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Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO]

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 06:01

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ekaterina Walter, co-founder & CMO of Branderati. She’s also the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Think Like Zuck, and co-author of The Power of Visual Storytelling. Walter provides great tips to small businesses on engaging with their community.

Key takeaways that Walter provides:

  1. Respect your community!
  2. Give your community a way to extend your brand or content.

Learn more in this 3-minute video to get started in your quest to build the most passionate community possible.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Advice from a Social Pro: Engaging with Your Community [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide]

Thu, 06/05/2014 - 06:01

Email marketing is a valuable tool for any business. When it’s combined with cross-promotion techniques, your results can be even better. To help business owners tackle the logistics of cross-promotions, we’ve created this handy guide to walk you through the process.

What does cross-promotion mean?
Let’s start by defining cross-promotion. Cross-promotion is about getting your message out on multiple channels. Your target audience gets information from various sources, right? By using multiple sources to share your message, you help increase the odds of customers hearing about it, says Steven Mintz, a marketing consultant with CLM Prescriptives.

What can you cross-promote?
You can cross-promote just about anything. From an upcoming event to a big holiday sale, with a little planning you can cross-promote a lot of the everyday things that your company does. For instance, you can cross-promote:

• upcoming events
• giveaways or contests
• new blog content
• a sale or promotion

How can you cross-promote?
We live in an email checking, Facebook scrolling, content-on-demand world. Because of that, the majority of cross-promotions happen online. Plan to use the most relevant digital platforms that are available to you.

To breakdown how to cross-promote your email content, we’ll use an example from a cross-promoting giant, Coca-Cola. Recently, the company launched a charitable event, “Happiness from the Skies.” Using remote-controlled drones, the beverage-giant delivered care packages to construction workers in Singapore. The packages contained Coke cans with messages of gratitude.

While most businesses won’t be breaking out flying drones anytime soon, the cross-promotion behind this event is something any business can learn from.

Send an email
The Coca-Cola event happened millions of miles away, so how did we hear about it? Through an email, of course. As part of its regular newsletter, Coca-Cola included a small blurb about the event. Check it out: 

Use your newsletter wisely
Coca-Cola placed the information in its regular newsletter, which is the perfect spot for something like this. A newsletter is a great piece of the cross-promotion puzzle.

Be captivating
Let’s dissect this email a little more. We often emphasize writing captivating content, something that draws the reader in. In just a few words, Coca-Cola does that. You want to know more, right? When you’re working to cross-promote an event, spend time creating short, snappy content.

Include a clear call to action
Coca-Cola has your attention. Now, all you have to do is click on the “Learn more” button. It’s another great email marketing tip: make sure your email has a clear call to action. When you’re cross-promoting an event like this, you want content that’s easy to navigate.

Plan for social media
Coca-Cola is already thinking socially. Notice the hashtag in the teaser sentence? The company plans to use #Cokedrones in its social media posts. Whatever you plan to cross-promote, think ahead. What hashtag could you use?

Create a blog post
As soon as the email recipient clicks on the call to action in the email, they’re taken to a blog post that gives more details about the event. Coke explains why it wanted to reach out to the workers and how the company integrated its product with some high-flying technology.

Do the same for your cross-promotion. Make sure subscribers can get more information from your blog.

Use visuals
Coca-Cola doesn’t stop with an email and a blog post, subscribers can watch a two-minute video that shows the drones flying in and dropping off the packages. You get to see the surprised workers open the box and read the messages that are tied to Coke cans.

In addition to the video, Coca-Cola put together a behind-the-scenes slideshow so people can check out the drones.

Both the video and the slideshow are additional visual elements that help the reader see and feel the event.

When you’re cross-promoting something, try to add visual elements like this. For instance, if your company participates in a charitable event, put together a slideshow of your employees volunteering. If you’re cross-promoting an upcoming speaking engagement, email a quick video to show people what to expect at the event. (Need a little help shooting video on the cheap? Check out a recent post on this very topic.)

Share the news on social media
Coca-Cola already had a social media plan with this campaign, but even if a specific hashtag wasn’t mentioned in the email, you should still use social media as a cross-promotion tool. Coca-Cola shared the same blog post that was mentioned in the newsletter. You can see how all three of those elements – the email, blog and tweet – worked together.

Can cross-promoting be done on a smaller scale?
Absolutely. As a small business owner, you decide how far you want to take your cross-promotions. Here are a few smaller scale tips:

Use the big three
To cross-promote on a small scale, use your biggest digital assets: email, social media and your company website. Let’s look at an example.

Send an email
In an effort to promote its new blizzard, Dairy Queen sent an email to its subscribers. It’s short and sweet. In fact, the image is the main seller here. You can do the same thing. Send an email out to advertise a new product or an upcoming promotion.

Promote on social media
Once the email is sent, promote the same information on your social media channels. You don’t want to copy the wording from the email; you want to create something fresh. Here’s what Dairy Queen did.

Use your business website
Don’t forget that your business website is a prime piece of digital real estate. If you are cross-promoting something, make some space for it on your homepage. Create a website banner, or do what Dairy Queen did and make a larger promotion.

What can you do to build an audience and enhance cross-promotion efforts?

Build your email list
One of the key components of cross-promotions is email, so you’ll want to grow your list. One of the best ways to increase subscribers is to get creative with opt-in placement. Make it ridiculously easy for people to sign up. For instance, have a spot on your homepage where people can sign up for your emails, or add a “subscribe now” option to your Facebook page.

Build a social media following
It takes time to grow your email and social media audience organically, but it’s worth your time and effort. To gain a following on social media, make sure you’re consistently posting to the site and that the content you post is of interest to your readers. People will follow you if you’re active and genuinely care about the content you share.

When it comes to cross-promotion, is everything done online?
You do have a lot of accessible, cross-promoting tools online; however, there are other methods that you can use, too.

Use in-store promotions
You can devote some store space to cross-promotions, Mintz suggests. Hang a sign on the door about a sale, or use a flat screen television in your store for promotional purposes.

Team up with a non-profit
Work with a group in your area to cross-promote a mutually beneficial event. Maybe your company is sponsoring a gala for the local animal shelter. By working with a nonprofit, you not only give back to the community but you expose your business to potential subscribers.

Mail invites
If you want to cross-promote an event, you might consider sending a paper invitation through the mail. A week later, you can follow up with an email.

Cross-promoting is about being creative and using the outlets where your niche audience gathers. It does require some pre-planning, but if you take some time to think about what you want to cross-promote, you can easily disperse the information on multiple channels.

Want tips like this cross-promotions guide delivered to your inbox? Say no more. Sign up for our VR Buzz newsletter. And, if you haven’t already, try VerticalResponse to send your next email! 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Cross-Promote Your Email Content [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Add Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 06:01

The battle for reader attention isn’t limited to catchy headlines and subject lines. Eye-popping images can also captivate. Using tools such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook can help increase brand recognition, build a social media fan base, and draw traffic back to your site or blog. Here are some actionable recommendations on how to use images to create sizzling, eye-catching content.

