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50 Unique Ideas for Your Next Email [Guide]

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 06:00

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

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


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

Peculiar People Day

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

Dress Up Your Pet Day

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

Compliment Day

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

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

Celebrate Opposite Day

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

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


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

Generate more email interest

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

‘Fall in Love’ partnership

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

Create a shopping guide

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

Introduce a QR code

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


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

Run a March Madness promotion

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

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

Start a bracket

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

Run a photo contest

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

Video contest inspired by a world record

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


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

Celebrate YouTube

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

A company newsreel

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

A video about your services

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

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

Go out on a ‘Vine’

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


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

Start a company newsletter

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

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

Celebrate milestones

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

Offer a history lesson

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

A recap of the year

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

Celebrate mom

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


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

Celebrate National Trails Day

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

Send a summer discount code

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

Welcome summer and new guests

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

Summer giving

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

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

Remember Dads and Grads

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


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

The perfect Fourth of July party

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

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

Recognize a vet

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

Remember the first walk on the moon

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

Made in America email

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


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

A watermelon-centered email

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

Ring in ‘Work Like a Dog Day’

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

Tips to use your product better

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

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

Celebrate Relaxation Day with a reorder email

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


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

Offer a back-to-school discount

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


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

A favorite teacher contest

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

Last chance sale

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

Dorm decorating tips

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


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

An email celebrating email

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

Send out a survey

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

Retro social media posts

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

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


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

Create a testimonial email

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

Generate an email stuffed with facts

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

Focus on cause marketing

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

Ask for feedback

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


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

Take advantage of National Cookie Day

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

An email full of gift ideas

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

Email a holiday greeting card

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

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

Be a holiday time-saver

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

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


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

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

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

Catch up on New Pinterest Tools That Can Help Your Business

Thu, 03/20/2014 - 06:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Pin update email

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

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

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

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

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

Have you tried out any of the new features on Pinterest? Let us know in the comments!

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

The post Catch up on New Pinterest Tools That Can Help Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Celebrating 13 Years with a New VerticalResponse

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 12:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 09:15

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

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

1. Send a March Madness promotional email

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

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

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

2. Invite customers to participate in a giveaway

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

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

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

3. Send email bracket invites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Questions to Ask Before You Create a Facebook Ad

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:00

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

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

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

What are you trying to accomplish with your Facebook ad?

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

Where do you want your Facebook ad to appear?

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

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

How do you want to pay for your ad?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Art of the PR Follow-Up

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 06:00

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

Nothing. Nada. Crickets.

Now what?

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

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

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

What to Do After You Hit “Send”

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

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

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

To Call or Not to Call

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

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

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

I’ve Followed Up. What Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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Small Business Survey Reveals Social Media Trends [Infographic]

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 06:05

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

After analyzing the data we discovered a few interesting highlights.

Small businesses:

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

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

Realize the value of blogging in their content marketing strategy.

Find value in video and review sites.

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

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

Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

Courtesy of: VerticalResponse

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Navigating Google Webmaster Tools – Tips in 2 [Video]

Fri, 03/14/2014 - 06:00

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


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The post Navigating Google Webmaster Tools – Tips in 2 [Video] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Small Business Lessons that are Anything but Cliché

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 06:00

In 2011, Dani Sheehan-Meyer decided to open an upscale gift shop called Cliché Noe Gift Store in Noe Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco. With a background in sales, marketing and advertising, Meyer brought a certain marketing savvy that not all small business owners have since most business owners are not marketers.

In a few short years Meyer learned a great deal about what she did and didn’t want her store to be, and she spends seven days a week working toward that goal. Over shrimp salad and a glass of sauv blanc in her home above the shop, Meyer broke down what she’s learned that any small business can relate to.

Be Known for Something

Meyer decided that she would never compete against the “big guys” because she felt it would be a losing battle. She didn’t want to fall into a “Gap” mentality where she was constantly discounting her products, or having to mark things down in order to sell them. She decided early on that Cliché Noe would differentiate itself from the competition by becoming known for their high level of service and customer experience.

