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With Email Marketing Sometimes You Need to Question the Rules

Marketing podcast with DJ Waldow and Jason Falls (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

There are a handful of generally accepted “best practices” when it comes to email. Some have withstood the test of time and experiment, but others stay in place as hard and fast rules simply because enough people keep saying so.

Rebel's Guide to Email MarketingThe only hard and fast rule you should adhere to in marketing is what works for you. Now, what this means first and foremost is that you must be testing, measuring and analyzing what works for you or you’ll have no choice but to follow industry norms.

Sometimes norms present great opportunities to stand out. If everyone is doing something one way, there’s a pretty good bet that you can get some attention breaking the rules.

Today’s guests on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast are DJ Waldow and Jason Falls, co-authors of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing: Grow Your List, Break the Rules, and Win

In the Rebel’s Guide they take on some of the common best practices and illustrate some great examples of people finding success in email marketing by bending and breaking the rules.

Below are some examples of the types of common practices you need to test and push in your email marketing efforts.

Subject lines

I call the subject line of an email the ad for opening and reading. If you don’t hook someone with it, you stand little chance of getting your email read and no chance of getting someone to click through to an offer.

Common wisdom is 30-40 characters with call to action or benefit right up front. What if you experimented with very short, intriguing subject lines that played to curiosity?

From line

Common wisdom here is that you want the recipient to see that the email is from someone they know. Makes sense, but what if you tested sending email with clever attributes that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else, but also added a little fun and flair – example might be: From: Your Favorite Plumber

Preheader text

This is the second ad and most people waste it. It’s the very first bit of content that shows up after the subject line in a lot of email clients. Most people start with something like “having trouble reading this, blah, blah”

What if you used this to text to urge them to open – “You know you need to open this” “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, open this”

Alt images

The default setting for Gmail is to leave images turned off. This means the recipient must click something to actually make your images show. If you are using HTML email that relies on images to make greater impact you want those images turned on.

Common practice suggests that you use the Alt images attribute to describe your images as the alt text will show in place of images. What if you used this to convince people that they are missing cool stuff by leaving images off. “If you had images on you would see something really awesome here”

HTML and text

Another common spam filter fighting practice is to send your email in multiple formats. Your nice, pretty HTML email should have a text-based only version. It helps assure the ISPs that you are sending useful information.

One of the things that I think you need to experiment with is the use of text only emails or at least mixing the format up from time to time. When people get used to seeing your standard HTML template they get complacent. Send very short, personal emails using text only to make even greater impact.

Personalization

Another common practice is to add personalization from data fields. You know, Hey John, did you know that John could get a free blah, blah.

I agree there is a place for this, although it gets abused in absurd ways as well. This is something your want to play with. One of the most widely commented emails I ever sent intentionally played on the fill in the blank fields with fake data fields like [put new best friend’s name here] and [say something here that sounds authentic]

Opt-out

This one is not only common practice, it’s the law. You must add a way for people to opt-out of your email and you should make it obvious.

Most people hide this at the end of an email and use the default government language.

What if you put it first and had some fun with it. “I really, really don’t want to see you leave, but if you must break my heart, do it here.”

Every element of your marketing is only as good as your testing tells you it is, so study common best practices in everything you do and then figure out how to interrupt the best practices with testing.

3 Ways to Use Twitter to More Deeply Engage Influential Prospects

Amidst all the talk of Google+ and the new, new Facebook, Twitter has a lost a bit of its glow.

_DaniloRamos via Flickr

But, it’s still a very powerful and useful tool for marketers and in some cases the communications vehicle of choice for your best prospects and customers.

Today I want to talk about a couple of ways you can use your Twitter routine to more deeply engage customers and prospects.

If they are active Twitter users, then the following tips may help you gain insight about them and give you some ideas on how to create the kind of value for them that builds trust and opens doors.

Just to be clear, however, these are not meant to be used to manipulate or create a fake show of interest, these are just practical ways to get the most out of your Twitter use while also focusing on targeted users and creating good content for your followers.

