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7 Spine-Tingling Good Halloween Emails That Are Haunting Our Inboxes

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 06:01

Halloween is nearly here and our inboxes are being haunted by some scary good emails. Take a look at these spooktacular examples for inspiration, if you dare:

Chronicle Books

Subject line: Put Some Boo in Your Next Book Order

Chronicle Books does a hauntingly good job with their holiday themed subject line and carries it through to the copy, the image and even the Halloween promo code. 

The Market Fresno

Subject line: Halloween Pumpkin Patch at The Market

The Market Fresno gets their customers ready for Halloween by promoting their festive pumpkin patch. Their subject line is direct, to the point, and they also tout their email exclusive offers, which provide the value of being a subscriber. 


Subject line: You deserve a treat, too.

Teavana serves us a subject line that promises a treat – enticing! Inside the email, they follow up with, “No Tricks, Just Treats” and serve up their new assortment of fall dessert teas.


Subject line: Halloween treats have arrived!

Modcloth tempts their subscribers with new products in their Halloween shop, and their email imagery backs it up. Notice this email does not contain an offer. 

The Travel Channel

Subject line: Travel’s Best Halloween Attractions 2014

The Travel Channel reveals their list of some of the scariest Halloween attractions in this ghoulish email. From the top haunted cities in the US, to ghastly gargoyles around the globe, this email aims to get subscribers traveling in ghostly style for Halloween.

California Academy of Sciences

Subject line: Get Excited! SuperNatural Halloween is Around the Corner at the Academy

The Academy sent out this creepy good email as an invitation to their SuperNatural Halloween event. The Academy makes sure to send out their invitation almost two weeks before their party, allowing enough time to follow up with any non-responders (folks who didn’t open the first email).

Martha Stewart Living

Subject line: Scary Simple Party Costumes + Free, Downloadable Halloween Clip-Art

Martha Stewart, the queen of all things holiday, sent this email with a video of a day-to-night party costume and free Halloween clip art (could be good for your email marketing, too). 

Now that you’ve seen some scary good email examples, it’s time to send your own Halloween emails. Use VerticalResponse for free today and keep your customers coming back again and again.  

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

The post 7 Spine-Tingling Good Halloween Emails That Are Haunting Our Inboxes appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

10 Reasons Social Logins Could Be a Game Changer

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:01

Social logins – You see them often, and you’ve probably used them several times to log on to various web sites. They use existing login information from your various social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter to create a single sign-on experience. Yes, they’re increasingly common and fast, but should you be using them for your own business? Read on for a crash course on social logins and why you may want to consider using them.

What are the benefits of using a social login?
A social login allows users to avoid a website’s lengthy registration process by authenticating their identities using one of their existing social network accounts. Most importantly, the faster you let people into your website, the sooner they can start purchasing or using your product. Here are 10 more benefits:

  1. Faster registration process. Social logins cut down on a lengthy or sometimes frustrating registration process for consumers. According to Gigya, social logins increase registration rates by up to 90 percent.
  2. More revenue. Social login users are more likely to make purchases online compared to those who don’t use social logins, according to a recent 2014 Janrain Social Login and Personalization report. The report also revealed the following:
  3. Loyal followers. People who use social logins are more likely to be brand advocates.
  4. Valid emails. Social logins decrease the number of false email addresses you might acquire through more traditional registrations.
  5. Increased user engagement. Visitors who use social logins tend to be more engaged. In fact, 60 percent of social login users are more likely to watch a video or read an article, and they spend 64 percent more time on a website than non-users.
  6. Referrals. Social login users are more likely than non-users to recommend a company’s website to others (40 percent vs. 22 percent).
  7. Increased app usage. Social login users are 78 percent more likely to download a mobile app from a company.
  8. Customer satisfaction. There is increased satisfaction among consumers who have personalized experiences online. Social logins provide businesses with personalized data and profiles to create this more targeted experience.
  9. Decreased customer support. With one less user name and password to remember, you can significantly decrease the need to provide password retrieval support.
  10. Repeat visitors. Of the consumers who register traditionally but forget their username or password, about 90 percent won’t come back to your website according to Loginradius. So making it easy to get to your site with a username and password they use other places makes it super simple.

Do many businesses use social logins?
Yes, in fact, social logins are now the most popular way to create accounts on the Internet. Of the nearly 90 percent of people who have run across social media logins, more than half use them, according to a 2014 U.S. research report on “Social Login and Personalization” from Janrain.

Which social sites are most important?
For the second quarter of 2014, the numbers weren’t much of a surprise. Facebook led the pack with about 55 percent of the social login share, with Google trailing behind at 27 percent. Yahoo (11 percent) and Twitter (5 percent) were third and fourth, with LinkedIn, Pinterest and Amazon and others sharing the remaining 2 percent.

Should you offer social logins?
As you can see from the stats in this post, if you have a website in which people are logging in to make a purchase, register, or try out a service, it’s certainly worth a try. It could be a game-changer for your business.

Do you use social logins? Tell us why or why not in the comment section below.

This post contributed by Wendy Burt-Thomas, a full-time freelance writer with four books and thousands of published articles to her credit.

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

The post 10 Reasons Social Logins Could Be a Game Changer appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines?

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 06:00

Did the headline grab your attention? You’ve probably come across similar headlines or subject lines in your inbox – they’re emotionally responsive. And while you might be more familiar with the straightforward, value-driven email subject lines such as, “get 10% off,” sticking to a cut-and-dry approach may wear out your readers.

Appealing to your readers’ practical side is a proven strategy. But for the sake of variety, mixing things up and connecting with your subscribers on an emotional, rather than just an intellectual level can leave a lasting impression. Here’s how to appeal to your readers’ emotions:

There are two basic types of emotionally responsive subject lines: negative and positive. While the former is used more often, both types can be used to resonate with customers on an emotional level:

Negative Responses

There are a variety of ways in which negative emotional responses can be used, but these effective ones convince your subscribers that they shouldn’t ignore your email:

  • Fear of losing money – Let’s say you’re running a promo for a $20 discount. Rather than using a ho-hum “get $20 off” in your subject line, try something like “Ignoring this email is like throwing $20 away.” Which subject line would entice you open?
  • Fear of missing out – The fear of missing out on something is perhaps even more powerful than the fear of wasting money. The fear has even earned its own pop culture acronym: FOMO. Whether it’s an opportunity, invitation, or information, most people don’t want to be left out. The title of this blog post is an example of FOMO.

Positive Responses

Nobody likes a downer, so don’t rely too heavily on negative emotionally responsive subject lines. Sometimes, it’s more appropriate to focus on the positives:

  • Use positive imagery – Paint a rosy picture in your subject line with wording that evokes warm, positive feelings. For example, a retail store promoting their new fall/winter clothing line might say, “Stay cozy this fall – soft cardigans and fuzzy sweaters are here!”
  • Appeal to their altruistic side – Some of the most successful positive emotionally responsive subject lines are used by non-profits and charitable organizations. Think about the local SPCA using a subject line that reads, “Would you give 5 minutes to save an animal’s life?”

Insider Tip

Make sure the content of your emails, blog posts and landing pages back up your emotionally responsive subject lines. Not only is maintaining consistent messaging from subject line to content required by the CAN-SPAM act here in the U.S., but failing to do so may lead your subscribers to feel misled, which will result in an increased unsubscribe rate.

If you’re new to writing emotionally responsive subject lines, try an split test to measure engagement. Send an email with an emotionally responsive subject line to half your list, and a regular subject line to the rest. You may be surprised by the results!

Have you come across some successful emotionally responsive subject lines in your own inbox? Share ‘em with us!

Create and send your own emails for free using VerticalResponse. 

