Why Email Marketing Leaves Social Whimpering in the Corner…

In the clamour to go ‘social’ we all lost sight of a simple fact: An opted-in email address is way more valuable than any ‘Like’, ‘Follower’ or ‘Connection’ will ever be. ‘WHAT?! But I employed an entire team to make sure we’re like, totally social, man!’

Don’t get me wrong, social has it’s benefits, but boiling it down to simple stats, email wins hands down every time. For example, there are 3 times more email users than Facebook and Twitter users combined. And at the business end of things, an email list of 10,000 fresh, opted in, engaged email recipients will outperform 10,000 ‘fans’ or ‘followers’ in terms of generating inbound enquiries every time, and by a distance.

I totally get that the trend for new, new, new has led people down the social marketing path, and consequently, there’s an incorrect perception that email marketing is dead. But while social platforms are the virtual equivalent of a room full of people all shouting over each other to get attention, often with little to actually say, an email is a personal digital letter that will wait patiently in the recipient’s inbox until they’re ready to give it their attention.

Compare and contrast your own behaviour, your phone pings – you’ve got a new email, do you check it – yes, usually. You log into LinkedIn, your feed has 968 new updates since you last checked it, are you going to read through them all? Even glance at anything that hasn’t been posted in the last 20 minutes?

The fact is, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter feeds are so transient, that your posts are replaced by other musings before anyone has had chance to read them, let alone digest or be influenced by them. People may be addicted to social, but they’re just not that engaged by it.

Email marketing is actually far more powerful because it’s personal (one-to-one) rather than ‘social’ (one-to-many), as your recipient is given the opportunity to engage with you on an individual basis – rather than simply being a passive spectator in a world of social white noise. As if you need further convincing, here’s why email is still the number one performer in any digital marketing strategy:

 

  • It’s still the de-facto way that business people communicate globally
  • There’s a free, inbuilt, instant, direct response mechanism – the reply button
  • Opens, clicks and crucially, sales enquiries can all be tracked accurately (and therefore improved)
  • It has a longer dwell time – 6 seconds per email rather than a fraction of a second per social post

 

So, we’re all agreed that you need to build an opted in email list of potential buyers forthwith and stop worrying about the number of ‘retweets’ you did or didn’t get this week. Here’s a few ways to ramp up your email list and build trust quick smart…

 

Use transactional emails to drive marketing emails

A sure-fire way to hook up with more prospects is the in-signature sign up – just add a line that invites your contacts to subscribe to news, offers, blog posts or industry insight articles. You’re already communicating with people at this point, so they’ll be warm to you and more likely to part with their details in order to stay in the loop. Doing this soon adds up too…if you send 50 emails a day and four of your team do the same, that’s 250 opportunities you’ve opened up straight away without spending a penny.

 

Start conversations through content

Good content connects (take a look at our previous post for some nuggets on that particular subject), so it’s important to make sure you send out top notch written content to reward people for opting in. They’ve invested their time and contact details in building a relationship with your business, so really make it worth their while. Weekly or monthly is a good place to start – soon your audience will get into the habit of looking out for Tuesday’s Top Tips or your famous Fantastic Friday Offer.

 

Content ideas for regular emails… 

  • New product and new service launches
  • Case studies and testimonials
  • ‘Behind the curtain’ pieces like meet the team, staff profiles and charity work
  • Feature your customers and their stories
  • What ‘conversation’ can you own? – (Tip: it’s probably bigger than the product or service you sell)
  • Make ‘em laugh! There is no B2B or B2C really – we’re all just people at work who like to smile!

 

Always have something to offer

A great way to build up a long list of email addresses is to make sure there’s something in it for your audience. One thing that usually ticks the opt-in box is a good old fashioned freebie – an ebook, an exclusive podcast, anything that whets their appetite and adds value to what your offering. But don’t just throw anything at your targets, make it relevant. If you think a dated corporate brochure will work, think again. Give them insight…not s***e!

 

Make a lasting impression

Noah Kagan, founder of SumoMe, which offers tools for growing website traffic, sees email as the next best thing to visiting your customers in person every few days. He suggests that the top tactic is to auto-send people your ‘best of’ emails first once they subscribe. Not necessarily new content, and not so much that you scare them off. Just a snapshot of your greatest hits to get things off the ground and make that all important first impression the best it can be.