Find or create images

• Use your own photographs. Whether you’re learning how to snap pics on your smartphone, tapping into the talent of a teammate, or even hiring photographer, using your own photos assures that they’re fresh, original and feature exactly what you want. Off the Grid, a local Bay Area food truck event (and VerticalResponse customer!) does an excellent job snapping mouth-watering food photos from their weekly gatherings. As you can see, their delicious pics garner quite a lot of engagement:

• Your audience does it best! Use user-generated photos – with permission, of course – to showcase uses of your product or to highlight your biggest fans and let them tell their own stories. You can even create contests or other incentives to encourage participation. Here’s an example from a 7×7 Magazine email, which includes a follower’s Instagram photo:

• Purchase stock images. For a small fee, you can get access to a wide variety of stock photos from companies such as:

This allows you to search for an image by topic or keyword and find a professional photograph at a relatively low cost.

• Find free images. Some great places to look include Wikimedia Commons, StockArch, or Stockvault. Creativity103 provides free background images and textures as well. Flickr also has some images that photographers allow others to reuse – just make sure to read the fine print closely to see whether the photo is okay for commercial use.

• Remember that images aren’t relegated to photos. Visual checklists, infographics, and even drawings can inspire customers and nurture prospects.

Pick a tool (or several)!

Here’s a quick rundown on the biggest players:

1. Pinterest

Pinterest is an incredibly popular social media platform that allows you to upload your own images and pin them on a virtual board. (To get started, check out our guide). Take further advantage of this image-rich network by linking back to any post or product associated with the image you pin, and including the link yet again in your image caption. You can create several boards (try three to five) with beautiful images and backlinks, and use them to drive traffic back to your website as well as to interact with other people on the network. Try pinning pictures of people using your service, along with a call to action. Pinterest now has a page for gifts as well, allowing you to showcase your own products. (It’s okay to include prices!) Like any social network, Pinterest is inherently social, so make sure to pin relevant third-party content as well as showcasing your own. Lowe’s hardware is known for wowing others with their fun and useful Pinterest boards:

2. Instagram

This wildly popular photo-sharing app can be used to showcase any visually appealing products or services you offer. Instagram’s array of filters can help reduce glare or add pizazz to just about any shot. You can use #hashtags, just like you do on Twitter. Adding location information can help provide context to images. As with all social media platforms, it’s important to be engaging. It’s always a good idea to add in general photos of interesting things around you as well as images directly related to your business. Humorous or thought-provoking captions will keep people interested. Make sure to engage with other users as well, replying to questions, commenting on other photos and ‘liking’ your favorite images. (If you’re just getting started with Instagram, check out their Instagram for Business page). With more than 42K followers on Instagram, San Francisco custom bicycle shop, Mission Bicycle is certainly a small biz to watch and learn from:

3. Facebook

In addition to using stunning visuals or photographs to illustrate your blog posts, it can be fun to add inspiring or thought-provoking images to your Facebook page. Images – whether they’re posted on their own or paired with text or memes that are trending – tend to do well with a large variety of readers. If the image and text hits home for readers, they’re likely to be widely shared as well.

Cross-post

Remember that you can use an image multiple times. It’s possible to sync your Instagram account with Facebook and Twitter, for example, and you can manually select multiple platforms for an image to load. And WordPress offers plugins for various sites (including Pinterest), in case you’d like your latest pins posted as a sidebar on your page. Whether you’re uploading images manually or automatically, reusing images can take a lot of pressure off of trying to create or find new images for each social media platform!

How are you adding sizzle to your content with images?

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Sizzle to Your Content with Eye Catching Images appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide]

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 06:21

Every once in a while your emails need a little refresher. It’s like spring cleaning or updating your wardrobe. It’s something you want to do periodically to renew your look and keep customers interested.

How do you know when your email marketing needs a refresh? Good question. An excellent place to start is with your metrics. JoAnne Funch, who runs marketing company Marketing Dish, says if your open rates and clickthroughs are steadily declining, it might be time to resuscitate your emails. We agree. (If you need a little help gauging these rates, check out our recent blog post on this topic).

If you’ve used the same look for a while, it might be time to change it up, too. Or maybe your business just did some rebranding and you want your emails to match. Maybe your emails are out of date and you want a more modern look. Whatever your reason, we’ve got six tips to help get you started. Check them out: 

1. Revive your subject lines
Have your subject lines become a bit boring lately? If so, it’s time to breathe new life into them. Scroll through your own inbox for a little inspiration. What subject lines do you respond to? Jot a few of them down and use them to brainstorm ideas for your email. 

The subject line should be creative, clear and urgent. In other words, the subject line should tell your customers the point of the email and encourage them to open it immediately. 

You’ll also want to optimize your subject line for the mobile world since your customers will likely open your email on their smartphones. Subject lines that are more than 50 characters long will get cut off, so make sure the most important information is at the beginning. 

Take a look at the examples below. Notice that each subject line creates a sense of urgency with words like “last chance” and “now only.” The point of the emails is clear; both are promotional offers.

 

 

2. Change the template
One of the great things about using an email service provider like VerticalResponse is the wide variety of templates from which to choose. You don’t have to spend hours designing an email or creating an eye-catching layout because it’s already been done for you. If it’s time to refresh your email, try out a new template. Sometimes just a change of scenery is all that’s needed to catch the reader’s eye. 

For instance, let’s say you’re using the VerticalResponse Classic template to the left to advertise upcoming sales. What if you switch to the template on the right? With just one click you can change the color scheme and design.

       

3. Change the layout
If changing templates is too drastic, you can always select a different layout that uses the same design. With VerticalResponse, each template has about six different layouts, so you can make subtle changes rather than doing a complete 180. Here’s an example. The two templates below have the same design and color scheme, but a different layout.

      

4. Clean up the content
Once you’ve spruced up your design elements and refreshed your subject line, it’s time to talk content. When it comes to updating your email marketing message, there are four things you need to consider: relevance, voice, clarity and brevity. 

  • Relevance
    Your customers want content they care about and it’s up to you to fill that need. To do this, you have to know your customer. Segmenting your list will help, too, Funch says. The NFL, for example, creates team-specific newsletters for its customers. The point, of course, is to offer relevant information to your customer groups.
    If you need help coming up with relevant topics, check out our guide: 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email
  • Voice
    Your business has its own voice. If you’re selling clothes to teenagers, the tone and voice you use in your emails will be different than if you’re selling car parts. Make sure that every email is true to your company’s voice. 
  • Clarity
    What’s the point of the email? Answer this question before you sit down and write. The subject line should already clue the reader into the email’s intent, but now you need to bring the message home. Keep it simple and clear. 
  • Brevity
    Your customers get a lot of emails, so keep it short. “If you send an email that has half a page of text, they won’t read it,” Funch says. “It looks too much like a homework assignment.”

You don’t want to go overboard with your email content. In fact, check out the email below. In just 24 words this retailer gets the point across.

Of course, there are some emails that require more information. Your monthly newsletter, for example, will contain more than 24 words, but you can send a teaser email like the one below. It offers titles and several snippets of articles in the newsletter. To read the entire article, customers must click on a call to action.

5. Update your call to action
What do you want the customer to do once the email is opened? Do you want them to make a purchase? Download a guide? Read an article? Whatever the desired activity is, it should be expressed in a call to action. 

If your email uses hyperlinked text as a call to action, you might consider adding a button. Both are effective, but in terms of aesthetics, a button is a clean look. Plus, it’s easier to click for your mobile readers.  Check out the emails below. The one on the right has text hyperlinks only. The one on the left has a call to action button. Overall, the email on the left is more pleasing to the eye, don’t you think? You don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too many options. Keep it simple. Each email should only contain one or two calls to action.