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

The post Psst! Want to Know How to Write Irresistible Subject Lines? appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

20 Powerful Marketing Words & Phrases That Sell or Repel

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:01

Words have power. We all know that. So which marketing words encourage subscribers to act, customers to buy, or donors to give? We read through dozens upon dozens of emails and compiled a list of “sales-boosting” marketing words and a list of “sales-deflating” terms. Keep these lists handy the next to you craft an email or social post.

Boost Sales with These Powerful Marketing Words:

1. Sale – It’s the old faithful of marketing words. While a lot of businesses use the word “sale,” it has the power to motivate customers. Who doesn’t love a good deal?

2. Off – If you can offer your audience an incentive like 50% off, or $25 off your next $75 purchase, you’ll pique interest quickly and give customers added incentive to buy. Take a look at the Coach offer below. 

3. Now – This handy word encourages people to act. It creates a sense of urgency. Usually “now” is used as part of a call to action. Examples include: Shop now, Act now, Subscribe now.

4. New – Customers are intrigued by the newest gadget, product or offer. It’s an attention-grabbing word that’s effective in emails.

5. Best sellers – People like knowing what items or services are popular, so creating a list of best-selling products is a great way to capture additional sales. Here’s an example from home goods store, Wayfair. The subject line reads: Best-selling accent furniture to find that missing piece. The body of the email also uses the word “best sellers.”

6. Be the first – Customers like exclusive access. Give your audience a sneak peak at new products, upcoming offers and high-quality content.

7. Your – Words like “your” or “you” show customers that you’re thinking about them. It’s a simple personalized touch that can go a long way to increase sales. Take a look at the three subject lines below. Each one includes the word “your” or “you.”

8. Thank you – Show your customers a little love by showing your appreciation once in a while. When you reach a new goal, thank your customers with a new deal, host a customer appreciation event or send a kind email thanking new subscribers for signing up.

9. Remember– Your customers are busy, so it’s always a good idea to send reminder emails. Maybe you want to remind customers about an event or to use the reward points that they’ve accumulated. An example is, “Remember, you have three hours left to redeem your offer!”

10. Tips – Everyone can use a little help once in a while. Send emails that are full of tips to help your customers use your product or improve their business in some way.

10 Words that can Deflate Your Sales:

1. Hurry – Yes, you want to encourage customers to act fast, but this word is overused and doesn’t pack as much punch as “Act now” or “Limited-time offer.”

2. Look inside – These two words are commonly used in subject lines. You’re stating the obvious. Of course, the recipient has to look inside to read the content or claim the deal. Skip these two words, and just get to the point.

3. Groundbreaking – While “groundbreaking” sounds impressive, it’s not helpful, says Eric Fischgrund, founder of marketing and public relations company FischTank. “Everyone says this,” he says. “To your readers, it’s an instant turn off.”

4. Guaranteed – Nothing in life is guaranteed, Fischgrund reminds us; so it’s best to stay away from this word. You can still back your product or service, just refrain from using the word “guaranteed.”

5. Huge – Every sale and event is huge. Think of alternatives to use. For instance, “Our Biggest Sale of the Year.” It’s more descriptive.

6. Cyberspace – It’s not 1980. If you refer to the Internet in any way, avoid outdated terms like “cyberspace” or “information superhighway,” unless you’re being ironic.

7. Hassle-free – Sure, the phrase seems positive, but you’re still associating the word “hassle” with your business or brand. Not a good idea. Go with “easy” instead.

8. Once in a lifetime – Cliché, and typically untrue phrases like this don’t help your sales. Be original.

9. Final days to save – This phrase is vague. How many days are left in the sale? Give your customers a specific time frame on all deals.

10. SAVE UP TO 25% RIGHT NOW!!!! – There are two red flags in this statement. For starters, don’t use all caps; it makes people feel like you’re screaming at them. Keep your punctuation to a minimum, too. The sale isn’t any more enticing with three exclamation points.

Do you have a go-to marketing word that stimulates sales through email? Or do you have a list of marketing words that are pet peeves? If so, feel free to share them in our comment section below. Be sure to check out our most overused words in PR and Marketing, and the worst email subject lines, ever, as well! 

Send winning emails that sell with VerticalResponse

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

The post 20 Powerful Marketing Words & Phrases That Sell or Repel appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

Find out How Much Traffic Pinterest Drives to Your Site [VIDEO]

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:00

Pinterest drives more traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit combined, but do you know how much traffic you’re getting from it? In this short video, we show you how to use UTM (Urchin Tracker Module) codes so you can easily see exactly how much traffic you get from the image-centric social site. 


Learn how you can boost sales via Pinterest in this post, Saucy Tips to Boost Sales via Pinterest

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

The post Find out How Much Traffic Pinterest Drives to Your Site [VIDEO] appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

3 Webhook Options Now in Our API

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:00

A Webhook provides a way for a developer or a client application to subscribe to certain events in a web application, such as a new list sign up, by providing a uniform resource identifier (URI). When the event occurs, the web application makes an HTTP callback to this URI letting them know that the event they subscribed to has occurred and provides details about the event, eliminating the need for any polling.

VerticalResponse has created API Webhooks for three events:

  • Contact Create
  • Contact Unsubscribe
  • Uploading a list of contacts (Bulk Contact Create)

Say a client application has subscribed to “contact create” through the Webhook. When a VerticalResponse user associated with the client application creates a new contact in their account, the client application will get a notification from VerticalResponse. If the client application subscribed to “uploading a list of contacts,” VerticalResponse will make a callback to the client application letting them know of this new development whenever the VerticalResponse user uploads a list of contacts.

Use Cases:
If you’re creating a solution that will keep VerticalResponse and another system in sync with respect to contacts, Webhooks can save you time and effort by letting you know whenever a new contact has been created in VerticalResponse for your users. This way you only have to react to changes when they happen, rather than polling VerticalResponse at regular intervals to check if there’s a new contact.

Similarly, if you want to know about unsubscribed contacts and also make sure that another system, for example a CRM, knows of this change, you can use the Webhooks to alert you whenever a user unsubscribes from VerticalResponse. This way, the data in the two systems is always consistent with minimal effort.

Get Started:
Get started with the VerticalResponse webhooks by checking out our Webhooks Overview and the reference documentation to Create Webhooks.

Learn how you can integrate email marketing and social media into your app with the VerticalResponse API. 

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

The post 3 Webhook Options Now in Our API appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

10 Must-Attend Food and Beverage Conferences

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 06:01

The food and beverage business is a huge industry that includes agriculture, food processing, wholesale and distribution, retail, technology, and even marketing. If you’re in the food and beverage business, here are 10 must-attend conferences and networking opportunities that cover everything from wine, natural products to restaurant technology. 

PMA Fresh Summit
Anaheim Convention Center – Anaheim,CA
October 17-19, 2014
20,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Fresh Summit is the must-attend event for you and your colleagues. It’s where produce and floral industry leaders from around the world converge to share ideas, breakthroughs and inspiration.”

Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium
Hilton Concord Hotel - Concord, CA
January 14-15, 2015 
300 Attendees
Why they say you should attend: “This is the national wine industry’s only annual conference on direct marketing and sales — a must-attend event for every level in the company, and the only summit organized by vintners, for vintners.”     

RFMA 2015 Annual Conference
San Diego Convention Center – San Diego, CA
February 1-3, 2015

Why they say you should attend: “The RFMA 2015 Annual Conference is your next big chance to network with the largest gathering of restaurant facility professionals and vendors. It’s the one place where you can share insights and learn about the newest products and services needed to succeed. We will have all of the information you need to help you buckle up for a successful 2015!”

