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How to Build a Public Relations Media List [Video]

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 06:00

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

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 Build a Public Relations Media List [Video] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 06:01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Connie, PR Manager
Dislike:
- “Hurry!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 17:47

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

Update #1: Payday Loan 2.0

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

Update #2: Panda 4.0

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The post Google Releases 2 New Algorithm Updates: Payday Loan 2.0 & Panda 4.0 appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

7 Easy Tips to Creating Stellar Email Content

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post 7 Easy Tips to Creating Stellar Email Content appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

50 Inspiring Retail, B2B and Non-Profit Subject Lines

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 06:00

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

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

Retail

Gap: Hurry! Save NOW until 10AM Wednesday 

ModCloth: 20% off. 100% awesome.

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

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

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

Open Table: Give the Gift of Deliciousness

lululemon athletica: did someone say brownies?

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

Piperlime: Extra 25% off SALE items under $100

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

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

Orbitz: Quick! This promo code’s ending soon

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

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

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

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

Fabletics: want to win $100 to fabletics?

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

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

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

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

Priceline: Get $20 Off Hotels Instantly! Email Exclusive

Warby Parker: Finally

Everlane: See What’s Coming

Birchbox: Come Back and Get a Free Gift

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

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

 

B2B (Business to Business)

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

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

Practical Ecommerce: Report: Top 10 Comparison Shopping Engines

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Non-Profit

Marine Mammal Center: Show Your Mom Some Love

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

American Diabetes Association: We need backup

American Red Cross: Everyday heroes like you

American Lung Association: Honoring our volunteers

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

Humane Society of the United States: Need some convincing?

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

Care and Share Food Bank: Eat your greens!

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

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

SFMOMA: It’s Not Too Late

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

Root Division: Take an Art Class! Fall Schedule

 

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

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

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

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

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

12 Super Cool, Time-Saving Apps and Tools

Mon, 05/19/2014 - 06:00

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

Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logistics 

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

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

10. Travel management: Mynd
Cost: free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 06:01

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

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

1. Search

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

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

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

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

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

2. Reach out

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

3. Localize

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

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

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

Facebook Announces New Detailed Video Metrics

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 06:00

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

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

Image courtesy of Facebook

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

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

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

 

 

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

Lights, Camera, Action: Video Setup on the Cheap

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 06:00

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

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

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

Camera:  $200

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

Light Stands:  $25

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

Lights (3 of them):  $11

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

Diffusion Paper: $13

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

Clamps: $8

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

Clothes Pins: $3

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

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

Backdrops:  $19

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

Backdrop stand: $65

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

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

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

What Gmail’s New Grid View Means for Your Emails

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 06:00

Google is at it again. Just one year after the email-giant organized the inbox into tabs, the company is rolling out another change. This time Google wants to transform the landscape of promotional emails. The company announced plans to nix their list-based look and turn the promotions tab into a Pinterest-like grid. Here’s how it’ll look: 

So, how could this change the emails that you send for your business? Before we dive into the specifics, we should point out that Google is only testing this look right now. It’s not a done deal, but many marketers, like Kelly Cooper with ShopIgniter, expect it to test well.

“If we’ve learned anything from social networks, it’s that users interact more with rich content like photos and video over text, so the move to a more engaging view could create some great opportunities for marketers to make content that stands out,” she says. 

If Google gives the grid view a green light, here’s what you should know: 

Visuals rule
The images you select for your emails will be more important than ever. The premise behind this grid view is to show off some eye-candy. Think about what catches your eye when you’re scrolling through Pinterest or other social networks. Vivid pictures tend to grab your attention, right? You’ll want to approach your emails with the same kind of visual mindset. 

Picture size matters
You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the formatting requirements, one of which is the size of the featured images. All featured images, the ones that show in the grid, must be at least 580 pixels x 400 pixels. You can use GIF, PNG or JPEG images. Animated GIFs can be used but the system will treat them as static pictures. 