        

If you need a little help creating a button, we’ve got you covered. Check out our button builder to get pristine and professional buttons for your next email. 

6. Add social media buttons
We live in a digital world, so customers expect easy ways to interact with your business and your brand. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include social media links. Take a look at the example below. This company makes it easy for customers to engage with its brand through social media.

With these tips, you’ll have a fresh look that captivates your customers. Of course, before you go too far, it’s a good idea to run a few tests to make sure the changes are welcome. A/B split testing can tell you what your customers prefer. You can test subject lines, email content, design elements and calls to action. With a few tests, you’ll know if your refreshed emails are effective. 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Ideas to Refresh Your Email Marketing [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 09:15

Google Analytics (GA) is an excellent free tool used to track and measure website traffic and other factors. If used strategically, Google Analytics can provide you a wealth of beneficial knowledge. Here are two Google Analytics strategies and a variety of metrics you should be checking to get the most out of this powerful tool:

Goals
“I think the question that anybody needs to ask themselves when they have a website is what’s the meaningful action you want someone to take when they’re visiting your site,” says John Becerra, co-founder of Monkey Island, a consulting firm focusing on online marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click and conversion optimization.

Instead of getting lost in an endless cascade of analytics, it’s best to determine what you’d like to measure and set appropriate goals.

The type of goals you’ll want to measure depends on the type of site you have, but the following are metrics you may wish to track:

• Purchases: You can track this by sending shoppers to a “thank you” page after their order is completed, and tracking that page.
• Contacts: People who fill out a ‘contact us’ form might be useful to track if it leads to sales.
• Mailing list subscribers: This is especially important if your email marketing yields a high return compared to blog posts and social.
• Downloads or views: If a video or whitepaper is part of your sales funnel, you may want to track the number of people who download the resource or watch a video.
• Duration: It’s not worth it to put a lot of time into a page if people immediately scroll off, so you’ll want to track the results to see how much time people are spending on any given page. Then you can make changes as needed.
• Pages/screens per session: Depending on the type of business you have, it may be important for people to view multiple pages, which means they’ll be far more likely to return.

Just as important as the number of goals met on your site is where the actual traffic is coming from, so you’ll want to pay close attention to these metrics as well:
• Most referred sites: or the sites that send the most traffic your way. If the majority of your traffic is coming from specific sites, you may want to expand your partnership or affiliation (or advertising) with the site.
• Types of traffic: direct traffic (people who type in your URL), search engine traffic, paid traffic, or referring websites. If you have a deficit of traffic from any of these three places, you may want to see how you can increase it.
• Search terms: people use to get to your site, so that you can provide more content related to those terms. You can also look at the search terms people use on your own site, or site search.
• Traffic from social: Both social landing pages and the number of conversions coming from social media sites. This will allow you to put more effort into the social media sites or landing pages that are getting you the best results.

Google Analytics allows you to set as many as 20 goals, but again, it’s important to focus on just a few key metrics that you’ve determined are the most important ones for your site. So, don’t feel like you have to track every metric if it doesn’t tie directly into the goals for your website.

Attribution Modeling
Becerra recommends looking at attribution modeling in Google Analytics. Although it’s often ignored, he sees it as one of the most useful tools available in Google Analytics.

An attribution model is a set of rules that shows you how many points of contact a reader may have had with your brand before a sale is made. For example, a reader may find your site via web search, and return after clicking on a link on Facebook or Twitter a week later. Then, after signing up for your email newsletter, that same reader could click on a link in your email newsletter and make a purchase. Instead of just looking at the very last metric and attributing that sale to the email newsletter, attribution modeling allows you to choose between multiple options that give you additional information about that sale:

• Last interaction: For the purpose of tracking the sale, credit is given to the last interaction before the sale. This model is useful if your sales funnel doesn’t have a long consideration phase.
• Last non-direct click: The last channel that wasn’t direct traffic receives credit. If your sales are mostly won through other methods and people simply go to your direct site for the actual sale, this model may be useful.
• Last AdWords click: The AdWords click that ultimately led to the conversion is tracked and receives credit for the sale. This can help you analyze which of two or more AdWords campaigns were most effective.
• First interaction: This metric tracks the way the person came across your site the very first time. If one of your goals is generating awareness for your brand and business, this model is for you.
• Linear attribution model: In this model, every interaction in the conversion path gets equal credit for the sale.  By using this model, “you can really dissect the way in which people interact with your site,” says Becerra. The model can help you understand the entire sales cycle, and is helpful if you maintain contact with the client throughout it.
• Time decay: In this model, the interactions that occurred closest in time to the conversion or sale get the majority of the credit. This is most useful for shorter campaigns running one or two days.
• Position-based: This assigns 40 percent credit to the first and last interaction, and the remainder is distributed to the middle interactions. If you’re most interested in the very first point of contact a customer had with your site as well as the one resulting in a sale, this is a good attribution model.

Not sure which to pick, or want to geek out on this more? No worries – a model comparison tool can help you compare three different attribution models at a time to see the similarities and differences. You can even create a custom model.

Checking Analytics
It can be tempting to log onto Google Analytics multiple times a day to see how a specific page is doing, but Becerra recommends paying more attention to overall trends. Looking at your analytics once a week, and digging in more in-depth for a full analysis every month, should do the trick.

If you’re unfamiliar with how to use Google Analytics, be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.

Which tools do you find most useful in Google Analytics? Share your comments with us below.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz. 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Useful Google Analytics: Goals and Attribution Models appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Building an Engaged Social Media Audience [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series in which experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ted Rubin, a leading social marketing strategist, brand evangelist and keynote speaker. Rubin provides actionable tips about building an engaged social audience.

 

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Advice from a Social Pro: Building an Engaged Social Media Audience [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Boo! Top 5 Ways to Scare Away Twitter Followers

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 06:00

Many small business owners have realized the power of social media platforms like Twitter. It’s a great marketing tool, but there are some unwritten rules in the Twittersphere that every small business should know.

To make sure you don’t scare away your hard earned followers, we’ve put together a list of the top five Twitter offenders. If you fall into one of these categories, don’t worry, we’ll tell you how to fix it.

1. The self-enthusiast
This group loves, loves, loves to talk about themselves. You know the type, every tweet is oozing with self-important information like this. 

“We’ve all seen them, the self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ who only tweet about their most recent book release, blog entry or speaking engagement,” says Hannah Meuser, social media strategist at marketing company Anvil Media Inc. 

“It’s not a crime to use social media to help promote personal success, but no one wants to hear someone talk exclusively about themselves,” says Meuser.

Solution: Offer a variety of information on your Twitter feed. Share links to interesting, industry-specific articles, highlight other successful people in your field, and showcase events that your followers are interested in. Above all else, provide value to your followers. 
 
2. The serial retweeter
If your Twitter strategy relies on the retweet button, you might want to rethink it, Meuser says. Retweets can certainly expose more people to information, but if you’re retweeting up a storm, your followers may say, “See ya.” People followed you to hear what you have to say, not just what you can regurgitate from other feeds.

In other words, people don’t want to see a feed like this with the words “retweeted” over and over again.

