10 expert tips on email marketing

Rough of an e-newsletterIf you’ve ever had the job of putting your marketing email, ezine or e-newsletter together – whether designing the format, writing the blurbs, testing different subject lines or segments, sending it out to subscribers, dealing with unsubscribes – 7 Proven Tactics to Increase Response for your Email Campaigns seemed the session to attend at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London.

Having spent much of last year producing a monthly email across nine segments for a major car insurance and breakdown company, I was interested to hear latest best practice and get some inspirattion. After all, we tracked KPIs, tweaked designs, improved clarity on calls to action buttons, yadda yadda blah blah, and saw a leap in click-throughs. But what else could we have done?

Tamara Gielen, Independent Email Marketing Consultant, who ran email programmes for eBay among others, had some ideas. She promised seven tactics in the presentation but instead, I counted 30. So there’s lots to know, too much to reproduce here.

Here are 10 bulletpoints.

  • Sell your email programme on the website – don’t just have a button asking them to subscribe to your email but clarify the offer on the button, eg, ‘train me to profit’, ‘be the first to know our special offers’, ‘free email tips’, and so on. Agencies may need to advise the client to do this if emails are outsourced.
  • Tell them why you are asking for their info on the sign-up form (perhaps add a ‘why are we asking this?’ button on the page). Be transparent, it builds trust.
  • Welcome your new subscribers – send a welcome email within 24 hours, when they are highly engaged. Let them know, ‘This is what we are going to be sending you.’ Ask them to do something (of benefit to them) and send them back to your site.
  • Listen to your unsubscribers – they will tell you what they don’t want. Maybe they don’t want to fully unsubscribe but are fed up of your monthly email outs. So give them the option of getting less emails on the unsubscribe page, eg once a week/month. Or just email seasonally, even just once a year, when they are likely to be shopping for your service or product. Better this, than losing them altogether.
  • Give ‘unsubscribe’ alternatives – eg if emails are unsuitable, ask them to sign up for an RSS feed, suggest a ‘follow us on Twitter’ option or to become a Facebook fan, would they like to sign up for the catalogue – offer alternative channels for you to communicate with them.
  • Use social networks to grow your list – eg, encouraging your customer to become a fan on Facebook means other people see that in their newsfeed. Why is that interesting? Make it interesting, eg, Papa John’s on Facebook offered a free pizza if you become a fan and won a million more subscribers to their email  as a result.
  • Allow subscribers to share your content via share buttons to help acquisition. First figure out where your audience is, eg, B2B is great for LinkedIn. B2C may be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But remember people will only share links if there is something of value in the content.
  • Emails do not have to be weekly or monthly – use triggers, eg, a Birthday trigger, such as ‘Fiona, Birthday greetings from [brand], here’s a [discount/freebie/offer] to celebrate.’
  • Subject line length/content – include the most important message in first 4-5 words, ask questions, sell benefits, and include an urgency.
  • When should you send your email? – think about when your customers are likely to be browsing and when buying, eg, a retail email may do better at the weekend when people are free to click through and buy. But test your timings. Tamara sends hers at 9.30 on a Monday morning – because few send at this time (the bulk of emails is sent on Wednesdays/Thursdays). Stand outs from your competitors. Also she notes that many have a 9am start and are going through emails at this time – her email then pops up on top (she has 50% open rate by the way).

Images: © Maxpower/Flickr

Two simple ways to justify online spend to the boss

AVINASH_KAUSHIK
Avinash Kaushik gets ready to speak at SES London

There’s a lot of talk at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London about ‘doing it right’. SES London is a three-day conference and expo that brings together the superstars of SEO and SEM to reveal the latest ways they are dancing with the search engines, each side locked in a teeth-gritting tango and dancing each other across the floor in order to win the eyeballs and clicks of users, and present user targeted (marketed?) search results.

At least that’s how I understand it. You got love a metaphor.