Character limits for sender names and subject lines
In the new format, the sender name or from label is limited to 20 characters, which shouldn’t be a big problem. That’s plenty of room for your company name, or who the subscriber expects to hear from. 

The subject line is limited to 75 characters, which is about the same amount of space you have for a subject line in a regular email. However, with standard emails, a lot of businesses have perfected the art of short subject lines, about 50 characters or less. With this new view, however, some say it would be a waste of prime real estate to write short subject lines. We’ll find out which school of thought is right when small businesses run A/B tests on subject lines in the new grid view. 

Sender picture pulled from Google+
A picture of the sender will also show up on this new grid view. In an attempt to get you to use all things Google, the picture comes from your company’s Google+ account. So, if you don’t have a Google+ account for your business, now might be a good time to set one up. Here’s a Google+ guide to get you started.

Sign up for the test view
There’s no word on how long Google plans to test this new view, or when it could be implemented, but you can sign up to give it a test drive.  Right now this is only for emails read on a desk top, anyone seeing your emails on a mobile device will still see the standard list view. Since about 50% of emails are read on a mobile device, this means only some of your emails will be seen in this new format. Also this is only for emails that go to the Promotions tab in Gmail, if your email shows up in the Primary tab, for example, it will still be in the standard list format. And finally, even when this has been rolled out, Gmail users can toggle this view on and off, so it’s possible your emails will only be seen in this format by a handful of people.

What do you think of Google’s new grid view? How do you think it will impact your email marketing?

© 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 Gmail’s New Grid View Means for Your Emails appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Show ‘em What You’ve Got – Send These Demo Emails Today

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 06:01

Wouldn’t it be great if you could give everyone a demo of your product or service? You can through email! “Product use” emails or “product demo” emails are some of the most effective ways to teach people about the products and services you offer.

Jeff Kear, who owns an online software company, Planning Pod, uses demo emails to show his customers how to use his event-planning app. His emails include links to video tutorials as well as links to set up an appointment with a member of the sales team. 

How successful are these emails? Kear says the videos get about 500 views a month, the sales teams gets about 50 requests a month, and overall sales jumped 42% within three months – all because of product use emails. 

Now that we know product use emails are effective, let’s talk about how to create one. Here’s an example from the Planning Pod email stash. This email encourages customers to schedule a 30-minute demo of the software. We’ll use this to look at a few must-have components.

Personal touches
Depending on the information you gather in your opt-in form, if you have the email recipient’s name, use it in your greeting. In the top portion of this Planning Pod email, they also introduce a staff member and include his picture. It seems like a personal letter, not a robotic “Try this software” email. Plus, the photo lets the customer know that they’re dealing with a real human being. 

Make it about the reader
The demo email should reference “you,” the reader. You don’t want your email to sound like a sales pitch. Instead, tell your reader’s how they’ll benefit from your product. The text above illustrates how the trial is a team effort – the reader and sales staff will work together to learn about this new product. 

Include a call to action
Whether you’re including a link to sign up for a trial, to watch a demo or inspiration video (non-profits), or to view a step-by-step photo guide, always include a call to action that leads back to your site, blog, Facebook page, etc. If you’re leading recipients to a video, include a screen shot of the video including the play button to entice a click.

Stellar videos or pictures
If you’re going to show people how to use your product, you need great visuals. Here are a couple of video examples from Lucidchart demoing a new iPad app and Vidyard explaining their integration with Salesforce.

Even if your product doesn’t require a demo, you can still show customers how to use your product through email. 

Take a look at the example below. This online site sells scarves, so this email shows customers how to tie one – Handy!

The electronics store below sent this image to new iPhone customers. It highlights some of the main features of the phone through an easy-to-read picture.

This email from online retailer, ModCloth shows email subscribers what to pack for vacation, and how to wear 15 items 10 different ways:

These emails are all about being creative. Whether you sell handbags, power tools, or online software, showing customers how to use your product is a win-win. 

Does your company send product use emails or product demo emails? How effective are they for your company? Share with us in the comment section below. 

