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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.

A Small Biz Guide to Digital Marketing Acronyms

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 06:01

There are semi easy-to-understand acronyms you might use in everyday life like, LOL (laugh out loud), ASAP (as soon as possible), TBD (too be determined) and even BYOB (bring your own beverage). And then there are acronyms associated with digital marketing that you may be less familiar with, especially since new ones crop up all the time. If you’ve ever heard or read an acronym and secretly wondered what it meant, you’re not alone: “I think you should update your CTA so your CTR increases, which will positively impact SEM, specifically PPC, which will give you a better ROI, plus help out your SEO as you market to both B2B and B2C markets.” Say what? To help you better understand the world of online marketing speak, here’s a list (and definitions) of commonly used digital marketing acronyms:

AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action is a the list of events a one should attempt to do, particularly when it comes to writing copy, in order to obtain customers with a website, online ad, email, blog post etc. Ex: Grab their attention, hold their interest, invoke desire (by talking about benefits, or solving a problem), and generate a call to action to influence your readers to do what you want them to do. 

API: Application Program Interface is a set of rules, protocols or tools for building software applications.

B2B:  Business to Business refers to companies that typically sell to other businesses (rather than to consumers).

B2C: Business to Consumer refers to companies that typically sell to consumers (rather than to other businesses).

BL: Backlink is a link from another website to your business’ website.  Google uses backlinks in their algorithm to determine how search engine results are returned. Also known as inbound link. 

CAN-SPAM: Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 is a law that was passed in the U.S. to cut down on unsolicited emails. The act includes a list of requirements for businesses or individuals when sending out email.  Rules like users must have the ability to opt out of receiving future communications, inclusion of a postal address of the sender, and no misleading subject lines. 

CMS: Content Management System is a software or program used to organize, edit and publish content.

CPA: Cost Per Action is a type of online advertising where the advertiser is charged based on a specific action. Advertisers will pay for an action like a purchase, form submission or registration.

CPC: Cost Per Click is a type of online advertising where the advertiser is charged based on the number of times a visitor clicks on a link.

CPM: Cost Per Thousand is a type of advertising where the advertiser is charged based on the a thousand impressions or showings of an ad. Why isn’t it CPT then? It uses “M” for Mille, which is the roman numeral for one thousand. 

CR: Conversion Rate is the number of visitors to a website or recipients of an email who take action beyond viewership

CRM: Customer Relationship Management is a business strategy or model for managing interaction and communication with leads or current customers.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is a “style sheet language” used to describe or define HTML/website or interface design elements (color, font, text alignment, borders, spacing).

CTA:  Call to Action is a word or phrase that’s used to tell people what to do on the website or within an email.  Some examples include “Learn More”, “Buy Now”, or “Sign Up.”

CTR: Click Through Rate is a measurement of how many people clicked on a particular link.  You can measure CTR on your website based on number of visitors as compared to the number of visitors who click on a link on your homepage. Can also be used with email marketing to measure people who clicked on a link within your email. 

CX: Customer Experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with your product, website, etc.

ESP: Email Service Provider is a program or software that allows you to send emails and obtain tracking. VerticalResponse is an ESP.

GA: Google Analytics is a website and analytics reporting service created by Google that gives you various statistics in regards to website traffic.

FB: Facebook — This is kind of self-explanatory. Use “FB” to refer to all things Facebook.

HTML: Hyper Text Markup Language is the “language” or text makeup used to create webpages and any other information that could be viewed on the web.

IO: Insertion Order is a written contract between the advertiser and the ad agency or media rep.  Typically used for print or broadcast ads.  It usually includes specific instructions as to when the ad will begin, end, number of times to be shown, and it’s exact placement plus how much it costs.

KPI: Key Performance Indicator is a type of performance measurement or way to measure progress towards a specific goal.

PPC: Pay Per Click– An advertiser pays based on the number of times an ad is clicked on. If you advertise on a site like Google, you’ll pay based on the number of times a visitor clicks on your ad.  This also is known as CPC or Cost Per Click.

PR: PageRank and/or Public Relations – PageRank from Larry Page of Google

PV: Page Views are the number of times a user visits a webpage.

ROI: Return on Investment refers to how successful a specific marketing campaign is. It’s the amount of profit you’ll get based on the revenue generated less the money you spent on an advertising activity. For example, it costs $5,000 a year to maintain your website (domain, hosting, copywriting, design fees, etc.), but is generates $20,000/year in revenue. Based on this example your ROI would be 400% ($20,000 divided by $5000).

 

RT: Retweet is a re-post or forwarded message on Twitter by another user.

SEM: Search Engine Marketing is the way businesses can promote their website within search engines (because everyone wants to show up on the top of page one). There are two components SEM: 1) typically, this refers to PPC advertising that would appear on sites like Google, Yahoo! or Bing. It’s the ads that appear on the top and side of those pages; and 2) include search engine optimization (SEO) to have their business show up naturally or organically within the results page. 

SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing a business’ website to achieve higher organic search results. Website owners can improve their SEO by including good content or keywords on their site, getting backlinks or links from other websites, and by structuring and naming their site appropriately so it makes it easier for search engines to find them. We’ve got a helpful Beginner’s Guide to SEO here. 

SERP: Search Engine Results Page is the page users see the results of a web search they conducted (“pizza in San Francisco”). Search engines like Google, Yahoo! or Bing may have different layouts to their pages, but they all have SERPs. They typically include the paid or PPC ads plus organic search results. 

SoLoMo: Social, Local, Mobile refers to a localized and mobile-centric version of search engine results.

SM: Social Media is the interaction and connection with various people on online platforms.

SMB: Small Business

SMM: Social Media Marketing is the tactic of using social media to market your business. See SMO. 

SMO: Social Media Optimization is the process of using social media platforms to generate more interest in your business or drive more traffic to your website.  There’s a wide variety of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ or writing your own blog. 

UGC: User-Generated Content is a wide range of various media (blog posts, videos, photos etc.) created by the users (as opposed to the owners or employees) of a particular site or social media platform.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator is the web address or specific address of information found on the Internet.

UV: Unique Visitor is a distinct, individual visitor to a website who is only counted once, regardless how many times or web pages they visit.

UX: User Experience is the sum of experiences a customer has with your website, blog, etc.

Have any other marketing terms that should be added to the list?  Add ‘em below. 

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post A Small Biz Guide to Digital Marketing Acronyms appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Gauge Email Responses

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 06:00

Emails are a powerful marketing tool, but how do you know which response rates are good? What kind of open rates should you have? Is an unsubscribe rate of 2 percent bad? These are all valid questions. Plenty of people just like you wonder about the same things so we’re going to break down email marketing benchmarks to help you gauge your success.

We’ll define each metric, give you an average to shoot for and, with the help of online supplement retailer, Russell Lundstrom, we’ll give you some tips to get your stats where they should be.

Open rates

Average: 18-25%

Definition: An open rate is the measure of how many people on an email list open or view a delivered email.

The average open rate for commercial emails sent in the United States is 18-25 percent. The average person gets about 150 emails a day, so an open rate hovering around the high 20s is good. For non-profits the average open rate a bit lower, between 11-16 percent depending on the type of email and organization.

Tips to boost open rates:

Subject lines play a critical role in your open rates, so take the time to craft a subject line that intrigues your readers. If you need some subject line inspiration, check out this previous post.

The day of the week and time you send your email can also impact open rates, think about your audience and when they’re most likely to be opening your emails, and target your sends then. Testing parts of your email can have a big impact open rates and engagement, for more ideas check out this blog post.

Clickthrough rates

Average: 2-8%

Definition: A clickthrough rate is the percentage of people who open a delivered email and click on at least one link in the email.

Each email you send should have some sort of clickable call to action. Whether you’re directing customers to make a purchase or read a blog post, getting customers to not only open an email, but also click on a link is a positive step in engagement.

Tips to boost your clickthrough rate:

Clickthrough rates can vary depending on a variety of things, but the best way to boost your clickthrough rate is twofold. First, de-clutter your email. Make the call to action very clear and only use one per email. (Here are some email design tips.)

Second, make sure the email you send has value, says Lundstrom. If your customers associate your brand with a quality product and quality information, they are more apt to click on a link in the email. (For additional tips, check out, “How to Keep Email Newsletter Clicks & Readers on the Rise” or “How to Make Your Email Campaign More Clickable”)

Conversion rates

Average: 5-10%

Definition: A conversion rate is the percentage of people who took the action you wanted. Whether the action is buying a product or filling out a form, the conversion rate shows you how many of your customers followed through with your call to action.

This is an important statistic to watch because it can have a direct impact on your bottom line, provided your call to action asks customers to make a purchase. Lundstrom shoots for a conversion rate of 8-10 percent, but these rates can vary. Everything from website design to ease of navigation can impact this number.

Tips to boost your conversation rate

The easiest way to boost your conversion rate is to make the sales process as easy as possible. Make sure the email you send directs customers to a page that is as close to the checkout as possible. You don’t want customers abandoning their carts because the process is too much of a hassle.

Use targeted lists to ensure you’re sending the right information to the right people, the more your readers want what you’re sending, the better chance you have to convert them.

Unsubscribe rates

Average: Less than .50%

Definition: This is the number of people who remove themselves from your email list.

Nobody likes to see a customer go, but it happens. As long as your unsubscribe rate stays below .50 percent, you’re doing well. MarketingProfs, a research site, says the average unsubscribe rate is .25, but keeping it under .50 is a good goal to set.

Tips to keep unsubscribes low

To keep customers on your email list, don’t waste their time, says Lundstrom. Again, it goes back to value. Make sure every email is important to your customer. With every email you build trust, which is tough to gain and easy to lose if you’re sending subpar emails.

And be sure to mail on a regular basis, at least once per month, to keep your business fresh in your readers minds and to help them remember why they’re getting your email.

