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Advice from a Social Pro: Integrating Social into Your Marketing Mix [VIDEO]

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 12:46

In this episode of the Magic 8 Ball of Social Media, our new video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Ellyce Shulman, social media and marketing consultant from Seattle, WA. Shulman provides great tips to efficiently integrate social media into your marketing mix.

© 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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Social Media Marketing Automation Dos and Don’ts

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 06:01

If you’ve got your hands full managing the day-to-day operation of your business, sometimes posting on Twitter or Facebook is the last thing on your mind. Using social media automation tools can help you maintain a consistent social media presence without sacrificing the rest of your work. Here are some dos and don’ts on how to integrate social media automation into your online marketing.

Do: Mix up your automated tweets and status updates with ones you write in real time.
Automation is not a solution for all of your social media needs. That’s because social media is inherently … social – so you’ll need to put a little effort into responding to your customers and prospects in real time. It’s okay if it’s not immediate, but do set aside some time for answering questions on Twitter, responding to Facebook comments, sharing Instagram pictures of your product or store and circling your fans on Google+. Automating will simply complement your real-time social media marketing, rather than replacing it. 

Don’t: Automate messages during inappropriate moments.
For example, you may not want to share random, unrelated political articles during a major presidential debate. Some businesses pause automated tweets during natural disasters or other events. Or, for instance, if you plan on automating movie tweets during the Oscars, make sure the subject matter is relevant. 

Don’t: Only post your own thoughts and material.

Social media expert Neil Schaffer compares Twitter to being in a room with a few hundred thousand people. “Unless you tap someone on the shoulder, nobody’s going to notice you unless they happen to be in listening mode, which not everyone is,” he explains. Make sure to supplement scheduled tweets by retweeting and replying to your followers and other influencers in your field. 

Do: Test out multiple platforms for their capabilities.
Different platforms have different benefits, and some businesses use more than one. Look for features that will best enable you to meet your goals. Some platforms allow for monitoring of multiple accounts; some offer great analytics; and some allow you a good way to store articles for future posts scheduled at set times. Schaffer recommends trying out a few and picking one or more depending on their functionality, support, and your own comfort level and needs. 

Do: Use platforms to monitor or listen to what’s going on around you.
Using a social platform like Hootsuite allows you to set up different columns for specific hashtags, groups of customers, and followers. That’ll allow you to keep a finger on the pulse, even if you only check in once or twice a day. 

Don’t: Use Twitter simply to curate work by importing RSS feeds from other blogs.
Instead, share as much client or industry-related content as possible, repost photos people Instagram of your products, and engage with individuals as authentically as possible.

Do: Maintain a consistent voice.
Pre-schedule posts that are very consistent with the voice you’ve chosen for your business. 

Don’t: Post too often.
Just because you can automate posts doesn’t mean people want to see 25 messages a minute apart, even if it is during business hours.

Do: Schedule tweets for promotions or events in advance.
Got a big event coming up? Why not schedule a reminder to go out on social media four weeks, two weeks, three days, two days and one day in advance? You can also schedule tweets for information about a big launch or promotion.

Don’t: Tweet posts once and then forget about them.
You spent a lot of time working on a blog post. Why not promote it while the information is still fresh – even if it’s been a few weeks since you wrote it? If you’ve got dozens of posts you’d still like to share because they’re relevant to your readers, you can even use the WordPress plugin SMQueue.

These social media automation dos and don’ts should get you off to a good start.

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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 Social Media Marketing Automation Dos and Don’ts appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 06:00

When you’re writing about your own product or service, it’s easy to fall into the habit of hype. It’s understandable. After all, ultimately you’re hoping your PR press release, pitch, brochure, email or website marketing copy will capture attention and get readers to do something. So, you have to impress with your words.

But these days, both press and consumers alike are more skeptical than ever when they know they’re being marketed to. Some adjectives are used so often that they no longer have any real meaning and do nothing but clutter up your copy.

Think twice before using these eight “fluff” words in your next PR pitch or marketing copy:

Groundbreaking (or its cousins, breakthrough and late-breaking): Very few products are groundbreaking in the sense that they figuratively broke new ground, or created a new market where none existed before. The Ford Model T, typewriter, iPod and sliced bread come to mind.

Revolutionary: Did your product or service start a revolution? Probably not.

Advanced: I see this word applied to almost everything. “Advanced ingredients.” “Advanced technology.” “Advanced processes.” It’s being used so much that it has lost its value.

Bleeding edge: This is a favorite in the technology industry. Apparently when “cutting edge” wasn’t enough, marketers started using “bleeding edge.”

Pioneering: Unless you’re leading the way in research or development of new ideas or products, it’s probably best to avoid this one. Also, see groundbreaking, above. 

Exclusive: Unless your product or service is only available to one person, it’s not exclusive.

Unique: We all think we’re special. But a better approach is to let your reader come to the conclusion that what you offer is unique, by describing its real features and benefits. Just saying that it’s unique, outright, does nothing to convince.

Best: Similar to the word unique, you’re better off letting your readers determine whether you’re truly the best. Instead of saying you have the best XYZ, get a quote from a customer (who has ostensibly compared you to your competitors) who says you’re the best.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used these words plenty of times in my writing throughout the years, and sometimes they still sneak through. But as long as you’re aware, you can hopefully catch yourself before you publish a piece of content about your groundbreaking, revolutionary, bleeding edge, exclusive and totally unique product or service!

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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 The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Improve Your Email Response Rates with List Segmentation

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:18

Want to improve your email marketing response rates? Consider segmenting your list. Even if you only have 20 people on your list, it’s never too early to start sending your subscribers specifically targeted information and creating categories that will come in even handier as your list grows.

This is also why we offer a simple tool that allows you to do just that (available in our Classic product, and coming soon to the new VerticalResponse). But before you rush off to start dissecting that email list, let’s fill you in on the basics of list segmentation, why you should consider it and some ideas for smart segmentation.

What is segmentation?
Segmenting a list is simply the process of dividing it into sub-groups. While everyone on an email list may get some messages, you can then send very specific or targeted messages to just one group when the occasion arises. This lets you target individual readers who may be more receptive to your messages.

Segmentation is useful for a variety of reasons:

  • Ever felt inundated with marketing emails for a product you’ve already purchased? Segmenting allows you to target non-buyers for a specific product or service, or let them know about a specific sale, but avoid overwhelming those who have already bought.
  • Similarly, you can target buyers of a product with how-to tutorials, tips and best practices, or even additional items that might improve their experience.
  • Segmenting can increase the effectiveness of the emails you send because they’re more specific.
  • If a reader is more interested in just one area of what you sell, they no longer have to unsubscribe due to off-topic emails if you use list segmentation.
  • Segmenting also allows you hone in on your most active email readers and the content they love the most. Segmenting lists by those who regularly open and click emails within a certain period of time gives you valuable information that you can use to improve the next email.