Scan the favorites

Once you’ve identified prospects and customers on Twitter there is a tool that might help you learn a little more about what’s really important to them rather then just monitoring their entire stream. You should have customers and prospects in Twitter lists so you can easily monitor their activity in a tool like TweetDeck, but you’ll also want to scan their favorites.

This tip isn’t 100% foolproof, but many times people will mark favorite tweets because they represent the things they really like and care about. It might be their own tweets about their most important topics or those of their most influential friends – either way it can be great information.

You can find a list of favorites by adding the word favorites after a username – my friend Jason Falls is going to be in Kansas City this week to promote his new book, No Bullshit Social Media, so I’ll use him as an example. You’ll find Jason’s favorites here – http://twitter.com/JasonFalls/favorites

Retweet the best of the best

Another way to provide great content for your followers and also show up in the streams of those you want to get to know better is to Retweet their tweets. I know, duh, but here’s where I add a tip that makes this something more strategic. Don’t simply RT everything they write, it’s not very effective and won’t do a thing for your followers.

Go to Topsy and find the best Tweets from your customers and targeted prospects and RT those. Depending upon who you’re targeting, their best tweets are likely ones that have been RT’d by lots of other folks already.

You can find this on Topsy with the search query – from:twitterusername. So you could find my most popular tweets with this search – http://topsy.com/s?q=from:ducttape (You can also create email alerts for your searches.)

Filter targeted search

I’ve always touted the use of custom filtering and aggregating of content as a great way to add value to the world and, more specifically, customers and prospects. The idea here is that you set up all kinds of searches that automatically feed you information that could be useful to a prospect or even to your own education about a prospect’s world and then package that information in a way that’s useful to your prospect.

RSS technology is a great aid here so you can easily subscribe to or show your prospects how to subscribe to these custom searches. Unfortunately, Twitter decided to make it a little harder for just anyone to subscribe to searches via RSS. (Many services seem to be moving away from RSS in favor of their own custom APIs – so perhaps the Twitter Dev page is a place to start some advanced education.)

In the meantime, I’ve found a query that still produces an RSS feed for custom Twitter searches (no guarantees on how long this will work.) If you want to create an RSS feed, so you can subscribe to the updates via Google Reader for example, for the search phrase “small business marketing” you would create it like this – http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=”small business marketing”+filter:links – the key here is to add search.rss to the URL and then standard query stuff – ?q= – and then your search phrase. I also added +filter:links so that I would only get tweets that contained links to web pages.

Try this yourself and you’ll find that you can create RSS feeds for Twitter searches. Get creative and create some searches that you know will contain great content that your prospects would love and then start sharing bits with them. They’ll thank you for it.

Wednesday Guest Stars

Here are your guest contributors for Wednesday’s edition of the Duct Tape Marketing Small Business Week iPad Giveaway.

Read each of the five posts that follow and click our entry form link to match the guest star with their post.

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a social media strategist, thinker, speaker and educator. SocialMediaExplorer.com is owned, co-authored and edited by Jason.  He also offers a question-and-answer and learning community at ExploringSocialMedia.com. Social Media Explorer is also the name of Falls’s consulting company which focuses on strategic counsel for medium and large companies in the realm of social media marketing, digital marketing, online communications and public relations.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in strategic internet marketing consulting, training and implementation services including: Content, Search, Email and Social Media Marketing.  As an active thought leader in the search marketing industry, he’s contributed to top industry publications such as Mashable, iMedia Connection and Yahoo Search Marketing Blog along with publishing TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog.

