The Basics of Marketing

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1 The Basics of Marketing YOU RE SMART TO EXPLORE MARKETING You realize the value in staying in touch with your customers through , but you may not be sure where to start. Let s face it marketers need to know a lot in order to execute a successful program, and having the right information can definitely help you achieve better results. Designed to help you get started, this guide provides basic rules for building a winning program, as well as tips and tricks for boosting customer loyalty and driving sales along the way. If your questions aren t addressed here, feel free to contact us at We ll be happy to help! The First Step to Marketing Success? Make a Plan Before you even think about creating an , sit down and write out your marketing plan. Just like your business plan, an marketing plan will give you a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and how you re going to accomplish it. An marketing plan is as simple as defining your audience, determining the reason for sending an , outlining your goals, building an calendar and creating a timeline. By outlining your goals, your audience, and your offers, you ll save yourself a lot of time later on. Step 2: Build a Permission-Based List You have two choices: You can either send unsolicited or send to people who have requested to hear from you. By taking the time to build a permission-based marketing list that is, a database of people who have agreed to receive your messages you will build stronger, more trustworthy relationships with your customers and prospects. You ll stop wasting time and money on prospects who are not interested in your services. As writer and Internet marketing pioneer Seth Godin says, permission marketing is about turning strangers into friends and friends into customers. 1

2 So how do you get permission? Easy ask your customers and prospects to opt-in to receiving communications from you. There are three levels of opt-ins: GOOD: Basic opt-in Someone fills out a registration form, for example on your website, and provides his or her address. BETTER: Confirmed opt-in After someone signs up to join your list, you send a thank you confirmation with a link to unsubscribe. BEST: Double opt-in Someone signs up for your list. You send a confirmation with a link that must be clicked before they re added to your list. If they don t click the link, they don t get added period. Remember: Being a successful marketer isn t about building the biggest list; it s about getting the biggest results. When you engage in permission-based marketing, you will get: Better response rates People who sign up for your list generally have a direct interest in your product or services. That makes it more likely that these subscribers can be converted into buyers. Improved deliverability People who want to hear from you are more likely to provide a legitimate address. They re more likely to open and respond to your offers, and you re less likely to wind up on a blocked list. Increased trust and brand affinity By sending s to subscribers who have granted you permission to do so, you can avoid being labeled as a spammer. And by sending only quality information, you ll build goodwill with your readers because you re providing them something of value. 2

3 Regardless of what level you choose, be sure to remind your customers that you won t sell or share their addresses. Why? It s just good business practice. According to a 2008 MarketingSherpa survey (is this too dated to include?) of consumers, more than 60% of respondents said they would be more likely to opt-in to an list if they knew their information would not be shared with other companies. Permission-based marketing makes good business sense Getting consumers to grant their permission to receive your s may be challenging, but it s well worth the effort. Here s one more statistic: according to a 2009 study released by Epsilon and ROI Research, 84% of consumers surveyed said they liked receiving from companies they had registered with. Even if they don t always read the message, these consumers said it was good to know the information or offer will be there when they re ready. Statistics aside, permission-based marketing just makes more sense, both for your marketing budget and your relationships with your customers and prospects. Step 3: Create a Killer Here are a few basic elements that every good contains: A. From line: Using your business name and valid address will encourage recipients to white list your address, better ensuring your will pass through spam filters. B. Subject line: Just like the From line, the content of a Subject line will drive prospects to open an , delete it, ignore it, file it or report it as spam. Think carefully about what you want to say, use action words and keep it short and simple. C. Preheader: Here you ll find a link to an HTML Web version of your message as well as white listing/address book instructions. Some companies also include a call to action, an unsubscribe link or mobile text instructions in their preheaders. 3

