Tag Archives: e-newsletters

How Accurate Are Your E-Mail Delivery Rates?

Most email service providers will report messages that have been passed on to the Internet, and not “bounced”, as ‘delivered’; and subsequently reporting those metrics back to you in the form of a delivery rate. These delivery rates are often pretty high, and if your subsequent click thru rate is low…it must be the copy – not the quality of the list…right? 

Think about it, when was the last time you saw any email service provider report saying delivery rates were less than somewhere in the range of 95-99%? What this figure typically means is out of every 100 emails sent on your behalf, only 1 to 5 of those come back as a bad email address or undeliverable (also known as a bounce). Once an email is sent, and it doesn’t register as a bounce, that has to mean it has been successfully delivered to a recipient’s inbox, right?

Wrong.

According to the Email Deliverability Benchmark Report released by “Return Path” back in July, deliverability failures continue to plague marketers but not necessarily revealed in deliverability reports. According to Return Path, what these reports don’t take into consideration is that some ISPs may go on to block the message or that the recipient may have spam filters in place.  These exceptions leaves marketers with the impression that they are getting delivery rates of over 90% whereas around 80% was more likely. The reports goes on to say that for the first half of 2009 (January thru June); the average inbox placement rate for permission, commercial email in the US and Canada was 79.3%. Of the nearly 21% of email that is not delivered to the inbox, only 3.3% is sent to a “Junk” or “Bulk” email folder, while nearly 18% is simply not delivered at all – but not indicated as a bounce. Business email addresses protected by systems like Postini, Symantec or MessageLabs are even tougher where on average, only 72.4% of commercial email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. These systems are more likely to deliver messages to a junk folder as compared to consumer ISPs that are more likely to block email altogether. In the United States, of the top ISPs, the toughest inboxes to reach are those at MSN, Hotmail and Gmail. Marketers fare slightly better at Cox, USA.net and Time Warner Cable/Road Runner.

So what’s a smart marketer to do?

1. Don’t believe the bounce myth, that whatever gets sent and doesn’t bounce must have been received.  The metric that simply uses emails sent vs. emails bounced is a bounce rate…instead ask for a deliverability rate. If they don’t know the difference…shop elsewhere. You should also inquire about the availability of other metrics like open rates or click-thru rates…if the so-called “deliverability rate” is high, but open rate low (say <10%)…you should question the accuracy of the “deliverability rate”.

2. Verify the accuracy and activity of the subscription base: Focus on those e-newsletters or list-builds that are acquired through proven online publishers who themselves have a vested interest in aggregating accurate and responsive online addresses and audience for their own business purposes and promotion vs. perhaps a 3rd party provider who is aggregating addresses from a  mix of sources. Messages that your target audience doesn’t have access to will not generate a response.

3. Proven circulations are the way-to-go: E-newsletter publishers, especially those publications with a lengthy, proven track record, are likely to have a proven success rate and active readership. As a result, not only is the message more likely to be seen – the publishers should be able to give you a reasonable expectation range for subsequent activity for your campaign. 

4. Take some responsibility for the issue: According to Direct Path most of the major drivers of poor deliverability rates are the direct result of marketing practices, not technical ones. These include complaints, which spike when email is unexpected or undervalued by the recipient and spam traps, which are most often found on old lists or have been built with poorly sourced data. 

 Link to the report (registration might be required): http://www.returnpath.net/downloads/resources/NOAM_deliverability_study.pdf

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Email Grammar Lesson – e.g. versus i.e.

Although I’m not known for my grasp of the English language – I do feel that if I’m presenting myself as a marketer and choosing to frequently use email as a communication tool I should at least have a grasp of proper grammar. One thing I always get confused about is as to when I should use the abbreviation “e.g.” as opposed to “i.e.” in professional correspondence / emails.

 I’ve noticed that I prefer to use “e.g.” and others might more often prefer to use “i.e.” in very similar use cases – I asked someone who actually corrected my e.g. to an i.e. and they said “well i.e. stands for “in example”….which I knew was wrong…so I finally got to the bottom of it for my own education and have elected to share for no other reason than I have wasted so much time on it that I’m trying to recoup some return on my investment through the betterment of others…

1. e.g.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” You are supposed to use e.g. to introduce one or more possibilities among many.