But ‘doing it right’ –monitoring analytics, refining strategy, making informed decisions about whether to spend on SEO work (to boost presence in organic search results) or PPC (paid for results) – well, that takes resource and budget, aka time and money. There may be a lot of explaining here, by the way, as I get to grips with marketing buzzwords and attempt to translate it into words and concepts I understand, being from a journalistic background and thinking of B2B verticals as something smutty.

The ‘number one bitchfest’, as keynote speaker Avinash Kaushik put it today is : ‘I can’t get my company to pay for an analyst.’

And why don’t we get the love from our execs? Because they just don’t get it. It’s a rare CFO or purse-string holder that gets internet culture and what they should pay and where.

Without this, you don’t have an SEO strategy or, if the consultants at SES London are to be believed, a hope in hell of getting your brand/product seen.

So how do SEO’s thought leaders suggest you deal with this?

Here are two lovely anecdotes from their SES speeches:

Aaron Kahlow, Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing Summit

‘I was once asked, “If you had to, would you rather give up your laptop, mobile phone, social networks, etc, or would you rather cut off your left hand?”’

[short pause]

‘So I answered “my left hand”, right.’

And he said: ‘Gotcha! You didn’t say laptop, etc, – but you thought about it!’

Lesson: Tech is ubiquitous. Email is ubiquitous. Social networks are ubiquitous. Being disconnected is, for some, like having a left hand cut off. So try this question on your friends, colleagues, even the CFO – and convince your business people through their hesitation how important and embedded online has become.

Avinash Kaushik, Author, Blogger, Analytics Evangelist, Google

‘I can only blog at midnight. I have a job, I have two small kids so this is the only time I can blog. But my wife she loves me; she says, “Go to bed!”

‘Still I want to blog so I tell her, “I am kind of a big deal.” And she says, “Go to bed!”

‘Why? Because it is irrelevant to her. It is the same with executives.

‘So I hit her with data: last month I had 73,000 visits in 176 countries, even Somali pirates visit my blog. But still she doesn’t care. It’s not important to her and it’s not important to the executives.

‘The third time I quantified the goals of his blog (number of feed subscribers, conversion to speaking engagements, my about page which has tracking codes on all the links). I say, “Honey, you should let me blog because last month, I made $26,000 fake dollars!”

‘And she says, “Work harder”, because finally that number means something to her.’

Lesson: to transform your site, blog, etc, you need to compute the economic value to the financial people in your company. Talk to them in language that they understand.

That is all.

I am attending these keywords in 2010: SES, SXSWi and CSForum

Somehow I’ve lined up a conference a month for the next three months. Here are their taglines, blurbs and what I’m aiming to do at each one:

Search Engine Strategies 2010
London, UK, 15-19 February

Tagline: The Original Search Engine Marketing Event.

Blurb: Three days of sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, linking building, duplicate content, video optimisation, usability and more!

Me: Blogging (right here) points of interests – particularly interested in conversion rate optimisation stuff for websites and emails (esp after being RAC ezine’s online editor last year), information architecture, business tweeting and happy hour cocktails. So I’ll try to throw up (!) some posts on these from the event.

SXSW Interactive
Austin, Texas, 12-16 March

Tagline: Tomorrow Happens Here.

Blurb: Five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable line up of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. Join us March 2010 for the panels, the parties, the 13th Annual Web Awards, the ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade, the Film and Interactive Trade Show and Exhibition, Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW and, of course, the inspirational experience that only SXSW can deliver.

Me: There for the margaritas, parties and crazy games naturally, but also to meet interesting contacts, learn best practice on content-related stuff and bring the skills back home. Also looking at finding some connections doing interesting stuff in the hotel/conference/travel line of work maybe. And generally promoting the digital side of the West Midlands region, which is part funding me to go on their digital mission. Should also be blogging a bit from the event as per last year. And hoping to hook up with the Tuttle 2 Texas crew somewhere around New Orleans for the last leg of their trip – more about what that’s about on the Tuttle2Texas Posterous. Oh and finally hoping to work out what distributed storytelling is all about from last year’s Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator MC and tech journo prof, Brad King.