Solution: You can still retweet good content, but Meuser suggests adding your opinion to the tweet or adding a comment to further the conversation. Plus, add variety to your feed by sharing unique content of your own.

3. The direct message marketing (DM) spammer
These Twitter offenders send direct marketing messages to their followers. It can be considered a no-no. It can be the equivalent of junk mail in your Twitter inbox.

Solution: Just don’t do it. That’s not to say you can’t reach out to a specific follower, but make sure it’s with a personal message.

4. The auto tweeter
You’re busy, we get it. That’s why scheduling tweets is appealing and often necessary, but sometimes your need to work ahead can cause a Twitter faux pas. 

Solution: If you do preschedule tweets, don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure you monitor what’s going on in the world to avoid tweeting something inappropriate. 

5. The over tweeter
You want to be a steady presence in your followers’ feeds, but you don’t want to go overboard. Put simply, don’t tweet ten times a day about irrelevant stuff. For instance, the stream of tweets below is not valuable. Don’t waste your audience’s time, or they’ll unfollow you. 

Solution: Each tweet you send out should be relevant. What’s the best tweet frequency? There isn’t a hard and fast rule here. Each small business is different, but a good rule of thumb is three to five tweets a day.

Is there another kind of Twitter offender that we forgot? Feel free to add to our list in the comment section below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Boo! Top 5 Ways to Scare Away Twitter Followers appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

It’s the Law: 7 Email Marketing Rules You Should Know

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 06:01

Did you know there’s a law about sending emails? It’s called the CAN-SPAM Act. And if you’re “promoting or advertising a commercial product or service through electronic communication,” you have to comply with the law or face some hefty penalties. Don’t worry though, VerticalResponse is here to break through the political jargon and help you understand the rules.

Before we dive into those rules, let’s talk about the law’s history. Back in 2003, President George Bush signed the bill into law in an effort to stop the onslaught of spam that landed in everyone’s inbox. The law was updated in 2008. The truth is, if you aren’t a news buff, you might not know the ins and outs of the law.

“Some small businesses may be aware of certain conditions specified within the CAN-SPAM Act, but I think that very few are familiar with the entirety of the law,” says Jesse Ignell, a marketer for Computer Market Research. With Ignell’s help, we’ll outline the seven key components of the law that you, the email sender should know and follow:

1. Tell readers where your email is coming from
The law focuses on honesty. The “From,” “To” and “Reply to” labels need to tell the recipient where the email comes from. In other words, these fields should contain the person’s name or the business name sending the email.

2. Write an honest subject line
Your subject line should reflect what’s in the email. You can’t be deceptive here. In other words, don’t write “Claim your $500 gift card” in the subject line just to get people to open an email that’s really about a new product. Here’s a snapshot of a few to the point subject lines:

3. Recognize you’re sending an ad
Acknowledge that the email you send is, in fact, an ad. This isn’t necessary if everyone on your list has given you permission to send emails. We strongly suggest that you get permission from all of your subscribers before sending emails. And most email service providers, like VerticalResponse, require you have permission prior to sending any email through their service. 

4. Give an address
Each email must contain the postal address for the person or business sending the email. It helps to show your business is a credible one, and offers another way for your recipients to opt-out of your emails if they need to.

5. Every email needs an easy opt-out option
Your subscribers must be able to easily opt-out (or unsubscribe) from your messages. You have to give this option to your subscribers in every message you send. At the bottom of the email, you can provide a link to unsubscribe. The process should be easy too; that was one of the additions to the law in 2008. Here’s an example of an opt-out option. 

6. Honor opt-outs quickly
If a subscriber wants off your list, you have 10 days to do it. You can’t charge any fees for this service, ask for any personal information, or sell the person’s contact information to another company. Most email service providers will manage this process for you which is another plus to using an ESP

7. Monitor what others do for you
If you hire another company to manage your email list, you will still be held responsible if the company breaks any of these rules. 

The law is all about using good judgment. We know you’ve got that. But when you set up your next email campaign, it doesn’t hurt to check it against this list of rules to make sure everything is legit.

If you’d like more information, The Federal Trade Commission offers a compliance guide on its site to help small businesses comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Leverage a Media Placement

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 06:01

Your business was just featured in the media – awesome! Great PR can help spread the word about your company, boost credibility and ultimately bring more business through your doors.

But you’re not done. A favorable media placement can be extended in a variety of ways, both online and offline. But, you need to act quickly before it becomes old news. Here are five ways to get max value out of your press coverage:

1. Get social. Share the media placement with your social media networks. Timeliness is key, so do this as soon as possible. With any luck, you’ll get a few virtual pats on the back from your followers.

2. Update your website. Highlight your proudest PR hits on your site’s home page. It can be something as simple as just the media outlet’s logo linked to the story (for example, “As Featured In XYZ Magazine”). Even if you already have a separate press section on your site, not everyone will necessarily visit that page. You want your latest achievement to be front and center.

3. Send an email. Launch a special email with a link to the media placement to customers, vendors and any other groups you think might be interested in the good news. Use this as an opportunity to thank them for their support, too. If it’s an online placement that has social media sharing tools and/or comments enabled, encourage them to share with their social networks and chime in on the conversation.

4. Promote on the floor. If your media placement is an article or blog post, get a picture frame for it and show it off on the wall of your store or lobby. Or, if you’ve got several clips under your belt, consider putting printouts in a nice portfolio book and leave it out in your waiting or reception room table. Wouldn’t you rather customers flip through that versus an outdated copy of US Weekly?

5. Arm your sales staff. If you have a sales team, have them bring color copies of the media placement as part of their leave-behind packets in meetings with prospects, at trade shows, etc. (make sure you have reprint permission first). They’ll appreciate having their sales pitch endorsed and validated by a credible media source.

You work hard to get favorable coverage in the media; get the most out of it with these five ideas!

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz. 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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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Small Business Owners: Time to up Your Digital Game [Infographic]

Mon, 05/26/2014 - 06:00

In a recent study conducted by our parent company, Deluxe, more than 500 small business owners were surveyed about their digital marketing practices. The conclusion? Small business owners have a digital footprint, but not a very active one! Check out the stats below to see how you compare. Does anything surprise you?

In order to create and maintain a strong and active online presence, we’ve created several resources to help small business owners like you put the pedal to the metal. Check out any of the various guides, infographics and webinars below and let us know what you, as a small business owner, or employee at a small business plan to do to make the most of your digital marketing practices.

Guides:

Infographics:

Webinars:

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Choose the Right Email Service Provider [GUIDE]

Sat, 05/24/2014 - 09:00

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase revenue while staying in touch with your customers. It takes time and resources to craft a killer email campaign, which is why you might want to call in some backup. An email service provider, or ESP, can help your small business generate and send emails that are targeted to your customer niche, get them delivered and provide actionable results. If you’re in need of some marketing help, look no further. VerticalResponse has put together a list of criteria you’ll want to look for in your search for the right ESP for your small business.

To nail down the details you need to know, we turned to Kim Stiglitz, our Director of Content Marketing, for some advice. When selecting an ESP, she says you’ll want to look for three key factors: features, fees and delivery. 

1. Features

How will email marketing fit into your business? Your answer will dictate what features you need from an ESP, Stiglitz says. Make a list of potential providers and comb through their list of features. Remember, you want a provider that will grow with your business. You might just use basic features, but as your business and email list grows, you may want to up your marketing game. Make sure the provider you select can support your business now and in the future.