 

Start a dialogue

So, you sent an email, and thanks to the punchy subject line, catchy content and wonderfully insightful article you linked to, your prospect enquired. What next? Well, we look at it like this. The first email is like a friendly wave. If someone waves back, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll be happy to chat if you cross the road to go and say hello. So, once you get a response you need to keep things moving. Reply to the replies straight away, but also pick up the phone – emails will only get you so far.

 

Consistency outperforms irregular brilliance

Email is addictive, I’ve checked my inbox 5 times while writing this. The point is, the average recipient gets around 70 emails per day. So you’re not always going to generate the ‘cut through’ you want with every email. But by being consistent and regular, you’ll eventually catch your recipient in the right circumstances (i.e. with the time and inclination) to respond to you.

 

Once you start collecting emails, don’t stop

Your email database degrades by 25% every year. People change jobs and abandon email addresses as they change their broadband provider at home – leaving you talking to a brick wall. So always keep your email list as fresh as the content you distribute to it…and never stop adding quality prospects to your little black ebook.

5 Ways to Make Your Digital Content Connect

As you’d expect, we’ve seen a fair bit of digital content in our time. Good, bad and ugly. Unfortunately, most of it sits firmly in the bad and ugly categories. We’ve also created lots of our own content too (of the good kind.)

But creating awesome digital content is easier said than done. MarketingProfs recently found that 52% of marketers say that creating engaging content is their biggest challenge, while the Content Marketing Institute reports that only about a third of B2C marketers consider themselves effective at content marketing – even though 86% of marketers use content marketing regularly as they fight for more awareness, sales and revenue.

With more content being pushed into your market than ever before, and the vast majority of marketers planning to boost their content marketing spend, businesses evidently need help to develop effective digital communications that really pack a punch.

 

Here’s 5 Ways to Help you Create Content Marketing that Connects…

 

  1. Vary Your Format

 

While it’s strategically correct to keep touching upon the same themes and communicating the same values, it’s important to keep things fresh by using different digital formats. Mixing it up with videos, audio messages, articles, reports, infographics, white papers and checklists (like this one) will keep your messaging fresh over time. Changing format is also a clever way of recycling what is effectively the same information.

Whatever digital vehicle you use, keep your audience front of mind. Clear, concise, engaging content that treats the recipient as a human being and not a ‘target’ will create more cut through than corporate blurb. If you have lots of facts and figures, pop them in a great-looking infographic. If you’ve gone heavy on the blogging lately, change tack with a video or an audio message.

Rotating formats like these will help you to keep things fresh:

  • Expert Articles
  • Infographics
  • Checklists
  • Videos
  • Quizzes
  • Audio Messages
  • White Papers
  • e-Books
  • Reports
  • Slideshows

 

  1. Have an Opinion

 

With so much content being pumped into the ether, your prospects and customers don’t want another safe, vanilla point of view. Have a stand point, be angry, be controversial, be bold and show people that you care. If you spark outrage, or at the very least start a conversation, job done.

To create real cut through and get people liking and sharing your content, choose topics that people are passionate about and have a challenging take on that subject. If you hit the nail on the head and say what others are thinking, you’ll win friends and influence people. If you get a load of people discussing your unpopular (but informed) point of view, you win anyway. Even though it’s good to be controversial, it’s not cool to be conceited. Be confident, be passionate. But be humble too.

 

  1. Tell Stories

 

We all love a good story. They capture our imagination, they earn our trust and, they can make us feel. People have been passing on stories to each other since time began, which makes them the perfect tool when you want your content to go viral. It’s a proven fact that people take information in more easily when it’s in the format of story or an anecdote.

Let’s say your business sells sales training and you’re giving your readers advice on how to become better at sales. Why not tell them the story about how once you were terrible at selling, a real bag of nerves, then you went on a sales course (that you really didn’t want to go on) and it turned you into the best sales person in the company, and that’s why you now run your own sales training business. A good story usually includes an element of reluctance or jeopardy with a successful ending.

Other people might have a tale to tell that reinforces your themes and ideas, so link relevant parts of your content towards external resources that will bring what you’re saying to life and add credence to your own experiences.

