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7 Ways to Use Marketing Automation to Grow Your Business [GUIDE]

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 06:00

We know that small business owners have no shortage of tasks on their daily to-do lists, and we’re here to help you shorten it even more.

Implementing automated features make attracting and maintaining customers a snap. In this guide, we’ll cover the specific automated steps you can implement for email and social media marketing. Before we start, let’s talk about the top four benefits of automation so you understand why it’s so valuable:

1. Save time

One of the biggest benefits of automation is that it allows you to save lots of time. By setting a few marketing emails on auto-delivery, you won’t have to create and send individual emails every time you need to communicate with your list. If you use an automated platform for social media updates, you can schedule a series of posts at one time.

2. Reach customers in a timely manner

By using automated features, you’ll reach your customers quickly. For example, you can automate a welcome email that is sent 24 hours after a new contact is added to your list. This guarantees that new contacts get valuable information about your business in a timely fashion, even while you sleep.

3. Ability to work ahead

As a small business owner, it’s vital to ‘work ahead’ as much as possible. With automation, you can set up emails and social media posts in advance.

4. Turn prospective customers into paying customers

Automating some of your marketing tasks can help you convert interested customers into paying customers. In fact, a report published by Regalix showed that nearly 86 percent of businesses believe marketing automation is one of the most efficient ways to nurture and manage new leads.

Are you convinced yet? Excellent! Now let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it all. Here are seven ways you can properly utilize marketing automation:

1. Capture emails through sign up forms

Before setting up automation, we suggest setting up an email sign up form on your business’s website. These simple forms help you collect names and email addresses from interested customers or clients.

The steady stream of new contacts that comes in through this form will give you an authentic list of email addresses to draw from to send emails to. Your efforts to build your email list should be ongoing, and a sign up form is a hassle-free way to keep names coming in with little effort on your part.

VerticalResponse has an email sign up form that you can use. It’s simple to set up and activate, and all of your new contacts go right into your VR account. From there you can automate emails to send out to your new and existing contacts.

If you prefer, you could also use a third-party service to create sign up forms that work as pop ups, sidebars, or sliders on your site.

  • Consider trying OptinMonster. If you’re using WordPress, ThriveThemes has a plugin you can use to collect customer information. Both of these sites make it easy for small business owners to establish “information collection points” on their websites. There is a cost to use these services, but you don’t need any website or coding experience to get started.

2. Automate welcome emails

With a sign up form in place, one of the first marketing items you’ll want to automate is your welcome email. Since every new contact receives a welcome email, it makes sense to automate it.

If you decide to use the VerticalResponse sign up form to collect email address, the new contacts are automatically added to your list. You can go into your account, create a welcome email and set it up to deliver the warm greeting within 48 hours. You want to make sure that new contacts receive a welcome email shortly after they sign up for your email list, while their interest is still peaked.

The welcome email should outline the perks of receiving messages from your company and include links that direct customers back to your website.

If you need help creating a welcome email, we have several resources to check out:

3. Send a series of event reminders

Let’s say you have an event coming up or a big promotion. You can use automation to set up a series of emails that reminds your audience about it.

For example, when an insurance broker is hosting a day of free consultations, the owner should set up three emails to automatically send to customers. The first email describes the event in full; the second email is a reminder to sign up for a specific time slot before the consultation day is booked. A day before the event, a third email encourages people to take advantage of the few openings left and adds an incentive of free coffee and donuts.

All three of these emails can be created ahead of time and sent over the course of two weeks. All of the emails should include links back to your website where customers can find out more information.

You can apply this same concept to an upcoming sale, a charity event, a customer appreciation event or an appearance at a local trade show. The idea is to set up a series of emails that reminds your audience about a particular event.

4. Treat your loyal customers

Segment your list by pulling out the names of your most loyal customers and develop an automated email campaign that focuses on rewarding them. Consider writing an email that ‘Gives Thanks’ to your repeat customers for their loyalty and offers something in return. Maybe it’s a 10% off coupon, a voucher for a free service, the chance to be the first to try a new product, discounted shipping or some other kind of gift. You can set this email up to go out every other month for six months to encourage your loyal customers to keep buying.

For inspiration, take a look at this email from Ghurka, a leather accessory store, which honors loyal customers.

5. Encourage active customers to buy again

You can also automate a series of emails to entice recent buyers to buy again. If a customer has made a purchase or signed up for a service within the last 2-3 weeks, put them in their own group and prepare to create an automated email series specifically for them.

For example, in the first email you can thank them for the purchase and showcase additional merchandise you have in stock. Here’s an example from Crate&Barrel:

The second email could offer a discount on a similar product or announce the arrival of a new accessory. The second email could also be a gift guide that highlights several of your hottest items.

6. Bring old customers back

Similar to encouraging recent customers to buy again, you should also think about ways to re-engage inactive customers too.

Take a look at your email list and pull out the names of customers who haven’t purchased anything from your business in the past 6-8 months. Create a series of emails that are designed to get them back on your bandwagon.

The first email can simply say, “We miss you” and include a special offer. The second email, which you should send a week later, could contain a survey asking why the customer has strayed. The survey results can also offer valuable insight that you can use to maintain customers in the future.

7. Automate your social posts

With your email automation underway, you can now switch gears to social media automation. If your business uses more than one social site, you can use a social media management tool to automate the process.

Management tools let you schedule posts ahead of time, which drastically reduces the number of times you have to log in, create messages, and post them. With automated tools, you can set aside an hour per week and schedule posts for the entire forthcoming week.

For time-strapped business owners, automation prevents social neglect. After all, you don’t want your customers to get used to a minimally updated Facebook page or sparsely posted tweets. 

So, which social media automation tools are the best? There are several options. It’s important to note that all of these apps offer a free plan, so definitely take them for a test drive and see which one fits your business before committing long-term.

  • HootSuite. This app syncs with several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. You can access all of your social accounts from one dashboard.
  • TweetDeck. If you’re an avid Twitter user, TweetDeck can help you schedule posts and monitor feeds.
  • IFTTT (If This Then That). For the more advanced social media user, IFTTT is a great option simply because there are more automation features to choose from with this one. As an example, you can easily link it to your business blog, and when a new post is added, a tweet will automatically go out to advertise the new content.

You can also turn to content curating platforms. These tools give you a list of content that is relevant to your readers and enables you to share it with little fuss. This way you don’t have to scour your feeds looking for valuable content to share; the search is already done for you.

  • Swayy and Pocket are good content curation apps to start with. All you need to do is enter a list of general topics that you’d like to see in your feed and you’ll immediately get dozens of content options in your search findings. As you share this content, each platform hones in on your preferences and gives you more specific content that’s tailored to your needs over time.

A word of caution

Automated marketing is a fantastic tool for small business owners, but you’ll want to use it in moderation. Not everything can, or should be scheduled in advance. For example, when breaking news happens that’s relevant to your industry, you’ll want to create day-of social media posts and emails. When a new employee comes on board, or you’ve decided to run a last-minute sale, you won’t be able to rely on automation either. Just remember, like any other resource, automation is another tool you can keep on your pegboard and use it as needed.

Share with us on social which parts of marketing you currently automate and how it works for you.

Want more marketing tips like this? Sign up for the VR Buzz – our weekly newsletter that gives you advice on all things marketing for small and medium businesses.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 7 Ways to Use Marketing Automation to Grow Your Business [GUIDE] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Add Some Zen to Your Marketing with Optimonk

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 06:00

Successful small business owners often use a variety of tools and platforms to reach their customers. Managing multiple applications can sometimes be a challenge, which is why we’ve created a number of powerful VR integrations with apps we feel you’ll love, so you can easily sync your data between apps. 