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

The post Show ‘em What You’ve Got – Send These Demo Emails Today appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Don’t Let Your Email Look Defeated – 3 Essential Design Elements

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 07:01

I had my first email marketing gig in 2008 for an major reference and research library in Melbourne (“Melbin”), Australia. With a background in print and online journalism, I was asked to create the library’s very first email newsletter. “I got this!” I said. But when it came to designing the email and “got it,” I did not.

Email service providers and the tools they offer have come a long way since 2008. There are pre-made templates, most of them customizable including drag and drop editors, and more. It’s much easier to achieve something that resembles a professional email with out feeling completely defeated.

While it’s easy to take an email template and run, it’s also important to look at it from a design point of view to make sure the content looks great too. Give your email a good hard look and ensure that your email design doesn’t look defeated either. With the popularity and emphasis on stunning online visuals, (ahem, Pinterest), sleek design rules the web and people’s attention. With that, here are 3 easy elements you should always include in the design of your email to ensure “you got this!”

(More) White Space

White space can seem like a waste of space, but guess what? It isn’t that awkward silence you fear experiencing on a first date. White space is your wingman, and you should rely on it to make your messages look good.

White space, also known as negative space, is the area you see between various elements in your email that’s left blank. It allows people’s brains to interpret, scan and break down content into easy-to-read info.

You know when your images or text line up right next to the edge or column of your email? That’s like breathing down a potential romantic interest’s neck. Back up my friend! Give a guy/girl some space. It’s tempting to fill up all your valuable space with info, but that clutter really turns people off – Especially if they’re reading your email on a mobile device.

There are two types of white space you should include in your emails, particularly the first:

1) Active White Space – Intentional space placed to emphasize aspects of the email and encourage eyes to read from one element to another.

2) Passive White Space – Space around the edges of your email and content, as well as empty sections inside your content.

In this Pinterest email example, all of the sections highlighted in red are examples of active white space – They’re intentionally included to emphasize the images, headline, the individual sections, as well as lead people’s eyes to a call to action button or logo. The green sections highlight passive white space.

Here’s the original for reference:

Most image editors allow you to add spacing around images so they don’t line up right next to an edge or get too close for comfort next to content.


Lines

There are a couple of reasons why people stand in lines: They create order and organization. Nothing’s worse than 50 people crowding an open train door all at the same time. Chaos ensues and you don’t know which way is up. The same goes for your email. If you don’t separate your email content or sections with clear, clean lines, people will see your long, crowded, clump of an email and turn back the way they came.

Separate every section of your email with lines. They can be subtle and small, strong and thick, appear as sections separated by color, or appear as our friend, white space. Check out this example from the California Academy of Sciences Nightlife. They separate each section with lines, use white space to separate piece of content within those sections, and even use color to separate sections.

Sans-Serif Fonts

Fonts are fun. I love scrolling through dafont.com and searching for the wackiest, coolest, funkiest fonts out there, but alas, a lot of those fonts just don’t fly in the body of an email. Why? Serif fonts – Those that include little loops or curls at the end of each letter, tend to look jagged, fuzzy and pixilated on a computer/phone screen.

Sans-serif (Times New Roman, Courier New, Arial, etc.) have small or zero curves known as “serifs” at the end of their letters, and appear much cleaner on the web. According to an article by the International Academy of Design & Technology (IADT), serif font is used often in books and tends to be better for long copy, but guess what? You definitely shouldn’t be including a book’s worth of content in your email! Short, brief paragraphs and headlines should make up your email body.

Sans serif fonts are more suitable for headlines and short copy because they are better at catching attention. They are able to stand out because they are seen as bold and modern, as opposed to serif fonts which are usually considered more traditional and familiar.” – IADT

Designers’ favorite web-safe sans-serif fonts:

  • Arial
  • Tahoma
  • Trebuchet MS

Using sans-serif doesn’t mean your email has to be boring, though. If you want to spice up your font flavor, use (one) fun one to enhance an image:

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to scour design sites, here are a handful of favorites from various online designers. If you’re into keeping up with the times, here are some interesting design trends of 2014 compiled by Shutterstock as well. Just remember that if the font is really unusual, your readers may not have it on their computers and won’t see it. If you really love the font, try using it on an image so that everyone can see how cool it is.

