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Does Your Small Business Need a Social Media Policy?

Tue, 07/03/2012 - 06:00

The short answer is: heck yeah! A social media policy summarizes company procedures for employee communication in the online world. Just because you’re not as huge as Exxon Mobil doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself into hot water for what you tweet or post. So if you’re a business of one (you) or many, it’s best to have some semblance of a social media policy in place.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be as fancy or long as the one IBM has developed. But you should have something crafted before you jump head-first into the social seas.

What should you consider when developing a social media policy? There are several things that can be very specific to your individual business. But we’ll stick to concepts that could apply to most businesses, big or small. When developing a social media policy for your company consider implementing the following points:

  • Explain why you have developed the policy. Many companies get hung up on the “what you can’t do” but your social media policy can also focus on “what you can do.”
  • Let your employees know that they should be themselves. They don’t need to lose their personality, but do need to understand that they are representing the company, even when using their personal accounts.
  • Include responsibility guidelines. Most employees (and even owners) need to be reminded to use common sense when participating in social media. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, you probably shouldn’t tweet it. 
  • Promote good judgment. Most people know right from wrong but having it in your policy can save you some grief later on.
  • Have a section devoted to copyright and fair use. Using that photo you found on the web for a blog post could get you into more trouble than you bargained for.
  • Craft a paragraph about trade secrets and proprietary information. No one intends for the secret sauce recipe to get out in the wild. But reminding your employees what company information not to share could save your competitive advantage.
  • Discourage aggressive and confrontational behavior. This is usually spelled out in most employee handbooks, but should be called out specifically in your social media policy as well. Employees may think they’re sticking up for the company when trying to correct misinformation. Encourage responses to be done in a professional and considerate manner because they can be even more critical than the original comments.
  • Encourage providing value to the conversation. Don’t just tweet to tweet. Inspire your team to stand above the noise and provide information that can really help your current customers and prospects too.
  • Spell out the consequences of violating your social media policy. Remind your employees that the company reserves the right to request that certain tweets, posts and comments be removed if they violate the company social media policy.

Whether you’re just starting out or your company has been involved in social media for years, take a bit of time to help your team navigate the ever-evolving social world.

If you’re looking for some additional social media policy examples to get you started, check out the following examples:

 

Posted by Derek Overbey

Derek Overbey is the Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter at @doverbey.

 

 

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3 Tips to Make Your Press Release More Social Media-Friendly

Mon, 07/02/2012 - 06:00

We’ve been saying for a while that interesting, shareable content is at the heart of social media. Have you ever considered using press releases as a content source?

There’s no rule that says only journalists are privy to press releases, or that you have to squirrel them away in some tiny corner of your website. After all, it’s timely and (hopefully) newsworthy – your customers may be interested in them, too.

The challenge, though, is that a standard press release can be a bit of a snore for non-media folks, especially when you consider the typical online surfer who's used to consuming quick bites of information with lots of “oh look, shiny!” distractions. 

You can help maintain interest by adding more interactive, social media-friendly elements to your published press announcements. Here are three ways to “socialize” a press release:

 

1. Show, Don’t Tell

A study by PR Newswire last year found that multimedia releases – press releases that included photos, videos, infographics, logos, etc. – were shared 3.5 times more often than text-only releases. Additionally, they found that multimedia content had a longer “shelf life,” holding readers' interest for more than twice as long as their text-only counterparts. And, if someone wants to cover your news, he or she instantly has creative assets for the article, too.

Don’t have a video or slideshow for every announcement? Don’t worry, many of us don’t. But even something as simple as your company logo or a couple of product photos can be a welcome visual addition to break up copy. 


2. Sharing is Caring

One of the easiest things to implement is a "Share This" bar to each release. This has become so ubiquitous with written content that readers almost expect it, and your press announcements are no exception. Plus, you get analytics to see what news gets the most interest. We use a free tool called AddThis on this blog, as well as our website and press page.


3. Links are Your Friends

If you’re directing press and non-press people to your posted release, they might not immediately know how to navigate around your site if they want more information. 

An easy way to solve this problem is to add a “For more information” section at the end of your press release, with links to relevant product pages and/or previous announcements. Say you’re a winery and just posted a press release about your latest chardonnay. You might want to link to previous press releases about your older chard vintages, as well as your chardonnay- or white wine-specific product page on your website. The idea is to create a pleasant user experience for your readers, wherever they happen to come from.

 

There’s no doubt that social media is changing the PR industry, and the biggest players are taking note. Press release distribution services like PR Newswire and PRWeb are placing more emphasis on online visibility and social media, putting more resources and technology toward online news distribution, multimedia libraries and search engine optimization (SEO). But it’s not just the big guys who are able to leverage the power of social; you can, too!

 

Posted by Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @sungmoyle.

 

 

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BlogWorld Expo: 8 Tips for Creating a Top-Notch Blog

Fri, 06/29/2012 - 06:00
I attended Blogworld 2012 in New York a couple of weeks ago - it was a blast! Blogworld is a fantastic opportunity to meet luminaries in the online world, connect with friends old and new, and learn the latest and greatest about how to make the most of your online presence. After attending several sessions, patterns emerged, reinforced through repetition from multiple speakers in multiple venues. The top eight tips I gleaned from these sessions are applicable to any endeavor, but are especially relevant to blogging and building an online following. Follow them and you'll definitely find greater success in blogging - and just about everything else.

What you may find missing in the tips below is any mention of monetization, optimizing your site for mobile, ROI and other such advanced topics. Frankly, if you're at a point where you're genuinely concerned with this, you were already at Blogworld and are way ahead of the game. For the rest of us - probably a good 80-90% of bloggers - these are distractions that take away from what should be your core activity: writing great content for your readers and helping them find it. Internalize these eight tips and you'll jump to the front of the pack.
1. Be patient: Jay Baer from Convince & Convert calls this "the hardest thing any blogger can do." It seems most bloggers expect that merely grabbing a domain and posting their stuff online, and even tweeting and posting links to their entries on Facebook, should build an immediate, huge, targeted audience. After slaving away to write a couple of posts a week, being greeted with only spammy comments, many bloggers throw up their hands and deem the endeavor a waste of time. 
But overnight success rarely, if ever, comes. Most social media bloggers (Chris Brogan, Jay Baer, Jenny Lawson, etc.) spent months - in many cases years - writing for small audiences and for the mere pleasure of writing. Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, didn't crack the 1,000 visitors a month mark for five years, at which point his blog finally tipped and jumped to 20,000 a month. Whatever you're writing about, make sure you enjoy it. Write for the sake of writing and be patient. In time, with consistency and promotion, your audience will come to you.
2. Be persistent: Hyatt started a podcast not long after he began writing his blog, which takes a fair amount of time and effort. In his talk, "Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World" (based on his book by the same name), he said that every week, just before he gets ready to produce the latest episode, he tells his team that he wants to quit. Once he gets into the flow, records, produces and sees the great response, he's back to loving it again. 
Producing content of any sort on a weekly basis is time-consuming and exhausting. But the sense of completion and the community it builds is exhilarating. Stick with it, even during the rough times. For that matter, write and talk about the tough times. Keep plugging away until you find your voice, and be sure to listen and respond to your audience. Their feedback can keep you going, even when you want to quit.
3. Get creative: For so many folks, blogging means writing. But even a born writer who loves putting words to page can tire of it, as can your audience. As Jay Baer says, "if it's boring for you to write, it's going to be boring for your audience to read." So, mix it up! 
Have you ever produced a video blog? Give it a shot! The technical quality of the video matters less than the quality of the content. Video not your thing? Start a weekly podcast, or a presentation using SlideShare. Draw a cartoon - artistic ability doesn't matter as much as your ability to create something interesting (just look at Randall Munroe's stick figures at the insanely popular geek web comic xkcd.com).

Get creative with your content and make it fun for yourself and your audience. 
4. No excuses: No matter what's going on in your life, you can find the time to produce content. If this blogging thing is important enough to you, you'll find the time. Watch less TV. Get up 30 minutes to an hour earlier every morning. Stay up later. 