Of course, every small business and their list is different. But these benchmarks could be just what you need to keep your email marketing efforts on track.

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.

 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 How to Gauge Email Responses appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New With Google, March 2014 [VIDEO]

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 06:00

We just returned from SMX West, a search conference in San Jose, CA and came back with some breaking news from Google. The biggest news came from Matt Cutts of Google, who stated that there is a new generation Panda algorithm update in the works that will help small businesses. Matt didn’t give an exact date of when this update would be released, but he did say it will be a bigger update and also described it as “softer”. As a small business you can prepare yourself by creating great content and setting up your Google+ Authorship. If you noticed a dip in traffic during the first Panda update, you might be in for some traffic recovery.

The next big news is that Google took manual action (read: penalized) against a well known guest blogging “network” called MyBlogGuest. Guest blogging has been in the Google crosshairs for a while which has caused a heated debate between SEOs and Google. Google took action against MyBlogGuest and several of its members, both guest bloggers and publishers. There was a very interesting and detailed discussion on Inbound.org, if you want to read more.  Our advice is if you have done guest blogging and/or published any guest post, add the rel=”nofollow” to any outbound links in the guest blogger’s post. If you wanted to be extra safe, we would recommend submitting any domains you wrote guest blog posts for to the Google Disavow Tool, please note this tool is dangerous, so please use responsibly.

To learn more, check out Chipper’s newest episode of What’s New with Google below:

© 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 What’s New With Google, March 2014 [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Effectively Use Facebook Ads + Email

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 16:56

On the last day of Social Media Marketing World, Facebook continues to be one of the most popular trending topics of discussion. With plummeting organic reach, continuous algorithm changes and the necessary realization that you have to “pay to play,” Facebook is on everyone’s brain. A common theme amongst speakers at the conference in response to Facebook backlash: Don’t build on rented land. With that, Amy Porterfield, Social Media Marketing World Speaker, strategist and co-author of the book, Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies, says we all need to have a major mindset shift.

“People don’t like Facebook right now. Facebook isn’t free anymore and it changes all the time,” says Porterfield. “Gone are the days when you could post on your page without a strategy. But we need a mindset shift. If you start to look at Facebook differently, you’ll make big strides. I challenge you to have a mindset shift that Facebook is now an investment, and if you’re open to Facebook ads in a new way, you’ll get excited about what you can do.”

Porterfield then walked the audience members through her personal Facebook ad strategy that she says generates at least $1,000 per every $200 Facebook ad spend.

Gain Engagement

“Here’s how Facebook algorithm actually works,” says Porterfield. “If you’re not in the news feed, people aren’t seeing your posts.” Porterfield suggests posting to Facebook 2-5 times a day, however you can post more or less depending on whether your audience is engaging with them. “It’s not how often you’re posting, it’s what people are doing with your posts.”

Only about 1-2 percent of Facebook page fans see your posts and only a few of them may actually engage. Porterfield says she understands why people are so frustrated. “This isn’t going to go away,” she says. “So we need to be smarter.”

How does Facebook determine engagement? Likes, comments, shares and clicks.

The more engagement you get on your posts, the more likely they’ll appear in the newsfeed. Porterfield emphasized that in order to gain engagement, we need to post more “native posts,” that are non-intrusive and show our fans we’re “one of them.” Posts that are “all about you” won’t garner many clicks, Porterfield states. “Know your audience’s trigger points, let them behind the scenes,” Porterfield says. “In the next 24 hours, check out your last 10 Facebook posts. Do they interrupt or join in?”

Have a Strategy
Here’s Porterfield’s strategy for a creating a successful Facebook ad + email:

A) Create an irresistible giveaway or offer. The giveaway should be whatever your audience will love and will work for your business, states Porterfield. In her example, she used a 60-minute live webinar.
B) Create an opt-in/lead page. Like Melanie Duncan, Porterfield is a huge proponent of using LeadPages to create compelling opt-in pages.
C) Set up a targeted unpublished news feed Facebook ad for that giveaway.
D) Deliver the goods aka the offer. Porterfield suggests teaching a lot for free and selling a little. She gives a live 60-minute webinar for free, and then plugs a $97 item at the end of her webinar. “I definitely sell because I’ve earned it,” says Porterfield, “But you also have to give your audience what they want.”
E) Follow up with a series of emails. “Deliver the giveaway and use email marketing to seal the deal,” says Porterfield.

Use Facebook Graph Search
“It’s important for one main reason,” says Porterfield. “To find out where your audience is spending time on Facebook.” Porterfield suggests using the Facebook Graph search function to find the pages that your audience members like and engage with. How? Simply type in the search box, “Pages liked by [your business name or competitor here] fans” – or – “Pages liked by people who like [your biz name here or competitor business name here] – or- “Favorite interests of people who like…” This will give you similar pages, competitors and interests of your fans or people you’d like to target that you’ll want to jot down. You’ll then use this valuable information later when creating a Facebook ad.

“This is so powerful because this is where you’re going to target your ads,” says Porterfield. “Don’t skip this step.”

Create Facebook Ads
Porterfield highly suggests creating unpublished news feed ads (which you can do in the Power Editor dashboard) because everything is clickable, customizable, there aren’t light boxes, the image is large enough to grab attention, and you can change the call to actions. Your unpublished news feed ad should advertise your giveaway, then link to an opt-in form and/or lead page, which will grow and build your email list in the process.

Porterfield’s Pro tips:

  • For the crispest imagery in your newsfeed ad, use the following dimensions and file for saving your ad: 1200×627 PNG
  • When choosing placement options for your ad, only place it in the news feed.
  • Under “Interests,” you want to type in all of those pages and interests you looked up while conducting a graph search (see above). Your ad will then target fans that like similar pages to your own or your competitors’ pages.
  • Target your ad to 175K to 1 million people. “If you’re a local business,” says Porterfield, “It’s [wide-spread reach] not going to happen, so don’t worry about it.”

These are Porterfield’s guidelines for what to expect to spend on a $97 Facebook ad:

1) From fan to lead: $1-$5
2) From non-fan to lead: $3-$8 – “It’s cheaper to advertise to your own fan base,” Porterfield says.
3) From lead to customer: $10-$30. Example: $200 on ads = 10 sales = $20/customer
4) Daily spend: $50 ($10 a day is an option)

Follow up with Email
Porterfield strongly suggests, “sealing the deal” with email. After you’ve created your Facebook ad, gained sign-ups/opt-ins and delivered your giveaway, don’t stop there! Follow up with emails thanking attendees or sign-ups, and other emails. Porterfield says after a webinar, she emails attendees or sign ups up to 5 times after the webinar has happened (but no more than once a week). She sends two emails with a replay of the webinar, a “last chance” email to view the webinar before she takes it off of her website, and another if the recipient hasn’t responded or purchased.

Should you only send emails about promotions or offers? “The more you give your audience something that’s not around an offer, but they find valuable, they more they’ll trust you. Get that value out there,” Porterfield says. If you’re only sending promotional offers, your efforts may be wasted. “When they’re not interested buying, they’ll never look at your emails.”

Have you tried any of these tactics? Let us know in the comments!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Effectively Use Facebook Ads + Email appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Steps to Building Your Email List with Pinterest

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 07:00

The second annual Social Media Marketing World presented by Social Media Examiner is officially in full swing. More than 2,000 attendees are soaking up community management, content, and social media marketing strategies, tips and trends. One of this year’s hottest topics? Pinterest, the visually appealing photo pin board social site. As Michael Stelzner, founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner stated in his keynote speech, “Visuals are a huge deal people. The brain can process an image 500x faster than text. The faster people can see it, the faster they’ll share it.” According to Stelzner’s recent 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, more than 70% of marketers plan on increasing their original visual assets.

Melanie Duncan, owner of the online training program, Entrepreneuress Academy, and online business owner of Luxury Monograms, Complete Apparel Solutions and CustomGreekThreads.com, knows a thing or two about Pinterest. She drives thousands of visitors to her site and gains a tremendous number of email subscribers purely from Pinterest. “When we use social with email marketing, this is where we really see the most direct result in revenue.” Duncan says. As one of Social Media Marketing World’s presenters, Duncan gave a packed room of entrepreneurs and small business owners her 3-step system to building your email list via Pinterest:

1. Create an offering
It might seem simple, but Duncan says to create an offering, pin it, and lead people from that pin to an email opt-in form on your website.”In exchange for their name and email, you give them a gift,” Duncan says. So what types of offerings should you create and pin? Here are a few ideas:

  • Coupon codes
  • Ebooks
  • Checklists – Duncan says checklists are particularly effective on Pinterest.
  • Guides
  • Video series – If you’re camera shy, Duncan says to use ScreenFlow for a Mac or Camtasia for a PC 
  • Online trainings
  • Google Hangouts – You don’t have to sign up for a Google hangout, but create a sign up page for it anyway!
  • Webinars

What about blog posts? Duncan says that if you’re leading readers to a blog post, ensure that your blog is also optimized for email sign ups and your sign up call to action should appear at the top, side or bottom of your posts.

2. Have a nicely designed landing/opt-in page
A compelling opt-in and/or landing page is key to gaining sign ups. “The opt-in page is a hurdle for most people,” Duncan says. But you don’t have to be a tech-whiz to make an opt-in or landing page look good. Her favorite tool, which doesn’t require coding knowledge: Leadpages – software that allows you to create appealing, mobile responsive landing, launch, sale, conversion opt-in pages and more. Duncan also says to make the landing page or opt-in form and the pin as visually consistent as possible – Use similar colors, visuals, fonts and images.

Bonus tip: Include a disclaimer (ex: “Don’t worry, we don’t spam and your info will never be shared.”) on your opt-in form to ensure people of the safety of their email address and information. “A disclaimer significantly increases sign ups!” Duncan says. “Make them feel as comfortable and confident as possible.”