You shouldn’t look for a laundry list of features, but there are some specific items that you’ll want. Here’s a list of must-have features:

Email templates
You want every email to look sharp, but you don’t want to spend all day creating an email. To get a professional looking email done efficiently, you can use templates. Make sure the provider has several eye-catching templates to choose from so that you can just pick one and go. That’s the kind of efficiency you need. 

Easy to use
Having a variety of templates is a must, but you should also make sure the templates are easy to use. Drag-and-drag templates make it a snap for you to add images and text in seconds.

Mobility
Your customers will probably open your email on their smartphone or tablet. Everyone is on the go, so you want your emails to look sharp on mobile devices. You want an ESP that makes mobile marketing a priority. With VerticalResponse, every email is optimized for mobile devices with responsive templates.

Social media integration
Email and social media marketing go hand in hand, so you’ll want a provider that helps you use both. Look for a provider that makes it easy to share your email on social media. Let’s say you just sent a promotional email, offering your customers 30 percent off. Wouldn’t it be nice to share that on Facebook without logging in and creating a separate message to post? Sure it would. Look for a provider that makes it easy to share emails on social media platforms.

Scheduling
Why not get ahead? If you can sit down and create three or four emails to send throughout the week, why wouldn’t you? To make this a reality, you’ll need the ability to schedule your emails.

Tracking tools
An ESP can have all the bells and whistles in the world, but if you can’t tell how well your emails are doing, it won’t matter how many features you use. You need easy-to-read statistics that breakdown your open rates, clicks, bounces, and unsubscribes. You want it all in one location, like a central dashboard, where you can see at-a-glance how well your email campaigns are performing.

Support staff
Whether you’re an email novice or a pro, there will come a time when you have a question. As a business owner, you know that customer service is paramount to your business. It should be in email marketing, too. You want a provider that has an excellent support team in place to help you with any questions or concerns.

2. Fees

You want a provider with a diverse array of features, but you also want a service that fits into your budget. We get it. After you’ve perused providers for features, make a list of companies that fit your needs. Now, start investigating cost. Most email providers offer a free trial, or free services, if you have a small email list and only want to send a few emails. Take it for a test drive, Stiglitz suggests. Use the free services to see if you like the provider. If you do, you’ll likely have two payment options:

Monthly rates
Most providers offer a monthly plan based on the number of people on your email list. For cheaper rates, there might be restrictions on the number of emails you can send within a given month. Do a little comparison-shopping and see which provider gives you the best bang for your buck. At VerticalResponse, you can send unlimited emails to a list of up to 1,000 people for just $17.60 a month.

Pay as you go
Not ready to make a monthly commitment? No problem. Look for a pay as you go option. This way, you’ll only pay for what you use. It’s another way to give the provider a try before signing up for continued services. Once you’re on board, it will probably be more cost effective to sign up for a monthly plan.

3. Delivery

You want emails that land in the inbox. Make sure the ESP that you’re leaning towards has a high delivery rate. The delivery rate is the number of emails successfully delivered to your customers. You want a delivery percentage rate in the high 90s, Stiglitz says. (VerticalResponse has a delivery rate of 98 percent).

To get a high delivery rate, the provider should meet the following criteria:

An arsenal of tools
You want a provider that has invested in some behind-the-scenes tools that give your emails the best chance at landing in the inbox. We’re talking about things like accreditation and authentication tools that verify a sender’s identity. These kinds of tools tell the Internet filters that you’re a real person sending a legitimate email, not some scammer with ulterior motives.

Other tools, like spam scores that identify the likelihood of an email hitting the spam box, and suppression lists, which maintain customers that opt out of your emails, are also helpful tools. Third-party partnerships with deliverability experts like Return Path are also a good sign.

These aren’t the glitzy features that an ESP advertises, but they’re important, so be sure to ask if these tools are in place.

Reputable provider
You want an email service provider that’s in it for the long haul. Fly-by-night providers don’t have relationships established with Internet giants like Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft. You want a provider that has a history with these Internet service providers so your emails aren’t mistaken for spam.

Opt-in process
You have high standards and so should your ESP. To reach your customers through email, you want a provider that has opt-in requirements. If customers sign up to receive your emails, you’ll have a much higher delivery rate. If you send emails to people who aren’t expecting them, they can be blocked or reported as spam. It might seem advantageous to beef up your list with a bunch of contacts that haven’t given you permission to send them email, but in the long run it hurts your credibility and engagement while increasing unsubscribe rates.

While features, fees and delivery are “the big three” when it comes to selecting an email service provider, you should also look into the educational resources that the provider offers. Look for a blog with how-to articles and other helpful guides to ensure your email campaigns are the best they can be. Overall, an email service provider should offer affordable, top-notch service that helps you reach your customers with effective and creative emails.

Get started today. It’s free!

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Build a Public Relations Media List [Video]

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 06:00

In this installment of Tips in 2, our video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Connie Sung Moyle, Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse, shows you how build an effective media list quickly and easily. With a little help from the Internet and Excel, you can discover and organize key reporters, writers and bloggers that can help spread the word when you have big news about your product or service. Here’s how:

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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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The 5 Most Overused Phrases in Subject Lines – Hurry, Before They’re Gone!

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 06:01

A good email subject line can make your email marketing efforts pay off big time; a bad one can make your subscribers tune you out. It’s no wonder that the subject line is one of the most important parts of your email, and something worth mastering. We’ve given you lists of fantastic subject lines in the past, but this time we thought we’d share some of the most overused words in subject lines. We don’t leave you scrambling for substitutes though. We’ve included some backups to use, just in case you need a little inspiration.  

Overused Phrase #1: Free Shipping
This is first on the list for a reason; Free or Free Shipping is probably the most overused word or phrase in subject lines these days. Thinking the word “Free” in the subject line will land your email in the spam box? That old myth has been dispelled by the sheer number of emails that make it to inboxes everyday with “Free Shipping” in the subject line. A quick glance at my inbox right now shows just how often this is being used.

Use this instead: Mix up your free shipping offer by using variations such as: “Shipping on Us!,” “Complimentary Shipping,” “Don’t Pay for Shipping!,” “We send it for free” or simply use the term, “Free Shipping” in your pre-header instead, like you see outlined with green in the image above.

Overused Phrase #2: Last Chance
Last chance – Another popular phrase in subject lines, and one that needs to be updated, because unless it’s a product or service that’s being discontinued, we’re all pretty sure it’s probably not the last chance.

Use this instead: How about using “Drop Everything!,” “Don’t Miss Out,” or getting specific and using phrases such as, “Ends at 12pm PST,” “…until 10 am Wednesday,” or “Before Spring Ends.” These still include a sense urgency, and you may stand a better chance of grabbing people’s attention.

Overused Phrase #3: Hurry!
Much like “last chance,” the word “hurry!” has been used in so many emails, it sounds like to boy who cried wolf one too many times… it doesn’t always mean the end is near.

Use this instead: Here are two recent emails I received, and though the subject lines are imploring me to hurry, they don’t actually use the word. These clever subject lines caught my attention in my crowded inbox and I definitely clicked through to their websites.