Capture information
You can begin by capturing information you’ll need for segmentation right when subscribers first opt in to your email list. While you don’t want to overwhelm readers with long sign up forms as part of the opt-in process (which should be kept quick and easy), asking one or two specific questions can help you with segmentation, whether that’s a zip code or a job title or the type of information they’re most interested in (selected from a drop-down menu). You can also ask current subscribers to send you the information you’re looking for. 

Location
If you’d like to let your readers know about events or trade shows in their area, it’s as easy as collecting their zip codes. Segmenting lists by location may be helpful simply for referring to specific events in an area whether you plan on attending or not. For example, perhaps one of the products or services you sell would be particularly geared toward an event. And it’s possible that customers in a specific region might prefer certain products or services, so you can target them with special offers. For instance, articles with tips for cold drinks (or specials on air conditioners) might be sent to geographic areas where temperatures are high, and sales on heating units or recipes for warm drinks could be sent to regions with long cold spells. 

Engagement
Create a segment of your list for people who regularly engage with your messages by opening, clicking and perhaps even purchasing or making a donation or signing up for an event. You could have a segment for those who regularly click on links in your email marketing campaigns. They may be interested in more special tips or offers. Those who aren’t as responsive could be put on a less frequent list, or one you try out different subject lines with. Once a reader begins clicking on links or looking at your content, you can switch them to the more responsive list segment. 

This strategy is particularly effective if one of your subscribers is in the market for a product or service but decides to hold off for a period of time – something that could happen for a variety of reasons. Subscribers will be less likely to unsubscribe if they’re not inundated with messages during the time they’re not actively purchasing, but can get right back into your sales funnel once they decide to start looking again – provided, for example, that you segment by email links readers click on. 

Current clients
Segmenting isn’t just about increasing sales or converting prospects into paying customers –though that is a part of it. But it’s also for showing current customers appreciation with exclusive offers, encouraging word-of-mouth sales through special referral incentives or sales, and providing tips and how-tos for clients so that they can use the products they’ve already purchased more efficiently. Similarly, prospects can get special first-time offers that current clients don’t necessarily need to know about. 

Areas of interest
If you offer several different services, it may be useful to segment users based on which type of content they interact with. For example, an accounting firm may send out different emails to non-profit companies and for-profit businesses, and entirely different content to individual taxpayers. If your company sells heating and cooling supplies, you may offer different tips entirely for those interested in air conditioning maintenance as you do for those purchasing heaters – who might be looking for information on insulating their homes. 

Multiple segments
Remember that some of your readers may fit into more than one segment, so keep that in mind when determining how much email to send. 

Be selective
As important as list segmentation is, choose segments you can maintain. If you segment too much, you’ll need additional time to create targeted emails for each group. However, it’s possible to send most email messages to everyone on your list and only to send to different segments as needed. 

Getting started
We offer a powerful but easy-to-use tool to help you with list segmentation. The tool is found within the “Lists” section of VerticalResponse Classic accounts (this feature is coming soon for the new VerticalResponse). For more information, check out our tutorial.

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 Improve Your Email Response Rates with List Segmentation appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Sharing Content from a Facebook Page to Profile [VIDEO]

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:07

In this installment of Tips in 2, our new video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Derek Overbey, Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse, shows you how to share content from your Facebook Page to your personal profile. Sharing business content on your personal profile not only lets your friends and family know what’s going on from a business perspective, but gives your content more opportunities to be seen, and could also lead to an increase in business due to peer to peer referrals. Here’s how:

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 Sharing Content from a Facebook Page to Profile [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Authentication Changes at Yahoo! Impact Email Marketing

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 13:53

Delivering emails into your subscribers’ inboxes is a big part of what we do around here; keeping out unwanted email is what email providers do. In a move to prevent abuse or phishing scams, Yahoo! has made a big change to the way they verify emails coming into their system; a policy that will impact everyone, but especially email marketers using a From email address of @yahoo.com. Anyone using an email address from Yahoo!, but not mailing from their Yahoo! account could see an increase in bounces or emails going to spam. This kind of change could become a trend that other email providers follow, so it’s important to understand what’s going on.

What changed?

Yahoo! changed how it uses Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) validation (here’s a good description of DMARC.) Basically, if your From email address doesn’t match the sender address from the mail server, Yahoo! may think the email is fraudulent, or spam, and block it from their system. As an example, if you send an email with a From address of @yahoo.com, but it’s actually coming from your email service provider’s server, this will be a problem. Yahoo! has made this change to combat the rise of phishing and spam emails being sent to and from Yahoo.com users.

Will this change affect you?

If your From email address has @yahoo.com, but you’re not sending the email directly from your Yahoo! account, this change will affect you. This will impact all email service providers that allow you to edit your From email address. Yahoo! suggests other instances as well:

  • Email Service Providers (ESPs) sending for businesses using Yahoo addresses
  • Services coordinating groups of people, like mailing lists, sports teams, online courses
  • Websites where visitors may share with their friends via email, like news and shopping sites
  • Other small business services, including business web portals and calendaring solutions, that send mail between customers and businesses
  • ISPs and other mailbox services that allow their customers to send mail with addresses outside the service’s control
  • Mail forwarding services

In the new VerticalResponse, you have the option to customize the From email address. If you’re using this feature and set your From address to an @yahoo.com email address, this is will impact your emails. If not, this change doesn’t affect you. VerticalResponse Classic doesn’t allow this type of From address masking, so your emails won’t be impacted by this change.

What should you do? 

Due to this change, it’s no longer a good idea to use an @yahoo.com email address as your From address. If you’re a VerticalResponse customer, you can find more info on how to do this under Default Email Settings or under the Header Settings options.

What about other email providers?

Right now, only Yahoo! is making this change, but it’s possible that other companies like Gmail and Hotmail will in the future. One thing you can do is use a From email address from a private domain you control like yourname@your-company.com. You can get one through our sister company, Hostopia.com. Another option is to use From addresses using Gmail or Hotmail accounts, though they could potentially be affected in the future as we’ve mentioned.

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 Authentication Changes at Yahoo! Impact Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Manage Expectations – The Vastly Underutilized Skill

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:00

Managing expectations is a vastly underutilized skill, in my opinion. Not everyone does it, but maybe if more did, we could avoid a lot of the day-to-day drama that goes on in every office.

Folks who know how to manage expectations are able to more seamlessly navigate the choppy waters of their business. Why? Because they know how to communicate, organize, and direct conversations around things getting done.

Follow these three practical tips to improve your own ability to manage expectations.

Make No Assumptions

People often get into hot water when they assume a co-worker, vendor, or supervisor knows what they expect or even what they’re talking about. My first piece of advice is making sure you get context.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming someone has the same understanding of a situation, project, deadline, or task that you do. You can avoid this pitfall by having a conversation in which you openly discuss what’s expected, how it might be accomplished, and how success will be measured. Remember to leave plenty of opportunities for questions. This is also the time to agree and commit to what will be delivered, when. When something is going to be completed is one of the most common points of miscommunication. Which leads me to my next tip…

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

One of the best ways to manage expectations is to make sure you communicate with everyone on a frequent basis. In the early stages of a new project or as a key milestone or deadline approaches, you may want to even over-communicate.

