Your Five Point Email Marketing Checklist

Email marketing checklist

Email marketing checklist

I get a massage every month (yes, really, and yes, it’s worth it!). The massage therapy practice I go to uses email marketing, and though I love everyone at the practice, I do not love their emails. Their emails are … how do I put this nicely …  riddled with mistakes.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes, and yes, they are massage therapists, not marketers. But because their emails are not professional, I will not forward them to my friends, and say, “Hey, check these guys out the next time your back is a tangle of knots!” First impressions are everything, and their emails won’t make a good one.

So, to ensure you sends out emails that are so awesome your clients want to forward them and spread the word about you, here’s a 5 point email marketing checklist:

1. Find a good writer

First and foremost, your email has to be well-written. You don’t need to hire a professional copywriter, but you do need to find someone who is good at writing, whether it’s an employee, friend, or spouse. Ask him or her to either write the email copy for you or copyedit/proofread it.

2. Segment your lists

Divide your customers into groups based on demographics, location, buying behavior, or even gender. Information and offers that are targeted to a specific group of people will convert into sales much more effectively than one that is generalized for everyone.

3. Spend time on your subject line

Because your customers will decide whether or not to read your email based on its subject line, spend time writing a good one. Don’t title your email “ABC Company January Newsletter.” Let them know what’s in the email. For example, if you are offering a limited time promotion or hosting a special event, say so.

4. Write copy that is scannable, short, and fun

When people read emails, their eyes travel down the left side of the screen. Use headers, subheaders, and bulleted lists, and keep the most important information to the left. Also be sure to keep the email short, as most recipients aren’t going to bother reading the whole thing anyway. Infuse the copy with your personality as well – just because it’s short doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

5. Include a call-to-action

Always, always, always include a call-to-action in your email. Tell people what to do, link it to a landing page on your website where they can take action, and make sure it stands out in the email!

Do you get emails from other small businesses? What do you like most about them? What don’t you?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

 

Five Email Marketing Ideas For The Holidays

How to target email communications around the holidays

How to target email communications around the holidays

If you’re like most small businesses, you are already planning your email marketing promotion campaigns. With Hanukkah coming early this year and Thanksgiving coming later than usual, many marketers are scrambling to reach Hanukkah shoppers now, followed by Christmas shoppers and New Year celebrants shortly thereafter.

As you gear up for the holidays, here are five fun promotion ideas to try out in your email marketing this year:

Gift guide

Curate your products and services into gift guides to take some of the burden out of choosing a gift – especially for a hard-to-gift person (we all have them in our lives!).

You can categorize guides by gender, age (baby, kid, teen, adult), price (under $10, under $25, etc.), or by relationship (for your mom, dad, grandparent, child, co-worker, babysitter, best friend, employee).

Free delivery

Just because you’re a small retailer or merchant doesn’t mean you can offer free shipping or delivery. Include a promo code in your email for customers to apply at check-out, and add whatever limitations work best for you, such as an end-date for the promotion or a restriction on international shipping.

Gift wrapping

There are a lot of options when it comes to how you offer gift wrapping. You can offer it for free, add a nominal charge, restrict it to specific items or only online purchases, or, if you offer it in-store, only on certain days or at certain times. After all, you don’t want to overburden busy employees!

Charitable giving

Build goodwill and support your local community by doing something for those less fortunate during the holidays. You could donate a portion of sales on one day or every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. You could collect non-perishable food items or coats on behalf of a local food bank or shelter in exchange for a small discount on purchases. There are lots of options!

Daily or weekly specials

One of my favorite retailers did a Twelve Days of Christmas themed promotion last year, which was really fun. Every day, a different item was for sale. You could do something similar, or offer a daily or weekly discount on a specific items.

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Why Every Small Business Needs To Emulate PetSmart’s Loyalty Program

Tips for implementing a loyalty program

Tips for implementing a loyalty program

My family and I just adopted a dog. Buddy is one of the happiest and most energetic balls of fur I have ever met. We love him to death already.