Now, have you got this? Okay good!

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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 Don’t Let Your Email Look Defeated – 3 Essential Design Elements appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Using Video for Your Small Business or Non-Profit [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of Magic @ Ball of Social Media, our video series with experts who answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Rich Brooks, President of flyte new media, a web design and Internet marketing company that helps small businesses grow. Based in Portland, Maine, Brooks provides great tips to efficiently and effectively integrate video into your social media and marketing activities.

 

Some of the highlights that Rich hits include:

  • Creating videos that are 2 to 3 minutes long
  • Not trying to create a commercial but trying to help someone out
  • Using Vine or Instagram video to highlight small pieces of information about your product or service

Watch the video to get a ton of ideas to start using video for your small business or nonprofit 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 Advice from a Social Pro: Using Video for Your Small Business or Non-Profit [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Choose the Right Display Advertising Network

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 06:00

The time has come. You’ve decided to spend some money on online display advertising to help drive your business. Many people have the perception that online display advertising is difficult and choosing an ad network can seem daunting. Maybe you think your business can’t afford it, as it can be expensive, but with more self-service and low minimum networks becoming popular, smaller businesses can now take advantage of display advertising. Below, we discuss some of the key steps you should take and six questions to ask when choosing an ad network.

Figure out Your Marketing Strategy

There’s no one size fits all marketing strategy, as every business is a bit different, but similar strategies can be applied to like businesses. A good place to start is to take a look at what your competitors are doing. Where are they advertising? Who are they targeting? Additionally, what are your goals? Do you want your ads to have a lot of visibility, or do you want to target a very specific type of audience? Are you trying to get sales or build brand awareness for your business? Online advertising gives you the ability to do both depending on the ad networks you choose. Once you figure out exactly where you want to be and how much you want to spend, you’ll be better equipped to figure out which is the best ad network for you.

Do Your Research

Doing some research will put you in the best position to make the right decision for your business. This means getting familiar with the components of display advertising such as ad formats, pricing, targeting models, tracking, and key metrics you should know to measure performance. Once you feel confident with those topics, you can start looking at the multitude of advertising networks available.

Evaluate a Network

There are many types of networks out there. Some are very large and have a wide reach across the web, while others focus on niche markets and categories. Some are self-service while others are more hands on. There are some questions you should ask yourself about each possible network and how they might fit for your business. Below are 6 topical questions you should ask each advertising network when trying to decide where to advertise.

1) What is the size and audience of the network? Is it more of a niche audience or are a wide range of categories covered?

As we mentioned, depending on your strategy, you’ll want to choose an ad network that best complements that strategy. For example, if you own a network hardware business, choosing a network that allows you to target IT related categories would be a smart decision.

2) What are the pricing options? Are there spend minimums? Are prices based on CPC, CPA, or CPM models?

Different networks offer different pricing options. Make sure to ask if there are minimums, what they are, and if they may be able to adjust them to fit your budget. Additionally, CPC (cost per click) models are more appealing vs. CPM (cost per impressions) because you only pay for clicks. AdSpeed has a nice breakdown of the different pricing models if you’re not already familiar with the differences. 

3) What ad formats are available? Are there any unique ad formats or unique ad positioning offered?

This is generally more relevant to larger advertisers, as they have the ability to produce unique advertising pieces, but checking the available ad formats could make a difference for you. Certain retailers like Amazon, allow you to place ads along side certain products or at key buying stages, like the checkout page, which offer a unique placement versus a typical banner ad which may be more beneficial to you depending on your offering. Additionally, some networks also take advantage of new technology like mobile location-based advertising, which can help you stand out amongst your competitors and other advertisers.

4) Do they help optimize your account, or is it a self-service platform? If they do help, how?