Sure, it might be more work on your part, but it’s especially important if you have a new team that isn’t used to working together, or new leadership that may not have developed a level of trust in the team’s ability to deliver. Better safe than sorry.

By holding frequent check-ins throughout the course of a project, you also have the chance to provide real-time status updates and manage any delays, risks, or blockers. When you’re proactively honest and transparent in your communication, you have room to put a plan B in place, if needed, or the flexibility of making new decisions as you move toward the finish line. Being honest about a delay is a thousand times better than promising to deliver and then missing your deadline.

Pushing Back is OK

A huge piece of managing expectations is the actual expectation, right?

You have to be comfortable that the expectations are realistic and achievable. If they’re not, you can–and should–push back. The key here is pushing back in a way that balances the organization’s needs and the team’s abilities. Being open about what can be delivered and what the plan is to bring in the rest can go a long way in instilling confidence and getting the go-ahead. If you can nail the fine art of pushback, you’ve won half the battle of managing expectations successfully.

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

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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 How to Manage Expectations – The Vastly Underutilized Skill appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Four Creative Options to Encourage Email Opt-ins

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 06:00

If you’re trying to build your mailing list, chances are good that you’ve considered implementing an opt-in bonus, offering your site visitors a discount or free trial, for example, in exchange for their email address.

The web is awash in these kinds of offers, but they may not be the most effective way to get potential customers in your sales funnel. Here are some new, creative options and savvy strategies for email opt-ins, courtesy of Jennifer Bourn, creative director and strategist at full service design agency Bourn Creative.

Be specific

“Back in 2008 when we started really getting into opt-in offers, an email newsletter was something special, and then it became less special because everybody was jumping on that bandwagon,” Bourn recalls.

As people’s inboxes become overloaded, they’re less likely to opt-in to a newsletter they don’t see as incredibly useful and valuable. Narrowing your focus is the antidote, so try discovering very specific problems and helping your readers solve them in your email newsletter. This will also help increase the percentage of opt-ins that convert to paying clients.

In contrast, very broad or general newsletters that try to appeal to too many people or try to solve too many problems can lower both your opt-in and conversion rates. “The more general your marketing, the more you’re trying to hit everyone, the more you’re going to struggle, and the harder it’s going to be,” warns Bourn. In contrast, “the more niche, highly focused and targeted you can get, the more success you’re going to have, and the easier your marketing is going to be.”

Try these options to help boost your email opt-ins:

Option#1: Video

Bourn has noticed that highly targeted video series or webinars do very well. Three 10-minute webinars or three short videos targeting a very specific topic or solving a specific problem are quick and easy to consume.

For example, Kendall SummerHawk offers a webinar that Bourn reports is converting at almost 80 percent. SummerHawk’s content has descriptive titles, is high quality and outlines the specific benefits, which has contributed to her success.

Option #2: Mini-courses

Rosetta Thurman, founder and CEO of Happy Black Woman, offers an entire mini-course, including a workbook and audio. She guides readers through taking action rather than leaving them on their own. “She gets a lot of referrals directly to that opt-in from people who have downloaded it and gotten a lot of clarity from the resource,” Bourn says.

Option #3: Recipes

If your clients or prospects are always looking for recipes, a digital cookbook may be a great opt-in gift. Conscious Cleanse has offered just that. The 70-page PDF has recipes for great-tasting and simple meals along with nutrition facts, and those who opt-in are likely to turn into paying clients who buy the book or sign up for the cleanse program.

Option #4: The reverse opt-in

Some businesses are eschewing the quid pro quo of giving something for an email address and instead coming up with creative ways to get customer contact info. For example, Maya Smart has no opt-in but offers readers the opportunity to ask a question she can answer in an email or on her blog.

Whether this will work for you depends on the specific audience you’re trying to reach. Those with questions about the basics will respond best to opt-in incentives. “The more higher-end your market is, the less appropriate an opt-in offer becomes,” says Bourn. That’s because busier people don’t have as much time to figure something out on their own, but would rather your business help them reach their goal faster. Always ensure your subscriber realizes they are signing up to receive something from you to maintain a strong relationship and avoid any complaints or unsubscribes. 

An opt-in is just the beginning

Building your list and converting prospects into customers will require some effort and a bit of marketing oomph. So remember: Even the best opt-in strategy is just one piece of your marketing puzzle.

Have any clever opt-in strategies of your own? Share with us!
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 Four Creative Options to Encourage Email Opt-ins appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Wicked Awesome Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing List

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 06:00

You know you need to get the word out about your business in order to grow and to stay top of mind with customers. At VerticalResponse, we often get the question, “How do I build or get an email marketing list?” We’re also often asked if it’s okay to use a purchased, rented or scraped email list. If you’re just starting out, or trying to grow your list quickly, building an email marketing list organically may seem like a waste of time when you can just go out and buy one, right? Sorry to burst your bubble, but not so much.

There are no shortcuts to growing a loyal base of subscribers, fans and followers. In reality, that purchased list can tarnish your business and get you banned by your ESP (Email Service Provider), rather than get you the results you want. So, how do you grow your list with engaged subscribers who want to hear from your biz? We’ve got 5 wicked awesome ways (with real-life examples), so read on.

1. Offer Something of Value

In exchange for giving you their email address, subscribers expect to get something of value. What will you deliver? Whatever it is, from discounts, exclusive deals, advance access, tips, how-tos, advice or something else, make sure the value is crystal clear in your sign up. Take for example, these subscribe calls to action (CTAs):

Subscribe CTA from VerticalResponse’s sign up page

 

Social Media Examiner Subscribe CTA

 

Birdy Botanicals Email List Subscribe CTA

 

2. Show ‘Em What They Get

By providing tangible examples of your emails, newsletters and invitations, you can give people a sneak peek of what they’ll get by joining your email list. At VerticalResponse, we archive our weekly VR Buzz newsletter so folks can preview what they’ll see before they hand over their email address. Also, once they’re a subscriber, if they happen to miss a newsletter, they always have easy access to it.

3. Give Them a Chance to Subscribe (Opt-in) Everywhere

The point of sending emails is to build a relationship with your subscribers. Like an anxious young man asking a girl’s father for permission to marry her, you need to get subscribers permission to send them email.

Here’s where your subscriber form, or opt-in form, comes into play. An opt-in form is a true gem because when people willingly give you their name and email address, they’re blatantly saying they want to hear from you. When you get opt-in permission, you build a relationship and gain trust. It’s a win-win for both parties.

You need make sure the opt-in process is super quick and easy to sign up. Also, give folks the opportunity to sign up nearly any place they can contact or interact with your business including the following:

Website – Place your opt-in form on as many relevant pages of your website as possible. Your homepage, contact us page, pricing, navigation bar at the top or bottom, and product pages are perfect places to start as they typically get the most traffic.

Blog – If you’ve got a blog, it’s a natural place to capture readers and turn them into subscribers. Like the examples we showed above, use a visually engaging opt-in form that extols the value of subscribing.