4 D. Message: You have less than three seconds to hook your reader do it with a simple, powerful message that clearly explains what you re selling and its benefits. E: Offer: Offers come in all shapes and sizes a free trial, a free marketing paper or percentage off. Whatever you offer, make sure it s compelling and enticing. F. Call to action: Many s are full of information and end up confusing the recipient they don t know exactly why or how they need to respond. Lay out exactly what you want them to do. G. Footer: Here s where you ll put the small print, including an unsubscribe link, a forward to a friend link and your physical address (don t forget, a physical address is required by the federal CAN-SPAM law.) H. Company logo: Including your company logo on all of your marketing materials boosts your visibility and helps people remember your brand name. Step 4: Get Into the Inbox You spent weeks building the perfect a compelling message, a dramatic design, an irresistible offer. You send it out and wait breathlessly for the phone to ring and you wait and you wait. What happened? There s a good chance many of your s never reached their intended recipients. It s estimated that almost 20% of permission-based s are blocked, bounced or returned to sender. Why? It could be a handful of reasons servers can get overloaded and return them for later attempts, some subscribers change their addresses while others flag irrelevant messages as spam. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also play a big role. In an effort to protect consumer inboxes from spam, ISPs such as AOL, Yahoo and Hotmail enforce strict rules regarding unsolicited bulk . Unfortunately, legitimate can be inadvertently blocked, too. Whether you re sending in-house or through an Service Provider (ESP), every undelivered translates into wasted time and lost revenue. Low deliverability can also inhibit the growth of your program. Even worse, if you end up on an ISP blacklist (a list that ISPs use to determine which s should be blocked), your company s name could be tarnished and your program could wither. 4

5 Had enough bad news? Here s something to smile about There are many steps you can take to increase deliverability. Here are 5 of them: 1. Develop a solid reputation online In the world of marketing, reputation is everything. For example, let s say a customer calls your company with a complaint. If your company handles the issue poorly, this unhappy customer could post negative comments about you online. Before you know it, these comments could be circulated throughout the Internet. The next time you send out an , some recipients may not believe your company is reputable. They could report your as spam, affecting how ISPs filter s from your company. How can you avoid this cascading affect? Develop a good reputation and address concerns before they go viral. Actively engage your customers in surveys about your company what do they like? What can you do better? By creating opportunities for customer feedback, you can gain insight into your company s reputation and build strong business relationships. And by building positive relationships with industry bloggers and participating in social media sites, you can spread good news about your company and develop a rock-solid reputation online. 2. Nurture ISP relationships Just like your relationships with your customers, it s equally important to develop and maintain good relationships with ISPs (or work with an ESP that has a good relationship with the ISPs). ISPs look at many criteria when determining your reputation, including user complaints; the volume of s sent; the length of time your domain has been active; the number of bounces; whether you re on any blacklists, etc. By working with ISPs to understand their criteria and address their concerns, you can build a positive relationship and gain direct access to these gate-keepers should big issues arise (for example, an ISP wants to shut you off because of a spam complaint.) 3. Minimize spam complaints Your s can be flagged as spam for many reasons, including irrelevant messages; unrecognizable or misleading From and Subject lines; frequency (too many, too often); lack of unsubscribe links; spammy-looking content (big fonts, aggressive language or any thing else that could be perceived as unprofessional). One of the simplest reasons is you didn t ask your recipients to opt-in to receiving your communications. The first step to minimizing spam complaints is to build a permission-based marketing list that is, a database of people who have agreed to receive your messages. Also, clearly identify your company in the From line; use a clear Subject line; send only well-designed and relevant communications; and set clear expectations as far as what you will send and how often. 5