We’re happy to announce our newest addition to the Integrations Marketplace: Optimonk!

Optimonk is an on-site retargeting platform that helps engage and recover site visitors on the verge of leaving. When visitors to your site exhibit behavior indicating they’re leaving your page, you can offer attention-grabbing content such as email signup forms or special offers to lure them back. This helps small business owners build up their email subscription lists as well as generate more business.

Optimonk offers a variety of functionality to help you hone your retargeting efforts. Users can conduct A/B tests, using real-time analytics, to compare different content, templates, etc. to see which options have the best conversion rates with your customers. You also have complete control over the timing of your messaging, and the ability to segment your audience with advanced options to serve content to specific subsets of your visitors. 

So how does Optimonk work with VerticalResponse? Optimonk engages a visitor to your site with a signup form or special offer, prior to that visitor leaving. This type of engagement creates an opportunity for you to ask the visitor for their email address. Once you’ve acquired the email address, you’ll be able to communicate with them. Here’s where the power of the integration lies! 

With your Optimonk campaign synced with your VR account, any email address collected via a signup form or offer will automatically create a new contact in a VR list of your choice.

Within Optimonk, in Campaign Settings, click Choose Another:

Select VerticalResponse from the dropdown menu. You’ll then be prompted to log in with your VR credentials via a popup:

Once this sync is in place for your Optimonk campaign, you’ll begin compiling ‘opted-in’ contacts for your VerticalResponse campaigns. Play around with different Optimonk forms and offers using their A/B testing to reveal which content resonates best with your visitors. This testing, coupled with the power of Optimonk’s exit intent technology will help you build a marketing audience quickly. Contacts grabbed via Optimonk campaigns will then be synced to your VR lists, where you can begin using VR’s email, social campaigns and reporting to engage and retain your customers.

Want to know more about our integration with Optimonk, and how it can boost your marketing efforts? Join us for our co-hosted webinar coming July 29th at 10 am PT! 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 Add Some Zen to Your Marketing with Optimonk appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How Kickbox Can Rev Up Your VerticalResponse Account [VIDEO]

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 06:00

We are constantly looking for ways to help our customers improve their email marketing efforts. When we find one of these solutions, we offer it to our customers through our integrations marketplace. Here, our customers can discover and utilize additional functionality that is seamlessly integrated with their VerticalResponse account. Be sure to check out these offerings as you’ll find some of the hottest start-ups around.

In this episode of Tips in 2, we focus on our integration with Kickbox. With the Kickbox platform you can “cleanse” your email list in a matter of minutes. Click on the video below as we show you how quickly and easily you can get on the path to a clean list.

For more great Tips in 2 videos, check out our YouTube channel

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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4 Ways to Market Your Business

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 06:00

Are you in a marketing rut? Are you ready to get your business noticed with a few easy-to-implement marketing ideas? Excellent, because we have a list of out-of-the-box ideas that will attract new customers and help to build buzz around your brand.

1. Online directories

The days of flipping through the yellow pages might be gone, but there are still many online directories your business can benefit from. These sites allow business owners to create a profile that offers information that your customers are most likely to search for including address, business hours and pictures.

There are dozens of online directories out there. Here are the top 20 places to list your business:

Is your business already listed online? Deluxe Corporation offers a free online directory search tool that you can use to check the status of your company across the most popular online directories and ensure all the information listed is correct.

2. Review sites

Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to market your business. These days you can also encourage word of mouth marketing for your business online through review sites.

Similar to online directories, there are many to choose from. Some of the most influential include: 

3. Beneficial online marketing tools

There are a few specific tools that small business owners should explore when thinking about ways to boost their marketing efforts. Here are four of our favorites:

Good marketing and practical networking often go hand in hand. The next time you attend an industry trade show, an event at your local Chamber of Commerce, or even a simple social gathering, make sure you have FullContact on your smartphone. With this app, you can snap a picture of a business card and the contact information is automatically loaded into your VerticalResponse contact list.

Effective marketing also requires that you work hard to grab the attention of your audience. With Justuno, you can do just that. This handy widget allows you to add an instant offer/promo to your website or social sites. Before getting the offer, the visitor must submit his or her email address. This comprehensive tool gets people talking about your business and adds them to your contact list.

When something newsworthy happens with you business, always consider creating a press release to share with the media. In addition to emailing it to your local TV stations and newspapers, you should also share it on Prezly.com. This site places your press releases in front of leading digital newsrooms and other social media influencers

Boost your overall social media presence with Foursquare. When someone visits your business, they can “check in” on Foursquare, which tells their social media audience where the user is. Your business name will then show up in their social network news feeds, which is perfect free publicity without any upfront effort.

4. Offline marketing ideas

Remember though, despite the push to be everywhere online, offline marketing still has its place. Here are a few ideas to consider when looking to take your business marketing off the digital grid:

  • Join a local business group

Join a local business group like the Chamber of Commerce or other business-oriented groups. These organizations will usually host social gatherings, distribute newsletters and participate in volunteer events, all of which are opportunities to market your business.

  • Keep ‘marketing swag’ on hand

From pens to t-shirts and everything in between, it’s important to get (and work to keep!) your name out there. Make sure that you have a stocked inventory of marketing swag goodies available at all times whether you own a physical or online business. In addition to wearing it yourself, set aside an amount to give away to customers each month as well. Companies like PsPrint and Brand Box specialize in crafting small business printed materials for a reasonable price.

Tell us how you are building buzz for your brand.

To get more creative ideas and tips, subscribe to the VR Buzz weekly newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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5 Tips to Increase Your Email Delivery and Open Rates

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 06:00

Here at VerticalResponse, we frequently write about the fundamentals of good email marketing. We advocate for catchy subject lines that get subscribers to open your email. We encourage you to write content that engages your audience. And we urge you to come up with compelling CTAs (call-to-action) that get readers to click-through to your website, e-store or landing page.

But what if your emails aren’t making it to the inbox in the first place? That’s where improving your email delivery with best practices is incredibly important to both your marketing efforts and your bottom line. So, if you’re suffering from high bounce rates or spam complaints, fear not! Read on for five tips and tactics to make sure your emails get delivered, opened and read.

Tip 1: Clean up that dusty old email list

If you’re experiencing an increase in bounced emails, take a closer look at your list. If you haven’t sent to that list in a while, this could by why. Most email service providers allow you to segment your list based on email activity, so you should remove bounced addresses and inactive subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in the past few months. Do this every few months to maintain a squeaky clean and healthy list of active, engaged readers.

Tip 2: Use a double opt-in for new subscribers

Whether it’s signing up for your newsletter or checking a box in your online shopping cart, single opt-in is the fast, easy, and risky way to build your contact list. It’s risky because if you opt them into your list without them realizing it, they may flag your emails as spam or use a bogus address like getlost@gmail.com or idont@wantto.com that immediately bounce.

It only takes a few spam complaints for some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to begin blocking your email. Any decent Email Service Provider (ESP) should offer this as an option, or the option, in their services. Some spam laws require proof of sign up, and the double opt-in gives you exactly that. If your ESP doesn’t offer this, you can instead send a welcome email automatically that can act as a confirmation email. Then, add everyone who clicks to confirm into a new list of verified subscribers. While you may get fewer confirmed addresses compared to using single opt-in, they will be valid and more likely to stay engaged.

Tip 3: Pick a sending schedule and stick to it

One way to build up your email reputation, and thus improve your email delivery, is by sending your emails at a consistent frequency. If you send emails at erratic times of the day, week or month, you may cause your readers to stop reading or interacting with your email. And since ISPs monitor engagement, your email delivery could drop, so stick to a regular schedule. But when to send? Early? Late? Mondays? Fridays?