Some networks come with a dedicated rep or team to help you get the most out of your campaigns. Obviously these will be more expensive than other self-service available networks. Good advice from ReachLocal: If you do have someone helping you, make sure they know exactly what your goals are and how they’ll help you achieve them.

5) What kind of reporting do they have?

Ask for examples of reporting. Do they offer a lot of tools to help you make business decisions? If they have robust reporting, a rep might not be needed, which can help bring down your cost.

6) Do they have any additional offerings? Affiliate, PPC, Facebook, or Email Marketing?

Perhaps you’re looking for a one-stop shop. Some networks also have additional offerings other than just online display advertising. In combination with other options like PPC (pay per click) and email marketing, online display advertising becomes even more effective.

Whether it’s online display advertising, PPC, or some other form of advertising, these same questions should be asked when deciding where to spend your marketing budget. Don’t be afraid to ask each network rep questions about their platform, audience, and services. Also don’t be afraid to negotiate. Many vendors may lower their minimums or allow for tests to show the effectiveness of their networks.

As mentioned above, online display advertising can be expensive but it’s worth looking into. Online display advertising can be a great way to gain brand awareness and if you choose the right placements it can be quite effective. Smaller budgets may want to consider PPC advertising, which can be more affordable and even more targeted to help keep expenses down. Again make sure to do your research so that you are better prepared to make the right decision for 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.

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4 Sure Fire Ways to Win Back Customers with Email

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 08:53

Every once in a while, a few subscribers stray. It’s natural. But that doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. We’ve got some tips to help you bring ‘em back.

First, you’ll want to segment your list and send an email to those who haven’t opened your recent messages. The goal of this email is to re-engage with your subscribers.

What should this email say? Linda Pophal, who helps small businesses with online marketing through her company, Strategic Communications, advises the following:

1. Offer an incentive
An incentive is marketing 101. Subscribers are more likely to come back if they have a reason, and saving money is a good reason. The email below offers a 20 percent discount as an incentive. The incentive doesn’t have to be a discount; it can be free shipping, a free white paper or a small gift with a purchase.

If you do offer a special promotion, give it a sense of urgency. Notice this particular deal is good for 30 days. Encourage customers to come back sooner rather than later by creating deal deadlines. 

2. Remind customers what they get
To bring back an inactive customer, it’s a good idea to remind them how useful your product or service is. Netflix does this in the example below. Check out the bulleted list. It highlights all of the features that Netflix offers for a low monthly price. The “what you get” section makes up the majority of the text. It might be just the kind of nudge a customer needs to sign up for the service again.

“Consumers engage with a vast number of organizations on both a personal and professional level, and [they] can’t retain information about all of the benefits and features of those companies,” Pophal says. “That’s why reminding customers like this is a good idea.” 

3. Ask customers to update email preferences
People change, and so do email preferences. If you notice a group of customers are inactive, send them an email asking them to update their preferences. It’s a great way to re-engage with customers. Wondering how to phrase it in an email? Check out the example below. L.L. Bean’s email acknowledges that its emails are going unopened, tells customers what they’re missing, and asks them to update their preferences. VerticalResponse offers this capability within your emails. 

4. Send a variety of emails
Of course, one of the best ways to keep customers coming back is to prevent them from leaving in the first place. To do that, it’s best to send a variety of emails. From newsletters to promotional offers, you want to keep customers interested. Here’s a quick list of popular emails to send:

  • Newsletter. A newsletter keeps customers in the know. From company news to upcoming events, you decide what to share with your customers.
  • Educational emails. Teach your customers something about your product or service with well-written educational emails.
  • Welcome email. Once a new customer places an order or signs up for your email list, send them a little note to welcome them to the crew.
  • Promotional email. Encourage customers to place an order with a promotional email.

 For additional help, check out our guide: The 9 Emails Your Company Should Send.

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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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Is .com Going the Way of the Dodo? New Domain Extensions Are Here.