Even if you're already doing all of this, you can still find the time. Chris Brogan practices a technique he calls "quilting time." If he's waiting in line at the grocery store, he whips out his mobile device or tablet and jots down sentences until it's his turn. He does the same thing when waiting to pick up his kids from school. If you're commuting to work by train or bus, you can jot off some lines in between stops. If you drive to work, consider bringing a recorder and dictating content. 
 
5. Be consistent: Are you seeing a trend here? Consistency is not just about writing regularly, it's about managing expectations for yourself and your audience. As the old saying goes, "a writer writes." If you aren't posting something regularly, it just won't work out. Declare a schedule for yourself, a weekly deadline, and stick to it. Start by posting something on a specific day once a week. Don't fret over the quality - you need to get in the habit of shipping something out weekly. The quality will follow. Technical writing ability is far less important than the passion you bring to it. 

Stick with the schedule come hell or high water and it'll become a habit. You'll eventually find something that warrants a second post during a given week. As Chris Brogan discovered when he began this process, you'll soon find yourself consistently posting twice a week or more. Your audience will come to expect and appreciate the regularity of your posts and the traffic will follow.
6. Templatize everything: Time-quilting is a fantastic way to carve out the time needed to put your content together. Shortening the amount of time it takes to produce your content can help make the most of your time. Most of your content can probably be laid out in a consistent fashion. Many posts follow the same basic pattern of anecodtal introduction -> detailed discussion of topic -> call to action. Even though the topic changes, the general layout stays the same and it becomes easier to write something, even when you think your topic is pretty lean.

In his fantastic talk, "12 Imperative Must-Dos for the Serious Blogger," Jay Baer recommended doing one specific type of feature post each week - like a weekly wrap-up, or a top 10 list, or anything that with a consistent voice. The benefit of doing this is that you will always have one post you know that you'll be writing each week. Having that deadline can mold your thinking so you're always in the process of finding content to fill that hole. 
7. Use social media to support your site: use Google alerts to monitor your site.
Hyatt breaks your online presence down to three areas:
  • Your home base - this is your blog, your podcast or whatever other content you inherently control and own. Your goal in all online promotion is to drive your audience here. 
  • Your embassies - these are the social media properties where you maintain a profile or an account, each with their own audience. Use these to promote your work, engage with your audience and work with others in your field. 
  • Your outposts - Anyone who mentions you, either through retweets, Facebook comments or their own blogs and content, is helping build your awareness.
You have no control over what they say or how they say it, and you should embrace this. Use Google Alerts to monitor your name, the name of your blog and your blogging topic so you know what's being said.
8. Engage and be gracious: Never let a comment or message directed at you or about you go unanswered. Reply graciously to everyone - even your detractors. If someone takes the time to write about something you posted, thank them and engage them in a discussion. Visit other related blogs and comment on their posts as well. To quote Humane Society Community Manager Anne Hogan, "Comments are blogger crack."

Reply to every email and tweet. Respond to every blog comment. Use Google Alerts to monitor who is talking about you or your topics and reach out to thank and engage with them. Don't fight with the haters, respond to them reasonably and warmly. Becky McCray and Barry Moltz, in their talk "Small Town Rules," call this attitude of congeniality being "small town friendly" - building the type of community where everyone knows each other and greets one another warmly as they pass on the street. It's surprising how far just a little friendliness can take you.

Posted by Rob Zazueta.

Rob is the Evangelist at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter @rzazueta.



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    •    BlogWorld Expo: Want to Resonate with Your Audience? ‘Get Real.

10 Awesome Events Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Wed, 06/27/2012 - 06:00

Every year there are countless events being held in cities across the United States. Many of them are designed specifically for entrepreneurs and those in small business. If you're feeling uninspired (we all know that feeling!), in need of some education, hungry to pick up some knowledge on the latest products, technologies and trends or in the mood to network amongst peers and other entrepreneurs, attending an event may just be what you need! I've searched, asked around, and compiled ten awesome events every entrepreneur and business owner should know about. 


1. Blogworld - January 6-8, 2013 (Las Vegas, NV)

Blogworld & New Media Expo is the largest conference in the world geared specifically toward bloggers, podcasters, web TV content creators, social media enthusiasts and all new media content creators. Besides learning from the very best speakers and educators in their respective fields, BlogWorld is also the place for everyone in new media, from beginners to seasoned veterans, to network, share ideas and take their online content to new heights.

 

2. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) - January 8-11, 2013 (Las Vegas, NV)

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a major technology-related tradeshow held each January in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Not open to the public, the Consumer Electronics Association-sponsored show typically hosts previews of products and new product announcements.


3. BlogHer - August 2-4, 2012 (New York, NY)

BlogHer is open to anyone and everyone who considers themselves part of the blogosphere. BlogHer is particularly focused on highlighting the skills and talents of women who blog. However, all genders, ages, ethnicities, and levels of blogging experience are encouraged to attend.


4. Small Business Week – Stay Tuned for 2013 Conference Dates (Washington, D.C.)

At National Small Business Week you have the opportunity to meet and connect with leaders in the small business community, grow your business network and get inspired. The event is hosted by the Small Business Administration, which has been recognizing the special impact made by outstanding American entrepreneurs and small business owners since 1963.

 

5. San Francisco Small Business Week – Stay Tuned for 2013 Conference Dates

SF Small Business Week allows you to connect with more than 4,000 members of the small business community. Join this free annual event to learn about best practices and innovative technology to help grow your business.


 

6. Startup Weekend - Various Cities and Dates

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups. The events are weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas are viable. On average, half of Startup Weekend’s attendees have technical or design backgrounds, while the other half have business backgrounds.


7. Small Business Tour – Various Dates/Locations

The Small Business Tour is attended by many small businesses to network, learn on technology, hear from experts in small business and educate on the latest and greatest in small business management. The event covers what the “new small business” does to deal with today’s toughest challenges and gives fresh ways to manage money, growth and people.

 

 

8. Google I/O May 14- 16 2013 (or June 27-29, 2012 if you can make the short notice, San Francisco, CA)

Learn the tech world's latest web, mobile and social breakthroughs and meet the developers who are turning them into tomorrow's startups. Keep yourself and your team driving innovation at Google I/O (Input/Output). Google I/O can also be viewed from the comforts of home with I/O Live, where keynotes, sessions and more will be streamed from the event.

 

 

9. NYXPO - October 17, 2012 (New York, NY)

NYXPO draws upwards of 10,000 attendees and over 200 exhibitors. Education is offered throughout the day and includes over 40 quality information sessions covering sales, marketing, advertising, business growth, best business practices, social media and much more. Attendees learn on the latest products and services to meet competitive challenges and discover the keys to financial success and stability.


10. Content Marketing Strategies Conference - May 7, 2013 (Berkeley, CA)

The Content Marketing Strategies Conference, hosted by divr.it, specifically focuses on helping small businesses understand the pivotal role content marketing plays in demand generation, sales, SEO and social. Attendees walk away with an action plan to kick-start or enhance a content marketing program.


These are just 10 of the many great events out there happening in multiple cities and states throughout the country. If you're looking to attend a local event it's best to perform an online search or contact your city's Chamber of Commerce to find out more.

Have you attended an awesome event recently or in the past? Do share. We'd all love to hear about it!

 

Posted by Savannah Stewart

Savannah Stewart is a Lifecycle Marketing Coordinator at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @savannahstewart.

 

 

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8 Steps to Building Goal-Scoring Landing Pages

Tue, 06/26/2012 - 06:00

At time of writing the sports world (OK, maybe not the US) is riveted towards the UEFA EURO 2012™ - Arguably the highest-level of soccer competition (with the only notable MIA nations being Brazil and Argentina). What does this have to do with marketing, you may be wondering? Well, the most popular sport in the world (sorry baseball fans) has a basic set of tactics and strategies that can easily be transposed towards running any type of marketing campaign, be it brand awareness, advertising or a promotional effort, in particular when it comes to optimizing your landing pages.