Figuring out the best cadence for sending your messages can be tricky, so you should test it thoroughly. Sending too frequently can lead to higher spam complaints and unsubscribes, whereas sending too infrequently can lead to unengaged readers and eventually higher bounce rates or bad email delivery. However, a good rule of thumb is to send no more than one email per week and no fewer than one email per month.

Tip 4: Brand your “From” name

As mentioned, you can build trust with your readers’ ISPs with a consistent schedule. You can increase that trust with readers by having a recognizable “From” name. For example, an email from “VerticalResponse” is better than the more generic-sounding please-reply@verticalresponse.com.

A recent trend that I’ve noticed in my inbox is companies adding a personal name to the “From” field, such as “Lauren from Cool Company.” The idea is that it provides a more personal touch with readers so it doesn’t seem like your email is coming from a faceless entity. Some of your readers may find this approach off-putting because it’s unlikely they have a personal relationship with “Lauren.” But like many things with marketing; when in doubt, test it out!

 Tip 5: Boost your open rates with automated follow-up emails

What do you do if subscribers miss your first email entirely? Maybe their inbox was full that day, or you just sent it at a bad time. When this happens, you can always resend the email a few days later to re-engage the “non-responders.

We recently added an automatic follow-up email feature that saves you time and effort by letting you schedule a follow-up email at the same time that you send your initial message. All you do is change your follow-up email’s subject line (to avoid looking spammy) and select a wait time for your follow-up to go out (try 3 or 4 days). We’ve had great success with nonresponder follow-up emails in the past, which can boost open rates up to 50% higher than the original email alone.

Conclusion

If you follow the guidelines and tactics we included in this blog post, you should see a significant improvement in your email delivery rate and fewer bounces. As for automated follow-up emails, if your current email service provider doesn’t offer them, maybe it’s time to shop around…

Take VerticalResponse for a free spin today.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 5 Tips to Increase Your Email Delivery and Open Rates appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

3 Things You Can’t Do on Facebook Anymore

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 06:00

Facebook is always making updates to its site. Some updates are minor; others can have a big impact on your business and its social traffic.

Since no one has time to read Facebook’s blog every day or scour through updates and guidelines, we’ve put together a list of three Facebook changes that every small business owner should know. 

We picked changes that are likely to have the biggest impact on small businesses and suggest alternatives to keep your traffic flow and engagement on the rise.

1. Facebook bans like-gating

Planning to run a contest to boost the number of likes on your Facebook page? Think again. You can no longer run a contest that requires someone to like your page to participate in a deal. You can still give visitors an option to like your page, but you can’t require it for entry.

Facebook did away with the concept of like-gating late last year. If you haven’t run a contest in a while, we want to make sure you are aware of this change. It’s a serious one, breaking this rule could get your page shut down.

While the change does toss a social monkey wrench into your plans of amassing a large following, it’s a good move. By allowing fans to decide whether or not to like your page, you’ll recruit a social audience that’s genuinely interested in your product or business. It’s better to have a small number of loyal followers than it is to have a large number of not-really-interested followers.

Alternative solution: Focus on engagement, not likes, for your next contest. Consider hosting a contest that encourages participants to upload pictures or content. The winner gets a business-related prize, and your business gets to use the content in future marketing campaigns. (Just be sure to mention that you plan to use entries in marketing materials in the contest rules.)

Here’s a great example of a photo contest from an equine store in the UK. 

2. You can no longer advertise without paying

Once upon a time, businesses could feature items that were on sale. You’d post a picture of a cute pair of shoes that were 40 percent off at your store, or mention a holiday bargain on a service that you provide. Now, that idea is a Facebook fairytale.

Facebook is cracking down on what it calls “overly promotional ads.” In other words, posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app. Facebook says users were complaining about the number of ads in their newsfeeds, so the social giant reconfigured its algorithm to catch ads like this and limit their reach.

Alternative solution: Try Facebook advertising. You can still post about upcoming sales, but you have to do it through Facebook’s advertising platform.

Yes, we’re bummed that you have to pay for advertising, but Facebook ads can be an effective and affordable marketing tool. By purchasing an ad, you can increase your reach and sales. Facebook ads come with some impressive measuring tools, so you know how well your ad is working.

Need help hosting a contest on your site? Look into tools like ShortStack or Wishpond to get help creating and managing a contest. Be sure to look into pricing before you commit to services though.

3. No promotional cover art

When someone visits your Facebook page, what’s the first thing they see? The cover art, right? This portion of your Facebook page is prime real estate, so it’s no wonder that business owners are inclined to use the space for promotional purposes.

Well, it’s a no-no on Facebook. Just as Facebook cracked down on promotional posts, it also put a ban on promotional cover art. For example, you can’t snap a picture of your sales flyer and post it as your cover art.

Alternative solution: You can’t get ‘salesy’ with your cover photo, but you can add call-to-action buttons to it. Facebook has seven different buttons, including “Shop Now” and “Sign Up” that you can add to your page to encourage sales and engagement.

While Facebook is an ever-changing platform, it’s still one of the most popular and useful ways to reach your audience. We’ll continue to keep you updated on changes to ensure your social marketing success.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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Reignite the Fire with Inactive Customers

Fri, 07/10/2015 - 06:00

Whether you’re completing a brand overhaul or launching a new product, you should always have a reactivation email campaign working to win back old customers and keep them engaged.

As John Russell, President of Harley-Davidson, once said: ‘The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.’ When running your business, your efforts must be customer-centric, from first visit through post-purchase, to rise above the rest. Not only does the customer benefit from your investment in maintaining the relationship, over time your bottom line benefits as well.

One of the most important things to remember though is that your work is not done once you’ve made initial contact in the inbox. Beyond your welcome email, promotional offers, and confirmations, many businesses often underestimate the benefits to continued outreach to their broader customer base.

Like any relationship, a healthy amount of patience and communication is necessary. This is the point where reactivation emails come into play.

This type of email is useful after a certain period of inactivity within your list. Customers with an ‘inactive’ status could be nonresponders, non-clickers, or non-purchasers. Inactive could also include customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while, or those who only subscribe to your company’s newsletter.

Thinking about it from a statistics perspective, branding insights firm MarketingSherpa recently found that 75% of email subscribers become inactive within a year. This shows how critical it is to add a reactivation email campaign to your communication plan. It helps keep the fire going.

There are many ways to reconnect with customers. It’s not a one-size-fits-all mission. The easiest way is the direct “we miss you and want you back” email. This simple and straightforward approach is an excellent way to ensure your subscriber list is up to date and CAN-SPAM compliant.

In the ‘we miss you’ example below, New Hampshire-based dairy farm Stonyfield gives inactive subscribers the choice to either stay in touch or discontinue receiving communication altogether.

Find a way to offer customers the opportunity to remember how much they loved your company when they first engaged with it. From there, focus on the ones who want to stay engaged and can potentially grow with you.

In this next example, children’s retailer Carter’s combines “we miss you” with a time sensitive offer in one email. This does a good job of enticing the customer by letting them know about the store’s current inventory. It conveys how long the offer will last and prompts a call-to-action (CTA).

Whether you design your reactivation email to confirm continued communication or inspire another purchase, it’s well worth the effort to keep customers engaged.

Consider this: In 2012, the Direct Marketing Association reported how much more cost-effective it was to cultivate existing customers versus acquiring new ones. It found the median return on investment for existing customers was $28.50, compared to a mean customer acquisition cost of $55.24.

In summary: reactivating customers pays off. 