3. Pin it
Pinning images is obvious, but there’s more to it than simply clicking the “pin it” button:

A. Upload your own content
Did you know you could upload your own content and images on Pinterest? “Creating a visual for your information to share is an important part of the process,” Duncan says. She highly recommends this, especially for those who offer services or run non-product based businesses. And, don’t forget to include a source link. Duncan also has a list of her favorite tools for creating your own images:

  • PicMonkey – A free online photo editor
  • Box Shot King – Allows you to upload images and project them onto eBook covers – No design experience necessary!
  • Placeit  – Allows you to insert images, videos, checklists, etc. onto images of computer screens, mobile phones, iPads, etc.

B. Have a stellar pin caption/description
Pinterest isn’t just about posting photos. Taking advantage of the caption is also vital to leading Pinterest fans back to your website and opt-in form. “Include a call to action in the caption such as, click here, repin this, comment below,” Duncan says. Also be sure to include a link within your caption, as Pinterest will automatically hyperlink it. “Hardly anyone does this!” says Duncan. “This works really well and it doubles the amount of ways to get traffic.”

C. Repin your own pins
“Can you do this?” an audience member asked. “Absolutely,” Duncan says. “The majority of people who log on to Pinterest only look at their news feed and miss out if they don’t happen to log in at the time you posted something… Take your most successful content and repin it.” Deleting the previous pin is completely A-okay in Duncan’s book, especially since it doesn’t break any links. “Don’t pin the same thing more than once a week,” Duncan advises. She also recommends repining something at a different time and day of the week.

D. Maintain robust boards
“Have at least 5 boards, 6 is great, and no less than 10 pins per board. This is not a golden rule, but you want your boards to look like they have enough value, so when someone comes to your page, they’re interested in following you,” Duncan says. Her advice for building up quality boards: Create secret boards, pin at least 10 things in each board, and when they’reP hearty enough, make them public so they’re ready for the world. How much is too much? “40 boards with 2-3 pins,” Duncan says. “This is the most common mistake I see.”

Have any thoughts or additional tips to add to Duncan’s Pinterest email list building tips? Share with us!

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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 3 Steps to Building Your Email List with Pinterest appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The 9 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending [Guide]

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 06:00

If you want take your email marketing to a new level, we’ve put together nine emails your business should send on a regular basis. We’ll tell you the purpose of each email and the type of businesses that can benefit from it. We’ll also tell you, on a scale of 1 to 5, the difficulty level for each email. The closer the number is to 5, the more effort it takes. Plus, we give you three tips to create each email.

1. Promotional Email

Purpose: To promote a product or service, usually to entice customers to make a purchase.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 1. Promotional emails are short and sweet. You might want to create a special graphic, otherwise, it’s not a time consuming process.

Three tips to create a Promotional Email:
  • Make the offer clear - Your customers may not take the time to read your email, but if you have a clear offer that’s front-and-center, they can’t neglect it, says marketer Anthony Kirlew with AKA Internet Marketing. In the promotional email below, there is no question what the deal is.
  • Create a sense of urgency – Give customers a reason to act quickly, rather than let the email sit in their inbox. Create a sense of urgency with your promotion. In the example above, the dates of the promotion are apparent. Use active language, too. For instance, “Shop now.”
  • Keep it short - Promotional emails don’t require a lot of explanation. State the deal, tell customers how to redeem it and when the deal expires. No need for a lot of flowery words. Take a look at the example below. In less than 45 words, the retailer sums up the deal.
2. New Inventory Email

Purpose: To let your customers know about new items. It falls under the promotional email umbrella. You’re updating customers, but also hoping for a sale.
Business that would benefit: Any business can tell customers about a new item in stock. Fashion and retail businesses may get the most bang for their buck.
Difficulty level: 2. Time is spent taking a good picture of the new product, but it doesn’t require a lot of text.

Three tips to create a New Inventory Email:
  • Send the email out as soon as the item arrives – As soon as you have the inventory in stock, create the email and hit send. This shows you’re on top of new trends and want your customers to have the latest, greatest items available.
  • Take a killer picture – You don’t have to get artsy, but you do need to showcase your new item. In fact, these types of emails are more about the photo than text. Take the email below, for example. It’s all about the picture. In just 17 words, Coach gets its point across.
  • Convey the point in your subject line You know subject lines can determine whether or not your customer opens your email, and this email is no different. Be sure to tell your customers that you’ve got something new and fun for them to check out. Redbox does this with a simple subject line, “This week’s new releases,” in the example below.

3.  Newsletter Email

Purpose: To inform customers about company news, improve brand awareness and build a relationship with your core audience.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 3. It takes a bit of time to create a solid newsletter, but it’s a valuable marketing tool.

Three tips to create a Newsletter Email:
  • A newsletter doesn’t mean long format Break the copy in your newsletter into short, digestible and actionable sections of content, copy, images and calls to action.
  • Create an easy-on-the-eyes design Think of your newsletter like a mini-newspaper. You want clear lines and divisions between your content. Take a look at the example below. See how clean it looks? You want a simple layout with basic fonts. Don’t go crazy with the color scheme, either.
  • Include your contact information in the newsletter You always want your contact information in an easy-to-find area on the newsletter. The purpose of your newsletter isn’t necessarily to sell, but if your customers are inspired to reach out to you because of the newsletter, you want them to be able to find you, Kirlew says. Note the contact buttons on the newsletter below.
Tips for newsletter content

1. The content should be useful to readers Every piece of information included in your newsletter should have value. You want your customers to learn something about your business and come to rely on you for industry information.

2. Send your newsletter on a consistent basis You want your customers to look forward to your newsletter. To do that, you have to be consistent. Send a newsletter on the last day of the month, or on the 15th of each month. Whatever you decide, stick to it.

4. Welcome Email

Purpose: To welcome new email subscribers to the family and establish a good relationship.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 2. Creating the email doesn’t take long, but you need to know when a new customer signs up.

Three tips to create a Welcome Email:
  • Write in a conversational tone A Welcome Email is like a virtual handshake that accepts a new member to your group. It should be inviting and warm. Show the personal side of your business, says Noah Parsons, a marketer with Palo Alto Software. Take a look at the email below. The letter format feels welcoming and it has a nice tone.
  • Consider offering a reward In celebration of a new customer, you could offer a discount or some sort of perk. You could offer 15 percent off the next purchase like REI did in the example above, or offer another perk like free shipping.
  • Remind new users about the benefits Thank your new customers for signing up and reinforce their decision to join. Tell readers what they’ll get out of this new partnership. The email below does exactly that.
5. Product Advice Email

Purpose: To offer your customers advice on how to get the most from your business or product. At the same time, you establish your authority in the industry.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 3. This kind of email is has more information, so your time will go toward writing and proofreading.

Three tips to create a Product Advice Email:
  • Create valuable content – The key to this kind of email is to offer tips that your customers want to read. Help solve problems they may have or obstacles they may need to overcome. Or, offer tips to help your customers use and maintain your product or service. If you sell cameras, send an email that teaches customers how to use certain features. If you sell bathroom fixtures, include installation tips. Whatever your business is, create an email that gives your customers a helping hand. Swap Couture, a website where members swap designer purses, sends emails to its customers about how to care for designer bags. Take a look at the example below.
  • Proofread – No matter what email you send, you should proofread it several times. Read it from the bottom up so your brain isn’t reading words that aren’t there. Then, have someone else read it. Take it through an error-check process before sending. Nothing cuts your credibility like misspellings and grammatical errors.
  • Focus on customer service – Emails that offer product tips should also showcase your commitment to customer service. Emails like this tell customers, “We’re here for you.” Follow through with that message by adding contact information to the email. The email below, for example, offers tips to wear a certain piece of clothing, but you’ll also notice there is a “contact us” option in the top right corner.
6. Educational Email

Purpose: To provide customers with industry knowledge that’s connected to your business or product. It helps build relationships and trust between your business and your customers.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 3. It takes time to brainstorm ideas and to create a sharp email.

Three tips to create an Educational Email:
  •  Offer relevant content - When you send an educational email, you’re trying to build a relationship with your customers. The best way to do that is to teach them something. However, you want to teach them something that has a connection to your business. For instance, Monster.com, the job search site, sends its customers information about life in the workplace. An example is below.

  • Consider offering bite-sized information - Take a cue from the Monster.com email above and write bite-sized pieces of information in the article; let your customers decide if they want to read more. The “Read more” link takes your customer to your blog for the full article. It’s a great way to engage with customers via email and boost blog traffic.
  • Add a mini-promotion – You can add a promotional element to this kind of email, but it shouldn’t be the main attraction. For example, Lumosity, the brain game site, offers an educational article as the main feature, but notice a promotion on the right side for a family membership. It’s subtle and simple.
7. Reorder Email

Purpose: To remind customers that it’s time to reorder a certain product.
Business that would benefit: Any business that sells products or services needed on a regular basis. Examples include products like printer cartridges, contacts, pet medications and vitamins.
Difficulty level: 3. Basic text and images are needed.

Three tips to create a Reorder Email:

  • Clear call to action - The purpose of a reorder email is to encourage your customers to replenish your product or perhaps renew a subscription for a service. You want to make the buying process as simple as possible. To do so, create a simple, easy-to-find button that says, “Reorder now.” For instance, in the example below, customers can reorder pet medication from Pet Wellbeing.
  • Remind customers of the value – In the email, tell your customers why reordering is a good idea. Maybe it’s to keep vital pet medications on hand, or to avoid the hassle of running out of toner at the office. You could also offer a discount to those who reorder within a certain time frame.
  • Mention past purchases – If you want, you can mention in the email what your customer purchased in the past, so they can reorder the same thing. The pet supply store below does this for its customers. It’s a nice addition to the email, but you can send it without this information.
8. Testimonial Email

Purpose: To reinforce how valuable your business or product is through customer feedback.
Business that would benefit: Every business.
Difficulty level: 4. It takes a bit of time to collect testimonials. You may need to be persistent to get customers to give them to you.

