s already at the forefront of their attention. Concoct a March Madness promotion and offer a discount every time your team advances in the tournament.
  • Make Up Your Own Holiday Day arrives on March 26. Try offering a prize to the email subscriber who responds with the most outrageous, fun and applicable-to-your-business made-up holiday.
  • Put customers in the driver’s seat by using email to solicit creative ideas and feedback for new products or services you plan to launch, how you’ll decorate the store’s window display this spring, your logo or website redesign, or your next product catalog. Asking customers for their opinions, rather than their money, can help them feel more appreciated and engaged — and give you insight into what they really think about your business.

April

  • April 10 is National Siblings Day. Why not try leveraging the opportunities presented by transactional emails to play off the day? For example, instead of just emailing a purchase receipt, you could also include a discount for the buyer to forward to his or her sibling to apply to their first (or next) purchase.
  • Launch a totally non-salesy, brand-building “just for fun” occasional email newsletter on April 14, International Moment of Laughter Day. Fill it with links to the funniest headlines or company news of the past month or quarter. Reap bonus points if you can also keep stories specific to your products/service/industry!

May

  • May is a big month for weddings, which could explain why National Chicken Dance Day is May 14. Announce via email a contest for consumers. Ask them to send a video of themselves or a loved one doing the iconic dance  anywhere is fine, but a wedding reception is best. Reward winners with free products or services from your business, or even free dance lessons!
  • Give the concept of “discount” a new, more engaging face. Instead of sending an email that offers a straight 5 percent off purchases, why not get creative with your credit? Offer a specific and unusual dollar amount, like $8.67, off purchases and announce the subscriber’s credit in the email subject line.
  • Mother’s Day arrives in May, and it’s hard to go wrong with a promotion that honors practically everyone’s favorite parent. A simple, heartfelt email announcing your desire to thank all the mothers who give you their business, along with a specific offer for Mom or anyone shopping for her, is the perfect way to celebrate the day.

June

  • Is it a coincidence that National Splurge Day (June 18) arrives in the middle of graduation season? Probably not. Why not combine the two and create an email campaign around how easy your business makes it to splurge on grads? Promote your graduation sales and incentives through personalized emails.
  • Grads aren’t the only ones getting kudos this month. Father’s Day is also a great time to leverage creative ideas for email marketing. Why not promote your products or services with real social media reviews from happy dads who’ve done business with you? Or, ask customers to share their favorite childhood memories of their dads on your social media pages.

July

  • Independence Day sales are a dime a dozen. Of course you need to promote yours, but you can also put a heart-warming spin on holiday promotions. If you have a veteran working in your company, why not include a brief profile of him or her in your email newsletter this month or on your social media pages?
  • Tie into National Ice Cream Day (July 17) by offering discounts with an expiration date. Play on the idea that like ice cream, the deal will soon “melt away,” so subscribers should act quickly.

August

  • August 26 is National Dog Day, and many of your customers probably own pets. Announce a special give-away in honor of the day. It can be as simple as free dog biscuits for every pet owner who visits your store that day, or as ambitious as a “most-beautiful dog” contest complete with first, second and third prizes.

September

  • On September 5, it’s Be Late for Something Day. Send out an email announcing extended hours that day along with “late riser” discounts for anyone who comes into your store or makes a purchase during those extra hours.
  • Stage a back-to-school photo contest with creative and humorous categories, such as the “Most Elated Mom,” “Worst First-Day Face,” or “Funniest First-Day-of-School Wardrobe.” Encourage email subscribers to send in their photographs for the competition, and post the winners on your social media pages.

October

  • Did you notice all the holiday items that went on sale in stores before Halloween was over last year? Why not make light of holiday creep with a “rushing the holidays” email that provides tips, advice, and incentives for early shoppers?

November

  • On Nov. 13, World Kindness Day, send an email asking customers to donate to the charity your company supports. Encourage their generosity with some of your own, by offering discounts that match their donation amounts. For example, someone who donates $25 to your charity could receive 25 percent off purchases of a certain level or higher.
  • Many holiday shoppers get rolling this month and those who don’t will start to feel the pressure. Help ease a bit of that stress with a holiday-gift-guide email that highlights important information about some of the products consumers purchased from you the most during the holidays last year.

December

  • Dec. 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Celebrate the day by offering email subscribers holiday cooking tips and discounts on any products you sell related to holiday entertaining.
  • Of course, you should always wrap up the year with a simple email thanking your customers for their business throughout the year, rewarding them with a promotional item or discount.

Conclusion: Get a jump on 2016 with these great ideas for creative email campaigns. Let us know which ones rocked!

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© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 12 Months of Inspiration for Engaging with Your Email Subscribers appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Top Marketing Trends in 2016 and What They Mean for Your Small Business

Tue, 12/08/2015 - 06:01

It’s that time of year again, and we don’t just mean the season of white-bearded men in red suits or going back for second helpings of holiday ham.