Natural Products Expo West
Anaheim Convention Center – Anaheim, CA
March 5-8, 2015
67,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Natural Products Expo West continues to be the leading trade show in the natural, organic and healthy products industry, attracting over 67,000 industry professionals and 3,000 exhibits to the Anaheim Convention Center. Rated as one of the top 200 trade shows in the US by Tradeshow Week, Natural Products Expo West continues to help attendees reach their business goals.”

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York
Javits Center – New York, NY
March 8-10, 2014
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York is the only all-encompassing event in New York for the restaurant and foodservice industry, making it THE one-stop source for everything you need to succeed in today’s market.”   

New England Food Show 
Boston Convention Center – Boston, MA
March 15-17, 2015
14,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “The New England Food Show is the region’s largest event focused on the retail and foodservice markets. NEFS is THE place in New England to get inspired and source wicked good foods, beverages and equipment ideas you can use to establish, build and grow your business.”

MURTEC: Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference 
Caesars Palace – Las Vegas, NV
March 17-19, 2015 
550 Attendees 

Why they say you should attend: “As the must-attend event to learn about the latest innovations and get up-to-speed on how to leverage new technologies, MURTEC® is lauded as the ‘gold standard’ for restaurant technology insight offering both compelling sessions and top-notch networking opportunities.”  

National Restaurant Association Restaurant (NRA) & International Wine, Spirits & Beer Event at NRA Show® (IWSB)
McCormick Place - Chicago, IL
May 16-19, 2015
44,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “Join your industry and arm yourself for another year with the latest products, services and insights from more then 2,000 exhibitors and hundreds of industry leaders.”  

Sweets and Snacks Expo
McCormick Place – Chicago, IL
May 19-21, 2015
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “After the sold out, record-setting show in May of 2014, the Sweets & Snacks Expo proves to once again be the global power-house event for the industry, and the 2015 show is poised for even more exceptional growth! With 16,000 attendees and 650 exhibiting companies in 2014, the Expo offers the best opportunity to buy, shop, learn and discover!”

Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo
Chicago, IL
July 11-14, 2015
16,000 Attendees

Why they say you should attend: “At the IFT Food Expo, you’ll find the industry’s largest collection of food ingredients, equipment, processing, and packaging suppliers, all under one roof. It’s the only place where the latest global food trends—and the products designed to meet them—are on display.”

Have you been to any of these conferences? Have any others you’d add to the list? Share in the comments. 

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

The post 10 Must-Attend Food and Beverage Conferences appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

8 Ways to Wake up Non-Responders

Wed, 10/08/2014 - 09:57

So you’ve got some subscribers on your mailing list who haven’t opened your emails or clicked on any links in a long time. How do you get them re-engaged? We recommend eight simple steps to help you re-connect with non-responders.

1. Segment
Figure out who the non-responders on your email list are, and segment them out. You can do this easily with most Email Service Providers, including VerticalResponse and create a separate email list with your non-responders – those who haven’t opened or clicked on any links in your email in while. This step is important because it allows you to experiment with changes for people who aren’t opening or interacting with your emails, but not with the ones who are engaged and responsive.

2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Jill Bastian, our Training and Education Manager, warns against simply removing anybody who’s not responsive on your list. There are many reasons why someone may not be engaging, and the next series of steps can help pinpoint what those are.

3. Create an engaging subject line for this segment
What’s in the body of your email doesn’t make much difference if people aren’t opening it. Experiment with an engaging topic in your subject line, such as something that solves a problem for your subscriber, or an offer of a discount or free trial of a product. You can also ask people whether or not they’d like to remain on your list with a subject line saying something like, “We’ve missed you!”

4. Highlight list benefits
When creating a highly engaging subject line for your segmented list of non-responders, it’s important to highlight the benefits of being on your email newsletter in the body of the message. Since your readers haven’t been interacting with the email, a reminder of the value of what they get by reading these emails can be helpful.

5. Send a survey
Kim Stiglitz, our Director of Content Marketing & Organic Customer Acquisition, recommends asking subscribers and if the content you provide meets their expectations via a short survey. “If you find a disconnect between what you’re providing and what your subscribers expect, it’s time for a change,” she writes. This survey data can help you modify your content so that it meets the needs of your readers.

6. Play with timing
Try sending an email at a different time of day, or on a different day of the week. “A lot of times, people tend to send emails on a certain day or at a certain time. If you send an email to non-responders at a different time, they may be more interested or it may be a better time for them to look at it,” Bastian says. Check out our post on the best time to send your emails. It might surprise you. 

She also points out that different target audiences respond better to different times of day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the best time, since each list is different. For example, she gave a presentation recently at a children’s clothing company that chose to send emails around 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., when parents are picking their kids up from school and have time to check a quick email on their smartphones or mobile devices, or in the late evening when kids are asleep or doing homework and parents have more time for themselves. “There are specific times and days where more emails are sent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to fit every audience,” Bastian explains.

7. Take a look at your send frequency
It’s possible that too-frequent emails are causing your readers to lose interest, particularly if your frequency is different than what you promised when they signed up for your list. It’s important to make sure that you’re sticking to what you promised in your sign-up form. If your email list subscribers signed up for an email once a week, for example, they may feel overwhelmed with emails sent more often than that.

8. Look at your own expectations
Although there are benchmarks for each industry, Bastian recommends coming up with your own open rate goals based on your own list performance. If you’re getting a 12 percent open rate, for example, try shooting for small increases over time. Creating incremental goals is often more realistic than trying to hit a benchmark based on an entire industry, and small gains can add up over time. 

What approaches have been successful for you in helping to re-engage non-responders? Share with us about in the comments section.

Ready to whip up your next email? Use the tips in our 5-Step Recipe to Snag Subscribers Attention and get started with VerticalResponse.

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

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Hello Ello: What You Need to Know About This New Social Networking Site

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:26

In Facebook’s decade-long quest for market saturation, the social networking behemoth has many users questioning the site’s validity. Privacy concerns and experiments have users complaining. Some feel inundated with advertising. Facebook’s continuous algorithm updates and the necessity to pay for boosted posts and ads in order to garner page engagement also has many businesses groaning. Is a new social networking site the solution to the seemingly-growing list of Facebook concerns? Let’s find out:

Hello Ello
Ello is a new social networking site, now in beta, which apparently sees the growing discontent with Facebook as a marketing opportunity. In its manifesto, Ello promises not to sell user data to advertisers or allow advertisements. In addition, pseudonyms are permitted.

Ello was founded by Paul Budnitz and Todd Berger. Budnitz, who is also CEO, describes himself as an artist, designer, author, filmmaker and serial entrepreneur.  According to Ello’s “About” page, the site was originally created by seven artists and programmers as a private social network, and then made public because so many people wanted to use it. 

Demand is high
It’s not been easy to get on Ello, as it’s been inundated with tens of thousands of requests each hour. Those interested in joining may request an invite on the site, but those invitations are slow in coming. With tens of thousands on the wait list and Ello only inviting small batches of users at a time, an invitation may take weeks or months. The quickest way to gain access to the site is to procure an invitation from a new user, but users can only invite five friends. 

People are flocking to Ello in droves, but it’s worth noting that many new social networks often had a large initial surge, but later fizzled and died. Diaspora, Path, and are chief among them, and even Google+ never materialized in the way expected. Whether Ello will become a viable alternative to Facebook remains to be seen. However, it has tapped into negative public sentiment towards advertising.

Ello is not advertiser-friendly
Because the primary selling feature of Ello is to keep advertisers out, it may not be the best bet for small businesses. “We built Ello because virtually all the other social networks were cluttered, ugly, and full of ads,” the site reads. “We began to feel manipulated by the networks themselves – many of our posts were never seen by our friends at all, because ads had taken priority. We came to realize that a social network that has ads is a social network created for advertisers, not for people. Every move we made was tracked and recorded, and every post we made was read and sold to other companies so they could show us more ads. It wasn’t fun any more [stet].”