Three tips to create a Testimonial Email:
  • Create a sleek design – Email design elements are important with testimonial emails. You want something that’s eye-catching and easy to read. Take a look at the example below. This retailer put together four quotes from happy customers and highlighted the product, too. It’s a win-win. Both the accolades and the products are showcased well in this simple design.

  • Include an image – If you sell tangible items like clothing, using pictures of shirts and dresses makes sense. But that doesn’t work for every business. Take a medical clinic, for example, or a sanitation company. What image do you use in these cases? If you need a powerful image, ask the customer who gave the testimonial for a picture. Take a look at the example below. The customer’s picture is what makes the email work.

  • Offer more information – A testimonial is great, but you should offer your customers a next step. For example, in the email above, customers can read more testimonials by clicking on the text. You could offer a link for others to leave feedback, or a link to other uplifting company news.

 

9. Survey Email

Purpose: To collect helpful information you can use to improve the customer experience.
Businesses that would benefit: Any business looking to better itself.
Difficulty level: 4. You’ll have to spend time creating the survey and writing an email with a link to the survey.

Three tips to create a Survey Email:
  • Explain what’s in it for them – If you want a customer to take the time to fill out a survey, you need to give them a reason. In the example below from Software Advice, participants are entered to win an iPad.

  • Address the purpose of the survey - Besides an incentive to fill out the survey, you should tell your customers why you want the information. Whether you’re trying to improve your business or conducting product research, which is the case in the example above, let your customers know the purpose of the survey.
  • Make the survey easy to access - There should be an obvious, clickable link to the survey. Take a look at the example below. Notice the links to the survey are clear buttons on the left and also in red text at the bottom of the email.

Two tips to create a useful survey
Before you send the email out, you’ll need to create the survey. To help you create a useful survey, here are a few tips:

1. Ask the right questions
Make sure the questions you ask will yield helpful results, says, Victoria Garment with Software Advice. Stay on topic and reword questions, if necessary, to make sure they are understandable.

2. Keep it short
If a customer gets bored with your survey, they’ll stop filling it out. Aim for a five-minute survey to ensure customers make it to the end, suggests Garment.

We hope this guide catapults your email marketing to new heights. As always, you can depend on VerticalResponse to be your one-stop-shop for marketing products and information.

 

This guide written by Lisa Furgison for VerticalResponse. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content. This guide edited and produced in full by VerticalResponse.

© 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 9 Emails Your Business Should Be Sending [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Ways to Keep Your Team Happy

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 06:00

In the Bay Area, you can bet it can be pretty tough to retain employees. In fact, a report by Payscale said that Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Google, and Amazon had the worst employee retention rates, and Google’s average pay was the best. I guess it’s not just about top-notch free food, free yoga, and Google airplanes.

What we’ve found at VerticalResponse, is that people have to like what they do and like whom they work with. They need to trust that the people they work with are doing the right thing for the company. They also like to be acknowledged for their part in moving the company forward. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Don’t Pretend

I’ve found that when we are totally honest with people, they respect it whether they agree or disagree with something we’re doing. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t put on suits when we meet with people; we don’t clean up the office when people visit. We are who we are, and that’s part of our culture. Our employees cherish this.

Transparency is Key

When I started VerticalResponse, it was easy to be transparent–there were only five of us in the office. But as we went through growing pains and lost people for not letting them in on company strategy and vision, we realized it’s crucial to take the time and let people know what’s going on. Now, I take copious notes in our weekly management meetings and send an email out to everyone in the company about where we are, what’s happening (both good and bad), and what, if anything, we need to do to recover. I also just started putting an incentive into the email in which the first person who reads the entire thing and answers a question about the content gets a gift card. Readership has increased, to say the least.

Give Them Space 

You can’t please everyone, can you? In our office, we live in cubeland (albeit with low walls), where some people love their own space and some hate it. For those that love it, we conform to openness and invest in giving them space so they can create. For those that want to stand in their cubes, we do the same. We also invest in open areas so that those who are feeling stifled can slip away with their headphones to a beanbag chair in the corner. Letting people work how they want within some constraints can be really beneficial. (Read this post about office spaces.)

Invest in Their Growth

Getting people to the next level is a goal that every manager may have, but you can’t get hung up on it. You do your best and hope that if you invest in their growth (mentoring, a seminar, a class), people will stay and continue to contribute. If they leave too early, think of it this way: You just paid a bit early for them to not be part of your organization, because do you really want someone on the team that doesn’t want to be there anyway?

The reality is, in order to attract and retain talented employees, you need to offer the things people need, such as good insurance coverage, free food, treats, and fun. But I firmly believe if you don’t look at the foundation of how you treat your people as creative human beings that have a ton to contribute to your business, all the perks in the world won’t keep them around for long anyway.

What’s your No. 1 way to retain talent? Share in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Reasons Why Emails Don’t Get Opened

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 05:50

Email marketing isn’t an exact science and continuously testing how to best capture the interest of our readers is a common practice. We’re always looking for ways to improve copy, design, headlines, etc. But sometimes, recipients will delete an email before they even open it! Why? Below are three reasons an email may never get opened:

1. Committing a subject line faux pas – You only get one chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes, and it’s certainly true with emails. The subject line is the key to getting recipients to open. Clever or intriguing subject lines are often useful, but informative or straight-forward subject lines work just as well.

However, subject lines that are too long or too broad will often be ignored. It’s obviously okay to use words like “Sale” or “Free” as long as you give specifics about the sale and don’t over use or repeat them in the same subject line. Similarly, you don’t want to use the same subject line for multiple emails. This subject line generator can also help you create email subject lines for your next campaign. Check out the worst subject lines, ever in this post.

2. Sending at the wrong time – Depending on your campaign, your audience and your content, varying your timing can lead to better open rates. For example, if your audience is made up primarily of individuals with 9-5 desk jobs, you may find better open rates in the mid-morning or late afternoon when most people are either just settling in to, or taking a break at the end of the day. If, however, your audience is primarily people with outdoor jobs who are on the move most of the day, who don’t check their emails as often, then the early morning or evening may prove better for your open rates.

The point is, testing your send times is very important. Try some A/B testing with your next email campaign. Send out the same email at four different times to an even random sample of your audience and see which open rate is the highest, between early-morning, mid-morning or noon, afternoon and evening. Run the test a few times in order to gauge which of those times is most effective. Then you’ll know when your audience is most receptive to your content.

3. Landing in spam – Spam filters work by determining an individual emails “spam score”. The spam score that sends an email to the spam box varies based on the email client and the individual users spam settings, but there are some practices that will almost always send your email to spam box purgatory. According to Ashley Zeckman of TopRankBlog.com the four biggest mistakes include:

  • Spammy phrases such as “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Using too many exclamation points!!!!!
  • ALL CAPITAL LETTERS
  • Sloppy HTML with too many broken links or broken images

Learn how to stay out of spam, with our handy webinar: How to Avoid the Spam Folder.

Use the above tips in conjunction with testing and you may see an increase in your open rates. The more variables you test and change the more likely you are to hit upon that key style or aspect of your emails that draws in your readers, increases your opens and grows 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 3 Reasons Why Emails Don’t Get Opened appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Use Google Automation Tools to Make Your PPC Ads More Efficient

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 06:00

Ever wish you could schedule your pay per click (PPC) ads early in the morning for a new promotion? Or maybe you’re rolling out a new feature for your product and want to launch a new ad with it? Worried about maintaining the top position? These are just some of the many things you can do with Google’s automation tools. We’ll be exploring some of the different things you can do with these techniques and how they can help you maximize your time and profit with Google Adwords.

One of the most important and helpful automation tools is automated rules. They’re designed to help you save time and manage your account more efficiently. Essentially these rules let you schedule automatic changes to your campaigns and your account based on certain criteria and goals you set. All rules are created by clicking the Automate button on the Campaigns, Ad groups, Keywords, or Ads tab. Below are some of the common examples and uses of automated rules.

Scheduling Ads – Perhaps there’s a holiday weekend coming up and you’re running a special promotion. After creating ads ahead of time, you can set rules to specify when to turn those ads on and off. In addition, you may want to run specific ads with your phone number only during holiday hours. With rules, you can automatically set these ads on whatever schedule you need them to be and include the information you want.

Pausing Low Performing Ads or keywords – If you have an absolute threshold for performance that would determine whether you would pause an ad or keyword this would be a good rule to use. For example, if you have a keyword that has reached its cost per conversion limit, you can set a rule to automatically pause that keyword. You can also choose to make changes based on a specific metric like CTR (click through rate). For example, if the CTR gets too low, it will automatically pause the ad or keyword. This is a good way to save you time from manually searching for keywords that are unprofitable and give you more time to focus on the important keywords that make you money. In order to use this feature, you need to make sure you have enabled conversion tracking within Adwords.

Modifying Bids and Bid Scheduling – Similar to the example above, bid modification is another way to automate optimizations for better performance. In this example, you can set a rule to bid up on certain keywords when they match specific criteria you set. A common way to use this would be to bid a keyword by 10% when it is under a specific conversion cost, maybe $50, and has over a 100 conversions. Additionally, you can set another rule to bid down on keywords that have a higher conversion cost to make sure you stay profitable. Another common way to use this rule is to bid to or maintain keywords into certain positions.  Perhaps you want to maintain the top spot for your most profitable keyword or have figured out which keywords works best at a certain position, using a bid rule to automate that can really save you time. Using it in conjunction with bid scheduling, you can also run these rules as often as you want for even more control. One thing to remember when setting these rules is to make sure to set an appropriate data range so that Adwords has enough time to make an intelligent decision based on a reasonable amount of data.

