Personalize Your E-mail Marketing Letters

June 10th, 2012

A highly effective marketing technique used by successful e-mail marketers is to personalize the e-mail letter. This personalization can be accomplished in many ways.

One way to personalize an e-mail letter is to use the recipient’s organization logo or web site. The purpose of a personalized image is to provide a familiar frame of reference in the most compelling way possible, resulting in the recipient feeling better understood and more comfortable, leading toward better acceptance of the offer.

Personalization can also include personalized subject lines by including information that refers the stated preferences of the customer segment that you are marketing. For example, you can also personalize your e-mail offer by adding a comment that recognizes a customer’s five straight years of patronage. Or, you can refer to recent customer transactions by recommending complimentary products for purchase.

Or, you can incorporate maps or directions to the nearest store or facility. You can reference important dates such as an expiration date. Personalization works because your subscribers feel like they already have a relationship and the dialog is a one-to-one conversation. The goal is for it to feel real and not faked.

The more you personalize your e-mail marketing campaign with information from your database, the more important it becomes to have the correct data. Errors in your data can damage your campaign by showing how poorly you know the recipient instead of how well. Always have default information to substitute in case you are missing data.

You can write your copy so that substituting this default text maintains the flow of the copy. Also, respect the privacy of the recipient and avoid the use of any sensitive information such as financial or health status.

 

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

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E-mail Marketing and Children

June 10th, 2012

For many e-mail and web marketers the youth market represents a major financial opportunity. Yet, the legal risks are high. The website “Xanga” was recently fined $1 Million for COPPA violations, for repeatedly allowing children under 13 to sign up for the service without getting their parent’s consent.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) is a United States federal law effective April 21, 2000, that applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age.

It states that a website operator must include in a privacy policy that state how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13.

The act applies to websites and online services operated for commercial purposes that are either directed to children under age 13 or have actual knowledge that children under 13 are providing information online. For example:

What this means to the website owner is that you must beware of the underage visitor or registrant. The negative consequences are enormous.

For more information, consult your attorney.

 

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

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Writing Great E-mail Marketing Copy

June 10th, 2012

Writing great e-mail marketing copy is hard work. You can always outsource it to a professional copywriter, but you will discover that the good ones are already booked and that they are very expensive. If your budget dictates doing this writing in-house, here are a few ideas, in no particular order.

Great writing requires great proofreading which is extremely hard work (you can trust me on this one since it is very hard for me). One tip on proofreading your own writing is to read it aloud. This helps you catch dropped words and mistakes. Another method is to have someone else proof your copy.

Remember to run a “spell check”. Run it a second time since errors don’t always get caught in the first pass with spell check (believe it or not).

Timeliness is critical to effective e-mail marketing messages. Current events or news references can add timeliness to a campaign. For example, a reference to the rising cost of gasoline or the price of oil might add timeliness to an e-mail from an auto parts retailer.

Keep the e-mail short. While there is considerable debate in the e-mail community about short form versus long form, you must remember that the e-mail’s purpose is to get the reader to take the next step and click to the website or landing page. From the subject line to the postscript, the e-mail should offer the reader the most relevant information in as few words as possible. Customers are busy and many feel overwhelmed by too much e-mail. Messages that are short and to the point are more likely to be read. When writing e-mail text, try to state the ideas in as few words as possible.

The long form argument is that an engaged reader will want more information now rather than later; if you insist on making them click for more information, they might disengage. Generally speaking, short form is preferred over long form. When in doubt, test both and see what your readers think.

Customers will start reading an e-mail from the beginning and read the introduction to see if it’s worth spending more of their time. Readers tend to pay less and less attention to what is written as they scan more quickly through the rest of the e-mail.

To make sure customers read the most relevant information, put the most important information (often referred to as the hook) at the top, followed by the most important supporting information. Each successive paragraph will receive less and less of the reader’s attention and should contain less and less important information. Bullets and images will help the reader scan and focus on your key points.

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

 

P. S. People always read the postscript—-use it to restate your offer or message.

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Trust Enables E-mail Marketing

June 10th, 2012

Trust is hard to define, but we know it when we see it or feel it. And this is particularly true with e-mail marketing. The truest measure of trust in commercial e-mail marketing may be the “reputation score” which is calculated by all the individual ISPs.