I like outdoor sports, e.g., football, soccer.
(football and soccer are just one of many types of outdoor sports)

He wastes his money on junk, e.g. cars that don’t run.
(cars that don’t run are junk)

I’ll listen to any kind of music, e.g., country-western, rap, etc.
(Country-western and rap are just two of the many types of music that I’ll listen to)

An easy way to remember what e.g. means is to think of it as standing for “example given.”  

2. i.e.

i.e. stands for id est which means “that is.” Use i.e. when what you are introducing is equivalent to or an explanation of what comes before it in the sentence.

I like outdoor sports; i.e., the ones that are played outside on a grassy field.

He wastes his money on junk; i.e., stuff that he will never get around to fixing.

I’ll listen to anything; i.e., I like any kind of music.

Basically, i.e. means “in other words.” It’s used to reword or provide an alternate explanation.

 
The Bottom Line

e.g. and i.e. are both Latin abbreviations. Both introduce additional information, but e.g. offers an example while i.e. explains or rewords. If you can replace the abbreviation with “for example,” use e.g. If you can replace it with “in other words” or “that is,” use i.e.

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Writing Effective E-Newsletter Copy – Part II: The Adcopy

Last week we introduced the topic of how to write effective ad copy; and we started by focusing on the basics and the headline for your ad. Today we’ll talk about the copy of the ad itself.

Depending on the sponsorship level and type you are writing for, you may have anywhere from a few words of text to perhaps more than 100 words of text to work with; but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use them all. Remember, your e-newsletter sponsorship is essentially “an ad for an ad”; you don’t need to say much – say just enough to prompt interest to warrant a click, either now or in a future need situation for the reader. Be straightforward and succinct with your message, and if you can do so in fewer words of text than you are allotted; do it! You can also experiment with less text in order to use white space effectively to make your ad ‘stand out’.

Therefore, copy should, first and foremost, hold your readers’ interest. Boring copy or lengthy descriptions of your products can overwhelm your readers and actually turn away potential customers. Instead, think like a customer. When you are writing descriptions of your products or offerings, try to ask yourself these questions:

What challenges are they facing, and how can your products make their lives easier?

For example, if you are selling a software product that automates everyday tasks, position this in terms of the benefit to the user. Rather than highlighting the “task automation” aspect, talk about how much time it can save. “Task automation” is abstract and vaguely technical, but everyone understands “time savings.”

Once you decide what the critical benefit points for your target customers are going to be, present the information in an accessible manner, use short sentences, bulleted lists, and other ways that don’t overwhelm readers. Instead of telling your customers about a product, use your copy to show them how it will work or how it can improve their work lives.

Here are two quick examples of ad copy for a manufacturer of “serial device server”; a serial device server translates data between communication formats, allowing an end-user to access, manage and configure remote facilities and equipment over the Internet from anywhere in the world.

Sample Copy A: Focus on the customer application:

“Ethernet has become the protocol of choice for industrial and commercial processes — so much so that a communications gap now exists between new and old systems.

For many faced with this dilemma, it could mean you are considering a costly replacement for perfectly good legacy equipment. However a better solution exists that will allow you close the communication gap with a serial device server from ABC Inc.

Serial Device Servers will save you time, resources, and most importantly, dollars on the bottom line. To learn more, download our complimentary white paper: “The Serial Revolution” or visit our website at…..

Sample Copy B: Focus on the product details:

“Serial Device Servers from ABC offer versatile socket operating modes, including TCP Server, TCP Client, UDP, and Real Com driver; additional features include:

  • 2- or 4-wire RS-485 with patented Automatic Data Direction Control (ADDC™) 
  • 10/100BaseTX (RJ45) or 100BaseFX (SC connector, Single/Multi mode)
  • Built-in Ethernet Cascading ports for easy wiring (RJ45 only)
  • Warning by relay output and E-mail

Learn more about ABC’s complete line of Serial Device Servers by visiting….”