Facebook Page – By incorporating a tab on your business Facebook profile with a subscribe CTA folks can sign up for your email list right from Facebook.

Pinterest Boards – While attending Social Media Marketing World recently, we heard Melanie Duncan speak about growing your email list with Pinterest and we couldn’t wait to share the news with our readers.

Twitter Feed – Make it part of your social media routine to share a link to your subscribe page at least once a week. You can also make use of Twitter Lead Generation Cards for this purpose. These enhanced Twitter Promoted Tweets provide the ability to capture a name, @username and email associated with a Twitter account to enhance the reach of any business.

Events/Trade Shows – If you’re hosting an event in your place of business, another location or are exhibiting at a trade show, make sure you offer attendees the opportunity to sign up for your email list. You can use a good old fashion sign up book and manually type email addresses into your ESP lists, or bring a laptop, tablet or smartphone and let people sign up that way.

Email Signature – We all send email from our personal email addresses to friends, family, vendors, etc. Make sure you include a link to your sign up page in your email signature.

Transactional Emails/Invoices – If your business sends any type of transactional emails or invoicing, you’ll definitely want to offer customers a link to subscribe to your marketing emails.

Content – If you’re creating any kind of content like guides, eBook, infographics, videos, etc., you want to make sure to include a call to action to subscribe to your email list at the conclusion of the content or somewhere in the body. Your reader is someone who’s already engaged in the content you’ve produced so they have a greater propensity to want to get more from you.

4. Make Your Emails Easy to Forward - The ability to forward to a friend seems to have been around since the dawn of email marketing, but it’s amazing how many people don’t use it in their messages. This is a missed opportunity especially since we live in an age where people are apt to share things with friends or co-workers they think they might enjoy or get value from. You can even ask for the forward by saying something like, “Share this email with friends you think might enjoy it!” Most ESPs allow you to insert a forward to a friend link very easily when you are creating your email. The bonus of using an ESP provided forwarding link is that they’ll usually include the option to sign up for the mailing list in these forwarded emails, easy list growth!

5. Make Your Emails Easy to Share on Social Media – You want to make sure your email can be shared by your current subscribers on their social media networks. This can be done in most ESPs by including social media icons that allow recipients to share your message on networks like Facebook and Twitter. You should also get reporting and tracking on this so you can see how many people are sharing your messages.

There you have it. 5 wicked awesome ways to get more people to sign up for your email marketing list.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz. (See what we did there?)

© 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 5 Wicked Awesome Ways to Grow Your Email Marketing List appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Heartbleed Bug: What You Need to Know

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 13:15

By now you’ve probably heard the buzz and received more than a handful of emails from various companies about the Heartbleed bug. Since it was disclosed on April 7, 2014, it’s been made public that the bug puts users’ passwords for many popular Web sites at risk. In this post, we’ll try to get to the heart of the matter and answer possible questions you may have. 

What is Heartbleed?

According to the Heartbleed website, “The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.” Put simply, this means your usernames, passwords, and credit card information were potentially at risk of being intercepted.

What is OpenSSL?

CNET shares that OpenSSL is, “Secure Sockets Layer … It’s the most basic means of encrypting information on the Web, and it mitigates the potential of someone eavesdropping on you as you browse the Internet. (Notice the ‘https’ in the URL of SSL-enabled sites like Gmail, instead of simply ‘http’). OpenSSL is open-source software for SSL implementation across the Web. The versions with the vulnerability are 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f. OpenSSL also is used as part of the Linux operating system, and as a component of Apache and Nginx, two very widely used programs for running Web sites. Bottom line: Its use across the Web is vast.”

Which sites were affected?

CNET has created a list of the top 100 web sites and their current status, however, your best bet is to hear it from the source, either through an email you may receive from a company you’ve done business with, or by contacting them directly to find out. You can also use a tool like the one created by LastPass, a password management company, to check if a site was vulnerable, but again, you should confirm this directly with the company. 

VerticalResponse was not impacted by the Hearbleed bug. 

What can you do?

Many people are racing to change their passwords in an effort to protect themselves. While this is a good practice, it’s important to wait until you’ve received confirmation from the company to ensure they’ve patched the bug first, otherwise you may be unintentionally giving a potential attacker access to your new password.

What’s next

News about the Heartbleed bug is continuing to unfold. You can consult the Heartbleed website for more details and look for emails from companies about how they’ve been impacted, and what their next steps are.

 

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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 Heartbleed Bug: What You Need to Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

After an Event: How to Connect and Follow up on Email + Social

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 06:00

In the world of digital marketing, it’s easy to forget that some email addresses are collected in person. Whether you just taught a workshop or seminar, hosted an event, or found yourself at a vendor’s table at a conference, chances are good that you’ve walked out with a list of names to add to your email list. Now what?

If you’re uncertain how to take the next steps, or want to make sure to capitalize on the enthusiasm generated at your event, keep reading. We’ll share some tips on making the most of the new names of eager prospects who want your messages in their inbox.

1. The Welcome Message

Remember that people at conferences or events may have signed up for multiple lists, and unless you get in touch with them right away, they might forget that yours was one of them. Instead of waiting weeks or months and finding out the hard way if they know who you are, be proactive. Send a message (ideally within 48 hours) welcoming them to your email list, letting them know how often you plan on emailing, and reminding them where you met is always a good start. That way they won’t accidentally unsubscribe, mistake you with another company, or worse, think your email is spam.

2. Consider a show discount or offer

Want to tap into the enthusiasm generated at your event? Creating a special offer or discount with a hard deadline can motivate your readers to respond sooner rather than later. If you can personalize it to the specific event where they signed up – even if it’s just with a special discount code – all the better.

3. Segment your new list

If you have list segmentation, make sure to select the area where they best fit. You may even have two different lists from the same event: For example, you could have people check off what their areas of interest are on a form.

4. Personal follow-ups

If someone you met at an event asked for information on a certain product or service that you offer (or handed you a business card), don’t automatically add them to your email list. Send them a personal email with the information they requested, or a message asking if they’d like to join your list since they thought the content might be of interest based on your discussion.

5. Follow up on social media

If there’s a specific hashtag for your event on Twitter, or if people are sharing stories on a specific Facebook page, following up on social media can help you with your marketing efforts. Just make sure to offer something valuable – whether it’s a link to a blog post covering topics people asked about specifically, a wrap up of the event, or a special discount for attendees.

6. Consider offering a place for new readers to share their concerns

Maybe your new subscriber had a question they wanted to ask you but ran out of time or didn’t want to ask in front of a group. Offering them a place to interact with you directly can build your credibility and the level of trust they have for you.

7. Share information about the event directly

Whether you’re writing a bulleted list of lessons learned from the conference, sharing information about the most frequent questions you received, or even posting a photograph from the event itself, can make your new subscribers feel included.

8. Don’t neglect the rest of your list

Even though there’s a lot of enthusiasm from a new event, and it’s always great to connect with new subscribers in person, a big chunk of your list might not be interested in the event or did not attend it for a variety of reasons. When sharing event information, make sure that it’s accessible to everyone and has key takeaways for people who couldn’t make it as well as those that did.