It’s also prediction season, and forecasters are prophesying everything from the next presidential election and football championship matchups to interest rates and gas prices. Of course, when it comes to business, forecasting is vital.

As you’re preparing your 2016 marketing plan, here are some predictions for what the top trends will be in the New Year — and what these trends could mean for your small business.

SEARCH

Search Engines Will Get Some New Competition.  If it seems like Google, Yahoo and Bing have been in the driver’s seat of search results forever, it’s because they have. Back in 2012, Google admitted to fielding 1 trillion searches per day and earlier this year company executives said that number is even higher now (big surprise). But the big search engines will be getting some additional competition in 2016, courtesy of social media.

Social networks like Facebook and Pinterest are either expanding their search capabilities or getting ready to do so. What’s more, Google indexes public tweets on Twitter. That’s good news if your small business has been making good use of social media marketing already, and bad news if you haven’t.

Social media has become the word of mouth by which small businesses can live or die. If your small business has amassed positive reviews and feedback on social networks, in 2016 potential customers may be able to find you — and all those positive reviews — with a search on their favorite social media sites. Conversely, if you’ve been lax about social media marketing, or worse, have negative reviews crowding cyberspace, social network search capabilities won’t help your overall marketing efforts.

Consumer use of social media continues to grow. People already have the ability to make purchases, talk about what they bought, and comment on the seller through social media. Adding search capability seems like a no-brainer.

MOBILE

Mobile’s just getting bigger.  Ride a train or bus, sit in an airport or restaurant and it’s impossible to miss — mobile devices are everywhere. In fact, the saturation of mobile is astounding, and it’s still growing. Witness the stats:

  • In 2014, 2.1 billion consumers owned smartphones worldwide, according to the Internet Trends 2015 report.
  • Mobile use now accounts for more than half of the total time people spend on digital devices, the report states.
  • Eighty percent of Internet searches are conducted on smartphones, according to data from the Global Web Index.
  • Sixty-six percent of all email in the U.S. is now read on smartphones, according to the US Consumer Device Preference Report from MovableInk.
  • In 2015, mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, according to Google.

What does all this mean for your small business? It’s vital that your website is mobile responsive and that you offer a mobile app to allow customers to easily access your products and services from their favorite mobile devices. Your email marketing campaigns must also be mobile-friendly. Remember, mobile users are working with a smaller screen when they access your marketing emails, so it’s important that each email you send is concise, simple and easy to read.

VIDEO

Video will continue to be worth a thousand words … or more!  Consumption of online videos has been steadily increasing for years, and the rise in mobile usage is further fueling that growth. From a marketing standpoint, video is a powerful tool. A video shared on social networks or your website can allow viewers to actually see what your product looks like and how it performs. It can also foster interaction between your business and customers by allowing them to post questions and comments on your video.

The exciting development for 2016 could be that search engines will begin incorporating video ads into search results. Some of the largest search engines are reportedly testing the idea of video ad search results. It seems more likely that indexing of video ads is a question of when, rather than if. When it comes to fruition, small businesses that have been leveraging video will be ahead of competitors who are still stuck in text land.

APPS

App indexing will mean more apps and more opportunities.  Multiple studies point to the idea that apps will one day soon overtake mobile-responsive websites for the preferred method of interaction between mobile users and brands. The advantage of apps for users is easy to see. Apps have all the functionality of mobile-friendly websites, but they streamline user access. App users don’t have to type a search into a browser to begin interacting with a brand.

Google already indexes apps. If it happens to index yours, when your app appears in Google search results, users automatically see an install prompt for the app. So, not only does app indexing improve visibility, it potentially increases the number of mobile users who actually download and use your app.

AUTOMATION

Marketing automation will make your budget more effective.  One of the greatest strengths of email automation tools has always been the amount of time it frees up for marketers. Such tools allow users to spend less time (and money) on “grunt work” like creating and distributing emails, and more on creating quality, engaging content to go in those emails. Marketing automation extends that benefit to your whole marketing program.

Marketing and email automation makes it easier to create and schedule emails, segment mailing lists, automate social media posting, track open and response rates, and even calculate conversions. For small businesses whose marketing departments are often just one or two people, automation can allow them to achieve more without increasing budgets.

CONTENT

Content will continue to be king.  Virtually everything you do online qualifies as content marketing if it’s done with the goal of providing information to and building trust with current and prospective customers. Americans’ appetite for useful, engaging and entertaining content continues to grow. Consumers consistently respond to content that provides them with “news they can use,” informative entertainment and value, but they aren’t the only ones who demand quality content. Search engine algorithms are designed to hold marketers to a higher standard of quality, rewarding top notch content with higher positioning in search results.

Increasingly, consumers want customized content that’s tailored to meet their specific interests, needs, and tastes. In fact, 90 percent of Americans find custom content useful, and custom content makes 78 percent of consumers feel that the organization providing it cares about building a good relationship with them, according to the CMO Council.

As you make your content marketing plans for 2016, keep in mind the benchmarks of quality and customization.