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 06:00

Throughout 2014, hundreds of new domain extensions will be introduced into the marketplace. Does this mean .com will soon be extinct? Probably not — at least for a while. However, all these new domains will give small businesses the opportunity to zero in on a domain name that clearly signals what their business is about and give them more flexibility to get the name they’re really after.

What’s the deal with all these new domain extensions?

If you didn’t know, .com, .net, .org, etc. are considered Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs). In the past, you had a very narrow choice of getting a gTLD for your website address or geographic based domain such as .us, .de, .co, .uk, and more. Now, hundreds of new gTLDs are being introduced to provide more options. Domain extensions like, .bike, .clothing, .shoes, .solutions, .management, .guru and even .sucks will be available. Beyond these new gTLDs, new city-based geographic oriented domain extensions will be introduced like .nyc for New York City, .boston, and .paris. In addition to cities, brand-specific gTLDs are in the works. Companies that have trademarked brands will be able to use .apple, .bing, .ibm, .microsoft, etc. So, there’s lots going on with new domains. Here’s a sampling of what some of these new gTLDs are:

Why should you care about these new domain extensions?

If you’ve got a .com domain you’re happy with, have had it for years and rank well in search engines, you may think you shouldn’t care. But, you really should. You may want to get one of these new domains specifically for a defensive measure — to make sure your competitors or even a nefarious cybersquatter doesn’t steal your traffic. If you own lulusbikes.com, you may want to register lulu.bike, just in case. You can always point that domain over to your existing website.

For those who currently have a really long .com they got stuck with, or a .com that’s complicated and may include hyphens (e.g., lulu-bikes-chicago.com), these new extensions open up the possibility of getting rid of that cumbersome name. Because all these extensions are relatively new, there’s a much better chance of getting the domain you really want, rather than the one you had to choose because that’s what was available at the time.

Will my .com domain no longer be relevant?

For the time being, your .com will continue to be relevant. Most consumers in the marketplace are comfortable using .com and there might be a slow adoption of shifting their behavior to trust and use these new gTLDs. Plus, search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing take into account how long a domain has been registered when deciding how to rank businesses in the SERPs (search engine results page). So, don’t give up your .com just yet. But if you’ve got a specific product or service that fits into one of these new gTLDs, you may want to jump on it sooner rather than later. 

How do you get a new domain?

One of our sister companies, Aplus.net, offers many of these new domains. Wherever you decide to get one from, make sure it’s a domain registration company that’s been in business for a substantial period (many, less experienced companies are cropping up to service these new domains). Ensure the company has a good reputation for service and has deep experience with domain registration services.  

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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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5 Elements of an Effective Call to Action

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 06:00

A call to action – every email’s gotta have one. After reading your email, your recipients should have a clear idea of what to do next. Without a call to action, you leave ‘em hanging. But you can easily avoid that problem by creating an effective call to action. How?  

For starters, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all button that you can copy and paste in every email. Every email is unique and so the call to action should be too. But every effective call to action has several common elements. Check out our call-to-action checklist: 

1. Make the call to action short and clear
A call to action should be short and sweet. Now isn’t the time to break out your mad poetry skills; just include the basics. An effective call to action is between two to five words.

2. Use urgent language
After reading the email, what do you want the recipient to do? Make a purchase? Test a product? Download an e-book? Whatever the desired action, create a sense of urgency around it. For example, if you want your recipient to make a purchase, “Shop Now” is an effective call to action. If you want your customer to download something, “Download Your E-book Today” works. Both options are short and have a sense of urgency. 

3. Go “above the fold”
In an email, the content that appears without needing to scroll down is considered “above the fold.” Maggie Patterson, a strategist who helps small businesses with email marketing, says the placement of your call to action is important. Your recipient may not read the entire email, so you want to include a call to action “above the fold” to capture as many clicks as possible. 

4. Make it standout
Design the email so the call to action really stands out. Take a look at the example below.

Notice the use of the green box. It highlights the urgency of the sale and the call to action button. Your eye is instantly drawn to those two areas. Try something similar with your email to make the call to action pop. Creating a call-to-action button is another option. Our handy button creator can help you. 