For instance, the emails, tweets, and ads you have out on the field/web are your defenders and midfielders, carrying the ball/customer towards the end goal. The landing page is your striker, the one that 'closes' and gets you on the scoreboard, or revenue-reporting dashboard in this case. Let's take a look at all the parallels that can be drawn between football (as it's known everywhere else in the world) and landing page optimization:

1. Eyes on the Prize: While in soccer, the basic objective is to have the ball cross the opponents' goal-line using any part of your body except your arms and hands; in marketing, objectives can be multiple, from lead generation to making a sale. But it's up to you to determine exactly what you're trying to accomplish, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

2. Place Your Shot: Once you have a clear goal defined, make sure it's clear to the people visiting your landing page as well. Just like the big posts with nets are visible on either end of the soccer pitch, your call-to-action (CTA) should stand out from the rest of the content on the page. Unlike in soccer though, avoid any zig-zags or fake routes, get straight to the point and make it obvious what you want them to do.

If you're trying to collect data from a potential customer, make sure your web-to-lead or opt-in forms are in plain view and constitute the main point of focus of your page (without asking for too much information at first, you don't want to scare them away on first contact). Same thing if you're trying to get someone to complete a purchase from your webstore - your CTA button should pop and make it crystal clear what the next step is (play with wording and colors to see what people respond to best).

3. Load the Box: On a set-piece, especially when behind on the scoreboard, you'll often see everyone and their goalie come up and crowd the opposing penalty area. The more people there are, the higher the chances of someone kicking the ball in the net, simple logic right? The same applies to securing a conversion. While the landing page should provide the final push, multiple touches through Pay Per Click (PPC) or banner ads, emails and social posts lay the groundwork. That way, once the customer finally decides to click through any of those and visit your landing page, there will already be a sense of déjà vu and your chances of 'scoring' are way higher. Also, make sure your page is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)-proof, making it easy to access through a simple web search in case the prospect/customer forgot where he last saw your ad (for tips on SEO, check out our two-part series here and here).

4. Put on a Good Show: Teams such as 1970s' Ajax or today's FC Barcelona are revered thanks to their beautiful play comprised of short passes, one-touch combinations and fluid ball movement leading to spectacular games and goals galore. The marketing equivalent would then be, first and foremost, good copy. As we often say in this blog, content will always be king and exciting, engaging copy rules. Make sure to have the right amount of imagery and white space as well, resulting in a landing page that's easy on the eyes, while removing any distractions (secondary CTAs, extra links, navigation bar...) as clutter can prevent your visitors from performing the primary desired action. Remember, this is the final step toward your ultimate goal: the conversion. After all the sweat and hard work that went into crafting your entire campaign, make it count!

5. Don't Get Carded: As I've previously mentioned, your landing page should serve one purpose, and that is to seal the deal and generate a conversion. The other side of that coin is to not make any false promises or claims about your product/service. Deliver what you say you will. If you're trying to collect data from a lead, don't flood his/her inbox without expressed consent (follow CAN-SPAM rules, always). Similarly, don't have any shady cookies lying around memorizing credit card information or anything else your visitor hasn't given you permission to store, as no conversion is worth destroying the brand image and integrity you worked so hard to build. Make sure to avoid these pitfalls and avoid the dreaded red card, booting you out of the game.

6. Leverage the Crowd: Chants and cheers can often be the difference between a win and a loss; there's a reason fans are called the 12th player in the stadium. Your customer base can also be the clincher when it comes to scoring that conversion. If you have a loyal and vocal community following, don't be afraid to use their quotes, testimonials and reviews on your landing page. People always relate to what their peers have to say about a given product/service, so give them reasons to trust and want to do business with you.

7. Try Different Line-Ups: Building a team isn't always a matter of lining up the best players available, but rather the players that have the best chemistry in order to bring the best results. It takes a lot of tweaking before finally finding the right formula. The same can be said about building a landing page: test, test, and when you think you're done testing, test some more. You can do A/B testing, offering 2 versions of the page to 2 different sets of customers (you can have A and B running on 2 different servers, for example); or Multivariate (MVT) for slight variations of the same page (a different image here or CTA there). Don't forget to check out our Results Are in! series for testing ideas and inspiration.

8. Review Tape: After each game, coaches and players reconvene and gobble an inordinate amount of tape in order to break down their performance, seeing how they can do better and what areas to improve on for the next game. Similarly, bookmark your analytics tool (heck, make it your homepage even) and regularly check on how your page is performing, from basic metrics such as page visits, bounce rate and of course conversion rate, to more complex ones like funnel reports. Compile, analyze all these results and tweak your page accordingly, then rinse/repeat.

 

Do you have any tips of your own on how to best optimize landing pages? Share away!

 

Posted by My Truong

My Truong is the Marketing Programs Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter @PtitMy.

 

 

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Marketing to Businesses

Are Your Employees Waving Away Customers?

Mon, 06/25/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

I recently visited a local small business (a pet food store) because I wanted to get my doggie, Dwight, some kibble. It wasn't a highly trafficked joint and in a remote area, and I only wanted a small bag of food. So I got out of the car and went up to the door only to find they had just closed.

Turns out I had arrived three minutes after closing time and the person who was manning the store was still behind the register with a customer. I waved to see if he would open the place up just to get one more sale, but this employee gave me the cut-across-the-throat gesture and waved me off.

What did that tell me? That he clearly wasn't the business owner.

All of you business owners are out there clutching your proverbial pearls, right? If you were there, you would have opened the doors to get one more sale for the day. But in this case, it was an employee who wanted out after eight hours of looking at the clock and didn't care about poor Dwight or his lack of delicious dry food.

How do you make sure your employees aren't waving off customers and potential sales? Here are four ideas:

1. Go above and beyond.

 Your employees want to feel part of a family, so make it so! Hang out with them, get to know them, do fun things like happy hours and picnics with them. Everyone wants to love where they work and who they work for, so give it to them!

2. Make them feel invested in the company.

Why not try giving them a part of your company so they feel invested? At VerticalResponse, we give all of our employees stock options to let them know that if the company is successful, they will be, too. You might also try giving them a piece of the profits at the end of the year so they know that the more the cash registers ring, the more they'll get.

3. Be transparent.

Let them know what your growth is and what it needs to be. Even if it takes the old thermometer sketch to illustrate where you are in the month, it's worth it. I give my entire company a monthly update on where we are, where we need to be and what we need to do to get there.

4. Give them incentives.

Tracking their daily sales could get them more of a bonus at the end of the month. Ever have someone ask you at the register, "Who helped you with that?" They're tracking the effectiveness of their employees , and who makes an impression.

Here's a story I love to share: Since VerticalResponse is an online email marketing software company, there's not really a reason for customers to physically visit us. At the very beginning of our existence, a woman came to our offices and sat on our couch for 20 minutes (we didn't have a receptionist at the time) until an employee (there were four of us total) came out into the open area on his way to the restroom and saw her. She was there to give us $20 in cash so she could send an e-mail campaign to her list.

Instead of pushing her out the door and directing her to our website, the employee took the cash, printed out an invoice for the amount she gave us, and even gave her extra e-mail credits. She took the time to come to us, so we felt the need to return the favor.

The bottom line is that you need to have your employees be as passionate as possible about your business. Including them on various parts of your business, even the down and dirty, and incentivizing them to do what you as the business owner would do, might work wonders. Have you tried?

 

Posted by Janine Popick

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick, and check out more of her Inc.com columns.

 

 

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How to Go for the Gold with Your Email & Social Media Marketing

Fri, 06/22/2012 - 06:00

The London 2012 Summer Olympics are right around the corner (beginning July 27 and running through August 12). The official Olympics Twitter account already has more than 660,000 followers (and counting) and the games haven't even begun. Suffice it to say, there's a lot of excitement.

Have you considered leveraging the Olympics theme for your email and social media marketing? Before you race off to get started, don't get tripped up on a hurdle, because there are many rules governing the use of Olympic terms, themes, etc.

