The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.
Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.
Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates
First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:
We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.
When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.
How to improve your email open rates
We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.
Run some tests
The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all.You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!
Write to a specific person
When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.
Provide relevant content
Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.
Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”
Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.
Send it from a person rather than from a company
Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!
Ensure your subscribers have opted-in
Best days and times
Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.
Segment your email list
You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.
Reward your top contacts
Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.
Content structure: Simple/Complex
One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience.Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content. Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.
Optimise for mobile
55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.
Have we missed a tip? Share your best email marketing strategies with us!
Have you started writing content? Are you wondering why some of your posts get more attention than others? If you are writing regular content for a business audience, it is possible to improve the traction that you get with your content. In this blog post, I will go over our Content Scorecard (101 points in total – we give you one point for trying!) to show you how to significantly improve the quality of your blog posts.
Content Scorecard: Strategy
A key part of the work I do with my clients is developing a content strategy. A content strategy first defines who you are writing content for (ideal customer). Then it considers what challenges your content will address, why you are writing the content (your objective) and how you will ensure that the content reaches the right audience.
In summary, a content strategy enables effective content creation. You know that your content is relevant and created to meet your business objectives. In the content scorecard, 30 points go to content strategy – yes, we love strategy that makes sense!
Content Scorecard: Quality
Quality is probably the most multi-faceted aspect of creating effective posts. A recent survey of 170 B2B Marketing & Sales professionals revealed that half of B2B buyers now rely more on content when researching a product or service, or making a purchase decision. 78% respondents put more emphasis on the trustworthiness of the source. Over 60% consider quality factors such as benchmarking data, the inclusion of research and insight from industry. You could add more value by linking to trusted external content. And don’t forget to link to your own content too!
Making content easier to access (65%), more mobile-friendly (41%) and easier to share (40%) are other recommendations that B2B buyers agreed with. Our scorecard highlights many of these areas and carried a hefty 60 points!
Content Scorecard: Headline
We all love a good headline. But what makes a headline good? There are a number of factors, and not everyone agrees. These factors are for certain though: You need to make it clear what your blog post is about. Then there’s the issue of how long the headline should be. To accommodate the rules of the web, it is better to keep the character count to 65 characters. That way, the whole headline will show up in an online search.
Coschedule have an amazing Headline Analyzer that anyone can use for free. We absolutely love it! The tool considers not just the length of your headline but also the sentiment and structure. It’s quite difficult to have the perfect headline but with practice and by tracking the performance of your posts, it will become more obvious what works for your target audience.
Our content scorecard calculates your score in 10 content effectiveness factors. The scores cover strategy, quality and headline in content, showing areas of strength and improvement. We hope that you use this scorecard every time you create a blog post. Over time, you should get better scores and start to see the performance of your content improve. Give the scorecard a try; let us know how you get on.
Note you need to be on your desktop (not mobile) to download it.
I’ve been called many things in my 13-year career including Technical Sales Engineer, Business Development Executive and Marketing Manager. I suppose there are worse things to be called. Each role felt the same at times, the same purpose dressed up in a buzzword job title. Now that I run my own marketing consultancy, I get to work with talented business development professionals and it is clear to me that business development and marketing are different but must work together to achieve business goals. How can these roles work together and achieve business growth for their organisation or client?
When some people think about marketing, they imagine brochures, logos, matching colour schemes and perhaps promotional goods and beautiful websites. This is all important for supporting a business. However, marketing goes much further than that. I’ll come to how in a moment.
Business Development and Marketing in Sync
Let’s first examine the role of business development (BD). BD is about working on the front line of client relationships. The main aim of the role is to cultivate relationships for the long-term, creating sustainable business growth.
That’s how I see it. Coming back to the essence of marketing, I’d argue that that’s my aim too – to help businesses grow. But I do it differently from my business development colleagues. I push out well-crafted messages through relevant channels. They ensure that the fruits of that effort are nurtured and nourished for the long-term. I cannot live without their follow-through and they cannot live without my seed planting.
Business Development and Marketing Enrich Your Buyers’ Journey
My favourite way to break down the stages of the Marketing-BD collaboration is using the funnel approach. We have Awareness (top of the funnel), Consideration (middle of the funnel) and Decision (bottom of the funnel). Here’s an infographic to summarise the customer’s journey through the funnel:
This approach is used by companies like HubSpot and is commonly referred to as inbound marketing.
Let’s look at how BD and Marketing work together throughout the funnel.