Budget Scheduling – Budget Scheduling is a great technique to use when you know you have more profitable days than others. By setting your budget higher on high converting days, it’s an easy way to make sure you’re spending your budget on the days where it means the most. Located in the same section as the other rules, try setting your budgets according to how productive your days of the week are.

Labeling and Naming Conventions – Labeling and naming isn’t exactly a rule but more of a lesser-used feature within the Adwords dashboard. Taking the time to label can save you tons of time later on when you quickly want to check on performance for a subset of keywords or ads. For example, if you’re running ad copy testing, you can save time by labeling certain ads with a reference to a specific headline or phrase. When it comes time to check on performance, you can quickly search the label and gauge how ads are performing.

Potential problems with Automation

With these rules, it’s best for you take into consideration your own goals and business strategy when choosing the best levers and metrics take action with. Although Google Automation Tools are designed to save you time, if set up incorrectly, they can actually end up hurting your account.

Often times there can be a disconnection between what Adwords is tracking and what your back end systems are actually tracking. Make sure these match up before you make decisions based on incorrect Adwords data. Another common mistake is setting data ranges too short. If your data ranges are too short, Adwords isn’t working with enough data to make an intelligent decision because the data may be insignificant. It’s always important to allow enough time for many conversions to occur in order for the data to be statistically significant.  The last common mistake and one of the simplest is making a mistake such as mislabeling an ad or keyword. If you’re making decisions based on wrong information, you can do more harm than good to your campaigns. Additionally, if things aren’t being correctly tracked it could further harm your campaign. Make sure everything is being tracked correctly and that your rules are all working as they should.

There are many more things you can do with automated rules. Check out Google’s help page for more examples and implementation guides.

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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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Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 06:00

So you have a small advertising budget and are trying to figure out how to get the most bang for your buck. Should you bet your marketing dollars on Google Adwords – the search engine behemoth’s online advertising service? Or would placing a Facebook ad get you closer to your goals?

Dan Golden, chief search artist and president of Chicago-based digital marketing firm Be Found Online, believes it’s important for all businesses to have a presence on both Facebook and Google. Although many people spend their advertising dollars on both platforms, there are some distinct differences that make one option more effective in some circumstances than the other.

Audience targeting

Google Adwords are targeted based on search terms (and sometimes location, for brick and mortar businesses). This is extremely helpful for businesses that offer services that would appeal to a fairly broad demographic – a local restaurant, sports equipment, landscaping services, etc.

On the other hand, if you have a very niche business, you may have better results with Facebook, which allows you to place ads that target a very specific subset of people. For example, you can place an ad that will be viewed by a specific demographic (age, gender, location), and specific interests. You can even use an imported contact list (so people on your email list will see your ad, for example), or target people who are already connected to your business. Facebook also allows you to set a specific advertising goal. These could include website conversions, website clicks, page likes, app installs, engagement on a specific post, offer claims, or even increased attendance at events.

Golden recommends starting with Google first, because it’s demand-based. If someone is actively searching for a solution to a problem, or even looking for a brick and mortar business in their hometown, they’re much more responsive to Google ads.

Indeed, Google will help you reach a large, broad audience who is specifically looking for the solution you offer. Certain industries (especially in business to business) do well with Google ads, because the audience they’re trying to reach is actively looking for companies offering their services. However, the possibility remains that not that many people are looking for you or your offer. They might be interested in your product or service but not actively searching for it. Perhaps they don’t even know it exists. In that case, Facebook may be a better option.

“People spend more time on Facebook than they do searching on Google, so it gives us more time to reinforce what the call to action is multiple times to that person on Facebook,” says Golden. This helps you get ‘found,’ so to speak.

Whether you put the bulk of your marketing budget into Google, Facebook or some combination, Golden has the following tips for you and your business.

  • Be specific. Whether you’re determining search terms for Google ads or keywords on Facebook, “be very specific in terms of who you’re targeting and where you’re targeting,” he says. Make sure you know who it is you’d like to reach. For Facebook, read through all of the targeting options. For Google, spend some time doing keyword research. “They do have a keyword planner tool that’s pretty good about giving you ideas, and it gives you a lot of insight into what people are actually looking for. Also, look at that in terms of keywords that are similar but not as relevant.”
  • Being specific also means you’ll avoid this rookie mistake: putting a lot of different terms in one campaign or ad group, even if you’re targeting far different groups of people for each term. “You want to speak to each audience differently, so the ads are highly relevant,” says Golden. If you sell air conditioning, also do heating and fix insulation, don’t put all those terms in one Google ad. Create separate ads for each service. On Facebook, different services might reach different demographics. For example, if you are selling two different products for different age groups (or genders), it’s best to create a Facebook ad for one group (or one for each group, targeted specifically for them) than an ad with both offers targeting a wider audience.
  • Start with a small test budget of just a few hundred dollars, Golden recommends. Google has a budget estimator, and Facebook has an audience tool that will tell you how many people fit the criteria you set. Make sure you know your objective (subscribers, downloads, sale, etc.) and track them in Google Analytics. “You need to have clear objectives before you go spending money. Otherwise you’re going to spend a thousand bucks and not know if it’s working or not,” Golden warns. Use your conversion rate to determine what you think your monthly ad budget should be.
  • If you’re placing ads and nothing’s working, don’t give up. Try to figure out what the problem is. Look at your bounce rates and targeting, and if the page you’re sending people to is built to convert. Make tweaks as necessary and try again, if needed.
  • Don’t forget the possibility of highly customized ads. Facebook Exchange allows you to specifically target people who have been to your website. “If they browse a certain t-shirt pattern on your site you can place an ad which shows up in their news feed, with the exact product they were looking for on your site,” says Golden.

Are you using Google Adwords, Facebook ads or both? Which is more successful for you? Share with us!

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 Get the Most Bang for Your Buck: Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Bring a Dormant Lead Back Online

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 06:00

You worked hard to get a new prospect on your email list, but what do you do when someone on the list hasn’t responded to anything in a long time?

Jeannie Frantz, director of Campaigns and Operations at Corporate Visions, believes that dormant leads require more than just thought leadership content.

“A person may have come to your website, checked out your solution, and said ‘you know what, all these solutions are great but they require me to actively buy from you, and that’s more change than I can handle.’ There’s more pain in the change than there is in the gain of buying the solution,” explains Frantz, who runs inbound and outbound marketing campaigns.

Corporate Visions has a team dedicated to going after dormant accounts and dormant leads. The team has found success offering a provocative point of view that doesn’t necessarily promote the features and functions of its solution but instead details the danger of doing nothing.

“[This information] tells them exactly why not doing anything today, holding off on that decision and not buying … is not a good place to be,” Frantz says.

Explaining how changes going on in their environment and industry can potentially put their business initiatives at risk is different, and perhaps more effective, than simply sending pertinent information on succeeding in one’s industry. “You have to make them feel that there’s not an advantage to sticking with the status quo,” says Frantz.

It’s worth noting that any new solution comes with a lot of change, which isn’t always easy. Therefore, solution content isn’t enough. Information, coupled with industry insight that’s connected to a packaged story explaining why the status quo isn’t a safe place to be and what people can do instead, drives the point home.

Hitting the mark

In addition to this specific, targeted material even thought leadership content should be aligned to the pain people expressed when they initially opted in.

Some prospects may become dormant because your content isn’t hitting the mark. Corporate Visions offers the following recommendations:

  • Grab their attention from the start. Make sure a key insight is at the top of every single email you send out – something that grabs people’s attention and gives them a reason to keep reading.
  • Be willing to have some personality. A catchy headline or quick insight can get someone to start reading an email. Making the entire email interesting can keep them reading. “The more interesting you can make it, the more clicks you’re going to have,” Frantz says. Corporate Visions has used humor and clips from TV shows, such as “The Office,” to inject personality into its emails to create more personal engagement with its brand, though, of course, the clips are put in context and tied back to its business.
  • Include video content. “Video is a great way to generate clicks and engagement with your content,” Frantz says. So consider uploading screen casts, whiteboard videos or other video content.
  • Find ways to stand out. Frantz explains that Corporate Visions has re-designed its unsubscribe page to be entertaining and interesting. Instead of offering checkboxes of newsletters to unsubscribe (or worse, expecting people to log in), the company sets itself apart with an engaging video on their unsubscribe page. “Our unsubscribe emails dropped dramatically after that [the re-design],” Frantz recalls.
  • Follow up. Once your dormant leads are no longer dormant, make sure someone on your sales team follows up with a phone call, when appropriate.

 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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The post How to Bring a Dormant Lead Back Online appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email [Guide]

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 06:00

As a business owner, you’re juggling a lot of day-to-day to tasks and may not have time come up with ideas for your next email or promotion.

We’ve put our creative noggins together to create a full year’s worth of quirky and engaging email ideas. Each month centers on a specific theme. Within that month, you’ll find four out-of-the-box email ideas for your small business. Each month also contains a marketing tip to get your creative mojo flowing.

January

This month celebrates all things quirky by sending out emails around nontraditional holidays.

Peculiar People Day

Use this unique day to be creative. For example, McDonald’s created this gem for its email and social media campaigns. You can also highlight an unusual or eccentric product that your company makes. It falls on January 10 each year.

Dress Up Your Pet Day

People love their pets. They love dressing them up even more. Encourage your customers to dress up their pet and enter your photo contest. It works especially well for places like the Pet Supermarket. The holiday is January 14.

Compliment Day

On January 24, compliment your customers on Compliment Day like Kara’s Cupcakes does.

Or, take a minute to compliment your staff by sending an email invitation to a team-building event like this marketing agency did.

Celebrate Opposite Day

Convince your customers to try something new on Opposite Day. In an email, Sephora used the holiday, which lands on January 25, to encourage customers to try a beauty product that they wouldn’t normally use.