But first, Cliché Noe had to get found by potential customers. Meyer focused her energy on being a part of the community where her store is located. She joined the local merchants association, the larger San Francisco Council District Merchants Association and worked with other local merchants and businesses to create a guide to help market the neighborhood to locals and tourists alike. Meyer took it a step further by connecting with the local tourism agencies and became part of the Northern California Concierge Association and connected with San Francisco travel writers. These efforts helped focus on drawing people to the neighborhood as a destination where they could then experience Cliché Noe amongst other local offerings and gave people reasons to return again and again.

Quality Trumps Quantity

In her first year in business, Meyer focused on volume, not necessarily quality and she learned an important lesson from a $6 knife. After Thanksgiving, a customer came into the store with a $6 knife he had purchased that broke. He was disappointed given he had purchased it to carve his Thanksgiving turkey. Meyer decided in that moment to stay true to her desire to provide an incredible customer experience and to give the level of service her upscale urban customers expected. She refunded the customer’s money and made sure he left satisfied with the interaction. 2 years later, he’s still one of her best customers and comes in often to purchase gifts. If she had refused the return, she would have surely lost his loyalty.  Meyer also decided she would stop carrying low quality items that could be a liability for the store, instead refocusing on items that carried a level of brand recognition, prestige and value based on quality.

You Gotta Market Your Biz

Even though Meyer, like most small business owners works 7 days a week and never seems to have enough time, she admits that “you have to market your business – whether you like it or not!” Meyer keeps her focus by using email from VerticalResponse to send out invitations to events at the shop (including the popular Chocolate and Prosecco Night) to her list of about 1,000 subscribers, which she is aggressively growing. Cliché Noe is also active on social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp. Meyer saves time by linking her Twitter and Facebook accounts so she can post once and publish the content to both sites. She also takes advantage of SixDoors, an app that aggregates local vendors, and provides them with access to mobile commerce services. Six Doors has 70+ unique stores and brands that represent the very best of what San Francisco has to offer.

So where does Meyer go from here? She’s determined to make her small business anything but cliché!

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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 a Sewer Company Successfully Took it to the Gutter for Engagement

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 06:00

San Francisco Water Power Sewer is not a business you’d associate with creative marketing campaigns and killer social media. But guess what? It has done what many non-traditional companies struggle with their entire existence. It created a campaign all about #2 and are driving wild engagement with it. Here’s how:

1. Ads in the right place at the right time. In the city of San Francisco, heaps of commuters rely on our public transportation known as MUNI. San Francisco Water Power Sewer placed its clever marketing campaign, posting slogans like, “Your #2 is my #1″ and “No one deals with more crap than I do,” on both the inside and outside of MUNI buses and trains. Plus, they translated them into many languages to serve the diverse population in San Francisco. And guess what? The audience inside and outside saw them, starting taking pictures and creating a buzz.

2. They manned up on social media. You might not think a sewer service would be a case study for how to do it right on social media, but in this case you’d be wrong. San Francisco Water Power Sewer has done what many a tech company can only dream of. It has driven engagement with tons of user-generated content. You see all those pictures of the ads that are being snapped and shared are being leveraged on the San Francisco Water Power Sewer social media channels. And the folks sharing them are oozing with love about the campaign. Plus, there are real, live people at the other end (no pun intended) responding and conversing with folks that share. Check out a few of the posts from their Twitter feed.

3. They took a risk. Ask most traditional service based companies how risk averse they are and most would answer “very.” That’s what makes this campaign so innovative and inspiring. It took a huge risk with their potty humor and it’s totally working. By being a little cheeky the company was able to talk about something usually only discussed behind closed doors and raise awareness about the service they offer to the city and the residents.

How can you draw inspiration for your own campaigns? I’d love to hear 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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Content and Pay Per Click – Using them Together for Success

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 06:00

With the rise of social media and Google’s search algorithm favoring new and unique content, there’s been a lot of buzz these days around producing content. Blogging, informational videos, infographics, guides, and the like are more popular now than ever. All this great content provides businesses with a unique opportunity to gain new customers.

