Monthly Archives: September 2010

How to Revive a Dead Email Campaign

Courtesy of Hal Licino, DIRECT MAGAZINE

You were one of the early adopters of email marketing—and your campaign shows it. You have emails going out that could have been pitched to the Flintstones.

If your emails are more stone tablet than iPad, you might want to consider some innovative ways to shake up your campaign and get those open rates out of the hibernation they’ve been in since the Emailocene era. Here are some tips:

* Announce huge changes. Nothing succeeds like a total revamp. If you announce to your customers that there are enormous changes in store, preferably with a countdown calendar to the big day, you will build up anticipation, which will pay off in renewed interest in your former snoozefest.

Everything has to be new and exciting, from your images to your layout right down to your fonts. And you can’t get away with just cosmetic changes; your campaign’s offerings have to be new, exciting, alluring, innovative, and relevant as well. It’s time to jettison Urkel and replace him with Robert Pattinson.

Reward your customers for their loyalty in myriad ways, by providing profound and overarching value your competitors can’t match. Make sure the accounting department is not looking and give away all the dusty old stock in the warehouse. You’ll be rewarded soon enough.

* Send out surveys. The essence of online life is that everyone is empowered to have his or her say on everything from the local dogcatcher to the president’s birth certificate. If you inform your customers that you’re listening to their feedback and that the survey you’re sending out is the best way to have their voices be heard, you may be surprised at the sound of clicks. Prospects who never have opened your emails previously might rush to get their two cents’ worth in. You can amplify your response if you announce that the more-relevant comments will be placed on your Website.

* Post the top 10 favorite products. Curiosity Got the Click, so the recipients who have been avoiding your emails like swine-flu vaccinations may be tempted to open one if they can compare their personal preferences against your top ten products. Just about everyone wants to be firmly seated on the bandwagon, as it provides a sense of belonging.

If you include a way for recipients to vote on the 10 favorites you’ve listed, and perhaps have a follow-up People’s Choice Top 10, it can provide a further incentive to get the recalcitrant laggards involved.

* Ask them to reconfirm their subscriptions. This piece of advice will actually cut down your list size considerably and runs counter to everything you were taught at Email Polytechnic: The ultimate goal of every email marketer is supposed to be to accumulate a list that encompasses all 7 billion people on earth and their pets as well.

In reality, however, there is an overwhelming amount of dead weight on your list right now, and continuing to flagellate the defunct equine is not going to do anyone any good. If they don’t want your emails any longer, then exercise the catch-and-release program. It will free up your resources for the prospects who are actually interested in what you’re selling.

You don’t have to roll over and placidly accept abysmally low open rates. Injecting your email campaign with some excitement, innovation, and flair will help to get your results out of the flatline mode they’ve been in and back to vigorous, vivacious, bouncing health!

Hal Licino is the author of two books and an e-mail marketing advocate for Benchmark Email.

Yes, Your Audience Wants Utilitainment (Explanation Below)

Google in 1998, showing the original logo

Image via Wikipedia

Courtesy of Chris Young and Online Video Insider 

When you consider the amount of time the average consumer spends staring at glowing rectangles each day, you’d think marketers would have figured out how to hold their audiences’ attention online.

Remarkably, though, there are some marketers who still think that simply having a basic Web presence is enough. It’s not.

Consumers are actually looking for brand interaction — a dialogue, if you will. The interaction must be based on authenticity, integrity — and for many brands, it’s got to have that element of “cool.” And when it comes down to it, not only is your audience equipped for interaction (i.e., faster Internet connections, smarter mobile devices & a host of social networks at their disposal), they’re demanding interaction.

So regardless of whether the term “utilitainment” makes you cringe, the concept behind this marketing jargon gem is genius, really. Here’s why:

In the world of branded entertainment, utilitainment is exactly what you think it means: utility + entertainment. It’s a word used to describe content that offers audiences entertainment value and a multidimensional consumer experience that is, above all, useful to them.

Until recently, the term has almost exclusively been associated with mobile apps. And there have been successes and failures. The new “Karate Kid” app produced by Sony Pictures for the iPhone, for example, provides real entertainment value, and offers users engaging utilities — i.e., five awesome games — to keep them coming back for more.

However, as online branded content shifts towards a more interactive experience for the end user, the term has become more applicable to the traditional Web world. In my experience, the success of any branded content campaign for the Web is entirely dependent on the right mix of sponsored content, brand messaging that doesn’t hit you over the head, lots of entertainment value, and of course, utility.