A small business can stand out by sending emails for nontraditional holidays. You don’t have to be literal with all holidays—no need to install a bar to celebrate Margarita Day but you can get creative: for instance, a plumbing business could send an email about Peanut Butter Day and drains moving as slow as peanut butter. It will stand out in your reader’s mind. Check out this site for a full list of bizarre holidays.

February

With Valentine’s Day smack-dab in the middle of the month, focus your efforts on lovey-dovey notions in February. Any business can send emails for Valentine’s Day, not just restaurants and florists. Think outside the box for Valentine’s Day content; here we’ve assembled some great examples and ideas.

Generate more email interest

Borrow an idea from Zulilly, the mom-centered discount shop. The company sent an email asking customers to “Tell us which brands make your heart flutter, and we’ll tell you when they’re on Zulilly.” It capitalizes on the holiday and asks customers to sign up for more emails.

‘Fall in Love’ partnership

Team up with other vendors in your area and create a shopping event around Valentine’s Day. Ten shops in Brooklyn joined forces and launched the “Fall in Love with Brooklyn” event. Customers were invited via email and given a map to hit all of the participating shops.

Create a shopping guide

Send your customers a list of romantic gifts they can pick up at your business. Haberdash, an online retailer specializing in men’s style, sent this email to offer unique gifts for guys.

Introduce a QR code

Valentine’s Day marketing doesn’t have to focus on flowers and champagne, the holiday comes with anxiety too. Capitalizing on the uneasy feelings of the holiday, Isobar, a UK cell phone company, sent an email to customers asking, “Does he love you?” The campaign contained a QR code that took customers to a promotional website. Try something similar that combines Valentine’s Day with a QR code. They work for some businesses and not for others so only use if appropriate.

March

Emails around sporting events always draw a crowd. This month’s ideas prove that you don’t need a sports-themed product to capitalize on the craziness that is March Madness. Before using March Madness in any marketing or advertising, make sure you check the legal guidelines to avoid any trouble. Many sporting and other events have very specific usage guidelines.

Run a March Madness promotion

Offer a special March Madness deal. When you think basketball you probably don’t think office supply store, but online office supply store Shoplet sent customers a list of ten customizable office supplies that connect with the tourney.

“This month, leverage the excitement behind March Madness,” Nicholas Womack, a business developer at Shoplet, says. He encourages other businesses to make a creative connection between their business and the big event.

Start a bracket

Bracketology is all the rage during March, so create a bracket for your brand. For example, Gardens and Guns, a southern lifestyle magazine, ran a bracket to name the best southern food. Like this company, you can send out emails and host online voting as a way to engage customers and readers.

Run a photo contest

Send an email to your customers asking them to participate in a March Madness photo contest. Or, try a “Young Basketball Star” competition and ask parents to send in pictures of their kids playing ball.

Video contest inspired by a world record

Did you know there’s a Guinness World Record for the longest time to spin a basketball with one hand? There is. The record is 10 minutes and 33 seconds. Use this awesome record to inspire a video contest. Email your customers and ask them to shoot a video of this rare talent.

April

This month get in touch with your inner videographer and add videos to your email marketing. Need a reason to make a video? Here are a few to get you inspired.

Celebrate YouTube

In April of 2005, the owner of YouTube recorded himself at the zoo and uploaded the site’s first video. Tell your customers that you’re honoring this digital anniversary by creating your first video. Pick a topic like thanking your customers, sharing your first product, first employee or first office location.

A company newsreel

Create a company newsreel. Do an on camera interview with your new CEO or shoot a “What’s New” video. Visit California did this. The tourism hub created a fall-themed video to let visitors know about new seasonal events.

A video about your services

Bring your list of products or services to life with a video and email the link to your customers. The motion department at OverIt, an Albany-based creative agency, made this humorous video to showcase the company’s animation services and its ability to work within any genre.

“Keep your video short. Make it relevant and worthwhile,” Lawrence Basso, the motion design director at OverIt suggests. “Don’t be afraid to add a little humor, either. If the video is funny enough, it will travel regardless of what it’s about.”

Go out on a ‘Vine’

Worried that you don’t have the recording chops to make a video? Have your customers do it. Ask your customers to shoot a video on Twitter’s Vine while using your product. Send an invite for the competition and send another email when it’s time for consumers to pick a winner.

May

Celebrate your unique company this month by creating emails about all of the great things your business does.

Start a company newsletter

If your company doesn’t send out a newsletter, start one this month. It’s a fantastic way to keep your customers in-the-know. You can include a variety of topics in your newsletter. Brag a little when your company wins an award, offer a behind-the-scenes tour, or introduce new managers.

Sending a company newsletter is a fantastic way to keep readers up to date on everything happening in your company. Be sure to send it on a regular basis so your readers come to expect it. And we like to keep them fairly short so that our audience can get what they need without having to commit too much time.

Celebrate milestones

If your company hits an anniversary or lands a big client, tell your customers about it. You could include the info in a company newsletter or send your customers a coupon in celebration. Either way, your customers will appreciate the update.

Offer a history lesson

Email your customers a piece of your company’s timeline. Include a call-to-action button that takes them to your site to learn more. Of course, you’ll have to have a complete timeline created on your site before sending the email. Here’s a good example.

A recap of the year

May might seem like an unexpected time to send a “Year in Review” email, but this kind of promotion can get lost in the holiday hubbub. Instead, send one out in May and invite customers to a friends-and-family sale in honor of all your company has accomplished this year. Retailers like Sears use this kind of promotion a lot, but it can be effective for a small business too.

Celebrate mom

Everyone has a mom and no matter what kind of business you have, you can pay tribute to, or celebrate moms everywhere. You can do a “Bring Your Mom In” special or a Moms get a special % off deal.

June

Ah, warm weather is arriving (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere of course). Use this seasonal change to propel your email marketing this month.

Celebrate National Trails Day

Include a list of local trails in the June edition of your company’s newsletter to celebrate National Trails Day, which is June 7. Remember, customers appreciate helpful, usable content and a newsletter is a good place for it.

Send a summer discount code

Summer is a terrific time to give your customers a little incentive to buy. An eyeglass shop used a summer-themed email to offer a discount. Don’t forget to create a clear call to action in your email.

Welcome summer and new guests

Send an email that not only welcomes the warm weather but also welcomes new customers, too. If a customer has bought a new product or signed up for a new service in the past six months, applaud their actions with a well-crafted welcome email.

Summer giving

Team up with your local food bank this summer and get your customers involved. Send an email asking them to bring in canned goods like KinderCare Learning Centers did.

Summertime can be a slow season for some companies. Your customers are often out of the office or on vacation and aren’t as responsive as the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean your email marketing should go on hiatus. You can use this month to try different email tactics and ideas, like the ones we’ve assembled here.

Remember Dads and Grads

Dads and grads rule in June. Offer special deals for dads and grads and get more customers in your doors in this traditionally slower summer month. Give grads something to spend all their graduation money on or their new found job earnings toward!

July

If you’re in the U.S., get a little patriotic. Use the Fourth as a catalyst for a series of emails.

The perfect Fourth of July party

This holiday is all about getting the crew together for a backyard barbecue. To help your customers host a rockin’ independence party, offer some tips to create the best gathering possible. You can also offer a Fourth of July discount like Shoplet does.

“During the holidays, customers are expecting sales,” Womack says. “The Fourth of July is a holiday known for cookouts and backyard parties, which is why Shoplet displays products like paper plates, cups and utensils.” Try connecting your products to the holiday too.

Recognize a vet

You don’t have to wait for Veteran’s Day to honor a vet. Devote a section of your newsletter to your employees who are also vets. Offer a “Vets in the Spotlight” section that talks about their service and their role in your company.

Remember the first walk on the moon

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July of 1969. In honor of this patriotic event, host a “Biggest Accomplishment Competition.” Invite your customers to add their biggest accomplishment to a growing list on Facebook. Give the biggest accomplisher a company-specific prize.

Made in America email

Take pride in your American-made products by offering a discount. Menards, a home remodeling store, sends a sales flyer to its customers that highlights its American products.

August

It’s all about creating useful content this month. Here are a few ideas you can use to create “tips and tricks” emails.

A watermelon-centered email

August 2 is Watermelon Day. Yes, Watermelon Day. Think up a way to connect your product to this fruit-loving celebration. Lego did. The company emailed invitations to LEGOLAND’s Watermelon Day event complete with tips to grow watermelon and a Lego building contest. Yum!

Ring in ‘Work Like a Dog Day’

Celebrate this funny holiday, which falls on August 5, with an email about how productive your product or service can be. Try something like, “Today is Work Like a Dog Day, but you shouldn’t have to work that hard. Here are three tips to be more productive using our products.”

Tips to use your product better

Create a useful email that will help your customers get more out of your product or service. TurboTax does this well. Marketers for the tax-filing software sent an email out about money-saving tips.

You want your customers to succeed with your products or services; try sending a how-to email once a month with a useful tip that helps your customers and your business. Serving your customers instead of always selling to them creates loyalty that lasts.

Celebrate Relaxation Day with a reorder email

August 15 is Relaxation Day. It’s a great day to send a reorder email out. Encourage your customers to relax by stocking up on your products. Send something similar to this reorder email from 1-800-CONTACTS.

September

It’s back-to-school time. Use this month to market to both parents and students.

Offer a back-to-school discount

Recognize this is an expensive time for parent shoppers by offering a discount. Shoplet, an online office supply store, offered a 15 percent discount to customers on its email list. If you offer a service such as a salon, spa or car mechanic tailor your message for stressed parents or college bound students

 

“Back-to-school marketing is extremely valuable for Shoplet, as it is one of our most lucrative seasons throughout the year,” Womack says. His advice to other business owners is to “make sure your customers are aware of your competitive pricing and convenient selection and services during the back-to-school season.”