In its FAQ section (which they call WTF), Ello points out they key difference between it and Facebook loud and clear. It reads:

“Virtually every other social network is run by and for advertisers. Behind the scenes, armies of ad salesmen and data miners track and record every move you make. Data about you is auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. Under the guise of offering a free service, users of other social networks pay a high price in lack of privacy and intrusive advertising.

You’re the product that’s being bought and sold.

Collecting and selling your personal information, reading your posts, and mapping your social connections for profit is [stet] unethical. Every new feature on an ad-driven network is either a new way to gather more data about you (which can be sold), or show you more ads (which are auctioned), or both.
Ello is totally ad-free. Ello does not sell data about you to third parties, including advertisers and data brokers.”

Ello points out that many social networks started out as ad-free, but then switched gears, modifying privacy policies and selling user information to advertisers. Ello insists it will never do this. However, the site has raised considerable cash in venture capital, and venture capitalists typically want an exit. Ello insists it will stick to a freemium model, making its money off of new features.

However, as designer and social entrepreneur Aral Balkan pointed out in a skeptical post, Ello has raised $435,000 in venture capital, and it’s hard to say whether the type of return investors are looking for will be possible through a freemium model. However, Ello’s founders still own more than 80 percent of the company, so it’s unclear how much impact Vermont-based FreshTracks Capital will have.

Evaluating Ello
Since Ello is still in beta, features are still being built and rolled out. Right now, Ello is fairly minimalist. You can comment on posts, see how many views each post received, and get email notifications and in-stream notifications. Features coming soon include ways to block users, flag inappropriate content, integrate audio and video, create private accounts, and message privately.

Ello does collect some user data anonymously, including location, language, time spent on the site, and the referring website. This shows what people in general do on Ello, but does not trace the behavior back to individuals. Users who are still uncomfortable with sharing anonymous information can turn off analytics completely, or use DNT (do not track) settings on web browsers.

Similar to Twitter’s mute feature, Ello allows users to friend people and then segment them into “friends” or “noise.” But since only a few people are on the network compared to Facebook, being inundated with messages isn’t yet a problem. Still, being able to curate one’s own content rather than being subjected to an algorithm is appealing.

It’s too early to say whether people’s frustration with Facebook and disdain for ads, coupled with Ello’s new features, will create a shift in the social networking landscape. For now, small businesses wishing to reach out to potential users still have plenty of options.

What are your thoughts on Ello? Have you signed up for the new site?

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

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Holiday Email Marketing Made Easy – Our “Everything Holiday” Site is Here!

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 11:39

To help plan your holiday email and social media marketing before the holiday frenzy begins, we’ve launched our annual Everything Holiday site. With actionable holiday email tips and helpful resources like an automatic holiday subject line generator, a planning calendar, an infographic with the Top 20 Most Effective Holiday Subject Lines, plus special holiday promotions (including custom holiday logos, cards and other goodies), there’s a gift for everyone. Check it out it out now:


Unwrap more holiday email marketing tips in our Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing and get your email marketing started for free with VerticalResponse

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

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Avoid These 5 SEO Faux Pas

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 06:00

You may have read our posts praising the virtues of creating engaging content, and heard us extol the importance of responding to reader or customer feedback and making appropriate adjustments. You may also know a bit about quality backlinks and using the correct header tags, sourcing images legally, and creating compelling headlines. Today we’re going to take a look at five thing your business should stop doing if you want to make sure you have killer Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Take a look at our list of faux pas and make sure to steer clear of these big mistakes.

1. Stop keyword stuffing
While it’s still important to include relevant search terms whenever it makes sense, remember that you’re writing for people, not just search engines. If your writing is filled with keywords just to attract search engines, will most likely turn off any real readers that make it to that content hoping for something of value. Make sure to avoid throwing in a phrase over and over again when it’s unnecessary, even if it’s a phrase you want to rank for. Google can penalize sites that have an inappropriately high number of keywords.

2. Don’t let your SEO expert run amok
If you have an agency, SEO expert or someone else, work closely with them on your SEO goals. Research SEO best practices, and make sure your expert is accountable.

Just as Google sometimes penalizes keyword stuffing, having too many low-quality backlinks get you in trouble with the search engine. Don’t outsource your SEO work without knowing what they are up to. A smaller amount of relevant, high-quality links leading to your site is better than many low-quality, irrelevant ones, so make sure your entire team is aware of what you’re looking for.

(And if you do end up with a Google penalty, check out our post on that topic to figure out how to bounce back).

3. Don’t steal content
Don’t scrape content, and use it word-for-word on your site or blog. Reposting other people’s information is tempting, but it’s important to both get permission and give source credit. And you’ll want to go beyond simply giving credit where credit is due. Add extra value to the information by adding your own angle to the information or sharing another point of view that provides context for your audience.

One shining example is the Muck Rack Daily, which includes masterful curation of trending topics among journalists, including tweet-worthy stories and what others are saying about them. The editors clearly put a ton of thought into creating a daily email that’s timely, relevant, crisp, and with a great narrative flow. 

4. Don’t use clickbait headlines
It may be tempting to ask cliffhanger questions in headlines in hopes that people will click through, or to even write misleading headlines that may draw more attention to your content. But although these types of headlines may work in the short term, they don’t build long-term trust with your readers, who are less likely to return if they don’t get value from what you post.

For some examples of clickbait headlines – with an explanation of what they cover intact – check out the twitter profiles, Saved You A Click and HuffPo Spoilers, and learn what not to do!

5. Stop being complacent
With all of the information on SEO best practices and strategies, updates and changes, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Still, the worst move you can make is to become too complacent and do nothing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just take a look at our step-by-step beginner’s guide to SEO to get started.

Your turn
Have you engaged in any of the practices listed above and learned a hard lesson? What business success have you found as a result of newfound practices? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Subscribe to the weekly VR Buzz  for more marketing tips and tactics. 

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

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A Handy Holiday Marketing Calendar

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 06:00

Once again, it’s time to plan your holiday marketing campaigns. To help you get organized and inspired, we’ve created this handy holiday marketing calendar and plan:

Before you plan out your holiday marketing campaigns, first decide which products, services, or calls to action (for service-based companies) you plan to highlight, promote or sell during the holiday season. Then, decide how and where you’d like to promote your products, services and sales: Email, social media, postcards, etc.

Next, determine what images, email templates, landing pages, postcards, or email, blog and social media copy you plan to use in your campaigns. This will give you an idea as to how much time you should set aside for each tactic.

Last, schedule all your marketing on a calendar as seen below:

Planning to send a holiday postcard? Here are some important “send by” dates you’ll want to remember for U.S. delivery: Postcard Deadline Dates

Halloween…………….. mail by: Oct. 17th
Thanksgiving………… mail by: Nov. 14th
Hanukkah……………… mail by: Dec. 3rd
Christmas…………….. mail by: Dec. 15th
Boxing Day…………… mail by: Dec. 15th
Kwanzaa………………. mail by: Dec. 15th
New Years……………. mail by: Dec. 19th


In October, snag early-bird shoppers and prime your customers for even more holiday emails to come. If you plan to change your mailing frequency over the holidays, now is the time to let your email subscribers know and inform them of what value they’ll get from increased mailing frequency.

Veterans Day, a federal holiday to honor veterans of the U.S. military, has also become a big retail sale day, and an early start to the holiday shopping frenzy. Celebrate the day by sending special deals, especially for those who may have served.