Overused Word/Phrase #4: Newsletter, Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Newsletter
While it’s tempting to use newsletter in your subject line, it takes up valuable subject line space, and it isn’t terribly descriptive of what’s actually inside your email. Using the same subject line month after month can also lose its impact over time.

Use this instead: The next time you send out your newsletter, instead of saying “June Newsletter,” use headlines from articles or topics that are in the newsletter. It helps your readers quickly see the interesting or useful info that’s inside. This is the method we use for our own VR Buzz newsletter.


Overused Phrase #5: Ends Tomorrow
Many overused email subject line words tend to center around immediate action, and there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact we encourage it! But try change things up a bit, while still getting your readers to do an intended action.

Use this instead: Next time, try using “It’s Not too Late!” or “24 Hour Flash Sale” for the same kind of impact, but in a new way.

If you’ve been using some of these words in your own subject lines, it might be time to change things up. The great thing about email marketing is that there’s plenty of room for testing new things.

Since the effectiveness of a subject line is pretty subjective, I decided to do an informal survey of some of the folks in our marketing department, and their most loved and hated words or phrases in subject lines. Here’s what they said:

Cam, Marketing Analyst
Love:
- Name/personalization: “Hey Cam, Don’t Forget to Log Into Your VR account,” or “How was Your Recent Experience in Los Angeles?”
- Time urgency: “You Have 15 Days Left to Sign Up For Your Free Trial”
- Call to action: “Listen now”

Dislike:
- Reminder: “Your Free Trial is Almost Over”
- Emoticon/Emoji (symbol or facial expression in the subject line)

Connie, PR Manager
Dislike:
- “Hurry!”

Barney, Marketing Manager – Paid Media
Love:
- Time urgency: “Last chance,” “Last day…”
- Lists: “Top 10 new restaurants in your area”

Laura, Senior Web Graphics Designer
Love:
- Time urgency: “3 days only!” or “2 days left on our big sale”
- Lists: “6 Looks That Go From Boardroom To Boardwalk!”
- Percentage off: “15%  Off All Jeans”

Dislike:
- Really long, wordy subject lines.
- “Free”

Jenny, Marketing Specialist
Dislike:
Fake reply: “re: COLLABORATE with some great retailers”

Love:
Percentage off: “4 more days to save 25% on summer”

So what does this all mean? Some of the overused words are really effective for some people but not for others; everyone’s different! And everyone in your list is different too, so if you’ve been using any of these words in your email subject lines often, try a new way of saying the same ‘ol thing in your next email. You may be surprised! Or astounded, amazed or flabbergasted.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 5 Most Overused Phrases in Subject Lines – Hurry, Before They’re Gone! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Releases 2 New Algorithm Updates: Payday Loan 2.0 & Panda 4.0

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 17:47

Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts recently announced two new Google algorithm updates that could affect your business. For SEO pros, updates to Google’s algorithms are commonplace, but for the busy small business owner, they can be a confusing mess of black and white animals (penguin, panda). Have no fear, we’ve broken down the announcements into layman’s terms. Now, let’s get down to business!

Update #1: Payday Loan 2.0

This is the second version of the Payday Loan Algorithm, and it takes action towards websites that contain spammy keywords like, “payday loans,” adult themed/pornographic keywords and other spammy keywords. Odds are, you won’t be affected by this update because it only impacted 0.2% of English queries. 

Update #2: Panda 4.0

This latest update is big news in the SEO world, as there hasn’t been an announced Panda update in over a year. There are monthly unannounced data refreshes to Panda, but Panda 4.0 is a major update to the actual algorithm. Just as a reminder, the Panda Algorithm is designed to prevent websites with poor quality content from appearing at the top of Google’s search results. According to Cutts, this update impacts around 7.5% of English searches and will fully roll out over the next few days. 

If your site has thin, similar, duplicate content, and/or any “SEO pages” you’re at a high risk for getting a penalty in this and future Panda updates. If you have duplicate content on your site, we recommend adding more value to it. No two pages should have similar content, but if they do, combine the pages into one high value page. It’s possible that you might have “trim the fat” so to speak and cut pages from your website.

Cool Tool: If you’re worried that your site might be impacted by the latest Panda update, or any Google update for that matter, try using the Panguin Tool, which links up to your Google Analytics account and overlays all known Google Updates. It can be very useful for identifying what update hit your site or not. 

So there’s the low down on the two most recent Google updates. Do you plan to make any changes to your site as a result? If so, share in the comments. 

Want more marketing tips & tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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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7 Easy Tips to Creating Stellar Email Content

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 06:00

Once a subscriber opens your email, you’ve got just a few seconds to grab his or her attention. Stellar content can keep them glued to the screen. To help you connect with your readers, we have seven tips to help bolster your email content

1. Host a brainstorming session
If you feel like your content is a little drab, host a brainstorming session to help generate some new ideas, says marketer Izabela Socha with Cooking Planit. This company, which is an online site that helps people plan meals, holds bi-weekly brainstorming sessions.

Even if your staff is small, ask everyone – not just marketing – to come to a meeting and toss around ideas. New topic ideas can elevate your writing. And, if you’re a team of one like many small business owners, don’t fret. We’ve got a guide with inspiring ideas and a blog post with even more

2. Ask for input
Ideas shouldn’t just come from your staff; they should come from your subscribers, too. Send an email asking recipients what kind of email content they want to see. This gives your customers a voice and gives you more content ideas. Check out the example. This particular online retailer is offering an incentive to participate, which is never a bad idea.

 3. Less is more
With the right design and images, your email doesn’t need a ton of text. A promotional email, for example, may only need the sale details. Take a look at the example below. Notice there’s very little text, but the reader gets the point instantly. 

 

4. Write teaser content
Write short and snappy content, then direct readers to the meat of your content on a blog or a landing page like the folks at Cooking Planit. Tease your readers. Get them to click on your call-to-action button, and lead them to more content, such as specific recipes in the example below.

5. Focus on the reader
When you’re writing, use the word “you” rather than “we.” By doing so, you’ll focus on the customer. Take a look at the example below. Instead of saying, “We offer the following benefits” it says, “As a registered user you can.” The Home Depot focuses on the customer, not the business. 

6. Write with a single goal
As you’re writing, focus your efforts on one goal. Don’t try to cram too many topics into an email. Unless you’re writing a newsletter, the rule of thumb is one topic per email. Keep it simple, like the example below. It’s clear the goal of this email is to introduce recipients to a new pizza.

7. Say it with video
Try adding some video to your next email to mix up your content (you simply include an image of the video and link to where the video is hosted like on YouTube). Whether you record your company’s CEO thanking customers or showing subscribers a new product like the email below does, video is a great way to spice up an email. For a little help creating a video, check out a recent post on this very topic.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz. 

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Easy Tips to Creating Stellar Email Content appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

50 Inspiring Retail, B2B and Non-Profit Subject Lines

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 06:00

As business owners or marketers, we spend a lot of time thinking about creative content ideas for our websites, blog posts and emails (we even have a content idea guide), but do you get as creative with your email subject lines? If your subject line doesn’t grab your recipient’s attention, your message may never get read, and you don’t want that to happen!

We scoured inboxes far and wide to put together this mega list of 50 compelling email subject lines for inspiration. Notice as you peruse the list, differences between retail, business-to-business and non-profit. Have any favorites? And, most importantly, how can you leverage these email subject lines for your own emails?

