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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.

The post How to Choose the Right Display Advertising Network appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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.

The post 4 Sure Fire Ways to Win Back Customers with Email appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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.

The post 5 Elements of an Effective Call to Action appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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.

The post How to Pick Effective Keywords [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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.

The post Taking the Next Step – Optimizing Your Emails appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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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© 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’s Changing Algorithm: How to Make it Work for You appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How Email Marketing Helps Your Small Business [GUIDE]

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 06:00

If you’re wondering how email marketing can boost your business, you’re not alone. Plenty of savvy business minds have pondered that question. VerticalResponse is here to get you the answers you need.

Like any smart business owner, you want to know the benefits of email marketing. There’s a whole list of benefits, which we’ll cover here, but one of the most compelling reasons to use email marketing is its return on investment (ROI).

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing brings in about $40 for every $1 you spend. That’s one of the highest ROIs for any type of marketing.

While that statistic is impressive, we know you desire more information to make an informed decision, so we turned to Jill Bastian, our Community Education and Training Manager. With her help, we’ve outlined five ways that email marketing can help your business.

1. Email marketing can increase sales

You want your email efforts to pay off in sales. By sharing information about your business through emails, you help customers see how valuable your product or service is, Bastian says. That leads to money in the cash register.

What kinds of emails bring in the most sales? The best way to increase sales through email marketing is to send a variety of emails to your customers, but there are a few types of emails that generally help drive sales more than others:

Promotional email

Nothing entices a customer more than a great deal. Your customer saves a few bucks and your bottom line gets a boost. Not bad, right? Keep in mind, promotional emails aren’t reserved for only things like, “Don’t miss our 50% off sale.” A promotional email can offer other perks too, like free shipping or a free product trial. For example, J.Crew offered free shipping in this email.

New arrival email

When a hot new item, service or update arrives at your store, an email spreads the word about this must-have product. In the email, include a link so shoppers can make a purchase instantly. Electronics giant, Apple, does this with its new products. Check out the example below.

While these emails can boost sales, you can’t sell 24/7. Your customers want more than that. Every email you send can get customers one-step closer to making a purchase, which is why a variety of emails is the best strategy. Emails help you build trust, establish a relationship, and improve brand awareness – all of which play a role in the purchasing process.

2. Emails keep your business top of mind

Email marketing can help your product or business remain top of mind to your consumers. Emails serve as gentle reminders about your business. Let’s say you run an auto body shop and regularly email your customers promotions and car maintenance tips. When Susie gets in a fender bender, your business springs to mind because of your consistent emails. As a result, Susie heads to your shop for repairs. Emails help you stay in front of your customers on a regular basis, Bastian says.

What kinds of emails keep your business top of mind? There are several actually. These emails are more about staying in touch with customers and less about selling. Here are a few examples:

Newsletters

A company newsletter is a great way to update your customers about your business. The sky’s the limit for newsletter content. You can offer small history lessons about your business, talk about upcoming events, highlight employees, or offer industry-specific news and tips. The newsletter below even offers free downloads.

A holiday email

When a holiday rolls around, you can send your customers a holiday email. It can be a three-sentence email that wishes everyone a Happy New Year, or a colorful banner that celebrates the Fourth of July and offers customers a discount. It can be a nontraditional holiday, too. Either way, a holiday is a good reason to reach out to your customers.

3. Keep customers coming back with regular emails

Emails help you build a lasting relationship with your customers. You don’t just want one-time customers; you want loyal customers who keep coming back again and again. Email marketing can make that goal a reality. By regularly reaching out to your customers, you encourage them to make another purchase. Just like bumping into a friend on the street can lead to meeting up for drinks later, an email works the same way. The email is the spontaneous meeting, and a purchase is the result.

What kinds of emails keep repeat business booming? Again, a variety is best, but there are few emails, in particular, that help bring customers back into the sales cycle.

Reorder emails

If you have a product or service that is consistently needed, a reorder email is an excellent way to remind customers that it’s time to purchase. For instance, if you sell printer cartridges, you can send an email to a customer two weeks before the cartridge is set to run out. This requires some tracking, of course, but it’s a great way to encourage repeat business.

‘We miss you’ email

When a customer has fallen off the sales grid for a while, you can send an email that encourages them to come back. The email can say something as simple as, “We miss you.” You might include a discount to entice the customer to come back again.

4. Use emails to establish your authority

Email marketing can help you establish authority in your field. You want to show customers that you know your business inside and out. Through creative emails you can showcase your knowledge without bragging. The best way to do that is to send emails that provide value to your customers.