Thanks to Tia Fisher from Social Media Today for authoring one of the most extensive posts I have seen on the legal rules, as well as the Marketing Donut. We've now got a list of restricted signs, images, terms and phrases associated with the Olympics that you should avoid including:

  • The Olympic Symbol
  • The Paralympic Symbol
  • The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Emblems
  • The London 2012 mascots
  • The words 'London 2012'
  • The words 'Olympic', 'Olympiad', 'Olympian' (plurals and similar words included, e.g., 'Olympix')
  • The words 'Paralympic', 'Paralympiad', 'Paralympian' (plurals and similar words included, e.g., 'Paralympix')
  • The words ‘games’, ‘two thousand and twelve’, ‘2012’ and ‘twenty twelve’ (list A) which may not be used in combination with each other or with ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’, ‘London’, ‘medals’, ‘sponsor’ or ‘summer’ (list B).
  • The Olympic Motto: 'Citius Altius Fortius' / 'Faster Higher Stronger'
  • The Paralympic Motto: 'Spirit in Motion'
  • The Team GB logo
  • The Paralympics GB logo
  • The British Olympic Association logo
  • The British Paralympic Association logo
  • london2012.com (and various derivatives)
  • The London 2012 sports pictograms

And our friends at Social Media Today covered the bases from a social media perspective here.

If following all these rules seems harder than qualifying to compete in the Olympics, you may be right, but we have a few ideas to leverage the hype and have some fun.

Medal Sale - Do: Create a summer sale and create price tiers based on Bronze, Silver and Gold. Don't: Call it an Olympics Sale or refer to the Medals as Olympic Medals.

Beat the Clock - Do: Put a countdown clock in your shop and/or incorporate one on your website. Only run your sale until the clock stops to provide a sense of urgency. You can find fun countdown timers for your site here thanks to Movable Ink. Don't: Call it an Olympics Countdown.

Score! - Do: Offer a mystery sale in which a customer clicks on your offer and a "judge" holds up a score - the score determines the % off. Don't: Have the sale refer to the Olympics.

Opening Ceremony - Do: Host a party or event for the opening ceremony. This year's theme is Isles of Wonder. Give everyone a special discount that day if they mention the theme. Don't: Sponsor London 2012 broadcasts or reports.

Sports Theme - Do: If your business is tied to a specific summer sport, you've got an easy theme. Promote summer sport products or activities if applicable, as they'll be top of mind and in the spotlight. Don't: (Per our friends at Social Media Today) "Mention a specific product or service in connection with the Olympics."

Get Social - Do: "Use your social media strategies to enjoy the events. Use Facebook, your business blog or Twitter to share enjoyment of the Games with your customers. Use polls, ask fun questions, get your followers to post pictures of themselves doing sports, or jumping hurdles — anything that’s fun and engaging." - Marketing Donut

Social Media Today adds:

You can (if it's not completely out of context for your brand to make a comment on a sporting event):

  • Give relevant, accurate, factual information.
  • Report on the facts of an event (e.g., The Olympics starts today!!).
  • State when an event is taking place (e.g., 100m race in 5 minutes). 
You should:
  • Moderate pictures, video or audio from events to be posted on your social media sites by applying the special rules applying to participants and attendees, as you would any other potentially copyright infringing content (see Part III of this blog [to be published soon]).
  • Update moderation guidelines to cater for the Olympics legislation.
  • Consider re-tweets in the same way as your own tweets when applying these restrictions.
  • Be cautious, moderate and appropriate when linking to any content that refers to the Olympics. Linking rules to London2012.com have been published by LOCOG [the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] in section 5 of their terms of use
You shouldn't (unless an exemption or defense applies (see Part I) or one of the 'can do' list above):
  • Use the Olympic symbols, the words 'Olympics', 'Paralympics' or any derivation of those words.
  • Use the Listed Expressions (2 from List A or one from each list [lists A and B mentioned above] - for details, see Part I).
Never:
  • Run a marketing campaign to get your brand associated with the Olympics.
  • Encourage Olympics themed-responses from your community.
  • Run a competition for Olympics tickets.
  • Give specific expressions of support (e.g., "Go Team GB in London 2012!") or excitement/enthusiasm suggesting a connection with the brand (e.g.,  "everyone here at Brand X is so excited about the Olympics!")
  • Mention a specific product or service in connection with the Games (e.g.,  "London 2012 athletes should drink Brand X for energy")
  • Sponsor London 2012 broadcasts or reports

 

So, if you play by the rules you can create a summer games-inspired sale or event that will have your business going for the gold. If you were already planning one, or know of any rule/restriction that we forgot to mention, feel free to share in the comments!

 

Posted by Kim Stiglitz.

Kim Stiglitz is the Director of Lifecycle Marketing at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @Stiggy1. 

 

 

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Trade Shows: Get Bang for Your Buck

Thu, 06/21/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

Trade shows can be totally worth it – if you know how to work them. I'm all about the details so I try to make sure that our company, chooses the trade show that will get us the coverage we need, does signage right, has the proper location and enables us to effectively follow up.

How do you know what's right for you?

When we choose a trade show or convention, we try to look at it from a few perspectives: Is the target audience right for us? How close is it to where we're located? How many people will we need to man it? Or is this a strategic move?

1. Pick the right audience

First, we look at the target audience. You'll usually get information about attendance in the sponsor or exhibitor package. If our target is small business or retailers and that's what makes up the majority of attendees, generally it will pique our interest. Then we look at how many people are attending. If it's a free event, there will probably be a ton of people there, but they may not necessarily be qualified. If there's an entrance fee, even a small amount, chances are they'll be more qualified. We also generally look at how many leads we'll collect. If a trade show is $500 to sponsor, we know we'll need to get a few paying customers at the event in order to cover costs. If it costs us $10,000 to sponsor, we know we'll need a whole lot more so we back into the equation.

2. Location, location, location

If it's our target audience and held in our backyard, then this isn't a long conversation; we're one step closer to a yes. Now we look at how many people are going to be attending and how many people from our team are needed. If we can capitalize on sponsoring a happy hour or something where we can get our people in front of new folks, that might make more sense.

3. A strategic move

If our goal is to form a strategic partnership and there is a show where we need to spend a bit more money to get in front of companies we might not be able to otherwise, we're all for it. We get great exposure, and since partnerships are more long term, that justifies the higher upfront spend if we seal a deal due to a connection made at a particular event.

4. The all-important follow-up

We make sure that we take the leads we get from these shows and put them into a separate list and begin the marketing. We thank people for stopping by and talking to us, and we give them free information that helps them do their jobs better. Things like webinar invitations and downloadable guides are a great way to get people to sign up for your service to check your services out.

Trade shows and events can be fun, but don't forget: Just like any marketing strategy, you should have an end goal in mind. Make the goals clear to your team so that expectations are set, and then regroup after each event to see what worked and what didn't. (One time we handed out fancy cupcakes at our booth – people were so busy eating, it made for some pretty awkward conversations. Never again!)

What have your trade show experiences been like?

 

Posted by Janine Popick

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick, and check out more of her Inc.com columns.

 

 

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The Importance of Using Links, A Not So Trivial Tip for Serious Marketers.

Wed, 06/20/2012 - 06:00

Here on the VerticalResponse Blog we've never had a problem using puns or a play on words in our posts, and this title follows that glorious history (with apologies to Oscar Wilde). Funny title, sure, but the subject is pretty important for email marketers: Links. You have links in your email... everyone does, right? Wait, not everyone? Good thing we have this blog post then! Here are 5 tips to get you linking:

1. Link images - Most people know they can click an image to go somewhere, so be sure to link your images and let them do just that. VerticalResponse will track the clicks for you (as we do all links in your email), so you can see what images are being clicked and who is clicking them. Just make sure you're linking to a destination your customer is expecting. For example, link an image of a product in your email to a page with more information on that product, not just your homepage. Your customer may lose interest fast if they need to hunt around your website looking for the right page.

2. Use call-to-action buttons - Links are great, but to ensure you get engagement, use call-to-action buttons. Someone thinking about visiting to your website will feel even more compelled to click on a button to do just that. 

For even bigger points, use a colorful button to help your recipients understand what they need to do. And we can help you with this: check out our free button-building site at buttons.verticalresponse.com.

3. Include "read more" links - Does your email contain news or content articles? Give your readers teaser copy to catch their interest, then provide a link to read the rest of the article. This makes it much easier for your recipients to find what they want in your email, and you get more data on their engagement with a click.

4. Provide social links - Don't forget to include social media links. Your recipients want to find you on social sites, so make it easy for them. Allow them to share your email through social sharing and follow you on whatever social platforms you are using.