PERSONALIZATION

Fully personalized email marketing: Its time has come.  Technology has made it more feasible than ever for marketers to produce fully customized content, including emails — and consumers know this. Their expectation of customized content is high, and consumers whose expectations are met will be more inclined to respond positively to marketing material. The preference for customization is driving the dip in efficacy of batch and blast email campaigns.

In fact, according to the Email Marketing Industry Census, 78 percent of the marketers surveyed predicted that by 2020 all email communication will be personalized. Right now, one in three companies are already doing this, the census found, and 37 percent intended to begin doing it in the immediate future. Your small business can get ahead of the curve and begin customizing emails right away.

POP-UPS

Pop-ups with purpose: Growing your email lists.  “Lightbox pop-ups” are the windows that appear on a website when you’ve been on it for a certain amount of time, or when you hover your mouse icon over a specific portion of the site, such as the browser bar. Popular wisdom might make you think that pop-ups are most likely to elicit annoyance from online users, but the data says otherwise. While they may be annoying when they’re nothing more than a straight sell, studies show that lightboxes can be an effective way to solicit email addresses from web users.

They work for multiple reasons. First, consider timing. If a user is already on the way to leaving your page (often the case when their mouse button makes it to the browser address line), what do you have to lose by stalling them a few seconds more with a pop-up that asks them to enter their email address? Lightboxes also offer a measure of convenience; consumers who go to your website looking for the opportunity to sign up to receive emails about deals and specials will easily find where to type in their information. Too often, email sign-up buttons are tucked away in unobtrusive corners of the page, but a lightbox puts it front and center.

Conclusion:  By now, you’ve probably noticed a pattern to these trends — they are driven by online behaviors. Digital marketing is not only the wave of the future; it’s how business is getting done right now. Your small business can lay the groundwork for continued growth in 2016 by leveraging these digital marketing trends to create consumer interest and loyalty to your brand, products, and services.

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© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Top Marketing Trends in 2016 and What They Mean for Your Small Business appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Make a Responsive Email Template Work for Your Business [VIDEO]

Fri, 12/04/2015 - 09:56

How do you create a professional-looking email in minutes? Choose any one of our responsive email templates based on purpose or theme. Customize the template by using the simple drag & drop email editor to match your branding. And voilà! Seriously, it’s that easy. Watch this 2-minute video and see for yourself.

If you’d like to check out the email editor for yourself, sign up for a free account today! 

© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Make a Responsive Email Template Work for Your Business [VIDEO] appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

The Ultimate Holiday Marketing Giveaway [All Entries Receive a Free Domain]

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 07:35

Looking to launch a new business in 2016? Or, maybe your brand is ready for a major boost? Either way, you’re thinking about ways to generate sales in the new year. Wouldn’t it be nice to get $2,016 worth of professional marketing products and services? For free? It’s possible when you enter The Ultimate Holiday Marketing Giveaway!

This holiday sweepstakes is offering a grand prize package chock-full of products and services needed to brand your business, get found online, and connect with customers. The grand prize winner receives:

BUILD YOUR BRAND IDENTITY

Custom Logo Design

Create your brand identity with a logo that perfectly represents your business. A good logo design leaves a lasting association and differentiates your brand from competitors. Work with a team of professional designers to get a new logo, or a refresh!

Style Guide

Maintain your brand with a style guide that outlines everything from how to use the logo, to your brand color palette, to fonts and more. This creative guide not only keeps your brand in check but also saves you time and money.

Facebook Design
Keep a consistent look with a custom designed Facebook page while using this social platform to attract new customers and build relationships with existing ones.

GET FOUND ONLINE

Responsive Website

Customers use online information to research companies and make decisions about purchases. First impressions are 94% design related. Make sure your website is the right balance of “wow” and function. Given 42% of shoppers use their smartphones to conduct research while shopping, your website needs to be mobile friendly and search engine optimized so visitors can easily find what they need.

LocalSync
Four out of five consumers search for a business online. Make sure they find yours by being listed across 50+ local directories that include your business name, phone number, address, map, website, and other details that help customers easily connect with your business.

STAY CONNECTED WITH CUSTOMERS

Email Marketing
Email marketing is an effective and low-cost way to market your business. Get this important part of your marketing mix up and running with a VerticalResponse account, contact list management, assistance with an email campaign, and ongoing reporting.

It doesn’t stop here! The grand prize winner also receives a premium Google domain, printed business cards, letterhead, and envelopes, a rollup banner, and other branded merchandise.

Enter now! Because, wait, there’s more!

Until 12/31/2015, Deluxe is giving away a weekly marketing prize valued at $420 to sweepstakes entrants. This includes a custom logo, 6 mugs, 50 click pens, and 5 t-shirts – all with your branding.

Kick off the new year with a chance to team up with marketing experts that will help your business flourish in 2016.

Enter for your chance to win.

© 2015, Vertical Response Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Ultimate Holiday Marketing Giveaway [All Entries Receive a Free Domain] appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

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