11/27: Thanksgiving Day (U.S.) – Thanksgiving, a national holiday and tradition in the United States which began in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1681 by English pilgrims who celebrated an especially good harvest following a terrible winter. Today, Thanksgiving is reminiscent of time with family, thankfulness, and of course, bargains and football. Be sure to send promo emails at least a week prior to this holiday, but also take this day as an opportunity to reach out one last time before Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Or, start a new tradition and send an email or a postcard by thanking your customers for being just that, customers.

11/28: Black Friday – Thanks to deep discounts from retailers, Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, officially kicking off the holiday shopping season. Whether you go the traditional discount route or try alternative promotions, be prepared because the competition for shoppers’ attention will be fierce.

Small Business Saturday started in 2010 by American Express. This small business focused holiday is all about encouraging people to support small businesses and keep it local during the holiday season. In 2011, 100 million customers decided to “shop small,” so don’t snooze on this great marketing opportunity. Learn more.

Cyber Monday, which was coined in 2005 by is the first Monday after Thanksgiving and is geared towards online sales and shoppers. Last year Cyber Monday had more total sales than Black Friday! Send emails specifically for your online shoppers.

Green Monday, the second Monday in December, is yet another large shopping date for online retailers. Green Monday represents a fantastic opportunity to remind your customers that the holidays are rapidly approaching. Send emails about sales you’re offering, special deals like free gift-wrapping, or any events you have coming up soon.

Hannukah, an 8-day observance known as the “Festival of Lights,” honors the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Get your customers in the Hanukkah spirit (and a shopping mood) with eight different gift ideas to their inbox or on your business’ social pages.

This is a one-day event that allows merchants to offer free shipping with delivery in time for Christmas Eve. The event was started a few years ago and has grown in popularity so that it’s now on par with Cyber Monday for generating sales. You can find more information at

There are plenty of procrastinators out there. Try targeting them with time-sensitive subject lines like “last chance,” “order by x date for December 23 delivery,” or “offer ends in 3 days.”

Festivus, popularized by the popular sitcom Seinfeld, is a fun alternative holiday tradition protesting the increasing commercialization of Christmas. As an alternative to a promotion, engage customers on your business’ social pages by asking them to share their family holiday traditions.

Christmas & Boxing Day – Christmas shopping is big – so big that two-thirds of all annual seasonal spending is for this one day.

While the December 25th may be all about giving and receiving, the day after Christmas is when customers make exchanges and redeem gift cards – a great opportunity to clear your inventory with specials!

Kwanzaa is a week long festival that celebrates African-American culture and heritage. Like other great festivals, it ends with gifts and a feast! Connect with African-American customers during this time with Kwanzaa-themed promotions and celebratory emails, tweets, pins, and Facebook posts.

The impending closure of another year is often used to give thanks, self-reflect, and of course, celebrate! Stay engaged with customers and host an early New Year’s Eve celebration and swap resolutions.

A new year, another opportunity to begin anew. With that in mind, try a little self-reflection on how you’ve communicated with customers up until now. Could your newsletters or marketing promos use a fresh start as well? If so, now’s your chance to try something new in 2015.




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

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7 Marketing Tips to Prep for the Holiday Rush

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 11:13

While Black Friday (November 28) and Cyber Monday (December 1) mark the traditional start of the holiday season, a successful email marketing plan starts long before then. Now is the time to review past holiday marketing efforts to determine what worked and to decide what products or services you want to promote this season.

As the holidays approach, we’ve created some tips will help your business have a happy – and successful – holiday season:

1. Check your list twice. Early fall is the ideal time to get your email lists in tip top shape. Purge inactive subscribers, or better yet, create a re-activation campaign. Segment your email lists based on recipient interests, purchase history, age, or other demographics if you have the information, to help better target holiday emails.

2. Go mobile. Make sure your website is mobile friendly. According to Nielsen’s Digital Consumer Report, 87% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices for shopping. Don’t miss out on holiday sales because your site is not optimized for mobile devices. Check out our blog post for more tips: How to Optimize Your Business Website for the Mobile Era.

3. Check your reputation. Data from Nielson’s Digital Consumer Report also finds that up to 55% of mobile users check out reviews on their smartphones, and another 23% write reviews after their purchase. If you don’t know what your online reviews say about you, now is the time to check them out. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat can drive customers to your business or send them scurrying away. 

Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews. Monitor your reviews at least weekly. If there is a negative review and a site allows for a response, write a non-argumentative response that thanks the customer for the feedback, apologizes for any inconvenience and offers any brief explanation that might be necessary. And, if the option is available, be sure to claim your page, add business information, pictures and coupons.

4. Make sure you’re ready. Check your inventory levels, and place orders early to ensure product is on hand so there is no delay in fulfilling customer orders. Plan staffing and make sure your customer support staff is ready to handle increased phone calls and online orders.

5. Get ahead start with pre-holiday marketing. Even in October, you can and should send emails, write social posts, send postcards, and include flyers with every purchases including teasers about upcoming holiday specials. The example below shows a pre-holiday tweet from chef Jamie Oliver.

You might even plan a pre-holiday sale to catch early bird shoppers. Sweeten the deal by offering a “Black Friday Match” that promises to match the price if customers find a better deal on Black Friday.

6. Reward loyalty. Look for ways to generate repeat holiday business from existing customers. Offer special previews, secret sales, members-only pricing, or returning customer holiday discounts.

7. Get social. Use social media posts to highlight sales, encourage phone calls, or offer coupons and specials. Make posts shareable and fun. Consider sharing a short holiday video, a cute cartoon or a great offer. Post how-tos for your products or services, and include holiday season survival tips. If your business lends itself to images, consider some Pinterest posts. Create boards such as “Perfect Gifts for Dad’ or “Holiday Decorating” or “Ways to Celebrate the Season.” Tag pictures with a dollar amount and the pin will be automatically added to a gifts category.

For more useful holiday marketing tips, check out our Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing and get started with your email and social media for free using VerticalResponse.


This post contributed by Tonya McMurray, a freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. Her work includes news and feature articles for publications and websites in a variety of industries, including energy, education, marketing, healthcare and technology.

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

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20 Interesting Holiday Fun Facts to Share

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 09:42

In an effort to share some holiday cheer via social media, we’ve collected 20 interesting holiday fun facts for you to share. From how many billions of dollars will be spent on Halloween or Black Friday, or how many millions of turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving Day, to the number of users who  actively search for free shipping, there’s a holiday stat for everyone. Simply click to Tweet or copy and share on your social network of choice.

1) Over 25% of all emails are sent during the holidays. (  

2) $7 billion is spent annually for Halloween.  (

3) On Black Friday, 55% of parents check the availability of items on their smartphones prior to going to the store.  (

4) In 2013, organic search for inbound eCommerce websites was 32% more on Cyber Monday than during the Thanksgiving Week.   (

 5) In 2013, mobile sales accounted for nearly 40% of online traffic on Black Friday. (

6) Total Black Friday Spending in 2013: $57.4 billion.  (

7) The average consumer spent $407 on Black Friday last year. (

8) 51 million turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving Day. (

9) 7.5 million barrels of cranberries are produced annually. (

10) 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year. (

11) 55% of Twitter users discuss gift ideas on Twitter. (

12) It takes an average of seven years to grow a Christmas tree. (

13) Small Business Saturday spending in 2013 totaled $5.7 Billion.  (

14) 62% of shoppers Tweet about holiday purchases they’ve made. (

15) 42% of holiday shoppers actively seek out free shipping deals. (

16) Smartphones and tablets drove a record $259 million in online sales on Black Friday last year. (

17) Smartphones and tablets drove $419 million in online sales on on Cyber Monday last year. (

18) PPC campaigns increase brand awareness by 63% when businesses use online advertising.(

19) 67% of consumers have purchased a gift they saw on social media. (

20) In the 1920s, Loft’s produced the first chocolate gelt, wrapped in gold or silver foil. (

Want to schedule these stats as social posts ahead of time? Find out how here and spend your time doing other festive holiday things like decorating, drinking eggnog and shopping for people on your nice list.