 

  1. Run the Scan Test

 

Time is precious these days. The average website homepage gets about 6 seconds of a visitor’s attention, a marketing email gets about 4 seconds. So good digital content needs to pass the scan-ability test above all others.

Writing blogs, articles or guides for a skim-reading audience is made easier by:

  • Being brief – keep your paragraphs short with just a few sentences in each
  • Making quick-hit lists – use bullet points, tick lists or numbered charts
  • Including subheadings – this helps readers find exactly what they want to read
  • Making your point – use bold or italic text to make important words ‘pop’
  • Joining the dots – link key words to other helpful content on your site
  • Keeping it simple – no-one wants to read an instruction manual full of jargon

When you’re done, give your content the once-over (and a cheeky twice-over for good measure), to check that it’s not too long or too complicated.

The more valuable information, the better…but try to get your points across in a way that holds your reader’s attention. Steer clear of jargon and long-winded explanations. The most important part of the writing process is editing your words. Keep it brief, keep it punchy.

 

  1. Pictures Speak 1,001 Words

 

When it comes to articles and blog posts, the wrong image can be as much of a turn-off as no image at all. Many well-written articles fall by the wayside because the image selection was a last minute afterthought.

The right image should support, not detract from your message and the stock image library is no longer your only port of call for visual impact. Tools like Canva and PicMonkey give you the chance to design your own images, regardless of your design software capabilities.

 

If you’d like Skill + Fire to create content that packs a punch for your business please Contact Us.

Why Your Company Website Should Be More Like iTunes

Gone are the days of building a website for a client and then saying ‘OK we’ll see you in a few years when you need a new one.’ More and more, our clients see their first version of a new website as exactly that, the first version of several iterations. Marketing Managers and business owners are starting to see their company websites as organic, evolving digital platforms that are constantly evaluated, modified and added to. In much the same way that software like iTunes is was released as version 1.1 and then rapidly updated and improved upon based on user feedback and behaviour (currently iTunes is on version 12.1).

Although an almost obsessive attention to analytics, traffic levels and conversion rates is the norm when it comes to e-commerce websites, it’s only in recent months that the same desire to iterate and constantly improve is becoming commonplace for regular business websites.

Perhaps the biggest influence driving the trend for constant website improvement is Google. Google makes it clear that their search results favour websites that have high quality content being added regularly. Google’s search algorithms have become so clever, they can tell the difference between low quality content, rammed with keywords just for the sake of SEO and well written content that is genuinely beneficial for web visitors.

Featuring on the first page of Google is not the only reason why marketing people are becoming increasingly obsessed with constant website improvement. Many websites are now seen as the beginning of a digital journey for prospective customers. Potential customers search on Google, find your website and upon arrival are funnelled down particular route which is designed specifically to turn them into prospective customers.

Again, many of these methods are borrowed from the online software industry where it’s common to A/B split test several landing pages against each other, use video content to sum up the offer in under 60 seconds and utilise several non threatening ‘calls to action’ like free trials, downloads and e-books as incentives to get the prospect to add their details immediately.

Once a prospect has added their contact details to the website, it’s becoming much more common for an automated digital marketing process to take over. A series of personalised emails kick in, taking the prospect from being mildly interested to ‘hot lead’ status. Of course, this doesn’t work every time, but by tracking every prospect’s interactions with each email and benchmarking their interest levels, it’s possible to ‘score’ each prospect based upon their behaviour and identify which prospects require phone follow up.

So the question is this, which version of your current website are you on?

If you’re stuck on version 1.1, it’s time to borrow from iTunes and start iterating.

Marketing-Strategy

The Magic Number in Any Good Marketing Strategy

Recently I met with an entrepreneur who had just received an offer from a much bigger competitor that wanted to buy his business from him. He had lots of energy and enthusiasm for what he did and he wasn’t about to sell his business for a penny less than he thought it was worth. One of the things that the potential purchaser of his business had asked him to provide was examples of the marketing approaches that worked for his business and also, interestingly, the approaches that hadn’t worked.

As we talked, he explained that his recommend a friend system was one of the most powerful ways he’d found of attracting new customers. (It was simple, it rewarded both the existing customer and the new customer – and he was correct, one look through the numbers proved that it really worked for him.) Other than that though, he didn’t have any other proven ways of generating new customers and he was worried that the potential buyer of his business would use that weakness to drive the price down.