So whatever route you take-whether it’s offering up clever webisodes centered around a new car model and allowing your audience to create their own version right on top of the video player, or launching a celebrity chef spoof Web series that engages users with games, useful drink recipes, and a character that embodies the ethos of the brand — the content has to be both entertaining and useful.

Perhaps the inevitable shift towards utilitainment-oriented Web video content was best summed up last month at The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival by Google’s VP for global media and platforms, Henrique de Castro. He told the audience: “Rebalance your media mix because the whole world will become digital.”

I’d argue that we’re already there.

Does Google Instant Mark the End of SEO?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

by Chris Crum  Courtesy of WebProNews

Google Instant Considerations for Search Marketing

A reporter (I believe she was from AdAge) attending Google’s Q&A about Google Instant pointed out that the new search feature tends to favor big brands. This isn’t really surprising, as it is these brands that are more likely to be searched for most often. After all, they’re big because people know them.

Do you think Google Instant is a threat to SEO? Share your thoughts.

iCrossing has a list of brands that come up when you enter each letter of the alphabet (not all are brands, but many are). A is for Amazon (not Apple), B is for Bank of America, M is for Mapquest (not Microsoft), N is for Netflix, P is for Pandora, V is for Verizon, and Y is for Yahoo.

You must keep in mind, however, that the instant results are personalized. Google takes into account things like your location and your surfing habits when providing you results.

Google Instant doesn’t necessarily make things any easier on small businesses, but it’s showing big brands in cases where Google probably would’ve suggested big brands anyway. If users do a lot of local searches, it’s possible that Google could show more local results (including small businesses) for those users, I’m speculating.

Steve Rubel says that Google Instant makes SEO irrelevant. “Here’s what this means,” he says. “No two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick – and everyone saw the same results. That’s what made search engine optimization work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors.”

He’s not wrong about that, but I’m not sure that makes SEO irrelevant. Google has been showing different results to different users for quite a while now. This is really just an extension of that.

Businesses might want to try (and have other people try) doing searches for keywords that they would expect people to use to find their site. See what comes up (keep in mind the personalization) and work from there. Easier said than done no doubt, but it’s something to consider. Think about what kinds of people will be interested in your products and what other kind of searches they might be doing. It’s not a science, but again, perhaps something worth considering. It might mean getting to know your customers better, which can’ t be a bad thing anyway. Maybe it means asking them to take surveys. Maybe it doesn’t.

The whole thing doesn’t help organic SEO’s case in the old SEO vs PPC debate. I’ll give Rubel that.

Speaking of PPC, Google says Google Instant changes the way it counts impressions. “It’s possible that this feature may increase or decrease your overall impression levels,” says Google’s Dan Friedman. “However, Google Instant may ultimately improve the quality of your clicks since it helps users type queries that more directly connect them with the answers they need.”

Trevor Claiborne of the Google Analytics Team says that Analytics users might notice some fluctuations in AdWords impression volume and traffic for organic keywords. “For example, you may find that certain keywords receive significantly more or fewer impressions moving forward,” he says.

You should read this post on the Google Webamster Central blog. It says that impressions are measured in three ways: the traditional way, when a user clicks on a link that appears as they begin to type, and when a user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of 3 seconds.

Sidenote: Google’s Matt Cutts weighed in on the whole will Google Instant kill SEO thing. “Almost every new change at Google generates the question ‘Will X kill SEO?’ Here’s an video I did last year, but it still applies,” he says.

He says, however that over time, it could change SEO. “The search results will remain the same for a query, but it’s possible that people will learn to search differently over time,” says Cutts. “For example, I was recently researching a congressperson. With Google Instant, it was more visible to me that this congressperson had proposed an energy plan, so I refined my search to learn more, and quickly found myself reading a post on the congressperson’s blog that had been on page 2 of the search results.”

Google Instant will likely become increasingly important to search marketing, because not only will it roll out to more countries (it’s starting in the U.S. and a select few others), but it will soon come to mobile and browser search boxes. Each of these factors will greatly increase how often Instant results are displayed.

The mobile factor actually has implications for Google retaining a substantial amount of mobile searches in general. The better (and quicker) Google can give results on any kind of query, the less reason users have to go to different apps to acquire certain information.

Google clearly said that ranking stays the same with Google Instant, but it will change the way people search. It will affect their search behavior, and that is what search marketers are going to have to think about more than ever. You should also consider that some people will simply deactivate the feature, leaving them open to Google’s standard results.

Tell us what you think of Google Instant. Do you like it or not?