A reputation score is a complex algorithm used by the ISPs to calculate a score that reflects the sender’s deliverability. This reputation score can determine whether your e-mails will be delivered to the in-box, the bulk e-mail folder, or not delivered at all. The reputation score criteria can include the frequency or history of e-mail campaigns, bounce back percentages, opt-in abuse, spam complaints, sender authentication, accreditation services, and many others.

The major ISP spam filters care less and less about how your subject line reads or the words used. Instead they focus on the sender’s reputation. This applies to Hotmail, Gmail, EarthLink, Yahoo!, and AOL. I have read that subject line words may account for less than 80% of sender reputation score. And this applies to unsolicited e-mails and to e-mails from trusted senders which were opted-in.

Instead of hitting the unsubscribe key to opt out of a newsletter, as many as 20% of e-mail recipients hit the spam key. Why? It is an easy way to end the relationship. This finding is from a recent survey conducted by eMarketer in 2007. This means that companies and individuals are increasingly growing less tolerant of unwanted and irrelevant e-mails.

The key to maintaining a good reputation score may be tied to relevancy. The goal is to be a trusted sender, which is to be the author of an email that recipients choose to open more than once. If your e-mail provides valuable or desirable information to the recipient you will be considered relevant.

If not, you are just spam.

 

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

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Inexpensive Ways to Express Appreciation

June 8th, 2012

We all like to feel appreciated.  Think of the last time someone did something unexpectedly nice for you, “just because”.  It probably made you feel great.  And here’s a secret: it made the other person feel good, too!

So, want to feel terrific while simultaneously making someone else’s day?  Here are ____ inexpensive (or free!) ways to express your appreciation for someone, whether it’s your spouse, family member, neighbor, coworker, friend, or even a stranger.

  1. Take donuts or another treat to work for your co-workers.
  2. Wash your spouse’s car.
  3. Surprise someone by taking them to dinner and a movie.
  4. Hand-write a letter or card with a sincere, positive message.*
  5. Leave a love note in your spouse’s pocket, or another place where they’ll find it when you’re not around.
  6. Pick up someone’s favorite treat from the grocery store.
  7. Call someone who lives far away and who would love to hear from you.
  8. Offer to go out for a drink with someone.
  9. Leave a kind message on a mirror with a dry erase marker.
  10. Surprise someone on their half-birthday.
  11. Compliment someone on a physical feature or outfit choice.
  12. Take care of an unpleasant chore you know they hate (like taking out the trash or cleaning the cat litter box).
  13. Run an errand, like dry cleaning or grocery shopping.
  14. Offer to baby-sit or house-sit (but only if you mean it!)
  15. Compliment someone on something they do well (be specific!)
  16. Give out water bottles on a hot day (especially if someone is doing yard work or something physically draining).
  17. Open the door and smile for a stranger.
  18. Tip generously, and add a kind note if possible.
  19. Clean up the house without any prompting.
  20. Let someone else pick the movie at the theater.
  21. Give a gift certificate to a store/restaurant someone likes.
  22. Offer to help with any major project (like moving, etc).
  23. Make their favorite meal for dinner.
  24. At a friend’s house, offer to do the dishes or another household task.
  25. Or, simply someone how much (and why) you appreciate them!

These little things can make a world of difference, especially if you or someone else is having a bad day.  Even if you think people know you appreciate them, show them anyway!

Janet Hill Jackson

P.S. Be sure to watch this video

 

 

 

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

June 4th, 2012

The quest for happiness dogs many of us.  We read books and blogs, take pills, do yoga, and drink alcohol, all in an attempt to reach that elusive state of contentment that we label as “happiness”.  But happiness is fleeting, and you can’t force yourself to be happy.  Is it futile to pursue happiness?

Yes and no.  Yes, if you fixate on the concept of happiness as a destination or an end-result.  You will almost certainly be unhappy if you approach life this way.  It is not futile to pursue happiness, however, if you do it in a more roundabout way.  That is, you can seek out and pursue habits, activities, and values that lead you to happiness more often.  To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, happiness is not a goal.  It’s a by-product of a well-lived life.

Here are some more tips:

Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t feel happy 100% of the time.  Negative emotions are a normal and necessary part of life.  Negative emotions or moods are healthy in moderation and are actually quite essential, because they spur us to action.  Without healthy self-criticism, for example, we would never improve ourselves.  These states are temporary, which is important to remember the next time you are in a funk.