Shama Kabani

Web and TV personality. Bestselling author. International Speaker. Award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global digital marketing firm.  Shama is a bestselling author with her book -The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue.  When not working directly with her clients or shooting her show, Shama travels the world speaking on business, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc and writes for the Outspoken Media Blog. She has been involved in the SEO community since 2006 and is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking, and her excessive on-the-clock twittering at @lisabarone.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan

Rae is the Principal of Sugarrae SEO Consulting and does various types of Internet marketing; search engine optimization, viral marketing, affiliate marketing, site auditing, link development road maps and tons of other little nooks and crannies of this business.  She is also the co-founder, co-owner and CEO of MFE Interactive in addition to being the co-owner and SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 1

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc and writes for the Outspoken Media Blog. She has been involved in the SEO community since 2006 and is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking, and her excessive on-the-clock twittering at @lisabarone.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 1

You should be doing what so many of your competitors are NOT doing – turning your attention toward building excitement around yourself and your brand.

First, begin growing the site’s presence by guest blogging on industry-relevant blogs to build your own authority as an expert, drive eyes to your site and to build those all-important links and relationships. Don’t start out targeting the A-listers, but the up-and-comers and the folks who appear just as hungry as you. Go through the same process on Twitter (you have one of those accounts, right?), using tools like Twitter Search, Twellow, and Tweepz to find like-minded Twitter users that you can follow and connect with. Get involved in Twitter chats, industry podcasts, and community events. The combination of reaching out in the blogosphere, on Twitter, and to your in-store customers will help you lay the groundwork of building a super awesome promotional army that you can push news too.

With your army intact, drive them wild with excitement, simultaneously building your brand karma by hosting or sponsoring a contest or event. It could be as simple as lending your name to something that’s already going on, giving away a product or gadget, hosting a Twitter party or something more old school like sponsoring a Late Night at your store where you stay open late and offer some cool (and URL-branded) giveaways and raffles. Because while having a Web site is great, taking the steps you need to build your promotional army to help you GROW that site is even better. Otherwise, yeah, nice Web site, dude. No one cares.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 2

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Rae Hoffman-Dolan

Rae is the Principal of Sugarrae SEO Consulting and does various types of Internet marketing; search engine optimization, viral marketing, affiliate marketing, site auditing, link development road maps and tons of other little nooks and crannies of this business. She is also the co-founder, co-owner and CEO of MFE Interactive in addition to being the co-owner and SVP of Marketing for Speedy Incorporation.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 2

If you’re a local service based business, you may have noticed Google Places listings are steadily becoming a dominant force in the Google results for your most important local terms:

Various guides to optimizing Google Places listings agree that the reviews shown with your Places listing are an important part of getting to the top of those rankings. The reviews shown on your Places listing come from multiple sources across the web including big “local” sites like InsiderPages, Citysearch, Yelp as well as niche sites like Zagat and TripAdvisor and tons more. (Tip: click on your competitors’ listings to see additional sites their reviews are coming from.)

So the question becomes, how do you GET people to leave the reviews needed to rank well in Google for your local terms?

Create a “review page” on your website that links to all of your listing pages that you see being used in the reviews of your Places listing. Explain how you love providing great service and encourage customers to review your service.

Make customers aware of the review page via:

  • Business cards – on the back: “Love our service? Reward us by giving us an awesome review [link]“
  • Generic follow up emails – Check how they liked your service, ask for feedback – if the feedback is positive, suggest they might be interested in leaving a review [drop link]
  • Follow up when people leave positive traditional comment cards – thank them for their feedback and mention they can leave reviews about their experience online [drop link]
  • Add a “tell us how you found us” field to your contact form listing the biggest local review sites as options. Follow up with happy customers who say they found you via Yelp to remind them to leave their own review on the site [drop Yelp listing link]

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 3

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a social media strategist, thinker, speaker and educator. SocialMediaExplorer.com is owned, co-authored and edited by Jason. He also offers a question-and-answer and learning community at ExploringSocialMedia.com. Social Media Explorer is also the name of Falls’s consulting company which focuses on strategic counsel for medium and large companies in the realm of social media marketing, digital marketing, online communications and public relations.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 3

The web is not a venue where, “if you build it, they will come.” You have to make sure your audience knows your website is there and that it can help them. Spend some time discovering where your customers and people like them are hanging out on the web. (Hint: Assuming you want twice as many of the types of customers you already have, why not ask them?) Do they read blogs? Are they Facebook users? Is Twitter their thing? When you start to see where it is the people you want to attract are, go there, participate in the community on those platforms and provide your insights and expertise (not your catalog) to build trust and attract people to want to know more about you.