Going back to John Russell’s quote, a reactivation email focuses you on the right customers. By keeping an ongoing dialog, you create a valuable relationship and an exemplary customer experience.

Have you recently tried to re-engage a contact list? Tell us about your results.

Want more email marketing tips like these? Sign up for VerticalResponse’s VR Buzz weekly newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 Reignite the Fire with Inactive Customers appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

20 Topic Ideas For Your Next Social Post

Thu, 07/09/2015 - 06:00

If you’re posting to social media regularly (and you should be), you’ve likely hit some roadblocks when it comes to generating content. This list of 20 ideas can serve as your go-to sheet in a pinch. Plus, each idea has an example so you’ll have plenty to go on.

1. Lesser-known holidays

Offbeat holidays and quirky celebrations make for quick and easy posts. Tennessee Brew Works promoted a “beer and good music” pairing for National Beer Day. Check out this list of holidays for inspiration.

2. Famous quotes

You can always post a quote on your social site that’s relevant to your brand. Society Bakery did just that by quoting Julia Child.

3. Tweet trivia

Come up with some fun facts about your business or industry and ask your followers to answer. The Greenbrier’s golf question is a good example. Just be sure to post the answer at some point!

4. Pictures of your business

Snap an inviting interior shot of your business to give a feel for the ambience or to show off some inventory. The Colorado Wine Company may have enticed some new customers with a shot of their comfy leather couches.

5. Special promotions

Running a daily special or one-day sale? Let your audience know. Nini’s Deli keeps their regulars up to date by posting the meal du jour.

6. Share relevant articles

When you run across an article that your customers would probably like, share it! Links Residential shared an interesting piece on home staging.

7. Share a video tour

Take customers on a virtual tour of your business by shooting a short walkthrough on your smartphone. The Kate Broddick Team does a nice video tour of a home that’s for sale.

8. Share industry trends

Keep your customers up on trends in your industry. Beth Wright Designs, for example, posts color and design trends on Pinterest.

9. Gift ideas

Help your customers come up with a special gift by suggesting some of your hottest products. Ron John Surf Shop offered some gift suggestions for Father’s Day on Pinterest.

10. Post a testimonial or positive feedback

When you receive positive feedback, share it with your audience. John’s Waterproofing posted a video on YouTube with a happy customer narrating through the process.

11. Reminders

Holiday and seasonal reminders can bring in customers when they might otherwise forget. Strittmatter Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing ran a reminder about carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

12. Before and after photos

Show customers what kind of results they can expect from your business or product. Restore My Door has some nice before and after shots of a kitchen remodel.

13. Employee spotlights

Help your customers get to know your staff on a more personal level by posting a quick blurb about a staff member. Detroit Speed Inc. includes photos and write-ups like this one on their team members.

14. Brag a little

Share the news of your awards, recognitions and certifications. Rustiq Salon posted photos from the ceremony where the team won an industry award.

15. Industry breakthroughs

Are there new findings in your industry? Peaceful Points Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs posted a link to an article about acupuncture lowering high cholesterol.

16. Promote new services

Plan to offer a new service? Let people know about it in advance. Garden Valley Veterinary Hospital advertised its pet grooming services.

17. Recruit employees or volunteers

When you’re in a hiring position or looking for volunteers, put the word out on your social sites like this electric company did.

18. Frequently asked questions

Teach your audience about your business in a fun way by posting and answering frequently asked questions. Genuine Scooters, for example, put up a post about maintaining a scooter.

19. Share schedules

Planning an event? Remind your customers about it. DC Shoes, which sells skateboard and snowboard gear, posted Ken Block’s 2015 Race Schedule.

20. Offer free content

Provide extra value by linking to free ebooks or other printables like Latham Pool Products, which posted a link to a free ebook on how to build a custom polymer pool.

 

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at WendyBurt@aol.com.

 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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How To Get Your Emails Delivered to Even the Most Remote Inbox

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 06:00

How do you make sure the emails you’re sending on behalf of your clients, or for yourself, get to the intended inbox? Unfortunately, email delivery is a complex topic making it difficult to provide a simple answer to this question. But, we’ve got your back! To help you understand the dos and don’ts of email delivery, our Partner Success Managers conduct delivery reviews specific to your email sending history to help you avoid the Spam trap and improve engagement from your email campaigns. Here’s a brief overview of the 5 topics covered in a delivery review:

Whitelisting:
Email servers can block or filter incoming mail from unknown domains. Even if your contacts have opted in, the recipients’ servers may have strict filtering rules and send them straight to the Spam folder or bounce them. To avoid being cast aside from the inbox, you have a couple of options:

  • Add our domain to your safe sender list – @mail.vresp.com
  • Whitelist our IP ranges: 
  • 74.116.89.0/24
  • 74.116.91.0/24
  • 63.251.246.0/24

Along with whitelisting our domain and IP ranges, be sure you’re complying with anti-Spam laws.

List Collection:
Always stress the importance of building an organic opt-in list as opposed to a purchased or harvested list with your clients. Our delivery team’s job is to secure a reputable sending history for our servers in order to help your emails, along with the emails you’re sending on behalf of clients make it to the inbox. We need your help to make sure your clients are growing their lists the right way in order to ensure our solid sending reputation with Internet Service Providers. In return, you will get better results from your email campaigns.

Engagement Summary:
What is the average open and click rate? We get asked this question all the time and we can give you an answer, but it’s not specific to any given industry. It’s important to set your own standards based on the emails you’re sending on behalf of clients. We’re here to help you find the appropriate time of day to send your emails, as well as discover the appropriate amount of times per month to send in order to increase engagement.

Text to Image Ratio:
When designing your emails, aim for a ratio of 80% text to 20% images. Spam filters look for a good balance. An email consisting of all text or one huge image has a higher chance of being cast aside into the Spam folder than those that have a good balance.

Email Fingerprinting:
If you’ve been diligent about including the previous tactics in your email marketing strategy but continue to see low engagement rates, it’s possible your emails have been fingerprinted. A fingerprint can be placed on any piece of email to uniquely identify the message and sender. Basically, fingerprints are put in place to track duplicate messages and Spam. In most cases, this happens when the sender’s email list includes invalid email addresses.

Annoyingly enough, a simple mistake of including an invalid email address in your list can follow you because fingerprints track the structure of your email. Even if you change the content of your email, filters will recognize the structure and flag it as Spam.

When this happens, try changing the entire structure of your email and send the re-structured email to your responders first and your non-responders the next day.

We’ve given you an overview of what is covered in the typical delivery review. Schedule a delivery review with your Partner Success Manager (psm@verticalresponse.com) to learn specifically how your emails are performing and identify areas you can improve to increase engagement from future campaigns.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more valuable marketing insights.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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6 Ways to Segment Your Email List to Improve Your Success

Tue, 07/07/2015 - 06:00

When you create emails, do you send them out to everyone on your list? If so, you’re suffering from “bulk email disease.” This very common digital illness occurs when small business owners send every email to every single contact on their list.

Common symptoms include low open rates, poor conversions, and confusion about what to do next.

Well, If you’re ready to conquer this condition once and for all, you’ll need a healthy dose of segmentation. This includes dividing your larger list into small, targeted subgroups and coming up with a content strategy for how and when you’ll send emails to each list.

A method with proven results, as illustrated in the chart below, segmentation can increase your open rates by nearly 39 percent. It can also help boost your leads by 24 percent which is much higher than average growth statistics. 

Here are six ways you can segment your list and get it back on the mend:

1. Geographic area

Segmenting lists by geographic area is one of the most popular methods and can be helpful for many reasons. This method gives you the opportunity to communicate with and talk to your customers where they are, increasing their ability to relate to your business.