5. Get them to your website - Ultimately your goal is to get customers to your website. Give them lots of opportunities to do so with links. Sprinkle links throughout your email so when your recipients are ready to visit your site, they can and easily. Is there a certain number of links you should use? No. The important thing about links is that they go to a good site with a good reputation. If not, you could find your email getting flagged as spam.

Once you send out your email, use our reporting tool to see what links were important to your recipients. You'll be able to see which links are clicked the most and where in the email they're clicking, allowing you to continue to give them what they need. While it may be important to be earnest, it’s even more important to link!

 

Posted by Jill Bastian.

Jill Bastian is the Training and Education Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter @Jillieb3.

 


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Small Biz Social Secrets - Episode 4: Lauren Friedman [VIDEO]

Mon, 06/18/2012 - 06:00

We're very excited about our fourth installment of the Small Biz Social Secrets video series. This time we're chatting with Lauren Friedman, Manager of the Community Engagement Team at Adobe Social. In this video, Lauren shares insight on how to bring the human element to your social strategy. A practicing social professional, Lauren also provides practical advice on which platform is best for your type of content and outreach.

 

 

Posted by Derek Overbey

Derek Overbey is the Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter at @doverbey.

 

 

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Writing Press Releases: 8 Dos and Don'ts

Fri, 06/15/2012 - 06:00

I came across a cringe-worthy press release the other day. It started like this (names crossed out to protect the guilty):

Entrepreneur Rises From The Ashes To Bring Humor To The Scorned Woman! Exclusive

XXXXXX – a hilarious new company with gift cards and merchandise to make even the angriest woman break into a hearty chuckle. Ex's! The hilarious website is worth checking out!!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- May 24, 2012 -- Entrepreneur XXXXXX Johnston, knows exactly how a Scorned Woman feels. Bitten not once, but twice by her EX, most women would fall into a pit of anger, despair and humiliation. Not this woman! 

After picking my jaw off the floor, I wondered if the writer had mistakenly distributed the beginning of a romance novella, not a press release announcing a “hilarious new company.”

Drafting a well-written press release doesn't require a Public Relations degree, but you do need something worth touting. A press release without concrete news is just as bad as a poorly written one. After that, it's a matter of writing and formatting it in a way that makes you credible and attracts the attention of a busy journalist. 

Follow these essential dos and don’ts the next time you write a press release:

DO ALWAYS ...

Put the point of your press release in the very beginning. In the example above, I’m six sentences in – including the headline and subhead – and I still have no idea what the release is about. Sure, maybe they're establishing a creative hook, but six going on seven sentences is no longer creative, it's annoying. You only have a few precious seconds to tell the media who you are and why they should continue reading. Cover who, what, when and where by the end of the first paragraph.

Follow proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. This isn’t a blog post or email where people are more forgiving if you write "lie" when you mean "lay" or capitalize something to stress a point. Reporters and their copy editors religiously follow guides like the Associated Press Stylebook and/or the Chicago Manual of Style; check out the AP Stylebook Twitter feed (they often tweet tips and host chats) and the Chicago Q&A section. Or follow one of our favorites here at VerticalResponse, the Grammar Girl – she’s got tons of free quick and dirty tips!

Have a boilerplate. This is the “About [Your Company Name]” section you see at the end of press releases. It’s basically a short, one-paragraph description of your company, where it’s located and where readers should go for more information (like your website, social media networks and phone number). If a reporter isn’t familiar with your company, he or she will expect to find that information at the end of a press release.

Get a second set of eyeballs. After you've been staring for hours and hours at something you've written, you need a fresh pair of eyes to catch any mistakes you might've missed. At VerticalResponse, everything we write for external audiences – from blog posts to Web copy to email campaigns – goes through a formal editing/review process that involves many team members.

 

DON'T EVER ...

Exaggerate. Unless you’re only sending the press release to one person, it’s not “exclusive.” Unless lives are in danger or President Obama is speaking, it’s not “breaking news.” Same goes for “breakthrough,” “pioneering,” “revolutionary” and all those other fluffy adjectives that reporters would never use in their news writing anyway. Instead, demonstrate how you're innovative with an example or customer testimonial.

Use exclamation marks. Yes, you’re excited about your news and want to shout it to the world. But a press release is a formal company announcement. You won’t find an exclamation point in a news article in the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg Businessweek, so keep the dramatic proclamations to your marketing materials and more informal communications.

Write an essay. Who has time to read 10 paragraphs? Not a busy journalist, that’s for sure. Keep your press release to no more than one-and-a-half pages, single spaced. (And no, you can’t use 10-point font.) Break your text into short paragraphs. Use bullet points and subheads. This way, readers can skim the release and get the gist of your news quickly.

Use "you," "we" or "I" – except in the quote. Just like a news story, a press release should be written in the third person. Use words like "customers," "consumers," "users" and/or plain old "people." The only place where a first, or second person narrative is OK is in a quote from a company representative.

For more press release advice, here's a handy template that shows how press releases are generally structured. 

Writing a press release shouldn’t be a daunting task. Remember these cardinal rules and those on the receiving end will thank you for it! 

 

Posted by Connie Sung Moyle

Connie Sung Moyle is the Public Relations Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @sungmoyle.

 

 

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Introducing VerticalResponse Social, a One-Stop Social Media Marketing Solution for Small Businesses

Wed, 06/13/2012 - 09:36

For small businesses, social media can be a daunting, time-guzzling task to add to their never-ending “to do” list. Coming to their rescue is VerticalResponse Social, the new self-service marketing solution from VerticalResponse that helps small businesses take the guesswork out of social media and extend the reach of their online marketing campaigns.
 
VerticalResponse Social is the latest addition to the VerticalResponse portfolio of award-winning email marketingonline surveysevent marketing and direct mail marketing solutions. With VerticalResponse, businesses can create, manage and measure all of their marketing efforts – now including social media marketing – from the same account and user interface, saving them time and money.

“VerticalResponse Social makes it easier than ever for small businesses to share content across email and social media and also engage with their customers, because now they can do it all from one integrated dashboard,” said VerticalResponse CEO Janine Popick. “They can choose curated content from our automatic feeds or their own content, then create and schedule a campaign that’s spread through both email and social media to amplify their message. They also can manage social conversations and deepen their engagement with their customers. Because it’s all managed from the VerticalResponse dashboard, the time savings alone are enormous.”

VerticalResponse user data analysis conducted in March 2012 confirmed businesses that use both email marketing and social media achieve 28 percent higher email open rates, signifying the growing importance of integrating these efforts.

VerticalResponse Social offers several benefits for the time-strapped small business or non-profit organization:

  • Social media marketing in minutes. Users can create, schedule and publish content to their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles from one place in minutes, up to 30 days in advance. From a single post to a multi-week campaign, businesses can do it all with just a few clicks. For campaigns, VerticalResponse Social even provides recommendations on the ideal number of links, questions, quotes or status updates to publish over the campaign duration.
  • Ability to extend content and marketing campaigns across channels. With VerticalResponse Social, users can easily share their content across channels from one platform. For example, a restaurant owner who is planning a limited-time-only menu can schedule and launch both an email campaign and a series of social media posts and tweets promoting the menu all from one integrated dashboard, with full reporting.
  • Content fed directly to the VerticalResponse Social dashboard. Users get relevant, up-to-the-minute content based on industry and special interests, from quotes to blog posts to news, so that they don’t have to waste time looking for content. Simply select and share. A custom content calendar makes it easy to manage and track communications.
  • Easy engagement with fans and followers. Users can view, respond to and track comments and replies – whether they’re from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – all within the VerticalResponse dashboard.



VerticalResponse Social Pricing
Businesses can try out the new VerticalResponse Social platform free for 30 days. After that, it costs $18 per month. Special pricing discounts are available for existing VerticalResponse customers.
 
For more information, visit VerticalResponse Social.

 

Small Biz Social Secrets - Episode 3: Chris Brogan [VIDEO]

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 06:00

We are back for our third installment of Small Biz Social Secrets. This time around we had the distinct pleasure of sharing a few moments with Chris Brogan, President of Human Business Works. Chris shares insight into how he's looking at the digital landscape in today's world. One of the most respected social media strategists today, Chris also shares his feelings on email as a vital communication tool within any community. 

 

Posted by Derek Overbey

Derek Overbey is the Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter at @doverbey.