9. Keep your list posted about future events

It can be difficult for some people to stay updated on events in their industry, so make it a little bit easier for them by sending out announcements of when you’ll be presenting or exhibiting at an event or conference. Some people may even choose to attend certain events simply because you’ll be there!

10. Keep track of metrics

If one particular event or conference is a huge draw and another isn’t, you can use that data to determine your schedule for the following year. To do so, though, you’ll need to keep track – not only of the number of email subscribers you’ve received but also how long they stay engaged, which lead to sales, and any other key indicators you’d like to track.

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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 After an Event: How to Connect and Follow up on Email + Social appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Addressing Anonymous Negativity as Secret App Gains Traction

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 06:00

Commenting or posting anonymously may be old hat on web forums, but newer apps allowing users to share secrets are gaining in popularity. The iPhone app Secret, which allows users to send anonymous messages to contacts on their phone (and friends of friends), is getting a lot of buzz, particularly in the tech scene of Silicon Valley.

Secret is part of a wave of apps emphasizing anonymity. Others include Whisper (where conversations are among strangers) and Wut (which mass texts all of your friends). The idea is that anonymity removes inhibition, allowing people to communicate more freely about ideas they may normally keep to themselves.

But Secret has a dark side that could negatively impact small businesses. Its community guide calls for kind, respectful and honest communication; states that defamatory, offensive or mean-spirited posts will be removed; and that harassment won’t be tolerated. However, some businesses and individuals have been victims of nasty comments or rumors they say are inaccurate. Evernote CEO Phil Libin took to Twitter to publicly respond to rumors of acquisition started on Secret in February.

“I’ve often thought about the need for an anonymous social network to go along with the fully public and the friends-only ones. But I can’t figure out a way to stop an anonymous network from decaying into a Mean Girls-style burn book,” venture capitalist Sam Altman wrote on his blog after deleting the app from his phone.

Unfortunately, refusing to participate doesn’t mean that you or your business won’t be a target of anonymous negativity, and it’s often difficult to know what to do in that situation. To find out, we spoke with Melissa Agnes, president and co-founder of crisis intelligence firm Agnes Day.

Small businesses are vulnerable

As people flex their anonymous muscles and learn the power of their voice, platforms such as Secret are proving to be very powerful. “You can really do a lot of damage, so, unfortunately, people take advantage of this, and there are a lot of trolls who just don’t stop,” Agnes says.

She points out that even small businesses can be targets of false rumors or anonymous negativity. “Small businesses can often be the most vulnerable because they don’t expect it –the impact, all of the chatter that might be negative – whereas large organizations are very used to it,” she says. “Unfortunately, small organizations or small companies can be the biggest victims.

Be prepared

Instead of trying to determine whether or not to respond while in the middle of a situation, Agnes recommends that companies determine what to do ahead of time by developing a response flowchart.

Different variables include the type of comments being made (positive, neutral or negative), whether the claim is valid, and if the comments can be corrected – as well as how influential the person is and how they’re likely to respond. “Can you fix it and transform it into a positive thing if you responded, or is it a troll that’s completely negative – the more you help the more they bash?” asks Agnes. How you’ll respond is a personal decision, but the big key is to prepare for it in advance.

A range of options might include not responding at all, responding privately, responding publicly on the forum where the comment is made or responding on your own site or email newsletter. Agnes also points out that although proving defamation is difficult, taking legal action is an option.

The tone of the response is also important. Being negative or defensive can give off the wrong impression. This is another reason why coming up with a plan before a situation arises is so important – it allows you to respond in a logical way even when emotions are running high.

Pick your battleground

Agnes also makes a distinction based on the potential volatility of a comment, since very negative emotions that are relatable mean that a post is more likely to escalate because it’ll get shared or even go viral. Making an assessment of the emotion involved can help you gauge the situation and potential impact from the start.

If you do determine that a comment or issue is worth responding to, Agnes recommends responding on the platform where the conversation is taking place.

In a crisis situation, an option would be to respond to the rumor on your own blog, but this can sometimes call attention and bring more power to a post or comment that very few people saw. “If it’s simply an issue and not a crisis, you may not want to bring light to it by putting it on your site,” says Agnes.

However, posting on one’s blog also allows some control that’s not available on other forums – by closing comments or moderating them, for instance. It can be a good choice for a worst-case scenario, where persistent rumors are starting to have a negative effect on your business.

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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 Addressing Anonymous Negativity as Secret App Gains Traction appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

LinkedIn’s New Content Marketing Score

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:00

Do you ever wonder how effective your LinkedIn content is at reaching your target audience? Well, wonder no more. The social media giant is rolling out two new features to help small businesses improve content marketing.

One feature is a Content Marketing Score, which quantifies the effectiveness of your content. The second concept lists Trending Content, which will help you write about topics that are of interest to your target audience. (The changes are the latest among several LinkedIn has made recently.)

Intrigued? We thought you might be. Here’s a closer look at each of the features and how they can improve your marketing efforts.

Content Marketing Score
Remember school report cards? Your teacher gave you a grade and wrote a note about how you could improve in certain areas. The Content Marketing Score is similar. You get a grade, which is a score of 1-1000, and LinkedIn tells you how you can improve.

To be more specific, your grade is based on how much engagement your content gets, which is divided by the number of active LinkedIn members that you’d like to reach. You can adjust the score to look at specific areas, too. For instance, you can get a score on just your sponsored updates. You’ll also see how your score stacks up against competitors, but the rankings will be anonymous.

The score is private. It’s for your eyes only, which Stephanie Katcher, a social media specialist at All My Web Needs, says is vital.

“The fact that the Content Marketing Score is private is significant,” she says. “It negates the desire to game the system for popularity and puts the focus on performance.

“The anonymity of competitors is important to letting small businesses focus on how to develop and optimize their content rather than how they are going to compete, or worse yet, who they need to copy.”

For Katcher, the new score is a “huge win for the evolution of digital content.” 

Trending Content
To reach your target audience, you need to know what topics interest them, right? LinkedIn will supply a list of trending topics that are pertinent to your target audience. The idea of “trending topics” is nothing new, Twitter has cashed in on this phenomenon, but LinkedIn’s list won’t be as broad. The list will reflect your target audience, not the audience as a whole.

LinkedIn is using an algorithm to evaluate the trends and categorize content into 17,000 topics. The result is a list of trending topics that your audience will want to read about and engage with.

Katcher says this list should point business owners in the right direction, but she reminds everyone that trends can have a short lifecycle.

“Using trending topics to guide content development is only as good as your ability to recognize the life cycle of a trend,” she says. “Content needs to provide value to the conversation in every stage. Early in the trend cycle generalities are okay, but as things accelerate content needs to focus on current solutions or the future phases of a trend.” 

With a little practice, you’ll realize the ebb and flow of the trends.