Practice acceptance.  Sometimes, you can’t change a situation, no matter how much you’d like to.  Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  Reframe the situation in a way that helps you grow.  If your boss is overbearing and obnoxious, for example, chances are that you can’t change his or her behavior.  You can, however, use it as an opportunity for personal growth: you can learn to deal with hostile or difficult personalities while maintaining composure and practicing patience.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable.  This is a tough one, because life is harsh sometimes.  Don’t let defensiveness or fear keep you from living the life you want to have.  Love with your whole heart.  Trust yourself and others.  Have big, intimidating life goals – and go after them without holding back.  Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  Take risks.

Take 100% responsibility for your life.  Happiness takes hard work and persistent effort.  Do what you really, really want to do.  If it’s important to you, make time for it, not excuses.

Practice gratitude.  Make sure you take time everyday to think about everything that is great about your life.  If that feels intimidating, try to think of one thing that happened throughout the day that made you feel happy.  It could be as simple as having a cheerful interaction with a cashier, or noticing that your spouse unloaded the dishwasher.  Grateful people are happier people. Say thank you.

Thanks for reading this blog and sharing it with your friends.

 

Janet Hill Jackson

Gratitude Marketing Advocate

The BirdDog Group

 

 

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High Profile Startups to Watch

May 30th, 2012

These startups generated plenty of buzz last year, but get ready to hear more in the coming months, according a list posted on Inc.com.

Pawngo: This business is basically an online pawn shop.  You get an offer from Pawngo, and if you accept, you FedEx your item to them in exchange for a (usually pretty modest) loan.  Based in Denver, this startup has already loaned more than $2 million in less than 6 months.  Given the state of the economy now and (let’s face it) in the foreseeable near future, Pawngo is one to watch.  People increasingly use the internet to do practically everything, and since most banks aren’t lending, Pawngo may be the way to go.

Pinterest: While you can browse Pinterest without an account, this invite-only online social platform creates an environment where you can “pin” and share things that you love, usually through images.  Pinterest has something for everyone, including (but certainly not limited to) cute pictures of sleeping puppies, recipes for apple pie, do-it-yourself fashion tips, nature photography, work-out tips, and more.  According to Inc.com, Pinterest has quadrupled its number of visitors since August.

TaskRabbit: Their tagline says it all: “Get just about anything done by safe, reliable, awesome people.”  Originally called “RunMyErrand”, this San Francisco-based startup has received increased financing and attention.  Need help with house cleaning?  Moving help?  Dry-cleaning?  Groceries?  For a fee, there’s probably someone nearby who’s willing to help you out.  All “TaskRabbits” are background-checked, with reviews from community members.

Slice: This online service is free, and helps you organize and track everything you buy online.  You can track orders, save money receiving alerts about things you buy, and manage purchases by backing up receipts.  You can review your purchases and keep track of your spending.  With the shift to e-commerce, services like Slice are businesses to watch.

BlackLocus: BlackLocus is an online service that helps you track your competitors’ pricing.  You can assess your competitors’ pricing strategies, while increasing your own sales and margins by discovering how to price your products in a competitive market.  This summer, BlackLocus received a $2.5 million equity investment.

Expensify: Yet another online service (seeing a trend?), Expensify streamlines expense reports so you don’t have to.  Just like using a spreadsheet, you can rename categories and track spending.  You can also access Expensify on your smartphone.

Birchbox: For $10 a month, customers (primarily women) receive a hand-selected package of beauty product samples, including skincare, hair, makeup, and other products.  Birchbox is less than a year old, but has 45,000 users and is gaining investors fast.

These online services showcase the vast potential and lucrative market of the internet.  People are more than willing to shell out cash to have services or products delivered to them, and because we spend so much time (and money) online, we are increasingly likely to rely on services that help us organize and manage our online activity.  Expect to see more online startups gain momentum this year and beyond.

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

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Thank You Goes a Long Way

April 24th, 2012

The desire to show our appreciation spans across all cultures and countries.  The phrase “thank you”, in its various forms, is a universal way of showing our gratitude.  Yet perhaps because we use this phrase so often in our daily lives, we may forget just how important and powerful of a tool it is, both in business and in life.

Why say thank you in the first place?  We say thanks because we acknowledge that the other person didn’t necessarily have to do what they did for us.  Your customer could have gone elsewhere for their product or service, for example.  By saying thank you, you are thanking them for their choice to support you and showing them why helping you was a good decision.

In business, demonstrating your gratitude is essential if you want to continue with a business relationship.  If a customer or client feels taken advantage of or simply “used” for their money, they are very likely to seek out alternatives to your product or service the next time around.  Long-term customers are hard to come by, so you should show your appreciation often and sincerely.