See the difference?

Many marketers are too close to their own products to describe them effectively. Try to imagine that you are totally unfamiliar with your products or services — as many of your potential customers might be. Look at what you are offering through your customer’s eyes to gain a better insight as to how your products or offerings should be described. In Sample Copy B, the marketer’s extensive technical knowledge of the products is actually a hindrance for an e-newsletter ad. It appears as if ABC lost sight of the real world application that makes their products compelling or different, and how they benefit someone. It seems as if they think that the benefits are extremely obvious and need no description, but for someone who has never seen the product, they may not understand this as readily as the person writing the ad.

Later this week we’ll cover link strategy and landing page suggestions.

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Writing Effective E-Newsletter Copy – Part I: The Basics & The Headline

This next series of posts are written to specifically help you with creating effective ad copy.

Before we get into some specific considerations for your ad copy, there are a few important over-arching thoughts to keep in mind about your e-newsletter sponsorships.

First, your sponsorship is essentially “an ad for an ad”; the objective of your ad should not be to make a sale or tell a complete story by itself, but rather to get your prospect’s attention to want to learn more. How they’ll learn more is either through an immediate click to more information, or they’ll recall your name at a later date when the timing is more appropriate for them to learn more about you and your offerings.  The immediate click takes the form of web traffic while the targeted branding and exposure the e-newsletter provides creates the opportunity for the future click. It’s an unrealistic expectation for a single email ad to sell anybody on anything.

Secondly; the role your e-newsletter sponsorship is playing for you is that they are providing an early stage opportunity for you to influence your customer’s opinions, in many cases before they are even looking for a solution like you offer.

Finally, like all advertising – the best copy evolves over time. You should accept that you might make mistakes, so be prepared to test alternative creative, landing pages, headlines etc. for your campaign. Most importantly, take your time – don’t rush your copy to meet a deadline, solicit feedback from others and examine other ads that run in the e-newsletter you are placing your ad in.

With that introduction, let’s now get into some specific considerations for your ad.

 Part I: Ad Headline

Just as a successful email marketing message has a compelling subject heading to grab attention in a recipients inbox, your e-Newsletter ad needs a headline to hook the end-reader to read further and to click even further still. Avoid using jargon, whether it’s technical talk, corporate slang or industry buzzwords. You don’t need to impress readers with your technical mastery, focus on just giving them the facts in plain English. Instead of “jargon”, keep the focus on “what’s in it for them” and the headline should be tailored, where feasible, to the specific type of individual you are hoping to attract.

Let’s consider two examples.

Example #1:

Let’s use a fictional software company, called XY, and they publish a software product designed to help companies better manage and schedule maintenance requirements for their manufacturing machines and assets, the software is titled XY:EAM. The specific target job role that XY is looking to attract is someone in a management or supervisory role, ideally with the responsibility of overseeing maintenance processes. Knowing this – what would an effective ad headline read like?

 Let’s compare two headline variations:

 Sample A: “Decrease unscheduled equipment downtime right from your desktop.”

Sample B: “XY: Worldwide leader in enterprise asset management (EAM) software”

Which one fits our suggested guidelines of focusing on “what in it for them” without utilizing technical talk, corporate slang and jargon? It would seem like Sample Headline A has a bit of an edge to gain a prospect’s attention, especially those faced with a similar business challenge of dealing with unscheduled equipment downtime, whereas Sample Headline B has more of a corporate branding intent to associate the EAM acronym with the company, which isn’t the intent of XY’s campaign.

Example #2:

Let’s use a well-known manufacturer of motors and drives, one of the top names in a very “crowded” industry, for example purposes, the fictional company name is “Core Motion”. Because of the competitive nature of the motor’s industry; new application-specific product releases and product improvements are a very common way to increase or even maintain market share. With “Core Motion’s” most recent e-newsletter campaign, they are trying to drive interest and awareness for recent improvements to an award-winning line of motors and drives for washdown-duty applications, such as food and beverage processing.