Like any good pet owner, I immediately got him everything he might need – dog bed, treats, food, water bowls, shampoo – most of which I purchased at PetSmart, a store I had never set foot in. I quickly discovered that their employees are some of the nicest and most helpful around, but I digress.

Anyway, I signed up for their PetPerks loyalty program while I was checking out. When you sign up, you have the option of creating an online account. I did this yesterday, and I was so impressed with the thought that went into their loyalty program, I had to share it.

Why PetSmart PetPerks Rocks

After you enter all of the usual information – name, address, name of dog, breed – you are asked what promotional information (coupons, sales, etc.) you want to receive. Promotions are broken into categories – leashes, toys, food, treats, vitamins, beds, crates, and so on. Choose a category, and then you are asked which brands you prefer.

The result: You only get emails for products you actually care about. Genius!

But why is that genius? Why don’t all B2C companies do this? If you rip a page from the PetSmart book, you will only be sending promotional emails with information your customers specifically said they want to receive.

What you won’t be doing is cluttering their inboxes with emails full of stuff they don’t care about. When you do that – when you don’t segment customers – you are training your customers to automatically hit the delete button. Your customers miss out on promotions for items they do want, and you miss out on sales.

So, here is what can you do to emulate them:

1 – Let customers segment themselves

On your loyalty rewards or email sign up page, ask customers what kind of information they want to receive. Let them choose as many options as they’d like – and be sure to include an “all of the above” option.

2 – Give customers control over timing

PetSmart does not offer this, because you will only get promotions for the items you care about. However, I have seen this numerous times, so bonus points to you if you let customers regulate how often they want to hear from you. Daily, weekly, every other week, monthly?

3 – Remind customers of their preferences

I have not gotten a promotional email from PetSmart yet, so I don’t know if they do this, but I like to be reminded of my preferences. Somewhere in your email (either at the top or on the left side where the eye is more likely to land), list the customer’s preferences per their account with a link to that lets them change it.

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

How To Create the Perfect Mobile-Friendly Email

How to create a mobile friendly email

How to create a mobile friendly email

Did you know that 50% of all emails are read on a mobile device? If you want your email marketing messages to get read, they had better be mobile-friendly. (A mobile-friendly email takes limited screen real estate into consideration – something we never had to worry about with desktops – or with cell phones.)

I pulled the top tips out of an infographic titled, The Anatomy of the Perfect Mobile Email, to get you started:

Resize for readability

Most mobile operating systems will resize fonts, which could cause distortion. When you write emails, choose 14px for the body and 22px for headlines.

Similarly, keep your emails to about 320 – 550 px wide so non-iOS users don’t have to zoom in to read the email.

Put the call-to-action front and center

Make the call-to-action prominent, big, and easily tappable. Place it towards the top of the email, so it’s one of the first things your customer sees. If they have to scroll down for it, they might never get there.

Forget images

Only iOS doesn’t block images by default, so consider skipping them altogether to avoid an email full of holes.

Keep it simple

Only include the content that is absolutely necessary – the shorter and more to the point, the better. Use a one-column template to make the email easier to read, and keep the navigation easy to use.

Think about the touch screen experience

Not everyone’s fingers are long and lean. Be generous with spacing and button sizes to ensure people can accurately tap on links.

Test links

This is true anywhere, but especially for the mobile experience. If the link to your phone number or reservation system doesn’t work, you might just have lost a customer.

What else do you do to make your emails mobile-friendly?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Is the New Gmail Trouble for Email Marketing?

How is the new Gmail affecting your open rates?

How is the new Gmail affecting your open rates?

If you use Gmail for your personal or business email you may have noticed some changes. Gmail now divides your Inbox into three separate categories: Primary – for personal emails; Social for emails coming via LinkedIn or other social networks; and Promotions for bulk emails. A lot of people who use email marketing are worried that having their emails pre-sorted into “Promotions” is going to lower open rates.

Most email marketers are saying that yes, there have been slight decreases in open rates among Gmail users since the new mailboxes launched. Nothing catastrophic, but for small businesses even a small decrease can be an issue.  There are five steps you can take to help keep your open rates healthy.