If your business isn’t currently producing content for your prospects and customers, you should definitely start now. Writing and producing content that speaks to your target audience is a fantastic way to get your name out there and build trust with potential customers. Even if you start small, it’s worth the time investment. In this post, we discuss ways you can get even more out of the content you’re already producing by using it in conjunction with Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.

Bidding on Relevant Keywords Around Your Content                                    

Oftentimes, customers choose companies, products, and/or services based on brand recognition and trust. Steering these customers to your content through paid search efforts is a terrific way to beat your competitors and start building the relationship before they buy. It’s a good idea to bid on relevant keywords around what your blog offers. For example, if your business sells garden tools and you have a blog that features daily gardening tips, you’ll want to bid on the keyword phrases like  “gardening tips,” “gardening guides,” “gardening resources,” “gardening blog,” etc. By bidding on these keywords and bringing in traffic to your content, you can reach potential customers higher up in the sales funnel. If you feel your content is especially helpful, it can go a long way to establish brand trust and thought leadership. One thing you have to remember is that these customers may not be ready to buy yet and therefore may take longer convert. Through additional messaging, you can nurture these customers until they’re ready to purchase.

Placing PPC Ads on Your  YouTube Videos

Perhaps your business produces video blog posts (vlogs), webinars, video tips, or other video content such as product demos and loads them onto a business YouTube page (another good idea).  You can actually place PPC ads right over your videos. If viewers like what they see, they can immediately click on your ad and go directly to your website versus having to visit your website on their own. This is more beneficial because you can tailor the experience and the messaging to those viewers, which should increase your closing rate.

Remarketing to Your Content Visitors

PPC Remarketing is another fantastic method that gives you additional opportunities to convert your content visitors. By placing a remarketing pixel on the webpages that contain your content and/or resources, you can show remarketing ads to someone after he/she has left your page and is browsing the web. Again, this is helpful because you can tailor a relevant message based on what previous pages or content they visited on your site. You can offer additional information or promotional offers in order to entice them to come back, sign up, or make a purchase.

Creating content is an easy way to get customers to your website and establish brand trust and thought leadership. Brand trust and reputation is a key step in the decision process for most buyers. By pairing relevant content with PPC, you can increase the effectiveness and the overall impact of that content.

How do you use content for your PPC campaigns? Let us know in the comments below.

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

The post Content and Pay Per Click – Using them Together for Success appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Must-Send Emails to Keep Your Business Top of Mind

Mon, 03/10/2014 - 06:00

Sending out marketing emails regularly is a great way to keep your customers thinking about your business.

“Emails are a cost-effective way to stay top of mind with customers,” says Meredith Liepelt, branding strategist for Rich Life Marketing. “Email allows you to communicate with people who have self-selected into your list. These are people who have raised their hand to say, ‘I want to hear more about what you have to offer.’  When you nurture your list respectfully, it can help build your business, keep you top of mind and increase your sales.”

The question is, what kind of emails should you send to help this effort? Good question. We’ve got the answers. Here are four emails you should send to stay relevant to your customers.

1. A  newsletter

Offer your readers educating, entertaining and valuable content in a newsletter. And, send it out on a regular basis so customers come to expect it.

Your email newsletter can have a variety of information in it including anything from company news to upcoming events, but make sure its overall look is well-organized. Offer bite-sized pieces of information in a quick, easy-to-digest format.

Videos are also a good addition to a newsletter, Liepelt says. This newsletter from Skin Perfect has a three-minute video of a business owner speaking at an event with information about another opportunity to meet the owner.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery also includes a video in their monthly newsletters. The topics change every month, it could be an interview with wine maker, a talk about the harvest or their new wine app.

2. A holiday email

When a holiday rolls around, send some e-love to your customers. From Thanksgiving to the first day of summer, you can use any holiday to send your customers some virtual cheer. Here’s an example.

If you want, you can include a discount to entice your customers to do a little shopping on your site. Either way, the point of the holiday email is just to let your customers know that you’re thinking about them.