So I asked him which marketing approaches hadn’t worked. He went on to list a number of initiatives in his marketing plan that had failed to deliver a decent return. As he explained one approach that had failed (distributing leaflets in the train station of the local area he operated in) I realised that he was overlooking something that had the potential to triple, if not quadruple the value of his business.

He had been working out his return on investment figure based on the immediate return that each marketing initiative had delivered, instead of the lifetime value of each customer. The leaflet distribution approach had only been tried a couple of times, and it had produced 4 customers. He went onto explain that 4 customers didn’t even cover the cost of printing the leaflets, never mind the cost of designing and distributing them.

When we dug a bit deeper into his numbers, it emerged that each of his customers, although they had an low initial spend in month one (around £48 each), they actually stuck around for an average of 11 months, spending and average of £440 each over that period. As he’d been working out his return on investment based on each customer’s initial spend, it appeared that leafleting the train station was a failure. Now he could see that he had made an average of £440 for each of the 4 customers he’d generated over their ‘customer lifetime’, which worked out at £1760. What he’d dismissed as a failure was actually a money making system. He immediately started to plan more leaflet campaigns in higher volumes across the region – he was invigorated and excited about the opportunity that lay ahead for him.

This experience served as a great reminder that your existing customer list gives you the answer as to what is probably the most important question in any successful marketing plan or marketing strategy: ‘What is the average lifetime value of your customers?’

 

Here’s the equation:

Average Annual Profit Per Customer x Average No. of Years a Customer Stays = £Lifetime Value  

 

The reason this number is critical in your marketing strategy is that you then know how much you can invest ‘buying’ each customer. As long as you invest less acquiring a customer than they spend (minus costs) over their ‘lifetime’ with you, you’re making a return. The most exciting thing is, it’s a system, it scales. Imagine a machine, that when you dropped £10,000 into the machine, £11,000 came out. How many times would you do it?

If you’ve never worked out your customer’s lifetime value before, you’ll be amazed. If your company is delivering a great product or service it is quite possible that customers stick around for years which gives you a healthy budget to acquire new customers. As long as customers cost less to ‘buy’ than they spend with you (after costs) – you have the foundations of a solid marketing strategy.

 

Personalising Web Pages for Your Prospects and Customers

As you may already know, a marketing email that has the recipient’s name in the subject line gets more opens (3.9% more opens on average based on our findings to be precise.) Plus, using the recipient’s first name throughout the email and their company name, if applicable, gives you an average uplift in clicks of 3.3%.

Nothing ground breaking there, personalisation is proven to produce better results right across the marketing mix. (Ever received a piece of direct mail at home that was addressed to ‘The Occupier’? – hmmm, where should I file this…) Even though we know as marketeers that personalisation is a big deal, very few companies take advantage of the ability to personalise webpages for visitors.

Of course it’s not easy to personalise your website for brand new visitors. Afterall, you only really know their IP address for sure at that early stage. However, if your site does a good job in turning anonymous web traffic into inbound prospects by grabbing their name and email address in exchange for an instant incentive (see our Conversion Modules if you need help in this area) then like lots of companies, you should have a fairly substantial list of names and email addresses building up week on week.

In addition to the prospects who have opted in, you also already have a list of all your customer’s names and email addresses too. In fact, when you work it out, you’ll find that up to 80% of your web traffic is actually comprised of returning prospects and existing customers.

As you already know who these people are and have their names and email addresses sat in a list, it’s very possible to use this information to personalise each webpage they visit – particularly if you drive them there via email.

The very idea of personalised webpages excited our clever little development team at Skill and Fire and they got to work. In a matter of months came up with our very own ‘closed loop’ marketing system called SpreadDeck.

SpreadDeck is the platform that all our marketing modules run from and rather cleverly, as well as tracking which customers and prospects engage with each marketing module, (more on the benefits of that another time) it personalises each webpage with the recipient’s name and company name when they arrive there via any of our marketing emails.

The personalisation even extends to the lead generation forms because having each form already pre-filled in with the contact’s details increases the chance of it being submitted by an huge 33%. Afterall, it couldn’t be any easier for a prospect or an existing customer to enquire than simply having to hit a ‘submit’ button.