Remember though, there are some businesses like cleaning or meal delivery services, which are limited to a geographical region. For these businesses, splitting contacts into even smaller segments, such as cities or towns, is useful.

2. Demographics

Similar to location, segmenting your list by demographics may work well for a single email or future email campaign series.

Let’s say you run a retail business that caters to women ages 30-60. When you release a new item that appeals more to the under 35 crowd, you can increase your chance of creating buzz with an email specifically for the people on your under 35 list.

The standard business demographics that are frequently used include age, gender, and income level.You can collect this information from customers by including it on a signup form and embedding it on your website or blog.

3. Loyal customers

Everyone likes to be rewarded for their loyalty. You’ll find that your customers are no different.  With a marketplace overflowing with options, repeat buyers are a much smaller segment than they once were.

Use this to your advantage through emails that show your frequent customers you appreciate their business. Consider making a ‘Loyal Customer Promo’ or send out an email inviting 15 of your most loyal customers to a sneak peek of a product. You can make the deal even sweeter by giving them a chance to buy it with a select percentage off the final cost.

4. Brand advocates

Every business has a group of customers that advocate for their business without being asked to do so. This is also known as benefiting from the power of word of mouth marketing. Create a segment in your email list for this group. Much like your loyal customers, it’s important to reward those who spread the word about your business.

How do you identify a brand advocate? Look for customers that sing your praises on social media. Customers that have referred friends to your business, or reached out with positive feedback should also make the list. 

5. Inactive customers

From those who champion your brand to the group that is nowhere to be found, you’ll need another segment of your list that’s dedicated strictly to inactive customers.

You shouldn’t let inactive customers go without a fight. Okay, maybe “fight” is a strong word, but you shouldn’t let them go without making a targeted effort to bring them back into your sales fold.

Consider sending a promo email to those inactive customers. Use a message titled, “We miss you!” or “It’s been a while, how have you been?” to reestablish contact and attempt to connect with them again. You can also send a survey asking for insight on why these customers have strayed away from your business. Through the survey results, you could make improvements to keep others from straying. 

6. Role or position of contact

It goes without saying that to be effective, an email has to land in the right inbox. If an office supply store, for example, sends a promotional email to a CEO rather than the office manager, it’s probably going to be ignored. For this reason, it’s important to break up your list by positions, if possible. By doing so, the right person gets the right email, which leads to increased sales.

A few words on implementation

Curing bulk email disease can take some time. In fact, we suggest starting with only two or three segments listed above. If you overdose on segmentation, you could get frustrated and make your email marketing strategy more complicated than it needs to be.

Need extra guidance? Luckily, we have a resource guide to help you segment your list in your VerticalResponse account. Check out the step-by-step segment instructions to get started.

Get more posts like these straight to your inbox every week – Sign up for the VR Buzz, our FREE weekly newsletter.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 6 Ways to Segment Your Email List to Improve Your Success appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

How to Use Twitter’s New Video Response Function [Video]

Thu, 07/02/2015 - 04:00

Twitter is one of the “OG” members of the social media landscape. It has remained fairly simple throughout the years, but the recent addition of video responses might just pump some new life into the platform. These video responses could also pay huge dividends to businesses, large and small, that take the time to start integrating them into their Twitter interactions.

Why, you ask? Well, the answer is quite simple. Video, unlike text, makes a deeper connection with people and in turn builds more lasting loyalty. If you’re the owner of a small business, you have the chance to step from behind the brand and show the human side of your business. Your customers will be able to relate to you as a person, and not as a logo, which can solidify the connection. 

To see how easy it is to use video responses on your Twitter mobile account, click on the Tips in 2 video below.

To get even more context on why video is becoming so important, check out the short video from Gary Vaynerchuck below.

To view more great video content that can help your small business, check out our YouTube channel.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 How to Use Twitter’s New Video Response Function [Video] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Guide to Autoresponders Part 3: Follow-Up and Confirmation Emails

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 04:00

Autoresponders are an excellent way to stay engaged with leads and customers even while you’re busy doing other things. This kind of email automation saves you time and provides value to the recipients. In this final post, we examine follow-up emails and the automatic lift you get from incorporating them into your campaigns. We also look at various examples of confirmation emails and how to make them more than just a transactional message. But first let’s quickly recap what we cover in Part 1 and Part 2 of this guide.

In the first of this three-part series, we explore the top five ways your business can benefit from using email autoresponders. We also look at Welcome emails and how this type of autoresponder works to greet new subscribers and direct them to the next desired step with a clear call-to-action.

In part two, we provide an overview of Content Offer emails and how to get people to re-engage by offering quality content after a period of inactivity. We also show you a few examples of Survey and Feedback emails so you can set up a two-way line of communication with your customers.

For our final post, it’s all about follow-up and confirmation. Let’s get started!

Follow-Up Emails

We’ve written a lot about follow-up emails recently. That’s because by sending a follow-up email as part of your campaign you are likely to see an average 30% lift in your open rate.

Here’s an example we sent to VerticalResponse Classic customers this past April in celebration of Earth Day.

The open rate on the initial email was 21.15%. A few days later, we sent the same email to non-responders (the segment of the list that never opened the first email). That secondary, or follow-up email, received an open rate of 13.6%. That brought the new open rate up to 31.88%. By simply sending the same email to those who didn’t open the first one, we were able to lift the open rate by 50%.

As mentioned earlier, from what we’ve seen from our own campaigns to the campaigns of our small business customers who send follow-up emails, you can expect to see a 30% lift.

Just last week, VerticalResponse released a new feature for premium accounts that allows you to automatically schedule a follow-up email when you create and send an email campaign. This helps you maximize the results of your email without the extra work of manually segmenting your list of nonresponders and creating a new campaign. Both the original and the follow-up email stay tied together, and the results from both are visible in the reporting so you can easily see the benefit. We think it’s pretty super.

Confirmation Emails

When a customer makes a purchase, you can send an email to confirm the sale. Fitpacking, a backpacking adventure outfit, sends confirmation emails whenever someone books a trip.

“We’re small, and although there’s always someone staffing the company, during the busy season most of us are out in the wilderness guiding trips,” Steve Silberberg of Fitpacking explains. “If someone signs up for a trip and we can’t get back to them in a timely manner, they will quickly lose patience and withdraw or go elsewhere. That’s why we rely heavily on autoresponders to confirm trips.”

Here is an example of the confirmation email that Fitpacking customers get. It’s a simple text –only email but gets the job done.

In this next confirmation email, Mountain Play Association confirms the purchase and also provides links in anticipation of frequently asked questions..

Another use of confirmation emails is to confirm a recipient’s involvement in a contest. Check out these triggered emails for new contest entries:

Notice that both companies offer a promotion in their confirmation email to generate a sale.

Conclusion

Follow-up and confirmation emails are two autoresponders that make it easy for you to stay engaged with your customers. Use them to improve your email open rate, communicate important information, and inspire a sale.

Hop on your favorite social channel and tell us which autoresponders you use.

 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 Guide to Autoresponders Part 3: Follow-Up and Confirmation Emails appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

8 Things Your Website Needs to Increase Traffic and Sales

Tue, 06/30/2015 - 06:00

If you’ve been scratching your head trying to understand why your website isn’t getting much traffic, keeping visitors’ attention or converting visits to actual sales, we’ve got some tips to help solve this issue.

Here are the eight most common “missing links” in website design, development and promotion, including tools to help you bridge the gaps and finally see some returns from your online presence.

1. A mobile version

The problem: More people now access the Internet on mobile devices than personal computers, which means you’ll want your customers’ mobile visits to your website to be seamless. Also, Google just expanded its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, which gives you another reason to make sure your mobile version is up to par.