Plus, emails that provide value get shared. It’s like virtual word of mouth. When you send Bobby an email that’s helpful, he may forward it on to his buddy. You’re establishing your business as a leader in the industry and gaining customers. There’s an array of emails that can establish your vast array of knowledge. Here’s a look at three options:

Product use tips

Help your customers get more out of your product by giving them helpful advice. Offer maintenance tips or highlight features of a product. For instance, if you sell silver jewelry, you can send emails that show customers how to keep their accessories from tarnishing. A camera retailer sends this simple email to its customers. The email takes customers to a blog post that highlights winter maintenance tips.

Industry news

Give your customers information they care about by highlighting news in the industry. If you sell tax software, send an email about new deductions.If you sell women’s clothing, send an email like the one below that gives ladies a fashion tip.

Newsletter

A newsletter is an effective way to share news, tips, how-tos, events and even a promotion or two. The mix of information makes newsletters valuable and informative.

5. Establish and nurture relationships through email

It’s human nature to rely on those you trust. It’s no different in business. You can use email to establish and nurture a relationship with your customers. Think of emails as a virtual handshake or a conversation between you and your customers. Emails give you a chance to make a personal connection. Whether you’re courting new customers or engaging with loyal members, an email campaign is one of the best ways to build a relationship. A variety of emails serve this purpose, but here are a few that are perfect for relationship building:

Welcome email

When a new customer signs up for your email list, a welcome email can introduce them to the company and its products or services. It can be a quick welcome email with a promotion, or you can try a welcome email that offers more information, like the one below.

Newsletter

Newsletters make customers feel connected to your company. It’s a big piece of the relationship puzzle.

Testimonial email

Use email marketing to share customer reviews. By sharing a testimonial you reaffirm your customers’ choice in your business. That’s helpful when you’re nurturing a relationship. Here’s an example:

Of course, VerticalResponse is here to help you make the most of every email you send. We’ve got helpful resources and a team available to help you create emails that can set your business apart. We’ll help you make each one of the benefits listed above a reality.

Get started today. It’s free!

© 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 Email Marketing Helps Your Small Business [GUIDE] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Need Content? Tap into the Crowd!

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 06:00

You probably learn a great deal from interacting with your clients or customers. Often, they have success stories from using your product or service in an innovative way, or they love working with your team and are advocates for your company.

This is why crowdsourcing, (getting quotes, information, ideas, etc. from your current customers), is an excellent way to tap into the collective knowledge of your customer base and create content at the same time. This can also help raise brand engagement, and give you ideas for improving or developing your product or service. Here are some ways to leverage content created by your biggest fans or power users, and incorporate it into your marketing mix.

Q+A

Anyone you interact with who asks you a question about your services, or about your area of expertise, is giving you some valuable information about the mindset of other prospects – who likely have the same question. Keep a spreadsheet, a Google Doc or notebook handy to add these questions to the list. You can refer to it when working on a Frequently Asked Questions section for your site (or product), or topics for blog posts or emails to send to your list.

Don’t be afraid to go back to the person commenting for more information, especially if you feel it’s already been answered elsewhere on your site. Their question may be more complex than you think it is. 

Testimonials
Those raving emails or comments on Facebook or Twitter singing the praises of your product are gold. With permission, you can repurpose them as testimonials. There are even some WordPress plugins, such as Tweetstimonials, which will show those positive comments directly on your website. 

Case studies
Case studies are also a great way to tap into the information sent in by your readers – or which you solicit yourself. Case studies will not only help you understand the direct impact your product made on one of your customers, but they will also help your readers or prospects better understand how others interact with your services. 

Crowdsourced blog posts
You may want to gather tips from valuable contributors – be they experts, customers or thought leaders in your industry, and ask them for tips on a specific topic by a deadline you agree upon. Simply ask them to answer a question in just a few sentences, explaining to them that the answers you select will be published on your company blog or sent out to your email list. 

These tips can then be compiled into a blog post. Many of the contributors will share the post to their own networks, increasing your reach. 

Critiques
If you’ve built up a lot of rapport with your readers, they may allow you the opportunity to publicly critique their work in an area that you teach. This is especially true if there’s an educational component to your business. Beginners may be interested in targeted feedback about the skill you teach, whether it’s classical guitar, gardening or illustration. 

Contests
Ask your readers to share photos or videos with your product on your Facebook page or a shared Pinterest board, or even via email. You can post a slideshow of these images and have readers vote on their favorites. Make sure to acknowledge participants publicly so they can have bragging rights – or a prize!