To talk about how we can personalise webpages for your customers and prospects go to our contact page by Clicking Here.

The Next Big Social Explosion

The Next Big Social Explosion Your Business Simply Can’t Miss

The headline of this article is deliberately glib. All is explained in this wonderful video from Adobe which makes a brilliant point:

 

 

With so many ‘next big things’ it’s easy for your marketing strategy to jump around as you try to follow the crowd to the latest social craze.

As tempting as it is to be everywhere all the time, we’ve learned over the years that it’s more beneficial to carefully execute a long-term marketing strategy consistently than jump from one medium to the next. Of course, it’s great to test and measure new routes if they seem applicable to your market, but no good usually comes from constantly pivoting in new directions. Plus there’s a certain satisfaction in leaving your competitors to jump on every passing bandwagon while you’re quietly perfecting your marketing approach.

Another important point that this video inadvertently raises is this: as important as having the correct social presence is, the cornerstone of B2B communication across the globe is still email. Most people check their emails first thing in the morning, often before or during their first caffeine intake of the day. They will often check their emails again last thing before bed – with numerous checks throughout the day. The transient nature of social feeds that constantly stream new information make it unlikely that your post will get seen by most of your target market, whereas an email will patiently sit in your recipient’s inbox until they’re ready to read it (and you can track emails too so you know when it’s been read).

This isn’t to knock social media at all. We use LinkedIn in a certain way to generate a constant stream of B2B sales enquiries. We also use Facebook and Twitter to generate enquiries for our B2C customers, so we’re well versed in the benefits of social when it’s harnessed correctly. It’s just that if you regularly read Mashable or Tech Crunch, you could well be fooled into thinking that email is far from marketing’s cutting edge.

So next time you see a headline about ‘The Next Big Social Platform Your Business Can’t Survive Without’, think of the business communication tool that is already used by everybody, every day, all over the world.

What is Your Website Actually For?

What is Your Website Actually For?

When we first speak to a new customer, we usually start by asking a few questions about their exiting website. Usually, these questions, if they were referring to any other major business purchase, would be very simple to answer. However, I’ve noticed that when we ask one question in particular about their website, it’s often met with a blank look.

Let me explain what I mean. If I asked one of our customers, an engineering firm: ‘What’s that huge piece of industrial machinery for?’ they’d say: ‘Oh, that’s for drilling holes in the seabed.’ But when I ask ‘What’s your company website for?’, very often they kind of half smile and say, ‘Well, you know, it’s for the err, you know, the Internet. The, err, the company?’

The fact is, the average business website in the UK has real identity problems. Lots of split personalities competing for attention. It has to impress prospective customers, existing customers, act as a sales support tool, a company brochure, it has to please the management, the Chairman, the bank manager, the investors, the staff. When it comes to the company website, it often has so many stakeholders and functions that it’s easy to lose sight of that simple question: What is it for?

It comes as no surprise that the average company website in the UK converts less than 1% of it’s traffic into sales enquiries. When you think about that, less than 1% means that for every £1000 you spend on SEO, adwords, email marketing, link building or any kind of website promotion, £990 of it is completely wasted. Depressing or what? (It’s usually at this point, when the new customer is at their lowest, that I have to stop one of our Account Handlers chipping in with ‘Why did you hide your contact details on the last tab?)

The good news is, very often there’s a number of quick fixes you can do to your website to enhance it’s conversion capabilities. (This is the part where I start pushing our marketing modules on you “lock the doors please, I have an offer these wonderful people can’t refuse!’) – and yes, we do have a simple Conversion Kit module that will make your website better at generating sales leads, however…

Maybe it’s time to admit that your website, wearing it’s many hats and trying to please so many people at once, will never be the cold blooded sales ninja you need, stealthily picking off prospect after prospect as they stumble unwittingly by.

But there’s no rule that says you can only have one website, or one web address. We always advise our customers to have a series of standalone ‘Conversion Pages’ which have one job: to generate prospects. We also advise them to constantly benchmark their Conversion Pages against each other and A/B split test different versions of the same page to constantly improve and enhance their results.

Of course, if you do find yourself putting several web pages together into one of those pesky web ’sites’ then just keep asking yourself: ‘What is it for?