  1. Improve your email titles: Most people take a cursory look at their “promotions” tab so make sure your email titles are catchy and enticing.
  2. Send wanted content: Hopefully your customers are looking for your emails, not looking to avoid them. Don’t just send an email to send it, make sure every email has something valuable for your customers.
  3. Create a special email for Gmail users: Many of your customers who use gmail may not know that they can move emails from “Promotions” or “Social” to primary. Doing so, or clicking the “star” next to the email will help Gmail learn that the email is valuable.
  4. Monitor Your Open Rates: Many small-business owners have enough trouble finding time to send an email, let alone monitor its open rate, but it’s important to know if people are opening your emails. Make sure you are using an email program that allows you to do so.
  5. Go Personal: If your email list is small enough you might consider abandoning bulk emails and instead sending truly personal one to one emails to customers. This can be done with careful use of copy and paste, but can easily become time consuming or create mistakes.

Have you noticed any changes in email open rates? What do you do to keep open rates high? Share your experiences in the comments.

Related Articles:

Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Four Questions to Ask Before You Hit “Send”

Four tips on sending effective marketing emails.

Four tips on sending effective marketing emails.

This past fall, a bride’s demanding email to her prospective bridesmaids went viral and ended up on many pop culture–focused websites. It started out as a personal email, but all it took were a few people clicking “send” to make it national news.

It’s not just personal emails that run the risk of unintended public attention. Earlier this month, CBS sent an email to Grammy Awards attendees outlining inappropriate attire for its upcoming show. The email aimed to banish the bare-it-all ensembles of years past. In short order, it became national news and an easy target for jokes.

Of course, dwelling too much on the possible PR ramifications of every business email or communication you send isn’t necessary. But asking yourself these four questions any time you send a group email should help prevent most major disasters.

  1. Is the email clear? Does it provide all the necessary information? Gaps in information and confusing wording can frustrate your readers, leading to a less-than-charitable interpretation of your message.
  2. Did I use any humor that could be misinterpreted? Business writing and informative emails can be dry and it’s tempting to spice them up with a little humor. However, humor relies heavily on timing and inflection, which can easily be misinterpreted in a written format, especially if the email is passed around beyond its intended audience.
  3. Does every recipient on this email list need to get this email? Of course, you’ll usually send customer emails out to your entire list. But when it comes to internal communications, the more people you send an email to, the more chances it has to hit someone the wrong way.
  4. Was I angry, tired, or upset when I wrote this email? Your message should always get an edit from another pair of eyes before it goes out, but this is especially true if you wrote it when you had a lot of other things going on (and when don’t you?). Your business is your baby and, as such, it’s normal to be emotionally invested, but that sort of passion can wind up backfiring on you. If you are upset when you write, it’s best to wait a couple of hours—or even overnight—and reread before hitting send.

Asking yourself these four simple questions can go a long way toward preventing PR bungles.

What’s the worst email you’ve ever received or sent? Share in the comments below.

Related Articles:

Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Six Tips to Help You Create Newsletters That People Will Read

Use newsletters to stay in touch with customers.

Use newsletters to stay in touch with customers.

Some days, it seems like social media has taken over the world and become the one and only way to reach your customers. I totally disagree. Newsletters are still relevant and effective for three reasons:

  1. Newsletters arrive in your customers’ email inboxes, where they at least have to look at the sender and subject line before reading the email or hitting delete.
  2. If you include graphics and short headlines, newsletters are easy to skim quickly.
  3. As long as you send them regularly, newsletters will keep your business at the top of your customers’ minds. When the time comes for them to make a purchase, they’ll think of you first.

To tap into the power of this time-tested marketing method, follow these best practices to create a newsletter that your audience will find valuable:

Keep It Short

Three short, useful articles are more than enough. And I do mean short—one paragraph is plenty. If you have more to say, turn the content into a blog post and include a link to it in your newsletter.

Skip the Intro

An intro is essentially just a bite-size preview of the newsletter, but you don’t need to tell readers what to expect if your newsletter is already short and easily digestible.