The catch
We predicted that LinkedIn would become a go-to site for content this year, and while the features are impressive, there is a catch. Right now, the features are only available to LinkedIn Marketing Solution customers, who spend some $20,000 a month. The hope is that in the not-too-distant future, these features will become available to rest of LinkedIn’s users.

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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 LinkedIn’s New Content Marketing Score appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

7 Email Etiquette Rules to Send By

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 06:00

Etiquette doesn’t just apply to your table manners; it applies to email marketing too. These unwritten rules of the email world are worth reviewing. You don’t want to offend your customers by making an email faux pas, right? We didn’t think so.

Here are seven email etiquette rules that your small business should follow.

1. Always get permission

Just because someone handed you a business card doesn’t mean he or she wants to get emails from your business. You need permission from each and every customer you email. 

2. Make it easy to unsubscribe

Your customers should be able to easily unsubscribe to your emails. The CAN-SPAM laws require this option on every email you send. Don’t worry though, if you’re sending content that has value, your unsubscribe rate will remain low.

3. Make sure the content is error-free

Nothing stains your reputation faster than an email full of misspellings and grammatical errors, says Chas Hendricksen, a marketing analyst at technology company Benchmark Systems.

Your customers have high standards, so don’t let them down. Use spell check and proofread your email more than once. Remember, spell check won’t catch every error, so read carefully to make sure you haven’t mixed up words like “compliment” and “complement.”

4. Check and double check your links

You don’t want to send an email with broken links. Not only does that defeat the purpose of your email and potentially cost you sales, it also drops your credibility as a company.

“The entire point of an email campaign is to generate business,” Hendricksen says. “People want to be able to act instantly to your message. It is your job to provide them with a quick and easy way to do that.”

5. Send short and concise emails

Short, snappy emails help time crunched readers. Even if you’re sending out your company newsletter, you can offer “teaser” information with a link to the full newsletter. Take a look at the promotional email below. The retailer gets its point across with less than 40 words.

6. Your subject line should relate to the content

Don’t be deceptive with your subject lines. If your email is about an upcoming sale, say so in your subject line. You can get creative with your subject line, but don’t try to trick your customers into opening the email. Customers don’t respond well to it, and it’s against the CAN-SPAM law.

7. Keep it classy

You want to convey a professional image. To do that, don’t write in ALL CAPS, it looks like you’re shouting at your customers. Don’t go overboard with things like symbols and exclamation marks, either. It’s just not necessary.

At its core, etiquette is all about being polite. The same rule applies when you’re emailing. Be courteous and respectful of your customers and their time. Make sure your company is putting its most polite foot forward, and you’ll see success. Want more email marketing etiquette tips? Check out our infographic.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

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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 7 Email Etiquette Rules to Send By appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Need Help Using the New VerticalResponse? Check out the Help Center!

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 06:01

Help! The Beatles knew that sometimes you just can’t do everything by yourself. You need a little, well, help. We agree, and sometimes running your business means you don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of every software program you use. You need to find out how to do something, and do it fast. Here’s where we come in. If you need help learning how to use the new VerticalResponse, we’ve got a help center to get you going.

What can you find in the help center? We have text tutorials so you can find what you’re looking for quickly. For visual learners, we have screenshots and videos. We also have live product demos on Tuesdays with Q&A or you can watch a recorded demo at anytime.

Looking for something specific? There are a couple of ways to find what you need at the help center. There’s a search window above the top navigation bar, or the side column will sort info by different sections of your account. Either way, it’s easy to find what you need.

Aside from the help center, make sure to check out Communities, a new hub where other VerticalResponse users can answer your questions.

There are two ways to access the help center: The quickest way is to click the question mark at the top of any page in your VerticalResponse account. Or, go to helpcenter.verticalresponse.com to find lots of helpful articles (you might want to bookmark it for easy access). And, sign up for a live demo

So if you’re looking for some help, and not just any help, check out our resources to get you on your way. Have a question about using the new VerticalResponse? Share it in the comments. 

© 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 Need Help Using the New VerticalResponse? Check out the Help Center! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Penalties – All You Need to Know

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 06:01

Penalties from search engines, mainly Google, have become more and more common in the past few years. Some penalties have resulted in crippling the organic traffic of some big name sites and tons of little guys, too. Like many aspects of SEO there’s a bit of mystery involved, so in this post, we break down the details about what penalties are, how your site could get one and how to tell if you have one. 

What is a penalty?

Just like in hockey, a penalty is something that you don’t want against you or your site. Let’s start with the two biggest search engines, Google and Bing. Duane Forrester of Bing says they really don’t penalize sites unless they’re doing some “really bad stuff, like hacking, malware and things like that.” Google on the other hand, deals out two types of penalties, algorithmic and manual:
     

  • Algorithm Penalty: This is a penalty that has affected your site because one of Google’s many algorithms. For example, the Panda algorithm affects sites with low quality and duplicate content. 
  • Manual Penalty: This type of penalty is usually called a manual action or manual penalty. Google has looked at your site and determined that it violates their lengthy search quality guidelines, so they slap a manual penalty on your site(s). Google has a whole team of manual spam fighters that spend their time looking for sites that violate their guidelines. 

How did you get a penalty?

Algorithm: If you’ve noticed a sharp decline in your organic traffic and are left wondering if you were caught in Google’s cross hairs, we have some news for you: You maybe have been hit by one of Google’s two biggest algorithms, Panda and Penguin, both of which are very different.

Panda addresses sites with low quality, thin and duplicate content. An example of this would be when, in the past, many SEOs recommended having “SEO only pages” for long tail versions of top keywords in order to gain better rankings. There would be several of these pages for each variation of the keyword with almost the exact same copy. You can see how these types of activities are of zero value to the user and more for “gaming” the search engines. The Penguin algorithm discounts sites that have artificially been ranked because of having a high number of artificial backlinks. The Penguin algorithm also rewarded high value sites, which in turn pushed down lower quality sites. The Panda update would be what the majority of small businesses have been hit by. 

Manual: Your site might get hit with a manual penalty because it violates one, some or all of Google’s Search Quality Guidelines. Recently, that might have meant some guest blog posting that we clued you in on in our video, What’s New With Google. Other things Google says can get you a manual penalty include deceiving your users, link schemes (like paid links), cloaking, sneaky redirects and scraping content. If you’ve used an SEO company in the past, hopefully not a dodgy one, you might want to do an audit of your backlinks.  

How to tell if you have a penalty

Algorithm: Unfortunately, Google won’t let you know if you’ve received a penalty as a result of an algorithm. Luckily our friends at Moz have a pretty accurate timeline of when algorithm updates land. Using that, in combination with your own analytic data, you can get a pretty good idea if your site’s been whacked by a Penguin or Panda update. Google also announced that they no longer roll out the updates on one day, but rather over the span of a few. This might be harder to tell if you’ve been hit. Here are some more good resources to help you find if your site’s been affected: Barracuda’s Panguin Tool and Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker Tool

Manual: Luckily, Google will inform you if you’ve been struck with a manual penalty. We say “luckily,” but that’s a message you never want to see in your inbox. Google has also increased the details they provide you and clarity of these messages. They will tell you what general guideline you’ve broken, and hopefully also provide you a link(s) to some backlinks that are violating the guidelines and even a video. Here’s an example of what a manual action looks like. 