That’s it! There’s no big mystery here. Find your audience, serve them well. Remind them occasionally you’re there to help when they need you. Provided your website leads people to clear calls-to-action that you’re measuring, do that and you’ll see your needles move.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 4

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in strategic internet marketing consulting, training and implementation services including: Content, Search, Email and Social Media Marketing. As an active thought leader in the search marketing industry, he’s contributed to top industry publications such as Mashable, iMedia Connection and Yahoo Search Marketing Blog along with publishing TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 4

One of the most common forms of online marketing for small businesses is to have a website. The problem is, with today’s increasingly social and mobile web, a web site just isn’t enough.

To help website owners take full advantage of the most important online marketing opportunities, here are 3 things small businesses can do to attract and engage new customers.

Content Publishing & Marketing: Consumers are interacting with multiple content sources before purchase and businesses that provide useful information beyond product features and benefits can attract more traffic and referrals.

Tips, articles, videos and experts interviews provide customers with the information they need to buy and refer to others. Useful content optimized with keywords also attracts more search engine traffic and links.

Social Media & Networking – 90% of marketers say that social media is important for their business according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report. Word of mouth, referrals and buzz on social networks can increase awareness, build trust and influence sales.

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer useful platforms for small businesses to be helpful and share information with networks far beyond their customer base.

Local & Mobile – By 2014, mobile Internet will take over desktop Internet according to Microsoft Tag Lab. Small business websites can increase page views by offering a mobile friendly version of their website. They can also increase visibility on local search by making sure they’ve claimed their listings on Google Places and Bing Business Listings.

By integrating their web site investment with useful content, social media and local marketing efforts, small businesses can make sure they’re visible wherever their customers are looking and provide great reasons to refer even more new business.

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 5

This post is one in a series of five guest posts authored by the super star bloggers pictured below. As part of a celebration of National Small Business Week we are asking readers to match all five guests posts up with the contributing blogger to be entered for a chance to win an iPad2. Read all five posts in today’s series and come back each day this week for five new posts in this great educational series and another chance to win.

Shama Kabani

Web and TV personality. Bestselling author. International Speaker. Award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global digital marketing firm. Shama is a bestselling author with her book -The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue. When not working directly with her clients or shooting her show, Shama travels the world speaking on business, entrepreneurship, and technology.

I Have a Web Site, What Else Should I be Doing Online 5

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards dominating the internet. You have a website that is well-designed, well-functioning, and most importantly well converting. (Correct?) Now, let’s look at 3 things that you can do to continue to market online.

1)     Create Compelling Content. There is a lot of noise on the internet. Don’t add to it. That being said, people still turn to the web to research, learn, and buy. It used to be that the loudest merchant in the bazaar won. Today, it’s the merchant that provides the most value and really takes the time to educate the consumers. Don’t let your website sit idle. Continue to create and post content that will provide value to your visitors.

2)     Keep in Touch with ALL Visitors. Well, almost all. If you’ve ever watched the classic “You’ve Got Mail!” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, then you remember the excitement on their faces each time AOL announced “You’ve got mail!”  There can never be a remake of the movie. Why? Because no one is that excited to get email today. Not you, not me, and you guessed it…not your customers. That isn’t to say that email marketing is no longer efficient. But, that you need to give your visitors and prospects options. Perhaps they can join your email list. But, can they also like your page on Facebook? How about follow you on Twitter? Or, subscribe to your blog? Once someone lands on your website, make sure that they have plenty of ways to keep in touch with you. And, most importantly, you with them.

3)     Leverage people as the media. Also known as social media. Every single customer or client has the potential of becoming a champion or a critic. And, you have the power to sway them. Use websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to build a community around your audience.

Your website is a crucial piece of the web marketing puzzle. But, it is just the start!

Read the rest of today’s mystery posts here