3. An anniversary email

When a customer signs up for your email list, keep track of the signup date and send an anniversary email a few months later. True Citrus, a company that sells flavored packets for water, has a good example. Three months into a customer’s subscription, the company sends an anniversary email along with a discount.

4. Ask for feedback via email

Asking for feedback is an interactive way to stay top of mind with your customers. After a customer makes a purchase, send a thank you email and ask for feedback with an easy link. By knowing as much as possible about your customers, you can offer valuable content to help your customers. Here’s an example of an email asking for feedback from a local dentist.

These four emails serve as a reminder to your customers that you’re ready to be of service. Through strategic emails, your business will remain top of mind, which will encourage your customers to keep coming back.

Are you sending these four emails? Have any others you think are valuable?

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

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

The post 4 Must-Send Emails to Keep Your Business Top of Mind appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Deciphering Twitter Search – Tips in 2 [Video]

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 06:00

Derek Overbey, Senior Social Media Manager at VerticalResponse walks you through the ins and outs of Twitter Search in this video from our new series of helpful, two-minute small business marketing tips: Tips in 2. On Twitter, you can search for people, photos, videos, news and more. Discover how easy it is to use Twitter Search to help your business.


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

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The Best Email, Social Media and Digital Marketing Posts You May Have Missed

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 06:00

About 38.7 million new blog posts are published every day on WordPress alone. With all that content buzzing around on the Internet, chances are, you most likely missed 1.6 million potentially mind blowing, life changing blog posts every hour! Sure, there are plenty of “fish in the sea,” but remove posts including cat videos (I’ll only judge you a little if these do change your life), and you still have a lot of juicy content out there that could be vital to your next marketing move. With so many options, and so little time, it’s easy to let good a thing pass you by. Where’s the Missed Connections section for blog posts when you need one? So to save you the trouble, here’s roundup of the best email, social and digital marketing posts from the VR Marketing blog you may have missed. Don’t let one of them be “the one that got away”!

Email Marketing:

Social Media Marketing:

Digital Marketing:


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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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Using Humor in Your Marketing

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 06:00

Even big businesses are cashing in on using humor and trying to take the old stodgy out of big business: Look at Geico with a camel asking employees, ”What day is it?” Or Kmart going out on a huge limb with the “Ship my pants” commercials. And who couldn’t love Sprint’s “Totes McGoats” ad. Even Chobani, a relatively small guy in the mix, had a funny ad.

And it’s not just TV; these videos are getting watched on YouTube by the millions.

It must be difficult for these big companies to “toe the line” with how far they can go, not to mention the legal approvals they have to jump through to pull it off.

Good news for you: You don’t have to jump through hoops. You can have fun with your brand and your marketing much easier than the big guys. Here are a few ideas of how to inject some fun in your marketing without getting in trouble.

Have fun with your logo.

Google does it all the time. In fact, it solicits logo ideas from students in the Doodle4Google competition; winners get their logos featured. Our team at VerticalResponse “holiday-ed” up some of our own customer logos. When you add some flair to your logo, you can use it for all kinds of things and drive more customers to your site or location.

Repost funny cartoons that have to do with your business.

Dilbert is a great example of an “office setting” that a business can use. When we use cartoons on our social-media feeds, we check to see if there is a copyright. If there is, we pay for it; if there isn’t, we link the cartoon back to the original site. Grammarly does a great job using humor that pokes fun at common grammar and spelling errors on its social feeds. You can get a ton of interaction with it.

Test a wacky advertising idea.

Petcamp, a pet care facility in the Bay Area, did a great job with a contest to name its mascot. It was wildly successful in its email marketing as well as on its Facebook page.

Have fun with a tchotchke.

Speaking of pets, our email marketing company, VerticalResponse, made a huge splash at a recent event that benefited pet adoptions with our logo’ed “butt scratchers” (really dog brushes), and that’s exactly how we gave them away. People loved them.

A fun video series.

Why not have a weekly or twice monthly video about something in your business, and make it fun! Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV built a business selling wine because of his zany videos. As he puts it, he loves the spoken word way better than the written one, and, boy, has he made a success of it. A number of years back when we first launched our product on the Salesforce AppExchange, we took our VP of Product and our Director of MarComm to the streets to create a fun music video and even all these years later it still gets views.