6 4. Clean house A dirty list hurts your deliverability because ISPs will block senders who repeatedly to bad or closed addresses. To ensure you have a clean list, remove all bounced accounts and unsubscribe requests immediately. Another important step: Identify and correct typos in your files, as well as missing characters in the domain name and extension. If your file is full of outdated addresses, contact your customers and update their information. 5. Test your s Sending a proof of your to yourself, co-workers or others (called a seed list) will help uncover typos, broken links, formatting issues or other potential blocking or filter problems. Be sure to send your to a variety of clients, or applications used to send and receive (these include AOL, Outlook, Gmail, etc.). HTML s can look and behave differently when viewed in different clients. Want to know more? The Experience Council, the marketing arm of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), offers a plethora of free tools, advice and insight on deliverability. Visit them online at experience.org. Step 5: Improve Your Response Rates No matter what industry they re in, all marketers share a common goal persuading a recipient to open and respond to their . Here are a few tips to help you increase your open rates: Include your brand name in your From line Using your brand name in the From line your name, company, or product should spark instant recognition with your recipients. Your brand in the From line assures your recipients that your is coming from a reliable source. According to Internet advertising giant DoubleClick, 64% of respondents cite the From line as the most important factor motivating them to open permissionbased . Write a clear, honest Subject line Don t deceive your recipients tell them exactly what s in the , and keep it short and simple. Don t send just once Too many times, marketers test as a knee-jerk reaction to sales being down. If they don t see a great open rate right away, they ll quit. Unfortunately, this doesn t give you a true picture of s potential. Send a follow-up message with a new subject line and possibly a sweetened offer. 6

7 Don t forget the preview pane Many recipients view s through a preview screen, and others only view the top portion of your before deciding whether to open it. If the top of your is well designed, you can build on the interest sparked by the Subject line. Send s at the right time When s the best time and day to send s? The only way to know for sure is to test. Don t leave it up to chance or assume other marketer s result apply to you - test your schedule by sending the same message on different days or at different times to see which gets the best response. Be mobile friendly In general, HTML s outperform text s. However, in the business-to-business world, where more s are read via mobile devices, plain text s can be more effective. A good compromise is to send s as a multipart MIME. This means that two versions are sent an HTML and a plain text. When recipients read the , the appropriate version is displayed based on what device they re using and/or how they have their client s preferences set. Most service providers do this already. A few ingredients for improving click-through rates A compelling offer Are you helping your readers shop smarter, or save time and money? Your success depends on understanding their needs and presenting relevant offers. A clear call to action Do you want recipients to call you, visit your website, fill out an enclosed response form, or send you an ? Design the call to action so it s clear and easy to follow. A relevant message For example, if your customer needs printer ink cartridges but you re sending them s about office furniture, there s a good chance it ll end up in the trash. Testing, testing and more testing Many variables can affect the response to your campaign the list, the offer, the price, etc. The best way to find out what kind of response you ll get is to track your results and run tests. Work hard to find the most responsive lists, the best copy and the most compelling offer. 7

8 Step 6: Be Patient and Realistic By now you re probably asking, So what kind of results can I expect? The simple answer is: There is no simple answer. Organizations such as the Direct Marketing Association and MarketingSherpa publish annual reports on industry standard results. Why? Because the success of your marketing hinges on many factors: the quality of your list, your audience, your offer, your messaging and more. Response rates also vary widely by industry. No doubt, you should be aware of industry data, but be cautious about using it as a baseline for performance. The DMA s 2010 Annual Response Rate Report an average open rate of 18.5% and a click-through rate of 6.07% for business-to-consumer s. B2B s enjoyed a slightly better response: an average open rate of and a click-through rate of 7.26%. But don t forget: Your results may not be directly comparable. Based on your own experience, you might consider an open rate of 20% and a click-through rate of 5% reasonable and achievable goals. The best place to start is to establish your own baseline using your s. Track your opens and click-throughs from campaign to campaign and month to month. (Many marketing services will provide a tool so you can see how many s were delivered, and how many people opened your and clicked on the links.) Once you have a good understanding of your own response trends, establish measurable goals and start testing different subject lines, offers, messages and more. PUT INFOGROUP TO WORK FOR YOU TODAY Infogroup is the marketing expert that delivers the right mix of services, experience and industry knowledge to help you improve customer acquisition and retention. If you re new to marketing, ask us about our start-to-finish marketing service. From list building and creative services to delivery, tracking and reporting, we can help you build a successful campaign from the ground up. For experienced marketers, Infogroup offers a powerful cross-channel platform that helps you launch, manage and control campaigns across a host of channels such as , social and SMS. For more information on our complete range of marketing solutions, contact us at

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