Google Penalties: All You Need to Know

Now you have an overview of what an SEO penalty is. There are many different penalties and each one is very specific to the individual site’s situation. Because of that, it’s tough to give blanket advice on how to repair your site from penalty. If you have any questions about penalties shoot them our way. 

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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 Google Penalties – All You Need to Know appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Is Affiliate Marketing Right for Your Business?

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 06:00

What exactly is affiliate marketing? It involves having others market and sell for you. It’s a web-based system that allows you to reward referrals by sharing your profits.

In addition to having an affiliate program, you can also become a publisher. That means you’re selling someone else’s product on your site for a percentage of profits by becoming an affiliate. For example, if there are specific books you typically recommend to your customers or clients, you can become an Amazon affiliate and receive a small percentage of the profits generated from book sales off of your website.

How it works

Affiliates place an ad on their site with a link that has a special code designed to keep track of purchases made generating from their site. After a previously disclosed period of time, affiliates receive the percentage of sales made.

So, basically, someone can promote your product or service and receive a cut of sales coming from their website or email list… or you can promote someone else’s product or service and receive a percentage of their sales.

Affiliate programs

In order to allow your clients or customers to become affiliates, you’ll need to find a program provider to use. There are a lot of providers, including 1ShoppingCart, LinkShare, Clickbank, Shareasale, AffiliateX, CommissionJunction and E-junkie.

These providers will let you approve those who apply to be affiliates, and keep track of payments. Many will take care of payments for you.

Make it easy to affiliate

If you have clients with blogs and email lists of their own who are passionate about your product, make sure to let them know about your affiliate program. Although they may be marketing their own materials to their email list, if they’re truly passionate about your product or service, they’ll spread the word.

You should clearly spell out the terms of your program, including whether there’s a minimum cash amount people must earn to cash out and how long it generally takes to get paid.

To increase participation, simply increase the percentage of profits they receive for sales generated from their site. You can make things easier by including several sizes of banner ads for affiliates to place on their websites, or compelling copy they can use.

A word about ethics

One potential pitfall with affiliate programs is spamming. People interested in a quick moneymaker may decide to send unsolicited emails to everyone they know, which could reflect badly on your business. Make sure you’re selective about who you allow as an affiliate. Some businesses go so far as to only allow current customers as affiliates – assuring that their affiliates are knowledgeable about the product.

Legally, the Federal Trade Commission has certain expectations in place. Bloggers who are affiliates of a product must disclose that when they write endorsements or testimonials. So if you’re writing a glowing review of a product with which you are affiliated, make sure to let your readers know. You can do that by writing something along the lines of: “I receive a small percentage of profits from purchases made off of this sale.”

Another word of warning: You may want to have measures in place to assure that people have purchased a product before becoming an affiliate – so they’re not using your program for a partial refund on the first product they bought from you!

Is it effective?

Like all types of online marketing, affiliate programs take time and effort. If you’re working on creating a program to have people market your products for you, it may take some trial and error before the program is truly effective. Sometimes it’s easier to provide a free sample or a video instead of having an affiliate link directly to a product or service for purchase. Affiliates can still get the percentage of profits from sales that were originally generated from their site, but instead of trying to sell for you, they’re offering something to their readers for free.

If you’re considering adding affiliate links for your customers, a good bet is to sign up for affiliate programs and link to products you already recommend.

For example, if you have a web design business and know that your clients will need to get hosting services, you can affiliate with one or more that you like. If you collaborate with someone else who provides services that complement your own, you may consider affiliating with each other – so you both benefit from cross-promotion.

Affiliate programs work best when they’re extremely targeted, and the demographic of the affiliate and the publisher line up well.

Bottom line: The amount of time and effort you put into an affiliate program – either as an affiliate or a publisher – will determine what you get out of it.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

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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 Is Affiliate Marketing Right for Your Business? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Understanding Preheader Text [VIDEO]

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 08:10

In this installment of Tips in 2, our new video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Jill Bastian, Community Education & Training Manager at VerticalResponse walks you through the ins and outs of preheader text. When creating an email your preheader text helps your subject line compel subscribers to open it and read your content.

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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 Top 20 Places Your Business Needs to Be Listed Online

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 06:00

Remember when you had to find a phone book and flip through hundreds of pages in order to find a local business?

The use of Yellow Pages has declined over 50 percent in the last five years. People now conduct quick searches on one of the many popular online directories. Since Internet search is the primary tool to finding businesses today, it’s vital to make sure your business is listed on all applicable online directories.

To get you started, here’s a quick guide to the top 20 online directories and links to their sign-up pages:


Google Places for Business

Listing your business on Google Places for Business should be at the top of your priority list. Google outperforms every other search engine by a long shot. In fact, Google receives nearly 6 billion searches per day.

Advantages
  • Registering for a business listing on Google is easy and free
  • Business listings appear in Google Maps
  • Happy customers can leave reviews on your Google+ page

Create your Google Places for Business listing.


Bing Places for Business

Bing is the second most visited search engine on the Internet. If people aren’t searching on Google, chances are, they’re searching for your business on Bing.

Advantages
  • Quick, easy, and free to register
  • Add multiple business locations at one time
  • Include other content in your business listing like photos, videos, and more

Create your Bing Places for Business listing.


Yahoo! Local Listing

 Yahoo is the Internet’s 3rd most popular search engine, bringing in millions of searches per day.

Advantages
  • Yahoo Local Basic listing is free
  • Include photos, company description and more for $9.95/month
  • Get maximum exposure and listed on 40+ other directory listings for $29.99/month

Create your Yahoo Local listing.


Yelp

Yelp is one of the best places on the Internet for consumers to find a quality review. If you’re looking to tap into the word-of-mouth advertising world, then Yelp is the perfect place to start.

Advantages
  • Create deals for loyal customers right in your Yelp account
  • Send messages to your customers, publicly or privately
  • View business trends in Yelp’s reporting tool

Create your Yelp listing.


MerchantCircle

MerchantCircle is an online directory that helps small businesses connect with local customers, and other local small businesses. They offer free marketing tools to help you build your business.

Advantages
  • Geographically localized to your target audience
  • Ability to advertise to boost your listing
  • Host a business blog on the site

Create your MerchantCircle listing.


Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages is the online version of a modern day phone book. Besides listing your business in an organized directory, Yellow Pages also offers advertising, lead generation services, and online payment options.

Advantages
  • Well-organized interface
  • Detailed ad performance data
  • Receives millions of searches per day

Create your Yellow Pages listing.


White Pages

White Pages is the online equivalent of the white pages in a phone book. It’s a great way to make your business contact information available to over 200 million people.

Advantages
  • List your business among 30 million other businesses
  • Premium text message service for mobile marketing
  • Sponsored advertisement opportunities available

Create your White Pages listing.