Why Getting Permission is Everything

Why Getting Permission is Everything

After years in the marketing industry working for some of the biggest brands in the world, I had a moment of realisation: Traditional marketing and advertising just doesn’t work anymore.

Constantly interrupting new or current customers with one size fits all sales messaging is over.

Think about how you last felt when you opened the door to a door to door salesmen at dinner time or received a cold call on your mobile. Most ‘Interrupt and Sell’ marketing has this negative psychological effect on people.

It’s not just those extreme examples that make people’s eyes roll. ‘Interrupt and Sell’ is how radio and television advertising has worked since the 1960′s. How costly and inefficient must it be for a brand that sells nappies, for example, to advertise on prime time television? Their target market – new mothers (and maybe new fathers), make up a fraction of a fraction of the population at any one time. Yet we all have to sit through advert after advert that simply doesn’t apply to us.

As a result, we’ve all become experts at filtering out the marketing messages that don’t apply to us (and actually, when it comes to TV and Radio, all the adverts that are aimed at us too)  but we really shouldn’t have to.

It’s easier than ever to pinpoint your exact target customer and asking for permission to communicate with them takes seconds.

Of course, once you have permission, building a relationship with a prospective customer is much easier. You have bought yourself the privilege to communicate with them on an ongoing basis until they either buy from you (or tell you to stop, which is also much less likely to happen if you asked them for their permission to market to them originally.)

I see it every day. A list of 200 prospects who have effectively put their hands up and said ‘Ok, talk to me’ always outperforms a list of 10,000 cold data records.

It stands to reason, how would you feel if you were sat in your office working and a salesman walked in, unannounced, with his product under his arm and just said Do you wanna buy one of these? Huh?’

That’s what a cold email, a cold piece of direct mail or a cold call is – it’s an unsolicited interruption. And the businesses that constantly use those ‘Interrupt and Sell’ methods constantly create negative feelings in the very people they’re trying to sell to.

I started Skill + Fire to offer a new route for progressive businesses looking to grow. A type of marketing your contacts actually look forward to receiving and most importantly, a system based on permission.

5 Essential Marketing Trends

5 Essential Marketing Trends

It’s all change again in the marketing world as technology evolves and new platforms make their debuts. The next six months will bring more changes than ever in online marketing, content marketing and SEO.

Trend 1 : Bite Sized Content

Vine, Snapchat and Instagram offer creative marketers the opportunity to create low cost video snippets…

Smaller is better. Like an elevator pitch, only shorter. Be on the lookout for more short forms of tiny, easily digestible content in the coming months.

 

Trend 2 : Conversion Pages

Your website is great (hopefully) but the smart marketers know that when it comes to lead generation, it’s all about individual web pages that have one job…

This year will see more B2B marketers using ‘Conversion Pages’ which are built for just one thing – converting traffic into leads. The average business website is believed to convert less than 1% of it’s traffic into sales enquiries. Expect to see the emphasis change from the traditional mantra of ‘more traffic = more sales’ to a more considered approach which extracts maximum value from your existing traffic before spending money on generating more.

 

Trend 3 : Retargeting

Lots of marketers have started to see the benefit of this technology already, expect to see it become commonplace within 6 months…

How many times have you been on a website lately, then seen adverts for the same website, (sometimes the exact products you were looking at) for the rest of the day on other sites? Retargeting is perhaps the biggest revolution in online marketing for the past 5 years and it allows smart marketers to pull interested prospective customers back to their site with laser focused campaigns that statistically blow traditional web banner advertising out of the water.

 

Trend 4 : Content Marketing

Give, give, give. Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing are the real buzz words of 2014…

The idea of giving away information that is genuinely beneficial to prospective customers is nothing new. Expect see the bar raised ever higher as marketers compete not only give away the most relevant and exciting content to receive, but also take the tracking and analysis of that content to a new level.

 

Trend 5 : In Depth Marketing Personas

We are used to working out the profiles of our ‘ideal customers’ and segmenting our marketing databases according to those values (i.e. Job Role, Industry Type, Parent, House Owner etc.)  To be successful today, marketers need to ask ever deeper questions about who their typical client might be:

  • What are their personal and work values?

  • What are their biggest challenges?

  • What is their motivation to buy?

  • Who do they look to for trusted information online?

  • Where are they in their buyer journey and what decision-making authority do they have?