A favorite teacher contest

Everyone has a favorite teacher, so invite your customers to participate in a favorite teacher contest via email. Dollar Days, a discount online retailer, did this exact competition and asked customers to weigh in on Facebook. More than 107,000 people voted and 18 teachers were given prizes through this social media promotion.

Last chance sale

If a deal has a deadline, customers are more likely to act fast. While you can use the last chance sale throughout the year, it made sense for Shoplet to try and cash in on this busy time of year with a last chance sale.

Dorm decorating tips

Don’t forget, college students are returning to dorms, too. Offer helpful tips for the college-bound group. For example, offer tips to create dorm decor that suggests a few products from your shop.  Or offer ideas on how to cook ramen in a dorm room, pizza or restaurant deals, or a back-to-school oil change before they set off.

October

From smartphones to social media updates, use this month to spin a few digital inventions into marketing emails.

An email celebrating email

In October of 1971 the first email was sent. Honor this big event by sending an email recognizing this milestone and ask customers to refer-a-friend via email. Groupon, the discount site, offers an incentive with its refer a friend program. And so does VerticalResponse!

Send out a survey

Email an online survey like this alumni association did. Tell the recipient how long it will take to complete the survey, too. You can also offer an incentive to participate.

Retro social media posts

When did your company first start using social media? Create an email that showcases your first posts and ask customers to join a conversation about how social media has grown through the years.

It’s important to balance creativity with communicating your core message. Use creativity in certain places such as in subject lines, images or a fun theme, but keep the important information in the email easy to see and read.

November

Let your email marketing reflect the season by creating emails that focus on being thankful.

Create a testimonial email

Tell your customers how thankful you are to be able to offer high quality products. Use several testimonials to drive the point home. For example, clothing retailer, Kimberton, offers a testimonial to market its flannel shirt.

Generate an email stuffed with facts

Thanksgiving is all about the food, particularly turkey. Create an infographic that offers some interesting turkey facts. For example, Mint.com, a finance site, created this graphic for the holiday. Think of a way to create an infographic that connects to your business and the holiday.

Focus on cause marketing

Team up with a charity and create emails that center around your do-good spirit. Paper Culture, an eco-friendly stationary and invitations shop, has involved their customers in their efforts to support the environment. They plant trees, either for every ‘like’ the company receives on Facebook or every order. And they even let their customers dedicate the trees if they want.

Ask for feedback

After a customer makes a purchase, send a thank you email and ask for feedback. Online comments can bolster the reputation of products. Asking for a product review through email is a good way to nab positive reviews. Here’s an example from outdoor clothing company, Ibex.

December

Embrace the gift-giving season with holiday-themed marketing.

Take advantage of National Cookie Day

Celebrate this holiday by offering some holiday cookie recipes in your company newsletter like this bakery did, or give away a free cookie when customers come into your business.

An email full of gift ideas

Coming up with gift ideas is hard. Take some of the pressure off your customers by offering a series of holiday gift ideas. Rather than send one long email with a dozen options, break your emails into smaller, more specific topics like Piperlime did with its “Girls Guide to Guy Buys.”

Email a holiday greeting card

You can go as simple or as elaborate as you’d like with a holiday card. You can use free card-creating sites like Punchbowl or you can create something fancier like OverIt did with this animated card for SUNY Albany.

“I think a digital holiday card is a good year-end reminder for clients. It says, ‘Hey, we’re still here if you need anything,’” Basso says. “It can also give you a creative outlet to do some things you don’t get to do often.”

Be a holiday time-saver

During the holiday season everyone wants the gift-giving process to be easy. Remind your customers that your company has plenty of time-saving ways to purchase a gift. For example, Staples reminds customers that they can reserve an item online and pick it up in the store.

With this guide, you won’t be scratching your head for email topics this year. While we’ve listed over 50 email topics for you, there’s no limit on creativity. Have some fun and see what kind of quirky ideas you can come up with too.  Always double check holiday dates to ensure you mail your email for the right holiday at the right time. Otherwise you might be creating your own funny holiday!

 

This guide was written for VerticalResponse by Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content. This guide was edited and created by VerticalResponse. Try VerticalResponse for free today.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email [Guide] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Catch up on New Pinterest Tools That Can Help Your Business

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 06:00

Pinterest, the favorite photo bulletin board tool and site of so many, has been hard at work adding new features to make it more fun to use and more useful for small businesses. They’ve expanded their business tools again; including a new feed that features products for sale, and more. Last year, we shared new Pinterest feature updates, so let’s catch you up with what’s been going on since:

Rich Pins – Rich pins were added in 2013, but were recently expanded to include Places, Product and Article pins. They show more details and information about products, recipes, movies, articles and places before clicking through to a website. Each type of Rich Pin gives information specific to its purpose, so article pins include an image, headline, author, and a small blurb from the article. Recipe pins encompass a picture, ingredients and cooking time. For a small business, Rich Pins can be used to convey more about a product including its price, or even to share blog posts.

How-to: Rich pins require adding additional code to a webpage. You can get more information here: Pinterest developers page.

The five types of rich pins have evolved over time and Pinterest has plans for their use down the road, including the next point in this post, Gifts.

Gifts – This is a brand new feed that’s been created for all the shoppers out there and the businesses that want to reach them. Pinterest has taken Product Pins that were introduced with Rich Pins, and created a feed just for products that are for sale. You can sort the pins by price points; $25 and under, $25-$50, $50-$200 or $200 and up. Or, just view all of them at once and find what you like best. Product Pins are Rich Pins, and like any pin, include a picture and description, but they also include pricing, availability, and even better, where the product can be purchased. Anyone who pins this type of pin will get an email when a product they’ve pinned drops in price. You can find this feed under the categories at the top of the page

How-to: If you’ve already added the extra code to your pages for Rich Pins, you don’t need to do much else, though right now Pinterest is curating this page since it’s still new. If you haven’t set up Rich Pins yet, this is the best reason yet to take a little time to do it now, so your products can be found much easier by all the pinners!

Product Pin update email

Profile Widget – This is a feature that’s been updated and made new. The Pinterest widget allows you to share some of what’s going on at Pinterest on your website, and you get to choose how much. In addition to a Pin it or follow button, there are 3 different types of widgets that you can embed in your website; share one pin, share up to 30 top pins or share an entire board.

How-to: Just like Rich Pins, you’ll need to add a bit of code to your website to use the Pinterest widgets, but it could bring more attention to the products that you offer, before anyone’s clicked past the front page.

GIFs – Yep, those fun and funny animated pictures you see all over the web and other social network sites can now be seen on Pinterest. So far, most of them can be found in the humor category, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them on your boards. If you have a humor board, an animated GIF can lighten it up and be fun. And if you’ve created one with your products, or have the ability to create one, they can perk up product boards too. You can find them easily, as they’re tagged with GIF in the bottom left corner.

How-to: No special skills or work required! Since GIFs, for the most part, are already created, you just need to upload to your favorite board. For more inspiration, check out this blog post from Pinterest.

Pinterest has spent the last year creating new features to help encourage businesses to use this social network. These newest ones are making it easier for a small businesses to sell their products, and get them found.

Have you tried out any of the new features on Pinterest? Let us know 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 Catch up on New Pinterest Tools That Can Help Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Celebrating 13 Years with a New VerticalResponse

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:11

These are exciting times at VerticalResponse! We’re so proud that we’ve just marked our 13th birthday. We never could have done it without our loyal customers like you, so thank you!

Even better, we’re celebrating with a brand-new product! Why? Marketing has changed a lot in our 13 years. When we started, there was no Facebook, Twitter or iPhone. If you wanted to communicate with your customers, you called, wrote a letter, or sent an email, which was most likely read on a desktop computer. Marketing has gone mobile and social, and we need to make sure we’re keeping up by giving you the tools you need to promote your business in the world we’re living in today.

We’ve released a basic version of a new VerticalResponse that focuses some core themes:

  • Faster and more intuitive email creation. With the new drag and drop editor, you just pick a template and drag in blocks for your text and images. It really is that easy! Plus, our handy preview feature shows you what it will look like on a mobile phone or tablet.

  • Customers read your emails on mobile phones and tablets. Approximately 65% of all emails are now read on smartphones and tablets. If yours doesn’t look good on a small screen, it gets deleted. Harsh but true. In the new VerticalResponse, every single email template is responsive, which is just a techy way to say that it automatically adjusts to display well on any size screen. You don’t even need to think about it- just pick a template you like, and we do the rest!

  • Your customers are on social media- you should be too. People spend nearly seven hours per week on Facebook alone, and three-quarters log in every day. The new VR will help you spread your message by sharing your email on your Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also make quick posts directly to Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch between emails.

This is just the beginning for the new VerticalResponse. We’ll continue to add features and functionality to make sure you can take advantage of all the modern ways to market your business.

Don’t worry, the VerticalResponse you know and love isn’t going anywhere, and you should continue to use your current account. We’ll invite you to transfer your account over when the new VR has all the features you’re using in VerticalResponse Classic (that’s the fancy new name for the VR you’ve been using). Until then, keep enjoying your current account- there is nothing new you need to do.

Thanks again for 13 great years. Here’s to making the next 13 even better!

© 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 Celebrating 13 Years with a New VerticalResponse appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Three Emails You Should Send in March to Capitalize on the Madness

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 09:15

According to the NCAA, 181 million viewers will tune into the three-week basketball bonanza known as March Madness. Brackets, pools, parties and team t-shirts will take over offices all across the country.

We’ve got some email marketing ideas that you can use during the 67-game streak to capitalize on the excitement for your business.

1. Send a March Madness promotional email

You don’t have to sell sporting goods or run a pizza place to cash in on March Madness. A frozen yogurt shop came up with this promotion.