 

 

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Tips & Insights from DIY Innovators

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 06:00
Jenny Hart, owner of Sublime Stitching

Steve Jobs once stated during a Stanford commencement address, "You’ve got to find what you love… Work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." So, dare I ask: Do you love what you do?

This question and piece of advice rings especially true when speaking of the persistently emerging DIY (do-it-yourself) culture, pioneers and entrepreneurs. With the emergence of sites like Etsy in 2005, an online gateway was paved for DIY crafters to sell their products and gain more exposure. Since then, the DIY dream has been booming more than ever before. And who better to look up to than the go-getters, scramblers, and ambitious adventurers who dared to turn their hobbies into successful professions. Here are some tips, insights, motivation and marketing principles from DIY dreamers and innovators:


Never stop learning

Fashionistas, crafty creatures, recipe ravens and photographers galore have a knack for their particular craft, but like anyone, they still need to perfect that skill and turn it into something marketable and/or desirable. The admirable aspect of DIYers is the fact that they’re literally doing everything themselves, including education.

Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere

The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article back in February about Emily Schuman, the brains and brawn behind the fashion/food blog, Cupcakes and Cashmere. Once an advertising executive, Schuman turned her interests into a blog featuring stylish outfits, DIY design tips and recipes. Resulting in a self-sufficient business/blog with more than 6 millions views a month, it’s hard to believe Schuman was none the wiser.

“I had zero experience with blogging, so I googled every single question. I didn’t even know how to hyperlink to another site when I first began, let alone reformat pictures or create a clickable headline… I was happy about how the photographs of my outfits were coming out but I felt that my food photography wasn’t as good. So I spent a week practicing and reading books and sites that demonstrated techniques that food photographers use. It’s just about improving on things and doing it yourself and not looking to others for shortcuts.” – Wall Street Journal


If it doesn’t exist, create it    

Jenny Hart, embroidery artist and founder of Sublime Stitching didn’t know a thing about embroidery when she first began. Today, Hart’s independent DIY embroidery biz and online website has exploded into 8 tutorial embroidery books, edgy patterns and more. How did it come about? She couldn’t find what she was looking for. In this interview with ModCloth (another successful start-up!), Hart explains:

“I wanted to create the kind of embroidery company I wished existed. Learning how to embroider was a huge stumbling block — I felt most instructions were overly difficult, stuffy, and hard to decipher. The patterns for embroidery had become really out-of-date and not at all aimed at a new generation. So, I designed the kind of patterns I would want to stitch myself. I also started pre-assembling starter kits and bringing it all together the same way it came together for me.” – ModCloth Blog

Collaborate

In a wildly emerging DIY world, collaborating like-minded individuals not only increases exposure for all parties included, but can result in superb success.

Image from Renegade Craft Fair

In 2003, Sue Daly decided to have DIY communities collaborate with one another. Combining the huge and emerging DIY scene in Chicago, Daly pioneered the Renegade Craft Fair. Since the first collaboration of indie-craft masters, the Renegade Craft Fair’s blossoming success has expanded to Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and London (UK). In an interview with Etsy, Daly explains:

“At the time there were many young makers of handmade goods without a lot of opportunities to sell their works directly to the public, outside of small markets and consignment boutiques. Many had websites and participated in early online craft forums, but no large-scale, free-to-attend, outdoor event existed specifically for indie-craft makers.” – Etsy Blog

According to the Wall Street Journal, Schuman from Cupcakes and Cashmere also jumped on the collaboration train resulting in income through affiliate programs and partnerships including: Coach, Estée Lauder, Forever 21, Juicy Couture, Style Mint, Beso.com and New York Fashion Week. 

SFMade (a VerticalResponse non-profit customer!), established in 2010, made it their mission to support, collaborate and sustain companies producing locally made products. According to their website, “Our vision is a more diverse and sustainable local economy, where companies who design and manufacture products locally thrive, in turn, creating quality jobs for people from all walks of life and contributing to the overall economic and social vibrancy of our City.” SFMade also collaborates with public and private sectors to enhance local infrastructure.

 

Teach others

Not only do DIYers educate themselves, but they’re also eager to teach their audience – something we should all strive to do with our own customers. Kelly Malone, DIY diva (owner/creator of Indie Mart and Workshop) turned her love for crafts and power tools into a business teaching crafts and power tools. Workshop, a San Francisco-based brick and mortar store was created by Malone to offer aspiring crafters affordable DIY classes. Workshops range from beer making and power tools to artisan caramel-crafting and even DIY business courses.

Recently winning the 2012 SF Bay Guardian Women in Business Award, Malone says,“We all used to make things, but now we don't create our own things anymore. I like seeing people make their own commerce... I wanted to create a space that was super 'hit it and quit it’… Where you could come in and take a class, but didn't necessarily need to become some expert knitter; a place for people to sit down and get their hands dirty, learn to make something, and get inspired.” – SF Bay Guardian

Image from Workshop

 

Hopefully these insights from seemingly simple people turned DIY aficionados will inspire you to learn, create, teach, collaborate and "love what you do." Steve Jobs, who created Apple from his parent’s garage, said, “You've got to find what you love… If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.” – 2005 Stanford Commencement Address


Posted by Colleen Corkery

Colleen Corkery is a Lifecycle Marketing Coordinator at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @youcollme.

 

 

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Mythbusters: Do Old Wives' Email Marketing Tales Hold True?

Fri, 06/08/2012 - 06:00

Mythbusters: Do Old Wives' Email Marketing Tales Hold True? is the first in a new blog series where we tackle and debunk common myths in email and social marketing.

Email marketing is an ever-evolving practice affected by everything from advances in technology to changes in consumer behavior. Many of the dos and don’ts that held true in the past are no longer applicable. Read below to see 5 email marketing myths exposed. What you learn may surprise you!

Myth 1: Using words like 'free', 'dear' or 'save' in the subject line will cause your email to be marked as spam and blocked from inboxes.

Spam filters are sophisticated enough to consider many variables. Using words like ‘free’ and ‘save’ in the subject line alone will not cause your email to be marked as spam. Spam filters scan emails to look at multiple aspects including content, unnecessary capitalization and punctuation. If your email contains many spam-flagging characteristics, then it will most likely be blocked. However, if you have an inkling to use the occasional 'save' in the subject line, feel free!


Myth 2: Test everything!

I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you it's not essential that you test everything and anything when it comes to email marketing. Some variables are more important to test than others. Will a green vs. a blue call-to-action button really make or break an email campaign? The answer is, probably not. However, the context with which you place a button (contrasting vs. matching) and the location of the button (top, middle or end of an email) will be more likely to make an impact. Leave some tactics to experience, instinct and common sense while you test and refine others.

 

Myth 3: Send email only during the week.

More and more individuals are checking email on their mobile phones. The Nielsen Company suggests that e-mail represents 41.6% of mobile Internet time. As a result, recipients are able to check email more readily on nights and weekends. Sending email on a strict weekday-only schedule may not be as critical as it once was. You may even face less competition in the inbox on nights and weekends, as most companies send email during the week and in the morning. Perform an A/B split test on a few email campaigns to see how your weekend sends compare to those made during the week - You may be shocked by what you find.

 

Myth 4: All unsubscribes are bad.

Most sent email will result in unsubscribes, but not all unsubscribes are a bad thing. Removing uninterested and disengaged individuals from your list will improve delivery rates and make your reporting more indicative of your engaged recipients' response to your marketing. You can also improve delivery rates by occasionally purging your list of inactive individuals.

 

Myth 5: Sending too many emails too often will make you to look like spam.

Send frequency is relative to each business and the reaction your customers have with your email. You can send as often as you like as long as recipients find your content useful and remain engaged. If you’d like to send more often, build up to the frequency you desire. You wouldn’t want send one email a month to suddenly four emails a month without a transition period, as that may end up off-putting recipients. Instead, gradually build to your desired send schedule and measure your recipients’ response. It is also helpful to alert recipients you will be increasing send frequency. For example, include text within your email such as "Because we've had such positive feedback on our email, we will be increasing our sends to twice a month." As long as the content within your emails is valuable to your recipients and you don’t drastically change your send schedule, increasing the number of emails you send can positively impact your business. 