5. Create one call to action per email
Make it easy on your customers by creating one call to action per email. “People are forced to make decisions all day long, so adding more decisions can result in them not taking any action,” Patterson says. 

Take a look at the email below.

There’s no question about what the call to action is. A customer can click on the green box and check out the latest deal. There aren’t any other options. 

While a single call to action is the rule of thumb, sometimes rules are made to be broken. There are some reasons to use more than one call to action. Your company newsletter, for example, might have several calls to action that link customers to various articles. The email below has two calls to action.

While both use the same text, “Shop Now,” the customer can choose between two laptops. If you must include more than one call to action, make it as clear as the example above.

The takeaway: Make every call to action blatantly obvious so that once your email is opened, recipients know exactly what you want them to do. 

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

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How to Pick Effective Keywords [VIDEO]

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 07:00

In this installment of Tips in 2, our video series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips, Chipper Nicodemus, SEO Specialist at VerticalResponse, shows you how pick effective keywords for your blog post or your web page. By using Google Webmaster Tools, you can discover keywords and phrases that visitors are using to access your website or blog. This is helpful when coupled with creating content or developing landing pages for your website. Let’s show you how to do 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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Taking the Next Step – Optimizing Your Emails

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 06:01

You’ve sent your emails, seen an increase in sales and are now sold on the power of email marketing. But what comes next? How do you improve your engagement, outreach, clicks and opens? How do you continue to leverage your emails and improve your campaigns? Below are three next simple steps you can take to supercharge your email marketing efforts. 

1. Create sub-lists for targeted emails: One of the best things you can do to increase the success of your email campaigns is to break down your contact list into a series of sub-lists based on various key factors. Most lists have two types of customers – active and inactive. Active customers are people who are opening and clicking your email, taking the action you want them to take and in many cases purchasing your products or services.

Once you’ve sent a few emails, you can begin to divide your list into these two groups. The active customers should receive regular emails with information about your company, products, new releases etc. But, don’t ignore the inactive customers. Instead, you want to try and engage them through short, to-the-point emails, often containing an offer that will appeal to them. Want to learn more about segmenting lists? Check out our blog post, “Improve Your Email Response Rates with List Segmentation.

2. Experiment with email styles: Now that you’re getting comfortable sending emails and communicating with your customers, it’s important to test your emails. Testing keeps emails fresh, helps you to find the best way to communicate, and allows you to discover top content, copy and design your customers are craving. Try creating emails with fun offer codes or unique holiday deals. Test various images and attention grabbing subject lines. And don’t forget, sharing your emails and updates on social media is one of the most important ways to extend the reach of your messages and engage with a larger audience.

3. Time your emails: There are a lot of studies that tell you which times get the best results when sending emails. This infographic from KISSmetrics goes into detail and provides some good starting points, but all businesses aren’t the same and neither is your customer base. It’s important to send emails at various times and look at your data in depth to see which times and for which emails (newsletters, promotional emails, etc.) are getting the most opens and clicks. Once you’ve found the best time(s), you want to continue testing to make sure that time is still the best and that your open and click rates are either increasing or staying consistent.

 

Now you’re ready to start optimizing your email campaigns. Use the above tips to also fine-tune your messaging, style and voice. Hone in on your customers’ actions and learn the best ways to keep them reading, buying and coming back for more. You’ve already harnessed the power of email marketing, now it’s time to put it to work for your business and truly get the bang for your email marketing bucks!

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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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Facebook’s Changing Algorithm: How to Make it Work for You

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 06:00

Earlier this month, Facebook execs penned a blog post describing changes to the social media giant’s news feed algorithm. Designed to curb spam and enhance the user experience, the modifications were defined in three broad categories: ‘like-baiting,’ frequently circulated content (or images and posts uploaded repeatedly), and spammy, misleading links (such as posts that purport to be links to a photo album but are purely ads.)