Superpages.com

Superpages.com is another online directory that is easy to navigate. Superpages.com includes some unique features like cars for sale, lottery results and helpful tips for finding business services.

Advantages
  • Local weather listings right on the home page
  • Facebook sign-in option
  • Popular search categories listed on the home page

Create your Superpages listing.


Yellowbook

Yellowbook.com is a subsidiary of Hibu Business, and allows you to create an easily searchable business listing on their network. Listings come with access to a full profile that includes business information, a link to your website, product descriptions and more.

Advantages
  • Information distributed across yellowbook.com network and partner sites
  • Display and video ads available
  • Cool map feature included in every listing

Create your Yellowbook listing.


YellowBot

YellowBot is yet another online directory similar to the yellow pages in a phone book. YellowBot provides basic contact and location information about businesses, and allows online reviews from customers.

Advantages
  • Easily sign in with Windowslive, Google, Facebook, Yahoo or Twitter
  • Premium Listing opportunity for easy account management
  • Ability to add searchable tags to your listing

Create your YellowBot listing.


Manta

Manta is an online directory that receives over 30 million unique visitors per month. According to Inc., it is one of the fastest growing business sites on the Internet.

Advantages
  • A fantastic way to increase your website traffic with paid business optimization packages
  • Get set up within minutes
  • Highlight your products and brands on your business profile

Create your Manta listing.


Citysearch

Citysearch is an excellent network for restaurants, bars, spas, hotels, restaurants and more. It’s free to get a listing and easy to update your profile once you’re listed in their search results. Citysearch also offers city guides for the most popular cities in the United States.

Advantages
  • Vast partner network including Expedia, Urbanspoon, MerchantCircle and more
  • Profile includes a fun welcome message for viewers
  • Customers access business listings through popular Citysearch mobile app

Create your Citysearch listing.


MapQuest

MapQuest is a web mapping service to help bring local customers right to your business doorstep. This listing is great for businesses that are trying to get customers to visit a physical location.

Advantages
  • Detailed driving directions to your business are available
  • Only $3/week
  • One central dashboard to manage business listings across multiple sites (paid service)

Create your MapQuest listing.


Local.com

Local.com is a free business directory powered by Yext.com. Local.com offers searchers detailed information about everything going on in their city, including events, deals and information on popular businesses.

Advantages
  • Additional advertising options available
  • Add a coupon to attract customers
  • Resources available to make sure your business is listed correctly across the web

Create your Local.com listing.


Foursquare

Not only is Foursquare a popular business directory, it’s a popular social networking site. Customers can check in and comment on your business — ultimately leading more potential customers to your business.

Advantages
  • Connect your Twitter handle, so visitors can Tweet you
  • Add a map so people can “check-in” to your business
  • Popular mobile app available

Create your Foursquare listing.


DexKnows

DexKnows is a popular online directory that not only allows a business listing, but provides a way for you to track how your customers engage with your profile, thus allowing you to track your online reputation.

Advantages
  • Identify places where you can advertise both online and in print
  • Detailed lead information available through reporting tools
  • Monitor your ratings and reviews

Create your DexKnows listing.

The Business Journals

The Business Journals is a local listing that has 4 levels of service options— free, bronze, silver, and gold. Each service option displays your listing in the directory, but the more you pay, the more opportunities you have to receive targeted traffic to your website.

Advantages
  • 8 million monthly searchers
  • Searchers have an average income of $97K+
  • 84% of searchers shop online

Create your Business Journals listing.


Angie’s List

Angie’s List is one of the most well respected online directories for services, and is touted for its ability to provide accurate and reliable reviews for readers. If you’re looking to establish an online reputation through positive reviews, Angie’s list is a must.

Advantages
  • Online reputation management services
  • Ability to read and respond to reviews
  • Access to additional helpful business tools

Create your Angie’s List listing.


Hotfrog

Hotfrog is a free online directory whose aim is to help get your website listed in Google’s search results.

Advantages
  • Registration takes less than 5 minutes
  • Add as much detail to your profile as you would like for free
  • Create coupons to incentivize your customers

Create your Hotfrog listing.


Kudzu

Kudzu is free and geared toward homeowners that are interested in making renovations. If you offer any type of home improvement services, make sure you list your business on Kudzu.

Advantages
  • 93% of Kudzu users are homeowners
  • 74% of those homeowners are interested in home renovation projects
  • Enhanced profiles come with a dedicated account manager to help you boost your website in search results

Create your Kudzu listing.

This guide was created by Deluxe and republished by VerticalResponse.

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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 The Top 20 Places Your Business Needs to Be Listed Online appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Ways to Take Privacy Seriously with Your Email Marketing

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 06:00

Information is power. This phrase is especially true when it comes to marketing. The more information you have about your customers, the more targeted and effective your email marketing can be.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, 90 percent of executives depend on customer information for effective marketing campaigns and 79 percent said they would benefit from more sophisticated means to collect information.

As it stands now, there’s a variety of ways to learn about your customers. From social media platforms to loyalty programs, you can collect a lot of information about your target audience. While all of this information is valuable, some of your customers could be hesitant to share personal information.

“Fears about privacy are warranted,” says Mike Podlesny, who uses email marketing to promote his gardening business. “When a customer gives you information, they’re trusting you to keep it safe.”

Keeping customer information safe is vitally important to maintain your customer relationships. So how do you get the information you need and reassure your customers that their information is safe? Consider putting these five practices in place so both sides win.

1. Only send emails to those who give consent

Your email list can boost sales and brand recognition, which is all the more reason to treat your list like a member of your family. Nurture your customers, help them grow, offer valuable content and products, but only when they ask for it.

2. Be aware of the CAN-SPAM Act

There is a law that sets rules for commercial emails in the U.S., it’s called the CAN-SPAM Act. If you aren’t aware of the act, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the rules and make sure you’re complying. The rules focus on honoring opt outs and being truthful with email content.

3. Let customers opt out easily

No one wants to lose a potential customer, but it happens. While the CAN-SPAM Act says every email should offer a way to opt out, we also suggest making the process as painless as possible. Don’t make customers take surveys or force them through hoops; just make it simple. The more difficult it is to get off your email list, the less likely a customer is to come back later on. Plus, the CAN-SPAM Act has rules on what you can ask unsubscribers to do. VerticalResponse makes it simple, manages the information for you, and is CAN-SPAM compliant.

4. Offer a privacy policy on your website

You can build trust through transparency. Be open with your customers. Tell them exactly what you do with their information and the efforts you take to keep it safe, much like Podlesny does. On his gardening site, there is a page strictly for this purpose. It tells customers that information is collected to enhance the customer experience. It explains security measures and tells customers that their information will not be sold to a third party.

5. Don’t ask for more information than you need

Only collect what you need. The information you gain should make the buying process easier. If it can’t do that, you don’t need to ask for the information. By taking the time to ask the right questions and collecting only the information that’s useful, you’re respecting your customers’ time and privacy.

Customers respect companies that take privacy matters seriously. Show your customers you care, and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

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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 5 Ways to Take Privacy Seriously with Your Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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