There you have it, myths busted. And, no one was harmed in the writing of this post. Stay tuned for the next post in this series.

 

Posted by Savannah Stewart

Savannah Stewart is a Lifecycle Marketing Coordinator at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @savannahstewart.

 

 

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Using Photos to Maximize Facebook Engagement

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 06:00

Today’s social media platforms allow you to communicate like never before. We can connect with old high school friends and family members all over the world. But as we see mega social platform Facebook nearing one billion users, the attention window is getting smaller and smaller.

This is especially true if you are implementing social marketing into your overall business strategy. Just like ads in a magazine trying to capture your attention through great visuals, social is also seeing huge spikes in interaction with Facebook posts that use engaging photos by themselves.

Here at VerticalResponse, we started using photos on Facebook more aggressively this past April and were blown away by the results. One of the first photos we shared on our Facebook Page was the famous “Space Shuttle Stack” shot taken from the freeway by an unidentified photographer. The morning it was released on Facebook, I posted it on our Facebook Page. The reaction was more than positive. If you can’t make out the interaction, let me share it with you: 188 Likes, 35 Comments and 107 Shares. This was by far the most interaction we’ve ever received on any of our Facebook posts. You can check out the original post here.

Now to be completely transparent, we did have an existing “Like” base on our page of approximately 4,000 people. But I believe the 107 Shares of this photo really contributed to the overall popularity.

Since we tested this first photo, we've had similar success using other incredible photos on our Page. This is especially helpful to the other “non-photo” content we're trying to get interaction on, such as links and posts. Because we're building engagement through these great photos, it allows our other content to show up on our followers' news feeds on a more consistent basis.

But we’re not the only ones seeing success from using photos as an integral part of our social marketing strategy. One of our clients, Mother Earth Farm of Waynesburg, PA, has dramatically increased likes, shares, comments and follows since they began using Instagram* to edit their pictures.  

Mother Earth Farm is a greenhouse operation, hence their product is pretty photogenic. They began using Instagram to enhance their photos this spring and saw a big jump in interactions. Just looking at the cover photo on their Facebook Page below, we can see why the interactions went way up. 

Leveraging the interaction they're receiving from the wonderful photos they're sharing, Mother Earth Farms is also inserting special offers into the equation. Dawn Phillips of Mother Earth Farm states, “I receive trial product from my largest supplier. I grow it, sell it and promote it. Occasionally I'll make a special offer to fans that share our page or as a device to get folks back to our store. I might post for them to stop by and say they're a Facebook fan to get a free trial product. The only thing I ask is for them to let us know how it performs on our Facebook Page."

Phillips believes that using the photo enhancements and free trial promotions has led to an active Facebook Page for a small greenhouse operation. “I'm proud of the fan base I've cultivated on Facebook," she says. And by viewing the photos on their Facebook Page, we have to believe photos played a huge role in that cultivation process. 

* For those of you not familiar, Instagram is the mobile photo sharing application for iPhone and Android that was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion.

 

Posted by Derek Overbey

Derek Overbey is the Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter at @doverbey.

 


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Business Meeting Etiquette: 8 Pet Peeves

Thu, 06/07/2012 - 06:00

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

Meetings. I'm not a fan. Look, I know they're necessary for progress, but in my opinion too many people get caught in the "let's take that offline and not really chat about it and make a decision, but let's schedule a time in the future and block out an hour and not make a decision" mode. I believe that most meetings (not all) could be done with a quick stand-up conversation.

So when you must have a "necessary" meeting, you want to make the most of it, right? You want the right people there without having too much overhead, and you want everyone to be paying attention, listening and making the most of their time. The arrival of cool tools, smartphones and iPads makes meetings and taking notes easier, but the flip side is that it could make you look like you're not attentive.

At my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, I emphasize that time is valuable and everyone needs to be cognizant of this when scheduling a meeting. In your next meeting, look around and calculate how much it costs. Then ask yourself: Will what the company get out of this make up for more than the cost?

Here are my eight suggestions for having more effective, distraction-free meetings:

1. If you require your laptop or smartphone in the meeting, announce that you'll be taking notes on it so people around the table don't think you're doing something else.

2. If you're using your phone or laptop, do not open instant message or check email. People will – and do – notice that you're not paying attention.

3. If your phone rings or buzzes, don't take it unless it's an emergency. If you have to take it, step out of the meeting room. Just recently, I met with a potential vendor where, in the first 10 minutes, the vendor's director of sales sat reading something on his phone and taking calls. Bad form. He should have stepped out of the room to take his call.

4. Avoid side conversations while the meeting is going on. It's distracting. Take it offline. Even worse? Never put up your hand to cover your mouth while talking to your neighbor. Rudest move ever.

5. Don't get ready for your part of the meeting in the meeting. I have stopped meetings to ask if that's what a colleague was doing. To me, it means they didn't have enough respect for the person holding the meeting to complete their updates. Even worse, they're not listening to what's being said since they're too busy writing their part of the presentation.

6. Don't repeat what someone else in the meeting has already said and take credit for it: a) it's a time-waster, and b) everyone in the room knows what you're doing.

7. Don't escalate your voice to talk over a colleague. If you have to use volume to get your point across, it makes me question how confident you really are in the point you're trying to make. And there's usually enough time in a meeting to get a quick thought or idea out without raising your voice. Not to mention it's just rude.

8. Don't take your shoes off. I once had a colleague who removed his shoes so his socks were in the wild, and then he'd lift his body yoga-style into his chair. It was rude and completely distracting.

For your next meeting, make sure your attention, and everyone else's, is laser-focused on the topic at hand and what you need to accomplish. Don't let distractions get in the way, whether you're running the meeting or attending one.

What are your meeting nightmares?

 

Posted by Janine Popick

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick, and check out more of her Inc.com columns.

 

 

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The Magnificent Seven of Free(!) Web Analytics Tools

Wed, 06/06/2012 - 06:00
Photo credit: MGM Studios

So you've set up your website and your business is ready to start generating revenue through a new channel, but how do you keep track of how much of that revenue is due to your site's performance? The answer, of course, is by studying your site's analytics. We understand if you don't have the budget to afford a behemoth like Adobe SiteCatalyst (formerly known as Omniture), but fret not, there are plenty of free apps out there for that too!

Comparing enterprise-level solutions (such as the aforementioned SiteCatalyst) to any of the ones I'm about to introduce, is kind of like debating which is the better film between Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven. Both have their own (exceptional) merits, but while Kurosawa's original is the more complete (cinematically speaking), it requires a lot more effort to take in. On the other hand, the US remake is a lot easier to digest while telling pretty much the exact same story. And just like the mercenaries in either picture, the following applications work for free and get the job done really well. So without further ado, I give you the "Magnificent Seven" of free web analytics tools.

 

Google Analytics: the clear leader in the space, Google Analytics (G.A. for the initiated), is pretty synonymous with "free web analytics" and a good place to start. G.A. allows you to set your marketing objectives and facilitates your meeting these objectives by comparing page views, visitor information and conversion rates all at once in a way that lets you interpret the data as it relates to your goals. It's pretty easy to set up as well; all you need to do is add a snippet of JavaScript code to each page you want to track.

 

 

AWStats: a free real-time log analyzer, this server-side app is designed to process server logs. In other words, you will need to install it locally on a server, which eliminates the need to access your data through the Internet. You'll also need to be able to run a recent version of Perl scripts from the command line or a CGI (Common Gateway Interface). Like most tools on this list, it allows you to monitor page views and visitor information. Needless to say, I would recommend AWStats for those of you who are pretty tech-savvy only, otherwise just stick to G.A. 

 

 

ClickTale: the free version of ClickTale offers a few useful features and includes tracking 400 page views/month on one domain. The feature they are most known for, though, is the heat maps that overlay your actual webpage and show you its visitors' actions. It is also the only tool that allows you to record and watch a visitor's path. ClickTale was made for those of you who can't stand staring at numbers all day and are more visually-minded, preferring to look at pretty pictures. Just like with G.A., you don't need to install anything on your server, just add a few lines of code to the pages you want to monitor. It actually acts as a nice complement to G.A., without causing any interference. 