The solution: To see if your website has a mobile-friendly design, Google offers a free “Mobile-Friendly Test” app. Just type your website in here and the test will analyze your URL. If you’re already using WordPress to power your site, you can also use its pre-built “responsive-design” themes to ensure your website will be reconfigured and resized on any mobile device.

Another option is to develop a dedicated mobile site. DudaMobile creates a mobile version of your website in minutes for free and VerticalResponse fans get discounts on upgrades.

2. A fast load time

The problem: Your website is so slow to load that many potential customers leave before they even get to look around.

The solution: There are lots of free sites that let you test your site’s speed. Webpagetest.org lets you test from multiple locations around the world using real browsers at real consumer connection speeds. If you discover an issue, Google Page Speed Insights can offer you an analysis of what to fix, tell you why it needs to be fixed, and guide you along as you do it.

3. A scheduling tool

The problem: Customers can’t make or change appointments after hours.

The solution: Add a scheduling button from Appointlet, an application that works with Google Calendar, to allow customers to book appointments and pay for services on your website at any time.

4. An email sign-up form

The problem: New visitors are coming to your site, but you’re not collecting their email addresses to engage them with promotions, announcements, or newsletters.

The solution: If you’re a VerticalResponse customer, you can easily embed a sign-up form on your website to collect email addresses and additional details from your customers. Remember that it’s a free service, and there are many professionally designed templates to choose from.

If you’d rather collect email info when a visitor is about to leave your site, Bounce Exchange might be a good option. The site helps you design a pop-up that appears when a visitor hovers over the “back” button, indicating they’re preparing to leave the page.

5. Cookies and website tracking tags

The problem: You have no record of your customers’ visits.

The solution: Adding cookies and tagging is the next best thing to getting inside your customers’ heads. You’ll have a better idea of what pages your customers visited, what they put in their shopping carts before they abandoned them and which ads might be most effective in persuading them to buy. Free tools like Google Tag Manager allow even the less-than-tech-savvy small business owner to add or update website tags.

6. A search box

The problem: Customers get frustrated that they have to scroll through pages of products or information to find what they are looking for.

The solution: Add a search box. DuckDuckGo lets you create and place a search box on your site for free.

7. Social media icons on your website

The problem: You’re having a hard time building your social media following.

The solution: Making time to attract social friends can be tricky, which is why you want to make it easy for customers to follow you. Turn to NiftyButtons.com. This site helps you add social media buttons and icons to your website for free.

With easy-to-spot social icons on your website, you’ll see an increase in followers, likes, retweets, Pinterest shares and views on your YouTube channel.

8. A phone number and physical address

The problem: First-time visitors are leery of making a purchase because they don’t know if you’re legit.

The solution: Unless you run your business out of your home, post a physical address on the “Contact Us” page or right on the homepage with the phone number. Most people feel more comfortable if there’s a phone number they can call with questions or concerns, even if the hours are limited. Companies like Grasshopper offer 800 numbers for as little as $12/month and $.06/minute.

For more website tips, sign up for our weekly VR Buzz newsletter.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit. Contact Wendy at WendyBurt@aol.com.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 8 Things Your Website Needs to Increase Traffic and Sales appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

A Look at Features Past, Present and Yet to Come

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 10:25

You may find this an odd time for reflection. We admit, tisn’t the regular season. It’s only July! Though most people reserve this type of musing for year-end, we like to take stock regularly and listen to the needs of our customers to inform product development all year round. Don’t worry, there are no chilling visits from ghosts in this post, and we’ve spared you a Charles Dickens novella. Just don’t wait until the end of the year to assess your email marketing. Do it now and make sure you’re taking advantage of all our recently added features and enhancements.

Check out the top three features from the past year, two from our most recent release, and a brief rundown of what you can expect in the months ahead.

Past

1.  Email Signup Forms (June 2014)

A signup form is an essential part of building your email list. When someone visits your website, blog, or social media site, you want to make it easy for them to sign up and receive on-going communication from you. By submitting their email address, they give you permission to stay in touch. This level of interest means a high-quality lead and usually more opens and clicks for your emails.

VerticalResponse offers email signup forms that you can customize and post wherever you like. You can embed the form on your site or use as a hosted web form. Each time someone fills it out, their email address will be automatically added to your list. It’s a must-do for collecting addresses to grow your list.

Explore our Signup Forms including templates, thank you pages, and responsive designs.

2.  Welcome Emails (October 2014)

A welcome email is an automatic message sent to a new subscriber when they sign up for your email list. It’s a great way to greet them and reinforce the value of being part of your list. The welcome email can also be used to set the expectation for the type and frequency of emails you will send them. Use it to encourage a next step. It’s a great way to prompt your new subscriber to check out a particular part of your site, offer them content, or incentivize them to make a purchase while their interest level is high.

VerticalResponse allows you to choose from a variety of templates and customize or design your own welcome email. Indicate which subscriber list should receive the autoresponder and then activate the campaign. You can view and monitor all statistics including open and clicks in reporting.

Check out tips and examples on creating a welcome email.

3.  Logo Footer Removal (April 2015)

If you want subscribers to see only your branding and not ours, you can now remove the VerticalResponse logo from the footer of your emails. This action is easy to take and available for paid accounts.

You can follow the simple instructions on how to remove the VerticalResponse logo here.

Present

Be sure to check out VerticalResponse’s most recent release in its entirety. A couple highlights include:

1.  Follow-Up Emails

You can schedule a follow-up email to be sent automatically to the people who did not open the original email. Follow-up emails are considered best practice among professional email marketers and is shown to lift open rates by an average of 30%. VerticalResponse has now automated this process so you can enjoy the benefit with just a couple clicks.

Find out more about Follow-Up Emails and how you can incorporate them into your next campaign.

2.  Editor Enhancements

Your drag and drop email editor is sporting some new enhancements. It’s now easier than ever to create professional emails for your business. Choose from an updated list of templates, design your email with more choices, and create the perfect call-to-action with our button builder.

Learn about these enhancements and more here.

Yet To Come

With no rest for the weary, our developers are already working on the next features that will further improve your email marketing efforts.

Salesforce Integration

Email marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are two tools that when paired together are much more powerful than when used separately. This major update to our integration will provide users with responsive email templates, two-way syncing of Contacts, and automatically keep data in sync across your Campaigns and Reports.

Watch this sneak peek to see details of this updated integration.

Timed Series

Timed emails are perfect for leading subscribers through an onboarding process, or taking them through a campaign series such as a drip campaign. This marketing automation feature is coming soon.

List Segmentation

VerticalResponse is adding another level of list management. Enjoy the ability to segment, sort and search within your email lists. This feature will improve your capacity to target specific subscribers.

 

Conclusion

Rejuvenate your email marketing spirit with these great features to get better results. We wish you the best all throughout the year!

If you’re thinking about upgrading your account, now is the time. Paid accounts have access to premium features such as unlimited sends, logo removal, and Follow-Up Emails. As of 6/30/15, our introductory pricing will expire. For a couple more days, you can take advantage of 20% off the regular price, plus a savings of 15% with an annual subscription. All you have to do is log in, pick the plan and choose your renewal period. With just a couple days left, you can still upgrade and save. 

 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 A Look at Features Past, Present and Yet to Come appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

New Automatic Follow-Up Emails + More New Features

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 07:56

Our most recent release is all about top customer-requested features and enhancements. This is why we know you’re going to love it. Here is an overview of what we added to your VerticalResponse account.