Contests don’t have to be limited to photos and videos. Ask readers to share their favorite recipes using your artisanal sauces, a list of top three rules in your industry, or a caption for an image you share. As a rule of thumb, always adhere to the contest rules for any social platform you use as they vary and change constantly. 

Some words of wisdom

Quality
Just because information is crowdsourced doesn’t mean quality doesn’t matter. Make sure to carefully sift through responses, selecting only ones that tell a compelling story that will engage readers.

Ownership

When crowdsourcing information, copyright and ownership are always an issue. Make sure to receive permission to use any written work or images, and have a backup plan in place in case, for example, a user takes down a YouTube video that you’ve posted. If you’re planning on using crowdsourcing for a logo or any graphics, or work of that nature, make sure that you have a contract granting you permission to use the images you’ve selected. 

Enjoy
Using crowdsourced content can take time in a different way from creating it on your own, but make sure to take a moment to appreciate your customers’ experience, and let their unique perspectives inform and inspire you. 

How have you used crowdsourced content for your business? Share your experience in the comments! 

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

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How to Tie Current Events into Your Email Marketing

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 06:00

Daily news might sound like an odd place to turn to for email marketing ideas, but it can be a gold mine of topics. For instance, a spring snowstorm that makes headlines could inspire a “snowmageddon” email promotion. From Opening Day of Major League Baseball to an upcoming election, you have a lot of options.

Alan Guinn, who helps small businesses with email marketing at The Guinn Consultancy Group, says emails that focus on current and/or unique events are a great way to boost interest. 

“If you can identify unique events and tie them to your business, you’ll find that your emails command more interest and are opened more frequently,” he says. 

To infuse your emails with a current event, take a look at an example. The email below uses Opening Day to invite fans to a local bar and restaurant. 

To:   (Name from Email List)
From:  Jack’s Restaurant
Date:   March 31, 2014
Subject line: Hey Baseball Fan. We Bet You’re Watching Opening Day.  
Body:   It’s been a long, cold winter, baby, but today is Opening Day for baseball! And we’re betting that you’re going to be sitting there, watching the game. What more perfect time could there be for a tall, cold Moon Ray Ale? Join us at Jack’s and pop open a tall, cold, Moon Ray Ale right now. It’s a guaranteed Home Run!
We’re looking for you! C’mon down!

Subject line
The subject line is attention grabbing, right? Baseball fans gear up for Opening Day. It’s a big deal. If an email lands in your inbox that focuses on something you like, you’ll open it. Whatever event you’re trying to capitalize on, you should mention it in the subject line.

Body
The first line of the email message instantly taps a nerve for anyone dealing with the never-ending winter. It mentions Opening Day quickly and invites customers to the restaurant to watch all the action. Notice that it also mentions a specific product that’s exclusive to Joe’s Restaurant: Moon Ray Ale. So, in just a few sentences the email makes a connection to the customer and the current event, encourages customers to come to restaurant and promotes a product. Not bad, huh? 

When it comes to the email message, you want to write something short and succinct like the example above. Get to the point quickly; otherwise you risk losing the customer.

Call to action
In this case, the call to action is an invitation, but you can up the ante by adding a promotion. For instance, offer customers a discount on their first round of drinks or 25% off appetizers. Who could turn down baseball and a half-priced beer?

Finding “emailable” current events might take a little practice, but once you create one or two, you’ll get the hang of it. Look for events that the majority of your customers know about, and then get your creative juices flowing. You’ll have a catchy current event email created in no time.

Need more email inspiration? No worries. We’ve got you covered. Check out this guide: 50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email.

 

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

The post How to Tie Current Events into Your Email Marketing appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Creating Facebook Retargeting Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 06:00

Facebook empowers businesses of all sizes to retarget their existing customers. Why? Retargeting allows you to stay top of mind, build deeper relationships and hopefully sell more products and services by sending marketing content and advertising specifically to people who are familiar with your business. Here, we walk you through the basics of creating a Facebook retargeting ad in this quick guide.

Getting Started

1. On the left-hand column of your Facebook News Feed page, click Ads Manager.

2. Next, click on Audiences in the left navigation bar.

3. Click on the green Create Audience button in the upper right-hand corner.

4. Now you can upload a custom audience data file by clicking on the Data File Custom Audience. Your custom audience data file should include email addresses, user IDs, phone numbers, etc. of your current customers. They’ll be matched with people on Facebook to create an audience. Files must be in .csv or .txt format.