Knowing this – what would an effective ad headline read like?

Let’s once again compare two variations:

Sample A: “Core Motion: Best Washdown Motors Getting Even Better”

Sample B: “Washdown motors built specifically for your harshest applications”

 Which sample headline accomplishes Core Motion’s objective?

 This is a great example of why we strongly urge trying different headlines for your contracted insertions, as selecting the most compelling headline between these two isn’t as easy as our first example. However, it would seem that once again, Sample Headline A would trigger the curiosity required to turn an e-newsletter browser into a “Core Motion” ad reader.  We would typically recommend avoiding the use of subjective words like “best” in a headline, but in this example – “Core Motion” has the proof to back it up due to this ad focusing on the release of innovations that improve upon their award winning ‘best in class’ line of products. Additionally, Sample Headline A is leveraging the existing market leading brand strength for their “Core Motion” name that will create instant recognition among readers. Sample Headline B wouldn’t necessarily be a bad option either; but it appears to be more appropriate copy for a lesser-known brand trying to break into harsh application markets.

Coming up in next week’s post – the ad copy itself.

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Understanding the Buying Process Online, Part III: Specific Interest & Search

In part II of Understanding the Buying Process Online;  we reviewed from a sales & marketing perspective, the importance of being discovered as early in the buying process as possible. In that post we covered creating overall awarness, interest and even curiosity through push marketing online.

In part III; we’ll talk about the second phase of the buying process – specific interest and search. This is the phase where your potential customer is getting more proactive in their information research. We’ll also introduce more “pull” marketing tactics in addition to maintaining the “push” initiatives.

Buy-Cycle Phase 2: Specific Interest & Search

As potential customers “get serious” about their interest in a topic; they begin to become more proactive and specific in their research online and potentially more urgent in their need for relevant information or solutions. Various research studies, surveys and opinions indicate that b2b professionals go online first anywhere from 85-95% of the time they have a specific interest or need.

In most cases, their activity begins on a search engine (either a general search engine such as Google or Yahoo!, or a B2B search engine such as Globalspec, Business.com, Knowledgestorm etc.). The exact percent of individuals who use a search engine at this phase varies greatly from study to study; with ranges from 65 – 85%; however no study pegs this number at “100%”; meaning resources like industry portals, community sites, B2B sites and vendor websites are still the first choice option for some professionals; but search engines remain the choice of the majority.

As a result, at this stage most marketers put the emphasis of their online budgets against search engines. However, too often the “last click” from a search engine gets all the credit for ultimately creating a sale, even though the conversion was the outcome of multiple influences over time. A study by the Atlas Institute titled “How Overlap Impacts Reach, Frequency and Conversions,” asserts that 90 percent of the clients that converted were reached by placements other than the last ad seen, and that far too often the proper credit for the sale is inappropriately given to search. The study found that two out of three clients who eventually took a responsive action were reached by ads across multiple portal sites before actually going on to ultimately make a purchase. To understand how the credit for the sale is “unfairly” being attributed to Google; consider this “offline” analogy:

You’re headed to the supermarket to buy some food and on your way in you see the big sign in the window advertising Hamburger for $3.99 a pound. You need some anyway and it was on your “list” so you buy it. In the online world, which measures the last ad seen, that sign alone would be given credit for your purchases in the store. But it’s quite likely that you were going shopping in the first place because you saw something in the weekend circular that you wanted to buy or maybe you heard a radio ad or your spouse asked you etc. Under the last-ad-seen model, the circular ad is worth nothing and everything else far less than the ad for hamburger hanging in the storefront window. Using this analogy; you can see the danger of relying on the last ad seen as not all advertising is intended to be immediate direct response; and the same can be said for online advertising.