Focus on Headlines

Spend time writing headlines that will grab readers’ attention. You could label sections as “Quick Tips,” “Must-Have” or “Can’t Miss” lists, or—if it fits your brand—something irreverent or clever.

Keep the Best Info Up Top

Whether it’s a promotion for a special event, new product announcement, or limited-time offer, put your most interesting or useful article at the top of the newsletter to make sure it gets read.

Make Newsletter Subscribers Feel Like VIPs

Share information in your newsletter that’s not available anywhere else, such as early access to new products and services or special newsletter-only discounts.

Include Images

Images—especially pictures of people—draw readers in, so be sure to include some high-quality images that are related to what you’re writing about. It’s even better if you can use your own images rather than relying on stock imagery.

When you’re ready to step up your newsletter marketing, you’ll want to consider using an email-marketing program to coordinate your distribution. I’ve used a variety of programs over the years, and my top three favorites—in no particular order—are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Vertical Response. How about you? What email marketing programs or content strategies do you use?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Six Email Mistakes that Can Threaten Your Brand

Communicate with customers using email marketing, while keeping your brand in tact.

Communicate with customers using email marketing, while keeping your brand in tact.

Today I got an email from a high-end national brand that was so bad that I’m going to keep the sender’s identity a secret. We’ll just call the offending message “The Bad Email.”

When done right, email marketing extends your brand and keeps you top-of-mind with your customers. However, making the same mistakes found in The Bad Email will hurt rather than help. Learn from this example to avoid serious email missteps:

Sending Email Under Your Own Name Instead of the Company’s Name

The Bad Email was sent by an employee (whom I have never met) using a non-company email address—incredibly unprofessional. Always send emails under your company name rather than your own, unless you are emailing VIP or long-term customers whom you know personally.

Leaving the Subject Line Blank

Unlike on social media, where your message can easily become lost in a sea of status updates and tweets, emails require recipients to at least read the subject line before deciding whether to open it, save it for later, mark it as spam, or delete it. If you leave the subject line blank, you are inviting recipients to immediately hit delete or mark it as spam.

Skipping Visual Branding Altogether

The Bad Email was completely devoid of visual branding—no logo, no company colors, no style, no imagery. Almost every company adds its logo or an attention-grabbing image at the top of its emails. It’s important to incorporate a visual brand element into every email you send.

Sending Out a Text-Only Email

The Bad Email was—you guessed it—text only. Text-only email marketing is dead because it’s boring, uninspiring, and unengaging. If you want people to read your email, it must be delivered in HTML. That doesn’t mean you need to be a coder—every email marketing service out there (e.g., MailChimp, Constant Contact, Vertical Response) provides HTML templates that are easy to use.

Forgetting to Include a Call-to-Action (CTA)

The Bad Email was an invitation, but it doesn’t give me a compelling reason to RSVP. When you send out an email, there’s a purpose behind it. Maybe you want your customers to try a new seasonal menu, attend the grand opening of your second location, or purchase an in-demand service you now offer. But be sure to tell them what you want them to do in the CTA.

Being Boring

The Bad Email was so completely devoid of personality that it could’ve been written by a robot. Be sure to let your brand’s character shine through in your email correspondence. Be upbeat, funny, or irreverent, just like you are in your other content.

Though it may be challenging to craft an email that accomplishes exactly what you want, at least it’s easy to avoid common mistakes that could tarnish your brand; just be thoughtful, engaging, and brand-focused.

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Seven Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

Connect with your customers through good service.

Connect with your customers through good service.

If there’s one thing that’s essential to good customer service at any business, it’s paying attention. Here are seven tips for attentiveness that will up your customer-service game:

Create an Outstanding Company Culture

A company culture that thrives on and encourages innovative thinking, respect, trust, and a “we’re all in this together” mentality is a company with happy employees. If your employees are happy, they’re more likely to focus on delivering the best products and services to your customers.

Use a Good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool

A good CRM tool such as Salesforce or Oncontact will help you keep track of your customers beyond the sales funnel. You’ll know which of your services and products they prefer, how—and how often—they interact with you, their purchase histories, and more. The more you know your customers, the better you can meet their needs.