Get your own holiday email and social media marketing started with VerticalResponse today. It’s free!

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

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The Top 20 Most Effective Holiday Subject Line Words [Infographic]

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:00

With the increased number of emails hitting everyone’s inboxes during the holidays, having a subject line that gets readers to open your email is more important than ever. To help make your emails stand out in busy inboxes and get acted upon, consider testing the inclusion of one or more of these top-performing words for your next holiday email.

For more holiday email marketing tips and ideas, grab our Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing and get started using VerticalResponse for all your email marketing today.

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

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The Complete Guide to Holiday Email Marketing

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 06:02

The holiday countdown is officially on and it’s important to get a head start on your holiday marketing efforts starting now. To help with all your email planning efforts, we’ve created this holiday email marketing guide. In it, you’ll find a pre-holiday checklist, a monthly schedule to keep you on track, and a list of emails that can be effective during the holiday season.

Pre-Holiday Checklist
With just a bit of prep, the messages you send to your subscribers this season can be even more effective at getting people to visit your location, make purchases or attend your holiday events. Here’s a quick checklist to help you think through what you want your holiday emails to accomplish:

1. Write Down Your Goals
What do you want to accomplish this holiday season? Are you looking to promote a new product? Do you want to see sales increase by a certain percent? Whatever you’re looking to get out of this holiday season, write it down. It doesn’t have to be a dissertation, just jot down a two-line goal so you have some direction to guide your efforts.

2. Evaluate Past Results
Before you start brainstorming new ideas (we’ll get to that in a moment), write down a quick list of marketing efforts that you’ve tried in the past. Take a few minutes to dissect this list. Which efforts were successful? Which campaigns lacked results? Now ask yourself why each of these campaigns fared the way they did.

For example, let’s say you ran a 20 percent off pre-Thanksgiving sale that you promoted via email and social media for two weeks leading up to the big one-day event. From this campaign, you probably learned that capturing shoppers early works for your company and that two weeks of pre-promotion was key.

Take the information you’ve learned and write down what was most successful so you can focus your efforts.

3. Brainstorm New Ideas
Start brainstorming some new holiday ideas – now. A lot of small businesses have a limited marketing staff (if at all), but every employee, whether they have marketing experience or not, can contribute. Host an all-company meeting about an hour before you open, bring in some coffee and donuts and ask everyone to come in with two marketing ideas for your business. Toss around the ideas and see which ones people are excited about. Make a list of possible ideas.

Here are a few fresh ideas:

  • Consider a ‘Thanks for Being a Customer’ sale right before Thanksgiving. You can connect the sale to the upcoming holiday while making your customers feel appreciated. Offer a discount or free shipping as a way to say thanks.
  • Take part in Small Business Saturday. American Express sponsors this “holiday” that always lands on the Saturday following Black Friday. Go to the American Express website, sign up for the event and get some promotional materials. Create an event around the day. Send an email to your customers letting them know you’ll have discounts, giveaways and goodies to snack on while they shop.
  • Host a ‘Try Our Product Day.’ Whether you just rolled out a new product or want to entice your customers to buy a popular item from your business, invite people to take the product for a test drive. Consider hosting this day in early December and invite people via email and social media.

4. Know the Holiday Calendar

The holiday season isn’t just post-Thanksgiving. You can and should start your marketing efforts well before that. In fact, you can use any of the holidays below to reach out via email.

  • Canadian Thanksgiving, October 13
  • Veterans Day, November 11
  • Thanksgiving (U.S.), November 27
  • Black Friday, November 28
  • Small Business, Saturday, November 29
  • Cyber Monday, December 1
  • Free Shipping Day, December 15
  • Hanukkah, December 16-24
  • Christmas, December 25
  • Boxing Day, December 26
  • New Year’s Eve, December 31

You don’t have to run a sale or send an email that focuses on each holiday, but it does give you a reason to reach out to your customers. 

5. Write Down a Plan
You’ve got all sorts of ideas flying around, now you need to figure out which ones you’ll take action on. Make sure you have the time and resources to take on each task. You don’t want to overextend yourself, or the campaign will be lackluster. Your plan should include names, deadlines, materials needed, a point person, social media reminders and send dates. Here’s an example.

We’re Thankful You’re a Customer Sale

  • Date of sale: November 24
  • Point Person: Joan Smith
  • Emails needed: 3; One to introduce the event on November 13, one that showcases discounted products on November 20, and one that mentions the sale and takes customers to the landing page on the day of the sale, November 24
  • Email sent to: Segmented list of loyal customers
  • Materials needed: New product pictures taken
  • Description of event: A sale that coincides with Thanksgiving and offers a 20 percent discount to customers and thanks them for being loyal
  • Social media notes: Posts start on November 13 and run through November 24

Each promotion or email that you intend to send during the holiday should have a similar outline. You can also take the important dates from each campaign and mark them on a company calendar so everyone is aware of the due dates.
6. Segment Your Email List
Now is a good time to take a look at your email list and segment it into special categories. For example, for the promotion above, you may only want to send the email to a segment of repeat customers.

You may want to create a special holiday email to reactivate dormant names on your list (also knows as a win-back). 

Wondering which groups to segment your list into? Here are a few suggestions. Segment your list by:

  • Interests
  • Gender
  • Buying frequency
  • Geography
  • Past purchases

7. Test Your Emails
One of the great advantages of planning ahead is that you have time to test and tweak your emails for optimum success. How do you test your emails? There are dozens of tests that you can try, but here are three of the most effective tests you can run to improve your holiday marketing.

  • Test the offer
    You might think that your promotion is the best deal in town, but your customers might not agree. Test your deal before you send it out to your entire list.
    Take a small portion of your list and split it in half. Send each group a variation of the deal. Maybe one group gets a free shipping deal and the other gets 30 percent off. See which deal is more effective and send the winning deal out to the rest of your list.
  • Test the subject line
    Using the same premise as the test above, you can test your subject line. A subject line can determine whether or not an email gets opened, so you need to make each one count. You need a subject line that explains what’s in the email, and yet creative enough to grab your reader’s attention.
    Split a small portion of your list in two. Each group gets the same email with the same offer, just varying subject lines. Whichever email gets higher open rates is the winner. Use that subject line to email the rest of your list.
  • Test the format of the email
    You can also test the format of your email. You can change the length of the email or the images that you use. Again, split the list as we’ve discussed, testing it on a small audience. Just make sure you only change one element or you won’t be able to see which one tested better.
    This kind of testing is called A/B split testing and it’s an effective tool in email marketing.

Holiday Marketing Schedule
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do you can set up an easy-to-follow schedule:

  • October: the create and test month.
    Use the first few weeks of October to create your plan and begin to execute on it. With a plan in place, you can segment your list and figure out who will receive your emails. However, before you start testing, you need to create the emails. Just because you plan to send an email out on November 10, doesn’t mean you create and send it on that day. You’ll want to work ahead so you can stay on schedule and set your campaigns up for success.
  • November: the social media month.
    Once November arrives, the season kicks into high gear. Hopefully, you’ll have the majority of your emails created, tested and ready to go. There will still be a few that you’ll need to work on, but hopefully you’ll be in a good position to focus some time and energy on social holiday posts. Promote each sale or event on relevant social media networks for your business.
  • December: the tracking month.
    As the sales roll in, you’ll want to keep track of each marketing tactic and see how well each one does. Make a few notes as the month unfolds so you can reference what worked and what didn’t for next year’s planning session.