In life, saying thank you demonstrates that you appreciate the other person and do not feel entitled to their help or support.  This makes the other person feel valued and important.  Such positive emotions ensure that someone will have an incentive to support you in the future.  We are, by nature, emotional beings.

So how should you say thank you?  Sometimes we rely too heavily on a simple verbal “thanks”.  If you think about it, the spoken thank you is the easiest and cheapest way to express gratitude, but it may not be the most effective or lasting.  Because it is so easy to say, it may not seem particularly special or memorable to a client.

Consider the use of a personalized greeting card or some other tool that demonstrates that you took the time to think of them and what they mean to you.  Be specific about what you are thanking them for, so they realize that their support was both notice and appreciated.

Sending a card or small gift is relatively inexpensive, but its value is priceless when you consider its long-term implications.  Saying thanks is a win-win: you feel good, and they feel good.

Janet Hill Jackson

Gratitude Marketing Advocate

The BirdDog Group

 

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The Importance of Appreciation

April 13th, 2012

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

We all know it feels great to know we’re valued, but how often do we remember to tell others that we appreciate them in return?  To energize yourself and others, make an effort to let people know – often and in detail – what makes them a valuable part of your life.

Tony Schwartz, author of an article entitled “Why Appreciation Matters So Much”, via the Harvard Business Review website, writes that whether employees feel their managers are truly interested in their wellbeing is the “single highest driver of engagement” according to a study by Towers Watson.  Unfortunately, less than 40% of employees feel that way.

Why the disconnect?  In the business world, we are a lot more used to doling out and receiving negative feedback, usually geared toward fixing problems.  Attempts at giving positive feedback and showing our appreciation can sometimes come off as awkward and contrived and contrived, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

To effectively show your appreciation to someone else, it’s important that you really have an understanding of their value to your life, job, or current situation.  While it may seem easier to point out what someone is doing wrong, most people (most of the time) are doing a good job.  So take notice!  Be as specific as your can with your praise and try to frame it from their perspective.  Write a note, shoot an email, or better yet, say it in person.  Look them in the eye and say “Thank you.”

Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  If you’re still not convinced of the power of positive reinforcement, try to remember the last time someone told you they appreciated you or paid you a compliment.  If you’re like most people, you felt great and even energized. Show your appreciation now.

Janet Hill Jackson

Gratitude Marketing Advocate

The BirdDog Group

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6 Tips for Writing Excellent Web Copy

March 20th, 2012

There are countless folks posting web copy on the internet these days, and it may seem daunting to create unique, compelling content that’s truly readable.  The following tips will help jumpstart your web copy pursuits.  These tips will help you create web copy that captures your target audience’s attention and gives them what they want

  1. Know your goals.

What are you trying to communicate?  Are you writing to inform?  Persuade?  Your purpose in writing will affect the tone and style of your web copy.  What do you hope occurs as a result of someone reading your web copy?  For example, if you want people to check out your main webpage, make sure you include a link.  If you want people to learn more about a particular topic, post a recommended reading list.

  1. Make it personal.

Know your audience.  Write to that demographic, or at least don’t offend anyone.  You are writing for your audience; you are not writing for yourself.  Write about what your target audience wants to read about, not necessarily what you feel like writing about.  Try to appeal to peoples’ emotions.  If you can connect with someone emotionally, you’ve already won half the battle.

  1. Keep it simple.

Your web copy must be utterly readable.  Spend some time and create a catchy title and equally compelling sub-headings for the rest of the content.  Most people scan articles without reading them all the way through, so treat those sub-headings as last-ditch efforts to reel them in.  Keep your sentences simple and straightforward.  Read it out loud to make sure it makes sense.  Avoid run-on sentences, and (overly) pretentious vocabulary or industry jargon that will alienate some readers.

  1. Make it visually appealing.

We’ve all stumbled onto those horrifying websites with terrible color schemes and illegible fonts.  You know, where they use a childish-looking yellow font on a hot pink background (or something to that effect).  Don’t do this to your readers.  Use color, but strategically.  Leave lots of white spaces, and use bold/underline to highlight titles and headings.  In short, make it look nice.  Add graphics and links.

  1. Use keywords.

Since you know the value of SEO, think about how you would Google the topic you are writing about, and then use those words when you write your web copy.

  1. Edit.

Typos and misspellings make you look bad and undermine the strength of your arguments.  Have someone else proofread, since they have fresh eyes.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing fantastic web copy!

 

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

 

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