Yogurt doesn’t have much to do with basketball, but the simple reference to March Madness makes it a slam-dunk in the marketing world.

You’ll notice this company didn’t use the words March Madness in its promotion. These coveted words can’t be used for promotional purposes unless it’s an officially sponsored event. You can, however, come up with creative marketing slogan that separates the words “March” and “Madness.” For example, “March Markdown Madness,” is fine. That’s what this car dealer is using to promote a big sale this month.

2. Invite customers to participate in a giveaway

There’s a lot of excitement around March Madness, so try to capitalize on some of that basketball love with a giveaway.

Consider creating an email giveaway that’s tied to the tourney. Pei Wei, a Thai restaurant, did.

The giveaway draws on the madness title while giving away some great prizes. If you plan to run a giveaway like this, make sure you cross promote it on all of your channels. Pin it, tweet it, post it. Do whatever it takes to get the word out.

3. Send email bracket invites

March Madness wouldn’t be madness without brackets. An accounting firm invites its customers, contacts and friends to participate in the company’s bracket competition, which is dubbed Tax Madness.

“It’s a good way for us to interact with both clients and non-clients,” says Paul Herman, founder of Herman & Company. “If a non-client at some point in the future has a need for our services, hopefully they will think of us and also remember that we are an accounting firm that is not just about work.”

The New-York based accounting firm runs a typical bracket pool, where customers try to pick the winning team.

A southern lifestyle magazine took this idea one step further. Rather than running a basketball bracket, Gardens and Guns ran a food bracket. The idea was to name the best southern food. The company emailed customers asking them to participate and vote for favorites on Facebook.

The idea here is to capitalize on the marketing frenzy that is March Madness. There’s no right or wrong answer, only creative ones. If you have an idea, run with it. When you tie your marketing efforts to a current event like this, it’s all about thinking outside the box. (Check out: 5 Creative Topics to Get Your Marketing Mojo Going for other email ideas).

Have another March Madness marketing idea? We’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comment section below.

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 Three Emails You Should Send in March to Capitalize on the Madness appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Questions to Ask Before You Create a Facebook Ad

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:00

Advertising is part of our everyday life. Whether it’s billboards on the freeway, ads on the side of a bus or adsticks at the grocery store, businesses are vying for your attention everywhere. And Facebook is no different.

Facebook started supporting advertising soon after it launched in February, 2004. The ads have grown and matured over the last 10 years and today the ad platform is utilized by businesses both large and small.

No matter what size your company is, some questions need to be asked regardless of whether you’re running a multi-million dollar campaign or creating your first self-serve ad on Facebook.

What are you trying to accomplish with your Facebook ad?

There are several advertising options you can choose from when creating an ad on the Facebook platform. You’re provided with eight different choices that will more than likely meet your advertising objectives. From clicks to your website, to app installments and event responses, make sure to choose the one that fits your goals to leverage Facebook to the maximum.

Where do you want your Facebook ad to appear?

Facebook provides the ability to place your ad on the right side of the feed (right rail), in a user’s news feed or utilize both options simultaneously. There are pros and cons to each placement. The pro for news feed placement of your ad is the fact that it appears right in your followers news feeds where they spend the most time looking. If they’re skimming their news feed, they will most likely run into your ad if they’re in your target audience. But this could also be seen as a con to some. When some people see these ads in “their” feed they perceive them as spam. And they’re not afraid to let you know about it.

The pro about right rail placement is that ads may be perceived as less intrusive than their news feed counterpart. But again,  from your perspective as an advertiser this ad placement may be less desirable. Some Facebook users disregard the right rail all together because they know that’s where the ads are. Plus, some Facebook users implement ad blocker plugins that hide ads completely. For most situations it’s a good idea to test both options and continue with the ad placement that performs best.

How do you want to pay for your ad?

Facebook provides many different options when it comes to paying for your ad. One option that is available for any of the eight ad choices is Cost Per Click (CPC). Other options for specific ads include Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM), bid for Page likes, bid for Page post engagement, bid for website conversion, bid for desktop app installs, bid for app engagement and bid for event responses. Since most small business owners will be focusing on the “clicks to website” ads, we’ll concentrate on the CPC and CPA payment options.

If you’re trying to drive traffic to your homepage or a special promotional landing page, the CPC option might be your best bet. If you’re trying to raise awareness of a new product or service then CPM might work best. Again, there are particulars to each option that you should be aware of.

If you choose CPC, you will be charged for every click from Facebook to your chosen destination. Whether they go deeper once they hit your website makes no difference. You could have a very high bounce rate on your site and you would still be charged. So make sure you have a strong Call To Action (CTA) once they come to your site. That way you won’t be paying for unqualified traffic to you web properties.

If CPA is more inline with your goals, you will be charged every time 1,000 Facebook users see your ad. Just be advised that “seeing your ad” does not mean the user actually looked at your ad. All it means is that the ad was served up on the Facebook users account so that they have the possibility to see the ad. This makes some people uncomfortable because they don’t have hard data backing who actually viewed the ad. This is why if you choose the CPA option, you have to make sure the creative for your ad is compelling and engaging to make the user more likely to remember your brand.

 

So there you have it. Three questions you should ask yourself before you create and ad on Facebook. We’d love to hear any other questions you have about Facebook ads in the comments below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Questions to Ask Before You Create a Facebook Ad appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

The Art of the PR Follow-Up

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 06:00

You did everything right: Drafted a pitch-perfect press release about something newsworthy, put together a well-researched media list where every contact covers your topic, and sent your press release in a personalized email with a compelling subject line. You’re refreshing your inbox every five minutes to see who’s replied and wants to know more.

Nothing. Nada. Crickets.

Now what?

First, relax a bit. Reporters are notoriously busy, so give them time to sift through the hundreds of emails and pitches they receive every day.

Remember, also: Because reporters receive so much email every day, they don’t have the time to respond to every single one with a “thanks, but no thanks.” Don’t take it personally.

But how do you know they actually read your press release? Here’s how you can follow up without being an annoyance.

What to Do After You Hit “Send”

If three or four business days have passed and you haven’t heard from a reporter or blogger, send him or her a quick follow-up email. Most journalists I’ve talked to don’t mind a gentle reminder.

The secret here is to offer something new or exclusive in your follow-up that wasn’t in your original press release or pitch. If your press release was about a new product or service, your follow-up might include a customer testimonial or links to data or research supporting the need for your new product or service. If your press release was about an event, follow up with a link to online photos of the soiree. (Never send unsolicited attachments!)

Keep your follow-up short and no longer than a few sentences. Include the original press release or pitch below it, as reference, or, even better, link to a version that’s on your website.

To Call or Not to Call

In my humble opinion, following up with a phone call is a wasted effort unless you know the reporter really well. (Exhibit A: This Twitter exchange.)

On the top of reporters’ pet peeves lists, time and time again, is the follow-up PR phone call, particularly the one where the person calling just wants “to make sure you received my press release.” I don’t blame them. Not only were they interrupted, but the caller also isn’t offering anything of value. Imagine getting them all the time. Pretty annoying, right?

If, despite this, you must pick up the phone, make the follow-up call about something new and exclusive that wasn’t in your email or press release, just like you would with your follow-up email described above. Be succinct and straightforward; assume the reporter is working on deadline. Practice what you’re going to say beforehand. And be prepared for the reporter to say, “Put it in an email.” (If you’re lucky enough to get that response, send that email as soon as possible!)

I’ve Followed Up. What Now?

If you don’t get a response after one or two follow-up attempts, move on. Don’t be a stalker; it’s safe to assume the reporter isn’t interested. Again, don’t take it personally. Maybe he or she will bite next time.

You could do some more digging and try another contact at the organization. Make sure this new contact covers your topic, and be transparent about your original email to his or her colleague. No journalist wants to pitch a story to an editor only to find out someone else got the tip first.

If your press release or pitch received very little interest across the board despite your follow-up attempts, take a step back and look inward. Perhaps your press release isn’t really all that interesting to people outside your company or organization. Is there another angle you can take? Or can you piggyback your news onto something that is being covered in the press? Maybe it’s also time to polish up on your relationship-building skills. There are lots of ways to get the attention of a reporter that has nothing to do with pitching, like introducing yourself to him or her at an event or commenting on their stories. Once they recognize your name, the more you’ll stand out in their inboxes the next time you email them.

If you’ve had success following up with press, share a tip or two in the comments below!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post The Art of the PR Follow-Up appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Small Business Survey Reveals Social Media Trends [Infographic]

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 06:05

At the end of 2012, we interviewed almost 500 small business customers asking how much time and money they spend on social media (and turned it into this popular infographic). Well, we’re back and excited to bring you the latest trends of social media usage! We polled more than 400 VerticalResponse small business customers to gain insight into how they’re using social media in their everyday activities. Topics covered in this survey range from which social networks small businesses are embracing, to how much money they’re spending on third party social media tools.

After analyzing the data we discovered a few interesting highlights.

Small businesses:

Still gravitate to Facebook as their network of choice. However, networks like Pinterest are gaining traction as a viable social outlet.

Are becoming more efficient in their management of their social marketing.

Realize the value of blogging in their content marketing strategy.

Find value in video and review sites.

We also created this informative and visually appealing infographic including all of our interesting data. We hope you enjoy it.

© 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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Courtesy of: VerticalResponse

The post Small Business Survey Reveals Social Media Trends [Infographic] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Navigating Google Webmaster Tools – Tips in 2 [Video]

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 06:00

In this second installment of Tips in 2, our new video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Chipper Nicodemus, SEO Specialist at VerticalResponse walks you through the ins and outs of Google Webmaster Tools. When using Google Webmaster Tools, you can discover keywords people are using to get to your website and more. Learn how easy it is to use Google Webmaster Tools to help 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 Navigating Google Webmaster Tools – Tips in 2 [Video] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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