Are you using humor in your marketing? Share in the comments.

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

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

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Get the Most from Your Transactional Emails

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 06:00

Transactional emails are the messages sent after someone has had some kind of interaction with your company. Wikipedia defines them as:

“Transactional emails are usually triggered based on a customer’s action with a company. Triggered transactional messages include dropped basket messages, purchase or order confirmation emails and email receipts.”

The primary purpose of a transactional email is to convey information regarding the action that triggered it.

Okay, that definition may be a bit dry, but it does it the job, right?  Your email marketing messages, especially the transactional ones, do a specific job, but they don’t have to be dry and can be more effective if they aren’t. According to Experian, transactional emails have high open and click through rates, perhaps higher than your marketing emails, so they’re wonderful opportunities to engage recipients.

Here are 3 things your transactional emails should be in order to deliver:

Friendly  – Your transactional emails are a necessity for your business, but also an important touch point you have with your customers. This is an opportunity for you to show your business’ personality and even fun side. As long as your email has all the important details your customers need, there’s no reason you can’t pep up an otherwise boring email. And with a usually higher open rate, your transactional emails could win over more readers to sign up for the other emails you send.

Informative – Ultimately, the purpose of your transactional emails is to give your customers specific information. In addition to information such as a purchase confirmation, shipping details or a donation receipt, include things they may need like a contact email address or phone number, shipment tracking links and social media buttons to enable them to connect with you in other ways. Your email should be easy to read and more importantly, mobile friendly. Use a simple one-column layout, a logo at the top, brief text and easy-to-click links.

As long as the vital info is covered and easy to read, don’t be afraid to include links to your website or a call-to-action button. And, of course, you can encourage them readers to join your email marketing mailing list since they’ve interacted with your company.

Timely – This may be obvious, but your transactional emails need to be sent out in a timely fashion. They contain important and sometimes time sensitive information for your customers. The more timely an email, the more relevant it usually is for the recipient.

Here are some examples of transactional emails done right:

Cost Plus World Market sends out a thank you email when someone signs up for their mailing list. It has great things going for it, including a warm friendly tone, a call-to-action button and social network buttons:

Rue La La has an eye-catching and comforting subject line that lets you know all went well with your purchase. They also personalize the email with your name and let you know they’ll send an email with shipping details once they have the info.

Jackson and Perkins also has an effective subject line confirming the shipped order. They’ve included links to their social networks and to different parts of their website, just in case you need them. The body of the email is warm, friendly and short, but contains everything you’d need to know, including an email address for questions.

Sometimes things go awry with a purchase and it has to be returned. ModCloth keeps their messaging fun and upbeat even for this kind of email. They include personalization, detailed info about the refund, two ways to ask “a ‘Q’ or two” and a nice closing.

Hopefully these examples have given you some inspiration for your own transactional emails. Or, if you haven’t been sending any, to try a few out and see what results you get. You don’t have to sell a product to have a reason to send a transactional email, and, you could see an increase in traffic to your website just by adding one of these to your marketing plan. We’ve got even more tips in our post,  How to Put the Action in Your Transactional Emails.

Are you using transactional emails for your business? Tell us how they’re working for you in the comments below!

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

The post Get the Most from Your Transactional Emails appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Is Snapchat for Small Businesses?

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 06:00

You may have heard of the photo messaging app Snapchat because your kids, nieces/nephews, or friends are using it to send photos or videos (with added text and images, if they want) to a controlled group of friends. These messages, called “snaps,” disappear from the recipients’ device after just a few seconds.

Snapchat is often used for sending raw, unedited selfies or videos of pets, or the weather. People – mostly high school and college students and recent college grads – use Snapchat to stay in touch with friends in a way that can be more interesting than texting – and without having to worry about micromanaging an online profile and making sure each post is picture perfect.

But not all snaps disappear after 10 seconds. Snapchat Stories, which rolled out last October, offers brands the ability to combine multiple snaps together and create a story that stays up for a full day, rather than a few seconds.