 

 

StatCounter: by using a unique combination of log analysis and cookies to gather your site's visitor information, StatCounter's data accuracy is better than that of most apps out there. On top of that, it tracks browsers instead of server requests, so even though the visit count may look lower, the stats will be more realistic. The free version allows up to 250,000 page loads/month, or a log size of 500+ page loads, which makes it a great tool for low traffic sites and start-ups.

 

 

Woopra: this young application allows you to track over 40 events such as usernames, IP addresses, browser information, visitor funnels, location-based data and much more. 

 

 

Clicky: the free version of Clicky will let you track up to 3,000 page views each day on one website, while the data mined will be available for 30 days. It offers individual visitor tracking, filtering and a few other features, but some of the more advanced ones are unfortunately reserved only for paid customers. Bonus: their customer service boasts a response time to email questions of just 60 seconds. Talk about a quick draw!

 

 

Piwik: an open source PHP MySQL software, which means that you own the information gathered by Piwik. As with AWStats, you'll need to install Piwik on your web server and embed a piece of JavaScript on the pages you want to keep track of. The kicker here is that Piwik's features are built inside plug-ins, so if you are a developer you can design custom ones to gather and display custom information on your site's performance.

 

 

So there you have it, 7 neat little tools to monitor your website's performance without breaking your bank. Remember though, whichever you use, what matters most will be the metrics you choose to analyze and what you do with the insights they provide you. 

Are you already using any of these tools? If so, what do you think of them, and if not, which of your favorites did we miss?  

 

Posted by My Truong

My Truong is the Marketing Programs Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with him on Twitter @PtitMy.

 

 

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4 Tips for Managing Events for Non-Profits

Mon, 06/04/2012 - 06:00

Most, if not all non-profits have some kind of annual fundraising event to help raise money and keep things up and running. But getting your events to run smoothly can be tough and all that effort can be put to waste if not handled correctly. Here are 4 tips to keep in mind as you plan your upcoming event:

1. Who's invited: Who are you inviting to the event? Is this going to be a general fundraiser that includes your community? Or are you targeting a certain group or business type for your event? Are you going to need volunteers to help things run smoothly? Make sure you know who you want involved in your event before you get started. This will make getting your invite and volunteer list together easier. And knowing 'who' will be a good start to planning your marketing strategy.

2. Get the word out: This can be daunting, but there are tools to help you with this, and VerticalResponse is here for you. Email and social media marketing are easy and inexpensive ways to let people know you're having an event and can get them to sign up on the spot. But think about your overall marketing plan and what will work best for the type of event you're doing (for example, using mailed invitations may be expected for an upscale fundraiser).

Using something like the VerticalResponse Event tool will make it easy to set up a registration page for your event. Fill in the info about your event, set up tickets, and publish. This kind of system will allow you to share info about your event on social media through built-in plug-ins and send email invitations. Also, think about promoting information or fun facts about your event through social media on a regular basis. Setting up a social media campaign to regularly update your followers can help incite interest and sign-ups too.




Email is also a great way to follow up and remind people that they're attending or have volunteered for your event. Send out 1 or 2 reminders to your attendees, including the date, time, and location for the event. Send your volunteers emails about when they are needed, where to meet, what their duties are and the time and date they are doing them. You can create a list of attendees or volunteers easily to help manage these reminders. Plus, email stats will let you know who is reading your invitations or reminder emails and help you manage non-responders.

3. Ticket sales: Once you get the word out about you're event, you're going to need to manage attendance and/or donations. When your event page is live you can manage sign-ups, plus take money for ticket purchases or even accept donations for your organization. You'll need to decide what the pricing will be for the event and what that will include. For example, are there different contribution levels, group discounts, early bird pricing, VIP level or extra charges for meals or t-shirts? This is where an online management system will come in handy: once the tickets are set up it will manage all the different levels for you. 



4. Follow up: One of the most important things to remember about wrapping up your event is to send out a thank you, to everyone. This includes of course, attendees and donors, but don't forget your volunteers and staff! If this is an event you do annually, sending out a thank you can help ensure a great turnout next year. It's a simple thing to do, but often overlooked. Again, email and social media will be easy for this: post a thanks to everyone on your Facebook wall, and send out emails to everyone who signed up or helped out in some way. If you send out a monthly newsletter, give a shout-out to those who helped as well.


These are just a few suggestions to help you manage an event. There are, of course, other things to keep in mind as well. For more info on planning events for NPOs check out the websites for NTEN (Non-Profit Technology Network) and the Fundraising Authority.

 

Posted by Jill Bastian.

Jill Bastian is the Training and Education Manager at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter @Jillieb3.

 

 

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How to Handle an Unsubscribe with Style, Class & a Little Sass

Fri, 06/01/2012 - 06:00

I work for an email marketing provider, so it's a given that I get a lot of email. Sometimes when enough is enough, or I just don't need to receive an email anymore, I click unsubscribe. Often, because I know how hard small businesses work to build their list, I feel guilty. It's important to remember though, that when someone unsubscribes, it's not personal.

I've been intrigued over the years by the different experiences I've encountered with a simple unsubscribe. The unsubscribe process has run the gamut from emails not even containing an unsubscribe link (which breaks the CAN-SPAM law and isn't legit) to those that make you take 5+ steps just to get off a mailing list. However, there are those that actually do a great job of dealing with an unsubscribe with a dash of wit, humor and some smarts.

Read on to see some top notch examples of what to avoid at all costs and what to start doing today:


Make it Easy, Fast and Flawless: When someone wants off your list, let them get off the list, period. Being able to unsubscribe should be as simple as clicking a link that says "unsubscribe" or replying to an email with unsubscribe in the subject line. Don't require users to re-enter their email address, passwords, log-ins or account numbers to unsubscribe. Making people jump through hoops will only irrate them further and it doesn't comply with CAN SPAM, which could then cause them to report your message as SPAM.

This example from Disney.com illustrates how to tick off your readers. They've buried the unsubscribe in a ton of small print text at the bottom of their email. I had to search for it just to find it.

 



Just. Do. It.: Unsubscribes should be processed immediately with no exceptions. In the eyes of the user, they've asked to be removed from your list now. If you wait two days and send them something in the meantime, you're going to be seen as a spammer which you want to avoid at all costs. The CAN-SPAM law permits you ten days to remove someone from your list, but this is the time to deliver immediately without delay.


Appeal to Their Senses: I've seen businesses try a last ditch effort to keep subscribers on their list here with a bit of humor, wit or even guilt (tread lightly) with messages such as this one from eBay:

I like how they make a bid (no pun intended) to get me to stay with the sniff sniff, but still make the unsubscribe process easy.

Here's another example from Fab.com. They do a great job branding their page and using a good balance of humor and efficiency. And, they give you a last chance to opt back in, if for some reason, you've unsubscribed by accident, or have regrets.


 

 

 

 

Taking it much farther is Groupon, as only Groupon can, with this:


 

This example (from 2009) is extreme, especially when a coworker in the background comes up behind and throws coffee at poor Derrick (the guy getting punished for your unsubscribe). I'm certainly not endorsing this as a best practice, and can't say I've ever seen a call to action to punish someone, but this just illustrates what's out there. Not good IMHO (in my honest opinion).

It Doesn't Have to be Ugly: You work hard to provide a flawless user experience and your unsubscribe process should also be on par. Just because your reader is leaving your list (for now), don't make it ugly. Make the effort to brand your unsubscribe confirmation pages (like the example from Fab.com above) and emails just like you would your opt-in form and other landing pages. You want this last impression to be a lasting impression in a good way. 

Remember, just because someone unsubscribes doesn't mean they're a lost cause. Make it easy for people to opt-in to your list on your website, your blog and social media channels like Twitter and Facebook because you never know when they'll change their minds. You can tweet a link to your opt-in form or have it on your business Facebook Timeline in just a few minutes.

You can expect to lose about 30% of your email list each year due to attrition, so keep in mind that growing your list is an on-going process. Then, living up to the promise you delivered when people opt-in is paramount. Give them what you promised and you've won half the battle.

  

Posted by Kim Stiglitz.

Kim Stiglitz is the Director of Lifecycle Marketing at VerticalResponse. Connect with her on Twitter at @Stiggy1.

 

 

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