Retail

Gap: Hurry! Save NOW until 10AM Wednesday 

ModCloth: 20% off. 100% awesome.

David’s Tea: In store exclusive: free honey for mom

Pottery Barn Kids: ★ 3 great sales TODAY only! ★ Save 20% + free shipping on beach towels, gear & Freeport Chairs

Omaha Steaks: ★This is almost too good to be true…★

Open Table: Give the Gift of Deliciousness

lululemon athletica: did someone say brownies?

Tory Burch: Ends Today: 25% Off — Friends & Fans Event

Piperlime: Extra 25% off SALE items under $100

Lilly Pulitzer: Take a peek at our new summer catalog…

Old Navy: Got SUPER CASH, Kim? Redeem It Today!

Orbitz: Quick! This promo code’s ending soon

J Crew Factory: HURRY: This deal will change at noon

Shutterfly: 3 days left: Up to 40% + get an extra 20% off

abercrombie kids: we could just say ‘thanks’ but we think this is way better…

Wine.com: Weekend savings up to 50% on CA favorites

Fabletics: want to win $100 to fabletics?

Banana Republic: Surprise! (Can you guess what yours is?)

Birdy Botanicals: Our Newest Product Just Got Better & A Favorite Local Event is Back

Walgreens: Your selfies aren’t going to print themselves – 40% off mobile photo orders with our FREE App

Kara’s Cupcakes: A Trio of Seasonal Favorites for Your Enjoyment!

Priceline: Get $20 Off Hotels Instantly! Email Exclusive

Warby Parker: Finally

Everlane: See What’s Coming

Birchbox: Come Back and Get a Free Gift

Photojojo: *NEW* A Portable Pop-Up Photo Studio

Workshop: We’ve got spring fever at workshop! Check out our calendar for our spring faves!

 

B2B (Business to Business)

Copyblogger: Renew your Authority membership right now (and save big) 

Social Media Bulletin: Marketing Metrics Bible – 70-Page Guide

Practical Ecommerce: Report: Top 10 Comparison Shopping Engines

Big Data Bulletin: Includes: How to Avoid the Worst Big Data Mistakes You Can Make

Which Test Won: Test of the Week: Demo vs Video – Which Copy Won 48.2% More Leads?

Dasheroo: Top 5 Customer Support Metrics You Need to Track, Now!

PsPrint: The Results Are In: Top Designs from Our Artwork Contest!

CMSWire News: This Week: Jive, Cisco Collaborate + Better Mobile Workforce Management

Fanatic Promotion: “Power pop prog space rock so futuristic it makes you nostalgic for music that hasn’t been thought up yet!” – Roctober

 

Non-Profit

Marine Mammal Center: Show Your Mom Some Love

Humane Society of the United States: Be inspired, create change

American Diabetes Association: We need backup

American Red Cross: Everyday heroes like you

American Lung Association: Honoring our volunteers

World Wildlife Fund: Reminder: Jill, You Can Make a Huge Difference

Humane Society of the United States: Need some convincing?

American Diabetes Association: Take it. Share it. Step Out.

Care and Share Food Bank: Eat your greens!

Friends of the Sea Otter: Mother’s Day Spa and Dinner Raffle 

Community Music Center: New Items Added to the Community Music Center Auction!

SFMOMA: It’s Not Too Late

The San Francisco Ballet Association: Don’t miss the final program of the season!

Root Division: Take an Art Class! Fall Schedule

 

Need some help crafting your own email subject lines? We’ve got an easy Conversation Starter tool for that. Be sure to check out the “Worst Email Subject Lines, Ever!” as well.

Need help with subject line capitalization? Our own blog writers use this handy title capitalization tool to make sure their headlines are always up to snuff.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing 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 50 Inspiring Retail, B2B and Non-Profit Subject Lines appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

12 Super Cool, Time-Saving Apps and Tools

Mon, 05/19/2014 - 06:00

The surprising part of running a business is how much time is spent on tasks that aren’t core to your key mission. Whether you’re tracking expenses or searching for phone numbers, administrative work can eat up the better part of your workday if you let it. Keep extraneous tasks at bay with time-saving tools and apps. Here are some of our favorites: 

Collaboration

1. Project management: Basecamp
Cost: starts at $20/month; 60-day free trial available

If you feel like you’ve been reordering to-do lists for hours and still not getting closer to meeting your goals, your project management software may be the hidden culprit. There’s a reason that Basecamp is used by over 285,000 companies to finish hundreds of thousands of projects: it has a slick interface, user-friendly to-do lists with drag and drop capabilities, and the ability to add multiple users to a project to share files, discuss details and even assign tasks. Project managers can select who has access to information for any given project within the system, and people can even respond via email. Everything is stored together under the project for future reference. Basecamp is a web-based tool, but there are also apps on Android and iPhone.

2. Document sharing: Dropbox
Cost: free for up to 2GB

If you don’t have time to constantly email documents over and over again to the folks that need them, Dropbox is a dream. Simply create a shared folder, have your user accept the invitation, and voila – you’ll have a folder that syncs to all of your computers and devices – and those of any of your co-workers or team members as well. (Who needs thumb drives)? 

3. Collaborative Editing: Draft
Cost: free (or a $3.99/month subscription) 

If you want someone to comment on an upcoming blog post or email before hitting send, Draft offers a beautiful interface where you can see two versions of a post (with clearly highlighted additions and deletions) side-by-side. Luckily, your collaborator doesn’t overwrite your original text, so you can ignore comments you don’t find useful and incorporate the ones you like. Draft also saves a lot of time trying to read long-winded feedback in a teeny tiny comment box in Microsoft Word. 

4. Group Chat: Atlassian HipChat
Cost: free for up to two users, $2/month for more

Want to communicate with your entire team even when they’re working remotely? HipChat gives you a chatroom, video and file sharing capabilities, as well as the opportunity to chat one-on-one. Why is it time-saving? Because it takes away the need to pick up the phone, text or use time-sucking alternatives like Facebook chat, where numerous distractions abound. 

Money

 5. Invoicing: Freshbooks
Cost: free plan for one customer, other plans range from $19.95 to $39.95/month 

Trying to create and track your own invoices through spreadsheets can be difficult, so save  time by using invoicing software to do the dirty work for you with Freshbooks’ cloud accounting. In addition to allowing you to send and track payment on invoices, Freshbooks has some added bonuses: the ability to import and export data, late notifications that can be set up to automatically notify clients, business reports, the ability to track time and expenses, etc.

6. Expense Tracking: Shoeboxed
Cost: free plan, or paid plans ranging from $9.95 to $$99.95/month (free trials and a free DIY plan are available) 

Shoeboxed turns your pile of receipt into usable digital data. Simply snap a photo with your phone (or email receipts in), and Shoeboxed will digitize, organize and classify them for you. It works with Quickbooks and other accounting apps. A free plan includes five receipts a month and unlimited document storage; $9.95 lets you submit up to 1000 documents via prepaid envelopes, and includes tax advice as well. 

7. Mileage Tracking: MileIQ
Cost: free for up to 40 trips a month or $5.99/month for an unlimited plan) 

If you know you’re forgetting to claim all of your mileage deductions when tax season rolls around, and you want to avoid doling out extra cash to Uncle Sam, MileIQ will come to your rescue. This iPhone app allows you to drive and classify each trip as business or personal with a single swipe. You can even classify multiple trips at once. A mileage log can be edited easily for expense reports or taxes. 