Define ideal customer profiles
Develop the value proposition for each customer group
Create a list of potential customers based on the profile
Make an initial introduction to customers that fit the profile
Publish content on industry best practices
Perform competitor analysis to understand potential customers’ options
Create lead magnets as part of an email marketing strategy
Deepen relationships with new contacts via networking
Ensure relevant compliance requirements are in place
Create a customer engagement strategy and a process for maintaining existing relationships
Set up webinars and free trials
Create and share case studies
Develop a program of regular interaction with the customer via relevant content and customer events
Set customer’s expectations
Ask questions about product and services and next steps
Handover to the sales team to close the deal
Identify future opportunities for upselling
Benefits of Business Development and Marketing Working Together
Considering that 67% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a salesperson, it is more important than ever that sales, marketing and business development work closely behind the scenes to facilitate this journey. The advantages of working through the process together are that you:
Know who your customer is (hint: it is NOT “everybody”)
Go from a general description of your customer (macro-view) to a list of specific companies (micro-view) that you want to engage with
Add value to potential customers before they even ask for information (or realise they need you
Ensure you have what it takes to do business with your potential customer before you go in for the deal
Have a clear strategy for interacting with and informing your target customers of what you do
Meet your potential customers face-to-face, not just online thanks to strategically selected events and networking opportunities
Build trust by ensuring that all teams are aligned with your messaging and what the customer can expect from your business
Have the best people from each role guiding your potential customer from start to finish
It is a pleasure when I see this collaboration across teams, it allows the business work smarter (and not harder) to achieve business growth. I call it nothing short of amazing!
Our organic traffic is more than twice that of social media. That has been true for the past year at YO! Marketing. It wasn’t the case when we first started; social media was our main platform to push our brand name into the public domain. It took time to get organic search to our website. Organic search keeps growing, and it shows that we create content that our target audience is actively searching for. Our experience matches recent research on the increasing role of search over social media for web traffic.
Data shows the shift towards organic traffic
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about digital marketing is the constantly changing environment. Since 2013, social media held the lead as a referrer of web traffic and many said that position was cemented for the next decade.
However, in 2017, there was a significant shift in traffic patterns. The top six search engines drove 34.8% of measured site visits, in comparison to 25.6% for the top 13 social networks. There is now an even stronger shift for web publishers to publish good quality content.
Unsurprisingly, the top search engine in terms of share of visits is still Google. Google accounted for more than 97% of search-referred visits during the second half of 2017.
A recent study from a Demand Gen Report showed that for the majority of B2B marketers, email (59%), search (56%) and websites (51%) are the most effective channels in driving early-stage engagement. Social Media (44%) was somewhat lower on the list. 50% of people said that direct search was the go-to channel for lead generation.
Therefore, it appears that search engines are now being used more to search for content directly. There has never been more important to create relevant content with SEO in mind.
The search for relevant content drives online users to websites. Picture this: a visitor lands on your website after searching for cybersecurity training. The crucial factor is whether they find what they need on your website. This is the role of content: To provide relevant information to your target customer in a timely manner.
Content marketing is highly valued in the digital marketing industry. It has grown significantly in the last 5 years. One study reveals that content marketing will be a $300 billion industry by 2019 if investment continues at the same level. This graph shows the increasing interest in content marketing as a search term. Its acceleration is most evident from 2012 onwards.
But how do you create great content?
First, focus on what you are writing about. The aim is to key to make your audience happy by providing content that they want to read. If you do this, you and your business will soon be regarded as authorities in your industry. Before you write, consider:
What makes this story stand out from the rest
How can I give this a positive message or angle
To nail this, you need a content strategy. Ask questions like:
Who is this content for?
What problem am I trying to solve?
Which keywords and phrases do my audience use to find information?
Which topics do I need to cover to create valuable content?
Assessing your content with six simple steps
The idea behind assessing your content is simple: Outline a set of steps for every blog post and tick them off as you go along. The aim is to do every step each time you publish a post to leverage organic traffic sources. Once you have a content strategy that details the topics and a content plan, take the following six steps:
Find a keyword with high SEO potential: You want your audience to be able to search and find your content when they need it. The right keyword will assist in creating content optimised for search engines. Consider using tools such as Mozbar keyword explorer or Google Keyword Planner. It estimates the volume of search traffic for any keyword and offers suggestions.
Research some of your top competitors’ posts for your keyword: Once you have decided on a keyword, head to Google to search for your term. Choose a few of the top 10 ranked posts. Look for similarities and gaps where your content can come out on top and add more value.
Ensure your content motivates action: Create content that contains measurable data to back up your facts, step-by-step guidance and a path to action. After all, if your content helps the reader they are likely to come back for more!
Create and share a content upgrade: Content upgrades can be downloadable Excel templates, PDFs, or e-books – simply anything that helps your audience put your content into work. Try upgrading your best performing content.
PRO TIP: To find your most popular content via Google analytics, go to Behaviour>Site Content>All Pages
Craft a single call to action (CTA): Keep in mind that each piece of content should have one call to action which reveals a clear next step for your audience to follow. Whether it’s to sign up for your email list or a trial of your product, the key thing is to only have one call to action, as any more will confuse your readers and might cause them not to take any action at all!
