Basics of Online Marketing ~ Resources and Instructions~

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1 Basics of Online Marketing ~ Resources and Instructions~ Successful Marketing By Vanessa Salvia What can be done to increase the likelihood that someone will open your , take the time to read it, visit your website, and maybe even buy something? Actually, there s a lot. It just takes some thought. Whether you re already using marketing or just considering it, we ve compiled a lot of helpful information on the subject. I m not doing marketing. Should I be? Yes, absolutely! Now the next question you re probably asking is, Why? marketing is a cost effective way to allow you to communicate with your existing or potential customers instead of waiting for them to return to your website on their own. A regular, but not too frequent, campaign keeps your company name visible, keeps you in the minds of your subscribers, and keeps them returning to your website when they might not have planned to. marketing costs a fraction of a cent per . Your s could be newsletters, notices of sales and other promotions, announcements, invitations to events, or notifications of new content on your website. And, your s can be targeted to various segments of your subscriber list. For instance, your promotions can be targeted to new customers, returning customers, or a Welcome Back to customers who haven t purchased in a while. Getting Started First of all, start collecting addresses from the visitors to your site. Consumers want to feel like everything that reaches their inbox is there through their own choice. That s why spam is so obnoxious; it deprives consumers of control over what they have to read. You never want to send s to people who didn t ask for them, so your website should have a prominent button customers can click on to add their name to "opt in" to your mailing list. This is especially important because if people are choosing to receive your s you don t have to worry about running afoul of anti-spam laws in any state. If you don t already have a sign-up button or link, let us know and we will add this to your site for you. Here are two placement tips: Place the button before the fold. In other words, near the top of your website so visitors don t have to scroll down to find it. This is like being on the top of the front page of a folded newspaper; everyone s a lot more likely to see it there. Also, consider adding this opt in button to each page of your website, not just your home page; that way, 1

2 visitors referred from search engines see it no matter what page they land on. Once you do this, keep the sign-up form short and simple, asking for only what you need to get started a name and their address. Ask customers to enter their address twice, to avoid having misspelled or incomplete addresses on your list. You can collect more information over time. For instance, you can introduce something like a customer preference page and invite subscribers to answer questions about how they prefer to receive contacts from you, what types of s they are interested in receiving, their favorite things about your site, products they want to know more about, etc. I have some addresses from my current customer base. Can I use those? If you already have some addresses collected from pre-existing customers, it s OK to send an to them, but follow some good marketing practices. First, include a line at the top of your initial saying something like: "You received this because you're a customer of Business X. We never want you to receive s from us unless you want to, so click here to unsubscribe." Make sure this unsubscribe option is easy to see and easy to implement. If someone does unsubscribe, send an acknowledging it so they know it worked. It s a good idea not to send s to any customer contacts more than a year old. I have some addresses. Now what? Tips on composition Remember above all that your campaign is not mass marketing, even though it may be tempting to view it that way. You are sending s to real, individual people that you are trying to build a relationship of trust with. Any negative impression your s create could ripple with unintended consequences lost respect and lost business that can be difficult or impossible to undo. Don t send any s intending to exploit, deceive, or take advantage of the recipients. Keep the subject line short. Many providers show only the first few words of the subject line, or perhaps characters. Don t leave your important information for the end to get cut off. Make it compelling. You want the recipients to open your . Today. The day you sent it. Not next week, or next month, when they get around to it. Make sure the from name is instantly recognizable. Some providers don t show the actual originating address, so make certain the from name is clearly from your company and not your personal name or some other name no one will recognize. Also, make sure the originating address uses your website domain name, and not your provider s name. Use the same from information every time you send, so recipients always know it s you. Make sure the "from" address works. You might include a line about not responding to the from address, but check to see what people will get if they do reply to it. 2

3 Include a text portion. Spam filters may filter out your if it doesn t contain a text portion. In other words, your should contain more than just images. Check all images and ensure that all links work. This may seem obvious, but it s important to make sure the images actually appear and that any links go to the right pages. Your use of images should be judicious as too many images in your could trip off some spam filtering programs. Include a working, easy to find unsubscribe link. Providing an easy, efficient way to unsubscribe actually engenders trust. Not providing this option and making it difficult to unsubscribe does exactly the opposite. Include a physical address and phone number for contact information. A physical address and phone number also helps engender trust, assuring subscribers that they can contact you some other way. Don t too often. Sending s once or twice a month is generally the sweet spot. You want to send them often enough that your name remains recognizable but not so often that subscribers get annoyed. Avoid spammy subject lines. Spam traps and filters don t like subjects with all capital letters, exclamation points or certain words. If you re not sure about what you have composed, run your through a spam-checking filter before sending it out. These programs will check you From and Subject lines as well as your whole and are often built-in to many service providers. If yours doesn t have one, try Spam Checker. Welcome new subscribers right away. Send a welcome to new subscribers immediately upon confirmation that thanks them for signing up. Then lead them to your website with an -only offer. I m ready to write the . What do I say? Ask yourself who your target audience is and what you are trying to accomplish. As we previously mentioned, are you interested in targeting new customers, returning customers, or customers who haven t visited your site in a while? Are you having a sale you want people to know about? Here are the basic types of communications: Newsletters Monthly newsletters help keep your subscribers connected to your business and what changes you are making. A good newsletter must hold some value to the subscriber, or there s no incentive for them to read it. You may have lots of changes affecting your business or staff, but unless they are relevant to the customer, don t include them. Subscribers to your newsletter aren t interested in the accountant taking an anniversary trip to Hawaii. Do include articles on topics of interest to your subscribers, like reviews of new products, press your products have received, announcements regarding your industry, or changes to the way you 3