Brands are using Snapchat in an attempt to reach a younger demographic, says Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media. They use it for the same reason that some brands use image-based social network We Heart It. “We Heart It is like Pinterest. Somebody said to me, ‘why would somebody use that instead of Pinterest?’ Well, there’s a real simple answer. The audience of We Heart It, 80 percent of it, is below 24 years old. The audience of Pinterest, 80 percent of that is above 24 year old. So if you think about why marketers are using Snapchat, they’re trying to reach an audience that communicates that way,” he says.

Snapchat’s demographic skews younger than Instagram, but according to a Pew Research Center report, Instagram is much more popular across the board.  For instance, the report says 26 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds use Snapchat on their mobile devices, though only 5 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds use it. Meanwhile, 43 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds use Instagram on their phones; users drop significantly – to 18 percent – for those ages 30 to 49, but that’s still more than three times as many users in that age bracket than Snapchat.

 Snapchatting with customers

Larger brands – and some smaller ones – are using Snapchat as an innovative way to communicate with their clients or customers.

Taco Bell uses Snapchat to promote specials, send images of food and keep in touch with customers. “We want to make someone’s day every day with our social channels, “the brand’s social media and digital lead Tressie Lieberman told Adweek. “It feels extremely special to get a Snapchat. It’s almost like we pick up the phone and give them a call.”

Taco Bell used Twitter to tell fans they’d be making a special announcement on Snapchat, and used the app to share the return of its Beefy Crunch Burrito, building brand loyalty and customer engagement.

Online clothing retailer Karmaloop also uses Snapchat, though the photos it shares are a bit more risqué. Karmaloop also shares information on new products and coupon codes.

Clothing brand Rebecca Minkhof used Snapchat to promote a new collection during New York Fashion Week last September.

Acura used Snapchat to share the news about its NSX supercar, as well as sent videos of the car driving around the track.

16 Handles, an independent yogurt shop, is using a marketing strategy Tobin refers to as ‘reverse Snapchatting.’  “They’re asking fans to send them a Snapchat and then they send them back a coupon via another format,” he explains.

The New Orleans Saints are using the app “to get people behind the scenes, doing the warm-up during the game, the team from the sidelines, things like that, to really keep people engaged,” says Tobin.

Online food ordering company Grubhub is using Snapchat to send food pics to its fans.

MTV UK used Snapchat to promote a new season of the show “Geordie Shore,” sending behind-the-scenes footage to fans as well as reminders to watch the show.

The majority of the brands listed above are larger businesses. Although they do put some time and effort into creating snaps, much of their footage is repurposed for other platforms. And one benefit is that snaps can be raw and unedited. In fact, something overly slick with a lot of production may be a bit out of place in a medium like Snapchat.

Should your business use Snapchat? Unless you’re working hard to try to reach a very young demographic, between the ages of 13 to 24, you may want to stick to the traditional social media marketing platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+. If you’re working hard to make your marketing dollars (and hours) go as far as possible, it’s best to reach your customers, clients and prospects where they are. If you’re more of a Tumblr user, are okay with repurposing content, and are working hard to be more relevant to young adults, on the other hand, Snapchat might be worth considering.

Do you use Snapchat for fun or for your business? How does it work for you?

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

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

The post Is Snapchat for Small Businesses? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Successful Small Biz Marketing: Revzilla & The New Wheel Stay Consistent, Get Noticed

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 06:00

There are so many options today to market your business — your website, email marketing, social media marketing, Facebook page, postcards, store signage, events and more. Even your business card is a marketing tool. Whether you market your business offline or online, consistency is the key to being remembered by your customers or prospects.

Your customers get exposed to marketing messages and images not only from you, but also from your competition. People are bombarded with advertising everyday and they can only remember so much (not everyone has a Sherlock Mind Palace). So, you’ve got to be memorable by being consistent.