Design Compelling Visuals: High-quality visuals help differentiate your content from the competition and provide an opportunity to illustrate complex information in a simple and easy-to-understand visual. Tools like Canva are extremely useful – you don’t need to be a graphic designer!
The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2018 held in Edinburgh on February 22nd. We presented the work we did on machine learning in marketing with Abertay University, Dundee. The audience gave us great feedback and some things to think about going forward. What problem are we trying to solve and how can we use machine learning in marketing as a solution?
What marketing challenges do SMEs have?
Most companies know that marketing has some impact on their business performance. But very few know the marketing activities have the most impact. The result is usually one of two extremes. Either the company spends on as many marketing activities as possible or they conclude that they don’t need marketing after all. Therefore, the challenges are two-fold: What works for my business? How do I prioritise these activities based on a tight budget?
What solution did YO! Marketing propose?
Machine learning in marketing is not widely used yet. It is a newish and exciting way of learning from the past and in real-time. We collaborated with Abertay University to device a model that could identify patterns in data in a supervised way. Using experience and data gathered from 35 companies, we identified critical relationships in the data that could predict the impact (or ROI) of specific marketing activities on overall business outcomes. This means that SMEs can quickly discover what is working to grow their business and focus marketing investment on that. They optimise how they allocate resources and time, and make effective use of a limited budget. Did our solution work?
Was Machine Learning in Marketing a Good Idea?
Abertay University has extensive in cyber-security and data analytics. By working with one of its lecturers, Dr Xavier Bellekens, we combined our marketing experience with machine learning expertise. That was a great idea with many benefits.
We successfully built a model that works, an achievement that is a first in our industry. However, we are limited by data. For a model like this to provide the cutting-edge capabilities that we envisage, we need lots of data. Our current model is a start, and we have a handful of companies working with us to gather more data. If you are interested in what we have built and you would like to support us, contact us for an informal chat.
We’d like to welcome Mike Alawi to our team. He joined us last month as Marketing Project Executive. Here is a blog that he put together for you. Who else wants to be a more successful business? We know we do!
1. Provide outstanding customer service
To excel in customer service, you and your staff need to know the ins and outs of your product or service. You should know common questions that your customers ask and how to respond competently and effectively. Staff training in this area is important. Listen and be responsive. Ask for feedback, ensuring that you use feedback positively. Identify areas for improvement and make specific changes in your business. Let your customers know that you implemented their suggestions and/or acted on feedback. I recently read an article about a Starbucks customer that called into the company’s corporate offices after a mix up with a branch. Instead of simply giving him a refund, the customer service representative told Jason that they needed to “make him whole and give him an experience nothing short of fantastic.” They then filled his rewards card with $50 of store credit. Way to go Starbucks!
It’s a good idea to test different pricing brackets. Let’s say you offer three prices for different levels of a product or service. One priced low, another with all the bells and whistles, and a mid-market price. This range widens the reach of your audience and opens a gateway to new customers, or a premium price on the other end of the scale for those who want the full package. Amazon nailed this strategy with their shipping options. They offer express next day delivery for £4.49, standard 3-day delivery for £1.99 or free no rush delivery in 3-5 days. Each price is aimed at customers with different requirements, expectations and budgets.
4. Be the first to inform your customers of new trends
Everyone wants to be kept in the loop with latest trends. Being first to inform your customers of new trends will increase your credibility as a source of relevant, up-to-date information. It attracts more potential customers to your online and offline channels and results in a positive impression of your brand. People will then regularly look to you for new content making you stand out from the crowd as a successful business.
5. Give your brand a human face by having conversations
Giving your brand a personality that people can relate to allows you to reach more people effectively. Talk about your products, talk about your industry and latest trends. People appreciate content that engages with their interests and makes them feel at ease with a brand. Grüum, a company that specialises in custom shaving kits tell their brand story well. They write about how four friends from Manchester decide to quit their jobs, invest their savings and take on a multi-billion dollar industry. When you buy from Grüum, your first purchase comes with a small note from the founders themselves thanking you for your purchase.
6. Develop multiple ways to get in touch with you
In addition to picking up the phone, maximise the use of multiple channels such as social media, chatbots and events to provide potential customers with more touchpoints with your business. You will also reach a wider audience. Use your website as a hub but engage with your target audience on relevant social media platforms, through networking and selected events.
7. Focus on being the best at the ONE thing that really matters to your target market
Whatever you specialise in, ensure that you can be the best at it so that your stand out from your competitors. It could be your customer service, your cutting edge technology, your flexible pricing or the great events that you host. It might even be your deliberate and continued support for your local community. Being fantastic is one aspect of your service gives you a distinct competitive advantage that becomes difficult for others to copy. These are just some of the ways that you could build a better, more successful business that you can be proud of.