Content Strategy Forum 2010
Paris, France, 15-16 April

Tagline: Vive la communication!

Blurb: Where business analysis meets user experience and content development – two exciting days of workshops, presentations and discussions led by leading experts and practitioners from the emerging field of Content Strategy. Whether you are already a content strategist, or looking to break into the field, this exceptional event will put you in touch with inspiring people and new ideas.

Me: Content strategy is what I’m most interested in right now and this is the only major conference featuring all the big names that doesn’t involve flying to the US. Looking to pick up skills in this area as I’ve just started working with the wonderful WTF! Fierce Festival to help get their content strategy ducks in a row in 2010. Also hope to finally meet Kristina Halvorson, content strategy queen. And will also be bringing an artist along to document Paris in an experiment of travel journalism for Tourist Vs Traveller – more of that in a future post.

That’s me sorted for the year, I think. Unless anyone knows of any interesting travel journalist conferences…

Transparent journalism – the Web 2.0 way to compile a Top 10 list

Been having fun over on my travel blog Tourist Vs Traveller with exposing the messy inner blood and guts of how I put together two Valentine’s Day features on the ‘top 10’ romantic places in the UK and around the world. The main mashup was an experiment using TravMedia for the big callout for suggestions, Google Docs as a collecting funnel and Twitter as a refinement option for feedback from the non-PR world.

It was going to be a short exposé but in the end turned into a five-part series, culminating in the Creative Commons release of all the PR source material, featuring 101 romantic places around the UK and the world.

I think different people will be interested in different links depending on whether you’re a journalism student, a social media or digital journalist, or a reader in lurve, so here they all are:

  1. Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 1: transparency and the trouble with top tens
  2. Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 2: the commission
  3. Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 3: the seven tools of feature research
  4. Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 4: the results of the Google Docs experiment
  5. Behind the scenes of a travel feature – pt 5: 101 romantic places around the world

NYE at Birmingham Coach Station

NYE2009_Birmingham_Bus_stationApologies for the cross-posting but my new travel blog Tourist Vs Traveller is now up and running, and has some nice, shiny new content on it so I’m shouting about it a bit.

It being that time of year, I’ve just posted up my 10 New Year’s travel resolutions for 2010 on there and also ticked one of them off by writing up a picture post on the recently opened Birmingham Coach Station, where I spent a rather entertaining New Year’s Eve.

PS Can you spot me in the Christmas bauble?

I’m launching a new travel blog

It’s been two years since I started my first travel blog, What To Wear Where, in an effort to answer the niche packing question: ‘What do you wear in trendy Reykjavik in below-freezing December?’ While I still think the idea of packing help for any destination/event still has legs, and the blog still brings in a fairly steady stream of traffic, without a community to fuel the ideas, What To Wear Where sort of got stuck in the doldrums.

So I’m going back to basics. I’ve set up a new blog as a playground for my travel journalism. It’s called Tourist Vs Traveller (not for any deep and meaningful reason but because it was free) and you’ll find it at http://touristvstraveller.wordpress.com/.

Playing with travel journalism…
Playing with travel journalism…

Crowdsourced and client-led content
The first experiment is that I hope the content will be led by others – and my opening post is asking for your input. I’m soliciting views about what kind of content to publish because I don’t want the content solely to be defined by me as a journalist. It could be anything, I am open to suggestions. What I do want to do, though, is use it as a place to experiment with lots of lovely Web tools. With a background in digital client publishing, I’m also interested in travel companies who want me to create online content for their offering – not marketing fluff, but the real stories behind the PR, the kind of content that DOES help people decide to buy your product – or not! Y’know, useful stuff.

The problem with travel writing
So what travel writing is out there right now? On the Web, we have trip blogs, review sites and an avalanche of whinging UGC that is rapidly becoming meaningless as a way to make buying decisions. There are also some nice up and coming blogs from travel journalists and bloggers – I’ll be adding them to the blog roll as time goes by. In print, we have standard travel narratives and a limited number of news items published by newspapers and magazines and written by a rather exclusive club of commissioned travel journalists (or staff writers on a freebie). And on TV, we have an increasing amount of celebrities and comedians being sent off around the globe in the name of entertainment.