Like-baiting is “when a post explicitly asks News Feed readers to like, comment or share the post” in the hopes of additional distribution. Although in the past these posts were more widely seen, readers reported that they were less relevant than other stories with comparable analytics (likes, comments and shares). “Over time, these stories lead to a less enjoyable experience of Facebook since they drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about,” the Facebook blog states.

To ask for the Like or not.
Despite Facebook’s unequivocal statement indicating that posts telling readers to share/like/comment will be less shareable, Unbenchable CEO and Facebook expert Lou Abramowski has ignored the suggestion … and still received great results. In a Facebook page for Ultimate Frisbee fans, Abramowski recently posted a link to a Huffington Post article written by Isaac Saul, saying “LIKE if you know what Isaac’s talkin bout.” The post received 841 likes and 390 shares – and more than 125,000 views – in just three days. The difference may be that asking for likes, when done only on occasion and embedded with highly relevant and shareable content is different than inundating readers with prompts on a regular basis. 

User experience is key.
Some people on Facebook complain they’re inundated with the same posts or images, see a lot of material they find uninteresting or irrelevant, and sometimes even click on misleading posts which appear relevant but turn out to be anything but. The changes being made are an attempt to address these very issues, and are based on data from users who indicated which posts were relevant, as well as posts or pages they hid. Ideally, tweaks to Facebook’s algorithm will improve user’s experience with its news feed, so that content viewed is relevant and trustworthy. Facebook’s referral traffic share continues to grow, and changes that improve reader experience may lead to more people spending more time on the social media platform. 

But how do the changes affect your business’ Facebook posts? If you haven’t been reposting content ad nausea, creating misleading ads or repeatedly requesting likes, comments and shares, you may not notice any changes at all – or maybe even experience a slight increase in how often your posts are viewed. To increase the shareability of your Facebook content, though, it’s best to keep in mind the tips below. 

Consider Facebook ads – and make sure they’re targeted.
“Facebook has been changing their algorithms more frequently over the last year,” says Celeste Horton, a production manager at online marketing firm WebScout. “Business pages are having a tougher time reaching their audience. This is forcing businesses to pay for ads in order to be seen by a broader audience.”  

What’s the best way to get people to consistently read and share your content on Facebook? Other than making sure the content is high quality, ensuring the right people see it is key.

“Don’t waste ad dollars on people who don’t want to see your content,” says Horton. “Target the right person you want to reach, not just the [entire] U.S.” 

Luckily, Facebook ads allow for very specific targeting by location, age, interests and other demographics. Make sure to be extremely specific about who you want to reach. Targeting the right person increases clicks and shares. It also leads to more people following you – so they’ll read your content without having to see ads going forward. We created a short guide to walk you through creating a simple Facebook retargeting ad. 

Even a small budget for ads can have a good ROI.
Horton spends just $5 a week in Facebook advertising on one of her clients, a small amount which she believes would just be a drop in the bucket on Google Adwords. Five dollars a week can lead to 3,000 to 5,000 extra eyes on a business page, which can translate to around 10 new ‘likes’ each week as well as additional site traffic. “You definitely get bang for your buck with Facebook ads,” Horton says. “You don’t need to spend a lot of money.”

Post previews with images are better than photos alone.
“Photos are going to be shown more than if you just use text, and that’s across the board for any kind of business,” says Horton. She’s also noticed that posting a link with the preview image is more widely shown than just posting a link, even if you add in your own photo. Make sure to use stock images, or your own photos, for your posts and share those same images along with the link in Facebook. 

As always, make sure you’re sharing fantastic content.
Much like Google, the details of Facebook’s algorithm will always be somewhat secretive, but one thing is clear: your content marketing will always yield a far better return if you post quality content. No amount of targeted ads or social media savvy can make a rushed post instantly shareable. The better your posts, the more fans will engage with them – which, Horton points out, means they’ll be more likely to see your updates in their news feed. So, make sure to put your best foot forward on your blog and, hopefully, fans will follow. 

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