5. Name your audience and provide a brief description. Before you upload your file, select the type of information that you want Facebook to cross-reference in your database. Though you can choose User ID, Phone Number and/or Mobile Advertiser ID, the most common information is an email address from your customer database.

6. Select your type option and click the Choose File button to locate your data file. Note: You cannot use a purchased list.

Once you click the Create Audience button, Facebook will cross-reference your database with active Facebook profile accounts and provide you with an active audience in your Facebook Ad Manager that you can now retarget.

7. Next, create any type of advertisement for your ‘new’ audience.

8. When creating your ad, choose the new segment you just created under the ‘create your audience’ section. You’re done! It’s as easy as that.

Using the power of retargeting on Facebook, you can leverage a smaller advertising budget to target a qualified audience. This can translate into more traffic to your website and more sales for your business.

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 Creating Facebook Retargeting Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Big Tips for More Email Clicks

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 06:05

You’re sending your emails, checking your stats; everything is clicking along for your email marketing. But wait, no, things aren’t clicking along; in fact, your clicks seem low compared to the number of people who opened your email. What’s one to do? Well, you shouldn’t write off the importance of click throughs, because they represent email readers who are interested and engaged in your business. Email opens are important, but once someone’s read your email, you also need him/her to take action (sign up, buy, donate, watch, read) and that requires a click to your website. So how do you get readers to click through? Here are 4 big tips:

1. Include More Links – Many people simply don’t add enough links within their email to give readers the opportunity to click on. Add two to three links per section or paragraph, and link all of your headlines and images. Make sure your links go directly to the product or article you’re speaking of – don’t drop them on the home page of your site and hope they find the product/service/blog post you want them to see. They never will, and will leave your website not having taken the action you desire. Try linking these elements in your emails to increase your clicks:

  • Headlines and subheads
  • Pre-header
  • Call to action buttons
  • Table of contents 
  • Logo
  • Header/footer
  • Images
  • Keywords or phrases (ex: practical tips, here’s how, 5 ways)
  • Text appropriate for a link (i.e, product name, company name)
  • Testimonials or customer ratings

2. Improve Your Call to Action (CTA) - No matter what kind of email you’re sending, there’s a purpose or action you want your readers to take. This is your call to action – the action you want your recipients to take. If you’re seeing lower click through numbers than you expect, check out your CTA, as it could be the culprit. If you haven’t given your readers something to do, say, “Read More!” or “Watch this Video,” it could be that they don’t know how, or aren’t encouraged to get more info mentioned in your email.

Keep your CTA clear, to the point and have one ultimate call to action per email. Don’t add too many conflicting main call to actions in your email (ex: Sign up here, watch this, buy now, read this). If you give people too many options, they won’t choose anything! One easy way to draw attention to your CTA and help encourage clicks is to use a button. You can have your button say whatever you need it to say, but again, make it clear and concise. We have a free button tool to help you create the right button for you: buttons.verticalresponse.com. Here are some fun and effective examples of CTA buttons:

3. Mobilize Your Email – Your readers want your email to be full of great info and easy to read. About half of all emails are now being read on some kind of mobile device, so you need an email that works well on any platform it’s being read on. So be sure to use a mobile friendly template if you’re using an email service, or keep your email to a one-column layout at the very least. Using CTA buttons can help your mobile readers a lot, as it’s much easier to tap a button on a smaller screen than it is to touch a text link. And again, keep your CTA clear because your mobile readers won’t spend as much time reading your email on that small screen, so tell them what you need them to do right away.

4. Work on Your Subject Line – While your subject line is a big part of what gets your emails opened, it can also contribute to your click through if it’s compelling enough and has a call to action. Try adding a call to action in your pre-header text as well, to give your readers a reason to open your email and click through. And while you’re at it, double check that the info you include in your email is what you promised when your readers signed up for your list. If you’ve started to wander off topic, it could be that your readers have lost interest in the email, and aren’t clicking through.

Try one, or even better, all of these suggestions and see if your click through numbers go up – We bet they will!

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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 4 Big Tips for More Email Clicks appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 12:46

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

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

The post Advice from a Social Pro: Integrating Social into Your Marketing Mix [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Social Media Marketing Automation Dos and Don’ts

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 06:01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 8 Most Overused Words in PR and Marketing

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Your Email Response Rates with List Segmentation

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 09:18

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

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

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

Segmentation is useful for a variety of reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing Content from a Facebook Page to Profile [VIDEO]

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:07

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

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

Authentication Changes at Yahoo! Impact Email Marketing

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 13:53

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

What changed?

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

Will this change affect you?

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

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

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

What should you do? 

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

What about other email providers?

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

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

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