What is harder to find is a middle-ground between Jo Bloggs naming and shaming their hotel and the angled/subjective narrative of the commissioned travel writer/presenter.

Finding fresh ways to tell the story
Where I do find decent content, I’ll be linking to it though. I suspect that, for now and for a while, it will be possible to aggregate good examples of experimental travel journalism.

But I think there is also room for journalistic content that goes behind the scenes of a travel product, that tells stories that the newspaper doesn’t have room for, or that revisits classic stories from new angles using audio, video, slideshows, aggregated content and social media. It would be great to break out from the form – after all, traditional travel writing is itself rather stuck in the doldrums, in style and structure, in privileged points of view, and because collapsing print budgets mean fewer outlets and options for travel journalists

And I think that the travel industry could potentially pay for this content now that their outlets for print editorial are shrinking – to explain, here’s my earlier posting on a potential new business model for travel journalists.

So that’s it for now. Please visit the blog and post your comments. I’ve got the first couple of posts up – all about the nonsense of tourism slogans inspired by two days spent at the World Travel Market (WTM) in November.

And especially for Brummies, there’s a winning marketing slogan from St Johns Hotel, Solihull at the end of Around the world in 44 tourism slogans.

WTM2009: the folk dances, the music, the kiss…

Had a bit more fun with the Flip on my second day at World Travel Market and probably more success by keeping the camera still, ditching the high-speed panning and getting close to the subject – very close in the case of video no 3! These three clips show the kind of random things you stumble across when walking around the stall-sized world of the WTM trade show. Next post: ‘Around the world in 44 slogans’…

Clip one features some superb folk dancing from Azerbaijan, clip two folk music from Uzbekistan and clip three a wandering blow-up giant with a Cockney accent and a penchant for kissing the ladies – even those holding a video camera.

Azerbaijan folk dance: check out the skipping steps…

Uzbekistan folk musicians: check out the hats…

And finally… a kiss from a wandering giant with a penchant for the ladies.

WTM2009: three firsts and a load of balls

So yesterday I learnt how to use a Flip – an indepth 30-second lesson conducted by Pete on the 45 bus into town (yes it really is that easy). And today I shot my first proper video and just now did my first bit of video editing in iMovie (not so easy, found it a bit finicketty) and uploaded to YouTube (Vimeo logins disabled).

Fortunately there are plenty of random scenes to shoot at the first day at World Travel Market 2009 and while I didn’t spot any crazy folk dancing, there were some top footie skills going on at the WTM entrance, promoting sports tourism to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. So here’s the results – enjoy 40 seconds of some pretty neat ballplay.

More tomorrow…

WTM and a new business model for travel journalism

wtm_30_yrs_cmykLater today I’m off to my fourth World Travel Market, held annually at London’s Excel every November. Around 50,000 travel industry people attend each year. In 2008, 187 countries and regions set out their stall, filling up 43,000 sq m of space. Last year there were stage shows featuring folk dancing from Kazakhstan, Thai massages on the Thailand stand, saki hour via Japan, Uri Geller breaking spoons with his mind on the Israel stand, and so on. This year, no doubt, there’ll be more of the same and on the same grand scale for although it’s a trade-only show, I think is the third largest show currently held in the UK, behind the Motor and Home Show.

This is the second vast conference I’ve attended this year. The first one was SXSW Interactive, a five-day event on all things interwebbie, in Austin, Texas – I tried to blog about my SXSWi but most of it remains in my head. Will see what stories WTM 2009 throws up.

If you’re going to WTM, and would like to meet, the best way to make contact with me is via Twitter: @fionacullinan. I’ll be checking it and tweeting from it throughout Monday and Tuesday.