You’ll also want to double-check your emails. If they were created back in October, it’s a good idea to go back and give them one final read before you send each one out.

6 Effective Holiday Emails to Send 
If you’re in need of a little holiday inspiration, we’ve outlined six emails that are popular and effective to send this time of year. 

1. Sale email
One of the most popular holiday emails to send is one promoting a sale. You can create a promotion around one of the holidays that we listed earlier like a Black Friday sale or come up with your own creative sale name like ‘Procrastinators Sale’ or ‘Skip the Crowds Sale.’ 

Here are a few examples. The Black Friday sale is clear and concise with easy-to-spot calls to action. The other example is a simple holiday sale, offering 25 percent off. Notice that the deal is the main focus of the email. 

2. Holiday gift guide email
Everyone is looking for a little gift-giving help around the holidays, so give people what they need with a holiday gift guide email (these are also very popular on social sites like Pinterest). Think of it as a mini digital flyer and highlight some of your best products. Group products into various categories such as, “Gifts under $25,” “Gifts for Her or Him,” “Gifts for Tech Lovers.” Get creative with how you group products together.

You can send several gift guides out throughout the season. Vary the title, showcase your products, and make sure the checkout process is a breeze on your site. Here are a few examples:

3. Holiday e-card
Consider creating an e-card and sending it to your customers, clients or donors. It’s a nice gesture that lets people on the other end know that you care. It helps build brand awareness and generates a sense of good will toward your business or nonprofit.

It can be something as simple as this:

If you want something a bit more lively, check out a few easy-to-use animation sites like JibJab or Blue Mountain. Or get creative and shoot a video yourself like this media company did. 

4. Email invites to a holiday event
You can host a small holiday event to attract holiday shoppers. Whether you create an event around Small Business Saturday, as we mentioned about above, or host a charity event, you can invite people via email. You can even add a charitable twist to your efforts by hosting a coat drive, or something similar in your location. As people drop off items, they can also browse for gifts. Here’s a clothing drive example from a well-known retailer: 

5. Last minute shopper email
Every holiday season there’s a group of people who wait until the last possible minute to buy a gift. It happens. The good news is there’s an opportunity here. Create an email that helps last-minute shoppers get the gift they need. Offer free expedited shipping, like the example below, or let customers pay for the item online and pick it up at your location at their convenience.

6. Thank you email 
After someone makes a purchase, confirm their order and consider suggesting a few other products that complement the purchase.

“Transaction receipts have some of the highest open rates of all email marketing messages,” says Wojciech Gryc, CEO of Canopy Labs, which specializes in personalizing the customer experience.

“Instead of just confirming that an order has been placed, use this opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell other products,” he says. “Offer accessories and products that customers might also be interested in buying.”

For example, in the email below, the customer bought a camera and the follow up email suggests related items for it. 

With this guide, your holiday email marketing plans should be in tip-top shape to help your business thrive all through the holiday season.

Get your holiday email marketing started now with VerticalResponse

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

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4 Ways to Banish Writer’s Block

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 06:00

Microsoft Word is open on your computer. You’re staring at the blank white screen. You type one sentence. You hit “delete.” You try again with a different sentence. “Delete.” You sigh. You stare. You bang out a few more words. Again, “delete.”

You’ve got nothing.

Writer’s block. We’ve all been there. When asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, Ernest Hemingway said, “A blank sheet of paper.”

Although it’s frustrating while you’re in the moment, writer’s block doesn’t have to be completely crippling. Here are a few strategies to try the next time you’re feeling stuck and those words just aren’t flowing freely.

1. Start Anywhere But the Beginning

“One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph,” said novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Often you’re so caught up in writing the perfect first sentence or first paragraph that you’ve placed yourself in a rut right off the bat.

Who says you have to start from the beginning? Try starting in the middle of your article, or even the conclusion. Don’t worry about the perfect opening and go straight into the nitty gritty. Once you’ve got all the pieces and points of your article, email or even social post down, you’ll have likely found a groove and can go back to the introduction and transitions. (Case in point: When drafting this blog post, I started with this paragraph first, just because I use this approach all the time and I knew it would be the easiest point for me to write.)

2. Freeflow

If you know what you want to say but the words and sentences just aren’t coming to you, try capturing your ideas a different way – draw pictures or charts, organize with arrows or columns, or jot down major points and supporting points on index cards for easy rearranging. The goal is to get everything down first, organize and then wrap them with complete sentences.

3. Break It Down

Mark Twain famously said, “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” When it comes to writing, that white paper or how-to guide might seem formidable, but if you break it down into smaller parts, it won’t seem so huge and you’ll feel like you’re making progress faster.

For example, say you’re trying to write a guide about the top 10 ways to do something. An easier way to tackle it might be to first jot down the 10 things in list form, and then go back and add descriptions or explanations.

4. Take a Breather

Sometimes, the pressure to perform really does build up until it becomes almost paralyzing. If the above strategies to overcome writer’s block aren’t working, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. But instead of logging onto Facebook or surfing the Web, step away from the screen; you want to clear your head instead of cluttering it with potentially distracting information. Make a cup of coffee or tea. Take a five minute walk. Stare out the window. Then try writing again. 

What do you do when you’ve got a case of writer’s block? Share your tips in the comments!

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

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3 Ways the iPhone 6 Affects Your Emails & What to Do About It

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 11:08

New records were set with the recent September 19 release of the new iPhone 6. Apple recently announced that in the first three days, it sold over 10 million new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus models, more than any other release. By the end of the year, the new phone will be available in 115 countries, and millions more will be sold.

Apple states the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus “are the biggest advancements in iPhone history” with one of the most notable advancements being an increase in screen size. The iPhone 6 dons a 4.7-inch display and the iPhone 6 Plus comes with a whopping 5.5-inch screen. The iPhone 5 now seems small in comparison with its 4-inch display, and the iPhone 4 trailing behind with a 3.5-inch screen. But what do these changes have to do with your email campaigns?

With bigger screens and millions of new iPhone 6 users, comes bigger opportunities and reasons to adjust and maximize your emails. After all, 65% of email is now being accessed via mobile devices in the U.S. according to VentureBeat reporting data from the Q4 2013 US Consumer Device Preference Report. Mobile-friendly emails (especially up-to-date ones) are a must, so with that, here are three ways in which the new iPhone 6 affects your emails, and what to do about it:

1. More Pre-Header/Preview Space
The larger screen sizes leave room for additional pre-header text to display in the inbox. The iPhone 5 currently displays around 11 characters (give or take) of pre-header text in the preview. The iPhone 6, however, displays 13+ characters or more. More real-estate gives you more of an opportunity to entice readers to open your email.

Note: People can adjust their settings to display additional pre-header/preview text (up to 5 lines), but for majority of those who use default settings, this is what they’ll see:

iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 5 inbox display

Now is the time to take your pre-header seriously. Long gone are the days in which the first line of your email reads, “Can’t read this message? Click here.” Treat your pre-header as secondary subject line and include even more info about the value readers will get inside the email.

Not sure where to put the pre-header in your email? Above everything else! The pre-header should be well thought-out, enticing and placed above images including your masthead or logo. In this Gap email, you’ll see the pre-header at the top of the email design, even before the logo, which translates nicely in the inbox:

Tip: If you do place an image at the very top of your email above everything else (which we do occasionally in our newsletter), Gmail commonly pulls the alt-text from your image into the pre-header. This brings up two very important points:

  1. You should always add clear, brief and enticing alt-text to your images.
  2. If you insist on placing an image in your email before the pre-header, you can remove the image’s alt-text (if it isn’t relevant) to avoid pulling it into the pre-header. However, if your first image is large, it doesn’t display in your reader’s email reader for whatever reason, and there isn’t any alt-text, there won’t be any context for that image, which can translate to a bad user experience. At the very least, add a pre-header immediately after your first image.