This post showcases two small businesses who do an excellent job of remaining consistent in both their online and offline marketing tactics: The New Wheel, an electric bike business based in San Francisco, and Revzilla, an online retail store that sells motorcycle gear. Let’s learn from example:

Using your logo in all your marketing mediums is a no-brainer. If you don’t have a professionally designed logo, you can easily get one that’s affordable and will set you apart. Use it everywhere you market yourself. Above are the logos for both The New Wheel and Revzilla. Notice the wheel/gear icon place in the middle of both logos. You’ll see this gear used throughout all of their print, social media, event and website marketing materials.

Beyond the logo, here are few tips to keep in mind for visual consistency:

1. Use an simple color scheme and complementary colors.

From their business card, website, Facebook page, and even a customer “how to” sheet, The New Wheel uses red as their primary color, using off-red, brown and black as complementary colors that don’t clash or distract from the message they’re trying to get across.

Here are examples from The New Wheel’s business card, home page, Facebook page and customer “how to” information sheet:


2. Use a limited number of fonts

Make sure your design isn’t a visual assault on the eyes. We’ve all seen websites or emails with so many colors, different size and style fonts, or even flashing words that drive you to look (and click) away as soon as possible. Select the font style and colors that work with your logo and stick to those across all your marketing materials.

Revzilla Website Homepage

Revzilla sells a wide variety of motorcycle clothes and accessories and, yes, they do want to draw attention to promotions they have going on their site. However, they’ve done it in a way that’s organized and not overwhelming by selecting colors and fonts that don’t compete with each other.

3. Stick with your design choices across all digital marketing and print materials

Check out Revzilla’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube pages. The pages aren’t duplicates, but you can clearly tell they’re all from the same company given the logo and color schemes. Revzilla also keeps that steadfast use of their logo and color scheme in any email marketing they send out, as well as a card you find in a box when you open up your new motorcycle helmet.

4. Integrate online and offline marketing

Based on the examples above, suppose you’re at a festival and see the red tent (in the picture below), but you’re not close enough to read the text. Guess whose booth it is? It’s The New Wheel’s! This is easy to tell from the color scheme and the uniform use of the wheel gear icon (and the electric bikes sitting out front, don’t hurt either!).

Whether you use all or just a subset of these offline or digital marketing techniques, you need to be consistent. Use your logo, colors and fonts to get noticed and stay noticed.

What other tips would you add? Share in the comments.

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

The post Successful Small Biz Marketing: Revzilla & The New Wheel Stay Consistent, Get Noticed appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Creative Topics to Get Your Email Marketing Mojo Going

Thu, 02/27/2014 - 06:00

Need help coming up with creative email marketing topics? Fortunately Yuriy Timen, the director of online marketing for Grammarly, has some great advice for you.

Part of Timen’s role at the automated proofreading site that spots grammar and spelling mistakes is to create compelling emails to market the service. Sound tough? Some might consider grammar a dry topic, but not Timen. He says the staff churns out fun and engaging emails all the time. The secret, he says, is creativity.

“Customers receive dozens of promotional emails every day, making it more important than ever for companies to be creative and rise above the promotional noise,” he says. “Recipients of your marketing email have high expectations and low tolerance; if you deliver unremarkable or dry content, they will unsubscribe from your emails or, worse, mark them as spam.”

Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of how to be creative. Here are five actionable tips to help you craft some nifty emails:

Send an announcement

Your business is always working on something interesting, so use your company news as a topic of an email once in a while, Timen says. For example, when Grammarly was nominated for a startup award Timen sent a newsletter to customers to let them know about the nomination and to encourage them to vote for the company in the contest.

Channel your inner comedian

Try your hand at some humorous content. When Grammarly wanted to hit a Facebook milestone of one million likes, Timen and his staff created a newsletter called “Pun Intended.” The email gives customers a taste of the humorous content that the company posts in hopes of getting more likes.

Let your customers know about a new arrival

Whether your company offers a new service, or a trendy new item just landed on your retail shelf, let your customers know about it. For example, one online retailer sent an email out to customers when new handbags were in stock. This email not only shows that your business is on top of trends, but it also keeps your brand top of mind.