4 do business. If you have long articles to include, put a teaser in the newsletter and link to a full version on your website. Promotions Promotional s can be as simple as postcards. These are fantastic for informing subscribers of any sales you are running, new items you want to promote, seasonal sales, or promotions tied to gift-giving occasions. When sending promotional s, always include a call to action, like: "Click here to take advantage of this offer. Or something like, Visit our website now and enter this code at checkout to receive 10 percent off any Easter item. Responses generally peak within 48 hours of the time the is sent. Promotional s are welcome anytime, again providing you aren t sending a new one every day. Even if a customer doesn t take advantage of a given promotion, they will be more likely to remember your website when they are ready to buy. Event-Driven s These s are informative like newsletters, but are shorter and include timely information as opposed to regularly scheduled notices like newsletters. For instance, if you sell clothing, you could inform people of when your new seasonal stock arrives. If your business is selling scrapbooking supplies, you could let people know when a television show about scrapbooking will air. A business selling knitting supplies could send out an when a new, interesting or informative book about the subject has been published. If you regularly post new items or other content every two weeks, sending an letting people know what s been added is a great reason to initiate and maintain an campaign. I m ready to send. When you decide what type of you re going to send, make sure the content is professionally written and the visual presentation is clean and simple. Have a skilled person edit for grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and flow of ideas. Slapping together content with no regard for how it reads is never going to make a good impression. Consider hiring a newsletter consultant if you don t trust yourself to edit carefully and create a great looking . Before you send, double-check everything. Send a test to yourself and check everything again. If you wrote Test in the subject line, make sure you change it. (I ve left Test in the subject line of s I ve sent out, and it s embarrassing! Once you click send there s no way to undo what you ve done.) Make sure you re sending to the right list. This is one of the easiest places to make a mistake. If you're sending a targeted offer, be certain you're actually sending it to the segment of your list you intend to receive that offer. How do I manage my list of subscribers? Maintain your list. Once you send an , there will inevitably be addresses that are permanently undeliverable. These undeliverable addresses, having unknown users, are called 4

5 hard bounces, and continuing to send to hard bounces could result in ISPs blocking your entire list as spam. Removing hard bounces from your list immediately is the first step to maintaining your list s hygiene. Keep your list clean. An unclean list tells ISPs that you don't care about managing your . Scrubbing your list means comparing your list against known bad or non-existent domains. Scrubbing also involves removing duplicate addresses. If you have distribution addresses such as or remove them. Not everyone on that company s sales list chose to receive your , and sending to an account like that is the equivalent of sending mail to current occupant. Remove any addresses that contain the word spam, as these are typically associated with spam filters. If you have a high rate of undeliverable s, check out how those addresses got onto your list in the first place and what the problem is. You can easily correct misspelled domain names, for instance if someone typed in yhoo.com instead of yahoo.com Remove inactive addresses. Checking on the statistics of your campaign allows you to remove people who aren t opening your s. For example, if you send a newsletter every month and a customer hasn't opened one in the last six months, you can consider removing the address from your list. That address can then be targeted for a different type of , for instance a Welcome Back designed to reengage inactive customers. Remove promptly and respect customers who wish to unsubscribe. Respecting the wishes of your customers who don t want to receive s from you is not only good practice, it also follows the guidelines set forth in the CAN-SPAM Act of Just because customers opt out of s doesn t mean they aren t going to visit your website, but continuing to them after they declined interest is likely to permanently alienate them. Once they opt out of your list, continuing to send to them constitutes spam. If you receive an unsubscribe notice but you already have one or two more s scheduled, respond that you have received their unsubscribe information but inform them that they may continue to receive mailings from you until the update in your system takes place. Again, the purpose of sending s is all about communication. Let the customers know you have received their information and their request will be honored. It s a part of providing good customer service, which you would (hopefully!) strive for in every other aspect of your business management. One more idea Subscribe to your competitor s s. It s a great way to keep up on what other businesses in your industry are doing. You can monitor how often they send, what their content is, and how often they announce new promotions. is a fantastic way to keep your business name in front of people even when they are not actively visiting your website. There are many businesses that offer services including list management and design templates to make these tasks easy and automated. MightyMerchant is now a Constant Contact Business Partner and we use this service for our own newsletters and the campaigns of our clients. If you are interested in how our partnership with Constant Contact can grow your business, let us know. We re here to help! 5

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