My plan for Monday press day is:

  • 10-11 WTM Forecast Forum
  • 10.30 Maldives press conference
  • 12-1 Korea Tourism Org wine/buffet lunch (Novotel)
  • 1-2 Rezidor Hotel Group press reception
  • 3.30 US Travel Association
  • 4 Wandering!
  • 6 Sri Lanka press reception
  • Eve: Travtweetup, WTM Special

My plan for Tuesday seminar day is:

  • 11-12 Innovative Travel Marketing in a recession
  • 12 Irish stew on the Ireland stand
  • 12.30-1.30 Content matters
  • 2 Wandering again.
  • 4.30 Technology and Online Travel drinks reception
  • Eve: Travel Blog Camp.

Sometimes schedules go astray and I’m happy for this to happen in the accelerated serendipitous environment of a digital WTM. Because the other main reason I’m attending WTM is to put myself out there for blogging work, either corporate blogging or creating content for tourist boards and travel companies. I’ve been doing this for a large non-travel organisation on the subjects of innovation and entrepreneurship but would love to do it in the sector I’m passionate about and to combine it with my love of digital content.

WTM tip: find good writers
In the WTM PR manual there’s a tip sheet for companies to get the most out of WTM. Point 5 says this:

Get good writers and PR people onboard
It makes sense to get great story writers and PR people on board – preferably individuals who have previous experience working with travel products and who know your target media. The more professional in your approach, the more professional you will appear to the press.

Twice in the last year, I’ve been told by leading travel editors that there is no longer a freelance budget for travel articles. Well, it was hard enough to make a decent income from travel writing before. Now it seems impossible. The newspaper industry is still where PRs are concentrating their efforts and, increasingly, ‘influential’ travel bloggers – neither of which offers much of a business revenue model for the travel journalist.

A future travel journalist business model?
But I think PRs (and travel companies and travel journalists) are missing a trick. With traditional outlets shrinking, there is a market for creating content direct for the companies and tourist boards. They need someone (a digital journalist would make sense!) to tell their own stories and put them out there to be picked up directly by prospective clients, by editors and by search engines.

They need to, as WTM suggests, find good writers to tell these stories for them and put together a package of content that helps a prospect decide whether they want to visit that destination or book that tour – essentially, write, photograph and video the kind of things a travel journalist would research as a matter of course, adding value to their offering by being useful to the client. And why restrict this content to the occasional press article; why not magnify your offering by hosting them on your own travel sites. If they are good, other sites and blogs will link to them.

For more information on this, check out my comments on where travel journalists might progress to on Travel Blather’s post about paid for content and objectivity. It’s not that I’m giving up on ‘objective’ travel writing for print, just trying to find a new ways to work, because increasingly the old ways aren’t working.

Eh voila. C’est tout. Off to learn how to use a Flip camera now. See you at WTM.

Domestic fireworks when the lights go out

lightpainting_loresNovember 5, 2009: The local Bonfire Night shows were few, far and in-between; the Coop fresh out of sparklers. And besides, it was raining. 

In creative frustration, we came up with the idea of photographing indoor fireworks – Pete suggested throwing some bicarbonate of soda onto the gas ring, or salt, or pepper. I suggested a safer option: domestic prettiness in the form of standby lights, digital clockfaces, blinking answer machine light, candles, pilot light, torches etc. In the modern home, it’s amazing what you find when you turn off the lights.

That’s when I discover my old Powerball – the world’s fastest hand-held gyroscope. 

So with a whirring gyroscope in one hand, I switch off the lights and press the shutterbutton on the camera, which is placed on a tripod in front of a mirror. Then it’s 10 seconds of lightpainting, then 8, 6, finally settling on 4 seconds for optimum alien prettiness.

The full set are all on my Flickr page – I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. The shapes are the main thing so I’ve played with the colour balance in Photoshop. The gyroscope ones sort of remind me of the Aliens set.

Here are Pete’s photos, with some cool multiple exposure shots.

So, all in all, a hardworking but pretty nice Bonfire Night.