Tips and tricks emails

Emails that help your customer get more from your business are a great way to build trust in your brand. Turbo Tax, a company that sells tax preparation software, sends its customers useful tips and tricks emails in list form. For example, in a recent email there is a link to “8 Great End of Year Tax Tips.” Providing valuable content that helps your readers is a win-win.

Create a discount email

While promotional emails shouldn’t make up your entire email marketing plan, sending a deal or two to your customers once in awhile isn’t a bad idea. Grammarly sent this 50-percent-off deal to its customers to drum up more business.

You can send a “just because” promotion or connect a deal to a holiday or an event like J. Crew did with this back to school discount.

You can also offer a discount as a reward. For example, Birdy Botanicals offers a 25 percent discount for signing up for company emails.

While a discount can be a helpful marketing tool, email is not just about selling, Timen says. It’s about building a relationship between a brand and its subscribers; it’s about creating content that is more likely to be shared and appreciated. To do that, you need to be creative and make sure every email is worthy of your customer’s time.

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


© 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 Creative Topics to Get Your Email Marketing Mojo Going appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Email Marketing Tips to Mazimize Your Mobile Impact

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 06:00

If you’ve discovered that your mobile phone is a great way to tackle a load of emails quickly, you’re not alone. “People use their phone to screen email a lot.” explains Cindy Krum, author of “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are” and founder and CEO of mobile marketing consultancy MobileMoxie.

As the digital world moves ever more toward mobile platforms and devices, marketers can make sure that their message gets through.

“You have to start by having a really strong presence before the email’s even opened,” says Krum.  The following email marketing mobile tips can help maximize your email’s impact so messages are more likely to be read and clicked on small screens.

Track how many clicks come from mobile users

Figuring out exactly how many of your recipients are opening your emails on mobile devices is tough. However, tracking the portion of your audience that clicks a link on a device versus a laptop or desktop is relatively easy via Google Analytics, which is free.

Krum recommends setting up different mobile landing pages that correspond to the regular desktop pages. “You just set up a script on desktop landing pages to recognize whether someone is on a mobile phone, and send them to the mobile version of the landing page,” she explains. “This is something people do a lot on websites but forget to do with email.”

Next, you’ll look at your Google Analytics dashboard to see which percentage of traffic was redirected from the desktop page to the mobile page.

“Definitely some industries will skew more towards mobile than others, but most industries right now do have people checking and clicking through on emails on their phone,” Krum says. If there’s very low or no mobile traffic, it’s possible that tracking is set up improperly.

The “from” line

Your email  ’from’ line is critical on mobile, says Krum, and appears larger than the subject line on some phones, so make sure it’s compelling.

If you have a bad ‘from’ line and you actually forget to change it and it just says ‘mail’,” then it’s not optimized and it’s not going to draw as many opens from the phone,” Krum explains.

Email previews

Since many phones provide a kind of preview of email messages, says Krum, “What’s really important for mobile is the first bit of text on the email,”or preheader, as that first line is called. The first line of text gets pulled into the subject line for a lot email programs, and that’s basically what you preview on a phone.

Plenty of businesses lead their emails with something like “Having problems reading this email?” or “Reading this on mobile?” Instead, says Krum, make sure that you have a strong preheader that reinforces your subject line and entices people to open emails.

Design is still key

Email design is very important on mobile platforms. One mistake Krum notices is people treating email design just as they would website design and using too many columns in their layouts. “They try to cram three to four different columns of products in one email,” she says. “It looks okay on desktop, but not great, and it looks even worse on a mobile phone.” Instead, try to keep your emails to one or two columns.

Another common error that you can easily avoid is putting all your calls to action in the form of images. “People who are on the subway and have very little connectivity aren’t downloading images, so they won’t find your email compelling, and that’s a prime time for people to sit and delete emails. So if your offer or your awesomeness is all locked up in an image, they might miss it.”

Finding that balance isn’t always easy—buttons make compelling calls to action on a small screen—but following these simple principles and tracking what works on analytics can help you maximize your mobile impact in no time.

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

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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 Email Marketing Tips to Mazimize Your Mobile Impact appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.