Follow-Up Emails

We often recommend sending follow-up emails to your nonresponders (the people who don’t open your email). We added a feature last year that allows you to create a list of nonresponders from a sent email campaign. This segmentation makes it easy for you to send them a secondary email. Now we’ve automated the process for you. 

When you launch or schedule your email, you’ll have the option to schedule a follow-up email. The content of the email doesn’t change. All you need to do is change the subject line and indicate how many days after the first email the follow-up will go out. 

Follow-up emails are intended to get the attention of those who may have missed your email the first time. They have a significant impact on your open rate. By using follow-up emails, you can expect to see an increase of 20% to 30%, or more.

Email Editor Updates

We keep adding more tools to make email creation super easy. These are the latest options we added to the drag and drop email editor:

  • Image group – Add two images side-by-side to showcase your products or services.
  • Divider – Add a line between Content Blocks. You can select the color and thickness of the line. You can even add space above or below it if you need to.
  • Follow Us – Select from updated button shapes and colors for your social networks.
  • Background colors for Content Blocks – To help bring attention to a Content Block, or to add more interest to your email, you can add a background color to the content blocks. You can also change the background color by clicking a color in the spectrum bar, or by adding a color code.
  • Content Block Border -Add a border to your content blocks. Select a solid, dashed, or dotted line, and then choose a color to help set it apart. This design gives you the ability to create a section that looks like a coupon or an offer in your email.
  • Background – Select a color for the background of the email. Use a color we suggest or click the box to find a color of your choice. You can also enter a color code. Instead of a color, there are now background images from which to choose. Click the sample to see a preview of it in your email. Change it by simply clicking on a different image.



Add Message to a Test

If you need someone to edit or look at your email before you send it to your list, we offer a test email option. You can now add a message at the top for those who receive the test email. Let them know you need them to proofread, test links or that you’ve made changes and need approval. Whatever you need to tell your test email recipients you can now relay that message from the test email screen.

Restore Deleted Emails
Last but not least, we’ve added an email trash bin to your account. Have you deleted an email, only to find you needed it after all? Don’t worry; now it’s easy to retrieve. At the bottom of the Messages window, you’ll see a Trash icon. This is where your deleted emails go. Now when you click the Trash icon, you’ll see your deleted emails and can restore the ones you need with a click.

Whew, that’s a lot of new features! They’re available now, so go check them out. These options are only available for the new VerticalResponse app. Follow-Up Email is a premium feature and available for paid accounts.  If you have a free subscription and want to use the Follow-Up email feature, upgrade your account.

Want to stay in the loop on all things VerticalResponse? Sign up for our weekly VR Buzz email.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 New Automatic Follow-Up Emails + More New Features appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

4 Twitter Tools that Help You With Customer Service

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 06:00

Twitter has fundamentally changed the way that customer service interactions take place. For years, consumer concerns often went unheard or were swept under the rug to protect a company’s overall image.

The increased role of social media within product marketing has however, now given buyers in the marketplace much more power to leverage over businesses, promoting consumers from being backseat drivers to co-pilots of their reputation.

Simply said, even one negative tweet could potentially damage a company’s public persona and could require major damage control.

As a business owner, you might find yourself in a negative customer-tweet situation at some point. Although daunting, with the correct monitoring tools, you can stop the criticism and respond to your customers in a timely manner. In addition to responding to your audience, these tools can also help increase brand loyalty and improve your company’s image.

Here are four interactive tools you can use for customer service purposes on Twitter:

Twazzup

Twazzup is perfect for small business owners who don’t want to break the bank paying for Twitter monitoring. This tool is free and only requires that you log into your Twitter account to sign up.

On the platform’s website, you can type in your company’s name, the names of your products, or other relevant keywords to search for mentions on Twitter. Twazzup shows which top influencers on Twitter made the mentions, which users tweet about your company most frequently, and the latest tweets from everyone who mentioned you.

The screenshot below illustrates a search for “Diamond Candles,” a North Carolina-based small candle business.

Twinitor

Twinitor is a free platform that allows you to search keywords relevant to your business and reply to, retweet, or favorite customer tweets based on what you have found. The site also lists trending topics so you can determine which keywords and hashtags to incorporate into your tweets with customers.

The example below shows what happens when the words ‘Coca Cola’ are typed into the app’s search bar:

Trackur

If you’re searching for a slightly more comprehensive option, consider Trackur, a paid platform that lets you view brand mentions both on Twitter and across the web. It offers an in-depth analysis of brand sentiment on Twitter and sends you email alerts when your company is discussed.

Trackur also features automated sentiment and influencer scoring, so you can read what influencers are saying about your business and whether it’s categorized as positive, negative, or neutral. 

Trackur charges $97 a month per user, although you can get started on a 10-day trial for free. 

TweetDeck

TweetDeck by Twitter offers a more efficient way to use the social media site and interact with customers. When you log into the free platform using your business’ handle, you see your own tweets, the activity of the accounts you follow as well as your direct messages and notifications.

Wondering how it works?

Let’s say a customer left you a review via Twitter.  Using Twitterdeck, you can then email or direct message that tweet to your co-workers and/or employees, and you schedule a direct reply to that customer. Most decks look similar to this example: 

Have you heard of or used any of these tools to help with your Twitter interactions? 

Looking for more information on improving your social media strategy? Sign up for The VR Buzz, our weekly newsletter which offers you advice on all things in small biz marketing. 

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred, CMO.com, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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 4 Twitter Tools that Help You With Customer Service appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Gmail’s Undo Send Saves You from Emailer’s Remorse

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 20:44

Google recently announced a new feature called Undo Send, and Gmail users are rejoicing. It was once relegated to the mysterious domain of power users and enthusiastic beta testers known as Gmail Labs. This week, Gmail brings its once-experimental unsend feature to the masses.

What does Undo Send do?

It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, albeit with  one major caveat – you only have a very small window of time (ten seconds by default) to hit the undo send button before it’s too late. To enable this merciful feature, just navigate to the ‘General’ tab of your Gmail settings and check the box next to ‘Undo Send.’ You might as well extend the wait period to the maximum thirty-second window while you’re at it.

So whether you find yourself sending a late-night, wine-influenced essay to an ex, accidentally hitting reply-all in the email chain, or noticing five seconds too late that you used “your” instead of “you’re” when asking your English professor for an extension on that final paper, rest easy knowing that Gmail has got your back.

What this could mean for your email marketing

Unless you’re sending marketing emails directly through Gmail (and if you are, tsk tsk), then not a whole lot. But, it does highlight a best practice for email marketers everywhere, and that is to always test your email before sending. That way, you can catch every typo and error, before someone on your list does it for you.

Sending yourself test emails is one of the many benefits of using an email service provider to market your business. VerticalResponse lets you send tests, pick from dozens of professional-looking email templates, and track all your opens, clicks and shares in real time after you send. Sign up for your free account today.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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Guide to Autoresponders Part 2: Content Offer and Survey Emails

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 06:00

Automation takes your email marketing strategy to the next level. If you’re new to email marketing, we created this Beginner’s Guide to lay the foundation. As soon as you have the basics down, you can up your game with autoresponders. 

Last week in the first of this three-part series, we covered the benefits of autoresponders and explored a variety of Welcome Emails. In this second post, we dive into Content Offer and Survey Emails. Here’s what you need to know about these two types of email campaigns.

Content Offer Emails

You can educate your audience by sharing your knowledge. Keep them engaged with content you know they will find interesting and useful. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples that offer quality content.

#1 

The Expert Institute uses an autoresponder that combines a welcome email and content offering. 

The email above welcomes the new recipient, provides a point of contact and also includes a link to an in-depth article.