Keep Management Visible

Owners and managers should interact regularly with customers. When management pays attention, says thank you, and asks for feedback one-on-one, customers take note.

Go the Extra Mile

At Whole Foods, employees will walk around the store with you to find a product, even if it’s not in their department. Many Nordstrom sales associates keep heels lined up in the dressing room for women to wear when trying on dresses. Zappos gives customers free next-day shipping and free, no-hassle returns. What can you do to go the extra mile for your customers?

Cultivate Sensitivity in Your Employees

No matter how good your customer service is, unhappy customers will always pop up. Train your employees to spot unhappiness-in-the-making so they can deal proactively with an upset customer. Be sure to give employees easy-to-follow guidelines on how to quickly and seamlessly handle a complaint. Tip: Always begin with a sincere apology.

Seek Out Customer Feedback

Stay in touch with your customers and ask them for feedback on a regular basis either in person or via surveys, social media, or phone calls. Use reflective listening skills by repeating what they say to ensure you are on the same page and ask open-ended questions.

Always Over-Deliver on Your Promises

Earn a sterling reputation for reliability and quality by keeping your promises and throwing in a surprise. If you give away a free drink or dessert for birthdays, look at your customer relationship management data (if it’s available to you) to see what that customer prefers. If you give regular customers sneak peeks at a new product or service, throw in a freebie too, just to say thanks. They’ll remember it.

Where have you received the best customer service? How do you emulate that in your own business?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Marketing Checklist 2013: Seven Items For Your To-Do List

Pledge to meet your marketing resolutions with this easy checklist.

Now that we’ve all settled into 2013, have you put together your marketing goals or to-dos for this year? If not, then here are a few ideas to get you started:

Boost Optimization

When you send emails, optimize them for mobile devices by keeping the subject line and message short and by keeping the graphics minimal. On your website, be sure you are integrating searchable keywords into your content as well as your image and video names.

Rev Up Visual Content

Pictures are worth a thousand words, especially on social media, where actual words are kept to a minimum. Sharing photos and other images, such as infographics, is an easy way to boost your engagement levels—just look at Pinterest’s meteoric rise to the third most popular social media site since its launch only a year and a half ago. Be creative and start snapping photos during your day-to-day activities; food photos are particularly popular.

Start a Blog

If you haven’t started a blog yet, you should seriously consider it. A blog is one of the best ways to build brand awareness and share your expertise, thus turning you into a go-to source of information in your industry. Plus, search engines reward sites that continually refresh their content, so the more frequently you update your website, the better your search results will be. With a wealth of templates and free or inexpensive blog hosting, WordPress is a great place to get started blogging.

Pay Attention to Analytics

Just as you look at monthly sales numbers, inventory, register receipts, and other sources of sales information, you should also pay attention to your social media and website metrics. Analytics are the only way to tell if you need to rethink your social messaging or some of your website pages to increase engagement and drive more sales. Check out Mashable’s 5 Essential Spreadsheets for Social Media Analytics for practical ways to keep up with audience trends.

Rethink Your Business’s Tablet Experience

IDC predicts that 166 million tablets will be sold in 2013, which means that an increasing number of potential customers will be likely to visit your website from one. If you want to engage tablet users, you must offer a unique, interactive experience that plays up swipe and touch gestures. For a more detailed look at how to optimize your site for tablet users, see UX Magazine’s article, The Pursuit of Tappiness : Six Easy Ways to Make Your Website Tablet-Friendly.

Become Efficient on Social Media

Use Facebook and Google+ for social messaging and Twitter for social alerts. Make sure you also develop guidelines for how you’ll respond to comments and questions on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter to ensure your messaging stays consistent. If you need a primer on social media best practices, check out Mashable’s 14 Best Practices for Long-Term Social Media Success.

Bring Email Marketing into the 21st Century

Use beautifully designed and attention-grabbing HTML-based emails for email marketing. Add videos or images when appropriate, or try using PowerInbox to deliver a truly engaging, richly interactive experience.

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.