Marketing Tactic Considerations:

Based on the overwhelming use of search engines by potential customers in this phase; search engine campaigns (both paid and unpaid) should be considered to ensure you are visible when individuals are searching by keywords. You should also continue to consider

e-newsletter campaigns to targeted prospects and customers and targeted banner advertising on industry portals and b2b sites to ensure your message is getting in front of individuals using these resources to find solutions to their problems and answers to their research questions. These types of tactics are more often associated with the term “pull marketing”; as you are attempting to pull and attract “web surfers” to your website when they have a need vs. “pushing” your message to them and trying to stimulate a need.

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Understanding the Buying Process Online, Part II: Curiosity & Awareness

In a posting last week, I described the buying process online. In that post, I mentioned that it’s important to remember that when we evaluate our marketing strategies and tactics; it’s critical to remember that new client acquisitions (new sales) are generally the outcome of multiple influences over time. I also made reference to maximizing your visibility to your target customers during all aspects of the buy cycle.

In this week’s post – we’ll review the earliest phase of the buy-cycle; curiosity and awareness.

From a sales & marketing perspective, being discovered as early in the buying process as possible is critical.

Buy-Cycle Phase 1: Curiosity & Awareness

Since the primary goal of most overall marketing campaigns is to eventually create new customers; getting these potential customers to think of you first when they need to satisfy a need, want or desire should be among the target outcomes of any marketing campaign. Generally referred to as “exposure”; creating curiosity or general awareness about what your company does or offers provides familiarity to those that have not yet discovered you or visited your website. The overarching idea is that when a person needs to satisfy a need, want or desire they remember your name or your site and visit you directly. A strong curiosity or awareness component of any marketing campaign will keep your company in the minds of people who might not be ready to act now, but who might take action down the road.

As a prospective customer first becomes aware of your company and / or your offerings, they might be curious as to what else you can do or whether your company or your solutions or products can do everything they need for the price they can afford or in the time frame they require. At this stage, your organization is in good position to be one of the top of mind vendors for your potential customer; but you still potentially have a knowledge and / or a credibility gap with the potential customer.

The best thing any organization can do at this stage is to build a bridge across the knowledge or credibility gap. The bridge is as simple as providing something of value as soon as possible to your potential customer. More times than not, that “something of value” will be in the form of sharing information that the company has and the prospect does not. In other words, your goal at this stage is continue to educate. This education can take shape in numerous ways that provide value to your potential customers:

  • Whitepapers,
  • PDF data sheets or catalog downloads
  • Case Studies or Application Notes
  • Online videos or Webinars
  • Email newsletters or blog postings
  • Press Clippings / PR and any number of other methods

Marketing Tactic Considerations:

To promote the availability and accessibility of this information; you should consider a combination of E-newsletter campaigns, broadcast banner advertising to a wide, but targeted audience, and direct email campaigns to your target market.

These types of campaigns are often referred to a “push” marketing as you are attempting to push your message in front of your target market to create interest and demand as opposed to waiting for them to be looking for a solution, as in the later phases of the buy cycle, and attempting to “pull” them towards you as a vendor of choice.

As potential customers “get serious” about their interest in a topic; they begin to become more proactive and specific in their research online and potentially more urgent in their need for relevant information or solutions. We’ll cover more about this as next week I’ll cover “Specific Interest and Search”as we continue to talk about marketing alignment to the buy-cycle.

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Understanding the Buying Process Online: Part I: Overview

While evaluating marketing options and strategies, it’s important to remember that client successes (new customer conversions) are generally the outcome of multiple influences over time. To maximize your online marketing effectiveness; consideration should be given to maximizing your visibility to your target customers during all aspects of the buy cycle.

 

From a sales & marketing perspective, being discovered as early in the buying process as possible is critical; as the impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches by a potential customer creates the baseline criteria that the buyer will use to compare all options under consideration as final selection and purchase gets closer.

 

The graphic below illustrates a typical buying process in the B2B space from initial awareness straight through to purchase. Although the buyer may not articulate the buying process in this specific way, even the most casual purchases are made with a similar process.  

 

Typical Buy Cycle

Typical Buy Cycle

 

 

 

 

 

In future posts; we’ll review the specific details and importance of each of these phases of the buy cycle and the marketing considerations for maximizing your visibility during them.

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