Tag : content

10 Tips for Better Marketing Emails—Part 1: Do’s

Spam Folder, used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.comEven if you’ve never wired money to an African banker, snagged name-brand software for pennies, or purchased a product to enlarge any part of your body, chances are good that you’ve been offered it via email multiple times—maybe even this week alone.

Thankfully, junk filters are getting better at separating the garbage from the valuable emails—both the ones we want to read and the ones we want others to read.  Even without these filters, it’s a challenge for marketers to get past the personal filters we all use to weed through our respective inboxes.  There’s no tip that will guarantee your email will get read, but these tips will raise your chances of your message getting absorbed by your prospects.

DO use headlines of 50 or fewer characters.  
When we check our email, we typically look at either the “sender” or “subject” fields first.  Neither of those fields contains a lot of space.  If you use a lot of characters in the subject line, the extraneous characters simply won’t be seen.  So, spend characters wisely on what would matter most to the recipient.  Avoid adjectives, multiple exclamation marks, and unnecessary words.  Know that abbreviations like “BR,” “BA,” “SF,” “HWY,” etc. are acceptable and still professional.

DO condense email content and use links to more detailed content.
An email, especially a marketing one, doesn’t need to be exhaustive.  The reality is that if the recipient doesn’t have the motivation to follow an offer or story to the other end of the link, they wouldn’t be motivated to make a purchase, place a bid, read a story, or share your content on social media.  So, sell the sizzle; and link to the meat of your content.

DO use an email service like Vertical Response, Mail Chimp, iContact, or Constant Contact (instead of your computer’s email software).
We can tell when we’re just a BCC—or far worse: a CC—on a group email you typed in Outlook.  Online email systems allow you to upgrade the look of your emails with custom or pre-made templates, helping you build your brand through consistent formatting.  In addition, email services enable you to schedule your emails in advance, include social sharing buttons, and even stream RSS content from your blog.  On top of that, they offer analytical tools to help you evaluate your email strategy and execution.

DO use custom mail-merge fields, where appropriate.  
This makes your emails more personal; and we all take notice when an email has our names in them.  Most online email services provide this ability.

DO create a separate email address for your bulk emails.  
In the event that people mark your email address as junk or that online servers flag your email address, you don’t want it to be the address you use every day.  Definitely avoid using your personal email address, too.

If these suggestions seem like common sense, know that I’m still not seeing them used as common practice by many small business owners—auctioneers in particular.  For all you do to sell your professional brand in the marketplace, don’t sabotage that work and expense with cheap and lazy email marketing.

It’s true that a successful life requires sorting through our junk while pursuing our talents and dreams.  Those with both a good filter and a healthy amount of determination tend to accomplish their goals.  That seems common sense to people on the other end of a goal accomplished, even as the disgruntled (who may or may not occupy a public park) look at the results as products of chance or fate, privilege or fortune.

While I struggle to eliminate distractions and to work diligently, I’ve found that it’s a very different type of choice that can keep me from my dreams: which dreams to follow.  I know people more talented than I will ever be who have spun their wheels for years, because they didn’t choose one or two dreams from their many potential life paths.  Candidly, I have stunted my own growth in some areas by trying to grow less significant areas.

It’s true: the jack of all trades is the master of none.

Hardest of all, is the prospect of chasing dreams that won’t matter in the long run.  I am utterly convicted by one sentence in the Bible: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”  It’s a daily challenge to align my dreams with God’s, my kingdom with his, my walk with his path—even though God’s dreams for me are bigger and presumably better than my own.

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41: The Not-so-silver Blogging Bullet

Communication BulletsIf you’re reading the same articles I am these days, you’ve heard there’s a silver bullet minted for business: blogging. A recent HubSpot study showed that commercial web sites with blogs garnered 55% more visitors than those without blogs. And they had 97% more inbound links (when other sites link to yours) than their blogless counterparts.

But to kill it at blogging for business, your ammo will have to be a 4-part alloy of balanced attributes. In unclassified documents obtained by biplane productions for this article, the not-so-shocking components are now available for commercial application.

Helpful Information

Readers are willing to waste their time on entertainment. But they draw the line on useless information. You wouldn’t care about your local tire shop owner’s trip to the Tire Industry Association‘s annual convention. You wouldn’t finish a story on you local UHaul‘s shipment of new trucks. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Change out your business for a random one in your phone book, then ask yourself, “Would I care about this news or advice?” If not, try a different topic. The more reader-centric you make your writing, the more likely your readers will absorb your content.

Give them practical information they can consider, if not use. Break it down into bite-size chunks or steps. Eliminate jargon to make room for layman’s terms. Prove that you’ve earned your insight, which they can receive for free.

Engaging Content

There are no owner’s manuals on The New York Times best sellers list. Extremely helpful content (in multiple languages, no less), but even gals wouldn’t grab a coffee at Barnes & Noble and read one. You’re going to find few doctoral theses shared on facebook or forwarded via email. Even with all the uproar, the various health care bills right now will go mostly unread by the masses whose lives they might impact.

So, sprinkle your knowledge with anecdotes, statistics, even graphics. Give it the sound of your voice, not wikipedia’s. Treat the reader as your friend, and they’ll stick around for more of your stories. Better yet, they’ll forward them to their other friends.

Altruistic Feel

You know that icky feeling when you’re flipping through the channels and a televangelist sneaks a book or DVD pitch in there? He may or may not have preceded the infomercial with inspirational insight; but a cord of distrust binds your interest, because the smell of narcissism and self promotion burn your perception. A lot of blogs wreak of these tendencies.

Don’t be that guy! Don’t soak your words with marketing. Trust that what you’ve dispensed for free will be received with gratitude and maybe even returned to you in some measure. People consult and hire experts, especially humble ones.

Professional Execution

I love when Jay Leno televised newspaper clippings of bad communication. The words made sense to the advertiser or writer. But poor editing and/or a lack of outside insight turned their effort into a detriment to their organization—and accidental humor on a large stage. Grammar, syntax, capitalization, punctuation—they matter. Presentation and readability can make or break your post. Undeveloped thoughts can turn interest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been spared by the pre-release review of my wife or a trusted peer. I’ve even chose not to publish posts, based on such counsel.

Treat your writing like you do your professional craft. Don’t be afraid to call in other eyes or even collaborate with other writers. Excellence communicates professionalism. Good ideas poorly expressed lose their impact.

We’ve all heard, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” Parents and teachers have proven this true for millennia. Sadly, many churches and their parishioners have not. Many times, to be candid, I have not.

Denominations emphasize our differences. Religion wraps faith in layers of suffocating exclusivity and distracting tradition. Christians, me included at times in my life, have made heaven a result of doctrines and creeds, checked lists, and kept rules. In so many ways, touching so many lives, the movement of Jesus has driven people away from our cause instead of to Him.

The secular world doesn’t care what version of the Bible we read or what reformer we most closely follow. They don’t search for a name on a sign. We won’t attract them with mission statements or the “what we believe” page on our web site. Few, if any, are impressed into heaven.

They want to know a personal God, and they want to see what that looks like in us. We are called to study the Truth and warned to watch for wolves. But we are asked to love with wisdom, to care with sacrifice. It’s easier to learn than to love. It’s easier to segregate than to unify. But easy is the harlot of the opposition.

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