2. More Content Above the “Fold”
According to Tony Haile at Chartbeat, 55% of people spend fewer than 15 seconds reading a page online. Hence, you want readers to find your most important information as quickly as possible. Luckily, the new and larger iPhone 6 screens display even more of your email above the “fold” or cut off point on a phone.

While this works in everyone’s favor, now is the time to reassess your design and maximize valuable space. Trim up your mastheads, banner ads and/or logos at the top and move your most enticing information, events, promo codes, and call-to-actions higher.

In the example below, the red “Pre-order Now” call-to-action button in the email on the left (iPhone 6) appears, where as the button is pushed below the fold in the iPhone 5 on the right. You’ll also see, however, the text in the body of an email on an iPhone 6 appears smaller to accommodate for more email display. This means, you should increase the size of your email font, especially if you’re using anything under 12 or 14 pt.

Note: People can adjust their settings to increase the font size of subject lines and pre-headers, (which may affect how much of your email is displayed), but the text within the body of the email will still appear smaller as seen here:

iPhone 6 vs. iPhone 5 email display

3. Necessary Mobile-Friendly Design Changes
If you’re already using a responsive email design (one that adjusts to the screen size your reader is using), well done. If you’re an email designer, you will need to account for the screen size height and width changes when creating a responsive design. Our friends at Litmus wrote an extensive piece about these technical changes stating that “adjustments to media queries and breakpoints for responsive or adaptive emails will be necessary.” Find those necessary changes, and useful information here.

How will you be adjusting your emails for the new iPhone 6? Tell us in the comments.

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

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5 Easy Ways to Ignite Your Customer Service

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:27

What new things are you doing to make your customers happy? Take some time now to drive value for your customers, and benefit from it all year long.

Know your customers

Know who they are, where they’re from, what products they’ve purchased, how much they’ve spent, or how they’ve interacted with your marketing. Then you can slice and dice that information and offer specials or information based on their interests. Where does all this information live? Think about your contact management system (if you have one), your e-commerce service, or even your email marketing company. No matter where it lives, having quick access is smart.

  • Identify customers who haven’t purchased in six months, and send them an email with a great deal.
  • Find people who have signed up for your newsletter but never purchased, and give them a first-time customer discount.
  • Get quick access to your loyal customers. Ask them to tell their friends about you. Speaking of …
Ask your customers to tell their friends

I was just at a hotel where I received amazing service. The general manager asked us for a recommendation on TripAdvisor, and we gave one! A site like TripAdvisor comes up pretty high in the search rankings when you search for travel plans, but your business may not. The more quality inbound links you have and positive mentions, the more people will find your business on search engines.

Answer them any way they want to talk to you

Any way customers can get ahold of you, let them! Whether it’s messaging you on Facebook or Twitter, or sending you an email or chat, you should have options open for customer contact. Years ago, when a fiber line was cut in the Bay Area and our service was interrupted, we turned to social media to let people know what was up and answer their questions. 

Surprise them

Starbucks gives coffee away during certain times, and Uber gives ice cream. Imagine how easy it is for your business to do something fun. If you’re a retailer, do a “happy hour” after work in which people can stop by for some wine and cheese while you show them a new line you’ve got. Online retailers can send a discount card in the mail to the best customers to show appreciation. B2B companies can give services away for a day. I once ran an e-commerce division of a company, and we emailed people at a random hour saying we’d refund whoever purchased from us during a certain time (and we didn’t pick 3 a.m.).

Go above and beyond

So many companies look at how much time employees spend on the phones with customers and prospects. Get them in, get them out, move on to the next seems to be the usual approach. When was the last time you were shocked that someone at a company you do business with spent a lot of time helping you with what you wanted instead of rushing you? This is a great opportunity for you to go above and beyond this year. If you listen to your customers, give them what they want, don’t waste their time, and be nice, they’ll talk you up for years to come.

Employ some of these easy ideas, and let us know how they work.

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

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

The post 5 Easy Ways to Ignite Your Customer Service appeared first on VerticalResponse Blog.

6 Handy Tools to Monitor Social Media Success

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 06:00

Every day, people are posting 500 million tweets, 55 million Facebook updates, 5 million pins on Pinterest, 60 million pictures on Instagram, and 114 million posts on Tumblr. How’s a business supposed to cut through all that social media noise to make an impact? And how do you know whether you’re actually reaching your target audience?

Many social media sites offer businesses tools to help you monitor your success – Are you taking advantage of them? Here’s a recap of the tools you can use to ensure your social media efforts are working:

Instagram Business Tools

Instagram recently rolled out a new suite of tools and real-time campaign data to help you understand how your content performs on the social network. The image-based social media site offers information on impressions, reach and frequency to help you evaluate engagement with your audience. With this information you’ll have the knowledge of what kinds of images are resonating with your followers so you can share more content like it in the future.

Image courtesy of Instagram

Twitter Analytics

Twitter also has an updated analytic dashboard for marketers, verified users and Twitter Card publishers. The dashboard shows the number of impressions, favorites and retweets for each tweet as well as how many times a site visitor has clicked on the tweeter’s profile. The tweet metrics are updated in real time. A CSV export tool will show data for up to 3,200 tweets and includes a breakdown of all tweet impressions. The new tool set allows you to identify in real time which tweets are attracting the most engagement with audiences so you can better determine which Twitter strategies are most effective.


Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights identifies page visits, likes, comments and shares. It also allows you to identify unlikes and hidden posts. We have a Definitive Guide to Using Facebook Insights for Your Business to maximize all those stats.


Crowdbooster combines analytics and recommendations to create a guide for social media optimization. The web-based application helps you understand how you’re performing on various social media networks, and how you can increase online influence and better connect with customers.

Recommendations allow you to schedule tweets or posts at the best time and to create more relevant content based on the performance of past content. You can also use the platform to respond to missed tweets and to cross post between social networks. Crowdbooster currently offers services to measure Twitter and Facebook use. Analytics measure impressions, retweets, clicks, mentions, replies, likes and comments. Crowdbooster can help businesses track follower and fan growth over time and identify key influencers or frequent commenter. 

Hootsuite Analytics/UberVu

Like Crowdbooster, Hootsuite combines analytics with social media optimization recommendations. Hootsuite offers a mobile app so you can analyze your social media reach from practically anywhere. Pricing starts at $9.99 per month.

In January, Hootsuite expanded its analytical offerings with the acquisition of UberVu. The UberVu tools allows you to see where your social profiles are growing and to monitor spikes in brand sentiment (based on social media posts). You can measure clicks, likes, retweets and other behavior to determine what content resonates best with your audience. UberVu also notifies you of spikes around keywords you’ve identified to help you respond quickly and effectively when a topic is trending. You can identify key influencers or customers as they’re engaging in conversations about your company or product and communicate directly with them.


Viralheat analyzes more than 600 data points to provide information on social media trends across the web, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, videos, blogs and websites. Viralheat offers engagement and influencer scoring, tracks relevant key words and filters results by channels (Facebook, the web, etc.)

The company also offers sentimental trend reporting so you know how particular issues are being received by your target audience. You can identify high activity times, track competition response times, and filter mentions and trends by geographic region. Viralheat allows you to identify trends for your brand and that of your competition and to filter them based on sentiment.

How do you track your social media success? Do you use third party tools, or simply what’s available on each social site? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by By Tonya McMurray.

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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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