#2

In this next example, you can see how Eventbrite communicates with people who haven’t used their app in a while. They tell the user how much they’ve missed them and offer some content to re-engage.

Both product and service-based businesses can use these two types of content offer emails. Send your version to new customers and those who haven’t purchased from you in a while. Aim to make the recipients feel connected by providing them with thoughtful and relevant content.

Surveys and Feedback Emails

Another way to get customers to engage is by sending an autoresponder that asks for their feedback triggered by a recent purchase. Collecting this kind of information can be of great benefit to your business, and customers appreciate the opportunity to share their thoughts.

#1

In the example below, a chance to win a gift card is offered as an incentive for writing a review. The email also includes instructions on how to write the review and a quick reference to the product that was purchased.

 

 

#2

Sending a survey is yet another way to elicit feedback and engage your audience. In the following example, Coastal.com explains the reason for the email and provides a link to the survey. It also conveys that the survey is quick and painless, which is a good thing to mention as short surveys are always better received.

 

Creating a survey is a simple process. Once you’ve done so, add the link to your automated email or create an eye-catching button that takes the recipient to the survey when clicked. Be sure to use a catchy and relevant subject line to help get opens and stay compliant with laws.

Conclusion

Both Content Offer and Feedback emails give you a way to engage with leads and customers. By setting up these kinds of autoresponders, you maintain communication and keep your brand and business top of mind.

For the final part in this series, we look at Follow-Up and Confirmation emails.

Want more marketing tips? Sign up for an upcoming webinar hosted by a VerticalResponse expert ready to answer all your questions.

 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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5 Ways to Create More Touchpoints with Email

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 06:00

You have a good-sized email subscriber list. While it’s nice to have this audience receiving your messages, it doesn’t truly pay unless you can eventually turn these leads into customers.

One way to do this is to optimize your email list for additional marketing purposes. Instead of letting customers just reside on the list, you need to incentivize them to visit places where they will get a fuller understanding of your business or organization. Your social media pages are one example. Here your subscribers can interact with your brand in a more personal way. Your website is, of course, a great place to send them where they have the option to purchase your products and services.

The following are several methods you can use to create more touchpoints and ensure that your email leads become customers. 

1. Include a call to action that takes subscribers to your social accounts and website

Every email should have a call to action. It can be the focus of the email, or reside at the bottom of the email, where your subscribers will see it after they’ve read your email. Either way, no email is complete without one.

An urgent call to action will motivate the customer to make a purchase before a deal or limited-time offer vanishes forever. Here’s an example from a jeweler, Gemma Gray. Notice the urgent language and enticing deal.

2. Place social media buttons and website links in every email 

Adding your social media and website links into your email can be done with the click of a button. Make sure you include the icons for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other site that your brand uses.

Above the buttons, you could say something like, “Like our Facebook page to receive exclusive fan surprises” or “Follow us on Twitter and be the first to learn about our upcoming promotions.” You could also add in the word “connect” to make the buttons more prominent, just like Gap did here:

3. Offer a coupon or promote a sale on your website 

The chance to receive exclusive coupons and promotions is one of the reasons that people will sign up for an email list. To redeem them, customers should have to visit your website. It’s a scenario where both parties win. You get the customers on your site, and they get a great deal.

Below is an example of a promotion from Old Navy that leads to the website and has an urgent call to action 

4. Invite customers to a social media contest

A social media contest, like a Facebook quiz or giveaway, or ‘tweet to win’ competition, can be promoted in your emails. Customers are more likely to click through to your social media pages if you offer a prize. A free product, service or the chance for customers to see their original submissions in your marketing campaigns are good examples.

Check out this Vine competition from Applebee’s called  #BeeFamous to see an example of a social media contest. The chain encouraged customers to vine their reactions to the special new menu items.

 5. Use a sign-up form to increase your email leads

At this point, you know that your email marketing campaigns can be utilized to attract customers to your social media pages and website. Remember that the opposite is also true. Your social media pages and your website should be used to grow your email list.

A simple way to do this is to include a sign-up form on your website or social media pages. Make sure it stands out by placing it where customers can easily see it and input their email address.

If you’re a VerticalResponse customer, you can take advantage of our ready-to-go sign-up forms. When a customer signs up, the contact information is automatically added to your email lists within VerticalResponse. (Check out this post to learn how to set it up.)

You can also use third party websites like Popup Domination, which adds a pop-up window to your website to encourage visitors to enter their name and email address.

Always work to grow your email list. A strong, healthy list of contacts is key to your marketing success, so make efforts to add names throughout the year.

 

Kylie Jane Wakefield is a freelance writer and content creator in Los Angeles. She’s written for NewsCred, CMO.com, Forbes, Tablet Magazine, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

 

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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Be an Email Marketing Superhero and Get a 30% Lift

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 06:00

When you create and send an email campaign, you can expect to see an average open rate of 20-40% depending on your industry (source: Epsilon Email Benchmark Report). That’s nice, but averages are, well, average. If you’re reading this, you’re already self-identifying as awesome. Maybe you’re so awesome you’ve even asked, how do bionic email marketers get a 30% lift to their open rate? Lean in, I’ll tell you. The secret is they do something most people are terrible at doing. They follow up. That’s right. Their superpower is simply the ability to follow up with those who didn’t open their initial email.

Now that I’ve bestowed this wisdom upon you, I’ll show you how you too can possess this supernatural strength without trading in your identity for a mask and unflattering spandex. You need not be Captain Marvel to incorporate this tactic into your email campaigns. The power is at your fingertips and only requires a few clicks.

As you know, it’s important that you keep your subscriber list clean, craft a professional email, and give your message a clear call-to-action. We provide a plethora of guides and useful tips in each of these areas. It’s also just as essential to consider the group of subscribers who won’t open your email. They might miss it, forget about it, the subject line won’t grab their attention or any number of other reasons. We call this segment of your list “non-responders”.

Let’s walk through an example. You send an email to your list of 100 subscribers. Of that 100, you get 35 people to open your email over a few days. That’s a 35% open rate. Nice work!

Your next mission is to get a portion of those 65 non-responders to open your email by sending them a follow-up. You send that follow-up email three days after the original and over the next few days, you get 11 more people to open. You just brought your total number of opens to 46 out of 100.  Your total open rate is now 46%.

To calculate the lift, you take the Total Open Rate minus the Original Open Rate and then divide by the Original Open Rate. Multiply by 100 to get the percentage. Using the example above it would be (.46 – .35) / .35 = .31 (or 31%).

Based on the lift we’ve seen from our small business customers who practice sending follow-up emails and our internal metrics from the emails we send to our lists, you can expect a lift close to 30%.

Most email service providers allow you to separate out non-responders so you can send them a follow-up email. But many people don’t take that next step and, as a result, they miss out on that increase to their open rate. Except for you of course. Because you’re wise to the fact that a portion of those who receive the second email will open it. So why not do it? Pressed for time? I hear you.

VerticalResponse has automated this process for paid accounts (to be released 6/24/15) so you can maximize the results of your email campaign. In other words, get the 30% lift without the heavy lifting. Feeling heroic? I thought so.

Once your original email is in the queue and ready to be sent, the app will prompt you to take the next recommended step of sending a follow-up email to your non-responders. You can choose when to send it, modify the subject line, and click Schedule. See? No cape required.

The campaign results for both the original email and the follow-up email will be visible in reporting so you can easily see the additional lift.

Whether you use the automated feature in VerticalResponse or an alternative, be sure to incorporate follow-up emails into your campaigns. I commend you for joining the league of Email Marketing Superheroes. Use your superpower for good and enjoy the extra boost to your email opens.

© 2015, VerticalResponse 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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