8. Credit card processing: Square
Cost: 2.75 percent/swipe

Offering services on the go? Instead of copying down credit card numbers for later, use Square. With a free scanner that attaches to your tablet or Smartphone, you’ll be able to receive payments through the Square app for a small percentage. 

Logistics 

9. Contact management: Highrise
Cost: free, paid plans from $24 to $99/month 

Some people have more talent at remembering names and faces than others, but the details can get lost on anyone. Track your clients and leads, their contact information and all of the pertinent details: how you met, who referred you, the name of their company, their social media profiles, websites and any other fields you’d like to be able to pull up when needed. Each contact gets their own page, and you and your team can add notes and details, and even assign tasks (such as sending thank-you notes) to a specific person. It’s also useful for tracking deals, proposals and leads … without having to rummage through messages in email and various social media networks. 

10. Travel management: Mynd
Cost: free

Mynd is an interesting app that synchronizes all of your calendars, but it has another feature that’s incredibly useful: if you’re one of those people that’s chronically late because you consistently underestimate the amount of time it’ll take you to drive somewhere, this iPhone app will look at weather and travel conditions and let you know when it’s time to go (as long as the address of where you’re headed is written in your calendar). Mynd will then launch your favorite navigation app on your phone so you can get there. Meetings that start on time end on time, and Mynd helps you get there so you don’t hold everyone else up. 

11. Contracts: OurDeal
Cost: free to $29.99+

If you’ve been sending people contracts via email, and then waiting for them to sign them and mail or fax them back, OurDeal can speed up the process. It allows you to create secure and confidential written agreements electronically, and even has templates to select if you don’t have your own contract to upload. 

12. File backup: any external hard drive
Cost: varies 

In addition to storing files in Dropbox or the Cloud, you’ll want an external hard drive to back up your data in case your computer’s hard drive fails – since it’s just a matter of time. Any external hard drive will do. Some popular choices include Western Digital My Passport and Seagate Backup Plus. Make sure to back up your data at least once a week, and you’ll be able to recover more quickly should disaster strike. 

What are your favorite time-saving apps and tools? Tell us about them in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Super Cool, Time-Saving Apps and Tools appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Find the Right People on Twitter and Watch Your Business Take Flight

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 06:01

Twitter is a powerful social media platform, but to gain new followers, you also need to know the best types of businesses and/or people to follow as well. While following people like Ellen DeGeneres or Lady Gaga is fun, it’s more effective to find people and companies that are more compatible and complementary to your business.

How do you get the ball rolling in the right direction? Here are three steps:

1. Search

If you sell ice-climbing equipment online, it’s best to obviously follow anyone who has an interest in ice climbing. If you own a hamburger joint in San Francisco, you might want to follow foodies who love a good burger, and so on.

How do you find these people? The easiest way is by going to Twitter Search

On the main page, type in any keyword or phrase that you’d like into the large search box and make sure it’s specific enough for your business. In my example below, I used the phrase, “small biz” because accounts that use this phrase in their tweets or bio are typically the type of accounts that I’m interested in following. As you can see below, there’s a lot of information returned on the phrase, “small biz.”

Twitter returns everything relating to the keyword or phrase you search. You can get more specific by clicking the different tabs (people, photos, news, etc.) on the left-hand side. For our purposes, I focused on the people tab as seen below.

I am then given all Twitter accounts with some sort some connection to my “small biz” phrase. Browse the different accounts; check out their bio and last several tweets. This should provide you enough data to see if it’s valuable to follow. If so, you can start to interact with them in a appropriate manner.

2. Reach out

When reaching out, remember to be yourself and try to be helpful. Back to our ice-climbing example, if someone tweets that they’re in the market for ice-climbing shoes but are confused by all the choices, provide them info to understand the differences. Ask them questions about what their needs are. Establish your expertise and lend a helping hand. If you do this, there’s a higher probability they’ll check out a link in your profile, or will at least visit your website.

3. Localize

You can also narrow down your search by location. Using our San Francisco hamburger joint example from above, If you type hamburgers into the search bar, click on the people tab on the left-hand side and change the location tab from everywhere to near you. All the results will match your location as seen below:

So there you have it: A quick and easy 3-step process to finding interesting and relevant Twitter accounts, which will inevitably result in a strong Twitter following, and hopefully more business! How do you find Twitter accounts relevant to your business? Leave us a comment or share with us on our Twitter account.

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Find the Right People on Twitter and Watch Your Business Take Flight appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Facebook Announces New Detailed Video Metrics

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 06:00

As more businesses use video to showcase their company, products and services on Facebook, it’s becoming critical to measure video performance. Facebook is happy to oblige by providing more advanced metrics for all paid and organic videos uploaded directly to Facebook Pages.

Currently, Facebook Page administrators can only see how many people started watching a video on their Page. With the soon-to-be-implemented video metrics, administrators will be able to see information like video views, unique video views, the average duration of the video view and audience retention.

Image courtesy of Facebook

Facebook officially announced these new analytics in the product news section of their Facebook for Business blog:

“These new metrics are designed to help you learn what’s resonating with people and determine how to more effectively create and promote your videos on Facebook.”

For a more detailed overview of the new Facebook video analytics, check out their handy guide.

 

 

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Facebook Announces New Detailed Video Metrics appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Lights, Camera, Action: Video Setup on the Cheap

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 06:00

Video has quickly become a key part of many companies’ marketing plans. We realize that as a small business, you aren’t blessed with an unlimited budget, so we’re here to help! And, we aren’t talking about selfies here, but professional looking videos that’ll drive visitors to your website.

Watch the video to see how we create videos on the cheap (under $300) and cheerful at VerticalResponse, and scope our our must-haves checklist below:

The following items are video must-haves. Prices can vary, so shop around for the best deals. I’ve included links to the items we use personally.

Camera:  $200

Your camera will most likely be your biggest investment. The one we use is fully featured including a stand, memory card, case and all the accessories you need. If you can’t afford a camera don’t sweat it -  use a smartphone!  Newer smartphones have near, if not full, high definition (HD) video cameras. You can even try Craigslist to find a great deal on a HD camera that’s gently used.

Light Stands:  $25

This two pack of stands is perfect for holding up lights, and they adjust to reach most heights.

Lights (3 of them):  $11

Place two lights on each side of your camera and one behind you. This will eliminate shadows.

Diffusion Paper: $13

This special paper can help diffuse the harsh look of the lights.

Clamps: $8

Use clamps to help secure lights to the stands or anything else that needs securing: Cameras, backdrop, or even your script.

Clothes Pins: $3

Use clothes pins to attach the diffusion paper to the lamps. Simple as that!

Extra Credit: If you want to take your video to the next level (and have some extra bucks to spend), try implementing some of these extra credit items into your videos:

Backdrops:  $19

These come in under twenty bucks, so grab some colors that complement your logo or company colors. Just make sure it’s not too distracting of a color and avoid prints.

Backdrop stand: $65

If you want to get really fancy, get a backdrop stand, which allows your backdrop to drape perfectly.

Once you get your video set up in place, send us a link to your own video in the comments! Now… ACTION!

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© 2014, VR Marketing 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 Lights, Camera, Action: Video Setup on the Cheap appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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